Write For Yourself – You First Must Acknowledge The Fall, And Why You Fell, Before You Can Get Up Again

(Details for giveaway below…)

Last week, I began my comeback to the blog scene with touching on the main reason above others why I was M.I.A. so long.

Writing became frustration devoid of fun.

Now for writers like myself who want to get published,  I know full well there are times we must slog through things we find neither pleasurable, or simple to execute as they are to advise, but we also didn’t start writing to torture ourselves either.
Remember, we started writing because we each had stories to tell.

We all kept writing, even when times got tough, agonizing over dozens of countless rewrites, revisions, and restructurings of our manuscripts to get them in top form.

We put in the blood, sweat, tears and time to achieve short and succulent query letters that at best, showcase our balance between craft and commercial appeal.

We endured learning more about publishing than we sometimes want to know.

Because we believe so much in our stories, real or imagined, we will do anything in our power to make it happen, no matter long and uncertain the road getting there may be, 

However, there comes a time, even for the most committed and serious writers, when persistence wained, and feelings of jealousy or inferiority creep in, hard as you try to keep them out. It’s important to note here that while it’s vital you don’t let these negative thoughts poison your mind as well as your passion, you’re not a heartless hypocrite if you’ve felt this surge of envy for other writer’s success, especially if you know them personally on some level.

But keep in mind that the same writers you feel in the shadow of, once and sometimes still, feel the same as you, and if you know them personally, might still wish they could improve at X writing or marketing skill that YOU do better than THEM! Without even realizing it.

While I’ve read many articles and how-to guides that do their best to break down the steps needed to achieve your writing goals, too often these how-tos treat you more like a soulless, robotic army grunt, than someone who doesn’t learn well under pressure, and I’m in this camp for sure.

It’s not just kids and teens who have unique learning styles, be they autistic or not, adults also face similar issues, but often I feel we sometimes unfairly treat fellow adults like flakes who simply can’t “Get Tough” the same way, especially among their same age or generational peers.

These people are not self-pity freaks. Nor are they lazy slobs who’d rather waste time “complaining” than make good use of it, we just don’t learn well when we’re forced to be faster, and speaking for me here, when I’m forced or feel pressured to pick up the pace, my clumsiness and short temper set me up for a fall, figuratively and even literally on the really bad days.

But we’re just people who are trying every day to be better than yesterday, as I’m sure many who follow blogs like this strive to do all the time, you may just simply recover slower than most from many of life’s ills, be it about education, religion, and other facets of daily living that can get on top of anyone. 

Don’t feel alone here. 

I live this struggle too, and even if you don’t, chances are you know one writer or two who meets some or all of the following symptoms above.

With this in mind, I came up with a list of tips and strategies that nearly any Non-Type A writer can benefit from. The only pre-requisites are in the following quote below-

“I want to be a better writer than I am right now. Am I tired of housing a jaded vagabond in my heart day after day? Am I finally ready to evict him?”

For those of you who who’ve been through similar struggles, I urge you to share some highlights from your experience, it may help other writers overcome what’s blocking their comeback trail.

The first two who comment to this post will win the following-

Reply Prize #1:  $20 Barnes and Noble E-Gift Card*
Reply Prize #2: $10 iTunes gift card*

(*Prizes can only be awarded to residents in U.S. or Canada)
-Hawaii and Alaska are eligible-

Another giveaway’s coming this week so keep your eyes sharp for another chance at winning some fun prizes. 

Keep checking back to T.A.A. today and all this week for tips and strategies that keeps me going. Hopefully one of them will help some of  you as well.

Until Next Time,

May the Fantastic Fauna Be With You,


UAPDATE (8/18/11): Giveaway’s Officially Over!
Winners, e-mail me at the following address to claim your prizes-

Self Study Book Club For Novelists, Poets and Short Story Writers

Someone on a forum I frequent told me my tastes in reading were too narrowingm, and I should open my mind to new books and writers I was frankly either too afraid or envious to read.

for the purposes of this idea, I’ll assume you have or are searching for books on the craft of writing, this books club will focus on reading books in the genres or type of books you want to write or are writing now.

When choosing books to read, they should fall into the following catagories-

Books You Love Reading No Matter What
Often these are the books and writers who made you want to write in the first place.
Books You’re Afraid To Read (And write too!).
Books by writers you’ve envied too much to give a chance.
Look for tee the joy and/or lessons they can teach you.

To show you how this looks, I’ll share some of the books I’m going to read starting later today, burning the midnight oil a bit-

Books You Love Reading No Matter What
Often these are the books and writers who made you want to write in the first place.
Books You’re Afraid To Read (And write too!).
Books by writers you’ve envied too much to give a chance.

Look for tee the joy and/or lessons they can teach you.
To show you how this looks, I’ll share some of the books I’m going to read starting later today, burning the midnight oil a bit-

Books You Love Reading No Matter What
Anything by

Books You’re Afraid To Read (And write too!),
Anything By 

Books by writers you’ve envied too much to give a chance.

Look for tee the joy and/or lessons they can teach you.
To show you how this looks, I’ll share some of the books I’m going to read starting later today, burning the midnight oil a bit-

If you’re feeling brave enough, please share the books you want and need to read in the format and categories above in the comments.

As for me, once I’ve made some headway on my to be read list, I’ll start doing book reviews, and I’ll have a new regular feature on the blog that chronicles my Self-Study reading.

Until next time,
Be Inspired,
May The Fantastic Fauna Be With You

Your Earnest Yet Scatterbrained Literary Rat,

The Humanity Behind the Beast: Part 2 (Common Mistakes and Misconceptions)

Newcomers, please read PART 1 before continuing on.

Welcome to the second in my three part series of learning the bare basics of working with talking animals into your stories. Today we’ll cover some of the common issues that occur.

There are many serious misconceptions going around about stories with talking animals. Ranging from “These stories are only read by or interesting to preschoolers” to the equally annoying “They’re so EASY to do.”

Many children’s writers who’ve been at this craft for a year or more, realize, or soon will realize, that writing a good story, and making a GREAT story, takes time and effort. It can be just as hard to write a folktale about a leopard finding his missing tail, as it is to write a book about a (Human) boy searching for his missing dog during a blizzard in 1933.

A general misconception some people have about writing children’s books, especially picture books, easy readers, and chapter books is thinking they’re easy to write because their shorter than novels. Writers like me, and in my writer’s group, who together probably have a good 20 years combined experience, all know this isn’t true.

Yes, picture books, easy readers, and chapter books are shorter than novels for middle grade or Young Adult readers, but they have a unique set of requirements and challenges that make them a REAL challenge, especially for writers like me, who for better or worse, are just not concise writers by nature.

Doesn’t mean we don’t think about our words, or try hard to only be as long or short as we need to be, and we definitely do NOT get lazy and don’t put in the effort we know we should.

We’re just not naturally economical writers, which is something that takes us longer to learn, but we are WORKING HARD to learn it. These misconceptions further are intensify when talking animals are involved. Or worse, some writers make the mistake of using them as a gimmick and not really writing them from the heart, which like with any genre of writing, is just setting yourself up for disaster, and many long hard months or years of revision, if the writer sees or is shown via outside intervention where they went wrong.

I can honestly say that while many of my early attempts at writing the stories I loved reading and seeing in the movies or on television, had some of the issues mentioned above, what sets me and others of my ilk apart from the true posers and wannabes is that I always respected and valued these kinds of stories. I wouldn’t try to write them if I didn’t love reading them myself, and was willing to learn how to improve.

Just like mystery writers and romance writers read in the genre and learn from it, I too have read and watched many stories of this type, and know what’s done to death, what’s more or less popular, and what I like, no matter the trends that pop up now and again.

Sometimes this is hard, because the only true danger in reading in the genre your trying to write in is consciously and subconsciously falling into the trap of trying borrow too much from the writers and books you love. (Note: I’m not talking about outright plagiarizing which will get you in trouble, both with the law, and your conscience, if you still listen to it)

I mean overusing certain techniques of crafting your prose, characters and dialogue, that work in your favorite books, but don’t always help yours.

For example, one of my favorite writers is Tor Seidler, and his animal tales have been a great inspiration to me as a writer, and as a reader, give me much entertainment. That said, it gets me into trouble sometimes when I try to use a literary technique or way of structuring my sentences to be like his, only to learn later, either on my own, or through my writer’s group that it doesn’t work in my story, even though in his it makes sense.

So much of learning your craft as a writer is know what tips and techniques can help your writing in general, and what works for a particular kind of story or book. Often this comes from knowing when to trust your instincts, which I’ll discuss in-depth in the near future, and from picking the right person or group of people, to be your first readers, once you’ve done some revision on your own. Again, something I’ll talk about in-depth at a later date.

At the risk of making certain readers annoyed with me, take the vampire trend that’s finally starting to die down a bit. First off, let me just say I’m not, nor have ever been anti-vampire, this is merely to prove an important point. The most popular books about or featuring vampires are Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, for adults, but I’m sure many teens braver than I was read them, Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga,(Still haven’t finished the first one, but read enough to know it’s NOT badly written as some folks make it out to be) and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series, again published in the adult market, but there are certainly a good number of folks well under 21 or 18 that have flocked to the new book in the series year after year.

I just recently jumped on board the bandwagon myself, after years of hemming and hawing. Partly from just not being sure I was ready to dive in as a reader, and as a writer, yes a bit jealous that the stories I spend many a sleepless night to make the best they can be weren’t getting out-shined by the general paranormal explosion. Then again, it took 9+ years to sell the Dark Hunter Series, so why should I pack it in after 7 years with my stuff. Soon to be 8.

Of course, there’s Charlene Harris with her Sookie Stackhouse series, now with a hit HBO series, but it mostly goes without saying how well those do, still I didn’t know about her or Stephanie Meyer or that matter until way back in 2007, before the Twilight movies came out, before the last book in the saga came out, and back when True Blood was still a pipe dream, what a difference a few years makes, right?

My point, finally, is there’s one thing all these series, and their respective authors have in common, other than they’re women, (To think there was a time men outnumbered women in this business, not meant as a jab, really, just a casual observation) is that they all took the conventions of what people had done with vampires, and the paranormal story in general, and either turned on its ear, flipped it upside down, or just threw out the traditional rules and trappings and made it all their own. Or using little known or tapped history and lore to weave a new way of looking at the immortal bloodsuckers, or in the case of Twilight, vampires who forego the blood thing.

The same is true with talking animals. The best books and/or series come about when the writer does something to make their book or story stand out, to shake up the conventions of how these stories normally go.

One of the best known conventions are stories that pit animals against people, either as an entire race, or a certain group person or group of people, being the bad guys with little or no depth or perspective to them. Now certainly there are many examples where this works well. One of the catalysts of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web was Wilbur escaping the fate of most farm livestock, being killed and eaten, by omnivorous humans. That’s why the famous first line of that book has so much weight.

Even kids who before reading that book have never been to a farm, or know a whole lot about where food comes from, can put the pieces together, nothing good usually comes from your father carrying an axe in his hand, at least not for the ones who’s getting the axe, no pun intended.

When I started writing my own stories, I knew I wanted to flip or outright overturn certain conventions to do something new or different. In the middle grade novel I’m querying now, my animal protagonist befriends a human, which naturally doesn’t go over well with his fellow creatures who only see humans as a nuisance, and in many cases, the bane of their existence.

But my protagonist can see through befriending this human, that an entire species should not be condemned as evil for the actions of those who probably do deserve the frustration and anger these creatures have for them. It’s in many ways about seeing people or animals on an individual basis, since there are many creatures in this book who can be just as scary or dangerous as the humans they fear and despise. That’s the main external conflict

The great inner conflict is doing right by your friends, even when it’s not easy, friends learning to be honest and forgiving, and that it’s NEVER too late to make things right, as long everyone’s committed to meeting each other halfway. Tomorrow, I’ll wrap this up by sharing some personal examples of where I went wrong, and how I got my writing back on track, and the books that helped me to learn and better appreciate the stories work hard to write, and write well.

Also, I’ll do my weekly book reviews, and one of the books touches perfectly on the points I’ve made thus far.

Until then,
This Rat has left the cheese shop.

The Humanity Behind the Beast: Part 1 (How it all began…)

Many have often asked me why I’m so passionate about reading and writing stories about or with talking animals. For a long time I had a straight answer. Now I’ve figured out two key reasons why I love them and why I write them-

1. They connect me to my Inner Child

2. It’s not as easy as it might look, but that just means the end result, when done right, is that much more special!

Before I could read, this love first started with my favorite television shows and movies, many about real everyday people, but many always that element of whimsy, wonder, and enchantment, and often this came in the form of talking animals or magic that made people’s lives that little bit more fun, and help make the hard times in life bearable. These were my earliest memories of playing with my imagination. I didn’t have many friends growing up, and my grandma worked a lot, so I learned to make my own fun, for the most part.

As I got older, I didn’t “Grow out” of some of the things I liked as a little kid, my chatty animal friends were one of those things, since my life at home was complicated and heartbreaking at times, it was something I needed to hold on to, but obviously I kept it more or less a secret from the few friends I had. They wouldn’t have understood.

I came to reading late. When I say that, I don’t mean I was a poor reader, in fact I learned fairly quick from what I remember and what my grandma tells me. But I hadn’t found books I wanted to read, as opposed to what I was forced to read in school, and didn’t get many chances to go to the library or be read to, my grandma was too busy, and most of my immediate family are focused only on their inner circle, not uncaring, but not a close-knit bunch. It wasn’t really until my teen years, especially during my short stint in high school (Story too long to tell here), that I found the books I loved, and have been hooked ever since.

After being inspired by many great books that entertained, and comforted me during the hard times of life, I knew I wanted to write too, and after years of not truly knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d finally found something I clicked with.

When I started writing, I tried to write about real people doing normal things, or unusual situations grounded firmly in reality, but it never felt right. There wasn’t heart or passion in what I was writing, even though I did my best to assure that came through.

When I started writing about these animals, which’ve always been in my imagination, and in my heart, things started to click. It was like finally finding the right pair of shoes when you’ve gone through 100 different pairs that were either too small, too snug, or were just not your style.

That said, as I stated at the outset, it’s not as easy as people think to do this right, just like with anything involved with the craft of writing, I had to learn what I was doing wrong, how to make it right, and sometimes fix what I did right, the WRONG way. Confused? Don’t worry, I’ll elaborate further tomorrow.

Until then, may the fantastical fauna be with you,