Thursday, September 29, 2011
Writers will have many shifts in their journey. I say journey because we, as writers, are constantly moving down the path of learning -or should be. We start out knowing nothing other than we have a need to express ourselves with the written word. We learn craft, become proficient, finish our books, search for an agent... it goes on and on. And the further one goes, the more one learns that this is a journey of one. You will meet others along the way: friends, crit partners, agents, editors, reviewers, etc. But in the end, it is your own journey.
And it is a mental one.
And it is where we become our own worst enemy.
Because whatever emotional baggage you carry, whatever fears, hangups, insecurities you have will most certainly rear its ugly head. How can it not when you are required to both trust your instincts yet learn when to listen to reason? When you must face rejection and praise? When you must learn to dig deep into yourself and produce a story? Again and again.
My writer friends and I joke that writing is 90% head games we play with ourselves. The percentage varies from person to person, but it is absolutely a stumbling block a writer must learn to crawl over. And it doesn't get easier. It gets worse. The farther you go, the more you must learn to ignore the inner baggage and just do what you do.
Just how you do this will be up to you. Me? I've learned to realize that I will be judged by others. Some people will hate my work, some will put their own expectations on me, believe me to be something I am not, the list goes on. Others will love and support me no matter what. And while some situations will suck and others will be wonderful, none of that has anything to do with who I am inside.
The only thing I am in control of is me: how I deal with a situation, what I produce, how I react.
So as writers, I urge you, don't get sucked up in the craziness. Don't get caught up in the "Me's" What about me? What does the world thing of me? That way lies madness.
Instead turn it to "I." How do I feel? And what am I going to do about it? More importantly, what do I need to do to enjoy this process? Because at the end of the day, that's what it's about: enjoying yourself.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I know, get on with it already.
Well, long story, short..(too late)..I've decided to self-publish my young adult novel BY THE PALE MOONLIGHT.
If you just did a double take at your screen, I don't blame you. It still takes me by surprise, and I made this decision back in February. (g)
Okay... you're probably wondering what brought about this change.
Well, my reasons are numerous, but to hit the main points:
1. I've been reading a lot of blogs by self-published authors... and well, they've made some mightily strong arguments in favor of going independent. To put it plainly, they've made a convert out of me. Do I believe I'll be massively successful in this endeavor? In a word: Maybe. It's a crap shoot at best, and I'm well aware of this. But I do believe BTPM stands up to a lot of what I'm seeing on the market, and it has as much of a chance as anything else. It's good, I love it, and I think others will enjoy it as well. Will that equate to huge sales? Maybe. (That's my word of the day. :)) Trust me, I don't think I'm going to be the next 99 cent millionaire. Money doesn't even compute for me. I just hope people read it! :)
2. For many, many reasons, I'm just not prepared to go the traditional route at this particular point in time. I'm not saying I never will--in fact, I most likely will with FAKING IT. I'm just not ready NOW. Plus, independently published young adult authors are really making a go of it right now...I want to jump in feet first and see if I can sink or swim with the rest of them. In some ways, going down this path allows me the freedom that we all want as writers. I can write what I want, when I want...and if I fail, it's on me. If I succeed, it's on me. I am the master of my destiny. (Mwhahaha). [Okay, not really. Readers are the ultimate master, but you know what I mean.]
3. It relieves some of the unrelenting pressure I feel about writing. The need to be what I think agents/editors will want. It's allowed me to simply tell my stories in the way I think they need to be told. Readers will be the judges of whether or not it's something they want to read. Something they enjoy, something they want more of. It's about them, so why not put in their hands? Does this mean I'm big and brave and unafraid? Heck no! I've seen what reviewers do to authors on Amazon. I'm scared witless by what they might say. But in the end, they'd say it about any author, so I'm no different than those who go traditional.
4. It's..ahem...a bit of an adventure. :) I'm super excited to get this thing underway. It makes me want to write to see whether or not people will want to read my stories. Designing a cover...a book trailer...thinking of ways to promote my book.. It's FUN. Stressful, yes, but so thrilling.
So yeah, that about sums it up. So...in the next couple of weeks I'll be debuting my cover for y'all... hopefully my book trailer if I can get it figured out. [I have a friend working on it as I'm writing this post.] And I'll definitely try to blog about my journey along the way. I hope all of you come along for the ride. :)
Friday, September 23, 2011
What’s a painting without someone to view it? What’s a song without someone to hear it? What’s a story without someone to read it?
The philosophical French artist Marcel Duchcamp once said there are two factors to consider in the creation of art: the artist and the spectator. He said, “The artist may shout from all the rooftops that he is a genius: he will have to wait for the verdict of the spectator in order that his declarations take a social value and that, finally, posterity includes him in the primers of Artist History."
Duchcamp essentially says that it’s not enough for an artist to create. The creative act is not complete until the audience has seen it. Not only seen it, but validated it.
In this way the audience becomes part of the creative act and “transference” takes place. In essence, the audience has been given control of the art.
In less highfalutin terms it just means that the audience begins to internalize the art in very personal ways. If you’re a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series you’ll understand immediately what I mean. If you don’t understand, go visit her folder on the Compuserv’s Books and Writers Forum where her devoted fans hang out to discuss (scrutinize) nearly every written word with profound depth. Diana Gabaldon takes it all with good graces and an occasional roll of her eyes.
Star Wars and Star Trek fans (Trekkies) are examples of transference gone wild. Deadheads - those devoted fans of the band Grateful Dead - went to great lengths to follow the band from venue to venue. Some might argue that none of my examples should be labeled “art.” But the point is that something within these fans touched them, connected with them to the extreme, which in turn has validated the creators of these works.
I can’t help but think of my own creative acts and the validation I crave at times. Is Duchcamp right? Can I not just write because I’m compelled to do it? Because I enjoy it?
I was a closet writer for a long time. I didn’t need anyone’s approval. My words were my joy, my obsession. Are my stories less of a creation because I, the artist, have not shared them with an audience? Are they incomplete because “transference” hasn’t taken place? Does a tree in the forest make any sound if no one is there to hear it fall? (Blast these French philosophers!)
In my blissfully ignorant closet-writing days I cared nothing for validation. But something happened when I began to share my writing, to put it “out there” for others to critique and comment on. I began to receive validation for my work. It felt wonderful. I wanted more. Suddenly I wasn’t writing in a vacuum anymore and the idea that my story needed to see the light of day took root.
The flip-side to that addictive coin is that if my story doesn’t make it, is it any less a creative act? No, I don’t believe so and that’s where I’d argue with Duchcamp. Yes, validation is feel-good wonderful. But so is the act of creation. There’s nothing like it.
But now I’m left with a conundrum. I’ve tasted validation and like a drug in my blood I want more. Why then do I write? Why am I at it? For my satisfaction alone or for validation from others?
Why do you write?
Thursday, September 22, 2011
But I digress. Getting to see your cover is pretty darn cool too! It can also be a bit nerve-wracking as you don't know if you'll love your cover, hate it, or be indifferent. I am lucky and very thankful to my publisher, Grand Central, that I love my covers.
Yesterday, I got the cover art for my second book, Moonglow, which features Miranda's sister Daisy. Moonglow is scheduled to release August, 2012.
Naturally, I want to share it with all of you. :)
So here it is:
There are going to be a few tweaks to this, mainly there will be a nice cover quote added. Yay! Off to do the Happy Cover Day Dance.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
That it's time you learned about the facts of life
Starting from A to Z.
Let me tell you 'bout the birds and the bees
And the flowers and the trees
And the moon up above
And a thing called love.
The Birds and the Bees
The facts about the birds and the bees is a discovery we probably all remember making for the first time at some stage. For me, I can distinctly recall my parents hauling out the old Where Do I Come From?, presumably prompted by one too many curious questions, to enlighten me to those previously unimagined facts of life. It was an eye-opener for a nine-year-old, for sure.
I have no idea how I'll tackle that particular conversation with my own kids when the time comes, but at the same time, I'm kind of hoping I get the chance before they catch the answers on YouTube or in the schoolyard. In these days of Google knowledge and 50-Cent music videos, it hardly seems quite as secret anymore.
The times, they are a-changing- but they've already changed so incredibly much in the last century that it's sometimes hard to fathom.
My story is set in 1914, and the major plot point revolves around young love, sexual discovery, and the birth of the next generation. Figuring out who knows what about love and sex, how they found it out, what it means to them in the bigger social context of the time, is pretty critical to creating realistic situations and realistic responses.
A couple of months ago, I somehow stumbled into discussing this topic with my grandmother, who was born in 1919, and what she had to say about her understanding of the ways of the world was fascinating.
Growing up through the 1920s, she learned about the birds and the bees through- well, the birds and the bees, and by growing up on a farm where the facts of animal husbandry were well known. But as to human relationships, they just weren't discussed, physical affection was not demonstrated openly in public, and she admitted to being desperately curious about where babies came from. Whenever a cousin or female friend of the family was expecting, she would "disappear" from view for a while, and would eventually reappear with- ta da!- a baby.
How did these things keep turning up? All the kids wanted to know, and went as far as attempting to eavesdrop from behind bushes or under windows, with limited success.
We didn't talk about how she eventually discovered the answers to her burning questions, but it definitely impressed on me that back in the day, whispers and rumours formed the bulk of education; glimpses of scandalous novels most likely providing some further details- far more direct if there was an older and more experienced sibling to advise, or for boys, a whole crew of mentors out in the shearing sheds. Beyond that, I'm sure stolen kisses behind the hayshed and moments of intense connection and sworn devotion at (and after) the local dance were natural steps up the ladder toward full enlightenment.
After the fact, I know my own family's genealogy has a fair few babies born within a couple of months of a wedding date, so the shotguns were out and at the ready where needed. And the Home for Unwed Mothers and the adopting out of fatherless babies was another resort for those for whom full commitment was unobtainable, and single parenthood not an option.
Though not openly discussed in the historical records of the time, this stuff isn't hard to imagine. It's even more interesting to consider the more deeply hidden aspects of sexuality and relationships through these times. Though not the same time period, a friend has just blogged her review of The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, which give a fascinating insight into lesbian relationships in the Regency Era- worth reading for an example of the ways in which people did, and even more significantly did not hide their relationships from those around them.
And back in my own era of interest, I was completely flummoxed to find a full pictorial advertisement for the marvellous Dr. Johansen's Auto-Vibrator Massage Appliance on the front page of the country newspaper (click image to enlarge, and check out those optional extras!).
At first, I thought I must be applying my modern sensibilities to understand just what this thing was for. But then I happened across this fascinating article that explains the medical approach to treating "hysteria" in women in that era, and I was hit with the somewhat startling realisation that perhaps the obvious was not so obvious when it comes to what some of my characters might have known about their own budding sexuality.
Either way, it entirely depends on the individual and what they might do with the knowledge available to them- but it's fascinating to ponder all the same.
If you haven't explored this in your own characters yet but you'd like to, the September Exercise at the CompuServe Forum may be useful to you- the main exercise is all about exploring your characters in more detail, but the Erotic Writing folder has a subset of questions about attitudes and history (note- it's a closed section; you have to request access to see it, so if you want to and don't know how, let me know and I'll explain).
Being ever-curious, and with questions yet unanswered, do share- in what era is your story set, and how did your characters find out about the birds and the bees, assuming they have already? Do they have secrets they hide from society, or do they go proudly against the grain?
Thursday, September 15, 2011
So many tasks can fall under the umbrella of editing: checking for plot inconsistencies, clunky writing, cutting down word count, add to word count, finding typos, repeated phrases, overused words…The list goes on.
Most of these tasks really might be defined as revising.
This month, editing has been on my mind as I’ve been going over my manuscript, FIRELIGHT, as my publisher gets it ready for printing.
Here, when I speak of editing, I’m talking about reading the manuscript at the pace of a snail to find typos, dropped words, and any other bugaboo errors that might be there.
Let me preface this with the following – since the completion of the first draft, FIRELIGHT has been read by:
Eight beta readers
My editor’s assistant
My editor’s boss
A copy editor
Out of that group, me, my agent, my editor and my editor’s assistant have read the manuscript multiple times. Frankly, I’ve read it so many times, I could probably recite the book from memory.
Last week, I read the type set pages for final approval. What does this mean? Well, this is the version that has gone through editorial revisions until the story itself is approved, and then has been picked over by the copy editor for errors (as well as by me and my editor). This is the cleanest version possible –erm, in theory. My job here is to do a final check for any last bugaboos. At the same time, a proofreader is going over it as well.
Okay, so remember how many people have read it? Yeah, I found about ten errors. These ranged from dropped words -such as a missing “in” or “the”; typos –the insidious type in which I used peak instead of peek- and inconsistencies –such as one character’s eyes went from brown to blue (eep!); and the worst, a missing line of dialogue. Blinks.
This is AFTER a group of people have combed the book over.
As it was my last chance to fix anything, I can assure you, I went over this book SLOWLY, trying to be as thorough as possible. Then I turned it in.
And what happened? Well, the proofreader found this lovely little word flip: “God good” instead of “Good God.”
I had to laugh. I was utterly blind to that word flip. As was a dozen other people.
Do I have a point here? Well, yes. (g) My point is that it is damn hard to have an error free book. As writers, we tend to see what we expect to see, making it hard for us to spot our own errors, because our mind fills in what should be there. Readers may do this as well, especially after multiple reads, and especially when they are fast readers.
That doesn’t mean I’m advocating errors in books. Simply, that while going through this process, it really hit me as to how much work goes into putting a book together. It truly is a group effort.
Strangely, I also find comfort in knowing that we are all human, and thus susceptible to human error.
ETA: Speaking of typos. This week, a typo in Susan Andersen's ebook version of Baby, I'm Yours was making the rounds on twitter.
'He stiffened for a moment but then she felt his muscles loosen as he shitted on the ground.'
The typo is laugh out loud hilarious, yet who doesn't feel for her? Personally, I just love Andersen's response to it, and the fact that she addressed the typo herself:
"Shifted - he SHIFTED! I just cringe when I think of the readers who have read this. Hopefully, it's only in the iBook version that I bought, but if it's in yours as well, please let me know. I've contacted the editor and pray this will be promptly fixed."
Bravo to you, Ms. Andersen. :)
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
I've been out of practice for a long time, so I've made a list of rules that I'm trying to adhere to.
1. I get up and go to work just like normal. My real life job requires me to arrive no later than 9am--dressed, shoes on (dang them!), the whole works. I'm sticking to these prescribed requirements this week. Yes, that means I'm not allowing myself to roll out of bed, put my hair up in a messy ponytail, and walk around all day in my pajamas. I know myself too well. If it's that easy to roll out of bed to begin writing, it's all too easy to roll right back in. At least if I'm dressed, I have to take off my shoes to do it. Just sayin'. And just like the day job--I'm trying to put in 8 hours.
2. I took this mini-vacation to write. I made a pact with myself that if I skip a day of writing, the next morning I have to go to work--the real day job. I know vacations are supposed to be relaxing times, but I've taken too many days off, promising myself I'll write, and then end up putting it off and putting it off until the vacation is over and I have nothing completed. Not going to happen this time 'round. If I want this time to write, then by God I need to earn it. That isn't going to happen if I sit around watching TV or reading. Yes, I get to do some of that, but writing has to come first. Period. (Good news is that I get to write tomorrow. We'll see about Wednesday.)
3. I'm focusing on big picture things. I'm not going to worry about every word and line being perfect. I need to get the changes I want made in place--then I can worry about the smaller things. It's difficult for me to let go of control in this way--very difficult. I always try to do my best, but right now I'm pushing through sections quickly, just trying to make sure all of the big ticket items are in place. I'll let you know how it goes.
4. JUST KEEP GOING. I may not finish my book this week, but regardless, I'm taking some huge steps toward the end. I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't get there. NO JEN BASHING ALLOWED. This probably should've been the first rule. :)
Anyway--things are going well so far. Over the last two days, I've managed to write approx. 8500 new words -- pulling together a very large chunk of the book. It feels good to know that this vacation is actually moving me closer to the finish line.
I remember reading a blog post by Maureen Johnson a while back, in which she talked about her love of Post-Its and how she always believes they are somehow going to be the key to finishing her book. Hilarious. But oh so true.
I know we all have our handy-dandy tools that we want to share with the world--like it's somehow going to be the miracle cure for finishing our books. I'm not saying this will work for anyone else, but this new little tool I've discovered is doing the job for me at the moment. It may not work next week, mind, but for now...it's FABULOUS. It's a little thing called Focus Booster. Are you a fan of using an egg timer? Well, this takes things to another level--small step up, but it's something. :)
I've found that one of the hardest things for me as a writer is the prospect of...well, sitting down in the chair and actually writing. I have a lot of hours ahead of me with this book, and sometimes when I sit down to write I feel overwhelmed. Most times I don't even make it in front of my computer. (Just being honest.) But when I do sit down, it's like I'm looking into a never ending tunnel where not even the barest pinprick of light is visible from the other end. Scary. Overwhelming. And most times I simply bow out.
Well, focus booster is helping me by breaking up my writing sessions into shorter, manageable sessions. Why do I love it?
1. You can set the length of time for each writing session. The clock ticks for the first couple of seconds, but then goes silent until the end, when an alarm clock ringer goes off. The clock overlays whatever screen you're in--you can adjust the size or hide it altogether--and when I feel like I can't make it until the end, I can look up and realize I only have X amount of minutes left. It keeps me pushing forward, stretching the writing muscles that are so, so out of shape. I set my sessions for 25 minutes, and my first day using FB, I clocked in 12 sessions. And it didn't seem overwhelming to me--not once.
2. After each writing session, the timer goes into a "break" mode. Once again, you can set it for the length of time of your choosing. When the time expires, a nice, happy doorbell chimes. It isn't the death toll--it's upbeat. It says to me, "Hey, Jen! Break time is over. Time to go back to work. Remember how it wasn't so bad last time? You can do another session!" I set my breaks for five minutes. It's enough time to get in a good stretch, go to the restroom, grab a drink, or whatever. You'd be amazed by the amount of stuff you can accomplish in that short amount of time. And if you run over, no big--the next session won't start without you hitting go.
3. The application tracks the number of sessions you've completed. Maybe you don't have time to sit down for a large lump of time. But that doesn't mean you can't make it a goal to finish X number of sessions a day. Perhaps you have to do two in the morning, one when you get home from work, and one while the kids are getting ready for bed, or what not. This allows you an easy way to track what you're doing. And if you make your writing sessions short and intense, you'd be amazed by what you can accomplish.
4. It's free! Hey, who doesn't like a free download? Just go to the link above and check it out. I love it--it's working for me. Maybe it will work for you.
Here's hoping everyone has a great writing week. :) Anyone have any other suggestions regarding what works for you?
Friday, September 9, 2011
My mom is currently visiting. In a lot of ways my 72-year old mother is far ahead of the technology game than I am. She owned a cell phone for years before I ever felt the need for one. She knows what “blue tooth” is - something I’m still fuzzy about. She has a Mac Book, wireless internet, and a wireless mouse. She’s got a camera with a global positioning device.
When she doesn’t understand something she goes to the Genius Bar or to someone who can answer her questions. This once led to a major disaster. She let the “geeks” fix a software glitch and in the process lost all her iTunes and every single folder and album in iPhoto. Hours of laborious editing, sorting and filing of photos were gone in an instant. (Thankfully the original photos were still in the library.)
This disaster isn’t insurmountable. She can load her music back onto the computer. She can sort her photos again. But her experience has given me pause to think… when was the last time I backed up my writing?
Unlike my Mom’s experience (where her stuff can be easily found again), writing, once lost, can never quite be recovered. Yes, I can rewrite the lost scenes, but they’ll never be the same. Some will be lost forever, some might be better off lost, and some might actually improve with rewriting. But the fact remains that the work, and the words I initially recorded, are gone forever.
My method of backup is simple enough. I use Dropbox. Dropbox is ingenious. I don’t have to think about it. It’s there, doing the job. Dropbox is quietly working behind the scenes to keep my writing secure by making note of any changes to my writing in Scrivener and syncing it each time I close the program. As a secondary measure, I also export the novel, email it to myself at my gmail address and store it there under “archives.” In addition, I have an external hard drive that my Mac’s Time Machine uses.
I think I’m covered, but this wasn’t always the case. I was once in the horrible situation of having a dead computer and along with it an inaccessible Scrivener program. It was months before I figured out how to transfer the gobbledy-gook of a .scriv file (thankfully archived in my gmail account) to something Word could read. My euphoria at that moment was incredible.
The point to all this is, of course, to backup your work. You’ve heard it before. It’s one of those odious things like having a mammogram or going to the dentist. Hate doing it, but it’s good for you.
I admire my Mom immensely. She's joined the computer age even though she tells me, "I was born before all this. My brain is from a pre-computer era." Indeed. She was thirteen years old before she ever talked on a telephone! First thing we're doing tomorrow is setting up a Dropbox account for her so she can continue to play with technology without the fear of losing her treasured photos.
When’s the last time you backed up your writing? Do you have a favorite method? (I highly recommend Dropbox if you don’t have one.) If you do have a favorite backup routine, care to share?
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Oh boy. I've had it. I’ve just written five thousand, one hundred and fifty-six words in five hours, a veritable landslide of words for this plodder, and I’m *reeling*. Feeling very good about it, though, especially as I only have three weeks within which to finish this round of revisions/re-writes (honestly, I think I’ll drop the “revison” label at this point and just stick with "wholesale re-write") before the kids are on holidays AGAIN. It's good to make this kind of headway ... but it means I’m a little too punch drunk to blog coherently. So I’ll offer you this instead: a little humour via Kurt Vonnegut, on the shape of stories.
I'm off for a good lie down. Enjoy!
Friday, September 2, 2011
It’s hereditary. As I’ve reached a certain age, I’ve realized this tendency has been handed down from generations.
One of the most interesting books I’ve ever had the pleasure of exploring was my late grandfather’s journal. I never knew the man. He died when my mother was just eighteen years old. This journal has survived, however, as a precious look into a man who is otherwise known only through my mother’s stories.
While the words he wrote are priceless, I found the myriad of little things stuck into the pages to be just as revealing. He had a fondness for tucking things into the pages or inside the covers - train ticket stubs, notes, photos, letters and whatnot. The book holds a small treasure trove of bits he thought important enough to keep.
My mother is the same way and now I too, find my appointment books and planners stuffed with things I want to keep or need to remember. Nothing is there because of some earth-shattering significance that I hope future generations will discover. Nah. The stuff is just the minutia of everyday living.
I’m sure most of us who tuck things into books think nothing of it. In fact, there’s a fellow named Michael Popek who has created a website about the things people leave behind in books. He works in a used bookshop and has the unique opportunity to sift through old tomes. His website, forgottenbookmarks.com, features the items he has gathered as a result.
I found the website fascinating, probably because I can both relate to the people who squirreled away things in books and because I really enjoy the treasure-hunt aspect of finding something unexpectedly.
What about you? Do you have a favorite bookmark or are you like me — a person who grabs the nearest thing handy to mark your place?
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Today, I turned it in. Boohyah!
To celebrate, I'll be reading copious amounts of books (just brought 15 books at Borders for about 30$ whoot!) and catching up on episodes of True Blood. I will also be dancing to this song for the remainder of the day. Feel free to join me. :-D
ETA: to add onto my celebration, here is a most wonderful post by my most excellent agent (I do love her so!): Pub Rants Post on Firelight