KL Mabbs

News

I’ve signed with a small independent press, Fey publishing.

They rock. They’re supportive and respectful. I’m  happy with the decision. And this means that my dark fantasy Spellsword has a home, with the potential of the two other books in the trilogy becoming just as real and out in the world.

Also, I have friends that think I should write erotica, because I do it so damn well, their words, not mine. But I’m going to try that, though I’ll use a pen name.  Short stories that build into a series and eventually become a book or more. They won’t be expensive, and just an afternoon read, a few hours at most.

Editing

I’ve done a lot of editing in the past fourteen years. Both to my own work and others. And I’ve noticed that all authors have their own brand of mistake that they can’t see through. They may even critique it  in other groups, about other authors, without noticing it in themselves. This is normal. It’s not hypocrisy. Writers have blinders on when it comes to their work. It takes a long time to notice these mistakes and train themselves out of them, and a first draft, no matter how long the writer has been writing, will have these weaknesses. They crop up. Especially if the writer is trying to finish something in a certain period of time.

Here’s a few examples: Spelling. Personally I’m terrible at this and rely heavily on spell check and online dictionaries. Missed commas, missed words, repeated words in a few sentences that don’t reinforce a need or emotion in the characterization or plot.

This is why editors exist, grammar Natzi’s, if you wish. Harsh as that sounds.

But editing is more than grammar, more than copy, it even goes further than sentence structure and flow. There’s structure for a novel that comes into play – developmental editing is a term I keep seeing lately. For the best book on novel structure – in my opinion – see Larry Brooks Story Engineering.

What I see some editors miss, especially those not formally trained, is that the author has a voice and a style and a way of saying things that needs to be respected. Something to be noticed. And this style needs to be acknowledged in the editing, and the note taking for changes to be made in a manuscript. It’s not just a matter of deleting, changing, or modifying sentences, paragraphs or whole chapters of a book. Good editors, truly involve the author in the process.

If your editor isn’t doing this, it may be unconscious, or ego, or training, so give him or her a break, let them know. Don’t take everything they do as gospel, but, stay open to their ideas and suggestions. This has some of the same components of a writing group. It takes a certain amount of bravery. And in the case of an editor, you’re often paying for a service. This means you get to define the experience before it starts. So take part.

A good editor is like a good therapist, they take time to find. Look well.

Hug something today, rocks and walls don’t count.

Gerund Hillman

Gerund Hillman is the antagonist in Wolf: A Military P.A.C. Novel. When I wrote him I had in mind a man that was abused, verbally by his father, a control freak. His mother protected him, kept the abuse from becoming physical. Of course, this meant that Gerund saw her as weak, a martyr, and even a victim. he was just too young to realize just how strong she was. This dynamic led him to want power, to see it as a need and with that, the focus to know that money was a means to that power. To Gerund this was the same power his father had over him. Control. that was his drive, and it showed up in the dynamics he had with his version of P.A.C. the software developed by Samantha and Kerrigan that was adaptive. It just didn’t have the hardware modifications of the original P.A.C. units.

Creepy is what i thought of when I wrote him and when Faelon gave him his just desserts, well…I liked that scene. i had fun writing it. Gerund’s coming back in the second novel: Skinwalker.

Understanding the Universe

I don’t understand the universe.

It would be worse if I had a time machine.

Progress

Today, I’m no longer an amateur writer. I’m a ghostwriter. Striding forward.

And, I got a nibble from the Donald Maass Agency, wanting fifty more pages from the Samhain Murders.

So…I’m ecstatic.

There are Basics

Start writing, and becoming critiqued, or doing research and you’ll soon get the basics that everyone hears about: Elmore Leonard has a list of ten. Do a search on the internet for it. But here’s my take on several of the basics, in no particular order, and why they matter.

1) Writers write: They do, and they do it a lot. And this is important, because for most people without this kind of practice, they don’t get better, or they make the same mistakes over and over. Should I say it again. Okay, I will – “and over again.” Writer’s write. But don’t let others define this for you, it can be too aggressive or intimidating if you do. Write to your own pace and dictates and eventually, you will write more according to your passion. If you’re serious about this craft you will do more.

2) Don’t give up: For most people criticism hurts, for some writer’s I’ve met it hurts a lot. After my first rejection slip, because someone didn’t think I was brilliant enough right off the bat – and doesn’t that sound egotistical – I gave up. For a while. Because I’m insane and have to write, I got back to it. Don’t give up, this is your dream and no one else has a right to dictate that. They may not help you though, or they think they are, but that’s where persistence comes in, stick with it whether you’re getting help or not, eventually the tools you need will show up.

3) Do Your Research: See the bit above about Elmore Leonard.  There are other things to this – see rule 4 – for now you will find that you need to do research to make your worlds and characters believable, even if you’re writing fantasy. Because it has to hold together like a well defined puzzle. If you don’t know the motivation for your characters actions, how will someone else get it. if your world has red skies, what makes it so, not the color of the dirt you’re standing on. Not usually.

4) Punctuation and Grammar Matters: And don’t let anyone tell you different. The only way to know how to break a rule is to know it in the first place. I’m not published yet. I’ve had a dozen rejections so far this year alone and no, I don’t submit enough, so I can’t speak for what editors want but I listen to people that have been published. Your craft has to be 90 to 95 percent polished to be accepted. If your story is absolutely brilliant, they may do more to help, but if what you write to open the door isn’t polished and correct to a high degree…you see where I’m going with this. Here’s another point, if your writing bad grammar on purpose, as part of a character’s speech, it helps to know  what good grammar looks like. And it needs consistency. That’s another thing rules teach you.

5) Read Your Competition: Learn from them. How do they do things technically? Structurally? How do they define their characters. There are trends that flow with books. One day it’s vampires,  the next it’s the psychokinetic antique dealers. And if you have favorite authors, their style and voice might help you find yours. In no way am I suggesting plagiarism. Period. Ever. While there are no new ideas under the sun, how people put them together, and in what ways, is part of what makes an idea original or an authors signature idea or concept. So be careful with that. If you’ve never read your idea in print it’s one thing – think of simultaneous discovery, the radio comes to mind – but if’ it’s on purpose it could be a world of hurt.

6) Don’t Repeat Yourself: Yes, there are times and places where it’s necessary, especially with ideas, concepts, and sometimes emotions, but the less you do it with individual names and places and items, the better. Writing to this rule alone will teach you to improve how you say things in your writing. The idea is to think about it. Of course, once you become published this rule matters less. Published authors break this rule all the time, even the good ones. This is a proof of concept rule for new writers. For the most part – live with it – it’ll make you a better writer.

7) Write What you Know: You’ll hear this one a lot, but what does it mean, especially if you write fantasy or aliens ate my brain type of stories – really, that happened to you, once. In some ways it talks about what you know, the actual knowledge – what it means to build a bridge or blow up a tree, but mostly, I think it’s about emotion and how that affects you and the people around you. We know this one, we know the gut wrenching fear of being punished for doing something wrong at the age of five. Remembering it might be another matter. We know what it feels like to get a job, lose a job, be rejected – fall in love. Write what you know, research the rest. The point, support your writing with emotions, because when you get right down to it that’s what people want in a story, to feel; and to have it done so well the rest of the world goes away. For a few minutes, anyways.

8) Don’t Write the Boring Bits: There is a reason we don’t see Heroes or Heroines going to the bathroom, unless a snake is crawling up out of the sewer. Same goes for brushing teeth, or the long detailed walk to the first fight in a story. Get to the point and make it matter.

9) Show  – Don’t Tell: Impossible. Show where and when you can, it is important, it makes us feel the character better, puts us in their view point and makes us care. But it’s impossible to show everything. See rule 8. But when you have to tell, tell well. It matters too, just don’t make it irrelevant to the work at hand, or add details not needed.

10) Read Books on the Writing of Craft: It’s part of the job. I never would have gotten a grasp on story structure if I didn’t do this kind of thing. Yes, I mean Larry Brooks, and Donald Maass, Stephen King, and Lynne Truss just to name a few. Mind you, I got some of this from conferences and workshops, so they are valid avenues as well. Just don’t think that reading only in your genre is the way to go. Writing has a never ending learning curve. It’s more knowledge in your toolbox, more support for your ideas. It makes you a better conversationalist, too.

Be well, be kind. Kill your children. NO, I do not mean your actual children. I mean the books that are your children. It means listen to what people have to say about your work. Call it rule eleven. If more than one person says they don’t understand or feel what you mean at a particular place in your writing, chances are those people, plural, are pointing out something you need to know.