How I Started Reading More: All it took was a change of font

I have been wondering how to read more.  It sounds silly, I know.  I have bookshelves of books I would like to read.  They’re all right there.  My nightstand has a few books on it to remind me to read.  But there they sit, unread.

Being a writer means being a reader, right?  Reading is a necessity in honing your craft, seeing what else is out there, and has the side benefit of being immensely enjoyable if it grabs you.  That’s how it’s supposed to be.

But for me, it wasn’t.  It was like pulling teeth.

Graphic novels are another story- those I would devour.  I can spend hours reading graphic novels.  So why was it so hard for me to read books which were text only?

I thought maybe if I switched up the format it would help.  My husband got me an ereader for my birthday, and I was excited to play around with it.  It’s a fantastic piece of technology, and I think its portability, size, and weight, will go a long way to helping me read more.  I can actually hold it in one hand and the thumb of that same hand can turn the page!  This leaves my other hand free to be clamped over my mouth in horror, or languidly propping my head up while I relax and read.  It really lets e sink into the story.

It was all that.  But I still wasn’t really reading as much as I’d like.  It was still hard.

I’ve written dozens of short stories and five novels; it can’t be something to do with reading.  I am editing a novel right now, and I can spend hours at a time focussing on it.  I know, it’s a different mechanism; reading and editing are not the same.  So what gives?

I played around with the text settings on my ereader.  (It’s a Kobo Aura, if you’re wondering- there’s some really great YouTube reviews that compare ereaders if you’re wondering which is right for you!)

Changing the line spacing was a blessed relief.  I write and edit in double-space, so there’s tons of white on the page.  I also write and edit in the full-screen, composition mode of Scrivener, which is nothing but the words on the page (no menus, no sidebars).

Then in the fonts, I was playing around to see what was on offer.  Pretty standard fare.

But then: some font called Dyslexic Open.  I switched to it, and it was like a being slapped in the face.  It was initially very odd looking; the symmetry is all messed up, the look of letters has them leaning and weighted all over the place.

But I started reading.  And let me tell you, I‘ve never read so fast in my life.

I never went back.

Here’s what it looks like.  Don’t be too put off; it’s one thing to look at the pieces individually, but entirely another to have your eyes dance over them in a sentence.  Entirely another thing to have the font melt away so all you see is the story. 

Now, I don’t think I have Dyslexia.  But this new font makes it much easier for me to read, so I’ll go with it regardless of who it’s for.  If you’re having trouble staying attached to the business end of a book, I suggest you give it a shot!  Here’s their site, where you can download it for free.

As an aside, we’re still in the “waiting excitedly” phase with my book; hopefully I’ll get a wonderful phone call from my wonderful agent soon, and then I will The Best Post Ever to share with you, my dear readers.

Thanks for stopping by!

Cheers.

Heidi out.

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I Have An Agent

I am extremely pleased to announce that I have signed on with Beth Campbell over at BookEnds.  She will be representing my novel Sleep Over.

It has finally happened.  I have an agent.

I have been waiting to say those words for a long, long time.

Beth has just switched over to helming the representation of scifi and fantasy over at BookEnds.  She wants an author who isn’t just a flash in the pan.  She loves my manuscript, and my head is still swilling from all the gorgeous things she is saying about my writing.

And the writer’s head grew three sizes that day hahaha.

I won’t be able to share too much about the process of finding a publisher as it’s happening (super secret stuff), but you can bet your butt you’ll hear it loud and clear when I have signed with a publisher for Sleep Over.  My only hope is that it takes a bit of time, as that’s a good sign that more than one really, really wants it.

Meanwhile, I will keep on posting for you, my dear, dear readers.  I am so glad you could be here with me when I was finally able to give this good news!  Your support has meant so much to me over the years as I continue on this wonderful journey to authordom.

I will continue to share a great many and varied things with you. Including, if you’re interested in the details, How I Got a Literary Agent.

In addition to my fantastic announcement, here are some more things just! for! yooou!!!

Episode 7 AND episode 8 of my Oddcast, Forgotten, are up! Episode 8 took the longest of all of them and had so many outtakes.  I’m really pushing the form to the limit, and “the voices” really had a tough time of getting this one to work.  It’s getting better as it goes along, and I’m really happy with where it’s heading!

We’ve also got more videos from my husband’s Wild Gears Creations channel.  Are you ready to see something wild? This one is crazy!

And are you ready for parallel lines?

 

Something else fun: the tale of my Message in a Bottle which was answered by The X-Files (4 images in album- clicky).

Also, here’s a little comic I made about how I make coffee.

That’s all for now, dear readers.

I think we’ve entered into a new and exciting phase of my career here. I am one step closer to having a major work published, and hopefully soon I can share that with you too.

Cheers.

Heidi out.

Zombies Galore, Oddly Satisfying, and Episode 5 of Forgotten

Well dear readers, today I have much to share with you!

Zombies Galore is live, and my piece “Monday Matinee Madness” opens and sets the tone for the collection.  You can actually read my contribution in its entirety for free!  Just “Look Inside”, and because mine is the opening story, you can check it out, which I’m quite pleased about.  🙂

Now onto the latest from my Mathematical Husband, who is persisting on creating these mesmerizing and oddly satisfying pieces of art with his laser cut Wild Gears.  This video shows him using a gear-in-a-gear-*in-a-gear*.  Pretty impressive.

And now for another thing you can check out.  Forgotten is my strange little audo project which I’m going to keep calling an Oddcast.  I’ve just put up episode 5 for you, and it’s called “Choices”.  We’re getting better at this.

I’ll leave it at that.  Thanks for stopping by.

Heidi out.

House of Leaves

Just “finished” House of Leaves.

If you don’t know it, it’s a novel that plays with the basic form of the novel itself.  The word “house” is blue wherever it appears.  There are footnotes, and footnotes in footnotes, on every page (most of which are completely useless).  Sometimes there are sections of text in boxes, backwards, upside down… whole pages left nearly blank.

The take on the form was very interesting to experience.  There was a lot of flipping back and forth between pages, a lot of manhandling the large book all around to read the different planes the text was on.

The pacing of some segments was manipulated entirely by having the text on the page a certain way.

I’ve never before uttered a shocked explanation out loud at a book, and then read the exact thing I had just said out loud, on the page in front of me.  It was typed out exactly as I had said it.  That was spooky.  I put the book down.  I stared at it.  That was some Never Ending Story stuff right there.

So it was a unique experience, I’ll give it that.  Quite a refreshing thing, to see the age-old text-on-paper get a makeover.

But, I cannot say I enjoyed it.  I skipped over vast swaths of the B story line.  I just didn’t care, and wanted to get back to the much more interesting Navidson account.  Vast swaths of even that had to be skipped over though; the readable/bullshit ratio was way high for this book.  I would have stopped early on (as had the previous person who’d taken this copy out from the library- their hold slip [their bookmark] was wedged into the spine at page 71), but the form of the novel was too compelling to ignore.

So I skimmed.  I’ve never skimmed a novel before.  I feel… kind of gross.  Like that was bad and I should feel bad for doing it.  But damnit I wanted to see what was up with that weird blue box of text, the nearly-blank pages, the text scattered all over the page.

In conclusion, House of Leaves was neat, but frustrating.  I wish I had figured out what I wanted out of it sooner; would have saved me some time.

Tonight: Godzilla.  Next Week: the second half of my novel revisions.  (It’s going well!)

Cheers.

Heidi out.

World War ZZZ: Phase 4

I now enter Phase 4 of my latest project.

World War ZZZ is a book about what would happen if the world stopped sleeping.  It’s gripping, compelling, and heartbreaking.  It showcases the depths that humanity can sink to, and also the heights to which it can soar, when put to the ultimate test.

It’s written.  It’s edited.  (Side note- this is the fewest edits I’ve ever received from my beta readers; I’m getting pretty darn good at editing!  Or maybe the story was so good that their attention was elsewhere?  Either way I’m pretty stoked.)

And now comes a part I’ve previously dreaded: approaching agents with the work to see if they would represent it and take it to publishers.

But I’m not dreading it.  I’m actually feeling pretty pumped about it.  Why?  Because I know this book will pull people in.  I know it will sell.  I am so confident in this manuscript that I am in danger of feeling overly confident.  A little arrogant maybe even.

After all, this was the most difficult thing I’ve ever written, and it turned out damn good.  Damn good I say old chap.

Or maybe this feeling is covering for the terror of agent-hunting yet again?  *nervous laughter* 


In any case, I’ve queried a few agents who I’d love to work with.  Watching interviews and looking at their existing clientele is a great way to see if an agent is for you, and so far I’ve found several who I think would rep this novel well.

So I’ll keep you updated with how it’s going.  Every full request bolsters my spirit, every rejection is expected.  I’ll grab one of them enough to go to bat for World War ZZZ, and then we’ll get this party really started.

In the mean time, here’s a great way to find and share music I’ve been participating in:

plug.dj.com is pretty neat!  You basically are in a room with people sharing music, and you can share too!  You have three options when a song is playing: woot! (you like it), grab (you like it enough to save it for later listening), and meh (you don’t care for it).

I’ve been listening to tunes with the folks on the Miner Apocalypse minecraft server, and you can come see if anyone is DJing, here. If not, set up a playlist! 🙂  Once I begin my next project, I’ll be playing music to write to here.  (I’ll let you know when the tunes star flowing in case you want some writing background sound too!)  I love making playlists to add to the ambiance of whatever genre I’m writing.  Western Inspiration, Noir, Epic Film Soundtracks, Rock.

If you hear something you like, grab it for later, and then find it in iTunes!  I’ve bought more new music from hearing it on plug.dj than anything else recently.

Hope to see/hear you there!

I played Banished for a little too much there… I had three builders building their town’s first Tavern, and I’ve never seen them work so fast.

Heh.

What else.  Oh man, at the end of writing, I was binge-watching TV shows like it was my job.  It was such a good escape from the horrors I was crafting in the novel, even though some of the shows I watched took horror to a whole new level.

Like, holy smokes.
It’s terrible, but such a guiltly pleasure.

And then it was Attack on Titan.

I could write a whole post on this one, but I think the less I say, the better.  I went into it knowing very little, and it was a better experience for it.

I’ll tell you it’s an anime, it’s brutal, and scary and disturbing.  There are giant monsters that eat people.  The monsters look like people.  We made walls to keep them out, and we live in a safe zone inside the outer wall.  The show begins on the day that this outer wall is breached.

Just an amazing show.  Many feelings.  Such tears.  Wow.

Yesterday, after I spent the morning querying, I watched Rick and Morty, and I loved it.  Oh, Dan Harmon is involved (you know, from Community?).

It’s pretty dope.  And then around episode 6 it goes from funny to like, way more serious than I was expecting.  Like, things got real.  And I loved it even more.

The last of the TV worth mentioning is this stunning HBO miniseries, True Detective. Talk about sublime characterization; my god man, this show pulled me in and wouldn’t let go until the final second. I gotta recommend it.

Oh yeah, I haven’t just been studying storytelling/rotting my brain with TV… I have been play testing a board game in development, and reading.  I read The Handmaid’s Tale (how on earth did I go this long without having read Margaret Atwood!  I skipped grade 11 English so maybe it wasn’t entirely the school’s fault…).

I’m also giving Neil Gaiman a rare 4th shot.  Usually it’s 3 strikes and you’re out.  But when I tell people I’m not into Neil Gaiman I get looks like I’ve just drowned a sac of puppies or something… *sigh*  So I’ll try again.  I really want to like his writing.

Anyway this post is bordering on the rambling, so I’ll end it here.  I’ll keep you updated with good news as it comes in.

Thank you all for your support.  It’s really lovely of you to continue to stop by and see how things are going on this long road to being a published author!  ❤

Cheerio.

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.

Stay On Target

Sorry for the long time between updates!  I have a draft of something I was working on, but I won’t post that yet.  For now, news on the novel.

Things have been smoking along at quite the clip.

I have another day of read-through and editing to do, and then my manuscript will be ready for the beta readers!  I am so excited.  I’m already feeling relief; I have written so many challenging things these past few weeks, and I really will be glad to be done.

I have to make a tough call tomorrow about cutting a piece.  The fact that it’s on the chopping block means it’s probably already been chopped, but for some reason my current self hasn’t accepted it yet, so I’m still “considering” it.  I am being careful not to say the same thing twice in this book… so I need to really look at what I said and see if I come at this part of the event at two different enough angles.

Of all the segments I had to write, the pregnancy miscarriages and deaths of infants was one of the hardest.  In the insomnia apocalypse I’m writing, children get a pretty shitty deal.  I wanted to cover it but not dwell on it- because it might come off as shock-value- but damn.  It really took it out of me.  And I fricking wrote the damn thing twice.  One from a paediatric nurse working the neonatal unit, and one from a medical hypnotist.

Guess which perspective is more interesting?

See, it’s obvious.  But my stupid writer brain is clinging to the nurse.  It took so much time to pull that off, it was haaard, it thinks.  Cram it brain, the Hypnotist is better.  But the nurse shows it better.  The Hypnotist is all about The Hypnotist.  

Ugh.  Cutting is hard sometimes.

Sorry, this is all abstract.  Here’s a bat.

This is the most challenging thing I have ever written, and keeping it held together in my mind, dozens of stories, vignettes, characters, locations, research- it’s messing with my brain.  …And my life a little.  Like missing appointments, shifts at work… my brain is just about at its limit with this one.

I got four hours of sleep last night, then went to the cafe, and spent five hours fervently writing (one segment completed) and editing (perhaps 45,000 words read-through/edited.

Once I get this book done I can go back to the methodical agent researching.  I already have notes on several whom I’d love to work with- I hope one of them loves my project enough to work with me on it.

A new apocalypse scenario, who would have thought, right?

Onwards.  Oh god I just devoured The Handmaiden’s Tale.  Man alive, that one will stick with you.

Banished is an amazing medieval city building game.  If you like resource management and seeing your villagers die of starvation, this game is for you!  T_T

It is hard as butts.  But addictive, and also fun.

And also we’re getting another kitty, a kitten.  Will post pictures, of course.  It’s going to be a toss up between news about this book and a kitten.  …I will try and mash them together, maybe like a cute kitten photo with a caption that’s all business.

*

Today I got a full manuscript request from the most amazing agent ever!**

*not my kitten

**is only a caption example, has not happened (for this particular manuscript, yet, as it is not finished).

Ta ta for now, beautiful readers.  I will have a tidbit of good news to share with you soon.  😉

And then, hopefully soon, the best news.

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.

SiWC Post 1: Power Editing with Robert Dugoni, and a Book Giveaway!

This past weekend was mega busy, and oh so fun.  I volunteered at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, and worked my butt off for them.  In exchange, I got to pseudo-attend the conference.

I went to a masterclass, panels, and talks, and met some amazing people.  I’m going to do several posts on SiWC, because trying to fit it all in to a single post would be madness.  Just like trying to fit a whole year’s worth of writerly-networking and craft-discussion into a single weekend.

So!  Before I give out my notes from the Power Editing Masterclass, do go check out Robert Dugoni.  He was an excellent speaker, and in addition to giving me some things to think about, he managed to sell me on checking out his books.  (You can also have your chance to check out his books, courtesy of me!  Check out my note at the end of this post about winning his book!)

Onwards!

Please note that this is a mix of Robert Dugoni’s talk and my own opinions.  I made bare-bones notes, enough to trigger thought processes in my own mind, so what you’re about to read is a mishmash of his teachings and my experiences.  It ended up being more about story structure than editing, but it’s all relevant.

Also note that these are notes from a masterclass– this is not day 1 writing.  I’m not going to explain some of these terms.  You can look them up!  🙂  It’s still pretty approachable.

My brain had a little trouble right off the get go.  He mentioned that he’d done 14 drafts of one of his novels.  FOURTEEN DRAFTS.  This was one of those wonderful (read: terrifying) moments when I wondered “Am I doing it wrong?”

I knew some writers (myself not among them) wrote many drafts.  But FOURTEEN!  I tend to write one novel, re-write certain sections of it, and edit the crap out of it.  But I also outline beforehand… People that write a lot of drafts tend to be pantsers (they write by the seat of their pants, without much outlining).  If you plan it out, you know where it’s going, and thus don’t need to rewrite the darn thing so many times.

Once I got over that little factoid, I got right into:

Where the author intrudes on the story.

1) Opinion

Inserting your opinion into the work will bring the reader out of it.  Your opinion can come in the form of narrative judgement or even in the opinions of your characters.  This is difficult, because characters need to have opinions; convincing the reader that it makes sense in the context of the character is imperative if they’re to believe that it’s not yours.

2) Info Dumps

Insert information into conversations, naturally, so it’s not just unrelated information.  Sure it’s great to do your research, but you’ve got to get it into the story in a way that doesn’t jar the reader out and scream “LOOK AT ALL THE RESEARCH I DID”.

3) Biographies

No one introduces themselves and gives their life story.  Give characters information over time, naturally.  And don’t give information on characters that don’t matter or that we’ll never see again.

4) Flashbacks

Flashbacks are tricky.  Chronology works well to help story structure, and when you mess with it, things are bound to get ugly.

Basically, get your info across through your dialogue.

Appeal to core motivations: fear, love, wrath, envy, lust, greed- if it’s a deadly sin, you can use it.  People will identify with your character motivation if it’s universal.

High stakes: make the story personal to your character.

At the climax (the failure of the quest, followed by the triumph), remind the reader: what is at stake?

What is the physical journey?

What is their motivation?

What is the public stake?

What happens in the world, for other people, as a result of the quest?

What is the personal stake?

What happens to our character, personally, as a result of the quest?

But I’m way ahead of myself.  Let’s talk about

The Beginning.  

Do 5 things in the beginning.

1) Set the tone.

The reader should get a good feel for how the rest of the book is going to go.  What kind of story are you telling?  Is it funny?  Grave?  Who is telling it?  Let them know what they’re in for within the first few pages.

2) Introduce the protagonist.

Who’s quest is this?  Who are we rooting for?  We need to know this right off the bat.

3) Create empathy for your characters.

We want to identify with characters.  As writers, we need to give our audience reasons to like our protagonist, to want to go on a journey with them.

4) Hook the reader.

Get ’em invested.  You need to communicate that this story is worth their time, and you do that by hooking them with the most exciting, most pertinent part of the story.  Why are you telling this particular one?  Why should the reader care?  Get them interested.

5) The first sentence poses a question, and early on, a story worthy quest is set up.

The following five questions can be used to describe any story.

Who?

What?

Where?

But when…

What stands in the way of their goal?

Let’s try it out.

Alan Grant is a palaeontologist who is invited to Isla Neblar to vet a new dinosaur theme park.  But when the attractions break free from their enclosures, he must help the others on the island traverse the facility and escape from the once extinct predators.

Who? Alan Grant. What is he?  A palaeontologist.  “But when”? Got it.  And of course, the dinosaurs are in the way of his escape.  Easy!  You can boil down any movie or book into these five points and get the basics of the story across.  It’s what makes or breaks elevator pitches as well.

We are at the end of the first page of my notes.  Good job!  Have a silly picture to give your noodle a break.

Ok, let’s get back to it.

1) Senses: appeal to them all to set the scene.  Put your reader there.

2) Goal: ever present.  Each scene is about realizing the goal, or about revealing character.

3) Obstacles: Escalating.  Each one reveals a new character trait; don’t show your character overcoming the same kind of obstacle over and over, challenge them in different ways each time.

4) Conflict.  Always conflict.

5) The final words of a chapter raise a question to keep the story moving, keep the pages turning.

On to The Middle.

The middle= the crossing of the threshold —> the climax.

Here is where we find out

1) Whose story is it?

2) What’s the through line of your characters?

3) How are they to achieve their goal?

4) Who helps them achieve it?

5) Who hinders them?

Which brings us to

The End.  

You must fulfil the promise, the promise you made the reader at the beginning (a story worthy quest, a character they want to follow).

The end must be completely inevitable, but unexpected.

The end must be satisfying.

The end has one more big obstacle.

Let’s talk about twists:

A twist is either an escalation, or a revelation. A twist is inevitable, yet unexpected.

There can be a twist of:

Character (like in the Wizard of Oz, the twist with ‘the wizard’)

Awareness (like in Planet of the Apes, when he realizes where he is)

Complexity (like in The Game, how everything was much more complex than anyone in the story or the audience realized)

Cleverness (like basically all of Sherlock)

Danger- the peril isn’t what we/they thought it was, it’s much, much worse, or different.

In the end, no new forces may be introduced, and no new characters.

When you’ve got all that (you did get all that, right?), then:

Go through scene by scene.  Ask yourself, do you need it?  Does it a) move the story forward or b) reveal character?

Raise a question with the first sentence of every scene.  We spend so much time on our first sentence, our first page; make every start of a scene that important.

If it can be presumed, it can be cut.  You don’t need a whole ton of description for mundane things.  He picked up the cup of water and took a sip.  No!  He took a sip of water.  There’s tons of actions that just don’t matter- cut them.

Readers’ emotions mirror the characters’ emotions.  If the protagonist cares, the reader will care.

Describing clothes: let details be revealed in motion.  Movement/action= active.

Her hair was red, her eyes were green.  No no no!  

Her red curls bounced behind her as she ran into the room; her green eyes darted from the gun on the floor to the knife in Robert’s hand.

And now one of those points that gets made that blows your mind (at least, it blew my mind, particularly because it has effected me and I didn’t realize it):

Secondary characters can be more interesting because main characters are too much like us.  My first novel’s protagonist IS too much like me.  And who did I pick to follow for the second book in that series?  A much more intriguing secondary character.

My notebook has a word that stretches the entire width of the page after that note…

DDDDDAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYUUUUUUUUUUUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

Looking at character development: just one step up the ladder is enough.

1) The character cares only about themself.

2) The character cares about 1 other.

3) The character cares about a group.

4) The character cares about a community.

5) The character cares about all.

You can have character growth that doesn’t involve them becoming a saint.  Just one step up in this little hierarchy is enough to show development.

You did it!  You got to the end!  That’s it for that class.  It’s all over the place, I know… Hope you found it useful.  I sure did.

Or if you were more like

then I thank you for stopping by nonetheless.  Sorry for the technical post; I hope other writers find it helpful!

And now dear readers, I offer you a chance to win a book!  The first book in Robert Dugoni’s David Sloane series, The Jury Master, could be yours!  Just leave a comment below, or head to Reddit and comment in this thread in /r/books.  If you do both, I will count you in for two entries!  I will draw one person at random in one week (on Wednesday, November 6th), and I will contact you for your details.  And then you will have the first book in this thrilling series!

I will congratulate the winner in next week’s post.  And if you don’t win this time, I’m planning on doing more of these, so you’ll have more chances with other great books.  🙂

Next up: Surrey International Writers’ Conference Idol: Crushing Hopes and Dreams in front of Hundreds of People for Fun and Profit!  (j/k it was actually really useful, interesting, and fun!).

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.