Keeping your voice when writing different genres, with 11.22.63

I tell people that I write speculative fiction. And I do, technically. But speculative fiction is an umbrella term that includes science fiction, fantasy and horror. Everyone sort of knows that. 

On the one hand, I can kind of see why. These three genres are easy to blend, especially horror and science fiction. Some pieces of fiction you have to pick apart to figure out which side of the fence it falls on.

On the other hand, science fiction and horror are pretty distinct. If you compare the last horror book I read (American Psycho) and the last science fiction book (Now, Then and Everywhen), they’re lightyears from each other. 

So when an author goes from one genre to another, some serious considerations have to be made. Many authors use pen names for different genres to help differentiate their work.

I don’t. And neither does Stephen King, one of my writing mentors. (In my head. I’ve never met the man, I’ve just read On Writing many times.) His time travel novel, 11.22.63, was a worldwide hit. That’s no surprise, he could stick his name on the front of a phone book and it would sell. But this was a really good story. I just finished watching the mini-series on Hulu, and it was quite entertaining. More than that, it was a shining example of how to switch genres like a pro.

(Oh, and it has a satisfying ending. I won’t tell you what it is, but it’s there.)

Lee11.22.63 is purely a time travel story. It checks all the boxes. We have betting on sports, falling in love with a woman in the past, trying to hide knowledge of the future. The main character, Jake, is amazed and hurt by the racism of the past. I was, too, honestly. 

This was not, in short, a horror story. There was some blood, some spookiness at the start. It begins with the tale of a man who’s family was murdered by his father. But after that, there’s precious little blood. There are no jump scares. No serial killers. No eerie thing creeping in the night, clicking its teeth in anticipation of crunching into flesh and bone.

And yet, this is a King story. No one who’s read as much of his work as I have could ever mistake it. 

I mean, let’s start with the fact that Jake is from Maine. He’s an English and Creative Jake and old guyWriting teacher, from Maine. He’s divorced, and he has an older cantankerous man as a good friend. 

Does King know that people have other jobs besides writing? Asking for a friend. That friend is King. 

In case we didn’t notice that this is a King story, the directors helpfully left little clues all over the place. I loved this. Eagle eye watchers will notice that Randall Flagg made a cameo in the last episode. At one point the word ‘redrum’ is written in red on a wall. Christine also makes an appearance, driven by Sadie’s ex-husband. At one point Jake, while pretending to be a drunk JFK fan, tells an FBI agent that he’s his number one fan. In one episode that includes kids trick or treating, we see children dressed up as killer corn monsters and Pennywise the Clown.

Maybe because I’m so big on dialog myself, this is the biggest sign of style for me. The word usage and names are very much King’s style. It’s a difficult thing to explain, style. But you know it when you see it. You can recognize a page of writing from Tolkien, Grisham or King. It’s just something you can feel.

I hope that someday people say that about my work. 

So if you’re a writer and you’re considering switching genres, go for it. Your style will come through, whether you’re writing about demons or spaceships. 

Aps For Writers

I did not receive any money for the post you are about to read. I didn’t get any gifts, either. This post is not promoted, in fact, in any way. It just so happens that I use all of the aps I’m going to tell you about almost every day on my smart device, and I don’t pay a dime for any of them. With that being said, I’d like to tell you about them as A. my way of saying thanks to the creators and B. a hopefully useful look at some common aps that help me manage my house, family, writing and day job. Some of them are common, but I think it’s worth it to go over how I use them and why I think they’re better than other aps that do similar things. Some others, though, are not so common, or at least not commonly seen as writing life aids.

For the sake of brevity, I’ve decided to include only aps I use on my tablet. Many of them I use on my computer as well. But I have not included computer only aps or programs. I plan on doing another post about those at some point, but it felt like that would just drag this one out too long.

The Common Aps you should be using

Evernote. I’m not going to drag this one out, because everyone already knows about Evernote. If you’re the one person on Earth who doesn’t, though, here’s a break down. It’s a note taking system that you can type into, draw into, speak into and attach internet files to. You can also set up checklists on it.

How I use it. Wow, how don’t I use it?
– I’ve scanned the monster’s medical records into it, so I have them at the doctors.
– The darling husband and I share our shopping lists so we don’t buy/forget to buy milk.
– I have my whole world bible for Woven on there, in neat little categories, so I have the information available to me anytime, anywhere I might be writing.
– I have a rolling list of PBW post ideas.
– My five year plan is in there, where I can’t spill coke on it. (Again)
– My book outlines go there, where they can be color coded (especially important when switching pov characters like I do), added too, taken from, and basically made unrecognizable by the end.
– The Paper Beats World style book is there.
– The Woven Master Timeline is there. (14 books and counting, you’d better believe I have a master timeline that I’m not going to lose if my house burns down.)
– A log of how long each draft took me to write for Woven. It helps me get an idea of what I’ll be doing for the year if I know how long it took me the last time I wrote a rough draft.

I use Evernote every day, is what I’m saying.

Trello. I could not write the number of books I write at the same time without Trello. Basically, it’s a way to keep track of different projects in one place. I have Trello folders for each of my upcoming short story collections, and I can add a ‘card’ for each of my stories as they’re done. On that card I can note if I’ve sent this story anywhere, and if I’ve yet published it on PBW.

I actually feel like there’s a lot more I could be doing with Trello. If any of you out there use it, please share with us how below.

Buffer– There’s a good chance that someone reading this right now found me due to social media, either Twitter or Facebook. Social media is one of the best ways to be discovered by new readers, and it’s a great boon for an indie writer. That being said, I don’t have the time to drop everything I’m doing during the day to tweet. So I use buffer to schedule my social media for me. Tweets get sent out at times my readers are most likely to see them, and I can fill my Buffer feed whenever. I also like the ability to make lovely inspirational images, which I’m sure you’ve noticed if you follow me on either Facebook or Twitter.

ToDoist– Before I talk about todoist, please understand that my planner obsession has led me to try every single to do app and planner that you can imagine. I tried writing my to do lists down in my planner, not enough room. I tried writing them in my bullet journal, it was redundant because so much of what I do needs repeated so often. I tried every damn app I could find, and was irritated that I couldn’t figure out how to have a task happen every day unless it was ‘every weekday’ or ‘on the weekends’.

Todoist is great for that. Repeating tasks is easy, you can set them to repeat literally at any interval. I’ve got my daily and weekly to dos on there, and I also use it to set a reminder to toss my mascara and toothbrushes after three months. I set it to remind me when something’s going to be automatically deducted. I can also color code it! I have never had a better to do app.

Google Docs– Because I write everywhere, I need to be able to write on my tablet and have it be on my computer when I get home. That was a requirement. I love that I can access Docs everywhere, and copy from there onto my WordPress site. I also use Google Spreadsheet for all of my business hat stuff, payments and such. It’s not a fancy tool, but it’s an important one.

Pomodoro Timer– And finally, this one is pretty self explanatory. I use the pomodoro method for just about everything from editing to housekeeping, and I highly endorse it. This is just a nifty little timer app that’s set for 25 minutes and gives you little motivational things like, “I believe in you!” and “You can do anything!” Quite frankly, it’s not fancy, but it gets the job done.

The uncommon apps you might not have thought about for writing

I’m not saying you’ve never heard of these apps. In fact, you might already have them on your smart device. But you might not be using them to their full writerly potential.

Pintrest– Why am I listing Pintrest here? It’s one I have to be careful with, because Pintrest can be a huge time sucker for me. I kind of see Pintrest as a portal that will suck me into Buzzfeed and blogs that will never let me go.

But I use Pintrest for one highly underrated thing. I create vision boards for my writing. Inspiration for characters, worlds, costumes, weapons, world building. It’s all there. If I’m feeling wholly uninspired, or just can’t remember that great detail about swords I found the other day, having the Pintrest app and access to my vision board anywhere I have internet access has been a huge help. I highly advise creating a vision board today.

Drop Box– Obviously Drop Box is a great way to back up your documents. I personally keep every draft and short story there, not just for security but so that the darling husband can access it to read them for me. I also love it because he takes a lot of pictures for me, and I can access them whenever once he’s put them on Drop Box.

Budget Tracker– I love this for my budgeting, love it so much. Part of my grand scheme of life is being able to spend as little time at work as possible. Good budgeting is essential to that overall goal. I love budget tracker because I can put my money in different categories, so I’m not overspending in one area and robbing another. I can also use it to separate my PBW money from the household budget. Listen, I am really bad at overspending, but this app makes it easier for me to see my ‘fun money’ or ‘household money’ going to zero before we start into the ‘savings’ money.

Morning Routine– I generally have to be up pretty early. I’m not thrilled with it, and anything before 7:00 feels like torture for me. With my shift changing at the day job, I have to get up before everyone else if I’m to be assured any quiet writing time at all. And my old alarm was way to kind with the snooze button.

Morning Routine has helped a ton for my morning zombie brain. It wakes me up with an adorable image of two chihuahuas fishing for the moon, and it just gets better from there. You can opt to turn this app off with a swipe or by scanning a certain bar code. (I opted for the swipe, because there are no common bar codes in my house. I think that option’s for people who don’t just buy whatever’s cheapest when they get to the store.) You also have an option to set your smart device to do a series of tasks. Mine is set to open Feedly so that I can read my feeds while I run to the bathroom and walk the dog. Then, when it’s time for me to be at my desk I get another alarm. Finally, a third one goes off an hour later, and pulls up todoist so I can see what else I have to do that day now that my writing time is done. This is a huge boon, since my brain doesn’t work until at least 8:30.

Calm– If you’re already using all these other apps to make your life run like a well oiled machine, you might be kind of tired. In fact you might, like me, feel like you’re brain is a rat running on a wheel for dear life. Sometimes, that rat needs to get off the wheel. Calm is good for this. In fact, it’s probably the best meditation apps I’ve used. I can set it for any amount of time, and it’s got a lot of different soothing images. And I don’t want to hear anyone tell me meditation isn’t important. You might not suffer from depression and Adult ADD like I do, but you can still benefit from it.

So, what do you think? Did I miss an app you use every day? Please tell us if I did, I love to learn about new apps.

Check This Out, Evernote

Well, I am writing on it right now, so that should give you some idea of how very much I do love Evernote.

I feel like it would be silly to tell you what Evernote is, because it is all over the internet. But, not everyone is a crazy internet junkie like me, and maybe you don’t subscribe to quite as many orginization blogs as I do. So, Evernote is basically a writing program, like Open Office or Word. But it does so much more than just that.

Reasons to love Evernote

* I have it linked between my home computer and my tablet. Let me explain to you how cool this is. I can write anywhere. I can, for instance, start writing my blog post while I’m at my day job, and finish it when I get home on my pc.
* This also means that if one of my devices has a fatal error, I have my ass covered. Yes, I use other things as backups including Drop Box and a zip drive, but Evernote is my first line of defense.
* I use it to write shopping lists, too. I can write it on my pc, and then check stuff off on my tablet while I’m out shopping.
* I wrote my outline on it. I was able to color code it, and as I wrote, I could add things to my outline as the plan changed. And, I could cross things out as I went to keep my place.
* I have different notebooks on my account, so I have one for Woven stuff, one for Paper Beats World, and one for each of my e-books. So I’m not shuffling through all my notes to find the one I need.
* There is a voice to text recording option. I have totally used that to ‘write’ blog posts while doing dishes.
* There’s a sketch option that have, on occasion, used to brainstorm. But I have far more often used it to distract my little monsters in stores and waiting rooms.
So, for your sanity as a writer and a parent, check out Evernote.

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