IWSG: Novels You Have To Read

Being a writer— or an aspiring writer— is different. If you are a child or a plumber or a factory worker, the books you read are books you want to read. But for writers, there are books we have to read to make us better writers. There are good how-to-write books, sure. But one kind of must-read book for writers is examples of the kind of writing we do, or want to do.

For myself, right now I’m reading George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. No, I never watched the television series, and no, watching the TV series does not substitute for reading the book. I read it because it’s a wildly popular book in a genre (fantasy) which I like/write in.

THREE KINDS OF MUST-READ NOVELS

If you are a writer, I hope you are doing a lot of reading of all sorts of books. But there are three types which are kinds of books that you, personally, must-read.

  • CURRENT BOOKS IN YOUR GENRE(S) – You have to know what books are selling right at this moment, in any genre you write in or might soon write in. If you know what science fiction was like in 1950, but haven’t read anything recent, you are not ready to write any kind of science fiction— not even 1950s nostalgia science fiction.
  • CLASSIC AND OLDER BOOKS IN YOUR GENRE(S) – Who were the earlier writers who shaped your genre(s)? You need to read them. You also need to read older but non-classic genre books— many of your readers will have read such books. You need to know what your target readers will find ‘old hat’ or ‘done to death.’
  • OUT-OF-GENRE FICTION – Successful fiction writers are widely read. That writer of best-selling romance novels? She probably reads spy novels or mysteries or literary fiction on the side. You need to read new books and old books, popular and obscure books. Even some of the Great Books, but don’t despair. You don’t actually have to read Ernest Hemingway. Pick books that appeal to you in some way.

Now, if there is a book that is popular but you can’t force yourself to read past the first chapter, perhaps that’s not the book for you. You might read three useful-to-you novels in the time it would take to make yourself finish something you can’t stand. Also, if you have strong moral objections to the content of a popular book, go with your conscience. But you need to read something. Ideally, a lot of somethings.

IWSG visitors:

Please mention the URL of your blog in a comment and I will add your blog to the list of blogs I follow on Bloglovin’. I am looking to increase the number of blogs I interact with, and I’m willing to ‘reward’ comments on this blog by adding your blog to my list. 

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#FixThatBlog – Blogging and your WIP

This is a post in the #FixThatBlog series about fixing neglected author blogs, and also the July post in the Insecure Writers’ Support Group blog hop. See, multitasking!

A writer must write. Write on his works-in-progress, and finish first draft and other drafts. But he must also write blog posts so he can build a platform, right? But how do you find the time to do both?

You make the time. Platform-building, in the form of writing your blog posts, and writing your writing-works are both being-a-writer tasks. As are finding agents and traditional publishers, or finding book cover artists and editors-for-hire, depending on whether you are seeking indie writer or traditionally-published writer status.

But it’s tricky. I have a lot of days when I either write blog posts or do work on my WIP. I’ve been trying to schedule a second writing session in my evenings when I usually watch boring crap on television. But due to my health problems and to cheats on my ketogenic ‘lifestyle’ I am too exhausted in the evenings lately to actually do it. I must think of some other solution.

We writers are multi-taskers. We write on our WIPs, but we also go to our day jobs or get our laundry done or cook our meals. And make our bulletproof coffees. There have been cases of writers who took a year’s sabbatical to finally have time for their writing work— and they get even less done than when they were busy with a day job.

I’m not a perfect person on being organized or on Getting-Things-Done. I have Asperger Syndrome (autism spectrum disorder), which can make a person seem like they have attention deficit disorder as far as being organized and getting things done is concerned. And I’m not a spring chicken any more, and so have a set of health problems that cause a lot of fatigue, especially when I don’t watch my diet. So I have to adapt whatever advice I get from books to what works for me.

Days of the week are one ‘organizational’ tool I have. My garbage pickup is on Wednesday, so an important task on Tuesday is getting the garbage gathered and the garbage cart taken to the curb. Since this blog, since my recent small stroke in February, is also replacing a ketogenic diet blog I don’t have time for, I use Thursday as ‘keto day’ on this blog and make keto posts then. The first Wednesday in the month is Insecure Writers Support Group day. Saturday I can write about my cats or critters, and Sunday I can write things related to Christianity.  This gives me a bit of a planning scheme that I can remember.

To learn more about writing and time management, read How to Manage the Time of Your Life by James Scott Bell. (JSB writes a lot of how-to-write books that are very useful, and also writes mystery novels in the Evangelical Christian fiction market.)

To learn more about Getting-Things-Done, pick up  Getting Things Done by David Allen. This book has been found so useful by so many people that it made the book into an actual bestseller— as in ‘New York Times bestseller.’

IWSG folks on Blogger: if you have that ‘prove you are not a robot’ thing enabled, I cannot comment on your blog post. Sorry. It just doesn’t work on my computer and I’m sick of writing comments that don’t get posted so I have stopped trying.

Have you had any conflicts between getting your WIP done and writing your author-blog posts? Or getting your other tasks done? What do you do about the conflict? Have you found a solution that works for you?

#IWSG – How to Find the Right Genre

Genre? What is a genre? Does ‘creepypasta’ count as a genre? It’s confusing, and that makes for writer insecurity.

This is a post for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Find Out More: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

Let’s make things easy. A genre is a division in a real-world bookstore. They keep the mysteries in one place, romance in another, and the science fiction and fantasy genres lumped together in another place.

Genres like that are major genres. There are a lot of subgenres under each genre, but the important thing is the major genre. Some subgenres disappear— like the Gothic romance that had its own shelf in the bookstore in its heyday— but writers continue on in another subdivision of the major genre. Some Gothic romance writers just called their work ‘romantic suspense’ and kept on writing Gothics!

What genre is right for me? Because of having Asperger Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder) I can generate infinite self-doubt about my genre choices. I can tell myself ‘you aren’t really good enough/original enough to write in that genre’ until the sheep come home. (I don’t own cows so can’t do anything until the cows come home.)

The first genre I really loved was science fiction, and that wasn’t because of books, but because of the original Star Trek series. As I grew old enough to obtain books on my own, I read Orson Scott Card and Mercedes Lackey and other authors, some of whom I no longer mention, as in the case of the Darkover authoress who ruined her own fiction by being a swine in real life.

What I really like is a subgenre which is sometimes called ‘planetary romance,’ which is a fantasy-like story which takes place on another planet and where the ‘magic’ tends to be based on science not yet understood in our own time. My current WIP is in this subgenre.

I also get writing ideas that are not ‘planetary romance’ but that fit into the science fiction and/or fantasy genre(s) in some way. Even my ideas for Westerns tend to have alien cowpokes in them. I think that is the key to determining a writing genre— not which you like to read the most, but which genre you constantly have ideas for.

Do you have a Facebook author page? Read: https://myantimatterlife.wordpress.com/2019/05/25/doing-facebook-author-pages-in-2019/ and add the link to your author page in a comment, and your author page will be added to my list! The list is here: https://myantimatterlife.wordpress.com/fb-author-pages/

How New Author Bloggers can get Readers, Part 1

Imagine you just started your author-blog yesterday. You wrote a blog post that is really fine-and-dandy. But it will probably be a while before you start getting discovered by readers. What can you do, right now, to get your posts read?

One thing that has worked for me is the Insecure Writer’s Support Group or IWSG. It is a monthly blog hop for writers which has really blossomed in to something big. It takes place the first Wednesday of every month. Here is where you sign up. http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

It’s a very LONG list of participants. And they weed out the people who forget to participate regularly. Now, just this list of subscribers is gold, because it is a list of active author bloggers.

Best Practices for IWSG Participants

     Your Post

The group is about sharing your insecurities as a writer. DON’T write a post that sounds like a blurb from your book. Write something that shares a little of yourself, and how you are not quite 100% confident about your writing. But— here’s an important hint— don’t sound TOO insecure. You want other people to have some confidence in your writing. So don’t write an ‘everything I write is utter dreck’ post because that encourages people to believe it! Write something about one little thing that is giving you trouble. Or that you worry about. As in my own case: I’m working on a zombie apocalypse story, and I finally have a good name for my Hero: Eirik, a Viking form of Erik. But in this case his birth name was Frederick. It’s great, and Frederick has resonance with me because I had a grandfather Frederick. And my other grandfather had the middle name of Friedrich, German for Frederick. But then I realized— the name Eric is close to Rick, the hero of the zombie TV show The Walking Dead. What is my subconscious mind trying to do to me?

Visiting blogs

The number one thing that the IWSG does for you is gets you to visit other people’s blogs. And the one thing you have to do is to write comments on blogs. Any blogs. All blogs. Except porn/erotic-romance writer’s blogs, of course. (Their writing world is not our world.)

Comments can and should be short, but they should show that you have actually read the blog post in question. ‘Nice post’ does not cut it. ‘Nice post about your cat’s flea infestation’ does.

There are four kinds of blogs on the IWSG that it pays to comment on:

  • The ones at the very bottom, who have just signed up and who may not be used to getting comments on their blog
  • The ones at the very top, who are regular participants and who get lots of comments on their IWSG posts (make yours memorable.)
  • The ones in the middle, who don’t get the attention that the bottom and top do
  • Your regulars. These are the people who, after a few months of participation, you think are good matches for you and your blog. Perhaps they are writing in your genre, or they share your worldview, or maybe they are just funny or have great content or share cute pictures of their cat. Make a list of these blogs you like and be sure to visit them each time.

Being visited

Remember to visit back on the blogs of your commenters. I’m really insecure about doing that because visiting back feels too much like social interaction and as a person with Asperger Syndrome (autism spectrum disorder) that’s difficult and scary.

Mark the Date

It’s easy to forget about the date of the IWSG, which is the first Wednesday of the month, so mark it on your calendar and put a note on the wall of your writing room. It’s a very worthwhile effort for those with new or rarely visited blogs.

 

IWSG/Worldbuilding Wednesday: Original Enough?

Insecure Writers’ Support Group: Original Enough?

Have you ever felt that your worldbuilding wasn’t really original enough? I’ve read some works like that: a sci-fi where people had phasers and answered to ‘The Federation’ and had transporter beams that were called transporter beams…. It was really just a Star Trek fanfic without the beloved Star Trek characters.
But what if you try to be totally original on every possible aspect of worldbuilding? To the point where your characters are wearing their shoes on their heads, as hats? That goes past the point of ‘too original’ all the way to ‘peculiar stuff no one will read.’
What a reader, particularly a genre reader, is looking for is a reading experience that will be ‘the same, but different.’ What produces that, in worldbuilding, is to have some things that are familiar from other stories in the genre, some things that are similar-but-different, and some things that may well be unique to your work. That reduces the burden on those would-be writers that feel they aren’t original enough.
In my own work, I have a Terran space fleet sort of like Starfleet in Star Trek. But the civilian authority they answered to— a disaster similar to the United Nations— disbanded and the Fleet is on its own. No civilian authority, no taxpayers to pay the bills. So the ships of the Fleet carry cargo and escort cargo ships to earn their pay.

Worldbuilding Wednesdays: Judicial System

In my world for my current WIP, this comes out to being about interplanetary law. This is not a nice-and-neat category. One major authority is the Interplanetary Humanoid Archive. They classify the different humanoid races and their classification determines whether a humanoid race is able to colonize a planet by themselves or just a part of a planet. They keep records on claims made by the different races. This is useful since some humanoid races have been exploring space for a very long time and records can show whether a planet occupied by humanoids is its own thing or a failed colony from long ago.
Another authority for interplanetary law is the Fleet. The Fleet uses certain space stations and planets as regular stops for their ships. They insist on certain things in the law of these space stations and planets. They don’t want to do business with a place that thinks it’s OK to steal their stuff.
Tiberius Base, being a space city under construction, does not have its judicial system fully put together yet. Right now Fortunate Dragon, the corporation building the station, makes its own rules. But Fortunate Dragon is under the authority of the Terran interplanetary national entity called the Interplanetary People’s Republic which has a system similar to modern-day Communist China. Since business is important to them, they don’t enforce communist policy in free-trade districts as Tiberius Base will be when completed. They look to having freedom of speech and freedom of religion on the Base even though these conditions don’t prevail in other parts of their interplanetary nation.

This has been a post in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. AND in the Worldbuilding Wednesdays blog hop. Please visit the links for more information on the blog hops in question.

Book recommendations: I have been working through K. M. Weiland’s Outline Your Novel Workbook, which has been very helpful in getting to know my characters and my story. I have also purchased K. M. Weiland’s Structure Your Novel Workbook and hope that also will be useful. As I have Asperger Syndrome I am VERY disorganized and have not had much success in organizing my ideas into a complete novel. (It’s why I write poetry.) I am hopeful these books will help me upgrade my outlining and structuring skills.

IWSG: Reviving my 2006 blog in Esperanto

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeThis is a post in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. Join at: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

My latest ploy to avoid having enough time to work on my WIP is reviving my oldest blog— one from 2006. At that time, my main blog was called ‘Moreover the dog went with them’, after a line from the Biblical book of Tobit. (If you don’t have Tobit in your Bible, you need a better Bible. Tobit was in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Bible Jesus and his disciples used.)

In addition to Moreover, I started a second blog in Esperanto, the international language. It’s called ‘kaj la hundo iris kun ili’, which is the Biblical phrase from the Esperanto Bible.

The Bible in Esperanto translation.

Esperanto Bible

I have not posted in ‘kaj la hundo’ in years, but lately I decided to start again. The reason is that I am working on a science fiction novel in which Esperanto is the common language of the Terran Empire and also used as an intercommunication language by aliens, because it’s such an easy language to learn. Using Esperanto as a futuristic language used to be far more common in science fiction, but today’s science fiction writers are convinced that difficult English will be the One True Terran Language in the future. Not very logical, but…..

My revival of the ‘kaj la hundo’ blog is currently concerned with providing links to Esperanto learning material for English speakers. Here is the link, in case you want to have a look: http://kajlahundo.blogspot.com/  I welcome comments on any of the posts there in any language. Well, OK, if you are going to comment in Chinese or Swahili I won’t understand it a bit, but I welcome the comments anyway. 😉

I especially hope to find readers for that blog interested in learning a little Esperanto. Studies show that Esperanto can be learned in 1/10th the time it would take to learn another European language. So it’s a quick way to get a second language into your brain.

More recently I started a Facebook page in Esperanto called ‘La Sankta Biblio en Esperanto.’ As you may have guessed, it’s about the Bible. I try to regularly post verses or groups of verses from the Bible in Esperanto. I usually give the English as well, and for single verses a few other languages. I use the web page Jesus Army Multilingual Bible to help find the verses in different languages. Here is the link to La Sankta Biblio en Esperanto: https://www.facebook.com/sanktabiblio/

I’d really like it if language geeks and Bible geeks would ‘like’ that Facebook page and share it with their friends. Thanks!


Kitten Picture of the Day

juliannenorbertMy cat Julianne— the orange one— got pregnant this spring and had to have an emergency caesarian. All of her kittens died. During the grief period Julianne needed to cuddle a kitten, so I handed her the youngest cat we had— seven month old Norbert (who is a girl kitty.)

Julianne has got over losing her kittens, and she’s grown a lot. She was so tiny at two years old the vet thought she was a pregnant kitten. But now she’s almost as big as her brother and kitten-daddy Derek. Perhaps being neutered let her grow more.IWSG

IWSG: Will all our voices still be heard?

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

This is a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Join them here: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

The world of writing has changed. If a big publisher doesn’t want to publish your work, not because it’s bad, but because you don’t fit into their image of what a writer should be, think and write about, you have options— you can self-publish. That makes some of us feel that we are utterly free and can publish whatever we like, no matter what our point of view is on such matters as politics and religion. But that freedom may turn out to be quite restricted.

You may know that the publishing world has become more consolidated. Instead of dozens of independent publishers, there are a handful of publishers with dozens of imprints each. Many of these imprints were formerly independent publishers.

Does this matter if you are self-published? It might. Because the firms we use to self-publish— CreateSpace, Lulu, Smashwords— are also major publishers likely dominated by let’s-all-think-alike progressives. If you are a successful self-published author but don’t fit in to what big publishers have determined is mainstream enough, there is always a chance that someone might decree that  something you have written is ‘hateful’ or ‘extreme.’

Being careful may not help. During my Youthful Marxist Phase I wrote a sarcastic phrase ‘bullets and ballots mean much the same thing.’ The Communist that ran ‘Struggle’ magazine failed to recognize the sarcasm and rejected that poem on the ground that it was far too ‘extreme’ even for full-on Communists. Anyone can run afoul of these accusations, especially those who are independent thinkers.

Some may feel that the solution is to sell out. Be what the big-boy publishers want a writer to be, even if you are self-publishing. Write another me-too commonplace novel even though it’s something you don’t even want to READ much less write. But that seems to me to be just another way to sell your soul.

So, will our voices be heard? I know that there are a lot of people in the publishing world that would not particularly welcome my voice. I am a prolife Catholic Christian, a person with Asperger’s Syndrome, a chaste-and-loving-it lesbian, and a conservative-libertarian. They won’t know whether to call me a hater or claim to be ‘liberating’ me.

But I have something in me that is not easily silenced. Perhaps it’s just my Asperger’s Syndrome which makes me not know when to shut up. Perhaps it’s just that I want to be myself since I don’t know how to be anyone else. Will anyone hear my voice? If I don’t keep trying, I will never know. I hope that all who read these words will also keep trying, and being true to themselves. Don’t conform, create!

My Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/nissalovescats/


Poem of the Day

Here’s one of my own poems that seemed appropriate.

msm

the place was full
of fences
to let us know
where to be

fences
meshing
in our minds
to keep us in
main
stream

(c) Nissa Annakindt

from my book ‘Where the Opium Cactus Grows’, 2010 edition. The title of the poem, ‘msm’ refers to the mainstream media. Just in case you didn’t guess.

If you can read this, it means you have read this post all the way to the bottom. Thanks! Please leave a comment, and, since you were kind enough to read my post, feel free to link to your book (if you have one) and perhaps give a short (1 or 2 sentence) summary of what your book is about.