Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Return to Blogging

My return to blogging is due to a sort of re-commitment to my writing as a career.  It isn’t that I exactly lost focus on it as such, but that I had some shaky years in there and had to immerse myself in fiction writing to survive them.  This mode of writing, blogging,  while I tried it on occasion, no longer did me any good.  
That said, I am back to a place where I can see myself working to advance my writing as a career again. I will be working toward being a hybrid author, some writing will be self published while I seek to traditionally publish novels I have poured my energy and time into the last few years.  
There is much change on my horizon and one thing that I know:  I need to be a full time writer.  So now, every bit of my time and ounce of my energy will be directed to this endeavor.  
What all of this means is that I have sought balance.  I had to find my feet, my path, anew.  And I have. So now it is about going forward.
What does going forward look like?  
I am going to be launching a patreon, blogging regularly, posting a web-exclusive novel to my shiny new website and also launching a newsletter.  By the end of the year I will have a body of work that I will independently publish, while also seeking traditional publication for different works.  There are a few other things in the works as well and I will announce them when they are a little more concrete.  

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Endings Blogfest! How do you end a novel?

Thanks L.G. Keltner for hosting "The Endings Blogfest!"  And congrats to her on the 2nd anniversary of blogging.

So what do I think about writing endings?

I am obsessed with the right endings.  I wrestle with the endings to my projects for months, and often fixate on them while writing the whole rest of my rough draft.

With the massive project I've been kicking around the last few years, Silver Mask, I even got so tired of waiting that I opened a doc titled it "Ending 1" and plunged right on in.

Setting up the perfect ending, in my head, often teaches me a lot of my characters' various back-stories. Mostly because I'm popping into the most tense time for all my characters and throwing them together in a way they just won't interact at any other point in the novel.

How these characters act when everything hits usually teaches me more about their characters, the direction that they are growing in and their relationships with the other characters than I might see imagining any other time/scene.sequence in a story.

In Silver Mask, the ending is complicated, full of a lot of threads.  I don't want to miss any of them, and i also want to make certain that when the rough draft is done, each character has been developed evenly.  Writing the ending now is going to tell me how to get there.  It'll also tell me what the main tensions between characters are going to be earlier in the novel, by providing me the instances in which these tensions are addressed in some fashion or another.    

Endings are just so much fun for me.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Insecure Writers' Group January 2014: Genre

   This is my first post of the year!  Sorry for the delay... there were colds, Nanowrimo and too much work in November and December. That said, sharing my goals for the year and my fears about them is the best start to a new year of blogging.  That said, be sure to check out the rest of the awesome participants in the  Insecure Writers Support Group.
     I have been working in a small independant bookstore now for over a year and I've been learning so much about the book industry.  It's been interesting seeing the relationship between book sales, media and staff-customer interactions.  That said, the internet and brick and mortar stores have an uneasy coexistence.  I can't be as anti-amazon and anti-self-publication and the latest technological gadgets delivering books to readers and whatever.  I tried, in the past to be resistant to change, and now I am tired of that.
There is no amount of resistance that will make the future other than it will be. That said there is a synergy among internet dissemination of information, traditional marketing avenues, readers, and bookstores that is a little difficult to put a finger on, much less explain and it doesn't help that so many patrons of the store are either pro-e-book or anti-e-book, with more on the anti side than admitting to owning a Kindle, Nook, or Reading on their iPads.
But the relationships among these things are exactly what I want to understand this year--particularly in its relationship to genre. This question came to mind particularly with iO9's list of the top SF books of 2013.  Their list included titles like "The Accursed," by Joyce Carol Oates, and "MaddAddam," by Margaret Atwood, which in our store is shelved with the literature.
I talked to someone who occasionally helps out in the store, who writes mystery, and he talks about the genre blending lines in mystery as well.  I feel that understanding how the big publishers make these distinctions, or why, can help to understand what the relationship among the new technologies and communication patterns, traditional outreach methods --t.v, radio, and newspaper articles/reviews-- and brick and mortar stores/online stores (sales).
The questions I want to answer with my reading this year will be:  What is genre? What is literature? What is YA? How does genre fiction characterize itself and is there any underlying characteristics that differentiate it from literary fiction?  If there is what are these and why do they exist?
These questions should get me closer to an understanding of what characterizes particular audiences, and lend a more in depth understanding of how the book industry works, and the significance of these various categories to readers and to the industry.
It's kind of an academic approach... and the reason for that is that I *did* manage to complete both Camp Nano and Nanowrimo in 2013.  I have two 50k word rough drafts to turn into something publishable by the end of 2014.  I want to know where my writing falls on the spectrum and why.
So I am planning to read a lot this year, across many genres, while revising Rule of Magic and The Lady and the Bow.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

IWSG Post: Uncertainty in Revision

I have had so may insecurities the past few years, and a few successes.  The Insecure Writers' Support Group is the place to vent them, to read others' opinions, feelings, successes, insecurities, and to just generally share in the ups and downs of writing and publishing.  Participants post the first wednesday of each month, and can be found here.  If you just generally want access to the best hub of links and advice for writing, check out the new IWSG website.  It's amazing.  Thanks Alex J. Cavanaugh!  I am really enjoying reading through the site, and following the links.

Last year, I was so worried about completing a rough draft.  Then, in July, I finished a rough draft.  I wrote so often that I had the urge after Campnano was done.  I just didn't know what to do.  I didn't feel "done."

Well, it isn't done.   But it needed to sit awhile until I was ready to make any real edits, no matter my hurried read-through and obsessive notes after the initial completion.

There was a brain fog that moved in once I wasn't writing every day, and then I never quite got around to making any of the big changes.  I started... but it's still waiting to be done.

Now, I'm entering the November Nanowrimo, and I plan to finish it as well. December will be a month of brain-fog, and I should be ready for it.  After that, 2014, will have to be the year that I brave the revision.  I have learned just how much I need order and structure. If I have found a way to apply it to completing a rough draft, I certainly can do the same for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd drafts.

Do you have a system that you employ to make changes to your rough drafts, and if so, what is it?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Becoming a Writer Part 3: A Different Approach--All in My Head

All right, I know the "freedom" I feel is all in my head.  It's been there all along, there are likely even agents and editors that might like what I'm doing.  But I certainly feel more stressed when I think I need to impress others.  I'm just not good at it.  I can be friendly, and I have even enjoyed customer service jobs for the interaction with people. I know I often leave a pretty decent impression, but I've put so much more of myself into my writing.

Is it rejection that I'm afraid of?

Not exactly.  I am afraid of the same thing that has choked up so many drafts over the years, not producing a end result deserving of the idea, the character, the world and all the time I've poured into it.  Self-doubt. Perfectionism.

I have found that deadlines can combat these flaws for the rough draft level.  I am working on using process to fight off the rest of it.

Considering self-publishing means that I have to approach my writing with greater emphasis on deadlines, on the business of it, but with the underlining goal of being honest to the art of it, the idea of it. I am a paradox, finding certain limitations actually inspiring.  That's why I work well with Nano.

What am I doing differently?

I am exploring an organization to the chapters in my Rextian novels that are in line with the society that I've created, but not an order I'd ever have thought would go well for a "first novel." This is mostly because it isn't exactly something I've seen before, but it makes sense for the piece that I am creating.  

It also frees me to identify certain stories as possible serials.  Suddenly, I  can do all my ideas.  Beginning to end. I can build them my way, and use the very structure of the novel to build not only the plot, but also the context of the world. The outline is posted week by week on Story Snippets. I will follow up at the end of the week with my progress that week on the Nanowrimo project.

I'm very confident about my ability to generate a rough draft... but that's before the real work: the second draft.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Becoming a Writer Part 2: Rough Drafts

The challenge of Nanowrimo has helped me immensely.  The deadline helped me to finally and effectively manage my time in July, for Camp Nano.  I finished a rough draft and then read through it and then... let it sit.

The next challenge will be to revise what I have, but before then, I am launching into Nanowrimo. I have a new/old project.  That is, since I've been progressively re-approaching my main world, its history, the stories and characters that I've been building and playing with for years... why not?

I am approaching Nano differently this time.  I made an outline--suitably vague, and with a massive note to self  "achieve the main plot goals--but hey, change is okay."  But I know anything on Don-Yin will be epic.  In the real sense.  I can't expect to write the whole book in a month, but Rule of Magic--my July success-- was not a full manuscript.

The story was written beginning to end, but it is a stripped down version. I can expect to approach November's project with that same result.  That means my outline can be flexible, adjusted, as long as I have the characters and plot mapped out well enough to hang the novel on.

I think I have those things down.  I have, off and on, over the years spent enough time with the characters and plot that I am confident of my love for both, my drive to complete them, and now my newfound-direction that I know I can do this.

I will post my outline, in pieces, on Story Snippets, so if you're interested in following my progress, I'll track it there.

Writing with the idea of self-publication as the goal has changed the approach to the novel, from the beginning. I feel better able to embrace the artistry, and less pressure to compete.  That isn't to say this is not a competitive industry--I see just how competitive every level of the book business is when I go to work. Focussing on the need to compete, to produce a story that would both be familiar enough for the marketability to be easily demonstrated and original enough to seize the enthusiasm of an editor, made me worried.  So very worried.

But now, thinking that I can take control of my project, I can pursue all knowledge I need to produce a professional end product.  The interim, the beginning steps, are less stressful now, with more freedom for me to explore my own ideas of the story and the nature of  "good writing."

Much of this, I know, is me.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Becoming a Writer in the 21st Century: Part 1

Over the years of bumbling through this or that rough draft, participating in writing communities, and puzzling through the process and business of writing my focus has skittered about.  At the center of this is was the idea: “Where to start?”

Originally, the idea was with a rough draft.  But after the first few were shelved, or overhauled, I worried what the next step would be when I was pleased with a rough draft.  I got caught up in the idea of “the next step” and it made me resistant to finishing things.  

This had happened due to a few things.  One: the writers’ group i had been a  part of that I very nearly turned into a non-profit before succumbing to my own self-doubt and hanging there, useless, submitting resumes via  monster, watching the bank account dwindle and in such a  haze I couldn't finish reading a book--much less writing one. But before that settled upon me, I had drive and ambition, and a willingness to change and respond to the environment around me.  

We self published an anthology of short stories and I learned the entire process of the thing.   The process taught me that marketing was central to making a book successful.  Generating community, and rising to communicate internally to a particular niche.

Quality is essential to attracting the eyes of the uncertain.  A good cover is not just money, it is a demonstration of the seriousness of the writer.  There are a lot more steps to the process of producing the cover than CreateSpace and other formula-generating self-publishing options generally lead an author to believe.  Not that good covers can’t be produced through CreateSpace.  

Working where I do, I also know that a good cover is not guaranteed when going with a traditional publisher. In fact, it seems that the better covers are reserved for titles that expected to make more money, which means that the author has likely already demonstrated their marketability by reaching out inside a community, in some fashion.  They have been marked by the publisher as an individual with the connections to bring in enough money to make the whole system stay afloat.  

But quality has to be carried through the whole of the book to make certain the sale builds the sort of customer and brand loyalty that can generate a lengthy writing career.   As someone interested in being a full time writer--that’s what I’m after.  

Working in a bookstore, and knowing the limitations and shopping patterns of the book-buying populace I see why marketing is key.  Our store is relatively small--when compared to a box store--and insanely large when compared to most independents.  But there is no way that we can stock the sheer thousands of books published each year.

So whether you’re on a major book tour with your publicist plotting your stays, making arrangements with the stores, or if you are on your own, hauling self-published books out your trunk, it is about marketing.  

Realizing this has actually freed me.  You see, I was so stressed out over “perfecting”: my novel and wondering about timing and how to get an agent and a publisher while also understanding that the system… well, it isn't the same as it used to be.

If it is all about marketing, it isn't about writing to your audience, it’s about identifying who is already prone to like what you want to write.  If it’s about niches--the direction that successful marketing is going-- then it’s about being you.  Because when you market successfully it isn’t just the book--the author becomes a greater presence on the scene.   

And if that is the direction I need to go with my career, than the real thing to do… is write.  not copying the methods that work well for other authors, not harping on what has proven successful before and making it my own-- but generally writing my own thing.  

I am free to explore the form and craft the way that I, hidden under all the uncertainty and insecurity, have always wanted.  I have enough sense, after that, to work it all out.  I have learned enough about the business and about marketing, about the book industry itself, to have a few ideas of just how to go about making a business of it--but first, I’m off to complete a novel.

Complete a novel, my way.