Posts by rlfryar

Hi, there. I'm an author living in the Arkansas River Valley in west Arkansas, not far from the Ozark National Forest. I write adult fantasy about mountains with souls, trees with hearts, and the natural world is never that far removed from my writing.

Overdoing It

I started out this year with high hopes of finally getting some time to relax. I know—you’re supposed to have goals for getting stuff done, not laying around in a chair and reading books, but after the last six months, I was ready for some serious seat-time that didn’t involve revising.

Well, you know what happens to New Year’s Resolutions after a week?

Yeah. I’ve been over my head revising, not one but three projects. I’m waiting on the fourth one to land on my desk this week. Stick in a couple of books screaming at me to draft them, and it’s no wonder I wake up every morning feeling behind, although technically, I’m right on target to a little ahead of schedule.

This morning I woke up a little early. I haven’t been feeling well for a few days, and with the current panini sandwich, I felt it necessary to make sure I wasn’t running a fever before my better half went to work. No fever. But there I was, awake early, not ready to get up, with a million things to do. In the middle of all this mental churning, I heard a bird start singing outside the window. And I stopped my churning and simply listened as he took it a note at a time, never rushing, never stopping to do something else. He just sang. Then he went on his way.

And maybe that’s what I need to do. Slow down and take my time like a bird singing in winter. The tasks will be there when the song is over, but maybe I can go into them with a steady determination to get through without the rush, without the stress, without overdoing it.

Looking Ahead to 2022: Writing Goals, Garden Plans, and The Certainty of July

Looking Ahead to 2022: Writing Goals, Garden Plans, and The Certainty of Everything Going to Heck in July

I’ve struggled a bit with goals and resolutions this year.

I’d like to blame my brain. It’s tired. 2021 was a wild one.

I’d like to blame the weather. It’s a bright, sunny, frozen day, and I’m wondering if it’s okay to unplug the heat lamp in the well-house yet or not.

I’d like to blame it on the Christmas decorations still in the house—why didn’t I put those up in the attic yesterday?

But the truth is, for the first time in a long time, I’ve lost all confidence in my planning.

Oh, I have a plan. I always have a plan. But it’s a lot like gardening. Everything looks great on paper up until it’s in the ground and there’s a late freeze in April. June rolls around and it quits raining. For months. Then July hits and a plague of vine borers and squash bugs takes out all the pumpkin and beetles eat the okra.

What is certain is that 2022 is likely to be the biggest year in my writing life so far. I have two novels coming out this summer. Both novels are heart books—I loved and treasured them as I wrote them, and ones that I’m so proud to see published. They have characters I adore, worlds I happily spent months and years building and experiencing them fully, and I’m glad readers will get a chance to enjoy them. The bulk of my energy will go toward promoting these books, revising them into the best versions I can make them, and I can’t wait to see how that’s going to go.

But it’s also scary. What if I can’t make them the best they can be? What if I can’t be as available as I’d like to be for promotion? What if readers hate them? What if it’s like my garden—great on paper, buggy in reality? Will I be able to weather that and keep going forward with other work? I have so much to write and rewrite this year. I have books to query. I have books that need to head out to publishers this year. I have ideas that I want to draft, sequels to write and revise, and let’s not even talk about my to-read stack!

But at least my plan is on paper. I even divided it up in months as to what projects will be on the table at the time. While it’s all subject to change, and all subject to the possibility that it will all go to heck in July, or sooner, it’s there.

Bring it on, 2022.

End of the Year: 2021

I survived. That’s probably my biggest accomplishment, and one I’m proud of, but wish I didn’t have to be. But it’s been one heck of a year, hasn’t it?

I started out the year with a plan of attack. Not having an agent, I threw myself into querying two projects: TREE GODS and FLIPPING. TREE GODS had been on query before, and after my last agent, I certainly questioned everything about that project. Most of all, I questioned my own ability, and a lot of other things about myself that I won’t go into here. But FLIPPING had showed well in Pitchwars, although it wasn’t a pick. I felt really good about it.

Almost immediately on query, I got a lot of feedback that FLIPPING was awesome in this way or that way, but never enough in all ways for an agent to pick it up. I even got a revise/resub on it once. But nobody seemed ready to take on a ghost romcom any more than they wanted a fantasy romance with trees or a dwarf with Dragon fire.

I applied to Write Mentor with an upper middle grade project, TEETH, a story about a fairy henchman and his struggle to overcome a Fairy Godfather, which I’d written to amuse myself over the winter. To my great surprise, it was chosen as an entry. Although that project has yet to receive any great love from agents, I think it has a lot of potential.

Then in August, I got a surprising email. City Owl had read FLIPPING and wanted to acquire it. As this project was the one getting mixed feedback and a great deal of agent ghosting (which is funny in retrospect, as it’s a ghost story!) I did some thinking and decided to take the offer. FLIPPING comes out on July 28, 2022!

About a month after that, a project I’d sidelined, IRONSFORK, attracted the attention of another small publisher, Fractured Mirror. It’s coming out on July 26, 2022.

Somehow, both books found homes and I’m having book twins this summer. I’m still a little shocked about that, quite honestly.

In addition to the publishing and mentorship opportunities, I redrafted several books in the IRONSFORK and TREE GODS series, and wrote a new middle grade fantasy, SWAMP GUTS. I also drafted a new, very Shrekulative fantasy rom-com, GRUMPY OLD WITCHES.

Between all that, I somehow wrote or rewrote just over one million words this year.

I survived.

My books thrived.

Given the rest of 2021, I think that’s pretty darned good.

Remember, Remember, the month of November

As evidenced by the fact that it is now December, November was a busy month. I had hoped to finish a drafting project and one revision project. What I ended up doing? No drafting. Revised two projects. Line edits for another. Also, I got some fantastic publishing news for FLIPPING.

I was scheduled for a September 2022 release. Well, I got moved to the main line with City Owl, which moved up my publishing schedule. The current date for Flipping’s release is July 28, 2022.

I’m excited about this development. I can’t wait for readers to meet Charley and Austin and the most dysfunctional family of ghosts that ever made a haunted house a home!

Final Stats for the Million Words Project.

I started November with 909,732.

I ended with 1,017,546 words for the year—drafting, redrafting, and rewrites.

The Measure of Success

I’ve probably written about success on here before, about finding some way of defining that elusive meaning in a way that results in encouragement rather than despair. But this morning I read a post by a young author that hurt my heart, so I think it’s time I revisited the idea.

Success. What does that mean for an author? For a traditionally published author? For an indie author? For the author who never publishes and never wants to publish? It would be tempting to say that every definition is going to be different, and it should be, but the miserable fact is that while an author will have their own measure of success, friends, family, and the writing community at large have their measuring sticks out too, and boy do they like to use them!

Traditionally published? Did you sell a lot of books? Did you get a huge advance? Did you earn out? Did the publisher buy your next book? What about film? When’s your sequel coming out? What do you mean not for another four years? Didn’t you know so-and-so already has a deal for their next two books and a movie deal?

Indie published? Did you sell a lot of books? What about royalties? Are you getting them yet? How many books will you publish this year? What do you mean the sequel isn’t drafted yet? Don’t you know how hard an indie has to work and market to be seen as a real author?

Unpublished? Why aren’t you querying yet? Your work is so good. You need to get an editor. You don’t have enough CPs. Do you use plenty of Betas? Oh, you did query and got a form rejection? Oh, that means you aren’t good enough. That means the agent just wasn’t a good fit. You have to query more! You have to query less! Oh, I know. You should self-publish.

Sound familiar?

An author may have their own idea of what success means to them, but every day in the trenches, on sub, or simply chatting with friends, that idea will be challenged, both externally and internally. Why? Because authors are hard-wired for feedback, for changing their ideas based on what they find out as they grow, and the vast majority of us are haunted now and then from that awful old ghoul, imposter syndrome. Suddenly, the old idea of success as measured only against one’s own standard starts to look kind of foolish. Maybe we should have earned a big advance. Maybe we should have sold a lot more books. Maybe we should have queried more. Everybody says so!

That’s when it’s important to look back at how we define success and either revise it to something that can’t be used to cut us open, or to hang onto the healthy view we have decided for ourselves—one that we created to measure our progress on our own terms.

I know what my definition of success is. That doesn’t mean I don’t question it, doubt it, and struggle to redefine sometimes. But I always come back to the one I had when I was sitting alone with a crayon in my hand and an idea in my head—I defined success by the act of creation, not the reception. I want my meaning to always be my own, not someone else’s idea of what success should look like.

It’s important to remember that, especially during times when there are various pitch contests ongoing, others selecting mentors, and NaNoWriMo roaring in the background. Hang on to your success—whatever that looks like for you. If you don’t, I can almost guarantee comparison is out there, waiting to steal your joy.

The Joy of Writing

I’m typing this with spiders jumping all around me. Okay, that doesn’t sound very joyful, and in fact, there’s more than a small amount of uncertainty that I’ll get through this post without one hopping on my face, but it’s still a post about writing joy anyway.

Why? Because I’m outside, surrounded by the sounds of crickets in the reeds, crows cawing in the pine trees, water lapping at the shore of a large lake, and yes, well, there are the spiders, who seem to think my laptop is the place to be for some reason.

I’ve been thinking about the joy of writing lately because I’m revising several things for publishing right now, getting ready for another round of editing on others, and wondering how I’m ever going to accomplish the things I need to finish what with all the spiders hopping around.

Some of those spiders are in my brain.

Am I really ready to be published?

Are my books really good enough?

Am I a good enough writer to make my books good enough?

Oh, God, what if I’m not?

You know spiders. They’ll weave a web of self-doubt that will catch you right in the face the minute you walk out the door in the morning. Every time.

But, they are just part of the joy of writing, because those spiders mean I’m right where I want to be: challenging expectations, challenging assumptions, challenging myself. I’m at the point now where I can see more clearly where I am, where I could go, and where I want to go, and the wanting is the most important part. And that’s pretty danged joyful, to know that writing for publishing is a wild place, but I’m in it.

Spiders and all.

Intention vs. Motivation

I’m revising this week, and as I’m working through my pages, I’m reflecting on something I read this summer as part of my Write Mentor homework: Story Trumps Structure, by Steven James.

I guess, first I should say, reading Story Trumps Structure was not “exactly” part of my Write Mentor homework. I picked it up as an antidote to structure books that are the antithesis of how I write. There are any number of books out there that will tell you how to write a story via plotting, character profiles, and exhaustive questions covering everything from your character’s opinions of their kindergarten teacher to what they like most for breakfast on Saturdays. None of these things are bad. They can be kind of fun, and occasionally even enlightening (particularly if they hated kindergarten and that’s where they first had peanut butter crackers which is why they only eat cream cheese on their bagels now). However, when those same books attack pantsers for figuring this out as they go (they write a scene in which a character is offered peanut butter on toast and it triggers this awful memory of kindergarten which results in backstory and an intense emotional response to such a small thing), it’s hard not to want to hurl those same books across the room.

Enter Story Trumps Structure, a solid structure book by a pantser, which pretty much saved my brain from imploding. I could go on for hours about how amazing this particular craft book was for me, but today I want to focus on one thing that blew my mind and turned my scene composition around.  Intention vs. Motivation.

Intentions is what the character is trying to accomplish. Motivation is why he’s trying to accomplish it.

As an author, it might be helpful for you to understand a character’s motive, but it’s far more important for you to clarify, in the minds of your readers, her intention. Often motive doesn’t make one iota of difference to the forward movement of the story—only the way in which your character pursues the object of her desire matters.

A character’s motives might be multidimensional and open for debate, but his intent in each scene needs to be crystal clear. And remember, he might think he knows why he wants certain things, but just as in real life, he might be wrong.

These quotes are all from Chapter 22: Attitude

That bolded statement hit me like a thunderbolt. Why? Because my characters are extremely complex people. They come into my head fully formed, and with them comes the weight of their emotional backstory, their belief systems, their way of looking at the world, even if I don’t know all that until I start writing. I don’t tend to write all that down in a pre-story planning session, but if you do, hey, that’s fine with me! I won’t dump on a plotter’s joy. But the point is that yes, these are people, they have many wrong beliefs, mistaken assumptions, and downright bias that make their motivations completely impossible to state for everything they do.

But, you can and should state intention in every scene.

I’m going to say that again.  You can and should state intention in every scene.

So why was this so groundbreaking for me? Simply put, I’m not dumbing down my characters anymore. They can be just as complex as real people, act in ways that defy logic (because emotions are not very logical things), they can change their minds, have epiphanies about their beliefs, change, be altered by the scene, alter the scene, and in every way, be active protagonists in every scene in the book. Why? Because now they have intention.

Every scene now has a stated goal. On the page, goal! There are no more wasted scenes, every scene now has a simple sentence on page where I can see exactly what the MC wanted to do going into that scene, and wouldn’t you know it, that means that when the antagonist comes in, I know exactly what they will be doing too, because they have their own purpose in the scene, and generally, it’s to make the MC’s intentions go to hell. Enter conflict. Enter tension. And those things are like waves slapping up against the iceberg, exposing just the right amount of motivation to make things deeper and more interesting.

If, like me, you struggle with scene goals because you realize that your character has about fourteen to fifty reasons why they want to do something, and it’s overwhelming you, try going back to basics. What do they intend to do in the scene? State it as the first sentence of the scene, and watch everything flow from there like magic.

It Never Rains…

Remember that nice, peaceful August I had planned? The one where I would have time every morning to write my morning pages, revise sedately in the middle of the day, and finish the day off with a craft exercise, a nice dinner, and a relaxing evening on the couch with a good book? Remember that?

It didn’t happen.

I’d like to say the writing life conspired, but it didn’t. Things happened, I’m still kind of tottering around in shock, and I think it’s going to be well into next year before I get a chance at that nice relaxing writing retreat. Maybe January? Maybe?

So, in order of what happened:

  1. I am going to be a published author. I signed a contract with Mystic Owl, an imprint of City Owl, for my gay ghost story, FLIPPING. I’m looking forward to working with Lisa Greene on revisions soon.
  2. I finished my revisions to TEETH in time for the Write Mentor showcase. It wasn’t easy—that was a tight deadline for all I had left to do. I’m still not completely certain that story should ever leave my shelf, but it’s out there anyway.
  3. I’ve been up to my ears in kitten management. That’s fun.
  4. I hired Jaime Dill to work on my fantasy romance TREE GODS to help me get it in amazing shape. And wow, it’s going to be great, but intense.
  5. It’s hot, I’m tired, and it’s been a very, very long summer.

But you know what? It’s September now. August is over, autumn is coming, and soon it will be time to get into the nuts and bolts of what being a published author is all about. And from what I’m seeing so far, it’s intense.

But also a heck of a lot of fun.

Time For That Writing Retreat

I’ve had this in my mind since spring—a writer’s retreat at home for me. Lots of craft books, lots of writing, some good food, time spent in other rejuvenating creative activities, and withdrawal from the vast majority of social media obligations and so forth for about four weeks.

I think August will be that month.

It’s been one wild summer. I’ve had a ton of revisions through the months of May and June, and am contemplating a really intense August revision schedule. I also have some drafting I want to get through. My painting has suffered through the summer. Now is a good time to give that the attention it deserves.

Hopefully, the pull back into the creative world will also be a good way to spend more time interacting with my immediate family, spending some days out on the local rivers and lakes, and getting a few home repair projects done that have been waiting a while.

So—no blog posts from me in August.

I’ll be writing.

See you on the other side.

Here Comes July

June was a hectic month, but a productive one. I revised two novels and drafted half of another. I did some painting. I didn’t keep up with the house, but a morning spent planning how to handle revision house this past month is poised to help me conquer some of the clutter. All in all, I got a lot done.

I’m exhausted.

And here comes July.

Camp NaNoWriMo. There are a few pitch contests I’d like to do. I have a few trips planned, some work, too. And I have to finish polish revisions on the two novels, send out some things to Beta readers, keep up with the gardens, oh, and I have two things I want to draft, plus revision house…

Here’s the thing.

I can do all of this. I’ve done it before. But everything feels more insurmountable in July for a variety of reasons, but the biggest one being that I have reverse SAD. I spend most of the summer unable to do the things that recharge my creativity the most. I love to be outside. I love to be in the woods, in the mountains, in the water. All of that is harder when the sun wants to murder me. I’ve had to think outside the box to schedule some activities that have proven themselves good for me, but don’t require me to be outside.

So, I contacted a CP and asked if she wouldn’t mind keeping track of me this month, checking in, making sure I’m feeling okay, keeping up, taking breaks when I need them, and recharging as necessary. I don’t usually take that step unless I feel I’m going to need the support, but I’m thinking I should probably do it more often.

Writing is such a solitary thing.

It’s nice to have friends to protect me from myself.

Million Word Madness Update

June’s tally with both revisions/rewrites: 171,999

(Yeah, yeah, it should have been 150,000 and I’ve still got more revising to do)

Total for the year so far: 584,548