My Tips on Writing a Novel

20 Sep

So many writers out there want to finally write that novel, or maybe even just finish one they started eons ago. I’m not on the NYT bestseller list, so you may have your doubts on trusting me, but I have self-published three books and I’m working on the third and final book in a fantasy trilogy. So, want to know how I did it or how you can do it? I have a few simple tricks; well, maybe they aren’t simple, but it sure sounds simple enough.

  1. WRITE! Don’t quiet all the voices in your head, just quiet the ones who are telling you that you suck and you’ll never write anything decent. The other voices you want to listen to. Those are the voices telling you what you want to write. The voices of your characters convincing you this will be a good book, and that there is a story to tell, one that you must write.
  2. WRITE! No matter what, the water doesn’t start pouring until the faucet turns on. Or something like that. It’s a quote, by someone I’m too lazy to google. You need to sit down and force yourself to write. I don’t care if you’re not “inspired”, neither does your potential. If you never start, you’ll never finish. And if you never finish, you’ll be all depressed about this great idea that went to waste. Every writer will tell you the same thing, set aside some time during the day/night just for writing. If you’re bad at sticking to a set schedule like I am, just write when you know you should be writing. You know you hear that little voice in your head, telling you “you could be writing right now.” LISTEN TO IT! Stop watching reality TV, stop eating cookies (okay, have one more and then write), and stop staring at a spoon and trying to make it move with your mind. WRITE!
  3. DON’T RE-READ IT! Whatever you do, my god, do not re-read the sentence you finally just managed to write. It is the kiss of death. Your inner critic will be telling you what a dumb loser you are. And, hey, maybe the sentence could have been better, but that’s what REVISIONS are for. DON’T RE-READ IT UNTIL YOU FINISH WRITING THE ENTIRE BOOK! You can fix it later. At least then you’ll have something to fix!
  4. Please don’t use dialogue tags like “she snapped ferociously” or “she irritatingly whined like a baby who wanted milk”, keep it simple. He said. She said. Of course, you can change it up when it comes to dialogue tags, with action tags, etc. (Look it up if you’re unsure but want to improve your writing). Because when you do want to publish the book you just finally wrote, nothing screams amateur like terrible dialogue tags. For one, it completely interrupts the conversation happening. Readers don’t want to pause every second to see how your character cried out in pain and then screamed in agony. They want to read the conversation as if they were hearing it. And in real life, conversation moves quickly for the most part.
  5. I’m sorry for that last step, it’s not really a necessity in writing a novel, but if you want it to be as good as it can be, please, keep your dialogue tags simple! Okay, now I’m sorry for this step too. Waste of a step.
  6. WRITE! All you need is the idea. Maybe you don’t even need an idea. Just start writing, and something will come out of it. Something will pull itself together magically. Words are powerful, and writing is powerful. You’ll feel so alive once you’ve written that book and printed it out and you see it with your own eyes. You can read it. You’ll see that it wasn’t a total piece of crap like your inner critic was telling you it would be.
  7. REVISE! Now, comes the annoying part. Revision. Yes, yes, edit and revise, we all must do it. Unless of course you want to hire someone to do it for you, but sh#t, it’s hard out here for a pimp. Do it yourself if you’re capable of doing so. Some people are terrible with editing/revising/grammar/punctuation/line edits. That’s okay. I’m sure some editors are terrible writers (sorry, just trying to make a point). Not everyone is good at all things. If you want to write, DO IT! Worry about the rest later.
  8. WRITE! Just f#%@ing WRITE ALREADY!!!! Stop reading this and go write.

I hope these little tips have been useful to at least one person. Because, well, I just put off writing my third and final book in my trilogy to write this blog. And so help me god if it was a waste of time…

I want to see novelists out of you. Now go. WRITE! Oh, and don’t worry about how much you should write a day. Some writers write 100 words a day. Some write 200. 300. 400. 500. 2,000. 10 pages. 20 pages. 30 pages. For me, I try to sit down and at least write one full chapter. Of course, I’ve had days where I write two pages, other days where I write ten pages. One day I wrote almost fifty pages. That was a lot of effort. I was mentally exhausted after that. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. But do give yourself some sort of deadline and commitment, this way you’ll feel more obligated to do so. Commit to writing 500 words a day to start. That’s not a lot. Sh#t, this blog post is almost 1,000 words. Damn. That could have been another thousand words for my novel.

GO WRITE!

Are Vampires Dead? Or are you still Thirsty for More?

19 Sep

Okay, honestly, I never thought I’d even consider writing a novel with even one vampire in it. For two main reasons: 1. Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice. Can anyone top that??? I never wanted to even try. 2. It’s been done, and done again, and then done so many times that the initial gothic horror and intrigue of the creature has almost vanished in the wee hours of dawn.

But…I must admit…after beginning to watch True Blood, I find myself once again fascinated with the vampire allure. I haven’t been this excited since I watched The Lost Boys years ago.

So, here is the question of all questions. And please comment, because I want honest opinions here. What are all of your thoughts on vampires? Are they dead? Undead? Are you still thirsty for more blood or are you over vampires/vampire novels/vampire movies and even vampire fangs at Halloween?

Let’s start this conversation! I’d love to know what you all think. Now that I’m ending the road to the trilogy I’ve been writing, it’s time to start kicking around new ideas for my next novel. Until my next idea kidnaps me, I’ll be considering to consider writing a fresh vampire novel, although writing anything completely fresh and new is a bit of a struggle, it still can be done in one way or another. So please, help a sister out here! Fellow writers, I beg of you! Drop me a line or two or thirty in the comments.

My eyes are burning red with curiosity.

Writing, Wishing to Write, or Wondering if You Should Have Ever Written at all?

19 Sep

After finally revising the first novel in my fantasy trilogy for the, oh I don’t know, thousandth time, it’s finally time to start querying agents again. But, now that I’ve started, and I’ve received a request for a partial manuscript, it’s starting to terrify me. I’m writing the third and final book in the series as we speak, which I’ve been wishing to write for some time now. Before I could, I knew I had to go back to the first book and give her an old fixer upper. A SERIOUS revision. I’m not talking about simple editing for mistakes here and there. I mean…I changed the entire POV. The first book was written in the first person POV, and the second book was written in the third POV. By the time I sat down to write the third book, I realized how wrong it truly was.

I looked myself in the mirror one day and told myself it had to be done. It needed to be changed. So, I dreaded it for a few weeks, and then I got to it. A few months later, I finally finished. I re-wrote the entire first book, not only changing the POV but strengthening each sentence the best I could. When I tell you it felt like it would never end, I mean it. However, I’m glad to report that it is done, and I am so much more satisfied with the first book than I ever was before. I smartened up my main character, and was able to add in certain foreshadowing for events and characters that are introduced in the third book. It was easier because I already know what’s (basically) going to happen in the third book.

With all this being said, I still have to revise the second book, but I’ve decided to put that on hold and just finish the third book already. Honestly, I can’t consider revising another novel right now. It gives me a headache to simply think about doing it.

I’m about to start chapter 5 of the third book. I am confident that the final book will be the best one, which is starting to frighten me a bit. I ask myself, shouldn’t they all be equally as exciting? Are they? Now that I’ve revamped the first book, I know I owe it to the second book to make it just as page-turning, but it’s daunting. The third book is off to an exciting start, and I have people waiting to read it who have been pressuring me for months.

This leads to me to the most terrifying aspect of it all: the dreaded series in general. I started watching True Blood, and although I’ve never read any of the novels, I started looking up on the internet which was better: the books or the show. This was the worst mistake I could have made. First, let me just state that typically I think the book is better than the movie (although sometimes the movie can be better). You just get so much more out of reading the book, mainly the character’s inner thoughts or desires. You also get to have more fun imagining what the character looks like in your head. I’m going off topic. Let me get back on it.

When I started googling about True Blood vs. the novels, I found all of these websites with chats and discussions and interviews. But one site I pulled up made me feel quite sick, actually. It said that the author had been receiving death threats for the way she ended the final book in the series. I don’t mean a few, I mean, A LOT. It said she even wasn’t going on tour for the final book to basically avoid the hatred coming her way.

This is the problem with a series, for me, and why I never wanted to write one. First of all, I’ve been hooked on series, and when they end, I’m always so…sad inside. I want the author to write more. I want it to last forever to fulfill my desires to read more of the characters and/or the world they live in. I never wanted to do that to my readers. And, if it’s a good series, readers will want more. And if you end it in the way they don’t want it, then what? Seriously, death threats??? Second, when you begin to write a series (as I’ve discovered), the world you create and the characters that inhabit it have the potential to go on forever. And I mean forever. Hell, I could probably write a book on each of my characters’ lives before my protagonist stumbled into their world. Third, I keep reading that you should never pitch a series to an agent. Pitch the first book, and that’s it. IF it ever gets published, mention the idea for a series. But, I can’t grasp this idea. For starters, because some agents take months to get back to you. By the time I finished my first book, queried agents, and then heard back from them all, I had already written the second book. So, all of those rejections kind of stung. But now, I see why all of the agents said no. The book was a baby. It wasn’t ready to be born. It was so new, so early in its stages of development. But I have to say I disagree with the notion of holding back your story on the hopes that the first book will be picked up. Aren’t we writing to tell the stories that must be told? Aren’t we writing what inspires us, and aren’t we inspiring others with what we write? If so, why wait? If every writer who wrote a series waited to hear back from agents before they wrote the second, third, fourth, or even fifth book, I wonder if there would have ever been a second book. I can’t lie, the rejections that come in don’t necessarily inspire you to continue to write the book that continuously gets rejected. But, I can’t help it, I believe in it. So every “no” I get makes me feel closer to a “yes”. Cliché? Sorry.

But now…now that I’ve started querying again, I can’t help but feel terrified. What if the agents reject it this time after all the work I’ve put into it? Try again in five years, maybe? With a different title? The worst question I ask myself in my head is: is this all a waste of time? As soon as that thought enters, I kick it out. I actually punt it like a mental football. Because, well, writing something you love is never a waste of time, even if it never sees shelves in a bookstore. I write because I love to. Because I want to. Because I need to. And even though right now, and for the past two and a half years, only people who are close to me have read it, it’s more than enough. Because they’ve enjoyed it. I’ve seen them grow to be attached to the characters and love them as much as I do, even when they weren’t as mature as they are now. And if I can make one person’s day and/or night more thrilling just by reading one of my books, then it’s all been worth it. Not to mention, if I wasn’t writing this trilogy the last few years, I’d have no excuse not to be in a relationship right now. Christmas in sweat pants, here I come!

Premature Query-jaculation

19 Aug

Hello strangers!

I know, I know. You’re surprised I’m still alive. I haven’t written a blog post in quite some time. I apologize for that. The truth is that I’ve been busy with other literary “things.”

I’ve been revising my novel for months now, and while I want to rip my hair out, I’m satisfied how it’s coming along and I’m extremely excited that it’s finally almost done. I’ve also been writing the third book in my trilogy, and editing someone’s book as well.

While I was editing for someone else, I wondered why it was so much easier to edit someone else’s work. Then I realized it’s because when it comes to your own work, it’s personal. Those words and sentences are your babies, and you don’t want to cut them up and change their personalities. But, it’s vital. Now that my book has gone under major reconstructive surgery, I can truly say I’m happy with the changes I’ve made. It’s not that the original was all that terrible, it’s the fact that it had so much potential under all that rubbish.

When you can separate yourself from your work and look at it for what it is, you can see the problems with it. I decided to revise my novel, line by stinking line, because the truth is that I started this trilogy almost two years ago. Since then, my writing has changed and matured. I’ve changed and matured. It’s only right that that first novel reflects who I am now, not then.

Did I mention that I never want to write another trilogy ever again?? It’s been fun, but the amount of work that goes into it is overwhelmingly time consuming. I have a new respect for writers who write series. It feels like I may never finish. But then, I take a shot of apple cider vinegar and slap myself, encouraging myself that I CAN do this, I just can’t stop working on it. So in between work, and work, and this job and that job, I work on my novels. What’s a love life? Because I forget. I haven’t had one in almost a year. I’m too busy in a monogamous relationship with my novels. And if I cheat on them, I think they’d be really pissed.

I hope everything is going well in your lives. Have any of you writers had a chance to relax and go to the beach or something? Please, tell me how it feels. I dream of a vacation! Even if it’s only for two days. Also, does anyone have a clone machine? Because I could really use one.

Side note: I’ve put the querying process on hold for months now. I’ve decided to hold off on pitching this novel until it’s as perfect as it can be. They say hindsight is 20/20. I’m such an impatient person that I decided to query agents as soon as I finished editing the first novel, and now I’m kicking myself. I can’t say I’m surprised I got so many rejection letters, but I can say I’m surprised that I got one agent to request the full manuscript when it was in such rough shape. It gives me hope that in the hopefully near future, when I start querying again, I’ll get at least one more agent to ask for the full manuscript. I have faith that this will all work out, because what else do I have besides hope? Oh, right, two full manuscripts and one in progress, looking for a home. I can’t let my children be homeless! What kind of mother would I be?

TOO MUCH ANTHOLOGY RELEASED FROM UNKNOWN PRESS

5 Aug

The anthology is finally out! Check it out to read bizarre, humorous, and touching tales of that one time these writers went a bit too far. Did I mention my essay is in here? Thanks for including me, Unknown Press!

bud smith

The TOO MUCH anthology, a collection of stories, poems, essays about that one time that excess reached a pinnacle.

I’m very proud of this anthology. Chuck Howe stepped up and did a wonderful job editing the collection for Unknown Press. The quality of submissions that came in were overwhelmingly good. It’s a damn pleasure putting together a book when the pieces included are this fun, original, bizarre, touching …

The book is available on Amazon now. 20140805-091731-33451483.jpg

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There is a reading for the anthology in NYC at Jimmy 43s on the lower east side. 6pm-9pm. Contributors will read, afterwards there will be a bar crawl. Here’s a link to the event if you’re on Facebook.

If you have any questions about the reading or the anthology please contact me at budsmithwrites@gmail.com

Also on the way from Unknown Press, Mik Everette’s memoir “Self Published Kindling: memoirs of a homeless book store owner”

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RIP Maya Angelou: Her Legacy Lives On

29 May

RIP Maya Angelou 1928-2014

With the passing of Maya Angelou, a powerful voice in literature, a beautiful person inside and out, and a woman who pushed for justice and inequality, I know the world lost a damn good woman. With the events that took place in Isla Vista, California, I think it’s a time to reflect on what Maya fought for and stood for. She too faced adversity and struggles, but she turned those struggles into powerful poetry and prose. She didn’t turn to violence or hurt anyone because some things just weren’t f*cking fair. That’s life.

For me, it’s a reminder that life is not owed to anyone, even those who live to live and live to help others. It’s a reminder to not take life for granted. Each day is an opportunity to improve ourselves, our work, our spirit, and help those around us. 

Perhaps my favorite quote by her, though there were so many:

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

– Excerpted from Letter to My Daughter, a book of essays (2009)

Maya Angelou was gifted, wise, and a true teacher. Her words affected and reached countless people, lending lessons and truth to mankind if only for a short while. Though she is gone, her words live on, carrying her spirit in the homes of many. 

 

Fiction: A Profound Journey

22 Apr

Storytelling has consistently remained throughout the generations and decades and if we think about it, there must be a reason why. Before words were written, stories were told orally or through pictures on caves. I think humans initially invented stories or tales as ways to express intangible aspects of life, such as the Gods or love or hate. Stories were used in order to better explain them in theory and through example.

We’ve all heard, read, or written stories that have resonated with something inside of us or moved us beyond the literal context of the story. Of course fiction is not entirely real, but there is a realness to it that we relate to and appreciate. That’s why so many people enjoy stories about raw, honest characters. It appeals to us. It speaks to our beliefs and our morals. Stories have been a way for us to understand the world around us and provide comfort or discomfort if you will. Writers write for different reasons. Some want to comfort others, while others want to disturb their readers and drag them out of their comfort zone.

Fictional stories about loss of innocence teaches us that each person has their own story, their own experience in which they’ve grown or matured or experienced a severe loss or even a minor one that was severe to them in that time. It helps us relate through our own experiences. We realize we aren’t the only ones who have experienced something disturbing or sad, it’s just a part of life that everyone must go through. Life is full of ups and downs. It’s not happy all the time. But without the sadness, we wouldn’t truly understand what happiness was.

It’s for this reason of understanding the world and relating to it that people read. It gives us a sense of hope, a sense of comfort, a sense of unity. We learn and we grow and temporarily we’re transported to another world, a world outside of our own. To me, this is the real magic behind stories. It’s a portal to another time, place, or world, with the promise of a safe return home.