Category Archives: On Writing
- They will not change your voice.
- They will not improve the overall general standard of writing.
- What I mean by that is they will not comb through each sentence and rewrite it for you. If your writing is shit, it will still be shit. it will just be readable shit.
- They will catch the majority of typos and grammatical errors.
- They will fix your punctuation according to the accepted style.
- They will tell you when your sentence just sounds stupid.
- They will check to see how colloquial your slang is and if it is understandable.
- They will tell you to rewrite, but will not rewrite it for you.
- They will make sure you don’t use stupid speech tags (SORRY, K!).
- They will research the correct terminology and make sure you’re not saying something stupid and/or incorrect.
- They will laugh at unintended innuendos.
- They will tell you when you’re being cheesy.
- They will tell you when they want it to be better.
- They will teach you about your own weaknesses, but this does not mean that you won’t need an editor ever again.
- They will not be offended when you do not accept a change. After all, they are only advising you. You have the final say on your own product.
Day Eleven? Hah. Technically. This is only the second time I’ve sat down and actively written anything. The second time I have opened my veins and bled.
I miss it sometimes. I hate it sometimes. I don’t miss it when I’m not writing and when I am I love everything about it. All the ideas that come out of my head and flow past that (metaphorical) paper (as I write on a computer, not by hand). Some of the ideas catch, like twigs in a fast-flowing river. Others go on and are forgotten or dismissed to join up in some vast ocean of abandoned ideas.
What I liked best about my writing ‘session’ today is the secrets I unearthed about a secondary character. Things that I don’t know yet and my main character doesn’t know yet, but the seeds of the secrets, the promises that it will mean something further down the line.
I write to a plan, but only a very basic one. I have to see how the book will end – not necessarily the climax: I don’t have one yet, though I am rolling ideas around in my head. The climax for Storm of Blood did not come to me until well over half the book was written. I know how this book will end, so my job is to fill in all the other bits. Some of those bits are written down for guidance: basic ideas for fight scenes, some light romance, the overarching three-act plot. But it’s the little things that come out during the actual writing that I get excited about. The stuff you don’t plan.
My secondary character lives in a huge drab mansion that is grey and uninspiring on the outside and splashed with every colour paint on the inside. This character is obsessed with colour. Every room has a different colour theme, and the hallways leading to each room look like there’s been a paintball match held there. I don’t know why this character feels the need to decorate her house this way: I will find out later. In the meantime, my main character’s bedroom is just white. There’s no colour in there at all. That stands for her ‘blank slate’ of being, as she’s just moved to this city. If this was a film, maybe we’d get a montage of my character adding various decorations to the room to make it more colourful. Maybe my character is the kind of person who, because she feels she will only be there for a short time, she won’t decorate at all. I’ll find out later. The important thing is that I’ve set the seeds for these revelations. These unplanned tidbits will morph into something relevant, given time and attention and, hopefully, skill.
This is the beauty of writing. I don’t expect anyone to get as excited about it as I do, but that’s why I write.
August Camp NaNoWriMo starts today and I’m excited to rejoin Jessalyn, Tuomas, and the Dragon Prince after a month-long absence editing Storm of Blood.
Last November I did an interview with Olsen Jay Nelson’s awesome sci-fi blog about my debut novel, The Edge of Darkness, what with it being a NaNo novel and all that (National Novel Writing Month – held annually in November).
Olsen’s decided to take his blog in a new direction and as such, has given me permission to re-post the interview here. He says
“The guest blogging was quite successful in a kind of way. Over the months following publication, some of the posts started doing quite well and gaining traffic from around the web including Stumbleupon. In fact, Stumbleupon became a growing referrer; this led to one post, the Cyborg/dystopian interview with Lissa, leading all the posts on the blog with over 1500 page views in May.”
So here it is, the cyborg/dystopian interview originally hosted by Olsen Jay Nelson:
OJN: I’d like to introduce, Lissa Bilyk, author of ‘The Edge of Darkness,’ a futuristic, dystopian scifi novel with subjugated cyborgs who find a means to revolt. I love the sound of this, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to ask Lissa some questions related to this and her continuing participation in NaNoWrimo since it’s November again. Thanks Lissa …
‘The Edge of Darkness’ is dystopian sci-fi, right – among other things? What’s your opinion about why dystopian realities have such appeal? Also, how did you make use of dystopian themes in the story, and what’s the effect you were looking for?
Lissa:I think that dystopians appeal to a lot of readers because they themselves feel disenfranchised with reality. In the 21st century, we should really be living in a better world than what it is. There’s still mass murder and civil war and millions of people starving while the 1% live fat and rich in first world countries. Three billion people on this planet can’t read or write. That’s almost half the population. I think that dystopian fiction help people think about the world we live in now: well, it’s not great, but it could always be worse. At least we have a degree of personal freedom and can make our own choices. In dystopian fiction, characters are limited in their choices and their lives and most end up fighting back against the system. I also think that is what appeals to people: the idea of rebelling because their lot in life just isn’t good enough.
In my book, the cyborgs on the travelling spaceship the Eden vastly outnumber the Authorities keeping them in line. If the cyborgs weren’t happy, they could rebel. So how do you keep people happy? Give them want they want: jobs, recreation time, structure. Keep them afraid of stepping out of line. The consequences for breaking the rules on the Eden are dire. The life should be simple and pleasant, and if Max hadn’t made the choices she did, she would never have discovered the life isn’t so great after all. That’s what dystopians are all about.
By the way, I’ve read ‘Utopia,’ the book that spawned dystopians. It’s actually a dystopian itself.
OJN: Cyborgs play an important role in the story. What’s your take on why cyborgism is such a compelling area for sci-fi? And, could you explain a bit about the type(s) of cyborgism you employed and how this fits into the reality you wanted to convey?
Lissa:I must admit, I’ve never read another book with a cyborg in it, certainly never a lead character. I was influenced a little by the film Bicentennial Man, which is based on Isaac Asimov’s book of the same name, and I was influenced a little by the Terminator films. But my cyborgs are a lot less human-looking; they are less fine and less evolved versions, clearly still half robot. In writing The Edge of Darkness, I wanted to explore what it would be like if a human really was plugged into a computer and made into a super-powered being.
But more than that, my cyborgs are a stand in for another social issue that is very dear to me: social equality. In my novel, cyborgs are viewed as semi-human with no civil rights: they can’t get married or raise babies or vote or even earn minimum wage. Despite all cyborgs being former humans and more than capable of doing such things, there is a huge prejudice against them because they are different and a threat to social norms. I am a passionate defender of marriage equality and I hope my readers make the same parallels I worked so hard to weave into the narrative.
OJN: You’ve written fantasy fiction as well. I’m just curious if you could explain how you manage writing in the different parent genres and particularly your sub-genres of these, and what influence your understanding of fantasy had on you when writing ‘The Edge of Darkness’?
Lissa:I grew up reading light sci-fi and anthropomorphic books. I didn’t get into fantasy fiction until I was a teenager. I never really thought about how the two of them are so different: I guess to me, one of them is based in the future and their magic is technology, and one of them is based in the past and their magic is sorcery. It’s all speculative fiction that uses imagination. I tried writing a novel once where everyone was a normal human and I failed tragically.
My novels are always character-driven and about the choices the characters make, and especially the consequences of what happens when they make the wrong choice for whatever reason. My characters are directly responsible for their plot: they are active engagers and never simply react to what’s going on around them. If there’s conflict, it’s more than likely they’ve been directly responsible for it through a choice they’ve made. I can’t stand these books where the characters are passive doormats simply reacting to events and taking on a victim mentality.
OJN: Finally, you wrote ‘The Edge of Darkness’ during the 2010 NaNoWriMo; you’re also participating again this year. Could you tell us a little about that process and why you find it valuable to your productivity and narrative construction? Also, are you writing scifi or fantasy this year?
Lissa:NaNoWriMo challenges participants to write a 50K word novel in a month – granted, unless it’s a middle grade novel, hardly any publishers will even think of accepting such a short book. That’s why I self-published The Edge of Darkness, because it was a complete story within itself at 52K words. This year I’m writing an urban fantasy. This urban fantasy isn’t titled yet, but it’s the first full-length novel starring the heroine of five short stories I’ve made available to readers on Smashwords, about a teenage demon hunter called Tina Storm. I find that high fantasy comes to me so easily that I like to challenge myself to write other genres in the NaNo season. Other genres I considered writing this year included chick lit, historical romance, paranormal romance, post-apocalyptic, and psychological thriller.
Because I write genres I’m not 100% comfortable with, to make sure I achieve the goal I plan ferociously: I lay the bare bones and bigger details of the novel out (this year the plan is two pages, which gives me plenty of wiggle room plot-wise), and I plot exactly where I need to be at the end of each day on a calendar that I stick on the wall behind my laptop. Then it’s a case of reaching the word count every day. I need this kind of planning otherwise I sit there wondering what happens next. Plotting the novel in a three-act structure also helps me envision the entire project.
As for why NaNoWriMo is valuable for my productivity and narrative construction: it’s completely psychological. There’s a deadline that I don’t get in the off-season. I find the idea of holding in my hands a complete book I’ve written to be an irresistible lure.
Things have been a little quiet on the blogosphere lately, and I can’t even blame writing a new book. I got to 26K words on The King’s Phoenix and decided I needed to take a break because of my day job, which is all kinds of crazy intense at the moment. I value my down time only a lot and instead of stressing myself out over writing deadlines, I am now trying my best to relax in my leisure time just so I can cope with the demands of my day-to-day life.
At this point I’m not sure if I’ll be continuing TKP for all of August and saving Aura for the real NaNoWriMo. The words are flowing just fine – the story’s not a problem. The problem is my extremely limited time and the fact that making my self-imposed writing deadline was stressing me out.
See, I used to read other writing blogs. And they are all about peddling as much new material as possible. Put out one book, get writing, put out another book, ad infinum. Fill every spare moment with writing. If you produce less than 10K words a day you’re a loser. If you can’t produce a brand new book every three months you’re not doing right. These advice givers also tend to have huge backlists, whereas I’m producing entirely new material. The fact that they were at some point traditionally published doesn’t hurt.
So I’ve stopped reading advice. My writing was becoming too much like work and at this point in time that’s not something I can handle. I’m taking my own time. The book will come when it comes.
Also! Storm Front is free on Amazon.com for five days. Go get it! Especially because the new Tina Storm book is coming out later this year.
Ugh, what is this? I’m already two weeks in and I haven’t told you ANYTHING about the new book I’m writing?
That’s because unlike Storm Front #6, this baby isn’t going to be read anytime soon.
But it’s going well. VERY well, if I do say so myself. I’m in love with my characters and my world and the plot and I’m relishing finally being able to give Jessa the freedom to tell her story, rather than keeping her bottled up and waiting in line!
Jessa is not a nice character. She’s selfish and spoiled and lazy and entitled. She also does not want the destiny thrust upon her, but she will need to accept it to ensure her own survival. She’s my favourite character that I’ve ever written.
The words are flowing so nicely that sometimes I skip a day and then write 3K the next to catch up.
I am exhausted.
I feel like I’ve been writing non-stop forever.
I feel like this ‘hobby’ is already a second job for me. I work at it like it’s a second job. My actual job is stressing me out so much I am sometimes close to tears. Sometimes I just want to relax and then I feel bad that I haven’t made my words for the day, and who’s the only person who’s disappointed?
And I HATE disappointing myself.
A few days ago I considered quitting Camp NaNo, but I’m not normally a quitter. I’m going to keep going.
But it’s hard.
However, it is also totally awesome.
It’s clocking in at 78.5 thousand words in the first draft. After editing there will be some added and some taken away. After beta-reading there will be some added and some taken away. And after professional editing there will be some added and some taken away. I was initially aiming for 80K, but it’s okay to fall short a little. It’s still the longest book I’ve completed. The Edge of Darkness clocked in at 52K (in one month), and Dadewalker and Darkwalker both clocked in at 70K (I won’t tell you how long I worked on those babies for, because it’s embarrassingly long).
I’ve also had awesome feedback from voters on the poll for naming Storm Front #6, and even though the poll is still running for a few more weeks I’m pretty sure I know what the new name will be.
But I won’t tell you yet because it’s a secret. If you haven’t voted yet, please do! It’s so easy: look, I’ll even link you right here so you don’t have to go looking for a link.