Friday, August 30, 2013

DragonCon and 2k to 10k gets an update!

Hello everyone! So, as you might know, DragonCon is happening this weekend in Atlanta. (Some of you might actually even be there already, in fact.)

Let's hope these guys show up again!

Because I'm tired of getting rejected by DragonCon's guest committee (seriously, guys. Two published series, a popular self-pub writing book, tens of thousands of books sold all over the world, WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME? *looks at accepted guest list* Oh.)

Ahem. Long story short, I will not be attending DragonCon in my official capacity this year. HOWEVER! I will be at the con in Saturday just as myself (can't stop the signal, Mal!). So if you are at the con on Saturday and you want to come hang out with me and talk writing or Eli or whatever (or get anything signed), keep an eye on my Twitter feed. I'll be posting updates on my location all day. Hopefully we can get together and have some good times!

In other good news, I am very happy to announce that a new version of my fast writing book, 2k to 10k, is now available! To be honest, I never expected the book to do as well as it has, and I did not invest the time to do due diligence in my editing. Well, 177 reviews later, I've learned my lesson. This newly updated version has been professionally edited and reformatted. I won't say it's completely typo free because that's just tempting fate, but I will say it is much, much better than it was.

There is no substantially new content, but I did also reword several sections on publishing to reflect the growing importance and viability of self pub, so there's that. If you already bought the book, simply update your Kindle and the new version should download automatically. If you were thinking of buying the book and didn't because you didn't want to waste your dollar on typos, I hope you'll give this new, polished version a try. 

Thank you all for waiting so long, and I'm sorry I didn't do this before I published in the first place. I won't be making this mistake again.

That's about it! Enjoy the pretty new version of 2k to 10k and I hope to see some of you at DragonCon! Everyone else, have an awesome weekend!

- R

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Don't Stomp on My Cake!

Okay, so this is a true story about me and my writing. Namely, it's about me screwing up, hurting myself and my work, and then figuring out what steps to take so I don't do it again. As with every post in this blog, I'm posting it here in the hopes that you will spot the warning signs faster than I did and act more wisely. SPOILER: There are no actual cakes in this post. The cake is a metaphor.


So you might recall back in the day I wrote a blog post about dramatically increasing my daily word output through planning and observation (side note: this is probably what will be inscribed on my tombstone. "Here lies Rachel Aaron, That 2k to 10k Lady."). What I failed to mention in that original post, however, was all the time I spend not writing. I'm not talking about writer's block or other creative lapses. I mean legit "I have real life crap to deal with and can't physically sit down to type" not writing.

Now, for the most part, this sort of interruption is natural and unavoidable, even healthy (can't write all the time). My problem came with how I reacted to said interruption.

As you probably noticed from the multiple time tracking spread sheets I've posted over the years, I tend to approach my work from a "best case scenario" angle. I'm the sort of person who will suffer a minor interruption in my work flow, and then, if I don't think I can return to an optimal environment, I will rapidly flip in to screw-it mode. This tendency can range from minor ("I finished a chapter at 4:30 and I have to stop writing at 5... screw it, let's just quit here and play Minecraft!") to enormous ("I spent the morning at the doctor and now I'm tired, I've lost half my day, and I have to start a new chapter. Screw it, let's take the afternoon off and play Minecraft!"), and it's lost me more time than I care to think about.

This sort of behavior drives me crazy. I can't seem to make myself be good, even when I know full well what I'm doing and what it's costing me. It's not that I'm lazy (no one who actually gets through a book can ever be considered lazy), but every now and then I'll just hit this wall, especially if my non-writing life gets unusually stressful. And once I'm off a little bit--a few days behind where I want to be, then a week, then a month--it gets harder and harder to push ahead and easier and easier to say screw it, until finally there's no "it" left.

I'm much better about this now than I used to be earlier in my career, but this summer, I had a serious lapse. A combination of family trips, vacations, and various other unavoidable interruptions poked my schedule so full of holes there was barely any time left. Combine this with the fact that I was between books with no solid story line to pull me along and I haven't gotten crap done since June.

Naturally, of course, I feel awful about this. Nothing makes me feel more like a failure than looking at a total word count that's off from it's goal by a power of ten. And I'm a full time writer! The whole point of quitting my job was so that shit like this wouldn't happen. It's like I worked so hard making this beautiful cake of a life, and then the real world came in and stomped all over it.

Now, normally, this is the part of the blog post where I'd present my genius solution to the problem. "You must protect your writing time!" I'd say, or "Plot out your lost time on bell curve and science will show you the solution!" Or I could go with the tried and true writer axiom, "Word harder, slacker! Stop letting life kick you around like wuss and just write!"

The truth is, though, I don't have a solution. Life is messy. No matter how many walls I build or steps I take or plans I enact, shit still gets through to stomp on my cake. For someone as obsessed with optimal numbers as myself, that's a bitter pill to swallow. Looking back, there are definitely places where I could have worked harder or used my time more efficiently, but I can also see why I didn't...and I'm slowing starting to understand that that's okay.

I talk a lot about writing skills on this blog--plotting, tension, character building, etc.--but perhaps the most difficult writing skill of all to master (at least for me) is the ability to accept failure without turning it back on myself. This is amazingly important, because writing is absolutely full of failure. It comes in all sizes, shapes, and flavors of humiliation, and since writing is a solo endeavor, it's all too easy to pin the blame squarely on myself, even if the failure is something I had absolutely no control over. Add in the fact that writing pays the bills at my house, and we're talking lethal levels of guilt.

For the longest time, I thought this guilt was just part and parcel of the writing gig, a side effect of responsibility. Recently, though, I've started to realize there's nothing responsible (or noble, or laudable) about tearing myself down.

As much as I might like to pretend otherwise, writers are not super beings. We're not robots either, tuning ourselves to operate at maximum output efficiency at all times. We're just human, and humans fall down. We mess things up and get tired and make stupid mistakes and say screw it. When you're handling such potent materials as Great Dreams of Being a Writer, it's all too easy to get caught up in the goal, and (for me at least) to hate and guilt yourself over every fumbled step and missed opportunity. It is very easy, in short, to become a guilt fueled writer. But while guilt works in the short term, it's a treacherous fuel source, and enough of it can poison the stream of creativity and shut down your writing forever.

The sad fact is there's no way to completely protect your cake from getting stomped on. You can't will or guilt or threaten yourself into being an infallible super writer anymore than you can will or guilt or threaten everyone into loving your books. That said, just because your writing life cake has a big boot mark in it doesn't mean it's destined for the trash.

Authorship, storytelling, and creativity are life long endeavors; journeys of thousands of miles and multiple peaks and valleys. While we're on the trail, it can be very hard to take our eyes off the immediate mud holes and backtracking. But if we take a breath and look up, we'll see that these problems, however huge, are dwarfed by the enormous, endless, breathtakingly beautiful expanse that is the writing life. And while a change in perspective won't do anything to fix the hole you're in, it can and will make that hole look smaller, and it's amazing how much that helps you find your way out.

I'm still working on that solution for not letting life's unavoidable mishaps take such huge chunks out my writing schedule (current plan: if I decide not to write during work hours, I must do some kind of planning or writing related activity instead. So far, it's going more or less okay.), but I am slowly learning to accept my own mess ups with patience and understanding rather than guilt. That said, I've got a long way to go. I wasted years, years, guilting myself over every little thing and making myself feel terrible for missing what, I eventually realized, was an impossible goal. I can't be a perfectly optimized writer. It's just not going to happen. I can, however, be a reasonably good writer most of the time, and that is perfectly acceptable.

So here is the "learn from my fail" moment of this post: please, please, whatever you do, don't waste your time making yourself unhappy for years like I did. Polish that vital writing career skill of accepting failure and disappointment with compassion and understanding, and don't beat yourself up because you're not the kind of writer you think you should be, or someone else told you to be. Always remember that we're in this for the long game, not the short sprint--the career, not the novel. Anything else is just a form of self sabotage.

I'm going to wrap up here because I'm getting insufferably cheesy, but I really can not stress how much unnecessary pain and teeth gnashing I've put myself through over all this, and the idea of someone else going through all that pointless suffering for no good reason turns my stomach. So if you're mad at yourself and your writing, if you're frustrated with your lack of progress or characters or whatever has you blocked, know that you are not alone. You are, in fact, the opposite of alone. We have all been there, and while we all deal with it differently, I am going to go out on the limb and say that I feel you, and it's okay.

A few missed days or weeks or months of writing might feel like an epic failure, but in the long scheme of things it's just a blip. A long list of rejections definitely feels like the end of the world, but one story chalked up to a learning experience is just a tick on the long list of books you have yet to write. The only thing that really matters is that you get back in the saddle and keep writing, because the only thing on this Earth that can make you stop writing is you.

Life already stomps on your cake enough. Don't help it along by stomping down yourself. Focus on your Stories instead. Life's much more fun that way.

Happy writing!
- Rachel

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

GUEST POST by author Rebecca Harwell

2 posts in a row?! Well, sort of! A few weeks ago, Rebecca Harwell, author of the pretty boss sounding THE THUNDERBIRD PROJECT (which releases TODAY!), got in touch with me to let me know how much she enjoyed my writing book, 2k to 10k, and asked if I would be interested in a guest post. Since I am always interested in hearing about how other people are using my tools, I thought it sounded like a great idea, so here we are!

And now, without further ado, here's Rebecca!

2K to 10K, Rachel’s amazing book on writing efficiently, wasn't yet published when I wrote THE THUNDERBIRD PROJECT, but I wish it had been. There’s one simple trick Rachel talks about briefly (amid tons of other helpful advice) that would have saved me a painful revision.

Know your ending before you come up with your beginning.

It sounds contrary to the linear nature of storytelling, but it’s a gem. Here’s why. While the beginning hooks your readers, the ending is arguably the most important part of the story where all the threads come together in some sort of satisfying conclusion. In many ways, an ending is in the entire book in miniature as all the important characters, plotlines, and symbols are present. It also captures the tone of the entire story.

Tone is where knowing your ending first comes in handy. With THE THUNDERBIRD PROJECT, I did a rough, linear outline before I sat down to write the book. I started with a strong image of the beginning and a fuzzy ‘the good guys win somehow’ ending. The opening scene of my first draft had a lighthearted, almost humorous tone to it. It was told through the point-of-view of a rookie cop who didn't quite know how to handle the situation of an injured metahuman interrupting his morning patrol. I loved the scene; I still do. But it wasn't the right place to start the story, and I only realized that when I came to my ending.

The story began getting darker and darker as the stakes got real and the bad guys didn't pull any punches. While the good guys did end up winning somehow in the end, it was at an enormous cost. The second half of the story had a grim tone that didn't match the beginning.

Rachel note: OMG I can't say how many times this has happened to me!

I ended up having to go back and revise the beginning for tone. This was hard. Mainly, because tone isn't something simple that can be deleted or added. It permeates the plot, characters, and prose, and takes many drafts (in my case) to change. Eventually, I got the consistent tone I wanted. I added a new opening scene and revised the old one so while it still had some humor, it wasn't as lighthearted as the original version. No one who reads the opening chapters now will expect the rest of the story to be a feel-good romp.

If I had known how my story was going to end before I thought of a beginning, I would have been able to tell what kind of story I was writing (another piece of Rachel’s advice) and avoid a long and hard revision. By coming up with your ending beforehand, you know what to set the reader up to expect in the beginning so they don’t feel they signed onto a different adventure than the one you delivered.

About the Book:

Not all superheroes live a glamorous life.

The Thunderbird project was an FBI-run group of superhumans until they were unceremoniously disbanded and sent out into the world to live normal lives. But unfortunately for the red-headed, mean-tempered Jupiter being 18-foot tall makes blending into society pretty much impossible. She resigns herself to living in warehouses and searching for a place where she can just be left alone.
Some just want the world to forget them.

Four years later, after being followed for days by unmarked vehicles, Jupiter is attacked and left for dead on a bridge, narrowly rescued amidst screams and camera flashes by an old teammate. She discovers that members of The Thunderbird Project are being targeted and one is already dead. Jupiter reluctantly joins the newly reinstated group.

But some people won’t forget and just want them dead.

With a whole lot of pain and past between them, the team struggles to find the identity of the assassins so they can all go back home. Since any chance of getting away from the world disappeared the day she crawled onto that bridge, Jupiter just wants to make the guys who came after her pay. And if that means sticking it to a world that hates her…so much the better.

You don’t get a ‘happily ever after’ when everyone considers you a freak.

About the Author
Rebecca Harwell grew up in small-town Minnesota and spent most of her time reading fantasy novels and comic books, obsessing over people who don’t actually exist, and writing novels for fun. Despite becoming an official adult last year, nothing much has changed. She is currently studying creative writing and Japanese at Knox College with an eye on getting her master’s degree in library science. Her debut novel THETHUNDERBIRD PROJECT, a dark superhero tale, is available from Bedlam Press, an imprint of Necro Publications. Visit her website at

Thank you very much for stopping by, Rebecca, and congratulations on your release! Thanks everyone for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the guest post. Hooray for new authors doing new and cool things!

- R

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sex and Sword Fights

First off, I want to thank everyone who helped spread the word and make The Legend of Eli Monpress's turn as the Kindle daily deal a HUGE success! I made it to #9 in the overall paid Kindle store. NINE. For a few glorious hours there, I was #1 in Fantasy. The Eli in me is most pleased! (Now I just have to make it to #1 in all of Amazon, BWA HA HA HA!)

Seriously, thank you all so much! And if you're one of the lovely, lovely people who bough my book over this last week, I'm so glad to have you!

Now, let's talk about sex and fighting, cause that's how we roll here.

Sex and Sword Fights

Way back in the day, when I was but a wee little newly published author at her very first convention, I was put on a panel called "Writing Sex and Combat Scenes." Now, at that time, I hadn't actually written any sex scenes for publication, but I had written a lot of sword fights, and I guess half-qualified was good enough.

I don't remember much about the actual panel (I think we went off topic a lot, though saying "authors went off topic at a convention panel" is like saying "dogs went off topic when they saw a squirrel"), but that implied connection between sex and combat has stuck around in the back of my head ever since. It's only now, though, with 9 additional books, multiple sex scenes, and uncountable sword fights (as well as gun fights, fist fights, ship fights, and myriad other forms of conflict) under my belt that I've really begun to understand just how true the premise of that panel was. And so, to prevent you, lovely reader, from having to slog through all of the above as well, I'd like to take fifteen hundred words or so to talk about how writing sex scenes and writing fight scenes both work pretty much the exact same way.

Since this post is about to go R-Rated and slightly NSFW (assuming your boss is reading over your shoulder, I promise/apologize that there are no pictures), here is a cut to protect those who'd rather not be assaulted with this sort of How To on a Monday morning. ;)