Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Friday, October 29, 2010

Haunting Blogs and Stressing over November

Theresa Milstein at Substitute Teacher's Saga is having a Halloween Haunting, for anyone wanting to make some new blog friends. I'm always up for finding new blogs to feed my addiction, aren't you? Plus she made it easy, which I like.

Make a comment and go haunt some new blogs, and if you spread the word you can win some great books. The rules are so easy that even those gearing up for NaNoWriMo and stressing out about it can do it-- leave a comment telling about your blog and if you are looking for a critique partner. Then go visit the other commenters new to you. Go blog trick or treating lol!

And for those of you planning on writing a novel in November, this cute guy may help you not stress out so much. 

He's the awesome design of Michelle Gregory over at Beautiful Chaos. He's going on my sidebar for the month and whenever I feel like giving up on my new November novel, I will look at him and smile. He and my giraffe are buddies. In fact I'm feeling less anxiety about NaNoWriMo just looking at his cute face.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

On Being a Very Good Writer and a Very Bad One

There's a rhyme my grandmother used to say:

There was a little girl, with a little curl,
right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good, she was very very good,
But when she was bad, she was horrid.

Funny how we learn stuff from our grandmothers. This taught me an important truth-- that people can be both good and bad, that things aren't always black or white.

In writing, it's not so much a matter of talent or no talent, but perseverance and passion. Are you a good writer or a bad one? Answer: Yes. You are both. Me, too.

I can be very very good or when I am bad, I can be horrid. Brilliant writing mixed with awful. The secret is knowing which is which and fixing it. The delete key is a very helpful tool.

That's what editing is all about. It's taking out the bad so the good can shine. So don't think you're a bad writer. Or a good one. You are both. We all are. Delete, delete, delete.

Monday, October 25, 2010

As I See It: When the Fun Ends and the Work Begins

Writing is fun, in a sick kind of way, or we wouldn't do it. Even the hard bits can be fun. The worst part for me is the origination. I have an idea but when I go to put it down, it comes out all jumbled and confused. My first few drafts are pretty much garbage. Still, I keep at it, because I love revising. And it's rewarding when I see improved results.

But I think the real work starts once the manuscript is accepted for publication, and an editor gets a hold of it. It's as if your child, who was safe in preschool then kindergarten and first grade, is suddenly shoved into Marine Boot Camp.

Are you ready for this? Your precious baby gets shredded, kicked around, twisted and turned, until you're not even sure this is what you created. Your editors, nice as they are, are crossing stuff out, misinterpreting what you wrote, telling you to make corrections, to change characters and delete entire scenes.

It gets tedious, tiresome, confusing and sometimes even contentious. In other words-- WORK. It's a job now people. Some days it may not be fun anymore. You are now a professional writer. It's time to act like one.

Most of us have had some pretty tough "real" jobs. We know what's required in the workplace to stay employed. Nothing is different about writing, editing and publishing. It's an industry. It's work. An agent or editor looks at a potential client to see if they can stand up to the rigours of editing and publication as much as they examine the submitted manuscript.

A writer has a job to do. Whether it's revising, correcting, reworking a story, or promoting and marketing-- it's stuff that has to be done. And preferably done in a mature, professional manner.

Or as the cookie-baker in me says: If you can't stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen. Being able to take the heat is what separates a hobby writer from a professional writer. At least that's how I see it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Using Stats to Make Blogging Decisions

I have two blogs. The other one is From the Shadows to the Page, which is something I started to post about writing from life, since my two books are written from life. Memoir-writing, personal and family history collecting-- that sort of thing.

Yet with limited time, and when I view the Stats on both blogs, I question whether my quiet blog is worth my time. Most posts only get a few comments, and I can see by the Stats that some days only get 2 or 3 views.

So I'm faced with questions and decisions: Why am I keeping it up? Is it something I want to continue, considering the limited audience? Using Blogger Stats to make the decision shows that it's not a wise use of my time online. Unless I were to step it up over there, which I prefer not to do. I've got all I can handle here, and I'm not sure I want two blogs anymore.

So then what? How to let a blog die? Gradually post less and less, until finally one day you're done? I can just as easily post about writing from life here. Memoirs, even recording one's personal and family history. These are subjects that would work here. It's all writing after all.

There's a lesson in comparing my two blogs. This one is where I have focused my online energy. I used this blog's URL to follow and comment on others. That other one I dabbled now and then, never following anyone, didn't list other blogs on my sidebar, did nothing to attract people. (In fact, most of the followers probably came from here originally.)

So if you don't want much of a following, or a real active blog life, just don't try.  

Don't follow people. Don't comment on their blogs. Don't do anything special to attract visitors. Don't give back.

That's how to have a quiet blog where not much happens. Check your Stats. It will show you how things are going, and if your blog needs a shot of adrenaline.

Monday, October 18, 2010

As I See It: If You Want to Write You Have to Write

This is a tough one. Today's rant is aimed at those who want to write and find a million reasons not to. Due to personal experience, I know a LOT about this. I'm linking to a post that everyone who wants to write for publication should read. It is written by Suz Korb on Bang out the Prose, and this is the brilliant title:

IF YOUR MANUSCRIPT SEEMS RUBBISH, FIX IT!!!! (caps are mine because I'm yelling)

It's up to me to fix my rubbish manuscript. The editor can't do it. The readers won't do it (they expect polished professionalism when they pick up a book to read). It's up to me the writer to fix my own crap. And the only way that happens is by PBIC (putting butt in chair).

I want to write, I call myself a writer, even a published author, but I find a zillion other things to do besides write. This is very frustrating. I annoy myself no end with what keeps me from writing-- the biggest one being procrastination. Oh, and my obsessive need to have everything in order before I can be creative.

House clean?  It'll do.

Blog reading caught up?  Check.

Posts written and scheduled? Check and check.

Phone calls made?  Most of them.

Emails answered?  Ditto above.

Laundry done? At last!

Work finished? Yes, finally, until tomorrow.

Children out of the house?   Children? What children? I'm an empty nester. *cheers*

Physically, mentally and emotionally prepared for the ordeal that is revision?  Check, check and check.

Waiting on the muse...waiting.... waiting....waiting.

ENOUGH ALREADY!! How much longer can I put this off? Whether I write daily in a regular routine or six months without touching my WIP, followed by four months of non-stop all-nighters-- whatever works, just do it!

But if I want to write, I have to write. And if my manuscript is rubbish, I have to fix it. At least that's how me and Suz see it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Blogging Five Years from Now

I started my first blog five years ago-- a spiritual offering for my children called "The Simple Life--Gospel-Oriented." It was on AOL Journals. You could read it with the link but needed an AOL account to make a comment. I posted once or twice a month for a year. I doubt if anyone outside my family read it but there was really no way to tell. I never visited other blogs or reached out in that way. I've tried finding that blog but it's disappeared into the internet spirit world. AOL Journals no longer exists. AOL hardly exists, and that was the big email back in the day.

Then two years ago when Uncut Diamonds came out, I started another blog. An author blog. La di freakin' da. You know, so all my fans could find me when they read the book LOL. This blog was on Vox, which shut down last month. I took some of those posts off before they evaporated, just to have them. The Vox blogs have also gone to internet heaven, unless the owners transferred them to a new site, or saved them somehow. Goodbye Vox.

Halfway through my Vox experience, I started a second one here, since it seemed like Blogger is where all the serious writers are, and I wanted to network with writers. I've been here ever since. All of 18 months. But it seems like longer. I barely remember my life before Blogger.

Whatever happens with my blogging habits, I sure hope Blogger doesn't die and go to internet heaven like those other two did. That would be a tragic loss for all of us who count on this as our writing network.

Having been on two sites that disappeared I'm wondering-- will Blogger be here five years from now? Will I? Will you? Where do you see yourself in five years related to blogging? Do you think you'll still be at it, or moving in a different direction?

And for all those who might be worried about losing all your hard work posting, here's a link to Susan Kaye Quinn's post today, where she tells us how to save everything. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

As I See It: Publishing Snobs and How to Ignore Them

My Monday rant is about publishing snobs, who are fairly common in this industry. They say things like if you self-publish it's shameful and your book is going to suck. Or that snagging an agent means you're smarter and more talented than those who don't. That going with a small press won't help you and might even hurt you.  

Publishing snobs. Those people who have rules over how it has to be done, and if you don't follow the rules, then what? You're a loser? You're not a real writer? Or a real publisher? That you'll never make it? Whatever it is.

This kind of publishing snobbery has been going on for centuries. Charles Dickens was looked down on because he went to the people with his stories and printed them in magazines. Stephen King was considered a hack for two decades, despite all his bestsellers. Now we have Joe Konrath  who followed the rules for years and struggled to make a name for himself and his work. Then he stopped listening to the publishing snobs, practically single-handedly started the ebook revolution and now everyone knows his name. He is a hot commodity. He still writes the same, but goes his own way and ignores the naysayers while making more money than ever before.

More stupid snobby rules--

If your book isn't reviewed in _____________it must not be good. 

If you write a certain kind of genre you're selling out. 

A press who prints on demand is the devil. 

A book has to be in Barnes and Noble or it doesn't count. 

If you self- publish on Smashwords or Kindle it's not a real book. 

The publishing and literary snobbery goes on and on. I'm sure you've all heard it.

Some dishonest people spend their time figuring out how to separate the gullible and desperate from their money. Writers can be as gullible and desperate as anyone, so we have to be smart and research things carefully. But once a friend makes a decision about his own personal writing career, it's time to be supportive not critical, and go buy his book.

If I choose to go through an agent for many good reasons (see this agent's post) that's awesome, but it isn't the only way, or the only right way. The more writers blog and network with each other, the stronger we get and the easier it becomes to turn our backs on the publishing snobs of the world.

If I write, I'm a writer. And I keep writing until I get published. Then I'm an author. If a company pays to edit, typeset, design and print books for sale, they are a publisher whether they're located in New York or Nebraska.

If they publish your book, then you're a published author. If you publish your own book, you are a published author. Now keep in mind, it goes without saying that if you self-publish a crap manuscript you will get a crap book and people won't read it. But there are literary works winning prizes that people don't read either, so you're in good company. The difference is in the prizes.

If your book or story or article is published, whether on print media or online, then you are a published author. So don't be shy. Call yourself a writer. You are a writer. Or an author. Your poem was accepted for publication? You're an author. Say it loud and clear. Don't be embarrassed. It counts. It all counts. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Writers are all over the internet blogging, supporting and encouraging each other. This is a whole new world. We have each other, we are everywhere, writing and finding an audience. There are many ways to find that audience, it's no longer just one set of rules. Go for it, and don't be intimidated by the publishing snobs. At least that's how I see it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More on Selling Books vs. Selling Cookies

So yes I made a comment on my last post about selling cookies, because I used to make killer chocolate chip cookies and sell them. (keep reading for a chance to win cookies!) When Uncut Diamonds came out, my one wish was that it would sell like my cookies LOL. Which of course is a silly notion, because my cookies sold just by existing, whereas a book needs much more behind it to sell. Like what?


A wide demographic

Author Familiarity

Excellence in craft

An appealing cover

Marketing efforts

That certain something


Need I go on? There is so much behind any particular book or author's success, and when it's all said and done, even the experts will say that they don't really know. If they did, they would do it for every title and have constant bestsellers.

I would love nothing more than to sit and blog, write novels and edit other people's novels all day long. And I could if my husband still had the mortgage business that allowed me to pursue my hobbies and passions sans income. But when the real estate/mortgage crisis hit three years ago, everything changed. I considered spending my time in Vegas, writing in a hotel during the day, gambling at night to pay the bills, but somehow I don't think that plan would work.

So he and I resurrected the cookie business model of 20 years ago (chance to get cookies coming up!) which looks like it will be our livelihood, at least for now. I'm an idea junkie and he has an MBA, so between the two of us we come up with all kinds of plans. Currently, it looks like the cookie business will be the cash cow. Which is fun, because I love making cookies almost as much as I love writing.

I'm currently offering chocolate chip as well as white chocolate chunk with macadamia nuts. And don't ask for the recipes. You have to marry into the family for that.

HOWEVER, do not despair, because I'm going to send some lucky person a DOZEN of my COOKIES (you choose which kind) as a 500 FOLLOWER celebration giveaway. I am so close to 500 followers which is like a miracle to me, and I want to show my appreciation for all of you who have supported me and my giraffe this past year. I've given away my books before and this time it will be COOKIES! Unless you're outside of the U.S, then I unfortunately can't mail the cookies, but I will mail one of my books if you win the drawing. To enter:

Each task gets +1 -- Be a follower, leave a comment, tweet or facebook, link on your blog-- with the potential of +4 points. And if you add it all up in your comment, you get an extra one-- total potential points +5.

Winner announced Wednesday, October 13, who will get their choice of either chocolate chip  or white chocolate chunk with macadamia nuts-- a dozen fresh cookies-- mailed to them. Woo hoo! Hooray for cookies! And books! And followers!

Another very cool follower contest is on Quinn's blog, celebrating 100 followers. Go check it out for a chance to earn a $40 Amazon gift certificate. Also, Gabriella Lessa, Aspiring Writer's World  is sponsoring a blogfest in honor of Women's Fiction month. Did you know it was women's fiction month? Me neither. But we do now, thanks to Gabriella. Join in to connect with awesome women's fiction writers.  And here's one more: Amie Borst  will be giving away a copy of The Iron Bodkin by Amy Allgeyer Cook. Great prize!