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Writing Romance: M/M and F/F Versus M/F

Many, readers and simply curious people alike, have often asked me if I felt any real difference when writing ‘straight’ romances and ‘gay’ romances, or if I do anything in particular to prepare for such characters. Frankly, I don’t. Is that a strange answer? It’s probably not one most people were expecting and probably not the most interesting response either.

Characters are just like people, however fictional they may be, and I treat them as such when I write them. All people are multi-faceted; rarely is there a single aspect or trait to their personality that over-rides every single part of them. Sexual orientation is just another one of those things; one part of many and not everything is necessarily ruled by it. A character forms by itself and who they desire occurs similarly. It’s not the first time I start writing a story and the person who they get paired up with changes, sometimes surprising me. Although it’s not in the matter of sexual orientation an example that comes to mind is Mary, from my novel Secrets Clad in Light; she took on an entirely different form than I had first imagined of her and to the point that if you asked me now what she was originally planned to be like I wouldn’t even know how to answer you. She took on a life of her own and this happens with other characters also. In Butterfly, the relationship between Zack and Alex wasn’t planned but, rather, it evolved in a way that felt most natural for them.

Those two were close for a long time and their relationship can’t be so easily broken, no matter the trials and disagreements that they constantly have between them. Do I think that either one of them would have developed the same type of romantic relationship if the other was a woman? I have no idea because once it happened I couldn’t really imagine it any other way. The only thing that is certain is that the two would not survive without each other as they are. Have there been characters who have only been attracted to the same sex? There have been. But have there been characters whose desires are a bit more complicated than that? Absolutely. Most of the time I think that characters fall for another as a person, as can happen in life,

The reasons they’re attracted to each other, the reasons they have such a strong relationship, are things that are as complicated as the way they act with each other. I don’t really believe that ‘a relationship between two men is surely like this’; I think just the way relationships between straight couples can vary the same thing can be said for gay couples. The way people act within a relationship says a lot about them; while the type of person they are with may allow them to condone the manner in which they approach their partner much of the way they act comes from within themselves.

Choices in a relationship, the way people behave in a relationship, can’t really, entirely depend on a person’s sex. Sometimes they’ll get into situations that may be a result of it, make some things difficult for them, but it’s really characters’ personalities that can shape the way they act in a relationship.

All these things make it very difficult for me to say that there are any particular considerations made when I write m/m and f/f, versus m/f. If I had to be more accurate I would say that there are particular considerations for each and every couple written because who an individual is and how they make relationships work is unique to them and not simply a result of their own sex and that of their partner.

I find myself enjoying writing romance because I don’t feel tied down. With an open mind I’m able to allow my characters to take over, acting in ways that befit their characters and forming relationships with those that they desire. This makes it an incredibly fun and intriguing journey for me and it gives me little incentive to prepare myself in any way with pre-conceived ideas of how any one of them should act.

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10 Things I Didn’t Know About Being An Author

  1. Editing is nerve-wrecking. There’s a certain fear that comes from re-reading all your work with the idea that more people than just yourself is going to read it eventually. You’re just one step closer to sharing it with the public when you start your editing and that’s a scary thought. When your beta-reader or editor comes across errors that you shouldn’t have missed you can’t help but feel that much more nervous. Then again, that’s what beta-readers are there for; to spot the things you didn’t.
  2. Indies are incredibly friendly! I knew this from indie artists and indie bands that I’ve had experience dealing with but it was a pleasant surprise seeing this extended to indie authors. There has been an increasing amount of support for indie authors in the past few years; from popular authors, from small publishers, from bloggers and from people in general who just want to see others achieving success doing something they love. If the person you’re talking to can’t help you, there’s a good chance that they can point you to someone else who can.
  3. No matter what happens some people will always treat me like a kid playing in the sand box. It’s true that there has always been a certain exclusivity to having your work published. With self-publishing you can get your own work out there without having to go through publishers and agents. This method seems to make people believe that the ‘ease’ of self-publishing makes it less reputable and when people realise I’m self-publishing they begin to treat me like a young child who is playing pretend. 
  4. There truly is inspiration in everything. People often ask me how or why I write so much and it really comes down to this, something I only truly noticed after I began publishing; there are so many inspiring things in this world that it’s difficult to keep up with them all. There is always a story to be told about something or someone and this ever-flowing inspiration pushes me to keep writing.
  5. Negative feedback isn’t the end of the world. So some people didn’t get what you were trying to say, so people think you write too simply or too complicated. At the end of the day you can’t please every single reader and I’ve learnt to accept that. I’ve learnt to take reviews with a pinch of salt; I take on certain feedback and try to look at my work objectively with that feedback in mind. Where I feel I can improve I will but in aspects that I think I did best I’ve learnt not to take that negative criticism to heart.
  6. Self-publishing is incredibly difficult but unbelievably rewarding. Nobody ever said successfully self-publishing was going to be easy. There’s so much more to it but I think that is what makes it so appealing to me; it’s a project, it’s something you discover for yourself through trial and error regardless of how much advice you may get. Having a hand in each and every part of a project is probably the most fun I will ever have in my life.
  7. There’s more marketing than writing involved. That’s the sad truth of it. You’ll spend so much time marketing, especially at the time of a new release, that you’ll wonder where all your writing time went. Although, as previously stated, book bloggers and some groups love indies so much that there really is very little resentment to the time spent marketing. With some good planning you can avoid getting caught in the marketing rut.
  8. You can’t be conscious of the reader. I actually learnt this years ago when I began writing lyrics for my friend’s compositions but it was further reinforced in my mind only when I began publishing in June. There is such a thing as stage fright even as a writer. By being constantly aware of the people who are going to read your story you become influenced and may change things because you think it’s not what they want or it may be too embarrassing. Thinking about the readers is thoughtful to an extent but may not always be in their best interest either. The way to write honestly is to write for myself and I can’t do that thinking about readers.
  9. There is such a thing as over doing it. The moment I start over-thinking and over-planning and it all becomes far too much it stops being fun. At that point I put all publishing thoughts aside and go back to doing what I love most; writing and writing alone.
  10. Planning ahead should be put into motion immediately. I lost a number of Blog Tour opportunities simply because, even though I had planned it in my head well in advance, I had not started sending out the emails quickly enough. Self-publishing doesn’t take an extraordinary or excessive amount of planning but it takes some planning and putting those plans into action immediately in order to be successful.

Planning

Planning is an extremely important part of the novel-writing process. Or even the writing process of just about anything. I say that seriously but not too seriously at the same time. After all, I was the person who went into NaNoWriMo 2011 completely oblivious to what I was going to write and I was still successful.

It’s just so important to do at least some planning though. I’m quite certain of this. I like to be able to have an idea of what I’m about to write instead of being completely blind. At the same time planning too much frustrates me, and many other authors, to no end. Writing is appealing because, like most creative acts, it is freeing. It’s hardly freeing to box yourself in the early stages of writing, let alone when you haven’t even started!

For a good plan you need at least some of the following, and in no particular order;

  • Basic idea
  • Setting
  • Genre
  • Themes
  • Character outlines
  • Scenes

Like I said, the order isn’t set in stone and I will bet that any of those things can change at any given moment during the novel-writing process. Any one of those things could have been what set the ball rolling for a writer so naturally the order in which one chooses to plan things is entirely up to them.

The basic idea refers to the simplest thought or idea you’ve had for the story and what your intentions are with it. The basic idea is exactly that; very basic. Typically this can take anywhere from two lines to two pages in your average notebook.

The setting is naturally the type of environment the novel is set in. This includes the time period. Having notes of your setting, points of research and descriptions can be incredibly useful when it comes to finally describing that new place, or having a list of adjectives that apply in order to give readers interesting detail during mentions.

The genre is simple but can also be complex depending on the writer and their blend of genres. These days people are quite free with genre which is highlighted by the themes used. Themes can also be considered keywords or topics for the story and these can be most important to have so that you can continue to have a clear picture of what you are intending in your story as time goes on and as things become more complex. Often enough, themes get added to the list and the genre can sometimes change too, believe it or not.

The basic idea for the story could have all started with a type of character. This is where character outlines are important. They’re also imperative for stories that are much more about character development, or character-driven, than plot-driven. If you have a story that is basically character-driven then you can easily have five pages worth of planning on your main character alone. Otherwise, the average is three pages for the main character/s and two pages for supporting characters. This varies depending on the characters importance. The reason your main character will always have more is because regardless of whether you will be writing in first person, third person or third person limited your information on your main character will help you form the tone that your writing in the story will have.

If your story was inspired of just a scene or you’re trying to plan your story out for the long haul like most are then listing your scenes in a simple manner would certainly help. Giving each scene a short title and a very brief description simply outline the story but don’t go into too much detail so as not to be backed into a corner. Have just the outline, your main scenes, and leave filling in the gaps for later on unless there is something immediate to take note of. Before writing a person can have a variety of amount of scenes; from as few as three or less, to twenty or more. Depending on how long the story is, some people even choose to list all their scenes. I can’t really put a number of pages for scenes since the detail of them varies. I also recommend using a program for scenes more than paper if they’re being planned in detail. This is because if you decide you want to move scenes around, changing order and detail, it’s a lot easier to do in a program like Microsoft Word, Open Office or Scrivener.

Extensive planning in at least two of these will help to build a more cohesive foundation for a novel and can help an author through some of the toughest hurdles in writing a story. Planning can be fun and when it makes writing a novel more rewarding, more cohesive and a little less strenuous than it’s worth the time to do it. For those about to tackle August’s Camp NaNoWriMo, or who are looking to begin their plans for NaNo in November then trying any of these out will be most helpful to you.

Good luck, dear writers! Happy planning!

Obligation vs Ambition

There are very few things that are truly important in life. Even so, there’s always a conflict between what needs to be done and what is desired to be done.

I, just like everybody else, have this same struggle.

I’m still a student with more than sixty hours a week put into her school and its work. On the other hand, I see myself as a writer who loves what she does and who really doesn’t enjoy putting all those hours into school. Honestly speaking, I would much rather add those sixty hours to the fifty or so hours I spend in a week working on novels and stories. Then there are the other obligations related to social activities; time with family, friends and attending events or social functions.

Of course, then there are necessities; eating, bathing, sleeping… It’s a little bit difficult to write without ever eating. It’s a little bit difficult to do anything when you’re a little bit dead so I suppose those obligations are important enough for me to need to do them.

I do tend to deal with my obligations first, even though I often consider anything that I am ambitious about to be something more important than anything else.

But speaking generally I do tend to do my obligations first thing and I do them with as much determination as I do the things I am ambitious about. Why? Because being ambitious about getting obligations done with leads to having time freed up for the things that I really want to do. It’s not easy and sometimes my writing ends up taking the back seat as I try to deal with all my school work and social events.

Still, it is an incredibly effective way of working. There’s nothing more pleasing than having completely free time to work on the things you really love and without having other things nagging on your mind, making you feel any bit guilty.

I most certainly believe that it’s possible to balance the things you need to do and the things you really love to do. I know this because I have been doing it for quite some time now. My advice is to plan out all your work properly and to get things done with, always to the best of your ability because instead of doing it once you may end up having to do it twice or more, and then do the things you enjoy guilt free!

Inconsistent Writing – How Passion Rules

A lot of people who aren’t writers see writing as a rather straightforward skill. They also have a tendency to believe that if you generally have a good command of English, or your language of choice, you can get away with any type of writing challenge.

I suppose they have a tendency to forget that it’s not a skill that you can just use to the best of your ability every time. You do need to be very passionate about what you’re writing. Over the past few years I’ve tackled different types of writing, as well as different styles, and found that my success with them has mostly been linked to my passion in them.

I’ve been writing lyrics for about as long as I can remember so I would say about nine years now. I have always thought of them as my absolute favourite type of writing because I feel like they could be most honest, especially if it was I who sang them. I always thought very firmly that feelings cannot be put into words. Feelings and words are, of course very similar, but not quite the same. There’s a type of passion that you get from expressing your feelings with your words, your voice and your body that you can’t quite get from simply writing the words down.

Despite this, I think novels are my absolute favourite to write. There’s far more that you can cover in a novel than you can in song lyrics, even if you decide to make a concept album. Even two concept albums. Of course, it does help that I find it easier to write in length and in detail than I do in a four-minute song. This doesn’t mean I can be any less choosy with my words, but just that novel-writing has more freedom. Novels obviously also branch out into numerous styles and genres; this makes novel-writing extremely freeing for an author who feels that they are capable of dabbling in more than one area.

Articles can be extremely fun to write, in my opinion. I suppose it really does depend on the content, just like anything else, but as long as a person is able to provide necessary and intriguing information in a suitably flowing article then it can be extremely fulfilling and

Speeches are possibly the worst things anyone could ever ask me to write. Frequently I get an assignment in which we are told ‘write it as though you’re giving it as a speech’. I despise those assignments. I can love the subject to death but the fact that I am told to write it as a speech just kills it for me and suddenly I see the task as something akin to climbing Mount Everest.

Our interests really tend to rule over what we are capable and not capable of doing, even if there is really not that much more work involved in them. No matter how good you are, you can’t seem to be good at everything, even if it’s extremely close to your field. You’re always going to have that one thing that your passion rules over; that one thing that you can do better than anything else because you love it so much.

Which are your favourite things to write of any of the above or any ones unmentioned? Which one gives you the most trouble?

NaNoWriMo and its Family

NaNoWriMo, also known as National Novel Writing Month, is an event that happens all around the world every November. This internet-based event is a creative writing project that challenges its participants to write 50,000 words of a brand new novel in the month of November alone.

The usefulness of NaNoWriMo has long been argued about amongst numerous writers of all kinds and all genres and the views towards it are quite mixed. Here I talk about my experience with it.

I had always been very comfortable writing at my own pace; I never had a problem being motivated to write so I never really thought I needed something like NaNoWriMo to boost my productivity. One day before NaNoWriMo 2011 was due to begin there was plenty of buzz going around about it and I was asked by other writers if I was going to be participating. Finally, I took the bait; with no new novel plans, with no themes or fresh ideas in mind to guide me through the experience. I felt lost.

Upon logging into the forum of my region on NaNoWriMo I came across the event called ‘write-ins’. It happens all over the world, just like all other NaNoWriMo events, and is organised by each regions ML. This is an event in which at least once a week a group of participants meet up at a library, café or other suitable spot to write their novels in company. When I found out about this, right in the middle of a write-in, I realised that I knew absolutely nothing about how big of a deal NaNoWriMo really was.

During NaNoWriMo I adapted to writing more and faster, hushing my inner (perfectionist) editor,  joining a group of people at write-ins and dealing with a genre that I had not touched in a long time, fantasy. I did all this with no real plan going into it and I made it through the experience with incredible memories and…with 50,000 words of a novel. Yes, I did actually make it to the end and won it. I was impressed with myself.

Occasionally I thought about what a lot of authors’ arguments are against NaNoWriMo, “Can something written in such a rush, without a lot of consideration, be considered good material for a novel?”

I can keenly reply with, “yes” now. With less time to fuss over meaningless details, wasting time staring at walls for no reason and with a simple idea in mind one can be completely surprised by the twists and turns that their novel will take. I found this to be extremely interesting and I feel like I learned a lot about myself as a writer in doing this.

Doctor and musician Charles Limb has studied much about creativity and the brain and states that by switching off the editor within can increase expression and creativity flow.

Having done his testing on music, Charles Limb says, “I absolutely believe that the same thing could apply to writing. The idea that you can get into the zone of writing and that you can get into the zone with music is very analogous. Many, many writers, I’m sure, are surprised at what is coming out of their fingertips, or out of their head, or off their pen. As they write, there’s some sort of effortlessness that can take over when you’re really in the zone.” This all refers to improvisation.

This means that the challenge and opportunity that participating in NaNoWriMo provides certainly has its advantages. It really gives us the chance to produce something fast and with a different type of quality.

June and August 2012 will be the set months for Camp NaNoWriMo, the summer version of NaNoWriMo for people who don’t have time during the November session. With that beginning, I encourage as many people as possible to join others in thirty days and nights of literary abandon. Or thirty-one in the case of August.

For those who are interested in script-writing, The Office of Letters and Light also organises Script Frenzy every April. The rules are similar; thirty days to write a 100 page script.

Having tried NaNoWriMo for myself and having won it, resulting in a novel that I’m extremely proud of, I absolutely recommend the challenge to writers. It’s more than alright if it’s not for you, or if you think you can do just fine without it, but do try it some time or another.

Have you participated in NaNoWriMo before? What were your experiences? Will you participate again? Let me know!

Useful Links:

NaNoWriMo: http://www.nanowrimo.org/

Camp NaNoWriMo: http://campnanowrimo.org/

Script Frenzy: http://www.scriptfrenzy.org/

Inspiration Is Everywhere!

Inspiration is truly everywhere, in everything we see and everything we hear, maybe even in everything we touch and everything we smell.

It’s no wonder then that people are so capable of being creative; our creativity relies, often enough, on inspiration of other peoples creativity.

It is not the first time that I hear a song late into the night, a song I may have heard thousands of times before, and it would suddenly inspire me! Who knows why exactly? Maybe it’s the mood, maybe it’s with the help of what is on my mind but the moment inspiration strikes with the help of something it’s very difficult to ignore it.

The other night two songs, ones that I have heard so many times, inspired two rather pivotal scenes in my current novel. I had been banging my head plenty during the outlining of this novel, trying very hard to form part of the emotional drive in the novel that I thought was necessary for it to feel like it was really gelling together.

The songs, the chilling breeze that blew in from a small gap in the window, the late hour, the sleepy haze and the mind full of ideas… The combination pushed me to outline scenes that I am going to have the best time writing!

What I’m trying to say is that there is inspiration in plenty of things, even things that we have seen or heard, touched or smelt many many times. Don’t waste that inspiration and, instead, take advantage of it. Also, try different things; old and new. It may be your cure for writer’s block.

These songs, if it’s of any interest to anyone, were both by ayumi hamasaki; ‘beloved’ and ‘HAPPY ENDING’.

So what inspires you? Have you ever found inspiration in some of the most unlikely times and places?