The secret to my success…

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Yes, that is a keyboard.  It’s a very pretty version of what I use, and while I don’t get any kickbacks (I really should with as much as I hype this thing) I think every author should know that this pricey keyboard DOUBLED my typing speed.  Yes.  Doubled.

I type fast anyway.  On a typical laptop, I hit around 90 – 120 words per minute.  On my Corsair keyboard, I can hit 210 without straining.  I can finally type as fast as I think!  Why?  Because the mechanical keys with brown cherry mx switches (technical stuff there) require less pressure.  Each keystroke is, therefore, faster – and it really does add up.

Oh sure, the above keyboard (Corsair K95) sells for anywhere from 160 to 240 dollars (US).  If you don’t need all the fancy function keys on the left (those G keys) you can get a K70 (same thing with less buttons) for about 80 bucks (US).  But here’s the best part… they really do last forever!

Most authors type enough to destroy a keyboard.  The repetitive presses of each key required to make a 100,000 word novel is about all the thin plastic keys can take.  For me (who writes stupid amounts) I wear out a cheap keyboard in about a month.  Literally wear out.  Like holes in the space bar, no letters on the keys, certain letters stop working kind of wear out.  To date, I have written 30 books, with at least another 10 books worth of cut scenes, and have only used 2 Corsair keyboards, a K95 and a K70.  My second one is still pretty darned shiny and new, too.

Now, if you’re playing at writing a book – and it seems most people are – then this isn’t something you need to worry about.  But for all those people who ask how I can write so much, so fast, and keep pumping out the books?  Well, this really is my greatest secret.  A good keyboard is the tool of our trade.  It’s the method our thoughts use to reach the “paper”.  Having to stop, backspace, and fix a missed letter?  That’s breaking the line of thought, the intensity of action, and it does show.  The way we feel when writing comes across in the nouns, verbs, and descriptive words we unconsciously choose to make a statement.  Having to stop and think about where we were in the action kills the mood as quickly as parents do with infatuated teenagers: in its tracks.

A good quality mechanical keyboard is most often sold as a gaming keyboard.  That’s because gamers are so competitive, and they realize that a millisecond difference in keystroke could be what drops them to second place.  The need for longevity, tolerable pricing (because most teens aren’t rich) and the ability to withstand coffee/mountain dew spilled in the keys means that it works perfectly for the frazzled author.  For me, the brown switches (the types are named after colors) work best, but many prefer red.  Thankfully, these are the two most popular options.  Blue is a bit mushy for my tastes.

So yes, keyboard buying can get rather intimidating, but if you have questions, feel free to message me on Twitter (@aurynhadley) or ask me on facebook (www.facebook.com/AurynHadleyAuthor).  I’m always happy to geek out for a moment.

Now, if I could just figure out how to get those kickbacks.

 

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Rape as a plot device – Don’t do it!

sad-623848That tragic past.  That wound that can’t ever be explained.  We all read stories in the news (like the Stanford rape case recently) that make us want to dive into the potential for character angst, suffering, and personal recovery.  On the surface, it’s the perfect tragedy to write about, because it comes with few physical disabilities to keep track of.  The pain is all internal.  She (or he, because plenty of men get raped) can still be beautiful, alluring, yet damaged so badly in their psyche that plots spring forth in our minds.

Don’t do it.

Now, let me add a few caveats to that – since my own upcoming book, FLAWED, deals with this.  It’s not that you can’t write about a rape survivor.  It’s that you shouldn’t write the rape scene.  With some studies citing 80%, others 66% of women fantasize about rape, you can see how quickly this could go wrong.  (Granted, if you’re writing in taboo erotica, none of this applies, because, uh, taboo!).

The problem with writing the rape scene is that while it may be a very powerful piece of imagery, you just made it titillation.  You just turned the horror story into erotica for a significant portion of the audience – whether they intend for it to happen or not.  Never mind that 1 in 5 of your female readers has (statistically) suffered through it.  You remove the power of that scene simply because we have so many strong social connotations wrapped around it.  Nothing you can do will make it the horror you intended.  But the aftermath?

That is where the story truly lies.  In my opinion, it’s much more powerful to leave the reader wondering.  She rounds a corner and… darkness.  She looks up at her boyfriend, and he grabs her, smothering her shocked cry with his hand.  FADE TO BLACK.  Next chapter opens with her crying.  Him trying to hide the evidence so he won’t be shamed by his guy friends. Her struggling to remember what happened and why she’s here.  This leaves the author free to use the mental struggles without carrying the burden of the titillation.  Just make sure you do justice to the crime as if it is, uh… a CRIME!

BUT!  but but but but but but but but but (have I said it enough to get your attention?)

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Do not EVER make rape into a plot device.  Sure, it can be one character’s motivation (if you follow the above rules), but it shouldn’t be used to encourage some strong man (or determined woman) to save the object of their desire.  Rape isn’t something that the victim can ever just say, “Oh, that was last week.  I’m all better now.”  It’s also not something that should be tossed about as if it doesn’t matter.   What does that tell 1 in 5 of your readers?  That she (or he) is only good to make someone “stronger” do the right thing?  That they are just living to be an aside in someone else’s big story?  That their nightmares, their insecurities, the ruination of their entire life is good for, oh, about a chapter?  Anyone who thinks that’s ok is an asshole.

How about when we write about tragedy, we let the survivors tell their own story – not someone else’s?  Maybe it’s time that we show the horrors of recovery from such a traumatic crime, and not the act itself.  It isn’t the handful of minutes (20, according to the Stanford rapist’s father) that is the story.  It’s the years that come after that.  It’s something that never goes away, and if you can’t write a character that is broken and will stay broken – and figure out how to give them their power back – then pick another tragedy for your hero/heroine.

Oh, and find a survivor to beta your book before you put it out.  Trust me, that’s the only way you’ll know if you’re respecting the atrocities of it all.

World Building

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What makes world building?  Is it a verbal vomit from the author about this new universe the reader has just dropped into?  Would it be the nuances that make fantasy life different from reality?  Does it have to be spelled out, or should it season the story like a gourmet chef?

If you can’t tell, I have a rather strong bias about this.  Every time someone talks about world building, I twitch a little.  I have no interest in writing (and I’m sure you have no interest in reading) a prologue that lays it all out and removes the magic.  That’s so 1970s.  We’ve learned since then.

Instead, I think the world should be experienced by the reader as it happens, in real time (so to speak).  A hydrogen powered car here.  A gas giant lighting the sky there.  Maybe it’s a busy military compound that’s caught somewhere between the middle ages and three centuries into the future.  Maybe it’s a world where gladiators still are a viable means to dispose of criminals.  No matter what it is, the reader should be focused on the characters, and the world around them should just fill in the blanks.

Now, in some of my novels, I’ve made the decision to let the reader fill in the blanks.  Why?  Oh WHY haven’t I spelled out every single detail of these fabulous places that dwell in my mind?  The answer is easy.  I don’t think it’s fair.  I mean, how many times have you come across the hottie by the pool, only to be told that it’s not a forest pond, but a civic area surrounded by concrete?  Did you see him/her as a blonde?  Is it shocking when the author spells out that he’s a redhead, or she has a broken nose?  Do you really need to know that the sweet bouquet is filled with flowers of YOUR least favorite color?

See, we all have preferences, and those things affect our enjoyment.  Those are minor details that don’t really matter.  I think it’s the reader’s choice to fill in what should be there.  If it doesn’t leave a gaping hole in the plot, then why am I wasting time, droning on about the color of the curtains?  I hated it when Tolkein tried it.  I despise it in every novel that has come since.  Why would I do that to my fans?

And yet, I want you to understand what is going on.  Oh, I’m not going to spoon feed it to you.  I think my readers are too smart for that.  I’m going to give you little bits, showing the heartbeat of the universe as it happens, so you’re always pleasantly shocked and surprised.  I build my worlds in bite-sized chunks, so you can swallow it without choking.  I just think that no one needs a sledge hammer to the head to get the point.  It’s crude.  It’s not considered good writing, and I certainly don’t want to do that.

In one of my series, this is necessary.  The iliri have no idea where they’ve come from.  The point of view character can’t tell you what she doesn’t know.  As the author, I’m certainly not going to ruin the mystery!  (Sorry.)

Instead, I want to make reading into what I remember as a girl.  It was a journey – a discovery.  Every new page was a marvel, filled with magnificient things.  Every chapter made my mind spin.  What I expected to happen wasn’t always what did, and I learned.  I loved the quest to make it to the last page… and to imagine things that I couldn’t really see, but saw so very clearly.

 

Working with a co-author (and who is Kitty Cox?)

girls-344334There aren’t many people I could write with.  The list basically consists of Kitty Cox.  For years, she’s been the yin to my yang.  Our lives are intertwined so much that our husbands think of us more like sisters than just friends.  She’s my supervisor at work.  I’m her mentor in writing.  She has a flair for the number side of things; I excel in making sure it’s noticed.  Together, we’re the kind of friends I spent my life wishing for – including the part where I don’t have to worry about what I say to her.

And that last bit is why we can write together.  I can honestly tell her, “No one talks like that, chica.  Your dialogue is stiff and false feeling.”  Conversely, she picks apart my writing until I want to cuss a blue streak at her.  She makes sure I have a reason for every single action my characters take.  It’s not enough to just put them in a situation, Kitty wants to know why Mack didn’t just ask Ryan to take her to the hospital.  She wants to make sure I’ve prepared the readers for this by keeping her personality consistent.  She highlights every place her eyes glaze over when reading, then tells me to rip it out.

Kitty helps with every book I’ve put out, just like I help with every one she creates.  Granted, I kinda have a lead on her in the production area, and maybe having a full-time job gives her a bit less time to catch up, but she’s still writing.  When the idea for the Eternal Combat series came up, it was meant to be.  I’m a gamer.  She raises horses.  We both work for an internet company, so have a decent amount of technical knowledge – including the bad things that happen on the world wide web.

girls-380618.jpgSo what started as one book quickly grew.  Add in some gamer gate, a bit of weirdness at the Hugo awards, and this book morphed into a series.  The key players in gamer’s gate were the idea of the backbone for our characters.  Long nights over margaritas/martinis always turned to what would happen next in the series.  And then Kitty sent me a couple paragraphs.

She writes well.  It’s like a darker version of the way I do.  I have a love affair with the idea of hope.  She has a penchant for making the reality into something powerful.  Put those together, and we ended up with a book about some of the strongest women I’ve ever imagined.  They’re super hero strong, without losing their femininity or becoming cheap placeholders for characters that could feel real.

And then we moved into the rest of the series, and wow.  I always thought that writing with someone else would be a headache.  Sure, I expected the long debates over how to get from point A to point B in the book.  I never thought they’d be so much fun!

Since we’ve been pushing to get Flawed finished, Kitty has finally come to accept that she’s more than just a ghost writer.  She’s good at this.  She enjoys it.  That means there’s no reason her name shouldn’t be on the covers and she shouldn’t get equal billing for the hours she puts in.  The minute she agreed to it, I swapped covers and adjusted everything! (That’s the best part about digital books, changes can be made quickly.)

It also makes the final edits a lot easier.  The pair of us sit down and go through the comments our editor left.  Some we laugh off.  Many we debate.  Is this fragment indicative of the character’s mental state?  Are we trying to make the reader feel something with the choppy flow through this section, or were we being lazy?  How does ripping out that line alter things later in the book?  Does THIS line have any reason to be here?  What’s it driving in the story?  Does the sex scene have a purpose besides titillation?

children-839789.jpgYou see, every single word in a book should do something.  Whether that’s characterization, plot development, or setting – they all need to keep the novel moving in a single direction.  Forward.  The goal is always to get to the end of the book, not to wallow in the journey.  We just don’t want to skip any details between the inciting incident and the culmination of the character’s struggles.  Working with my best friend?  Yeah, it’s a whole lot easier.

Oh.  Right.  And Flawed is almost done.  Maybe after this series is out, we’ll have to start on something else, because working with a co-author is a lot better than I could have imagined.

The mindset to write (and when not to)

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There are times that an author shouldn’t write.  Well, not on their story, at any rate.  Today is one of those days for me.  You see, I have a cold.  I took something to make it all better.  My head is swimming, my reason has flown the coop and I’m basically stupid.

Anything I put down today would be a waste of time.  It would likely pull my plot(s) off track, alter character perceptions, and just derail everything.  Being sick kinda sucks, but it made me realize something.

I didn’t get where I am by putting off writing.  I made it a priority in my life, pushing other things out of the way to make room.  I can’t remember the last time I watched TV.  I’m certainly not current on the news.  I have a brain filled with strange trivia information – like the average bleed-out times for most major arteries, or what colors birds can see in – because I had to research that for a book.

Everything I do revolves around my writing.  My husband knows this.  Thankfully, he encourages me.  He’ll lock himself away playing video games, make dinner and bring it to my desk, or any number of things to keep me “in the zone” and pumping out the next book.  My day job has hours that are convenient to write around.  My hobbies are planned around my next release.  My world revolves around my books because I am an author.

That means, for me, it’s easier to find the right mindset to write.  I don’t get interrupted anymore.  I don’t have people think that I can answer a million questions while planning a complex plot.  I no longer need to explain that distracting me from the words on the screen means that I have to backtrack and start all over.  (A few brilliant tantrums fixed that very nicely, thank you very much.)

And now, this.  Stupid medication making me silly.  I have time to write.  I have the urge to write.  I’m not gonna do it because………Oh, isn’t that shiny?  I’m sorry, was I saying something?

You get the idea: me dumb on drugs.

So, hopefully, someone is out there writing the next masterpiece.  I’m gonna go crawl back into bed and pretend to be a slug.

It’s an addiction

 

medications-342461_960_720I have a problem.  It’s worth than pills, harder to break than nicotine, and more exhilarating than caffeine.  I love writing.  I can’t get enough of it.  No matter what I’m doing, I think about it.

I am an addict.

And I just finished another book!  Yes, one of those mostly done books in my list of things to finish up is now done.  Oh, I don’t mean it’s ready to be published – not by a longshot!  It’s just ready for my alpha reader.  Then I  make a few corrections and send it to the editor.  Then more corrections, and it goes to the beta readers.  Then more corrections, another round after that, and hopefully, it’ll eventually head out to the ARC (Advance Review Copy) readers.

person-woman-relaxation-girlAnd now, this book has been sent on, and I have time to do something else.  Tonight, I’ll read something I didn’t write.  Tomorrow, I’ll start working on another book.  When I’m on a roll, I’ll create.  When I’m not, I’ll edit.  When I’m sick and tired of everything in my head, I’ll start on yet another series that won’t see the light of day for a few years.  I can’t help it.  I can’t stop it.  I just have to write it out.

I don’t care what genre it is.  What I love is the story.  I love the ability to escape, to visualize things that are impossible outside my head, and to bring other people into this fantasy land with me.  I may not be the best author that ever existed… but I won’t rule out the possibility either.  (C’mon, we all have to dream a bit, right?).  But one day, in the future, I want to be known as a prolific writer.  As someone who produced books that others tell their friends to read.

Now, I just have to decide which of these stories that will be.  Next, I mean.  Because they all gotta get done one day!

The “joy” of reading things written long ago

Salryc in Bolero with ivyThe Rise of the Iliri series was written quite a while ago.  2013, to be exact.  Books 1 – 5 took three months to fly off my fingers.  When book 5 hit 250,000 words, I had to pause.  Anything over 100,000 words is a pretty thick book, and it was well beyond that point.  In other words, I had to rethink my entire plot, break up the book into two, and somehow make the story have an ending.  (I absolutely hate cliffhanger endings).

And so I moved on, learned some things, and wrote some other books.  Today, I’m in the process of re-reading book 3 of that series (while book 2 is spending time with the editor).  WHAT THE HELL WAS I WRITING?

Seriously.  This crap is bad bad bad bad.  I can’t even wrap my mind around what I was thinking!  She walked outside.  She looked up.  She found a horse.  NOPE!  This most certainly will not do!

*ahem*  So, I have begun some intense editing.  Entire chapters are being rewritten.  My delete key is getting some serious workouts.  Hopefully, my editor will take her same massive and evil red pen to it that she does with the rest of my work, and get rid of the parts that should embarrass me.  I want to make sure those novice lines never see the light of day.

When I started writing, I thought I was good at it.  I mean, I had some natural talent for storytelling, but not so much for writing it down the way it should be.  Thankfully, I was smart enough to research, and not just press that publish button.  I read.  I learned.  I am still striving to perfect my craft, and recognizing that making errors doesn’t make me a bad person is the first part of that.  Some things my editor sends back are shameful  (There should never be a comma before the verb.  What was I THINKING???) but it has no bearing on me as a person.  It doesn’t mean I failed.  In fact, being able to take the correction with grace is a lot more impressive to most people.

I know all of this.  So why am I reading this early book and wishing that I could hide it away, start over, and pretend like I didn’t write this?  Big girl panties, Auryn.  It’s time to put them on and make this a work of art.  Gonna take a lot of elbow grease.