10 Most Influential Books

Today I’m taking a break from all the book news and announcements to do something a little fun, that I stole the idea from the booktube tag of the same name, but I’m putting a little twist on it…the 10 Most Influential Books (to me) as a writer!

I’m going to list these in no particular order because I think ordering them from least to most influential would simply be impossible, and I’ll try to give a quick snippet explaining what it is about these books which has stuck with me as a writer or influence a specific area of my writing.

          • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson- I read this book in the course of late 2011 and through the first half of 2012, the second half of it read concurrently with my first draft of The Duality Paradigm and I think the reason this book resonates for me is that I see my own writing style or voice in Larsson’s. There’s a certain spareness of world building while at the same time a very specific attention to detail (exp the characters clothes, what they eat, the furniture in their flats etc) that I think I tend to do in my writing as well.

 

          • Monster by A Lee Martinez – This book showed me that you could have urban fantasy without wasting a ton of time on exposition. And you didn’t have to write in first person. yay!

 

          • Dracula by Bram Stoker – the language is beautiful and this remains one of the scarier things I’ve read and I think it shows that it’s more terrifying to leave things to your reader’s imaginations, to leave things poorly explained and unknown.

 

          • Sherlock Holmes by ACD – I’ve read a large portion of the short stories and novellas by ACD, not all, but almost all. This book challenges POV and protagonist. I think there’s an interesting question of the unreliable narrator in Sherlock Holmes which is rarely explored. But these are Watson’s diaries, journals, short stories, written and narrated by him about our ostensible protagonist. When I’m brainstorming a new story I always have a good long sit and think about who my protagonist and POV characters are before I begin.

 

          • Dune by Frank Herbert – there’s a denseness in the language of Dune that I worry permeates my own writing because as a young kid, Dune was the most amazing, best well written piece of literature I’d ever read. Dune Messiah is one of my favorite books of all time.

 

          • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde – Alternative Universes exist outside fanfiction theyre just hard to find! I love AUs in fanfic but it seemed like something that only existed in the fannish bubble before I stumbled across The Eyre Affair. This book is a DELIGHT and way under appreciated imho. It also taught me a lot about genre bending/crossing, which is part of the reason it’s a difficult book to pitch to other people. When you write a book for commercial publication it’s important to hone in early on to what about the book will resonate with a reason and entice them to read your book. EG figure out this sentence “if you like _____, you’ll like my book because of _______.”

 

          • Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper – this is a book from my childhood that has always stuck with me. The poltergeist scene was the scariest thing I had read up to that time as a kid. the entire concept of timeless characters and quests has stuck with me. I’m a sucker for this sort of book (I was obsessed with Narnia as well). Actually idk if this book influences me, I assume it does because there are portions of it that remain vividly burned in my mind.

 

          • Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen – this book is one of the best examples of an introvert written in literature imho. Don’t give me any of this Bella Swan introvert crap or how YA authors seem to love pigeon-holing introverts. Mr Darcy is where it’s at and not because he’s the greatest hearthrob in western english literature but because he is the epitome of “shown not told introvert” and i love it.

 

          • Martin the Warrior by Brian Jacques – this was the first Redwall novel I read as a kid and it haunts me to this day. I think in my heart I don’t believe in happily ever afters because of this book. Love does not save the day. Love often gets killed and theres nothing you can do about it. And even when that happens, maybe youre never totally a whole person but you can still go on to do great things.

 

        • The Horse & His Boy by CS Lewis – this was the first Narnia book I read (i know!) and I do still love many of the Narnia books, including this one. But the thing this book reminds me, because I keep it in my head often when I write, and I’ve been thinking of it recently as I worked on The Kingdom of Pacchia (weird connection maybe if you don’t live in my head), but pervasive unconscience racism is very prevalent still and I think it’s helped by a childhood of reading books like this, which were chalk full of straight up muslim villainizing. There’s a certain “darker = evilier” in several of the Narnia books which if you’ve grown up reading things like this (because CS Lewis isn’t the only author who does this obvs) then you may start doing it yourself unconsciously (I’m speaking as a white writer) in your own writing and that’s NEVER something I want to do. I constantly challenge myself to really think about how I’m portraying other people, even if theyre in a fantasy setting, because nothing is innocuous. This is another reason I cannot forgive Tolkien for his treatment (generally) of the dwarves in his books (it’s pretty damn racist, let me count the ways). I never want to do something in my book for no other reason than because ‘that’s how it’s done.’ I want to be better than unconscious stereotyping privileged western white writer.

What are the 10 most influential books to you? I’d love to hear in the comments or on twitter!

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A Word About Multiple Drafts

Why would you waste your time writing the wrong story?

On the subject of multiple drafts: drafting and re-drafting should not be confused with EDITING (which is a very valuable and necessary process). I define drafts as rewriting the same story in its entirety over from start to end. I spend a significant portion of time thinking about my story so that when I sit down to write I know what needs to be written and how it needs to be written, where form is as clear in my head as content. I could maybe understand writing a second draft for one or two books in a catalog of a dozen. But I cannot fathom why I would do this for every book.

If you aren’t writing the correct story STOP WASTING YOUR TIME WRITING THAT GARBAGE and go back to the drawing board.

I don’t care that Hemingway said you should write 30 drafts of something. I think that if you NEED to write 30 drafts some something, there is a fundamental problem with your process such that maybe you should spend a little more time thinking about your story before you sit down to write it. But then again, I’m not a fan of wasting my own time.

The Road To Writing Full Time

You’ve heard the cliche: everyone thinks that they can be a writer. Or that writing a book can’t be that difficult. But anyone who has tried to write a book will probably disagree.

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Writing is hard, except when it’s easy, and even then it’s still pretty hard.

For me, writing this month has been slow but steady. Book 3 is chugging along at 15k words right now (hopefully 16k by the time you read this). Definitely not where I wanted to see my word count but it’s a start. Every book begins with a start. And then you have to keep building and adding onto it, until you finish it. For most of us, myself included, this means writing a book is a marathon and not a sprint. It can be hard to keep that in my head.

I want to be a full time writer now. I want to bang out a novel every month or every other month now, but I’m not there yet. At most, I’m a halftime writer. I write fairly consistently but not 40 hrs a week–which is where I would ultimately like to be.

3 Stages Of Being An Author

  1. Beginner: you’re working on your first story, or maybe your second story, writing when you can but not overly consistently
  2. Amatuer: maybe you write consistently but you don’t write a ton, you’re averaging a book a year
  3. Full time: you write multiple books a year, you put in 40 hours a week, you treat writing as your full time job.

A lot of people spend a long time at stage 1. I spent four years at stage 1 calling myself a “writer” but not managing to finish anything. It took me 18 months to write Duality and about 8 months to write the sequel, The Convergence Theory. I thought by the time I would start Book 3 I would be at stage 3 already but I’ve discovered that I’m really still at stage 2: writing more consistently but not putting in enough hours to call this my full time job.

That’s OK. I don’t have to be at stage 3 right this minute. Maybe I won’t get to stage 3 for a couple more years and a couple more books. That’s fine. The important part is that, just like when I’m writing a book, I add onto my writing habits a little more and a little more.

I’m not going to start busting out 10k words a day this week. Or next month. I’m not going to reach my 85k word draft goal by May 1st but I will make it by June first, which is a huge improvement over TCT’s timeline.

Composition book or Writer's NotebookBuilding A Writing Career Begins With Good Habits

Just some thoughts to chew on if you’re feeling discouraged.

  • Set goals and meet them, but if you aren’t going to meet one, don’t become so discouraged that you give up or ignore the deadline altogether
  • Have patience, both with your work and yourself
  • Increase your time commitment, word goals, and publishing milestones steadily–remember the tortoise
  • For 75% of authors, making a living is all about building a backlist (eg 10+ published titles), building a backlist takes time
  • Even though this is a marathon, don’t hesitate to do tiny sprints here and there to encourage yourself
  • Don’t stop writing.

Do as I advise, not as I do. Trust me, I’m not good at always taking my own advise no matter how good it is. That’s another reason I’m still only at stage 2 😉

duality quoteQuestions About The Blood & Bone Trilogy/Timestamps/Prompts

I’m opening the floor this week to questions about my books (Duality as well as the unpublished sequels), as well as timestamp requests (something you wanted to see more of from the first story or what came after? Give me a prompt and I’ll write you at least 500 words. This is open to pre-story events, porn, and secondary characters as well). Least a comment below or hit me up with an email 🙂

CampNaNoWriMo 2014 Week One

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You may have noticed there was no blogpost last week–my apologies! I fully intended to write a short sum-up of my first couple days of Camp this year but Camp had a bit of a late start in Lia’s world.

News

  • The draft for Blood & Bone Book Two: The Convergence Theory is done!

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  • Writing has begun on Book Three! I’m a little (see: A LOT) behind on my word count but I’m steadily catching up.
  • To everyone who has volunteered to beta read book 2–my editor is about 3/4 finished so the book is still on track to reach you by the middle of the month!
  • To anyone interested in reading chapter 1 before release day, I will be sending out a sneak peak of Book 2 to mailing list subscribers 😉
  • To everyone else, be sure to check back here May 1st for The Convergence Theory cover reveal!! I’m super excited to share it with you guys, I’ve been sitting on this cover for months.

A Few Words About Camp NaNoWriMo Week 1

My goal was to write 2800 words/day. I started a couple days late and I had a couple slow days. So far my mean word count has been ~1000/day. Not great but not the end of the world. I’ve also been interviewing for a barista job and started a 7 Week Walking Challenge, all of which have no helped me be more focused on writing. Nevertheless, the month and my goal of 85,000 words is not lost!

This weekend I’m planning on doing a bit push to close the gap and get my daily word count back down to 3k/day to finish on time.

Here are my 4 strategies for beefing up my word count:

  1. Outlines: so far I’ve got an outline for the first 8 chapters of Book 3 and I’ll be adding to that the more I write. I use my daily walks to brainstorm (aloud, since I live in a pretty isolated place and I like to talk to myself :))) and then type up what I’ve worked out into scrivener.
  2. Timed Writes: these are invaluable! I set the online timer for 30 minutes and start typing in scrivener. I can’t do anything else while I’m on a TW except write (this means discipline, no checking social media, no responding to facebook IMs, no reading, nada) and I try not to check my word count until the timed write is over. I find that as long as I’ve got a general idea what needs to happen in the scene, I can bust out anywhere between 700-1000 words per timed write.
  3. Take Breaks: I break my timed writes down into 30 minute blocks and I take breaks between each block to read, check-in with my writing partner and check twitter. The key (and I don’t always do this well) is to keep the breaks to a reasonable amount of time–e.g. 20 minute break not a 60 minute break.
  4. Start Early: The day’s I’ve met my word count goals I started early (by early I mean 2 PM, or early afternoon). The day’s I’ve struggled to meet my goals or failed to meet them, I didn’t start writing until 9 PM or later. You don’t have to wake up at 6 AM and jump right into your story, you just have to give yourself enough time to write comfortably.

That is all for this week. If you have questions or comments leave a comment down below or feel free to email me ( liacooperromance AT gmail DOT com) I always love hearing from you guys! And come hang out on twitter @LiaCooperWrites 😀

Buckle up guys; week two is about to begin!