René Penn

Follow my journey to becoming a published author


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Why Aspiring Authors Are Really MathWriterMeticians

Aspiring Author + Word Count Fixation =  MathWriterMetician. I’m coining this term, because we writers are obsessed with numbers and math, whether we want to believe it or not.

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I find myself crunching numbers almost daily. That’s how I track my WIP. I can’t help myself. One number buzzes around me at all times like an eye floater: 80,000. The coveted word count goal. Everything revolves around it.

  • I always want to know my current word count.

Since I’m writing my first draft by hand, I constantly add up how many words are on each new page. I’ve become very well acquainted with the calculator app on my mobile phone. You can also use Scrivener to track your word count and progress.

  • I have my mind on the end goal: 80,000 words.

Since 80,000 words seems to be the ideal word count for a manuscript, by agent and editor standards, I use that as my guide. I subtract my current word count from the magic number of 80,000. That way, I know how many words I have to go until I reach my goal.

  • But that’s not enough. I’ve gotta crunch the percentage, too.

I’ll divide my current word count by 80,000. I use division to get to the percentage. Right now, I’m 43.92% done with my draft. But if anyone asks, it’s quite possible that I’ll round up to 45%. (Shh…don’t tell anybody.)

  • I calculate how many words I write in a week or day, on average.

I’ll divide the word count I have left by the amount of words I write on average to determine how many weeks it’ll take me to get to 80,000. And if I want to be done faster, I’ll calculate how many more words I have to write per day to meet the new schedule. Famous authors run the gamut for average words written per day.

  • I can go on and on…

Obsessed, I say. Are you a MathWriterMetician, too?

Photo from Pexel: www.facebook.com/asdiiwang

 


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Writing Tips from Reading Gail Carriger’s Soulless

Years ago, I didn’t read as much as I should have, much to my mother’s chagrin. Of course, that changed over the years. Reading became one of my absolute fave activities. Not only is it a wonderful experience, it provides inspiration and a great teaching tool for me as an aspiring author.kate-williams-40159

A friend recently told me about the author Gail Carriger, because she knows I’m working on a comedy-of-manners novel. Carriger’s novel, Soulless, is that–plus a historical romance, plus werewolves and vampires, plus a who-done-it plot. I must admit that I’m not usually into paranormal romance, but I’m all for trying new things. Frankly, I enjoyed the read. Here are some lessons I learned while reading Soulless by Gail Carriger

Reading Carriger’s novel inspired me to toggle between reading her book and writing my own. I want people to enjoy reading my book as much as I enjoyed reading hers.

  • She shows that witty description can be just as important as witty banter

In the beginning of the novel, the heroine is being attacked by a vampire. The heroine is annoyed by the attacker’s futile attempt, as well as his “overly starched shirt.” I learned that dialogue doesn’t have to be the only place to express humor.

  • She singlehandedly convinced me that werewolves can be sexy

Like I said before, paranormal romance isn’t really my thing. But Carriger made me think differently about big, hairy beasts. Uh, moving along…

  • She makes an alternative world seem believable

The novel is set in London, 1800s, where werewolves and vampires are part of British society. An unbelievable concept, but she sold me on it. She provided lots of information and tidbits about this other society–sometimes repeating them to make sure the reader’s got it. It helped bridge the gap between a far-fetched idea and magical make-believe. Nicely done.

What should I add to this list? How much do you love Gail Carriger’s Soulless?

Photo by Kate Williams on Unsplash


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How I Read Books as an Aspiring Author

I don’t know when I turned a corner and started reading books with my “writer hat” on. vanessa-serpas-270252

You know what I mean: The moment you change from a passive reader to an active one. When you’re no longer escaping when you pick up a book, you’re analyzing. Instead of holding a cup of tea (or coffee, if you so choose) with your free, non-book-wielding hand, you’re holding a pen to mark notes, scribble and underline within passages. Here’s what I look for, as an aspiring author, when I read books.

  • Tone

Tone comes across immediately. It’s more of a feeling than anything I can pinpoint–I’m just immersed. It’s like swagger; you know it when you see it. When I see it, read it, feel it, I want to emulate it in my own writing. Example: My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante.

  • Dialogue

I love dialogue. This is why I have half-written scripts collecting electronic dust. And it’s why I love movies. I know dialogue is good when I can imagine it playing before me like a film. Example: One Day, David Nicholls.

  • Pace

When a book is not going too slow, nor too fast, I note the pacing. It dives into details when needed and trims the fat at the right times. I don’t walk away feeling like pockets of the plot are missing. Example: Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese.

  • Length

I’m not usually a fan of long books. I blame it on graduate school, where I had to read Mason & Dixon. I’m more impressed by a book that is compact and concise but still leaves me feeling full as a tick. Example: The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison.

  • Setting

This is when the sights, sounds and tastes throw me out of reality–and I have to look out the nearest window to remind myself where I am. Example: Faith for Beginners, Aaron Hamburger.

There are a million great examples for each of these. Which ones have inspired you?

Photo by Vanessa Serpas on Unsplash


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Why Aspiring Authors Should Start a Blog

A couple of years ago, I attended the amazingly awesome and motivating LaJolla Writer’s Conference. They provided tips of what to do as an aspiring author, like starting a blog.

corinne-kutz-211251.jpgIt’s taken me a while to put that into action, but I see why you should start blogging before being published.

  • It gets you writing

I’ve been working in communications/marketing/advertising for 15 years, so I write a heck of a lot every day. But if you’re crunching numbers at work, for instance, where you’d rather be chomping words, writing a blog can satisfy your inner word-nerd.

  • It makes you accountablefrank-mckenna-184340.jpg

My friends and family have heard me talk about writing book, short story or screenplay projects since the ’90s. But now, the whole world (wide web) knows. There’s no turning back. I must keep blogging and get published…or bust!

  • It gives you “street cred”

When I look at blogs, I’m usually going for informal advice on a topic. I admire their level of visibility and commitment. A blogger doesn’t have to be an expert; I don’t really expect that. But I do expect to learn or gain some insight from the article.

  • It puts you on a schedule

Speaking of commitment, blogging demands it, just like writing. There’s no magic formula for how many blog entries to post. I’m learning that consistency is key (for practice and Google Analytics). Sticking to a schedule and not over-committing myself are things I’ll have to watch out for.

  • It keeps you writing when you’re not, uh, writing

If I need a mental break from working on my novel, I can blog instead. I’m exercising the same muscles, just doing it a little differently. It’s still a win. It also gives me a sense of accomplishment in the short-term that I don’t get while working on a long-term novel project.

Are you an aspiring author who has a blog? What can you share about your experience? Does it make you better at Scrabble?

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash; photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash


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Marketing Before the Novel Is Finished

I am currently writing the first draft of a historical fiction novel—about 30,000 words in and a ways to go.

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I’ve been working on it since December, fitting it in during commutes to and from work, slipping in time on weekends and during plane rides tied to vacations. I know that writing this novel is only half the battle. No, it’s more like one-tenth.

“They say” that you should begin marketing before your novel is even complete. So here I am:

Purchasing a domain

I went to GoDaddy.com, because it’s easy to remember and those Danica Patrick commercials have been burned into my brain. I purchased the domain name “renepenn.com” for about $12, I believe. It’s the professional thing to do, and it only costs the price of a good lunch.

Getting on social media

I’ve been on Facebook for a while, but I quickly realized that it’s not a good starting place for increasing outreach beyond family and friends. I needed to enter the Twitterverse. I “re-routed” an old dormant Twitter account to my new handle @rene_penn and started tweeting a few times a week. I tweet about funny life-things that happen, writing-related or not; I highlight good articles that I’ve read about writing; I pepper it with some inspirational quotes; and I purposely keep my political views out of the feed. I’ve noticed that at least two hashtag references per tweet help increase engagement. Re-tweeting is actually okay and not considered a slacker move. And I don’t really miss looking at Facebook videos starring my friends’ cats.

Here are some reasons why social media is good for aspiring authors.

Creating a website

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But which site? There are so many to choose from. Cue the ice cream headache.

I toggled between Squarespace and WordPress, but chose the latter. WordPress seems to be Siamese twinning with Google Analytics, and about 25% of all websites are powered by them. (I think that means they know what they’re doing.) I’ve heard the learning curve description span from easy to steep. I’m at the beginning stages, and I find it rather intimidating. I’m still trying to figure out how to point this site to my purchased domain. Hey, don’t judge. I’m a writer, not a “techy.”

Blogging 

Yes, it rhymes with flogging, but let’s not think about that, shall we? The idea of blogging made me nervous at first. What will I blog about? Come to find out, there’s plenty. As I work on my first draft, I’m constantly coming up with questions and thoughts–and referencing information online to help. I can blog a review about a new book in my genre, and share the successes and snags of my novel-writing journey. I figured, someone else may benefit from some of the things I blog about, or from some of the things I reference, like this article about blogging or this other one.

Here are some other things to think about before your book is written. Do you have any ideas?