Four years ago I had never heard of a Nac Mac Feegle, the Wintersmith, or Tiffany Aching. My friend Josh told me about the Feegles and Tiffany’s three books in the Discworld cannon created by Sir Terry Pratchett and for some reason, unlike most other things, it stuck there.
A year or so later I was looking for an audio book at the local library and noticed a picture of a funny little man on the front of one of them. It was a Nac Mac Feegle of course, and I soon remembered Josh’s recommendation.
When I heard about the death of Sir Pratchett, I was sad of course, but not just because he was gone. I was sad because Tiffany will have no more stories. He may never have planned to write any but I pictured Tiffany Aching getting older and wilder and ending up like Granny Aching, living among the green hills in the Chalk, tending sheep and any livestock brought to her, all the while trying to keep the Nac Mac Feegles from running off and roasting one of them.
In my challenge for reading this month I said read something out of the ordinary. If you are still looking, Sir Pratchett’s books are certainly that. They are full of adventure, warmth, and the wit and humor only Sir Terry Pratchett could bring.
One of the most nerve wracking times for a writer is when we send out our work. It’s sort of what I imagine an artist feels like putting up their creations in a gallery. It’s no longer in our heads or buried away in a word document. It’s out there and people can choose not to like it. And then there is crying.
That can be one take on the submission process.
The other side? Pure euphoria. We’ve done something. We set about to accomplish an article, short story, or novel and we finished. Putting together the proposal is the after party. And what happens after it’s sent off? It’s all whirlpool tub and wine or maybe we just collapse and don’t move for a day or so. Either way, it’s a huge relief.
Now, if you have not submitted your work and think you might be close to doing so there is a huge opportunity happening today in the Twitterosphere between 8am and 8pm. Book Baby, a self publishing website mentioned this article about submitting to agents today only, using various hashtags. They even provide instructions and tips.
Why do I bring this up? Because some of you may be ready for that next step. If you have your elevator pitch down and are about ready to send it out anyway why not give it a try? You don’t have to sign with a particular agent. This is a chance to see what happens. Nothing may happen. But something might happen and that’s one of the reasons we write.
If you do this be sure to let me know @parttimenovel.
I’m reading the book Start by Jon Acuff again. There are some leadership or ‘Live a Better Life Now!’ books that I want to throw into the heart of the sun. This is not one of them.
Part of the brilliance of the book is that it is not telling you ‘5 Easy Steps to the Life You Want!’ or some other stupid prepackaged garbage but instead it offers you some food for thought and then let’s you choose the path best for you.
I am reading a section titled the Land of Learning. This is the light bulb, crash and burn, and playful area of mastering something. You discover that one thing you keep coming back to (writing or collecting coins, whatever) and you start to dabble in it more. You fail, fall on your face, but you have fun with it – sort of like learning how to ice skate.
Mr. Acuff also explains how he’d love to be in a plane crash. Not a horrible one, but one that gives him that near death experience which changes the way he approaches life. So he played one out in his mind.
What would he do if he valued life every minute he lived it?
Sleep more? What?!
Watch one more episode of The Walking Dead? NO!
He’d spend time doing the stuff he’d always wanted to do. Like write a book. In other words, the crash would bring into focus what matters most.
One question he asks and I redirect it to you is, how about give 30 minutes a week to your dream? This may seem light but it is a start we can all commit to. Once we show up that often every week, 52 times, who knows what might happen.
What do you plan to spend your 30 minutes on?
This Friday, I’ll be teaching a workshop on Worldbuilding at the Jot Conference. Most workshops are, um, workshops – you do shop. Mine won’t be any different. I am going to walk you through the process of putting together the pieces behind your story. It’s like creating the board on which to play your game. Your characters will interact with the world and as its creator – you’ll need to know a lot about it.
For worldbuilding part 1 go here. Another portion of the worldbuilding process is cartography. Whether you are doing a modern murder mystery set in New York City or a fully detailed fantasy you’ll need to know the terrain and for that you’ll need a map.
If there is a chase scene or a battle on the plains of ___ you’ll need to know where these places are located. The map and terrain will impact things like the vocabulary of the locals, commerce, and transportation no matter if your story takes place in rural Iowa or the mountains of Neatherdale.
As you consider your current story know that the level of realism can be so much deeper if we have a firm grasp of the lay of the land.
Sure, court thriller writers take in a few legal suits or work a bit as a paralegal. They sit through courtroom cases and talk with inmates if possible. This is research. But they are also getting their bearings. They must know the general layout of the courtroom too. And the best way to do that is to make a map.
I have a problem. I buy books. Too many books. I measure things I want in books – specifically – used books. As in – I’d love to buy the latest tablet but that’d be like two hundred and eighty used books.
I’d rather have the books.
Thus as an avid book fan and reader and writer of them I submit this thought to you during this beautiful reading month of March.
A lot of luster can be lost on reading when we turn to the same old self-help, western, romance, fantasy, and classic author. Yes, even classics can get dull when that is all we read. I once heard an interview (posted somewhere on this blog) where author Neil Gaiman said Tolkien didn’t read fantasy books, he read books on Old Norse and Finnish philology and it helped him, obviously, write books of his own flavor.
As you think of what book you may devour this month go out of the way. Despise ordinary and go on a distant hunt, far away from your normal go to genre as possible. If you read fiction only by male writers get a non-fiction book written by a female like Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet. If you only read romances check out H. G. Well’s The Time Machine.
We all have different tastes but reading the usual suspects is akin to going to the same restaurant and ordering the same thing. There are millions of books out there. Good ones. I wrote an article last year published here about how Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein changed my life. It was pure accident and I am forever grateful for it.
So go out there and read. Challenge your mind with a new flavor of novel. If you want a suggestion ask below. If you have already decided please share. I love learning about new authors.
It’s Monday. Most greet it with a resounding Ugh. But do we have to?
This is what I love about an unspoiled week. We can have a new outlook and a new opinion just because the calendar says so. Change can be had and we shouldn’t waste it.
This week can be the most productive writing week you’ve had in ages.
This week you can update your resume.
This week you can arrange a get together with friends and share life.
You can do whatever it is you long to do.
There are a billion possibilities out there and opportunity is ripe for improvement and growth.
It’s up to us.
What sort of week do you plan on having?