Why writers should ‘think’ a little evil #amwriting #writerslife #writing

I thought I would take a little time out from my WIP to talk about writers, and more specifically their evil nature.

Now, I realise that being a writer doesn’t make you any more disposed toward a life of crime, or even being unkind because it certainly doesn’t. Although please never check a writer’s search history because you will soon be convinced we are plotting an assassination attempt and looking for ways to hide the body!

What I am talking about is conflict…because every good book needs conflict…and the only way to think up conflict is…you guessed it…to think a little evil.

Planning evil

Right in the very earliest stages of your novel’s development, when it is no more than a twinkling in the dark pit of your mind…there is conflict bubbling up to the surface.

Without conflict or challenge there is only a…millpond.

I’m going to let you in on a secret…nobody wants to read about a millpond because it’s BORING!

What we need is stormy seas and howling winds, and a few pure evil key plot points to screw our character’s lives up!

Spontaneous evil

So, you kick off your story and you feel you have a goodly smattering of conflict going on when. …WHAM! It just pops in there, another totally evil thing you could do to your characters that will stir things up even more!

You rub your hands together in glee and immediately get down to the nefarious deed.

Barely have your characters got over that little challenge when…BAM! Oh yes, you guessed it, another nasty plot point has hatched in your very evil mind.

Evil Conclusion

Are writers quintessentially evil? Do we take to writing as a way of nurturing evil thoughts that are already there? Or do we develop and hone our evil plot point radar as we write and write some more?

I guess we may never know, but one fact is very well established, a little evil thinking will go a long way to help your writing!

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14 Highly-Anticipated Sequels Coming Out This Fall

Another great reading list!

Capital Nerd

We know the anticipation of waiting for the latest installment in a new book series we love, and we’re happy to report that there’s a slew of much-anticipated sequels arriving this fall. I’ve rounded up the must-read new releases, complete with publishers’ descriptions. Time to find out what happens next to our favorite characters!

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

The saga that has enthralled the millions of readers of The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End now continues with Ken Follett’s magnificent, gripping A Column of Fire.

Christmas 1558, and young Ned Willard returns home to Kingsbridge to find his world has changed.

The ancient stones of Kingsbridge Cathedral look down on a city torn by religious hatred. Europe is in turmoil as high principles clash bloodily with friendship, loyalty, and love, and Ned soon finds himself on the opposite side from the girl he…

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Author Interview – Greg Levin #authors @Greg_Levin #books

Today I have the pleasure of introducing author Greg Levin who will be sharing his thoughts on reading and writing, and details of his new book, In Wolves’ Clothing.

Greg on Writing

What motivates you to write?

The desire to remain sane. Kafka was spot on when he famously said, “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.” I can sometimes make it two or three days without working on a novel, blog post or grocery list, but after that I absolutely MUST write. Even when I’m on vacation in paradise with my beautiful wife, I need to scratch out a page here and there to keep the crazy away. Too much sun and surf and relaxation terrifies me.

Your biggest writing distractions?

My wife’s desire to go on vacations in paradise. That, and any kind of noise other than the clicks of my own keyboard and synapses. I wear silicone earplugs whenever writing to avoid being pulled out of my fictional world by such annoying sounds as my wife saying good morning, my teenage daughter sneaking back into the house, or my forgotten cats begging me to feed them. I know this makes me seem a little selfish and mean, but in my defense, I’m not a very good person.

What are your favorite books or sites you go to for writing tips/advice?

It’s been a while since I’ve referenced the following books (and maybe it’s time I revisit), but I’d have to say Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life and Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel. As for sites on the Interweb, I regularly click to Writer Unboxed, Lit Reactor and Writer’s Digest. Joanna Penn’s site—The Creative Penn—is another excellent online resource for writers, newbies and veterans alike.

Least favorite thing about writing?

That’s easy—the fact that I can’t quit it. It’s got me by the goodies and will never let go. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing, but there are times when the relationship turns abusive and I just want out. I’ve tried to leave in the past, but she always finds me and lures me back with her irresistible guile and powerful verbs.

What do your friends and family think about you being a writer?

My friends all think it’s fantastic … until I come out with a new novel and camp outside their homes until they buy multiple copies and write a rave review on Amazon. It’s tiresome for everyone involved.

As for my family, they’re extremely supportive—even when I’m losing my mind and being belligerent and/or neglectful while trying to finish a book. When I do finally finish, my parents always read it in one sitting, then call me afterward to tell me it’s brilliant. I should point out my parents are drinkers. My wife, she’s a bit too supportive. Whenever I even joke about quitting the writing game, she slaps me around—much the way writing does, albeit with better intentions. Still, having someone believe so strongly in you is dangerous.

Most important things a writer should spend money on?

If you’re an indie author like me, you can’t skimp on cover design, editing, proofreading, formatting and marketing. It’s also a good idea to fork over some cash for a course on how to be a drug kingpin or a jewel thief—that way you’ll always have plenty of money to pay for all those other items I mentioned. Finally, bourbon and vodka. (But never mix the two. That’s unhealthy.)

How do you measure your success as a writer?

By the word. It’s a lot more gratifying than measuring success by the royalties. Delusional is my middle name.

What advice would you give to yourself if you were starting the writing journey again?

I’d tell myself debut novels very rarely do well, so it’s better to start off with your third or fourth. I’d also tell myself that trying to make it as a writer is a grind, and that the grind is often painful and miserable, and that it’s important to use that pain and misery to write something worth a damn.

And to never quit. Because you can’t. And if you can, then you were never a writer to begin with. (Insert image of me dropping a mic and confidently strutting away … then blushing upon the realization I still have several interview questions left to answer.)

As a reader

What is your favorite book quote?

Oh my, I have to choose just one? That’s like asking me to choose a favorite snowflake or Rocky film. Hmmm, I think I’ll have to go with the following staggeringly good one from Denis Johnson—an amazing writer we lost earlier this year:

“Talk into my bullet hole. Tell me I’m fine.” (From Jesus’ Son.)

Favorite book hero and/or villain, and why?

I have two favorites, but (spoiler alert) they are really the same person. The first is the unnamed protagonist of Fight Club, and the second is Tyler Durden of Fight Club. I could go on for days explaining why they/he are/is my favorite hero/villain, but I must respect the first rule of Fight Club and not talk about Fight Club. I’ve already said too much.

Your most influential book?

This may shock you, but it’s Fight Club. It’s the book that really got me into contemporary transgressive fiction. And it’s not even my favorite book by Chuck Palahniuk. But it’s the one that awoke in me a fresh new way of writing­—dangerous prose with a minimalist bent. Prose that is dark and startling, but also peppered with pathos, humor and humanity.

Warning: Humble-brag ahead. … You can imagine my elation—and my terror—when, after having been a huge fan of Palahniuk’s for years, I got selected by him to participate in his inaugural “Writing Wrong” workshop in Portland this past spring (along with a dozen other writers). Every Monday for ten weeks I got to sit in a room with Chuck, read sections of In Wolves’ Clothing (a work in progress at the time), and have him tell me everything I had to fix to make the book as good as I had deluded myself into thinking it already was. The whole experience was extremely rewarding, and humbling. Most importantly, it gave me the ability to name-drop Chuck Palahniuk during interviews for the rest of my life.

Tell us what you are currently reading and your verdict so far?

I’m reading Kiss Me, Judas by Will Christopher Baer. It’s dark, sardonic and absurd. You know, the perfect book to bring to the beach. A fellow writer recommended it to me after shaming me for having never read it. I don’t know why it took me so long to discover Mr. Baer’s writing talent. I guess I’ve just been too busy trying to discover mine.

If you could have a signed copy of a book by an author (dead or living) what book would it be and why?

The Bible. Because I want to know who wrote it, and because I’d make millions charging people admission to see my signed copy. But I don’t want to end this interview on such a snarky note, so I’m going to provide another answer: Fight Club. You know, in case I ever lose my current copy that Chuck Palahniuk signed for me. Did I mention I know Chuck?

Before I go, thank you very much, Georgina (or is it Gee? Or G. L.?) for giving me such valuable real estate on your most excellent blog. Also, a huge thank you to your readers, who hopefully stuck around here till the end so I can remind them to check out my brand new novel, In Wolves’ Clothing..

Gee: You’re welcome 🙂

About the book

You are living in the your latest novel. Where are you living, and what is it like?

As the protagonist of In Wolves’ Clothing, I’m based in present-day LA, which is nice if you can stand the brutal traffic, brutal sunshine and all the brutally beautiful people. I, personally, cannot. So it’s a good thing I travel the globe for my job. I might be in Phnom Penh one week, Mumbai the next, and Rio de Janeiro the week after that. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds. Not even close. After all, there’s nothing glamorous about pretending to be a pedophile. Yup, that’s what I do for work. If you know of a better way to rescue victims of child sex trafficking, feel free to share it with me. Until then, my team and I will keep hopping on planes, drinking with pimps, and pulling off the most heartbreaking sting operations you can imagine.

About Greg Levin

Greg Levin is an award-winning author of contemporary fiction with a dark comedic tinge. He resides with his wife, daughter and two cats in Austin, Texas, where he’s currently wanted by local authorities for refusing to say “y’all” or do the two-step.

In Wolves’ Clothing  by Greg Levin

Zero Slade is not a bad guy—he merely plays one when saving children’s lives.

During his seven years on a team fighting child sex trafficking around the globe, Zero’s become quite good at schmoozing with pimps, getting handcuffed by cops and pretending not to care about the Lost Girls he liberates. But the dangerous sting operations—along with Zero’s affinity for prescription painkillers—are starting to take their toll on his marriage. And sanity.

You can also follow Greg on his social media sites!

If you have recently published a book and would like to feature in an author interview,  please email me at TheWritingChimp@gmail.com

How Not to Write: The Anti-Writing Writing Method — Drew Chial

So your writing is flowing too fast. The spark of inspiration has set your mind ablaze and your fingers hurt from typing. Stephen King says you should write 3,000 words a day and you’re lapping him: 6,000 words a day, 9,000 words a day. You’re so prolific your beta readers feel like you’re swamping them […]

via How Not to Write: The Anti-Writing Writing Method — Drew Chial

Finding your writer’s voice #amwriting #writing #writerslife

“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
—Allen Ginsberg, WD

A writer’s voice can be an elusive thing. It is hard to know you have found it unless you are an experienced writer with enough books under your belt.

Often, you instinctively know when you are allowing your fears to get in the way of what you really want to say, but it can be difficult to do something about it. Whether it is word choice, style choice, character choice, or some other choice you are smothering, it can be difficult to quash your inner critic and just let the inner writer out.

What is the definition of a writer’s voice?

The writer’s voice is the individual writing style of an author, a combination of their common usage of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works) Source Wiki.

One of the things I grapple with is my use of unorthodox words. There were a couple of places in my book where my editor pointed out ‘better’ words, but I decided not to use them. Of course, there were plenty of other places that I did take her advice. I guess there are certain words that interest me, and although there may be a simpler word I prefer the alternative ones.

I talk in the same way, it’s part of me, and I think there is nothing wrong with leaving a little me in place.

I’m glad I did, and for no reason other than it allows personality into my book.

What is the right amount of voice?

Many bestselling writers use very little ‘voice’ to make their books as appealing as possible. There is no doubt that this tactic works and to elaborate I will use an example. I am one of those odd people who tends to read book reviews after I finish a book, and I was reading a review of a book that I had thoroughly enjoyed, and was surprised by a large number of negative reviews. All the writer’s other works had received glowing 4/ 5 star reviews, but this particular book (which I personally felt was the best in the series) had received a significant number of 1 star reviews.

Why was everyone upset? Well, she had done something a little out of the ordinary in this one. Personally I felt it gave the book an edge that was lacking in the others. For me, this book had something that pulled it out of the ‘mundane’ pack. I read a lot of books and I have been reading for many years, and I have found over time that I actively seek and enjoy uniqueness in a book or writer.

Many of the readers wanted the nice flat line…personally I enjoyed the blip. Certainly not everyone was upset by the book, and it did get a lot of five star reviews too, but I couldn’t help but wonder if the writer’s decision to ‘stick to the safe script’ for future work was a result of these negative reviews.

I hope not.

Can you have too much voice?

There are also writers who have a very unique and extreme voice for a variety of reasons. I once decided, in my infinite wisdom, to read the complete works of Jane Austin while working through classic works. Jane Austin definitely has a voice! And the thing about reading a writer with a strong voice is that it rubs off, and you find yourself writing like…Jane Austin! Given that I mostly write scifi or fantasy, even when I am just ‘play’ writing, it was a rather bizarre mix! And funny! But definitely not a good style!

It is good to recognise the importance of what we read, and to be aware of how it ultimately impacts what becomes our voice. There’s nothing wrong with reading Jane Austin, but perhaps with hindsight six books back-to-back was a bit of a style overdose.  🙂

Whether you are an advocate of the neutral voice, or prefer reading books that have a distinctive voice, we all have one ourselves, and we can choose whether to let it out.

The value of books

Cracking scifi…and it’s free 🙂 Enjoy.

THINKING SCI-FI

Happy Birthday to me… All my ebooks are now free.

I turn 50 this weekend, and to celebrate, I thought I’d give away all of my books for free. Well, not quite all of them, as there are some where I can’t influence the price because they’re in anthologies, or with Kindle Worlds, or have been developed by a publisher, etc, but I think there’s roughly twenty that will be free this weekend.

I rarely do book giveaways, because all too often, books are undervalued, but this is a nice milestone for me so I thought you’d like to celebrate along with me. It got me thinking, though, about the actual cost of a novel.

Don’t underestimate the real cost of a book, as it is not found in its price, but in the investment of your most precious commodity—time.

The independent writing revolution spearheaded by…

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The importance of tension and pace

Some great reminders 🙂

Into Another World

This post is the tenth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Before we get into writing your novel, I wanted to talk about two important elements – tension and pace. Understanding both of these will help you write better scenes in your story.

Tension

Tension is the element of a novel that evokes worry, anxiety, fear or stress for both the reader and the characters.

One way to think about it is you are raising the stakes for your character, so he or she has to work to get what he or she wants. And this shouldn’t be easy. Basically, you want to keep saying no to your characters so that the conflict appears unsolvable. The more at stake for your character, the more emotions he feels about situations and events.

Tension can take…

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What do you always do? #Rituals #Editing #Writing #Editors #Authors #Bloggers

What are your writing rituals ? 🙂

Creating Perfection

Last week I attended an online author chat with Louise Jensen and her Bookouture publicity manager, Kim Nash, over on Facebook. Louise is the bestselling author of three psychological thrillers,The Sister, The Gift, andThe Surrogate (click the links to buy your copies!) and one of the questions asked was what, if any, rituals Louise has whilst writing.

She explained that she listens to classical music and lights a new, berry scented candle when she starts a new draft.

This got me thinking about the rituals I have when editing a manuscript.

Before I open a new manuscript, I clean my desk. I take everything off it, pc screen and all, then clean and polish it, the keyboard, mouse, screen; I organise the stationery in my screen riser, and the books I keep on my desk top. I then open a new page in my notebook and…

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Update: Writing, Books…and Pods! #amwriting #writing #writerslife

Where we write…

I thought I would begin my writing update by sharing a little about my writer’s nook (or pod in my case).

The funny looking structure above is my writer’s pod (The bit on the left…the big bit is a bedroom). I call it a pod, because…it really is a little pod on stilts and the perfect place to hideaway and write.

Here is the view into the valley from my window, which of course I never look at because I’m so focused on my writing! Okay sometimes I peak.

The inside of my writer’s pod…it doesn’t normally look quite that tidy! And I am also normally squished onto one side of the desk to make space for my cats…and their blanket.

And this is Toby, who was snoozing beside me while I was writing yesterday.

Writing Update…

I’ve been busy with a couple of writerly things. Firstly, book three has received all the beta feedback, so I’ve made the changes and will let it settle for a couple of weeks before I tackle the final read and review. I’m very excited to see the trilogy completed! And very grateful for all the constructive feedback I’ve had on the book…including all my bloopers. Between ‘discounting’ a horse instead of ‘dismounting’ and ‘lunching’ instead of ‘launching’, I’ve kept my beta readers entertained for all the wrong reasons! 🙂

My second bit of writerly activity, has been cracking into a new draft. This is set on the same planet as my current trilogy, but with a new cast and explores the planet’s colonisation. I’m about 30% in, and going reasonably well…reasonably, because I never feel comfortable with a draft until I get to the end and all the bits come together.

About my beta readers!

We are all at different stages of our writing journey, and so I would like to finish by dropping links and bios on two of my beta readers who are published authors themselves.

Jason J. McCuiston’s story,  “The Wyvern” can be found in Pole to Pole Publishing’s new anthology, Dark Luminous Wings. It is a post-apocalyptic steampunk horror story set in the skies above a Mojave Desert filled with magic and dark memories.

You can find out a little more about Jason here in his guest post. Talking about sport and writing! Don’t let the title scare you, I am the least sporty person on the planet, and I learnt something new 🙂

And this is the lovely Cassandra Parker, who always has at least 3 writing projects on the go, but still finds time to read my book and give me feedback!  If you are looking for a little 70’s nostalgia with a wistful and endearing love story thrown into the mix then check out her book Harley & Me.

You can also find out more about Cassandra in her author interview here. Author Interview – Cassandra Parker

Wishing everyone happy reading and writing! 🙂