From the seasoned one…

Today’s topic…Know your shit!  Do your research!

Let me tell you a story.  I was following this author’s series.  Wonderful books about romance, vampires, their soul mates, and saving their world against the evil vampires that wanted to take over everything.  The books were good until the last twenty pages of the last book in the first series.  In it, a girl/vampire went undercover and got into the bad guy’s server room, figured out their Public IP Address, and sent it home to the good guys before being caught.

The good guys “promptly” got into their servers, figured out their devious plan and stopped them in the space of thirty minutes.  To which, I screamed, “BULLSHIT!”

After ten or more books, the author threw the whole damn thing away by not doing her homework.  If she had bothered to talk to any techie for about five minutes, they would have told her that would have been impossible.  As a techie, I was totally insulted that she didn’t do her homework and I haven’t read another book by her since.  Let me explain.

Any company that has a website has what’s called a “Public IP Address” on the Internet.  These are similar to telephone numbers.  Each site is assigned a unique Public IP Address, no two are alike.  Now, it’s very easy to figure out these IP addresses.  One simply has to bring up a command bar and ping the company’s web address.  Example below:
command

Yahoo’s Public IP Address is 98.138.253.109.  However, knowing that will not immediately give you access to their systems.  There are firewalls and routers that you would have to hack, not to mention, user names and passwords to their servers.  It can take years to perform the hack and any company worth their salt makes it as hard as possible to access these by constantly blocking unused ports, upgrading equipment, and using sophisticated passwords.  So while it isn’t impossible, as many know from listening to the news these days, it takes time.

So going back to the book, there’s no damn way in hell the good guys would have been able to access the information they needed to stop the bad guys in a space of thirty minutes or less.  I was insulted by the author’s lack of professionalism and pissed that I had invested so much time reading her books.  The author is no longer on my list of people to buy new books from.  By not doing her homework, she lost a fan.

In conclusion, today’s writing tip is to do your research and know your shit.  If you’re going to write a book about the FBI tracking down a serial killer, then you damn well better make friends with someone from the FBI to find out how they do that, because I guarantee you that someone will read that book and be insulted if you have it all wrong.  They will bitch and complain (as I did) about the book/author and you could easily lose many fans by not knowing your shit before you write about a topic.  Don’t be a sloppy or lazy author.  If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right!  Know your shit!

Advertisements

From the seasoned one…

Are you a planner or a fly by the seat of your pants writer?  Personally, I’m a bit of a hybrid.  I fly by the seat of my pants most of the time and only rarely do an outline for my story.  Though, I have a tendency of making notes in the draft for things I know that I want to happen.  Some would call that outlining.  Besides the notes, I have a general idea in my head of how the story will go, but I don’t fully outline it from beginning to end before I write it.  Hence the hybrid.

It’s one of the reasons I almost never post a story on fanfiction before I’ve finished writing it.  Too many times I’ve thought of something to enhance the story, but wouldn’t be able to add it if I needed to start adding it in chapter 2, but have already posted it, making it impossible.

I’m not going to argue for or against writing by the seat of your pants versus outlining a story in advance.  I’m very much a each to their own kind of person.  What works for one, doesn’t work for another.  But it does bear thinking about.  Perhaps you outline your story in advance, but it doesn’t seem to be working for you.  Maybe you need to throw the outline out and let the muse flow and see where she takes you.

Perhaps you fly by the seat of your pants, but you’re stuck.  This might be a good time to outline at least enough of the story to see where you’re stuck or where the plot hole is that’s confounding you.

I’m curious, how do you write?  Take the poll below, you’ll see the results after you answer.

From the seasoned one…

Today’s tip:

Today, I’m starting out with a question for you.  “If a writer doesn’t care about their story, why should we?”

This is an argument I’ve had with friends and fellow writers many times.  It came from deliberately posting stories riddled with errors.  At the time, a friend of mine made the comment, “Who cares?  It’s fanfiction.”

My view is that anything you post should be the best you can possibly make it.  Maybe you aren’t the best writer or the best speller.  Maybe you’ve used the wrong words (ie: they’re vs. their vs. there).  Maybe you don’t know all the grammar rules.  Maybe you are like me and you’ve broken every rule of writing known to man at some point in your writing career.  So maybe your stories have errors.  The point is to fix the mistakes you know about before posting something new.

I know if you look at my early stuff, you’ll find problems with it all over the place.  But as I’ve learned how to write, the errors became less and less.  I care what my stories look like.  While I won’t go back and revise the old stuff (there is over 30 of them after all, I’d never write anything new), I don’t keep making the same mistakes on the new stuff once I’ve learned that I was making a mistake.

As a writer, you have to care.  Because if you don’t care, why should anyone else?  Why should anyone read your story if you don’t care that it’s full of errors and you know about them?

Do the best you can with every story and remember, writing is a learning process that we all go through.

Until next time…

From the seasoned one…

Today’s tip…Point of View.

When writing a story, there are many debates on third person point of view or who is telling the tale.  To some, you start with one person’s point of view and carry it the entire story.  Some do it by the scene or chapter.  Some by the paragraph.  I really have no opinion on that whole debate.  My point is to keep your reader from becoming confused.

Therefore, today’s tip is to make sure that whichever character has the focus at that moment, make sure to carry it through so you don’t switch POV (also called head-hopping) mid-paragraph or mid-sentence.  That can confuse the reader horribly.

For example:

Walking into the room, the commander finds Princess Allura standing near the window and approaches her.  As he nears her, she turns and says, “Hello Keith.”  Gesturing toward the windows, Allura smiles, “Look at the sky, isn’t it beautiful?”

Did you see it?  The start of the paragraph, the focus is on the commander.  But the third lines switches the POV to Allura.  Do you see how it can confuse the reader?  Here’s how it should have been written to keep focus.

Walking into the room, the commander finds Princess Allura standing near the window and approaches her.  As he nears her, she turns and says, “Hello Keith.”  He watches her gesture to the window and smile, “Look at the sky. isn’t it beautiful?”

Notice how I kept the focus on the commander throughout the whole paragraph?  Be watchful of that as you write your stories and you’ll keep your readers happy.

From the seasoned one…

Today’s tip:

Conversation is absolutely needed in a story.  But far too many times, a writer gets going on the conversation and forgets what’s happening around the characters.  When you watch a group of people talking, do they stand around and just talk?  NO!  They move, they cross their arms, roll their eyes, laugh, smile, wink, kick each other in the knee!  You get my drift, show what the characters are doing while they are talking!

Let me show you what I mean.  Here’s a bit with just conversation, no action really.

Walking into the room to find his team waiting, Keith states, “The princess will be fine.”

“I thought Lotor hurt her,” replies Lance.

“Not badly,” Keith answers, “She’ll be out of MedTech soon.”

“At least he wasn’t able to kidnap her,” Pidge adds.

Kind of boring, isn’t it?  Here’s an adapted version with actions and descriptions.

Walking into the room to find his team waiting, Keith states, “The princess will be fine.”

Relief shines on the faces of the other men as Lance replies, “I thought Lotor hurt her.”

“Not badly,” Keith answers with a shake of his head, his own relief obvious in his tone.  “She’ll be out of MedTech soon.”

“At least he wasn’t able to kidnap her,” Pidge adds, looking thoughtful.

Was that better?  The descriptions give you a better idea of what the men are doing as they’re talking.  Something to keep in mind as you write out your story.

From the seasoned one…

Today, I’m going to borrow from Chuck Wendig, a man with some truly awesome advice for inspiring writers.  From his list, “25 Things I Want To Say To So-Called “Aspiring” Writers.”

#8 – Finish Your Shit
“I’m just going to type this out a dozen times so it’s clear: Finish your shit.  Finish your shit.  Finish your shit.  Finish your shit.  Finish your shit.  Finish your shit!  FINISH YOUR SHIT.  Finish.  Your.  Shit.  Fiiiiniiiish yooooour shiiiiit.  COMPLETO EL POOPO.  Vervollständigen Sie Ihre Fäkalien!  Finish your shit.”

The reason I picked this particular bit is to cover another one of my biggest pet peeves of fanfiction.  Unfinished stories.  Fanfiction is full of them!  It’s one of the reasons why I will no longer read a story until it is finished.  I’ve been disappointed far too many times by an awesome story that goes unfinished.

It is also the reason why I almost never post a story until I have finished writing it.  I refuse to do something to the fans of my writing that irritates me horribly.  So to reiterate what Chuck said so wisely, finish your stories!

For the full list of Chuck Wendig’s fabulous advice, go to the following site:  http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/02/21/25-things-i-want-to-say-to-so-called-aspiring-writers/

From the seasoned one…

Per Ailee Nolitari’s request, today’s writing tip!

Have you ever been working on a story and suddenly find yourself stuck on a scene?  You know what you want to happen after, but man, are you stuck trying to find a way to get yourself there.  So you sit for a day, maybe two, maybe a week, cursing the muse who seems to have left you sitting on a rock twiddling your thumbs?

I have a question for you.  Have you ever considered just leaving that scene behind for the time being and writing out that scene that is rumbling around in your head clear as day?

Today I’m going to try to lure you to the dark side!

When I started writing, I didn’t read any ‘how to’ books…I just started writing.  It never occurred to me to write in order from beginning to end.  In fact, I’ve never written anything from beginning to end.  It was only after I started talking to new friends I met through fanfiction.net that I learned most writers do work a story from beginning to end.  They, in turn, were blown away by the idea that sometimes a story comes out a lot easier if you just start working on the areas you know.

For example, my current in-progress story, I wrote out the end first then the beginning and am now working in the middle.  But even in the middle, I’m working on different sections at various times.  I write out whatever scene is firmly in my head that day.

So my challenge to those that are stuck waiting for the muse to return is to try something a little different.  Move ahead to that scene that’s playing out in your head, over and over like a television re-run!  Just leave a space with a note for that scene that you need to fill in.

The only way past writer’s block is to write!

Until next time…

From the seasoned one…

Today’s tip:

One of my biggest pet peeves while reading a story (and I’ve seen this in published books too) is when the author has a continuous conversation going on, but doesn’t say who is speaking and after a while, you have to go back to the top and go 1/2/1/2/1/2/1/2 so you can remember who is speaking when.

For example:

Entering the control room, Keith finds Lance sitting at the console.  Walking up to him, he asks, “Status.”

“Not much going on.”

“Did you run all the usual scans?”

“Yeah, all is quiet.”

“Anyone else come in?”

“Nope, been here all night. Glad you made it, it’s your turn.”

“Yeah, yeah, hopefully my shift will be just as quiet.”

“I’m sure it will be, what could happen?”

“Um, Lotor attacks?”

“Doubtful, he knows we’re here to kick his butt.”

“Yeah, because no one messes with Voltron.”

Lose track of who is speaking yet?  I know I have and I’m writing this!  This is an example of continuous conversation that can become really annoying.  Feel free to remind us every few lines who is speaking.

From the seasoned one…

Back to writing tips!  Today’s tip: sentence starts.

Another common mistake of newbies is to start most sentences with either the name of the character or He/She.  It takes a lot to get out of the habit.  This is where it pays to look at books of favorite authors.  Notice how they start a sentence.

Instead of:

He looked out the window and was amazed to see the sun.

Try:

Looking out the window, he was amazed to see the sun.

It just takes a little concentration and a bit of thought as you work.  Trust me, soon it will become an ingrained habit you won’t have to think about as much.