January brought the return of one of my favorite guilty pleasures.
i speak of the updated version of Dallas of course. The show that created a phenomena last summer that I still describe as “John Ross feels.” i was thinking about how the show crafts it’s more villainous characters the other day, mostly because I had an upcoming class on writing villains. the one thing I already know going into the class is that villains should be complex as well as the hero of their own story. I’m trying to remember where i heard that phrase from, but it makes sense to me. Dallas really brings that out I think, especially with John Ross Ewing.
John Ross earns sympathy because his romantic life is pretty screwed up. He will always be second place to the girl he really wants. His childhood was a screwed up mess because let’s face it, being the son of the infamous J.R. does not lead to stability in anything non-financial. He will always try to please his father who has an agenda all of his own.
Of course he is a villain, and he’s willing to use black-mail, law breaking and all sorts of dirty tactics to get his way. But last season, when he was accused of splitting up his cousin’s relationship with Elena and framed for a murder he didn’t commit, you felt for him. Even as he’s plotting to take over the family property, you know he’s not all bad. When he screws up and looses Elena, you don’t blame her for leaving, but you kind of do feel for him. You don’t want him to destroy the more sympathetic characters, but you start to get why he’s so ticked off about the hand the universe dealt him. When he goes to the dark side and asks his daddy to teach him to do things the J.R. Ewing way, you’re kind of sad to see him give in. At the same time, he is so wickedly charming, good looking, clever and cheeky that you enjoy him as a villain and sometimes, you like seeing him get the victories that he does. John Ross is a scene stealer and with the passing of Larry Hagman and J.R. both, he’s going to be on deck in a big way.
Any villains out there that you love to hate or even love to love?
Somewhere on my reader, someone reposted a blog with what I felt to be some of the most dangerous writing advice ever. It came down to one line: burn your ships. This writer proposed that to be successful, you should pull an Alexander the Great, cut out any back-up plans you have because they are distracting and go be that writer. She used the example of her quitting her sales job and moving in with her mother as an example of the ship she needed to burn. I have issues with this advice for two big reasons reasons:
1) Quitting your job to be a writer does not mean you are automatically a writer who gets published. It means you are a writer with no incoming money. If you do get published, it can take time for that money to come to you. If you are self-publishing, there is still a risk. Putting a decent book out there often means spending money, which is a limited resource now that you quit your day job. Don’t forget the fact that you have no promises on how much you will make as a self-published writer.
Two pieces of better advice: understand how the publishing industry works and seek to improve your writing skills. I found out how the publishing industry works from a book at the library when I was 15 and at that age realized I needed a day job as a back-up. As for improving my writing, I practiced, a lot. I found books on the writing process and I joined a professional organization designed to grow writers. These are things more likely to help you get published.
2) Many of us are not in a position to just quit our job. My mortgage and my paychecks have a symbiotic relationship. My toddler is not going to be impressed at the daring actions of Alexander the Great if he doesn’t have a roof over his head and food on the table. Many of the writers I read have spouses or children who expect someone to be providing for the family. Besides, not every parent is going to be thrilled at having their adult child move back in an essentially become a dependent all over again.
Better advice: see what you can do to free up more time. Maybe your family can afford for you to work part time. Maybe you can afford hire someone to do the house cleaning for you. Everyday expenses won’t magically go away but you just might have room to work within them. Besides, if you quit your job and three years later decide you need to get one again because Mom won’t let you live with her anymore, telling the interviewer you quit your last job spent 3 years unemployed to be a writer may not go over well.
Generally speaking. I think writers should ask themselves if they’re learning enough about their craft and if they’re making consistent time to write. Many authors I like transitioned from day jobs to full-time writing. But quitting your job isn’t going to automatically make you a published writer, it will automatically cut your ability to pay for your living expenses though.
One of the things that I hope this blog serves as is a writer’s journey to becoming published. I try to share what I’ve learned about publishing and writing in this corner of virtual space.
Right now, the first draft of my story is going to Beta readers. Beta readers check for things like plot and character. What works, what doesn’t, what might work better. Their job is not to correct my grammar and typos. A lot can change between a first and second draft. Pages or scenes can be cut, passages reworked. It’s not worth it to do the grammar and typo thing until you’re story and characters are where you need them. I’m getting good feedback and ideas from my betas. It is a time consuming process, however. Because my betas are other writers, I am doing a trade with them. I beta or proofread their stuff, and they beta my story in return. Ooo look, I used beta as a verb! How very Joss of me.
Proofreading is the part that always feels more mind numbing to me. This is the grammar, spelling, typo part of things. It can make you cross your eyes. It is important, I just think the story and character thing is more fun. But again, it is a trade I do with other writers which takes time. In the end, both should get you to a better manuscript though.
I think I now know what online dating feels like.
Over the past week I’ve been quite warmly welcomed into the MudPuddle and YARWA writing groups. They are an amazing group of people, seriously. If you are an aspiring author, I highly recommend a good writing group. If you write something that has a heavy level of romance and are not part of the RWA, go join. It is worth every dime you pay. Mark my words.
Finding a critique partner can feel very much like online dating. What’s your story about, this is mine. Let’s trade chapters to see if there’s interest. We’ll do a trial critique to see if we’re compatible. Running to go check your e-mail because you want to see what they thought because you want there to be interest in your story, if not, you’re doing something wrong.
It’s an interesting process but I’m really enjoying getting to trade with other writers. In the RWA, writers help each other become better writers. Better writing is more likely to lead to the golden ticket of a publication offer. I think it’s an awesome system and I wish I had found it earlier. Heck, I got the idea for Death by Dragon because of an RWA class I took. Jordan Summers, thank you for bringing it up at that writing panel at Phoenix Comic Con. It’s made a big difference.
A little update for all. I am getting the feel or the system that my FF&P Chapter uses for their critiques. Have not posted stuff yet, because I want to make certain things are being done right. I hope to put things up within the week.
On another note, I joined a second RWA Chapter, the YARWA (Young Adult Romance Writers of America) since I am a YA writer as well as a Romantic Fantasy one. I also signed up to take their Historical writing class later this month. On my to-do list is to send out my intro to that group as well as my request for a critique partner. Very exciting, no?
On another note, I found a really cool site called Get Ye Done. You make an account and create tasks or quests for things you need to get done. Then you get XP and levels for finishing them as an encouragement system. It’s really kind of fun.
I have returned from my holiday type break. In-laws have been visited, in laws have visited and my house is relatively back to its normal equilibrium. There is a small stack of read books in my office (and yet the Book Monster is still a dominating force of 80+ volumes or so), and new books have been acquired (yay new books). I am also the very proud owner of an increasing collection of awesomely geeky Funko POP Vinyl characters, a fuzzy Avengers blanket, and Agent Coulson’s Captain America Trading Card Collection. I did watch the Leverage series finale. Not only to I understand what Wil Wheaton meant about feels (ZOMG THERE WERE FEELS!), but I stand by my declaration that the episode was meant to be a series ender and should stand as such even though I will miss what for me was the Parker & Hardison & Elliot Show. On the subject of feels, Dallas comes back in just a few weeks. There will be backstabbing and feels aplenty!
So, on to the writing portion of this blog. I just sent off my e-mail to join my RWA Chapter’s Critique group for Death by Dragon and it’s a little nerve wracking. It’s a good group from what I have been told and has seen lots of first sales to publishers. It’s still unnerving to turn my baby over to a group of writers I don’t personally know, even if I should get a better story coming back. I guess I should take some confidence in the fact a lot of people in my writing classes thought I was on to something story wise but I most certainly am not entering this arena with any swagger in my step. Crossing my fingers, we shall see how this goes.
I finished it! Yesterday afternoon I finished draft one at a bit over 64,200 words!
So what’s next for me?
Well, for one I need to shelve my draft for a week or two to be able to come at it with fresh eyes. This will also let me spend the holidays with all of the family we are seeing or visiting without trying to work in regular writing hours. I’m going to use my RWA resources to get some critique partners. While one might say that in theory I could do that during my break, I figure those people will be busy with holiday stuff right now and if I’m asking for critiques, I should do it when I’m available to do so in return.
I may consider outlining another project. What I do want to do with some of that time is catch up on some reading for fun. My stack includes romances of the historical persuasion, Tricked by Kevin Hearne, Cold Days by Jim Butcher, some YA books and while traveling, a bunch of novella length stuff by Kevin Hearne and Kelley Armstrong. Anyone else out there reading something cool right now? Maybe eagerly awaiting the the time for a particular book? Am I the only one with a back log of at least 80 books?