Saturday, August 31, 2019

If a tree falls in the woods...

We've all heard the riddle. If a tree falls in the woods and there's nobody there does it still make a sound? Scientifically it still generates sound waves whether or not a person is present to hear them. We know this because technology finally caught up with the riddle. You can record it. Now some argue technically the machine is replacing the human ear therefore invalidating the answer. I beg to differ. The riddle doesn't ask about recording. Therefore fully valid.

For me this is the essence of self-publishing. If I publish my book and nobody knows about it, nobody reads it, am I still an author? Did I really publish a book? Does it qualify?

Yes. Yes. And Yes. Technology is just catching up with publishing. The sad truth is that so many authors blame their writing for the lack of readership. I found myself doing that recently. Should I throw it all away and start again? Is my writing that bad? Wait, it can't be the writing, if nobody has read it!

Publishing Houses put huge resources behind ensuring that the voices of the authors they choose to work with get heard. It's a game of who can shout the loudest. They also know people. Critics. They get their authors read by critics who write about them and deem them holier than thou. It has always been so. This is why as writers we keep submitting our souls to agents, the gatekeepers. Sometimes leaving such a nasty taste in our mouths we swear we won't drink that kool-aid again. Other times rejoicing in being selected for the honor of a full read.

But times are changing. Readers are changing. Instead of simply choosing from a pre-determined list of best-sellers as anointed by the industry, they're going on sites like Goodreads. Amazon. Scribd. Smashwords. They are asking each other what to read. They are widening their horizons. They are reading our stories. Our cookbooks. Our biographies. Our memoirs. With or without the blessings of the industry.

Readers are sending each other new maps of the forest.

When a magestic tree falls in the woods, now it can be heard. When a wonderful new tale is written, now it can be read. So let's all stay strong. Stay hopeful. And keep writing. The promise of an evolving industry is offering up a new path to realizing our dreams.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

When your project goes off the rails

I once thought I'd put together a cookbook of my all my important low carb recipes. I started gathering them up. I began outllining it. I began pouring through each recipe to ensure they were complete. Especially the ingredients. One has to include all the ingredients.

I never did finish the cookbook. I got sidetracked. I imagined what would happen if a young chef decided to, oh wait, that's my next book. Can't give it away. The point is, often times when writing, no matter how focused I am, I end up in Paris instead of New York. My character ages 20 years in a day. My dark suspense becomes a light-hearted caper. Because all good intentions aside, my mind simply doesn't work in an orderly fashion. And that is not necessarily a bad thing.

I saw a blog post yesterday, I don't remember the exact title, but I do remember the words 33 rules. So I didn't read it. Because anything that offers 33 rules is a non-starter for me. I'll accept a rule or two. Maybe five. But if you need 33 rules to accomplish anything, then in my view you'll be spinning around in a hamster cage for years before finishing anything. I do believe many rules were made to be broken. Rules. Not laws. I'm not a big fan of law breaking.

I'm about as fond of rules as I am of lists. I do not like lists. My husband likes lists. Particularly when he's at the grocery store. I am a browser. He has the ability to simply maneuver through the store grabbing each item on the list without any stray items landing in the basket. While he's playing Guy's Grocery Games, I'm meandering through the store, wondering why the 'simply natural' pickles have exactly the same ingredients as the ordinary pickles. Exactly. And they are the same brand. My advertising brain screams at me that this is a marketing trick. So I spend a few minutes pondering and shaking my head. This is how he finds  me. Standing there like Lady Justice balancing two equal but unequal pickle jars in my hands.

Then there are the step by step blogs. Imagine if wikihow for writing included every possible list and rule and step. It would look like the world's most complex decision tree.

You see the point don't you? You can learn to be a better writer. You can study different ways to develop your character or plot. You can learn to craft a better story. But the essence of a good novel is creativity. So if midway through chapter 3 I decide Maybelle is better off as an urbanite than a ranchhand, so be it. She's moving to the city. Wait, go back, she grew up in the city. There is no ranch. She can't even ride a horse. Her name isn't Maybelle.

Rules and steps and lists, for me, are true buzz killers. Everyone of course is different.

Perhaps if you are like me, you go off track every so often. I have 20 or more unfinished projects. They are all worthy. They are all Stories Interrupted. Unfinished symphonies. Dreams waiting in the wings.

I know, first rule, finish what you've started. I guess step one would be to make a list?

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Falling in love again and again

To the detriment of my last novel, my new one seems somehow so much better. The writing is tighter. The emotional depth is greater. The plot has more twists. I Stop. Breathe. And remind myself that I thought that very way about the last novel or the last chapter or even the last paragraph.

As a reader, I understand this all too well. I start a book, I fully intend to finish, but then I read a sample of another and start reading that one. It's not a reflection on the first one, it's simply mind distraction. Plenty of readers are able to shelve the next book until they finish the one they have started. And I applaud that. I do. Writing though can be different.

If you are anything like most of the writers I know including myself, you fall in love with whatever you're currently working on. And relationships with your writing are kind of like relationships with people. You need to be monogomous to finish anything. So you commit to whatever you're working on and with commitment comes deeper attachment. But writing isn't monogomous. It simply isn't.

Take my new novel which is a sequel and quite frankly at the moment I think it's my best work. Of course without the first book in the series, it wouldn't exist. Not relevant. So right now I'm at the point of thinking maybe I should be pitching my new one. It's just so much better. I seriously began contemplating it. Then I began writing a scene that somehow didn't fit. I thought this is a story right here. I opened a new doc, typed it all in, gave it a working title, so I could come back to it later.

Am I cheating now? I mean I'm committed to the current story, and stealing a great scene and working on a new one? Well only if I don't get right back to the current one. My protagonist is waiting for her next adventure, next mishap, next soliloquy, so I must return to it. On the other hand, I must never forget to stop, take a break and note down my thoughts and ideas. To keep a notepad or tablet at my bedside for those 3am mind ramblings. Then get back to my anxious hero or heroine or villain or historical figure who's patiently waiting for my direction. It's multi-tasking for the creative soul.

And by the way, all of this applies to the workplace. Particularly if relationship building and client services is part of your day. Remember to focus on your bread and butter accounts but always continue courting new ones. Just prioritize. That's from my years as a client service exec. Trust me on it.

Life isn't one dimensional, and neither is your writing, your job, or any of your relationships. Though relationships require a bit more tending to. And yes, if they are of the romantic sort, monogomy is recommended. You'd do well to keep that in mind.

So for me today, it's back to Pippa and Devon and the smashing to smithereens of Elroy. Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Sneak Peak Day!

Today is Sneak Peak day! I'm sharing a free preview of my novel, All About Annie. So you can read a bit, see if it's for you, then click to enjoy the rest if you so choose. Now if you're an avid reader like myself, someone who can't resist reading the back of cereal boxes and vitamin jars, then you'll take advantage of this.  Call it reader appreciation day.

Well? Did you like it? Hate it? Can't wait for more? Think I need a career shift? If you do go full throttle and read the book, please share your thoughts. Just remember to be kind. Kindness matters.

Today it's back to work on my current project. The one I'm actively seeking representation for with little or no expectations of successfully achieving that goal. But for those that are following my journey, this isn't unusual. I've always been one to hope for the best but expect the worse. I hate to be disappointed. Which makes writing kind of a poor career choice. Truly it does.

My question for you dear readers is this. How many of you are hesitating to change direction in your own lives for fear of failure? Fear of rejection? Fear of financial ruin? There are all sorts of stumbling blocks, particularly for writers. So here's the good news for today.

The only difference between the writer and the author is whether your work is published. And thankfully, you, yes you, can publish your work yourself. For free if you're up to the task. No financial ruin. So you can scratch that off your list of excuses right now. Does it take effort? Yes. Determination? Yes. Skill? Perhaps. If you know what to do and where to go for help, it is however, achievable. 

The point is this. If you have that burning desire to be an author, go for it. Today. Don't wait. Your destiny is in your own hands. Becuase I for one can't wait to read your first masterpiece.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

This is for you Mr. Abbott

This is for you Mr. Abbott. That's today's title and that's my new mantra. Once upon a time, I had an English Professor who taught Creative Writing. Or at least the university billed the course that way. I beg to differ. My first assignment was returned to me with a notation at the top: This isn't plausible or believable. 

I'm sorry, wasn't this a creative writing class? Wasn't the assignment to write a short story about something remarkable? The operative word being story. As in fiction. As in make-believe. Plausibility wasn't high on my list of priorities.

It took me a good 40 years to fully comprehend what he meant. He meant my writing wasn't believable. He didn't buy into the premise. I wasn't convincing. Seriously it took a lifetime of writing to realize that while at the time I thought he was simply being an arrogant SOB, which he was, believe me, he was trying to tell me something. I just wasn't open to hearing it.

It's often like that with criticism. I don't care for it, as much as I need it. I need to be told what's wrong with my writing, I just don't want you to tell me. I've had this conversation with others who write, paint, sculpt, dance, perform and so on. We crave a reaction. We thrive on feedback. It makes us better artisans. Yet when it is at its most constructive, we really really don't like to hear it. It doesn't make us feel good. It's not generally uplifting.

In fact I cannot think of a worse career than being a critic. Might as well just slap two horns on my head and paint my face green. Because for me, the idea of being a critic is the antithesis of who I am. I do not want to be the source of anyone's pain. Yet here I am constantly asking for feedback on my work and asking my readers to critique it. Publicly no less. Masochism? Insanity? What I want deep down is to see fabulous 5-star reviews. But that is out of my control. What will I do when someone leaves a lousy review? How bad will I feel? Is it worth the risk?

No pain no gain. I always hated that phrase. Still do. But then again, the truth hurts. When it comes to writing, this is the truth. No pain no gain. Mr. Abbott tried to teach me that. Maybe if he'd been a better teacher I might have listened. See, there I go, still reacting to his criticism. Hopefully however, I can now transform the pain into gain.

So this is for you Mr. Abbott. I've completed my first two novels and finishing up my third. I can only hope that when the reviews are in, I'll be ready to listen.

The Fixers have arrived!

 It's here. You've probably heard. Kindle Vella, the new serialized fiction service from Amazon. You can read one episode, if you li...