How Writing Media/Tie-In Has Impacted My Original Works [My Book Launch Week]

Gorramn Dictionary

All this week, I’m celebrating the release of Firefly: The Gorramn Shiniest Dictionary and Phrasebook in the ‘Verse from Titan Books. Each day, I’m going to post about an aspect of working as a media/tie-in writer. I hope you enjoy this series of posts!

One of the most interesting aspects of working on other properties is that, over time, I’ve developed a number of skills that I’ve ported over to my own work. Before working on media/tie-in, for example, I was a bit of a pantser because I didn’t have a deadline. Well, I had deadlines when I was in college, and I thrived on them. But, I didn’t think of deadlines the same way I do today. Now, when I get a deadline, I know how important that date is to the overall process of publishing a book, game, comic, etc. Aggressive deadlines also push me to create my best work; when I write under pressure I tend to pound out drafts left and right. Said drafts can be (and are) revised, but aggressive deadlines prevent me from revising as I write. Or, in other words: I cannot revise a blank page, so typing “The End” is better than staring at a blank screen.

In truth, I can no longer work without a deadline. I just can’t. If I don’t have a due date, the project goes into the ether, and I pick at it when I feel I’m free to do so. When I’m a developer or managing editor for a project, I get to decide those dates up front–which is a lot trickier than you might think. Without them, I stress out more than if I had them.

Assessing Word Count

Now, as I am not a cylon or a typing monkey sitting at my machine, what I have the tendency to do is plan for a major output of word count after assessing my schedule for a set period of time (typically three-to-six months). If I push a heavy (5,000 words a day or more) output on a consistent basis, I know my brain well enough to know I’ll need a break to completely cut off internet access and decompress in some fashion. However, if I average out my word count to 3,000 words a day, instead, then I can attach those words to my projects and keep rolling along.

Unfortunately, there are some things that throw me off schedule. I call them “zombie projects”. These are the projects that need to be proofed or are suddenly revived after months of silence. The state of the zombie projects typically have some progress on them already, so I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. However, they can eat away (Hah! Hah!) at my word count and how I prioritize my schedule.

Outlines, Outlines, Outlines

Word count, however, is not a measure of the completed work. Rather, a word count is a benchmark for progress! Just because I write 3,000 words doesn’t mean they’re good or valuable words. Sometimes, they have to go into the trash. An outline, however, can and has facilitated necessary words. Of course, the outline sometimes serves as a general guideline, too, especially if I come up with a better idea. But, as a starting point? Outlines and smaller, daily milestones for word count are invaluable to my work. They help guide the shape of the work, so I’m not overthinking a story or, worse, a game.

Media/tie-ins have also impacted my work by helping me understand the value of an outline with respect to the project itself. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: say I’m writing a novel about Mumm-Ra from Thundercats. The project stalls, but it isn’t canceled. The license ends, or the publisher/editor/etc. changes, but the contract is still viable and now I’ve got a novel due. What happens in between the time that I stopped writing on said Mumm-Ra novel to when it gets picked up again? The outline will help me not only figure out where I’ve left off, but it also gives me common ground to work with my new co-workers on the project.

Stops and starts, in particular, can be a time sink because re-familiarizing myself with where I stopped on a project makes me lose valuable writing time. Thus, I’ve begun to translate this (outlines) to my original work to address the possibility that the work will be interrupted. Since I’m writing my fiction on spec right now, there’s a good chance that I’ll need to table my own stuff. This way, I don’t feel like I have to start all over again, and I can keep making progress.

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post about deadlines, word count, and outlines. Shiny!

Writing 101 Advice from Geek*Kon 2015

Quere Baby Deadpool Pole Dancing Avatar

Geek*Kon 2015 was a mixture of seeing old friends and making new ones. I did have a great time and these fans are doing everything they can to put on a great show. I was thrilled to see folks like Emma Bull, Greg Weisman, Christopher Jones, Will Shetterly, and Alex Bledsoe speak to up-and-coming writers, fans, and all around great people.

Rather than give a recap of every panel and anime-related item I purchased (*coughs* Jiji rocks!), I’d like to highlight some of the wonderful advice given during my Writing 101 panel. The panel consisted of Alex Bledsoe, Will Shetterly, Emma Bull and myself. Here are some of the nuggets of advice given during the panel that I hope inspires you to write your heart out. Please note that I made every attempt to attribute said advice correctly, and some of the comments are sub-attributed to Steven Brust. Rather than rehash many of the tidbits I’ve mentioned here on my blog, today’s spotlight is on the other authors and their words of wisdom.

  • Point-of-view (P.O.V.) solves everything. Brust/Bull
  • Story starts with your P.O.V. character. Shetterly
  • Deal with the precipitating event as the first part of your story. Bledsoe
  • What serves the story is what you don’t tell. Shetterly
  • With respect to critiques and feedback from readers, “Worry about reader problems vs. reader solutions.” Shetterly
  • I write first drafts to create a skeleton. Bledsoe
  • With respect to revisions: “I pace around my house, reading the manuscript aloud.” Bledsoe
  • Figure out what drafts are supposed to do. e.g. They can be systematic or intuitive. Bull
  • Make the story more specific during revisions. Shetterly
  • What really matters, is the story itself. Shetterly
  • It’s better to write a bad first draft, than no draft at all. Shetterly

We also talked about info dumps and the Dread PrologueTM, and how many of the info dumps can be avoided by choosing the right character when selecting which character is telling the story. We also mentioned how it’s okay to suck (you’ve no doubt heard me say that before), and how the senses are crucial to add in layers of worldbuilding. For example, Bledsoe mentioned that a sense of smell can really make a big difference.

I hope today’s wrap-up inspires you to write, write, write! And remember, you’ll never internalize or finish what you start unless you sit down and simply…write. GOOD LUCK!

    Mood: Luxuriating in this damp, windy weather.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Mostly managed!
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH.
    In My Ears: Tron Legacy soundtrack
    Game Last Played: Kingdom Rush
    Book Last Read: For research, not pleasure. Ergo…
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Frozen. Because in my house, it’s a horror movie.
    Latest Artistic Project: Sewing project that turned out to be a pescatarian oni. Don’t ask! Am planning Halloween-related crafts, however.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
    Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. A new one coming soon! SOON I SAY!

Fiction Editing: the Do’s and Don’ts of Editing Professionally

Now that I have some time this week to post, I’m going to pick up where I left off when I was discussing editing. Recently, we’ve talked about what an editor does and what the difference is between content editing and copy editing. Now I’d like to talk specifically about fiction, because the fiction process is one that’s important to understand both on the writer’s side, but also on the editor’s.

DOs and DON’Ts of Being an Editor

    Don’t: Reject someone’s work because they have no experience.
    Do: Reject the work if the quality isn’t up to par.
    Read More…

Monica Valentinelli >

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