The week that was

As weeks go, this one can best be described as … There are no words strong enough. I want to say it sucked, but long ago I forbade my sons to use that expression, so I can hardly use it now, in case they read this and say, “But Mom…”, dragging it out in a moan like they did when they were teenagers.

First, the weather.

I hate wind. Always have. Wind makes me break out in nerves. I keep thinking a tree will fall on the house. In fact, trees fell on several houses in the area, but mine was spared. So far. It’s still windy.

Then, a dear friend died unexpectedly. We are all still reeling. He was so much a part of our community and especially our local writers’ club. Where do we go from here without his guidance and leadership?

And, I’m having trouble with my book cover. I keep uploading it, only to discover CreateSpace has cropped off part of the title or some other essential copy. I thought I knew how to do this. I couldn’t remember how to make a .pdf from a .jpg. I finally figured it out, but it shouldn’t have taken so long. Maybe my mind is going. Something else to worry about.

Then Thursday, when I got home from paying bills and grocery shopping, Frenchy got on my lap. I looked down to pet her and discovered she had dug her ears raw. I called the vet and was told I could bring her in if I could be there in 15 minutes. I’ll just say I drove home at the speed limit.

So now she needs drops in her ears twice a day for two weeks. It’s a struggle, as she is certain the drops and/or I am out to kill her. First, I have to corner her, then somehow capture her and wrap her in a towel to prevent scratches (I already have enough battle scars from previous attempts). Then spend time calming her down and getting her to forgive me.

Most of these complaints are trivial, except for the loss of our friend. That’s major. All else falls away. My heart goes out to his wife, also a dear friend. I know what it is to be suddenly widowed. You aren’t ready. You’re never ready, but here it is, and you have to learn how to play the new role convincingly. So say a prayer for her.

Her week really sucked.

And I realize my petty concerns mean nothing at all.

Let the wind blow.

 

 

 

That “Oh, no” moment

I got my proof copy of Riverbend from Amazon last week. I started to look through it, and —

Yes, you guessed it. I saw a typo. Then another.

To make matters worse, when I began reading it more carefully, I noticed places where I could have chosen a better word or phrase. Oh, the beauty of hindsight.

When I think about ordering a book online, I read the reviews. If readers complain of poor editing or too many typos, I usually pass.

I do not want that to happen to me!

So one more time, I went through it page by page, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by … You get the idea.

I followed some advice I heard at a workshop and started at the last page and worked my way to the beginning. When sentences are taken out of context, it is much easier to see errors.

And now I see my back cover blurb doesn’t really tell what the story is about, so I need to work on that as well.

At this rate, I’ll never be ready to let go, but I have a firm publication date of May 1.

I remember reading about an author who  wasn’t satisfied with the ending of his book, so every time he was giving a reading or lecture in a new city he’d visit the library and cross out the last paragraphs and write in the new ending.

I don’t intend to go to that extreme. But I am going to make sure this book is as ready as it can be for its debut.

There are people, and I used to be one them, who think writing a book is easy. You just sit down and begin typing.

They don’t  know the whole story.

Pun intended.

 

 

Claiming your title

I attended a library event last week and a woman came up to me and asked “Is your new book out? I can’t wait to read it.”

Pretty heady stuff! I’d like to say I ran home and finished the book, but alas, I am not one who can write 40,000 words in one day. Not even in a month with my 1,000 words a day schedule.

The important thing I took from this encounter was that someone recognized me as an author. When I first started writing, I didn’t admit to anyone that I was writing a book. I didn’t even talk about it with my family. Oh sure, my husband knew because I had to explain why I was huddled over the typewriter for hours at a time.

Yes, you read that right. Typewriter. Later on, a word processor, and finally a clunky takes-all-the-room-on-your-desk computer. But I still didn’t tell anyone. And when the book was published I announced the news to my family and close friends. I didn’t know a thing about marketing, blog tours, reviewers, or any of that. I did do a book signing at the local arts council and thought that was the height of public relations.

I got a little more aware of how things worked with my next book. But still, when asked what I did, I’d say “I’m retired” or “volunteer work.” I did not say,”I write books.”

When friends called and asked if I were busy, I’d answer “no” even though I was deep in edits. “Just puttering,” I’d say.

Why is it so many of us are hesitant to admit we are writers? How many of you say “I am an author” with confidence?

It was only this past summer that I had the courage to walk up to complete strangers and hand them a bookmark and say, “I’m a writer and I’d love you to take a look at my books.” Some looked a little taken aback, but all were friendly and a few promised to check out my website. I don’t know if it made me any new fans, but what it did was validate, at least in my own mind, that I am an author.

acac_08-12-12

Me at a book signing for my second published book. I still didn’t think of myself as an “author.”

I wish I had thought of myself as a professional from the minute I wrote “Chapter One.” Or after my first sale. But I didn’t. It took me a long time for my inner self to claim that title.

I think it comes from fear. Fear that the announcement will be met with looks of incredulity from our friends, snickers from our relatives, disbelief from acquaintances. Fear that when you mention your book title they’ll say, “How many books have you sold?” Or worse, “Never heard of it.”

I don’t think selling million books or having your name on the New York Times Best Sellers list is the benchmark. Does a baseball player get to say he’s a professional only after he’s made so many home runs? Or a lawyer after he’s won X number of cases?

I haven’t yet come to the point where I will let the phone ring when I am working. But when I’m asked if I am busy, I will say, “Hey, I’m writing right now and I’ll call you back.” Or, when people ask me what I’ve been up to, I can answer, “Working on my book” without fearing ridicule.

It doesn’t sound like a big step, but to me it’s enormous.

If you have written a book–actually sat down and typed 80,000 or so words–you are an author. It doesn’t matter if it is published or not. From the moment you wrote “The End” you can claim your worth.

Yes, you need to have it edited, proofed, find a few beta readers to give you some feedback. This is because you are a professional.

You may never get it published. Or you may decide to self-publish. That doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you wrote a book and you are an author.

 

 

 

 

 

How deep is enough?

For the second day in a row I woke before 5 a.m.

I try to fall back asleep, but it’s useless and I know it. This phenomenon happens every time I am halfway though a story. After dutifully plodding through the opening chapters, setting up the plot and characters, the book suddenly comes alive.  My mind goes into overdrive. Ideas flow like lava, igniting my imagination.

My main character, Greg, is an actor on a popular nighttime drama. As such, he has to dig deep into himself in order to bring the character he portrays to life, to make him believable. When his lover on the series “dies” he draws on  his grief he felt after his father’s suicide, and the subsman-cryingequent scene catapults him from mediocrity to fame. And that fame makes him a target…but no more about the plot. That’s not the point.

What I’m saying is that we, as writers, also have to dig deep within ourselves to find the emotions we want to portray. I’ve been in love and I think, old as I am, I can still remember what first love felt like.

I’ve been betrayed, and I can draw on that anger and denial.

I’ve felt deep and devastating loss. And I can draw on that.

It’s hard to bring these emotions to the surface and relive the grief, anger, loss. It’s hard to remember that first love, because now I know how  it ends. But in order to write about these emotions honestly, I have to remember and relive those experiences. It isn’t easy. And sometimes it doesn’t work because I am afraid to go too deeply.

So it isn’t just the overflow of ideas that keeps me awake. It’s the surge of empathy I feel toward these cardboard people, an empathy that will breath life into them. Is Greg afraid his career,  now that he’s achieved success, will end? How does that feel? How does he feel? How did I feel?

I lost a job I loved because I had to make the choice to walk away or be sucked into a pit I didn’t think I could climb out of. So I know a little about his fear and anger.

My job now is to translate that into his actions and words.

And that is what writers do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best laid plans,,,

I have to say, I stuck to my plan pretty well: write a minimum of 1,000 words every day. I can say I wrote 100 pages of my work in progress, chugging ahead like the little engine that could.

Then…oh then, a virus struck. Not my computer, but me. I won’t go into the dreadful details but suffice it to say you have to be pretty sick to lose 10 pounds in two days. I took a week to recuperate, lying on the couch, petting the kitties and sipping ginger ale. sick

By the time I felt better, it was the holidays and I drove 6 hours to St. Simons Island to spend Christmas with family.

Because I am the Grandma, I got to be waited on, which was nice. I didn’t bake the cookies I was supposed to bring, or make the fudge, but I bought some goodies that were probably better than any I could have made and was forgiven.

Then it was New Year’s which I spent with family a little closer to home and brought back with me a nice chest cold. So I have spent the last week lying on the couch, petting kitties and sipping hot tea with ginger and lemon.

And my 100 pages did not increase by so much as a paragraph.

Life has to get back to normal. I have meetings coming up that I must attend, and a program to prepare for my writing group.  I need to get back to my exercise schedule. I need to get back to my writing.

The last two weengineeks have shown me that we can plot and plan all we want, but life kinda kicks you in the head every once in awhile. The important thing, I tell myself as I look longingly at the couch and the afghan crumpled in the corner, is to get back up and keep going.

I need to get my little engine back on track and start chugging again.

 

The other side of the story

We talk a lot about the nuts and bolts of writing — goal, motivation and conflict; dialogue; scene setting and world building and even the use of the Oxford comma.

But there’s another side we don’t talk about so much. It’s the thing inside us that spurs us to put words on a page. You can call it a muse or even complain that the story (or characters) won’t let you alone until you write it.

What if that elusive “thing” sputters out and comes to a halt?

I experienced that this year. It started when Jim fell and I was spending all my time with him, trying to get him to eat, to walk.  No time to write. After he passed on, it seemed as if I had all the time in the world, but I couldn’t get my mind to that place where I could let go of the immediate world and enter my make-believe one.

Yes, I edited and re-wrote my work in progress, which took most of the summer. But that was like tuning an engine. The basics were there.

Then I got an idea for a story. Not a deep, thought-provoking story, but a light read, something fun for me to write and I hoped fun for someone to read. I wrote an outline so I’d know where I was going and even scheduled events to occur according to a beat sheet. Yep, I was ready to go. I set a daily word count.

You know how that goes. Sometimes whole days slip away without your noticing and the words don’t get written. But I can say t

Jack, one of my rescue cats

Jack, one of my rescue cats

hat most days I did write my 1,000 words and some days double that. On a roll. I am now up to 13,000 words.

But now family problems are coming at me. Again. And again, I feel helpless to do anything but hope and pray.

I find writing now is an escape. While I can’t control what is going on in my life, I can control what is going on with my story. I can’t convince anyone in real life to do what I think they should do, but my characters happily oblige me. Instead of circumstances stifling my creativity, I am using my creativity to avoid, for a little while, my circumstances.

So that’s the other side of the story. People read to escape into a different world.

Sometimes we write for the same reason.

Synopsis first?

For years, I thought you wrote the synopsis after your book was written. It’s then that you want to start submitting to agents/editors/publishers. So you sit down and struggle to tell your 300-page novel in five pages or less.

For me, the word struggle doesn’t begin to cover it. What do  you include and what do you leave out? Is the sub-plot important? What about the secondary characters?  It almost takes me longer to come up with a synopsis than it did to write the story.

And then there’s the logline, which is another subject. To be honest, I wrote  and published several books before I knew what a tagline or logline were. In case you are wondering, here is one definition:  A “tagline” is a short, clever sentence or phrase somewhere on the book’s cover thatmm-blog should pique a potential reader’s interest enough to flip the book over and read the blurb (a one or two paragraph description of the books’ contents). For example, the tagline for A Question of Time is “In time, there are infinite places to hide a king.” A “logline” is a two-sentence plot summary. Readers don’t see loglines; your write them for agents or publishers to give them a quick idea of what your book is about. So they need to be carefully constructed, too. 

So many ways to condense your book!

But now I have learned you should write your summary first. And before you do that, you should sit down and  write an outline. As a pantser, or one who starts writing with only a vague notion of the book’s plot,  this was a revelation.

Oops, doesn’t that make me a plotter?

Maybe not. It doesn’t mean I have to fill three binders with notes or put sticky notes all over the wall behind my computer, or create a story board with pictures and descriptions. It’s more like a road map. We all download directions from MapQuest or type in our destination in the GPS before starting a trip. It doesn’t mean you can’t take a side road or detour if you are so inclined. (If you use a GPS, you will be reminded constantly how to get back on the main road.)

In the article, “Plotting Boot Camp” by Amanda Renee (Romance Writers Report, May 2016) the author outlines the steps you need to take to arrange goal, motivation, and conflict in your story. Renee states that she takes her cues from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat when she creates her “beat sheet.”

You can find numerous references to beat sheets, but simply put, there are specific places in your story where certain things must happen.  Must is the keyword, because to miss one beat is to have things begin to fall apart.

I decided I would try this method, mainly because it works so well for others. I’m already almost 6,000 words into the story, so I may have to backtrack a little. It’s worth it if I reach the end and everything fits, there’s a happy ever after, and no loose threads or plot holes.

So by looking at the synopsis as a kind of literary GPS, I can take up my story and go forward, hopefully on the right road. And, I may just take a side road or two to see what it’s like.

Because at heart, I’m a pantser.

 

Previous Older Entries

Blue Ridge Vinlandia

The Wineries of the Applalacian Foothills

Summer in New Hampshire

NH - America's Vacationland

Mimosa Mornings Writers

Writers Wearing PJs, drinking coffee, dreaming mimosas

Jennie Spallone

MYSTERY AUTHOR, SPEAKER, AND BOOK REVIEWER

Rurally Screwed

Jessie Knadler

The Dream Well

We believe time spent sleeping is time spent well!

Ozark Pagan Mamma

Folk Magic, Druidism, Heathenry, & Pagan Parenting

WTFville

when life surprises you!

Farm to Table Asian Secrets

Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

Pam Grout

#1 New York Times best-selling author

The Chocolate Box

Romance for Every Taste

Book Ends and Odds

Mary Incontro blogs on books, pop culture, and criminal cases

Writer Unboxed

about the craft and business of fiction

Chick Lit Is Not Dead

Two girls who believe that books with high fashion and happy endings never go out of style

Angela Quarles

Witty, Charming, Captivating Fiction

%d bloggers like this: