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Brett Michael Orr

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writing

The Three Stages of Editing

Let’s be honest – your book is going to spend far longer in the ‘editing’ stage than the ‘drafting’ stage. The blank page might be daunting, and spending hours deliberating over outlines or character sheets might feel like the most agonizing part of crafting a manuscript, but the sheer reality is that editing, in all its forms, will be where you spend the longest amount of time.

Today’s writing post (thanks to everyone on Twitter!) takes a look at The Three Stages of Editing.

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5 Lies Writers Tell Themselves

Let’s be honest – writing is hard. Sometimes just summoning the energy to sit down and write even a few hundred words feels like the hardest thing in the world – half the battle is fought between the fridge and the desk (but seriously, chocolate is definitely what I needed to conquer this blog post).

Procrastination is the bane of the writer, the terror we all fight – and here are my Top Five White Lies that Writers tell themselves (and how you can combat them!)
Writing Humor - The Creative Process Pie Chart
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Three Simple Questions to Tackle that ‘Stuck’ Scene

Recently, I gave some advice to a fellow writer and blogger who was stuck on a particular scene in her novel. We’re often prone to random bursts of writer’s block, miniature in size but crippling in nature, where we run into a brick wall at a scene and cannot see a way out.

I’m here today with three simple questions you can ask yourself, in order to tackle the troublesome scene. Continue reading “Three Simple Questions to Tackle that ‘Stuck’ Scene”

Opinion: The Danger of Hype

I have a problem.

It’s a problem that many bookworms, movie buffs, and gaming enthusiasts around the world share with me – a type of problem that’s easy to fall into, but desperately difficult to break free of. I am, of course, talking about over-hyping, or as it’s more commonly referred to as on the internet, the hype train or hype cycle.

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What Publishing a Novel has Taught Me About Writing

If you’ve been following me on Twitter and/or Goodreads, you might’ve heard about my debut Sci-Fi novel, The Bureau of Time – and if you haven’t, well, it’s my first published novel and responsible for many late nights over the last year. It’s now available on Amazon and Kobo, thanks to independent digital publisher, Fontaine.

In previous posts, and in the book’s acknowledgements, I touched on how The Bureau of Time has changed my life as a writer, but in this post, I thought I’d explain just how much I’ve grown as a writer in such a short period of time – and how you can apply these same tips to your own writing!

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Blog Swap: How Movies and Television Can Inspire and Improve Your Writing

The Blog Swap is exactly what it sounds like: friends Brett Michael Orr and Rae Oestreich had the idea to guest-­post on eachothers’ blogs, with an added twist. Each month they’ll write a guest post based on a topic the other has assigned to them ­- anything from writing advice, to book discussions, or even literary opinions.

There’s something incredibly engaging and addictive about the way film is used to tell a story.

I love movies, and I love watching primetime T.V. I’m a huge fan of The Walking Dead, and any of ya’ll who watched Fringe during its epic five-season run is my official new best friend. Favorite movies? Easy: Independence Day, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and the Underworld and Resident Evil (okay, maybe only the first three) sagas will always have a special place in my heart.

Continue reading “Blog Swap: How Movies and Television Can Inspire and Improve Your Writing”

Brisbane Writer’s Festival 2015

This weekend, I attended Brisbane Writer’s Festival, a yearly event in my city of Brisbane, where authors and writers from both the domestic and international markets come together to talk about everything from getting published, to Q&A’s on their novels, and of course, plenty of book signings!

Cassandra Clare

One of the biggest headlines for BWF2015 was world-renowned author of the Mortal Instruments series, Cassandra Clare, who hosted dozens of events throughout the week. I was lucky enough to see her three times on the weekend, including her talks with writing partner Holly Black on their new series together, Magisterium.

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js  Cassandra talked about her own series, Mortal Instruments, and both the movie and television adaptations of it – including an interesting statistic about optioned books:  

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I was also lucky enough to have her sign my edition of City of Bones:

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Holly Black

Fantastic urban fantasy and vampire-crazed author Holly Black started my weekend with a fascinating panel on vampires, how they’ve changed from originally a ‘fear of the foreigner’ (referencing Dracula’s Eastern Europe beginnings), into something that now resembles a sex symbol – a romantic lead more than a horrifying creature.

So excited to be here, listening to Holly Black and the panel on Vampires! #brisbane #bwf2015 #vampires A photo posted by Brett Michael Orr (@brettmichaelorr) on Sep 4, 2015 at 6:36pm PDT

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She also had this to say about the nature of vampire books returning every few years:

 

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js  And best of all, she took time to talk with my friends about writing, and recounted her favorite childhood folktale, The White Cat, and generously took photographs too!

 

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Other Events

I attended other events too – including several sessions from Australian published authors including the likes of John Marsden (the Tomorrow series), and heard from various industry sources about publishing and getting your work from unpublished to published status. The most inspiring statement of the whole weekend was simply about the hard work required to make it as an author:

 

Writerly Friends

But one of the best things about BWF2015 was the opportunity to connect with fellow bloggers and writers in real life – I had a blast meeting Jeann of Happy Indulgence, and Sarah of Trees of Reverie, along with Maddie, Maureen, and Katie Rowney!

Hanging out with @happyindulgence, @pasomaddie and @momopixies at #bwf2015! #aussiebibliophile #bibliophile #brisbane #bwf

A photo posted by Brett Michael Orr (@brettmichaelorr) on Sep 4, 2015 at 8:55pm PDT

 

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This was my first time attending a writer’s festival, but I can tell you it won’t be my last! What a fantastic weekend, and an opportunity to meet so many amazing people from around the world, both professional authors, and book bloggers alike!

Thanks to everyone who made this event possible, to the loyal army of volunteers (including star Katie Rowney, featured in the above Instagram), and to the Brisbane City Council for organizing the event!

Heroines in YA Novels

Young Adult is a booming genre in the literary world, an unstoppable juggernaut that refuses to back down. A few weeks ago I discussed What YA novels are, and part of their success is easily attributed to the way YA novels tear down societal and cultural preconceptions.

YA’s most distinctive feature – aside from its targeted focus on teenagers – is the prevalence of female main characters. Not only do girls frequently feature as leading stars, but they have quickly become symbols of feminism and anti-sexism around the world.

Over the years, male YA characters have had their fair share of the limelight, from the most famous like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson or Alex Rider to more recent series like Half-Bad, The Maze Runner and Inheritance.

But there is undoubtedly a far greater number of heroines in YA literature than male heroes – this might, in part, be due to the ratio of female authors to male authors.

As a male writer and blogger, I am distinctly aware of how rare I am, and I respect that the vast majority of my beta-readers and followers are women; but more than simply providing an associable main character, heroines are an excellent example of how established cultural tropes can be turned on their heads.

For me, part of a heroine’s appeal is her range of emotions. Rightly or wrongly, male characters tend to be rugged and stoic, rarely showing more to their emotions than a handful of stock-purchased attributes from the Writer Store of Tropes. This isn’t always a bad thing of course – depending on the genre (for instance, Epic Fantasy), a leading man who is indefatigable in the force of impending doom is par for the course.

But YA is relatively new, and it is a highly dynamic genre.

YA changes from year-to-year, responding to real-world demands and opinions, often changing to tackle cultural issues of the time. In this new age, old-school tropes and clichés are falling by the wayside in favor of showing how things really are.

To this end, heroines provide a complex character with effortless room to grow. Arguably, one of the ‘best known’ heroines is Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games. She first drew attention to the way that a female could actually lead a plot (as a primary POV, rather than being a secondary character like Hermione Granger or Annabeth Chase), but rather than simply acting like a boy with long hair, Katniss played a shifting emotional role that was believable. She was a frustrated but loyal daughter; a dependable and brave sister; a fighter, a leader, a figurehead for a revolution. Her expressive range was not limited to merely being angry or sad – she was everything in-between, and this was the key that unlocked the floodgates for heroines.

In the years since, YA has veritably exploded with the number of heroines, each adding their own unique twist to the formula that was gone before them. Heroines are integral to the plot of their YA novels, tying together romance, action, emotion, and growth – pillars of literature that have proven themselves over and again.

As a male reader and writer, I’m not ashamed to admit that I prefer female main characters to men – there should be no stereotype or judgement on behalf of either author or reader.

I prefer the more expressive palette of female characters, and in this time of societal upheaval, my support for female authors and characters is representative of my belief that the established roles for men and women should be given a serious shakeup.

This goes the other way too – I thoroughly enjoy seeing girls take on the roles of ‘action hero’, and by the same measure, I wish that more male characters were allowed to show emotion, rather than being relegated to muscled heroes with the ’emotional range of a teaspoon’ (to quote one of my favorite lines from Hermione Granger herself).

So what are your favorite heroines?

Of all the books I’ve read, my favorite heroines are: Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games), Marguerite Caine (A Thousand Pieces of You), Mare Barrow (Red Queen), Chan (Way Down Dark), and Risa (Unwind).

I took to Twitter to ask for your favorite heroines.

The overwhelming result was: Celaena Sardothien of Throne of Glass.

However there were dozens of other choices, and you can see the impressive response my tweet gathered below:

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What an amazing response for YA heroines – not only am I impressed by the number and variety of heroines, but by the enthusiastic response from my followers. Thank you so very much to everyone who participated and voted!

This list is really just the tip of an ever-spreading iceberg. Heroines – much like YA itself – aren’t going anywhere, and in fact, we are only now seeing some of the most well-written female characters in the history of young adult literature.

I am excited to see this new wave of fiction that champions the abilities of girls without resorting to ‘girl fiction’; instead, YA books with female leads can oftentimes be far more engaging and exciting than male-led fiction. And at the same time, young girls reading books for the first time will be exposed to powerful characters who can help lead them into a new future where old-world stereotypes are nothing but a half-remembered past.

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please consider sharing via Twitter, and discuss what your favorite heroines are!

Title image credit to Shaun Fisher of Flickr under the CC-BY license.

Opinion: Writers Deserve More Respect

A few days ago, Twitter did what it does best, and invented a hashtag that stormed through the millions of interconnected devices and into our homes, offices, and study spaces. The #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter hashtag (which then turned into half a dozen other tags) was typical Twitter fare – part sarcasm, part venting, part sincerity, part honest truth.

Even writing this post, the hashtag was still churning over new tweets, and had several well-written and intelligent articles such as this one from the Huffington Post.

Many of the tweets focused on some of the ignorant and hurtful things that non-writers say to us – such as the off-hand comments based on loosely-written internet articles about the supposed plight of the written word:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsWhile others were directed at the more-condescending-than-helpful friends/family/strangers we all (unfortunately) know:

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And of course, the most dreaded (and hated) sentence that all writers have to endure, the sheer cringe-inducing opinion that, apparently, everyone would be a writer if only they didn’t have such important lives:

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The hashtag wasn’t just an excuse for writers to spend more time on Twitter, but an opportunity for us to vent and hopefully shed light on some of the prejudice and assumptions leveled against us.

Writing is Hard, and We Know It

I’m the first to admit that writers are a quirky bunch. We have our own groups, our own community, our own lingo. We hijack social media systems to create our own interconnected web of friends (such as #Bookstagram on Twitter, which now has over 1.3 million posts of books).

We have a unique passion, and we work in a difficult industry, one where success is often-sought and little-received. It is, at times, a depressing and difficult path to lead – and we all understand that. We are often our greatest critic, and that’s before our manuscripts have even gone out to beta readers or critique partners for the real feedback.

Every writer knows exactly what they’re in for – we don’t need other people to beat us down, because we do that to ourselves every day.

Writing is a hard business. It requires a lot of time, many late nights, a roller coast of emotions, and hopefully – just maybe – a very faint light at the end of a very long, and dark tunnel. We work hard for our passion. We dedicate endless hours to reading books on the art of writing, to discussing and bettering ourselves; we are willing to improve.

We aren’t asking for our books to be published – we’re willing to make sacrifices and improve ourselves to reach our goal.

Anywhere else in life, that kind of dedication would be admired and championed. Many writers start blogging and writing in their very early teens, and continue through into their twenties; I dabbled with writing during my teens, but it took me a few years of a university degree in an unrelated field to realize what my true passion and purpose in life was.

Respect Starts with Saying ‘We Believe In You’

Writers aren’t afforded the same respect though. We aren’t placed in the same basket of ‘self-improvement’ heroes, idolized for our efforts and bravery in the face of incredibly unlikely odds; instead, we face criticism from friends, family and society.

Many people do have supporting friends and families. But it’s very rare to find anyone – even loved ones – who don’t have their private reservations, their own hidden suspicions that it’s merely a ‘hobby’, something to be done ‘on the side.’

For the vast majority of writers, our passion is considered a ‘diversion’ – just check the hashtag and you’ll see that opinion expressed countless times over. It’s as though writing is for other people, not for us, but for people with some magical gift or ‘someone they know’ (another terrible piece of ‘advice’ that gets bandied around).

But on my post last week, I mentioned how authors – many, like Veronica Roth, are just in their early twenties – are moving into the rich lists; and that’s not even mentioning J.K. Rowling (despite some concerns about her wealth, she’s still impossibly rich).

Sure, every writer won’t become a King or a Rowling, but there are literally millions of authors in the world with thousands of loyal fans, living quite a decent life and pursuing their love of writing books.

With dedication and persistence, any writer can become a published author. The sad fact is – many writers quit long before they can get anywhere serious, all from a lack of confidence.

So, What’s It All About Then?

This all circles back to one point, again and again.

Amateur writers aren’t treated with respect.

Sure, once you become wealthy and have films made from your books, people will praise you, but for the fourteen-year-old high-school student who wants to pursue writing, or for the eighteen-year-old university student who is considering switching their degree to focus on creative writing, there’s a tough battle ahead.

Twitter responded to itself with #TenThingsToSayToAWriter, highlighting all of the positive things that writers need to hear. We aren’t asking for hourly text messages of encouragement but simply respect and support for what we believe in.

All any writer really wants is acknowledgement and support – we want people to respect the difficulty and the sacrifices of writing, and to believe in us.

Writing isn’t a hobby, but a passion – a commitment to ourselves and to this community we love so much. We’re attempting to become better people, to produce a piece of fiction that might be read around the world.

It’s not merely something we do, but something we are, and that makes it one of the most challenging – and most rewarding – of all pursuits in life.

How do you feel about being a writer? Do you think writers need to be respected more? What ways can writers help gain the recognition and support they need?

Leave a comment below, and thank you for reading!

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