Wednesday, November 9, 2011

They're Talking About You (and Me)

When I first began my journey of writing and publishing my book, I read quite a few blogs, articles and books on the process.  They all had a few things in common:  the authors said that no manuscript is ready for review as soon as it is written.  They suggested multiple edits, critiques and revisions.  They talked about the process being long and difficult.  They reminded us that very few writers become published, and out of those, even fewer experience success with their work.

I read those words, and although I wouldn't have admitted it at the time, deep inside I was thinking, "That doesn't apply to me. I edit as I write.  My manuscript is perfect as it is written."  I loved my story so much that I couldn't imagine changing even one word.

Three years later, I can only look back and laugh.  My book has grown and evolved so much from that first version, and while there is part of me that mourns what was, I understand that its present form is better. . and I recognize that there is always room for improvement. 

As writers, we so identify with our work that it can be tough to recognize what that work needs.  And after we've poured our blood, sweat and tears into months or years of tender care, hearing that it's still not quite good enough is extremely painful. . so we decide that that advice isn't meant for us.

Guess what?  It is.  There is no writer or written work so perfect that it cannot be improved.  There is no story so complete that it cannot be tweaked.  When those in the know give advice. . they're talking about you.  And me, as it turns out.

As I've mentioned, I work with a terrific group of writers who support each other, offer encouragement and perform monthly critiques on each others' work.  Our core group has learned through trial and error what the others want to hear, how tough we can be, and where we need to pull back.  More than once, we've had authors join us and leave after a single critique cycle.  A few have told me that they didn't expect the level of criticism they received; they came to the group looking only for accolades, not for constructive help. 

I get that.  Hey, I'd love it if every month, my fellow writers told me that the chapter I submitted was so perfect that they couldn't suggest changing one iota.  Well, I'd love it if it were true.  But I am happier that they instead tell me the truth:  they point out a redundant word, question the actions of a character, ask me about motivation or continuity.  Pats on the back are nice, but they aren't going to help me in the long run.

If you're just beginning the road to writing book, don't be discouraged by those in the know.  But don't think you're the exception to the rule.  Know that even authors who routinely see their books on the New York Times best-sellers list admit that their work could have been improved. So can yours, and so can mine.

We writers are a fragile bunch, but we need thick skins to be out there in the world.  So pull up your big girl panties and get on with it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

It's the Reading, Stupid!

Remember back in the 90's, when Bill Clinton was running for president, and the catchphrase became "It's the economy, stupid!" as a way to sum up the most important issue in the nation?  Well, this came to mind recently while I was reading my Nook and thinking about the sweeping changes in the world of publishing.  Everyone is talking about how bookstore closings, skyrocketing e-publishing figures and the decline of the printed word is affecting literature.  Within my own home there are factions:  two daughters who are fiercely clinging to traditional books and refusing to read e-books, and one daughter, one son-in-law and one husband (plus me!) who own e-readers and enjoy the easy access to our favorite books.

But in the midst of all of this posturing, let's not forget the point:  it's the reading, stupid.

Right now I'm enjoying the first book in Nora Roberts' latest trilogy on my Nook.  I loved the fact that I could download this book at midnight on November 1st; I didn't have to go to the bookstore, wait for a package to arrive or be the first one at the library when it opened that morning.  The book was there, waiting for me to enjoy it.

The fact that I am reading it in a non-print format doesn't remove any of the romance, mystery or magic from the book.

We can argue all day long about quality, paper versus download, but when it comes down to it, e-books have as much potential as traditional books. Yes, there is a lot of garbage still being "published" as electronic books, but there are also some really poor work out there in print, as well.

I am concentrating on publishing my first book electronically by the end of the year, but it doesn't mean that I have eschewed traditional publishing.  If the opportunity, I would love to see my work in print, on a page made of paper.

But it's more important to me to get my 'baby' out there, no matter how it's done.  I want other people to read it. 

Because after all, it's the reading, stupid.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Filing the Pieces

Re-writing segments of a book are like taking a large chunk of a puzzle and retooling those pieces in such a way that they make the puzzle even better. . .but still fit the original picture. 

It's not easy.

I'm nearly finished the final edit on the first part of my first book.  I'm excited about the changes; I think they only make the final story tighter and better.  At the same time, I do miss what was cut from the opening chapters.  I like a lot of background when I read or when I write; while I don't think what I took away hurts the story, it wasn't easy to see it go.

Since I am getting closer to my e-pub date, I am also working on book promotion.  My website is up and under construction.  A wonderful and kind writer friend is going to do a cyber promotion tour for me. I'm finalizing the cover design. I am working on blurbs for the press releases.  So much to do!!

It's not unlike the final months of pregnancy (which means I've been expecting for almost three years. . well, that's not unlike my other four pregnancies!!).  While I need to concentrate on the most important thing--finishing the book edit/growing the baby--I also need to have everything ready for the birth and the baby--uh, I mean the book! Instead of setting up the nursery and putting together the stroller, I'm checking out publicity sites and working on promotion.

I can't wait for you all to meet Tasmyn and Michael, and even Nell.  I think you'll enjoy these characters, and I hope you love their story.

Stay tuned for more info in the coming days!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Edit! Oh, please edit!

Last week I reviewed an e-published book.  It was a fairly good story; some of the characters were strong and well-written, and the basic idea was a good one (if not highly original). 

Unfortunately, although the author's notes indicated that she had used an editor, there were piles of grammar and punctuation errors as well as some pretty glaring word usage problems. 

What could have been a decent book fell several notches short of acceptable.  It's always frustrating to see potential that isn't reached, and in this case, it was doubly so as a good proofreading and editing really isn't that difficult to accomplish.

As we venture into the brave new world of e-publishing, there is always going to be a conflict between speed and accessibility versus quality and preparation. 

I'm dealing with that issue right now.  My first book is written, has been completed for several years.  I could easily pop it onto Amazon or Barnes and Noble and get to work on promoting it.  However, in the last few years, I've gotten good advice from agents, editors and other writers about how to make my book even better.  I'm in the midst of implementing all that advice right now, and consequently it's taking some time. 

Am I wasting time in not putting my work out right away?  Some might say yes.  I can't in good conscience justify publishing--even e-publishing--any work that is less than my best.

So yes, I am going to continue working on my book, editing and polishing it.  When it does go before the world, I want it to be at its very best.

It may not be undergoing scrutiny by agents and editors, but I hope it looks as though it could.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

To E-Pub or Not to E-Pub?

If you've been following my blog with any regularity. . well, God bless you, because I've been so erratic in my posts lately. . .but anyway. . .

You'll know that the idea of e-publishing has been in my peripheral for some time now.  I can't think of an aspiring-to-be-published writer who doesn't at least consider the idea, even if he/she won't admit it.  Even those of us who loudly proclaim that WE are going to hold out for the elusive validation of traditional publication have our own dark nights of doubts when we accept that eventually we might have to cave and do it 'that' way.   (NOTE:  When I refer to e-publishing in this blog entry, I mean books that are self-published ONLY in an electronic format.  I don't include books that are available in both traditional format and electronic form.)

Why would a writer want to avoid e-publishing?  Well, here are a few of my own top reservations:

1)  The glut.  Since the advent of what is essentially free e-publishing on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble (among other sites), millions of books have been published that way. Compare that to the very small number of books that are traditionally published each year; the competition in the world of e-books is much fiercer.

2)  The quality.  I have found very few self-published e-books that entice me to read beyond the first few pages.  Whether or not you agree with the agent/editor system in traditional publishing, the evidence in support of their value cannot be denied.  Agents and editors are the gatekeepers of the printed word, and although sometimes I resent their selectiveness, when I read self-published e-books, I have to admit to a certain amount of gratitude for their discernment.  I refer to both quality of writing and plot and to the editing or lack thereof. When anyone can be published, does the value of each book plummet? Possibly.

3)  Publicity and promotion.  I know that the days of the book tour for every author are over.  I know that publishing houses are very chary with their promotion of new authors anymore.  But the idea of being completely responsible for publicizing and promoting my book is a little scary.  I can do it; I know about social media.  Though this is probably the least of my e-pub worries, it's still a concern.

4)  Closing the door.  Agents and editors have been declaring it to the heavens for over a year: don't bother querying a book that has already been e-published.  Therefore, once I e-publish my book, I am effectively deciding that it will never be published in a traditional format.   While I have no delusions of grandeur, making that decision isn't easy and can't be made lightly.  It kind of feels like giving up.  Maybe it's not. . .but I have to make peace with it.

After reading the reasons above, you may be wondering why on earth I would ever WANT to e-publish.  Well, there are some good points.  First of all, I would retain complete creative control of my work.  I would determine the price.  I would have the ability to promote it as much or as little as I wished. I wouldn't have to query an agent and then sell my work to a publishing house before I see it more widely read.  I could possibly gain enough of a following that an agent might be interested in representing my subsequent work.  And I would have the potential of making a little money on this book before I begin collecting Social Security.

I'm not quite there, but I'm almost sold.  I've comforted myself that I do have other books in the works, and just because I 'cave' (sorry, that's still how I see it right now!) on this book doesn't mean traditional publishing is out of the question for those books.

In preparation for taking this step, I'm setting some concrete goals.  I'll be establishing an author page soon (look for the link here).  I'm working on the final editing and re-write of FEARLESS.  And I'm planning to become a more aggressive promoter.

I'm interested; what would YOU do?  

Saturday, July 23, 2011

When or Where?

I have some questions for all of you writers out there. . .don't worry, your answers will remain anonymous!

When do you write?  By asking this question, I'm assuming that like me, you're a part-time writer; you probably have to squeeze in a few pages around a so-called real job or while the kids are napping. Or maybe you get up two hours early every day in order to pound out a chapter. . or you stay up until midnight, sacrificing those precious hours of shut-eye on the alter of your craft.

I am not a morning person.  Most of my books were written in the wee small hours of the morning.  I found that I could actually begin earlier in the evening, sitting with the family and watching a movie or a TV show, laptop on my knees.  I used that time, when there was still commotion and noise, to re-read what I had previously written or edit an earlier chapter. And then once everyone was safely in bed, I could really get into it.

When I went on my writing retreat last summer, I wrote almost around the clock, only taking breaks for stretching, yoga and a few quick jogs to the fridge for whatever might be lurking there. That was very cool and some of my most productive time.

How about where?  Do you have a desk in your room or den where you bring your stories to life?  Do you sit at the kitchen table? Do you write on the train to or from work?

I wrote a good part of my first book in bed.  I love my bed. . .it is without doubt the most comfortable bed I have EVER had in my entire life, and really, I hate to be away from it ever.  So I just propped the laptop on a pillow and away I went. 

When I began writing late at night, I needed different plan; my husband didn't so much care for the tap tap of computer keys when he was trying to sleep.  So I began sitting in my comfy green chair.  It's a recliner that sits in my family room, and it's MY chair.  For a short time before she passed, it was my mom's chair, and so I feel especially close to her there. I would set myself up in the chair during family TV time and just keep on working through the night.

Unfortunately, we made some changes in our living room seating situation, and now MY green chair has been appropriated by anyone who wants a real seat.  (That usually means my husband or my son in law.) I don't begrudge them the seat, but I have been surprised to find that I don't write as well anywhere else.

We'll be moving furniture around shortly, and before long, there will be a sofa for the rest of the populace and I will reclaim my chair. Until then, I am enjoying stolen moments in my recliner after my husband goes to bed!

Does having the right time and right set up affect your writing?  I think it does.  I don't think I write as well when I'm making do.  Things flow at the right time and in the right setting. At least that's how it works for me.

What about you?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The itch is back

I'm hearing the voices again.

No, the insanity isn't back.  I haven't lost my mind or gained an alter personality.  I'm hearing my characters speak again.

It happens at odd times, usually when I'm doing something like drying my hair or putting on makeup.  I hear Tasmyn tell me about something that is happening with her and Michael on their college campus.  She's ready to see her story resume, I guess.

I can't complain.  My fictional friends have been considerately quiet while the wedding mania has been at its height, and while I've had twinges of anxiety about my lack of writing--will I ever write again??--it's been a relief to have one thing off my daily list.

I'm actually pretty excited to report that I'm feeling a little impatient to get back to my story.  I know a little bit of what needs to be told in book 4, and I'm getting glimpses what is going to make book 1 tighter and better.  I just need the time to actually get it onto the computer!

It'll come.  Until then, I just have to ignore the itch a little longer.

Oh, and ask Tasmyn to simmer down for just about another month.