Thursday, July 25, 2013

R.A.G.E. Original Artwork

Way back a few years ago, I ran the query gambit with R.A.G.E., and while I'd had a few hopeful moments, it was clear I was getting no where with traditional publishing. While it was depressing at the time, I realize now that it was because the manuscript wasn't ready yet. Not by a long shot. There was still just so much I needed to learn.

But in true ADD-Stauna fashion, that wasn't good enough. I had a darn good story that deserved to be read and by golly I was going to make it happen. So I set about to self-publish. I sent my manuscript off on a final edit with my writing buddies, I did all the legwork on Amazon's Create Space, and (not knowing much about computer graphics but a whole lot about oil painting) I painted the picture below to use as my cover art.

R.A.G.E.  Oil on canvas with metallic silver highlights. 2011

A few days after I got my proof copy from Amazon, I was picked up by a small publisher and would spend the next two years feeling like I'd never be good enough to warrant print. Now years later, I've learned what I needed to attract the attention of another publisher. (Announcement coming soon, no really.)

Now while this painting will never be used for the cover art of my book, I'm still really fond of it. It conveys the feel and energy of the novel.

And hey, who doesn't like a gal in uniform with electricity coming from one hand, while holding an M-16?

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Importance of Invisible Writing

I'm dragging some of my writing posts from my old blog over here, ya'know, to consolidate any blog-stalking you might be doing. ;-)

So you've just finished your novel. No, not just any novel, the Great American Novel. No, your magnum opus! This novel has been designed to make people perk up and listen. You had a theme and you stuck to it and now everyone will be talking about it. The word will go out and awareness will be raised for those trees in the Amazon rain forest, those civil rights issues in the south, the sea turtles off the Eastern seaboard facing extinction, the sexism across the country.

Well, I hate to tell you this but if you've just finished writing a novel under this mindset, you have a problem. Notice I said novel, not nonfiction. The trouble is people read novels to be entertained. They want to be taken away with a cast of characters. They want to see what they see and feel what they feel. They want to be brought into the emotions of another person and learn their story and savor the conclusion. No one wants to be preached to. That’s what textbooks and scriptures are for.

We've heard it time and time again: The story must be king.

When anything in your novel bounces the reader out of the story and takes them away from the vividness of those characters and settings, I’m afraid to tell you that your writing is showing through. You worked hard on those words but really, no one wants to actually see them. They just want a story.

Now unfortunately this doesn't just apply to those larger themes mentioned above. This applies on a much smaller scale. You may have that novel where nothing is more important that the conflict and the characters. And yet your readers are constantly being pulled out of the story for some reason or another and forced to examine the actual words you've put on the page.

I’m talking of course about the technicalities of writing. I recently read two books back to back. One, an absolutely fantastic work where the only thing that took me out of the book was the use of OK vs. okay (okay, I admit, I really like “okay” better. OK looks like it’s being shouted). Is that OK with you!!

On the other hand, the other book was so full of passive writing, telling vs. showing, adverbs and other bothersome things you may think are not so important, that there were times where I would go for pages only seeing the words and never being drawn into the story at all. I spent more time mentally editing sentences than I did actually reading the stupid thing.

I’m sure someone is yelling at me at this point that not all readers see or even know about these silly writing rules. I agree. Most readers don’t know about them. They simply read the book with a vague sense of annoyance. They’re never drawn fully into the story and they probably don’t even know why.

Writing rules are in place for a reason. They allow us to smooth down those sharp edges into a silky piece of work. People will read it and walk away talking about your characters as though they are real people. They’ll make fan pages for the fantasy world you've created and sport t-shirts with your brilliant magic system brought to life.

The only people who appreciate purple prose are the ones who write it. You will never be able to sell the importance of your theme to a group of people if they can’t get into your novel. People will never get to know your characters unless you can make them seem like something other than words on a page.

So here’s the kicker. You know your characters better than anyone. You can go to any page of your Work in Progress and see their faces and feel their emotions and see their thoughts. To you they are real because you created them. You saw them before they were those words on the page. So how do you know if you've actually made your writing invisible?

1. Alpha readers. Beta readers. Writing groups. Editors. I can’t stress enough how you need an outside opinion on your work. Someone honest who won’t tell you what you want to hear. Allow them to tell you when they can’t stay connected to parts of the story. Or when that same freakin' word keeps jumping out at them. Or when they've had to read that sentence five times in order to discern the meaning.

2. Learn those all-important rules. Active vs. passive writing. Limited adverbs. Varying word choice, point of view, etc, etc, etc. Don’t just learn them, embrace them. Make them become as natural as typing. The rules are in place for a reason. They are formulaic devices honed over the years by people much more brilliant than ourselves to pull the story forward and make the words sink quietly into the background.

3. You know if you've themed your writing. It’s good to have a theme. It’s better to have a story where readers feel for the characters plight and worry about said characters surviving in that doomed rain forest in the Amazon.

Make the story the King.

So let’s be honest here. Is your writing invisible?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sometimes when your manuscript is on submission........

So when I parted ways with Shelfstealers late last year, I spent a good 5-6 months doing some heavy duty editing, revising and major rewriting of R.A.G.E. in an attempt to get it submission-worthy again. When I felt it was as good as it was going to get without the help of a professional editor, I sent it out once again into the big, bad world in the hopes that a publisher out there somewhere would love R.A.G.E. as much as I.

Normally after I've sent my baby out on submission I spend my time checking my email obsessively, desperately hoping that R.A.G.E. is being read at this very moment and X publisher has to contact me immediately just to tell me how much they adore and want to publish my book. In between the email-checking, I would continue on with my writing, firm in the belief that R.A.G.E. will be such a rip-roaring success that  fans the world over will be clamoring for a sequel.

Well, I'd already written the sequel and gotten a darn good start on the 3rd book in the series and let's face it, I was exhausted after 6+ years of constant writing and editing. So instead of twiddling my thumbs and thinking dark thoughts directed at the publishing industry as well as inward at my compulsion to write, I focused my energies elsewhere.

I learned  how to crochet (courtesy of YouTube) hats, booties and blankets.

And flowers....

Lots and lots of flowers.

I faced my fear of tall ladders and painted the family room with the 20 foot ceilings

I turned the old Rex Jet wagon from my childhood that I'd found rusting in the field behind my parents house from this..... this.

And in having success with the wagon I begged the old Schwinn Tandem bike off of my parents as well, turning it from this....

....into this. It's still incomplete, needing seats, the chain put on and probably a professional adjustment from a bike shop before it's ride-able.

Now here we are in the middle of the summer and I'm running out of projects.

But that's okay because there is excellent news on the horizon publishing-wise. Stay tuned for an announcement in the next month or so.

I may even open up a word document and start writing something new to calm my underfed, compulsive writing demon.