Tag Archives: writing

And Another Year Approaches!

This year has not been a writing year for me. I had planned to write at least one novel and one nonfiction book, but… well, let’s just say that it’s the end of November and I didn’t do it. I haven’t done a ton of marketing, either, although my sales have stayed reasonably consistent. Which tells me something about how much money I’ve spent on marketing prior to 2014, which is another post!

So what happened?

I think a few things:

I got burned out. I wrote 7 novels and a nonfic in 2 years (less, really). Plus edited, produced, published and marketed them. It was awesome and fun and fulfilling while I was doing it, but I think it was more mentally exhausting than I realized. Every time I’ve tried to start back in 2014, I just can’t get the juices flowing. So for the rest of 2014, I’m not going to worry about it. But in 2015….

gonecrazy_backsoon

We moved, downsized and empty nested. As everybody knows, moving sucks. I was trying to think of some wonderful synonym, but honestly, it just sucks. That was in January, after which this area where it *never* snows had 3 huge storms where we were snowed in. My husband wasn’t able to move until the end of March. My son, who was taking a gap year, left for over a month to visit family. Spring was late and wet, and I put in a huge (40×30′) garden. Summer was late and wet. I worked part time at a summer camp because…. I’m not really sure why, except that it seemed like a fun idea. My son, our youngest, left for college. I spent almost a month in Uganda. And now it’s almost Thanksgiving. Surprise! Basically, the year has been full of new, hard but mostly good things that took a lot of energy.

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I started a new business. Funding for nonprofits has been down across the board in recent years, including mine. We’ve started a new socially conscious, fair trade business in hopes of funding it a different way – think of a Toms sort of model. But it’s taken a lot of effort, including an Indiegogo campaign, product design, and a LONG trip to Uganda to set up women’s co-ops. It’s up and running as of this week, though – check it out!

Ndoto-Collection-final

So that’s next?

Well, I’d like to write more screenplays. That’s actually what I’m best at, although it’s pretty hard to break into that world. But… why not try, right?

I’m aiming for at least one novel and one nonfiction in 2015. That’s very doable! If I say more… Well, better to under-promise and over-deliver, right?

Grow the Ndoto Collection and the non-profit. Continue to search out funding sources/opportunities. Travel to Uganda.

Live. Let’s make 2015 great!

adventure

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Your Inner Editor

One of my most popular posts – the inner editor can ruin your chances of winning NaNoWriMo if you’re not careful! From October, 2012.

I just put “inner editor” into my Bing search bar. This is what I got: 43,600,000 results. Google, not to be outdone, has “about” 84,800,000 results. I find that astonishing! Of course, go to the NaNoWriMo website and forums and you’ll see lots about that most wicked of unwanted visitors. But people are still looking — obviously.  So what to do?
The inner editor is a demon of epic proportions that’s got to be at least as scary as a balrog.

Like a balrog (my own balrog experience being limited to The Lord of the Rings), it’s the bane of writers everywhere. In fact, it’s so scary that many would-be writers never venture forth into writer-land, afraid that the flaming whip is going to come out of the dark recesses of their mind and snatch them right off their feet. Many who start writing aren’t able to stand up to the balrog like Gandalf, uttering my favorite line of the whole book/movie: YOU. SHALL NOT. PASS. Many, if not most, don’t think they have that power.

Let me assure you, friends, that you do. You, too, can stand on that rickety writing bridge, turn to face the demonic inner editor, and throw down the gauntlet. You, too, can look that flaming freakazoid in the fiery eyeballs and refuse to back down. You, too, can claim your territory, can draw a line in the sand, can put a stop to the tyranny by saying “I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS!”

Who is this inner editor anyway? Well, like the balrog, he or she lives down in the dark recesses of your mind. Usually, it’s content with scathing remarks when you’re standing in front of the mirror or when you say something you’re not sure if you regret. But get out the pen and paper, or computer, or paintbrush and paint, and its true nature comes swelling into life. It says:

  • How dare you think you have anything to say to the world?
  • How dare you presume to write 50,000 or 100,000 words on paper and expect anyone to read it?
  • Who told you that you could write?
  • Who told you that you could do anything at all unique, interesting or good?
  • Who do you think you are????

If you forge ahead anyway, the inner editor goes from vastly exaggerated statements of your measly self-worth to minutia in an instant.

  • Your grammar sucks.
  • That sentence sucks.
  • Why would you choose that word?
  • This is crap.
  • Those people are one dimensional, unbelievable, and stupid.
  • You are one dimensional, unbelievable and stupid!
  • This whole thing is stupid. Let’s just order pizza and watch a movie.

And if you don’t turn, at some point in this whole process, and say it — say “You shall not pass!” right then and there — you will quit. You will close your laptop or cap your pen, wander off to the tv, and quit. And the balrog… uh, inner editor… will smirk and smile and leave you alone for awhile, so you have peace and forget about that stupid writing thing.

Well. Are you going to give up that easily? I’ve given you tips before for outsmarting the inner editor, and you can read those here. But I was struck by the fact that, really, the inner editor can only be stopped by taking a stand. Sure, you can trick it. You can use my tips and get your 50,000 words for NaNo, and that would be a great accomplishment. But what happens if, like 10-20% of us doing NaNo (totally made up that estimate, to be honest) you really want to try to do something with the book? That will require finishing it, and editing it, and the inner editor will get louder and louder. And you have to shut it up, or your novel will be one of millions in drawers, old hard drives and dusty boxes the world over.

It IS necessary to be honest with ourselves about our writing. It IS necessary to get beta readers who will be honest with us about our writing. It IS necessary to edit and edit and edit, and try to make it the very best it can be. But if you don’t believe in yourself and your writing, if you won’t take a stand for it against the inner editor/balrog, you will be stuck in the two blue squares above. Humility is one thing. False humility is another. Your balrog isn’t a pet… It’s an enemy. One only you can fight. Will you stand up for yourself and your vision and take a stand?

(We’re now required to put in this disclaimer for anything containing ‘NaNoWriMo’ or ‘National Novel Writing Month’:  “This is not an official NaNoWriMo site, and the content has not been reviewed by National Novel Writing Month. For more information on National Novel Writing Month, visit http://www.nanowrimo.org.”)

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Can you please everybody with your writing?

the worst thing you write

Hopefully, you answered the question with a resounding “NO!” But some of you said, “I sure hope so,” or “I’m trying!” This, my friends, is a recipe for disaster. Let me tell you why.

If you go to the reviews of any of my books on Amazon, you will quickly realize that the same thing that one reviewer loves, another hates. While these aren’t direct quotes from the reviews, you’ll see things like, “The beginning just sucked me in from the first page,” followed by “It took awhile to get into.” One reviewer will comment on how great the dialogue was. Another will say there wasn’t enough and they couldn’t tell who was talking. A third will say there was too much dialogue. On the characters, you’ll read everything from “totally believable!” to “I don’t think kids would act this way” or “the husband and wife seemed to have a weird relationship.”

What’s up with that? Don’t I get discouraged?

Well, honestly, no. I don’t get discouraged. Because I am a reader, I completely understand that not all books are for everyone. There are books that people swear are the best things ever written and I literally despise them. Some of the books I love meet no technical requirements for a good book. Many technically great books are awful (in my opinion!). Why would I think that my books are any different? Hopefully some people will love them. Certainly many people will both like and not like them. It can be hoped that not too many will despise them, but it’s likely that some will.

An honest review is a great thing for a writer, whether you like their work or not. An honest review isn’t like a lot of the “troll” one-star reviews out there, clearly written by people who’ve never read the book, or who even say, “I only read the first chapter, but…” and go on to slam the book. An honest review is, well, honest. What you liked. What you didn’t like. What worked for you and what didn’t. Those are the reviews that are constructive for the writer and the potential reader alike.

For a writer, reviews can be a kind of mass beta reading. You aren’t going to go back and revise that particular book, most likely, but if there are things that resonate, or if many people have an issue with the same thing, it is helpful as a teaching tool for future books. For the potential reader, reading a good number of honest reviews can give them a sense of whether they will like the book. There are things I know I love in books, and things that are pet peeves. If I read a review of a book and a lot of the comments point out something that’s a pet peeve, I can save my money. On the other hand, if the things other readers love are the same types of things I love… I’ll have it downloaded in a minute.

The main thing, as a writer, is that you write the story that’s in you to write. We can always hope that our loved ones will like it, and our friends. But the likelihood is great that at least someone you love won’t. My 99 year old grandmother wanted a copy of my latest book, IXEOS, because I wrote it. I can guarantee you that she has never read a Young Adult sci-fi fantasy dystopian novel in her life, and would never, ever buy one. It is absolutely not at all something she would normally read. But she read it, liked it okay, and will read the next two in the trilogy. My husband will probably never read IXEOS. He doesn’t like any of those genres in movies or books, with very rare exceptions. And that’s okay! It is not an indictment of my writing; it is an indication of his preferences and personality. I don’t take it personally.

The single hardest task we have as writers is avoiding our inner editor. I would say overcoming it, except I’m not sure we ever do that. We can subdue it, ignore it, stuff it in a box, and tie it up, but it never goes away. One of the inner editor’s main weapons is telling you that nobody is going to like your work. Because most of us have some perfectionist tendencies, and all of us want to be liked, we can easily get discouraged and even give up at the thought that what we are doing will be disliked or worse. We can’t give up. We can’t even think about the people who are going to read our books, other than to try to write the best and most entertaining books we can. That’s our job. That’s our only job.

Let people think what they want. Just do your job, and do it the best you can. You don’t need everybody to like it. You just need a group of fans who will support you and enjoy your work. They’re out there! Trust me.

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What is your “Next Thing?”

adventure

My husband and I coined an acronym during a particularly bad period in our business history (we found out that our office manager had embezzled a ton of money, cooked the books, screwed up the accounts on purpose, we were broke, and in the process of figuring out what we wanted to do to reinvent the company in a way we could live with). It’s TNT – The Next Thing.

Since that time, we’ve had two other periods where we were constantly talking about TNT. One of those is now. We’re in a period of happy transition, and honestly, a lot of things are still up in the air. Like where we’re moving later this year. Some things aren’t. We’re transitioning completely out of the aforementioned business, which will be wonderful. Right now it’s very part-time, thanks to the restructuring we did after the “recent unpleasantness” of 2008, but if you own a business you have business pressures, even if you’re not very involved. Being done with it will be a huge relief after more than twenty years.

We’re writing like crazy people, as I’ve mentioned several times in this blog, and have started the publishing company to better organize and structure those efforts. Our days are spent writing, editing, and thinking about writing and editing. After being in the business world and dealing with employees, equipment and ever more stressed clients, it’s a glorious thing!

I’ve also decided to get into the freelance world a bit. We’ll see how that goes. I’ve done ad copy before, along with business writing, and what I’ll be doing will basically combine those two things into a (theoretically) reasonably well paid career. I’m also good at dialogue and voices, two things you use to craft good copy. The cool thing about this is that literally everyone in my family has the ability to do it. My husband used to work in advertising and is very persuasive with things he believes in. My daughter who is graduating from college in May and marrying in June has won competitions using similar styles of writing. And my teenage son, who is graduating from high school in May, has enough natural ability to be taught. So… We may have another family business on our hands!

Obviously, you’ve all been impacted by this “new” economy. Many have lost their jobs or lost part of their income. You’re in the same boat as we are, having to reinvent yourself and figure out how to make a living in 2013. We’re 47 (me) and 53 (my husband); we certainly didn’t expect to be doing this at our age. But as it’s turned out, we’re more excited and more passionate about our Act II than we ever were about what we were doing for a living in Act I. (Okay, I may have these acts wrong… Let’s say Act 1 is early career, Act II is mid, and Act III is – hopefully – fabulous retirement in some lovely warm place with long, desolate beaches and many days of sunshine.)

It’s a little scary. We’re purposefully taking a pay cut to get out of our business, and right now that might seem crazy. But our kids are at a place where we can do it, our lives are at a place where we’re willing to try it, and, even at our “advanced” ages, adventure still calls. If nothing else, it won’t be boring!

What about you? Where are you in this journey? Act I? Act II? Maybe even Act III? We only get this one life – don’t forget to live it!

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How to channel panic

For those of you who have participated in NaNoWriMo, you are well familiar with panic. Same goes for those who have worked against a hard deadline. Some of us thrive on panic – we were the ones who waited until 2am the day a 20 page term paper was due before starting.  (Some call this procrastination, but I like to think of it as motivation…)

So now we’re in the last days of the August Camp NaNo, and I took 9 days off from writing to get some other things done due to my recent cataract diagnosis, as well as being editor-in-chief of my husband’s upcoming book (now in the publication process). In the NaNo events I’ve participated in the past (3 of them), I’ve crossed the finish line for a NoNo “win” somewhere around the middle of the month, and been at close to 90k and finished with the novel (or done with the 130 page screenplay) well before now. But this month is different, and I am going to be going pretty close to the wire. (August has 31 days, and all WriMos are appreciative of that extra day!)

I wrote 4273 words yesterday, and am at 37,742. If I stay on track with 4-5,000 a day, I’ll hit 50k on the 30th. The good news is that I’m really enjoying the book right now, which is weird at this middle point – usually that’s the doldrums of novel-writing. And since it’s YA, even though I won’t be done on the 30th, I’ll be close, so hopefully by Labor Day it will be a completed first draft.

In truth, I’m not really panicked about the NaNo novel. AFTER the NaNo novel, though, I have to do a 2nd and then final edit on The Hoard of the Doges. And here’s where my adrenaline starts to kick in and perhaps a few beads of sweat pop out… Because right now, if it were up to my left eye, I would only be able to read HUGE letters (I was going to show you, but WordPress doesn’t seem to want to let me change the font size…). Anyway, if you have a Kindle, it’s the 2nd biggest font, which gives you about 20 words on a page. And that’s now. By next week, it’ll probably be the biggest font.

All in all, since I have one good eye, it’s not terrible, but it is a strain, and typically I edit at least the first draft on paper. But the type is probably going to be too small. Which throws me off my groove, since I am fond of different color inks and arrows and notes. I realize I could change the publication schedule, but I really don’t want to. The cataract is temporary, as I keep reminding myself, and it really annoys me to have my body dictate my life. So I’m going to stubbornly carry on.

Hence channeling the panic. Thankfully, I have the NaNo excperience to help me. My first NaNo, I was well and truly panicked until I crossed 50k on November 16. By then I was really into the story, had figured out how to structure my life to accommodate writing, and was even managing to get dinner on the table for my family each night. So I’m going to take that same persistence and determination and plug along, working every day so that, by the time I either can’t read or the surgery comes around, I don’t have to do anything and won’t feel like a 50lb anvil is hanging over my head. (Ever feel like Wile E. Coyote?)

If we don’t follow the “flight” part of our fight or flight reaction to panic, it is actually pretty useful. Sure, the adrenaline eventually burns itself out and we end up exhausted. But if we got a lot accomplished before that happens, we can take a well-deserved nap. Taking control of that energy and putting it to good use is the key… I plan to channel it, use it, and come out the other side.

 

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