Category Archives: Lessons Learned
Being a writer is not an easy way of life. Some people seem to think it is. They think we all sit around in our pajamas all day, sipping wine or a spirit of choice, tapping away at a keyboard and then playing games most of the time. Then we miraculously sell a book, make millions, and live on easy street while we play with our stories.
Oh how I wish it worked this way! I would be living the high life by now if it did. But, the reality is far different from what you see in the movies. In fact, the only reason that people take it on is because they love to do it or they have an idea that they just can’t let go of. For me, it is a bit of both. I have plenty of ideas that I want to put into words but, I love what I do. Like all writers, I want to do it full time.
There are things that I have to consider though. I have bills and a child to think about. While I want to write full time, that can’t happen without people buying my books and supporting what I do. It takes a great deal of time to produce a book. Then it takes even more time to publicize and promote a book once it is in print.
For me, there are challenges right now that I’m not used to facing. The fact that I have a child in the house full-time is new to me. It is a wonderful thing but juggling the kiddo and the writing is a big challenge for me. While I’m arguing to get her to finish her handwriting practice or reading a simple book my attention is wholly focused on her and getting that done so that she learns. As a mom I am responsible for her learning and understanding what she’s being taught. I take that seriously. But the moment the schoolwork is done there is the constant chirping of:
“Momma can I have a drink?”
“Momma what are we going to have for supper?”
“Momma what is that smell?”
“Can I watch a movie?”
“When will Daddy be home?”
“Can I go outside and play?”
“Watch this Momma!”
“Look at me Momma!”
So, it is a constant juggling act. My attention is rarely focused on the writing when I am working on it. I’m always listening for the silence and having to get up to see what she is into, when I send her to her room to play.
Charles did set up the desk at the window so that I could watch her and work at the same time. Where it is sitting I can see the majority of the yard. I only let her go out when there are other kids out there. Then there is the fact that we managed to get a TV and DVD player in her room. So, now, instead of having to write with Oliver and Company or the Care Bear Movie in the background, she can watch them in her room instead.
This whole process has been a learning curve for me. Trying to get keep it all in check, learn how to work with people around more often, and manage a household while trying to write is a challenge and a half. It is one that I welcome though. In fact, I wouldn’t have my life any other way right now.
Then there are the challenges that all writers face. The midnight oil burning as you pour over the manuscript wondering if you’ll ever be satisfied enough with it to call it finished. The agonizing over a pivotal scene and details like; whether or not the hero should have worn white or burnt orange as he slays the villain. The plot twists to add to the story come to mind. Did you put enough description into the prose? What statement about social issues are you presenting and will some humanities professor tear it apart and call you insane like they did Van Gogh.
We can’t forget the question of how to get the book into the hands of readers. Decisions about whether to hire an agent or not, traditional or indie publishing, and of course how are you going to market and get the book into the hands of readers all come to mind. You see, so much about writing isn’t really about the writing. Now it isn’t enough to simply write stories that fascinate people. You have to be fascinating yourself and wear a multitude of hats in order to put your work out there and get noticed.
It is all one big challenge after another really.
For me, I’m trying new ways to reach an audience. I’m attempting to narrow down who I am writing for. I’m looking into the options of crowdfunding the sequel to The Secret of the Storm and I’m trying to engage my audience using Facebook. And now I’m in the process of starting to set up a local area book tour. That will enable me to get out and meet the people who are making it possible for me to follow a dream and help support the family while staying home to be a mom and teacher to this little girl.
For everyone reading who has a creative person in their life: just remember that they need a little room to do their thing. I’m one of the lucky ones. Charles understands my need to work like I do. He’s a huge supporter of my work and what I do. In July there will be big changes for me in the writing field. I’m hoping to be able to announce a release date by the end of the month on The Fallen One. And I’m looking forward to promoting The Secret of the Storm locally as well. If you haven’t picked up your copy in print or for Kindle you can do so here.
Just remember folks, when you support an independent author, artist, or even a local business you aren’t padding the pockets of executives. You’re helping people stay in their homes, feed their kids, buy that jersey for a sport or leotards for dance classes etc. You’re helping to make lives better and giving back to your community to those who are giving what they know how to give to the world.
My post about the Kickstarter fiasco last night. You know, the one where the douchebag was trying to produce a how-to guide on “getting women” that was more a guide on how to on sexual assault. The petition was met with some resistance initially. In fact, it seemed that Kickstarter was just ignoring the 60,000+ people who were against the funding of this project. However, as a signer of the petition I got an email from dosomething.org last night stating that “We Won”.
Kickstarter issued a formal statement of apology. You can view it here: Kickstater Apology . They donated $25,000.00 to RAINN, which is commendable considering that they gave Mr. Hoinsky the $16,000.00 + that was donated to his project. Apparently Mr. Hoinsky has agreed to meet with petition organizers though, what good that will do, I’m not entirely sure. I find it difficult to think that such a person can turn this into a positive project if he continues to produce what his examples exhibited.
I did a great deal of thinking and talking about this issue. My fiance and I actually discussed the whole situation at length and I realized a few things.
Yes, I was angry with Kickstarter for even allowing such a project to go onto the site and be presented to the public. I mean this, for me, is not considered a creative project. The project was not presented as satirical. Frankly, even if it had been presented as a comedic piece, I still would have found it offensive and in bad taste. However, if it had been presented as such, I could have justified it’s inclusion as a creative work. But the bottom line is that the examples submitted were nothing short of promoting sexual violence. I understand the reasons that Kickstarter hesitated and then funded the project. As a creator, if my project had funded, I would have expected to receive the funds as well. They wanted to fulfill their end of the bargain. Fact is, the process is so automated that by the time they acted, it was too late to stop the transfer of funds.
I get it. Really, I do. It still seems like too little too late.
There was no reason, given the severity of the allegations against this project, that it could not be suspended pending an investigation into the project and its compliance with the terms of service. As a creator, yes, it would have been an inconvenience to not receive the funds immediately. The fact is, if my project was on the level I know I would have received my funds once their inquiries were concluded. The fact that Kickstarter failed to act at all is my complaint.
After all the discussion – especially with Charles – I realized that while I was upset with Kickstarter, I was more upset with the fact that there were people out there willing to promote and support such an endeavor at all.
We’re living in the year 2013. I had hoped that, by and large, we had evolved beyond thinking that one sex or the other is there to be objectified. That we would somehow find a way to get past the nonsense that says women are there simply to fulfill some sort of physical need. That we can find a way to respect one another and live with a certain amount of respect for our fellow human beings.
Then, I remembered that every time you turn on the television, watch the news, or read online or in print you see story after story about people being abducted, raped, beaten, murdered, and tortured. If it isn’t here in the USA, its somewhere else. That, is what is really disheartening for me. That we can’t just live and let live. We can’t seem to get past our propensity to hurt one another. That there are handbooks on how to do these things and then, there are people out there, like Mr. Hoinsky, who are more than happy to put the ideas in people’s heads to do nothing more than harm others.
Yes, it is just sad to me that we can’t seem to get beyond it all.
Sometimes, even writers, have to contemplate something other than writing and story lines. Every life is its own story. In fact, it is in living your own life to the fullest that you’ll find the greatest story you’ve ever read or, in my case, written. But, you have to truly live in it and accept it to see the gem of a tale that it is. I spent a lot of time in my life not accepting who I was and it caused me a lot of heartache, confusion, and ultimately taught me a good many lessons about myself and where I belong in the world.
I spent a lot of time trying to be something I wasn’t. I mentioned it before but, it warrants repeating. I tried to confine myself to labels that weren’t even remotely a good fit for my personality, beliefs, or goals in life. I explored, yes. In my exploration I was enthusiastic and wanted very much to understand. This often led people to think that I was a perfect fit in their world. For me these experiences were part of my life and part of my research for stories that I felt I needed to write. There are experiences that will turn into books as time goes on for me.
Just as everything that happens to you serve as a lesson, so too do the people who come in an out of your life. I’ve had many of these people in my time. I will never doubt their sincerity or their acceptance of who I was at that point in my life but, the fact remains, I am no longer the person that I was when they were there. I changed and so did they. And though I may wish them the best as they move forward in the adventure before them, I know I cannot be a part of that leg of their journey. So, you let go and you move on. It really is all that you can do.
Letting go is hard. It causes pain because you lose a part of yourself when you do it. Doors close and another opens for you to walk through. In fact, I think that life is a lot like these “pick your own adventure” books that I used to love as a kid. You come to the end of a scene and you’re faced with a decision about what path to take. If “A” happens, turn to page 45. If “B” happens next then go to page 94. If “C” happens turn to page 59. We chose a path, the other doors close and we move on to the next chapter. In life there are no do-overs or going back to make another decision based on knowing the outcome. You have to learn from the experiences and push forward and make the better decision next time. That means looking at where you were, what happened, and how you reacted to it first.
There was all sorts of hype about the year 2012. It was supposed to be this turbulent time of global disasters and upheaval. My ex-husband was obsessed with all of the end-of-the-world scenarios and it was practically the only thing he ever really spoke about with any degree of passion or intelligence. So I had a healthy dose of all the focus on the dark side of that. And 2012 was indeed a year of upheaval and destruction for me. But it was also a year of rebirth, growth, and acceptance.
I can almost pinpoint the day I knew that my relationship was over with my ex-husband. It was long before the final straw that had me moving out and the truth is, I likely should have left him long before I did. Though letting go and moving on from that was painful, there was something better waiting on the other side of it all. Yes, I grieved. But, I also picked myself up, remembered who I was before he came into my life, and I went on.
Picking up the pieces of my life wasn’t easy. I had to make some hard decisions and come to some tough realizations. It is true what they say, it is in your darkest hours that you’ll know who your true friends are. In that lowest point, I found out that people I’d once considered to be like family to me were nowhere to be found. But, I also found that the voids get filled somehow and you just press on.
The more of the baggage I lose, the more amazing things start happening. The book started flowing again. Ideas for marketing started to come. Ways to make things happen for myself became clear and doors began to open. My personal life took a dramatic turn and now, I find that I look forward to every day. Some of those days I’m working at a day job. Other days, I’m writing and marketing my book or spending time with family and friends. But, for the first time in a long time, I am the one calling the shots. Sometimes I still feel like I am floundering but overall I know that I’m putting emphasis on the right things for a change. My family, my faith, and my writing.
I can tell you that I won’t be relinquishing control over my life again any time soon. Of course, I find that my life isn’t filled with people putting expectations on me that I don’t have for myself. I am surrounding myself with people who build up my creative side, encourage me to follow my gut, and accept me and love me for who and what I am instead of what I might be or can be. That, dear readers, is really the best part of life; finding those people and enjoying the time that you’re given. Life is too short to be full of depressing thoughts, what-ifs, and people who only hold you down or degrade you.
You know, I’ve been blessed. Especially with everything that has happened in my life in the last year I am incredibly blessed with a fantastic support system now. And that’s a big thing for an artist. We all need a little bit of support once in a while. And I learned to surround myself with people who build me up and encourage my dreams rather than pull me down. It was a hard lesson, believe me.
It takes a special sort of person to be married to a serious writer. You see, there are different sorts of writers. There are the type who write in journals and keep blogs that are primarily for themselves. There are the sort that write strictly for the gratification of knowing that they can. There are others who write for the social interaction. And yes, I do know that is contrary to everything that Hollywood has put out about the writers. Then there are the type, like me, who actually write to put our work out for the public to read. We’re an odd lot that take a lot of time to ourselves and sometimes seem a bit aloof. Even when we’re spending time with the family we’re usually off in our heads thinking about plots and characters. Then there is the obsession with actually getting things out into print and marketing what work you do put out. So, no it isn’t easy for many people to deal with dedicated writers. My ex-husband certainly had a hard time with it. So much so that he was engaged to another woman before ever letting me know that there were even problems with our relationship.
Not going to lie, I was devastated when that marriage came to an end. More because I was blind-sided by all that happened than it actually being over. The being alone, I could deal with. The feeling like I wasn’t good enough for anyone was another matter entirely. My esteem sunk to an all time low. I didn’t understand how it could have happened or why. I’d put everything I could into that relationship for six years. And you can bet that there is a short story going to come out of what happened. But what came out of that experience was nothing short of amazing.
I realized very quickly who was going to be there for me. Who would help me pick up the pieces of my life and myself and come back from it stronger than ever. I learned who supported my efforts as an author and who just wanted to go along for the ride while I worked my butt off. And I definitely learned that if I did get into another relationship, I needed to find someone who genuinely shared my interests, got my quirky habits, and loved me either because of them or despite them. They needed to be able to spend time alone and not need for me to be hanging on their every movement and word. I needed that person to be interested and believe in what I was doing the same way my family did.
Honestly, I didn’t think I would fall in love again. I think part of me didn’t want to. God had other plans though because I only wanted to meet some friends and get a social life back. Putting up a profile on a dating site seemed to be a logical step since I had no car, no home, and no money. Meeting people was going to be tricky and I really didn’t want to start the bar scene again. I’d had enough of that in my 20’s. Then there was a message and a profile that I couldn’t ignore.
Yes, it was my now fiance.
We had so much in common. Our lists of interests only varied by a few things which were so superficial that it was just funny. We actually argued about reasons for being on there and talking to people at first. Once we got past that small argument, and started really talking, we both wanted to meet. We were so close in location that I finally talked my mom into dropping me off at the local McDonalds to have coffee with him. I expected an hour or two of conversation what happened was completely different.
First of all, when he got my attention and I looked up from my notebook, I was just sort of struck. Here was this really good looking guy who was apparently there to see me. I instantly became self-conscious because, well, you know, hot guys aren’t supposed to fall for the fat chick. It’s some sort of social faux-pas after all. I’d seen pictures of him and thought he was good looking but they really don’t do him justice. Or maybe they do and its just a chemistry thing. The fact that he met my mother and I sent her on another errand so we could continue talking was an indication of how well we hit it off.
We started dating in December and while we both had other obligations with family we really haven’t looked back. The more time we spent together, the more we opened up and the more we realized that we wanted to build a life together. So when he actually proposed on Mother’s Day I was super excited to say yes.
He is definitely a different sort of man than I am accustomed to. He’s a man of principle and who respects women. He’s sensitive to the needs of others and a man of faith. He enjoys time with family and appreciates what he has more than he pines for what he doesn’t. He’s an optimist, loves to work with his hands, enjoys being outdoors and spending quality time together with me and his daughter. He’s interested in what I do, wants to read my work, and is actually willing and able to bounce ideas with me. Mostly he lets me talk things out when I’m stuck for which direction to go.
Maybe most importantly, he makes sure I work on the writing and have time to do what I need to do. Yet, he somehow knows when I need a break or a laugh and will distract me with corny jokes or cheesy music or videos. It amazes me how in-sync we seem to be most of the time. Oh! And he makes the best sweet tea in the world and keeps me in a glass when I’m working. Honestly, its mostly the little things folks.
So, yes, I am incredibly blessed. I have family who has always stuck by me, even when I may not have wanted them to. I have an amazing partner in life now who gets me, loves me, and enhances my life rather than drag me down. In the midst of this, I’ve managed to get two pretty awesome girls in my life too. One may be the best thing to come out of my previous marriage and I’m pretty sure that she was the primary reason for me being in that situation. The other is a bundle of energy and curiosity that inspires me to continue working like I do. But yes, I’m blessed and I wake up thanking God every morning for another day I get to appreciate all those little things that really and truly are just the biggest things in life.
The decision to go into independent publishing is not one to be taken lightly. There are many reasons that any writer might choose to take on the role of their own publisher. There are also many reasons to go with traditional publishing. Each route has their own set of perks and pitfalls to overcome. So, regardless of my own decision or what arguments for going it alone I may make in this blog, I wholly advocate doing your own research on both methods before making that decision for yourself. My purpose with this post is not to advocate for or against indie-publishing. Instead I want to explain why I came to the conclusion that this was the best option for my personal plans.
I think every writer starts out with dreams of the big publishing deal at a traditional house. I know that I did. I spent years prepping query letters and submission packages, sending them off, and waiting what seemed like months for rejection letters to come. At first they were just form letters stating that my work wasn’t accepted. Then I started to get letters that wanted to see more of the work for review. When I sent it some would say that it wasn’t a good fit for them, others would tell me that their client roster was too full to accept another work of this sort or that. For me, it all seemed futile after a while. I knew that I had a story that people would respond to. I also knew that a big house putting money into someone with no track record for marketing purposes was going to be little more than a drop in the bucket if anything. So, ultimately, I was going to have to look at other options. I had to prove myself before a major house was going to accept me and put anything into building my career.
So, I started looking into the independent publishing movement. There was more to it than I originally thought. There were things like editing, formatting, and cover design to consider. Then there was the cost of getting the books to readers and ultimately how to market the book so that people would know about it. So, yes there was a lot of work involved and a lot of cost.
Then I started looking at what cut of the book I would actually make. With publishers it was pennies per book sold. Doing it myself, I retained a much bigger portion of the profits. Add to that the fact that I kept creative control over the cover, the title, and the rights to the work and I had my facts.
Yes, lots of work. Yes, there is some cost involved. But ultimately, the whole experience would give me a much better one on one with my readership as it grew and I would be able to give the readers more of what they wanted if I had that sort of control. And ultimately that’s what I wanted to do.
So after months of consideration and a few further failed attempts to submit, I decided that I would be an independent author and work on actually reaching my audience more than I would worry about reaching a publisher.
Honestly, the digital age has been a friend to writers and artists in general. Unlike in the past, the internet allows us to reach a variety of people and in ways that are far easier than mediums in the past. With email and blogs it has become easier to reach readers and make connections. While it is not an instant process, it can be done with a bit of effort and research. Since I was willing to put forth the effort, I really feel that independent authorship was for me.
I am going to start compiling the resources that I’ve used over the years. My aim is to make some posts, once a week, about writing and publishing and then compile the links and resources under a section of the blog so that other aspiring authors can have access to them.
The one thing that people ask all writers, it seems, is if they have advice for other aspiring authors. My advice is very simple. Write. Don’t get caught up in the whole publishing game until you’re ready to actually publish something. Otherwise, you’ll make yourself crazy trying to sort of what you should write and should avoid based on a company’s guidelines that may never accept your work to begin with. So, write the stories you know you have to tell. Write for yourself and for the people who may read your work instead of some corporate CEO. You’ll be happier for doing so in the long-run.
When I’m writing, I start out as something known as a “pantser”. That is, I sit down for a number of days and just write. It can be anything from scenes to character sketches to outlining notes. Considering that I typically am working on multiple projects, I’ve found that this can become quite confusing. Now that I am starting to add elements to my life that include family outings, dates, marketing, and a day job… let’s just say my paper trail is so confusing that I don’t think a mouse could chew it’s way through it and make sense of even a little bit of it. So, it is time for me to get organized.
I’m off today to pick up some much needed supplies to get my writing in order. I need folders and a file box of some sort since the file drawer on my desk isn’t in any sort of working order at the moment. (When I moved out of my ex-husband’s apartment my desk got torn apart and the drawer hasn’t worked right since.) So, that’s part of my agenda. Funny thing is that I hardly work at my desk these days. I’m usually at a kitchen table or sitting on my boyfriend’s bed working. But, that’s no reason to not be organized about it.
I’ve gone back to the old habit of carrying a back pack. It keeps my laptop with me at all times and allows me to have my binder and notebook handy as well. I don’t see this as a bad thing but, I also plan to switch to an attache or messenger bag instead. Backpacks are a little young. I’ve also had to go back to another habit I had when I was in school. That is; living by my personal planner. Scheduling is becoming a huge thing for me.
Of course, I make time for family and the boyfriend and kid. However, I noticed that keeping track of things with work and now trying to book marketing events and appointments is impossible to keep all in my head. Until I get a tablet device my little binder dayplanner is going to be my best friend. I do plan to bring it into the 21st century though and use Google Calendar as well. Trying to keep both updated with deadlines, appointments, and what’s happening will help.
I think that this last year has been a defining one for me. 2013 is certainly a year of big change. Adding this pen name, getting out of bad relationship, starting a new and amazing one… it only stands to reason that my writing career is going to follow suit. I have such an awesome support system locally. I’m trying to branch out and pull together online community as well. Doing that is going to be the tricky part. I’ve never been that successful at it in the past but, I’ve never been able to focus on things being good like they are now.
Its Friday folks! I get to do a couple of awesome things that I’ve been looking forward to all week. First of all, I get to go and see my boyfriend and the kiddo that I’ve not seen all week. I promised a six year old that I would be there when she got home from school after talking to her last night and hearing her say how much she loved and missed me. I also promised the boyfriend that I would be there today as well. He just doesn’t realize that he’s going with me to get some supplies at WalMart yet. He’s about to find out.
Enjoy your weekend everyone. I know I will. I’m about to get it all together finally and that feels amazing.
I’ve been virtually pulling my hair out for two weeks after a technical mishap with my current work in progress (WIP). I’ve been working on this series idea for years. It is complex, will be five books long (as it is currently planned)and has caused me many sleepless nights trying fix plot elements and character flaws and researching various elements for the story. I already have months worth of time invested in this project. So you can imagine my absolute panic when 15,000 words just disappeared from the manuscript.
I use Scrivener for writing. I compose practically every piece of writing using this interface because it is vastly more reliable than any other word processor I’ve used in the past. The major features are incredible and I may discuss them in detail later however, the feature that is most relevant to this situation is that Scrivener actually saves if you stop typing for two seconds. It is an automatic thing that happens when your fingers stop moving across the keys. It has saved me a lot of hassle. When you close the program at the end of your session or day, it creates a back up, which I typically email to myself and then back up onto an external drive on a regular basis for safe keeping. So, that this large of a chunk was missing absolutely baffled me.
It isn’t as though I haven’t lost manuscripts in the past. Every writer has. Whether it is misplacing handwritten pages in notebooks or losing a flash drive, or an email lost in cyberspace, it happens to the best of us. What was strange about my experience is that it wasn’t just the last 15,000 words that I’d typed that were missing. Chunks were gone from various scenes in odd places. But mostly what was gone were the parts that I’d found the most challenging to write.
This project has some very profound thematic elements that are deeply rooted in Christianity. I suppose I can admit that I feel a sort of divine inspiration through this series and for the most part, it has just flowed. That the words are gone is a bummer but, I’m trying to take it in stride. In fact, I’ve sort of taken on the idea that the way it was written just wasn’t how it was meant to be. I’ve gone back to the drawing board with the missing parts and have tried to sort out the continuity issues with what was missing. Ultimately there isn’t much I can do besides plug on.
I’m not sure that there is really a lesson in all of this. I back my work up regularly to avoid these mishaps. Perhaps the lesson is that sometimes things really are just out of our control.
Tomorrow is the Big Game Day. I was invited for the day to spend time with some dear friends and my boyfriend. I think I need a day off from it actually; just to recharge a bit and get my bearings again. I’ll be talking shop helping a friend set up a blog of her own and likely looking over a story for another friend but, I don’t mind talking shop and helping people out when I can. The guys may likely be engrossed in the game. While I am not necessarily a football fan, I’ll be enjoying the company and laughing all the same.