Monthly Archives: July 2012

Starting anew – August Camp NaNo

Many of you are NaNo participants, and some of you are NaNo haters. (I don’t really understand the NaNo animosity, but it’s certainly out there!) So this is for those of you who think NaNo is a heck of a ride, a great way to challenge yourself, and a complete hoot.

Tomorrow is the 2nd and last “camp” session. Camp NaNo is basically a laid-back, small version of THE BIG EVENT, the original NaNoWriMo held each year in November. For example, according to a NaNo email I received yesterday, “During June’s session, 15,307 writers penned novels, with 1,903 of them reaching the 50,000-word goal by month’s end.”  In November, 2011, 256,618 writers participated, with 36,774 “winners” (people who wrote 50,000 words or more). There were another 81,040 young writers in classrooms and online, with 16,334 winners.

Think about that for a minute… Between the November and June events (and not counting Script Frenzy in April), 55,011 people wrote at least 50,000 words on a novel. If we only give them 50,001 words each (I wrote 88,651 and 88,370 respectively), that’s still 2,750,605,011 words – not counting the hundreds of thousands of people who wrote something, even if they didn’t win.

For the NaNo haters, how can that possibly be a bad thing? Sure, a lot of it was crap. My first paintings were crap. My teenage poetry was crap. A lot of my journal entries over the years have been embarrassing crap (fortunately my handwriting is so bad I’m the only one who will ever know it!). But all that writing teaches people how to do it, how to persevere, how to plot, how to solve problems, how to FINISH. And whether or not that particular novel becomes a published work or sits in a bottom drawer somewhere, that has tremendous value.

For me, because this structure perfectly fits my personality (I’ve written about being a project person before), this is when I get my first drafts done. I can do it without an official NaNo event, but the support and forums and regional activity (which leads to after-NaNo friendships) is like having your own cheerleading squad. Because so many summer NaNo participants are young, you get to unofficially mentor young writers. You get to support people who are trying their first novel. You get to hone your own craft by helping others. It’s an awesome experience, actually!

So tomorrow, I start my new novel. I’ve written dystopian before, for my April Script Frenzy, but not together with fantasy. This is “low” fantasy, with some inter-planetary travel, and some “spacial relocation” type stuff (sort of a “beam me up, Scotty” without the sci-fi spaceship elements). Mostly it’s a dystopian thriller. I’m excited to do something new, and since it’s YA, I can write 20,000 fewer words, giving me a little more restful month.

So, my fellow WriMos, it’s the last night before Camp. Eat a good meal, pack your bags, and let’s hit the ground running tomorrow. Participate in your cabins, and on the forums. If you’re experienced, offer your help to the young ones out there. Make a difference in a young writer’s life. And most of all, have fun! See you ’round the campfire!


Filed under NaNoWriMo, Writing

Semantics…Why authors are really small business owners

In my attempt at doing marketing research yesterday, I came across a comment on a blog (unfortunately I didn’t save the link) about self publishing. The commentor, whose only identity was his/her name, which indicated someone in the publishing industry, said not to use the terms “indie author” or “indie publishing” because (paraphrasing, since I didn’t copy it down) “it has a negative connotation in the business.”

Well. Guess that settles it, huh? Um, no.

Here’s the thing… I’m not the only one who has seen, and who predicts, tension between the traditional publishers and the new wave of authors foregoing them and going out on their own. It’s been happening for several years, and, as time goes by, it’s going to continue happening as the traditional publishers figure out if they are going to adapt or die. I don’t say that flippantly – companies like AT&T adapted and thrive. Companies like Circuit City didn’t. We don’t ride around on horses anymore, and I expect a good number of people lost their livelihood in the shift to cars (blacksmiths, feed providors, tack manufacturers, carriage houses). It’s just how things work in a free market economy. Sure, it’s sad to wave goodbye to Kodachrome film or to know there’s no more Saab dealers who can service my car. But companies that survive know they have to change and adapt, or they’ll follow suit.

Not that they don’t fight it… Hence the above mentioned comment. One tactic is always fear – fear of change, fear of rejection, fear of being wrong. So promoters of the old product (in this case publishing) try to scare a fairly easily scared group – artists. It’s hard enough to put yourself and your work out there for others to see and judge (and perhaps find lacking). Keep the rumor going that doing it yourself will make you even more of an outcast, and you can keep a lot of people from publishing and promoting their own work.

Not that you, the publisher, will swoop in and help them out. No, you’ll do what you’ve always done and let many a good, maybe even great, writer pass you by because their work doesn’t fit in a genre, or because they’re not already famous. You’ll continue to give the ones you do choose one sided contracts that make it virtually impossible for them to make a living writing. You will cite the economy and budget cuts and hand the reins of marketing over to introverted writers who know nothing about it, then complain because their books didn’t make back the investment. And then you’ll wonder why you have a bad reputation…

I am not against publishers, contrary to what the above paragraph my indicate. I’m against their traditional business practices, which have been heavily weighted in their favor. And I’m glad that technology has now caught up to the point where writers have an alternative, or a bargaining chip. I’ve always been an outside-the-box person anyway (homeschooling before it was “in,” traveling to Africa for my non-profit with no outside support, fashion, whatever…), so I don’t really care much about labels. But a lot of people do, and a lot of great writers may be afraid to self-publish for fear of tarnishing their future potential, while not ever being picked up by an agent or publisher because of the random and convoluted nature of the querying process.

What I hope, and situations like this contribute to that hope, is that the traditional publishers will adapt to the current market. They will figure out ways to help indie authors, change their contracts to allow for more ownership of the product by the author, perhaps divvy up the rights better so that the author has the right to pursue avenues that the publisher will never pursue but that might be open. John Locke has made a deal with Simon & Schuster to distribute his books. He’s still self-publishing them… but they’re getting them in bookstores. Now that’s creative, adaptive thinking. And it’s a win-win.

So really, it boils down to semantics, your belief in yourself, and your willingness to work hard. I saw but couldn’t click the link on a Twitter post yesterday, unfortunately, because the title was something like “should authors pay to publish”, and I wanted to see what it said (and Twitter is like Pinterest – you’d better click RIGHT THEN or you will never see it again!). My feeling is that, at least these days, being a writer is the same as any other small business owner (and I have a lot of experience as a small business owner!). You don’t start a business without putting in your own money, sweat, time and tears. What makes selling books any different? If you believe in your book(s), sell it like any other product. Don’t sit around and wait for money to come to you – go out and build your business. Work hard. Work smart. Learn by research, trial and error.

I haven’t gotten there yet, but I will. Marketing will be the hardest thing for this introvert… But I’m going to figure it out. And I’ll share it with you, if you promise to work hard and believe in yourself.


Filed under Publishing, Self publishing, Writing

Editing Frenzy… Now what?

This week was, admittedly, a little bit nuts. I finished the first draft of The Hoard of the Doges, the Quinn sequel; got the ebooks up and running on Kindle and Nook; did the first quick edit of The Hoard of the Doges; did the final edit of Undaunted Love; emailed the agent who suggested the romance that it was done; did several hours of plotting for the August Camp NaNo novel (working title is “Where the Ducks Went” but be assured that’s not the title!); and started figuring out about marketing.

I’ve written about my editing process here before, but it seems to be a frequent question, on all forums (and in person), so I thought I’d share it briefly again. Keeping in mind that, for whatever reason, I write very clean first drafts, here’s what I do:

*  Print it out. There is something really satisfying about a couple hundred sheets of paper, filled with words that your wrote.

*  Quick edit. This is my first run through, as I do zero editing during the writing phase. Zero. My inner editor is on vacation. This edit is for typos, name changes (I always have at least one secondary character whose name has changed mysteriously during the writing process), and anything obviously flawed. What I am not doing is checking for grammar, sentence structure, perfect word placement, etc.

*  Beta readers. I have a few people who are always my go-to’s, but if I’m writing in a new genre, I get more. For Undaunted Love, my foray into Christian historical romance, I asked a dozen people to read it. All they are reading for is the big stuff: characters, dialogue, plot, believability, etc. NO small stuff.

*  Word-by-word edit. Now we come to the big edit, first on paper. This is where I take (or don’t) suggestions by beta readers (my rule of thumb is that at least 30% need to comment on the same thing before I make a change, although I consider all the comments and decide for myself if I agree). I read for word placement. I do spellcheck. I fix grammar. I change the formatting if necessary (for instance, there are a lot of letters, and one song, in Undaunted Love, and it took me awhile to decide how to structure those from a formatting standpoint). I add chapter numbers (not always successfully, unfortunately!). In short, I am thorough.

*  Make all the above changes in the document. Sometimes I decide, reading it on the computer, that I like the original better. Sometimes I change it differently than I changed it on the printed manuscript. Basically, I’m trying to re-re-read, and polish it up.

And that’s it. That’s my editing. The writing takes me 3-4 weeks (usually), and the editing process, from first edit to betas to final, between 4-6 more. Most of that depends on how long I give the beta readers to get back to me – and I tell them up front what that deadline will be, and don’t bug them. Out of the 12 betas for Undaunted Love, I got detailed feedback from half, spotty from a couple, and nothing from the rest. And that’s OK – your betas are doing you a HUGE favor, for free… They have lives, and things happen! Ask enough that, if you only get 50% response, that’s workable.

So now what? My goal was to get Undaunted Love finished and the agent contacted by the end of the weekend. I was on a roll yesterday, though, and pushed through, so now I have two days. The August Camp NaNo doesn’t start until Wednesday, and I’m mostly done with plotting, just need to do some research on EMPs, the Enigma machine, non-viral WMDs, and some geography.

My thought is, marketing.  I know, it’s a bad thought. At least for non-marketing professionals like myself. But, other than word of mouth, an author has to do it (even if you’re published by a traditional publisher, anymore you have to do it). I’ve saved a lot of links in a folder, so I think this weekend is the time I get those out, see what I need to do next, and start tooting my own horn… Not my strong suit, by any means, but I believe in Solomon’s Throne, and the Quinn series, and I really think you’d like it. And your friends. And your neighbors. I just have to figure out a way to convince you of that, too! Hence my crash course in marketing.

Trust me, I’ll keep you posted!

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Filed under NaNoWriMo, Publishing, Self publishing, Writing

One Lovely Blog award

I have been given the “One Lovely Blog” award by Brautigan’s Girl. This is pretty awesome, especially as this blog is new, and I get so busy I neglect it. A HUGE thank you for thinking my blog is worth reading, and for your lovely comments. I am truly honored that you would think of me for this!

It looks like I’m supposed to post 7 interesting things about myself, and then pass on the award to blogs I enjoy. So here goes…

1.  I’m a 5th generation Floridian. There aren’t many who can say that!

2. I have been inside the Great Pyramid in Giza, Egypt.

3. I recently went white water rafting on the Nile.

4. I listen almost exclusively to books on tape (OK, on iPod) when I’m driving.

5. I have trained 3 kids to drive, plus 2 cousins when I was younger. I think that’s enough!

6. I’ve journaled 99% of days in the last twenty years. I have shelves of journals!

7. If I could, I’d live on a boat in St. Thomas.

Not sure those are all that interesting… but they’re random facts, of which I am a fan!

Blogs that deserve the One Lovely Blog award:

Texanas Kitchen – Anybody who has a blog post called “How to Eat Ice Cream with your Whole Body” is my kind of gal!

The Brown Eyed Baker – She makes cupcakes, with BEER. ‘Nuff said.

Sarah Herbert’s blog – this is a young friend of mine, and my daughter’s long time boyfriend’s sister (got that?!). She’s been through quite a journey since graduating from college a couple of years ago, and she’s doing great!

Thanks, everyone, for your support. It’s been a great summer!

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Busy busy busy all the time…

The recent 106 degree temperatures were a dead giveaway that it’s summer, and, as a 12 year homeschooling veteran, I take summer seriously. I am as ready for summer as my kids have always been, and we take a long one – this year my son (my only remaining child at home!) was done around April 26, and will not be back in full swing until after Labor Day. And yet, it’s already July 24! How did this happen??

In April I wrote a screenplay for Script Frenzy, and edited it, before the end of the month.

In May, we were in Uganda for 3 weeks (go here to see why), and while we were there I did a ton of Civil War research, which included reading actual diaries of young women from both the Confederate and Union sides. I researched battles, the way the military was set up, how they came to war… (Here’s my secret feeling on research: when I’m in the middle of writing and I do it, I think it’s pretty fun. When I am doing nothing but research, it makes me want to take a nap.)

In June I did Camp NaNo and wrote the Civil War romance, on which I am now doing the final edit before sending to the agent who suggested it. That was 88,370 words.

In July, I finished the sequel to Solomon’s Throne, called The Hoard of the Doges (about 84k words). I did a quick first edit on that yesterday. (Editing cramps my eyeballs…)

In July, my first novel, Solomon’s Throne, was published as well, and that involved a lot of work with Streetlight Graphics, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, VistaPrint (I had postcards made), and OvernightPrints (bookmarks). Initial response has been great, and I’m hoping the people who bought the books last week and over the weekend will start getting reviews up soon.

August 1 I will start August Camp NaNo, and I’ve been noodling through that storyline over the last week or so. As I’ve posted before, it will be a YA dystopian fantasy thing… I will also start work with Streetlight Graphics the week of August 27 to publish The Hoard of the Doges.

Additionally, my son will start a couple of co-op classes that week, will have his 16th birthday during the month, and is in full swing with football. And my daughter will go back to college for her senior year. And my husband is publishing his first book. And I might have laser eye surgery.

September… I think I’ll rest!


Filed under Publishing, Script Frenzy, Self publishing, Writing