Guest Post: Shen Hart, Writer and Marketing Consultant

August 6, 2013 at 10:38 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

Hello one and all!

I’m Shen Hart and Chris was kind enough allow me a slot on her blog. Today I’m going to touch on what I am and what I do before diving into my passion for writing.

I’m an indie marketing consultant. I jokingly say that I’m saving the world, one indie at a time. This means that I do marketing consultations with indies (and related professions) to help them form a good marketing campaign and get their work into the hands of their readers. Marketing is something which the vast majority of indies I’ve spoken to say that they hate doing and they don’t understand. So, given that I love marketing, I stepped up to try and save them. I do charge though, a girl’s gotta eat ya know.

Now that that’s out of the way we can go into the good stuff, writing! I am a writer and I adore the written word. Semantics is a real love of mine, the way in which one single word can change the entire meaning of a sentence and how the slight switch in tone can give away so much. I’m also fascinated with body-language and as I was a dog trainer for many, many years I’m pretty well versed in it. I got a touch side-tracked there, as I was saying! Writing is this fantastic art form which I enjoy partaking in. I write both fiction and non-fiction, depending on my mood.

My fiction writing started out in a very artistic manner, not to say that it was highbrow and intellectual, not at all! Instead, I wrote scenes. Just a single paragraph which described a visual scene in intense, beautiful detail. I still return to this when I’m stressed or just really want to share something with someone. At the time, I couldn’t go any further because my ADD meant that I couldn’t focus enough to see the characters and form the plot. There were shinier things and I was off chasing them.

Over time I got my ADD under better control and one day, I sat down and wrote a novel. It was quite out of the blue but that’s a bit what I’m like! I was absolutely hooked from there on in, it was as though someone had opened a gateway to this wonderful new world which I refused to let go of. Now, I still write fiction and it is still very image heavy. I’m a very visual person, I ‘see’ the world and my mind works in this rich and vivid manner. My main genre is contemporary dark urban fantasy (try saying that quickly 5 times!) which I fell into because of my love of psychology and the darkness.

I find that urban fantasy in particular gives me the freedom to play with familiar, realistic situations and push the boundaries without going too far into horror. I do write horror shorts but I couldn’t produce a novel length piece, my interest and focus isn’t on scaring the reader. I prefer to have the reader confront the darkness, that which hides in both the shadows and the human psyche. I will be self-publishing my novels, once I have a bit more time between the marketing!

On the non-fiction side of things, I have written quite a bit on positive reinforcement. I usually apply it to dogs and horses as that’s where my years of experience lie, but I have applied it to people as well. I’m also currently writing a book on marketing for indies, which I hope will help a lot of authors out there who can’t afford consultation fees.

So all in all, I have a fascination and real love of psychology which expresses itself in a few different ways. I’m also incredibly visual, quite spontaneous, and a bit mad. I’d be an awful writer if I were sane though, right?

Thanks to Chris for having me and thank you all for taking the time to read this.

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Writing with Others

June 12, 2013 at 7:23 am (writing) ()

Writing, for the most part, is a solitary activity. Sure, there’s Twitter and writing groups, but at the end of the day it’s usually just you, alone with your imagination. There are times though, that we write with others. Co-writing can be incredibly rewarding and insanely frustrating. Like everything with writing, there is no one way to do it.

Growing up, in my early days on the Interwebs, I belonged to several written RPG sites. One of the things you learn from that type of interaction is how to passably write someone else’s character. If you can’t manage that skill, you’re either faced with incredibly short posts where you’re constantly waiting for the other person to respond, or backlash from using their character in a way they do not like. One way to develop that ability was to start with those super short posts. Another is to work things out “in person” before the post with another player. A friend and I would meet on ICQ (wow, that was ages ago) and go back and forth to figure out what was going to happen. Then one of us would copy everything out and embellish before posting. This resulted in some very long posts, and a good sense of how the other person’s character would respond to a given situation.

When it came to writing with this person later, we did much the same. We sat down and discussed the characters and walked through bits of the story, one of us taking notes to type up later. Other times, one of us would start the story and when we got stuck, would pass it to the next person (for an example of this “pass the stick” type story telling, check out the Once Upon a Time episode of the Tabletop show on YouTube). As drafts progressed we would each read over what the other had written and make changes before we picked up. Sometimes you work on a chapter by chapter basis, passing it to the other person when you hit that stopping point.

Other times, each of you makes a character to focus on, and write the parts where that character is key, or their perspective is being followed. This can add some disconnect between the two characters, and if that different feel is not what you’re looking for, you should definitely have both writers go through each other’s section to help being the sections together. One of the big challenges is making it feel like one work at the end and not two separate stories.

With a recent project, the other writer and I are slowly hashing out the details and making an outline. We settled on a basic premise, then sorted out characters and places (because talking back and forth about “character A” can get confusing, and names are easy enough to change later). We’ll decide where to go from there, but probably whoever is feeling most inspired will start.

So what kind of problems can you run into when writing with another person? Well, really any of the problems that come up in any relationship on top of the typical writing problems. There will be times you disagree; sometimes about small things and sometimes about major plot points you can’t progress past until you agree. There will be deadline clashes as you learn that you write at different speeds and when someone loses steam to dreaded “writer’s block” or life throwing complications. When it comes time to edit, you will both have different darlings you won’t want to kill. There will be times you’re tempted to bargain, “leave my bit here in and we won’t cut that bit there of yours” but you must focus on what is best for the story. It is a good plan to know ahead of time what your plans are for the story as well. Is it just for fun? Are you submitting it somewhere with guidelines to follow? Are you self-publishing it and how are you handling that? If you’re creating a new world, are you allowed to use it later in your own works? Sorting this out ahead of time can save on heartache later.

So why write with someone else? For one, it can be really fun exploring ideas together. You’ll be able to see things from another perspective and grow for your own writing. Perhaps you have trouble with one aspect, such as dialogue, but thrive at another, and your partner has the opposite problem. There is always more to learn. There is a great deal of joy in sharing the process with someone, and in seeing that final creation that you made together. It can make for a very strong, multi-faceted story.

What are your experiences in writing with others? Is it something you want to try, but haven’t yet? What’s stopping you?

Cross posted to Samurai Scribes

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The Ministry Initiative

May 26, 2013 at 2:19 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

The creators of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, of which I am a fan, is running a kickstarter to release more fiction and a Fate based RPG.

As part of that, author Karina Cooper is running a contest to win some of her books. You can enter here, and view my comment with details about a character I’ll be writing about in June.

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