Jaye Wells

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Strong Female Characters? Let Me Show You How

I had a great conversation recently with Smart Bitches, Trashy Books about “strong female characters.” We had so much to talk about that she had to break  up the podcast into two episodes.

Here’s Part One:

Strong Female Characters: An Interview with Jaye Wells, Part 1

For any hearing impaired readers, or anyone who prefers to read instead of listen, the transcript should be up soon!

Craft Thursday: Conscious Rebellion

If you spend five minutes in the company of a new writer and you’ll hear the word “rule” at least once. This will especially be the case if you happen to be discussing a best selling author’s book. “They broke the head-hopping rule!” “I don’t know why this person sells so many books, they break the rule about not starting with weather all the time!”

 

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This nifty little graph explains the stages people go through when learning something new. When you start writing, you’re unconsciously incompetent. You don’t know what you’re doing because you’re a novice. You start studying–reading craft books, taking workshops, etc–and suddenly you start understanding the rules of the thing. This is the stage where a lot of new writers I run into are stuck, and that’s what I want to talk about today.

When you start learning the rules of writing, you think you’re figuring it out. Aha! As long as I don’t start with weather and don’t head hop and I never use anything but “said” in dialogue tags I’ll be a bestseller!

Sorry, kid. But the way you get from consciously incompetent to consciously competent is to understand the reasons for those rules so you can learn how to break them effectively. It’s not enough to simply have a To Not Do list.

1. You need to understand that writing by the rules leads to formulaic writing. (Hint: This is bad.)

2. You need to understand that the masters are the masters because they learned the ins and outs of the rules and then broke them with conscious intention. There are no happy accidents when it comes to rule breaking. Unconscious incompetent writers break rules because they don’t know them and it shows. Masters break the rules because they know them and it shows.

2. You have to read books with an eye toward learning instead of simple entertainment. Read with a pen in your hand and make notes as you go. Did the author head hop? Why? Was it effective? Why or why not? How did the author handle a tricky POV shift? How do they structure their scenes? Basically, you need to see how professionals make the sausage so you can get to grinding your own meat. (This is the best metaphor [meataphor?] I’ve ever written)

3. You need to write your ass off. Then you need to have a good critique partner tear that shit up. The trick here is finding someone who knows what the hell they’re doing. Someone who understands that a new writer needs different feedback from a pro. Someone who understands that being a comma Nazi ain’t the same as giving helpful feedback. Lots of national writers’ groups have local chapters that offer critique groups. There are lots of great places online, too (if you have favorites, recomend them in comments, please).

4. You need to challenge yourself to truly understand the concepts you’re learning. It’s one thing to read Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat to gather tricks for your toolbox. It’s something else to read it and think it’s some sort of storytelling bible. How tired do you think agents and editors are of seeing formulaic crap from new writers who think shallow plot formulas are the key to bestsellerdom?

Look, I liked Saved the Cat. I read it when I was a younger writer. I made the mistake of thinking I could use it as a shortcut to understanding story structure in a real and nuanced way. In short, I thought I could fudge my way toward knowing how to plot. Wrong. Very wrong. Now, I use techniques from that book in specific instances (“Pope in the Pool” is a favorite), but I’d only recomend it as a craft book to read after lecturing the new writer about how it’s not a panacea for your plot issues. Same goes with The Hero’s Journey. If you’re using a list of steps you printed off the internet without having read Hero with a Thousand Faces or Michael’s Hauge’s excellent writing on the hero’s journey, you’re not really learning it. For that matter, you need to read Jung and Edinger to understand the psychology behind why the Hero’s Journey is effective. This is not to say you shouldn’t read Save the Cat or try out the Hero’s Journey steps, but understand that these short cuts don’t equate to craft mastery.

5. You need to understand that most writers go through the stage where they worship rules like a golden calf. Did you know I can always tell when my reviews are written by insecure new writers? They’re always the ones who point out that I broke rules. “She used ‘I’ too much in her first person story!” SMH. Of COURSE I broke the rules. I’m a mutha effin’ professional.

But, listen, it’s part of the process of becoming a pro. When you’re a novice, you’re insecure. Of course you are. As you gain experience and get some chops, you’ll rely less on knowing the rules. You’ll learn to admire people who break the rules well. But for now, when you sneer at a pro writer for breaking a rule, understand that you’re betraying some insecurity. When you say, “How is this idiot a bestseller? They used a prologue!” What you’re saying is, “I need to feel better about my own lack of experience by tearing down those who have more experience.” It’s fine. We’ve all done it. Just understand that the rest of us know the score. And, when you’re done sneering, don’t forget to learn from those idiots who have the success you crave.

6. You need to know that a lot of writing rules are crap. Sometimes they’re influenced by genre trends and sometimes they’re perpetuated by blowhards who couldn’t write their way out of a wet paper bag.

Also? Accept that you will always have more to learn. Yes, even when you reach the pinnacle of unconscious competence. Literature is a fluid art. It’s constantly evolving and writers who think they know everything often get left behind. Plus, there’s no such thing as a perfect book. Isn’t that a relief? Isn’t it nice to know that you are not and never will be a perfect writer? Consider this your permission to experiment and play with the craft. No, you’ll never be perfect, but you can always get better.

Questions?

 

Prospero’s War on Sale!

Huge news! My publisher has slashed the price of the ebooks for Dirty Magic and Cursed Moon for a limited time. If you’ve already gotten your fix, spread the word to your friends!

About the Prospero’s War series:
The Prospero’s War series combines the gritty action of police procedurals with the speculative elements of urban fantasy. It’s a world where cops and wizards are fighting a war over addictive, dangerous, and illegal dirty magic. Some have described it as The Wire with wizards.

Book Sale Graphic- Dirty Magic & Cursed Moon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buy Dirty Magic on sale for just $2.99 now!

Amazon | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

Buy Cursed Moon on sale for just $4.99 now!

Amazon | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

Pixel Project

This month, I’ve been participating in the Pixel Project’s Read for Pixels Campaign to help end violence against women. Thirteen bestselling authors have come together to talk about our experiences with VAW and to help raise awareness and funds for the important issue.

Last night, I participated in a Google Hangout with Regina Yau, who is the founder and President of The Pixel Project. Regina and I discussed a writer’s responsibility in fiction and the importance of stories in helping to shape society’s attitudes about violence and women. I also took some fun questions from the audience. Check it out.

Also, all of the authors participating in the campaign have donated special perks for donors. I contributed a cameo in one of my upcoming books along with a handwritten haiku for the winner. There are also wallpapers featuring book covers, critiques, signed books, and lots of other goodies. Of course, the greatest perk of all is knowing you’re helping to make a difference. The campaign is 2/3 towards their goal of raising $6000. Let’s help them surpass that! Please donate here.

MEA site

 

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Exciting news!

My new Magic Enforcement Agency site is live. It’s got lots of information about the Prospero’s War series. Great for fans of the series or people wanting to know what it’s all about. There are even a couple of fun extras, like the music playlist for the series and an Ask the Wizard section. Go check it out!

MagicEnforcementAgency.com

Reddit AMA!

FB Poster - Teaser 03(1)Next month, I’m participating in the Read for Pixels 2015 campaign – International Women’s Day Edition–by the PIxel Project to help end violence against women.   I come from a home that was shattered by domestic violence and have known too many amazing women who are survivors, so this cause is very close to my heart. I’ll also be doing a Read For Pixels Google Hangout  with The Pixel Project at 8.30pm EST, March 29 2015.

To help promote the campaign, I’m doing a Reddit Ask Me Anything today. This is a great chance to ask me questions about my books or writing or anything you’ve been curious about. I’m so excited to be a part of the Read for Pixels campaign. Stopping violence against women is a very personal topic for me, and I’m happy to have a chance to help raise money and awareness for this crucial issue. Stop by and say hi!

 

 

 

 

Deadly Spells is here!

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The third book in my Prospero’s War series is out today! In this installment, the murder of a coven leader threatens to spark a coven war in the slums of Babylon, Ohio. Kate and the rest of the MEA task force must find who’s really behind the murder if they want to stop an explosion of violence in the city.

BUY DEADLY SPELLS now!
Amazon US |Amazon UKB&N | Apple |Indiebound | Kobo

 

Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card

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Deadly Spells launches on 2/10

On release day, I’ll be giving away a $25 Amazon gift card. Just tweet a link to an excerpt for the book and/or sign up for my newsletter to be entered! Details in the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

1 Week Until Deadly Spells!

Deadly Spells Quote 5

Preorder Deadly Spells now!
Amazon | B&N | Apple |Indiebound | Kobo

Coming Feb. 10: Deadly Spells

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Preorder Deadly Spells now!

Amazon | B&N | AppleIndiebound | Kobo

Read an excerpt here.