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I hope I’m a better writer than I was ten years ago. I’ve worked at it, and along the way, I’ve had a few sales — which told me I was doing something right, even if it wasn’t consistent. So how do I work at it?

I read — fiction, to see what’s out there, to absorb story patterns, to see how other people have managed to deal with trick situations; nonfiction, to research, to find new ideas, to stretch my brain; and writing books, to try to absorb lessons specifically about how to do things.

And I write. Sometimes, I write in a binge. Others, I might manage a few hundred words a day for months. Sometimes, the count goes up. Sometimes it goes down.

As far as I know, those are the keys to being a writer: read and write.


Today’s post was inspired by the topic “Improving Craft” — June’s topic in the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour — an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Be sure to check out the next posts in the series, by Sandra Barret and D. M. Bonanno.

If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and find out their thoughts on first stories, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. You can find links to all of the posts on the tour by checking out the group site. Read and enjoy!

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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Rocky start this year with the Merry-Go-Round Tour. I missed the first couple of months completely, and I’m a day late with this one. Such is life.

Today, I’m supposed to talk about what, in marketing speak, would be my USP: unique selling point (or unique selling proposition). Yeah, I hate marketing speak.

Now, obviously, no two stories (barring plagiarism) are identical, so it stands to reason that by definition my stories are unique. On the other hand, everything fits into a genre and has relationships with other things in that genre. My cozy mysteries take place in a small town, the murders are solved by an amateur rather than the chief of police, and the cast of characters is full of quirks. My science fiction has spaceflight or aliens (or both); my fantasy uses magic and beings that don’t exist in our world.

So what would make someone who doesn’t know me pick up one of my stories rather than somebody else’s? What is it that I bring to the table? Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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Back in January, I talked about my grandiose plans for the year. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well.

I didn’t finish the fantasy novel yet, although I did submit it to Viable Paradise.

I’m still working on fine-tuning the next cozy mystery, and I haven’t started the other series I mentioned I was thinking about.

I haven’t written the other middle grade novels nor the Dreampunk series novellas.

In fact, the only things on the list I’ve managed were the application to Viable Paradise and getting The Christmas Tree Farm Murders into paper (but not audio).

Yet for all that, I feel I’ve made progress this year. I’ve isolated things to work on improving, I’ve tweaked my work flow, and I think I’m finally getting a handle on how much I can reasonably expect myself to get done in a given time frame (the fact that it will never be as much as I want is depressing but must be accepted).

I’m going to see how some of what I’ve learned shakes out over the next two or three months before I set solid goals for 2014. I think the one thing I’m sure of is hat hey won’t be as far-reaching as this year’s were.

How about you? At the 5/6 mark of the year, what are you still aiming to get done in the next couple of months?


Today’s post was inspired by the topic “2013 project review” — November’s topic in the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour — an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Be sure to check out the next posts in the series, by Sandra Barret and D. M. Bonanno.

If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and find out their thoughts on first stories, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. You can find links to all of the posts on the tour by checking out the group site. Read and enjoy!

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

Motivation?

Aug. 2nd, 2013 10:35 pm
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There are two sources of motivation: external and internal. I love me some external rewards — sales, nice words, the comments I still get occasionally about people recommending my story “Matchmaker” to family as an excellent example of SF with a Jewish basis. Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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I’ve tried all the various routines, from writing in every spare moment to writing a specific number of words per day (mostly in the first couple of NaNoWriMos I participated in) to binge writing. I’ve written things straight through from beginning to end and gone back months or years later to pick up something that I set aside. Lately, I’ve been getting partway through the day on Friday and realizing I should write a flash to post.

I’ve written longhand in notebooks and on random index cards that are lying around. I have written in Word, in a plain text editor, and in Scrivener. I’ve written first thing in the morning when I sit down to the computer, and I have written late into the night (and on into the next morning) because I didn’t want to walk away from what I was doing.

I have also gone weeks without writing a word of fiction, instead spending time with my family, with books, with my crafts.

. . . so I don’t have a routine.

That’s okay. Although there are impassioned people who insist that if you don’t write every day, or if you don’t write first thing in the morning, or if you don’t outline first, or if you do outline, you’re not a real writer, I’ve never believed that. The bottom line is do I create stories that people want to read? As long as the answer is yes, I’m doing my job.

Even if it’s not routinely.


Today’s post was inspired by the topic “Writing routines”– April’s topic and theme in the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour — an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Be sure to check out the next posts in the series, by Sandra Barret and D. M. Bonnano.

If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and find out their thoughts on first stories, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. You can find links to all of the posts on the tour by checking out the group site. Read and enjoy!

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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In my freelance work, deadlines are a fact of life. Every project comes with one, and I know exactly how much time I have to complete the work.

For that reason, I’ve always liked themed anthologies and contests: I know how much time I have to write the story and, generally, how long it should be. NaNoWriMo also comes with a very specific, built-in deadline, and I’ve participated every year since 2003. Blogging deadlines work for me, too — my Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour post on the second of every month, and the A to Z Blog Challenge.

Do you notice something that all of these have in common? They’re externally created. When I read Alex’s post yesterday (Deadlines? Deadlines? What are deadlines?), I agreed totally. Self-imposed deadlines are a pain in the neck, and there are no consequences to letting them slip.

What I’m finding useful this year, though, is combining self-imposed deadlines with external expectations. I’ve promised to have something new up for sale every month, and because I know people are waiting (even if it is just a handful of people right now), I make sure I get something done. Note the generic “something” here — that’s key. I’m not committing myself to any particular story or novel getting done and posted in a given month. Eventually, I’ll probably have to do that as I build an audience and they expect reliability. Right now, it’s just focus on getting things done and building that audience.

What do you find helpful to meet your goals, writing or otherwise?

Today’s post was inspired by the topic “Deadlines: Love’em or hate’em?”– May’s topic in the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour — an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. The next post in the tour will be on the 4th, by D. M. Bonnano. Be sure to check it out.

If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and find out their thoughts on crossing genre lines, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. You can find links to all of the posts on the tour by checking out the group site. Read and enjoy!

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Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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I had real trouble with this one. I couldn’t come up with any Y words that directly said “epic fantasy.” I played with ideas, like using a list including words like yataghan and yogurt to talk about how specificity aids in bringing a world to life, or using Yahtzee in the title and segueing into the use of games in fiction, or talking about Yog-Sothoth (although Lovecraft is most definitely not epic fantasy), or saying something like “Y is for fantasy spelled backward” (though I couldn’t figure out where to go from there). Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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Computer and front window

The family computer where I do most of my writing. The glider on the right side of the picture is my brainstorming spot. (The balloons are from Boskone, if you're curious.)

I do most of my writing at the computer — currently, the family computer, which is positioned in the living room so I can look out the front window to rest my eyes if need be.

I do a lot of free-writing and brainstorming in the glider chair next to the computer. It puts my back to the window, but I get plenty of natural light. This is where I sat, for example, as I worked through what I wanted to write each day for NaNoWriMo this past November — what difficulties and solutions Jack Hawthorne was going to run into. The chair served me well then, as it does now while I’m thinking through an epic fantasy I’d like to write.

I’m not limited to one place, or even one room, to write, however. I have notebooks and pens scattered around the house, and I’ve been known to write short stories in bed, haiku while sitting outside, and random notes wherever I am. I don’t require specific items or place to write, which means I can write whenever I want.

I have a dream room, though, one I’ll probably never have — an octagonal tower room with windows all around and a spiral staircase coming up from below. The lower part of each wall is lined with bookcases — some reference books, some I’ve written, some books written by friends. My desk sits so I can look out the windows at the neighborhood. (I haven’t figured out yet how to deal with glare on the computer screen.) It’s a lovely dream, anyway.

Today’s post was inspired by the topic “My favorite writing place”– March’s topic in the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour — an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. The next post in the tour will be on the 4th, by D. M. Bonnano. Be sure to check it out.

If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and find out their thoughts on crossing genre lines, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. You can find links to all of the posts on the tour by checking out the group site. Read and enjoy!

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Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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As I’ve mentioned before, I often have more than one project in progress, so I had to decide which one to use for this post — I’m going to talk about Touching Time, my Mayan novel.

In my freelance work, I do a lot of proofreading of travel books. This often gives me little baby plot bunnies that I stuff into a hutch in my brain to see if they grow into anything. I’ve proofread a few for Mexico, the Yucatán, and Central America, and on the way, I ran across engravings that couldn’t be translated, cenotes, underground rivers, and abandoned cities completely covered by the jungle.

I think my thought process for Julia, my psychometric main character, originally had nothing to do with the Mayan ideas. She might have shown up in New Orleans, or maybe in England — somewhere with an atmospheric cemetery, trailing her hand across a gravestone to learn what the eroded carvings could no longer tell her.

When Moongypsy Press put out their call earlier this year, my mind flipped through the stored ideas and said, hey, Julia could read this untranslated mosaic. But then what did it say? Some research into the Mayan calendar and it’s repeating time cycles gave me the notion of time travel to a previous end-of-cycle period — triggered by Julia’s reading.

And those are the seeds the novel is being grown from — little bits of this and that from my work and my reading and letting my brain have the time to make the connections.

(Today’s post was inspired by the topic “Where I got my latest idea” — the opening question in the inaugural cycle of the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour — an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. The next post in the tour will be on the 4th, by D. M. Bonnano. Be sure to check it out.

If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and find out where they got their latest ideas, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. You can find links to all of the posts on the tour by checking out the group site. Read and enjoy!)

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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This weekend, Patricia C. Wrede posted to her blog about multitasking manuscripts. It’s an excellent discussion on how writers should figure out for themselves whether or not to work on more than one project at a time. She describes chronic multiple-project people as falling into three distinct categories. This one rang a bell for me:

The second kind of writer who comes to me with this question is the one who is spinning off ideas faster than she/he can keep up with. They want to work on eight projects at once because they’re afraid they’ll lose a brilliant idea if they don’t write it down immediately. They’re all about the “Oooo, shiney!”

Did somebody say shiny?

Read the rest of this entry » )

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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I've seen a few things lately denigrating horses-and-castles fantasy, anything set in medieval or pseudo-Dark Ages. Of course, my new idea, Sundered Sword, needs a historical milieu.

The idea started with the line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. "[S]trange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government." Which got me thinking about Excalibur and wondering what would happen if two different people both got swords -- or part of the same sword.

I can't write about such a thing in a modern world or even post-Enlightenment. People don't believe in divine right to rule and haven't for centuries. That pretty much limits the sort of fantastical world I can create.

It won't be a strictly medieval world. I've been reading a lovely biography of a woman in early seventeenth-century Italy, and I'll be borrowing Renaissance and Baroque elements, probably including guns and cannon. But the absolutely critical point is at heart, people must believe in the right of kings (or queens) to rule, even if it has been generations since one has.

And that's my rationale for adding yet another horses-and-swords fantasy to the world.

(cross-posted to Random Walks toward Publishing)

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