Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Another Ouchie

In case y'all were wondering...
I took a nasty fall while hammering in crown molding this weekend. Nothing broken except my right wrist. Really bad because I'm right handed. An ugly black bruise across my back at the hip line and my left knee (the original one). I hate paying someone for something I can usually do myself. So now, I'm moving around like the old lady I am.

Really hard to get comfortable with my arm elevated and badly bruised backside...and even harder to type.

Yeah, I know...what's a woman my age climbing ladders for? I scared my 13-year old badly and like a good grandma I told him I was fine. That worked until today when he came over after school and saw the splint on my hand and arm. The radiologist finally found the crack in the bone after three days.

So I'm MIA again. It seems like Murphy's Law is working overtime. It's just one of those stupid things you hate to admit, but then have to. Am waiting for the luck of the Irish to strike...maybe by St. Patrick's Day. In the meantime, I'm giving up typing for Lent. The good news I'll have more time for reading.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Weary Wednesday

It's seems I'm taking more time off than usual with everything...writing, renovating, and just living. The beginning of the year saw me backing down from my daily blogs to three times a week, and this month it's more like twice a week. What can I say? Too many fish in the pan and all are burning. The master juggler is getting old and dropping her balls.

Five short years ago, I could have gardened, chopped trees, painted, wrote, cooked, worked two jobs, etc. Now, I'm lucky if I can do one of those things a day. I spent Saturday chopping down two Japanese yews which were very overgrown...I'm talking about trunks five to seven inches in diameter reaching twelve feet tall. I ended up having to climb up on the roof to top them off...that's how tall they were. Luckily I do have an electric chain saw which I love. I was done.

I cut them back to about three feet tall and they look scraggly. I know they will fill back out. I actually have hated them since we bought the house, but my husband loves them. It was a compromise because if it were up to me I would have chopped them all down to the root ball. After two hours I had them back to a manageable size and then came the job of cutting the limbs and branches I cut off. By the time I finished, I was exhausted. My broken heart was pumping at almost two hundred beats a minute. I hear you now, "Are you insane!" I must be, but the job is done. The repercussions of this action...a day in bed because my back would allow me to either stand or lay down without pain. I couldn't sit in a chair more than five minutes at a time. In case you didn't know, I have rack and pinion steering in my back due to a shooting incident and an accident.

SO what does this have to do with writing, you ask. Have you reread your story and had to decide what is needed to make the story pace faster? Streamline? Make it flow better? You got it. Sometimes you have to start at the top and work your way down.

It may mean making drastic cuts of things you absolutely love about your story. Major writing, and cutting it off at the ankles and starting again. Don't get discouraged. The same impetus which caused you to begin writing will carry you through.

You, as an author, can edit a story because you wrote it. It is much harder to do it for someone else's story. What do you risk in editing someone else's work?

1) You are calling their baby ugly. Nobody wants to hear this. As a writer you have given birth to your creation. It's like when a mutual friend called my sister a nasty word. Now, I may have used that same word to describe my own sister from time to time, but this was different...this was a fighting word to me. I did punch him for it.

When your baby is ugly there is hope. Your story will develop into your dream child over time. It takes editing to make this creation beautiful. Just like this huge eyed, big, eared, scanty haired child pictured. It won't always look like this. View your creation the same's just ugly right now.

2) Time crunches. This is major for me right now. Too many irons in the fire. The more I try to do the faster time flies until many things get left unaccomplished. As a writer, how many times have you been writing and looked up at the clock to see hours pass? Or worse, still looking at a blank page after several hours? Time is your worst enemy or your best's all about perspective.

You work your day job and have three hours to write in the evening. This is after you've cooked and eaten your dinner, done the dishes, put a load of wash in the washer, and the kids are in bed...and you are staring at a blank screen or worse... line after line of squiggly red and green lines and your brain is too tired to correct it. For me, it's eight manuscripts on any day and that's a light own and others.

3) You basically piss off the person you are editing. Part of the anger stems because you just called their shining creation ugly. Another part of the anger stems from the dumb mistakes they made while writing and they knew better. They are kicking themselves. You are handy so they vent towards you.

It's like the processes of grief (shock, emotional release, preoccupation with the process, physical/emotional symptoms, hostility, guilt, depression, withdrawal, and resolution). A writer goes through all these things when working with an outside editor. A good editor will understand all these things which does not have anything to do with them and realize it's all part of the author's process. They will step back and let the writer go through all the steps and then come back to the editing process later. This can take a couple of hours or months. It all depends on the writer.

Something to keep in mind when you ask someone to critique or edit your manuscript. Above all...
Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Quantify and Social Media

Yep, you guessed it. Today's blog is about quantifying your social media. If you are an indie author, like me, you juggle all the hats of publishing. You market via Pinerest, Twitter, FaceBook, literary sites such as Compuserve's Books and Authors forum, GoodReads, and all the rest. But how do you quantify that exposure? How many tweets, facebook posts, pins, etc does it take to equal sales?

In a word...hundreds.

You aren't known as well as the kitchen sink. You have no big advertising group behind you pushes you into the limelight and making you a household name. Several big advertising groups say it takes on average of ten exposures before a person will buy a product. These for an author is public appearances, book signings, tweets, Facebook posts, Pins, posts in GoodReads, etc.

I read an article by Bob Mayer this week which said you should have social media exposure seven times a day. I don't know about you, but that's a lot of time which could be spent on writing so I tried an experiment this past month (January). I didn't tweet, Facebook, or almost anything else for the whole month. The only thing I did do was write and blog. While I did answer emails and posts directed at me...I did nothing else. Looking back I probably picked the wrong month to try this in because everyone is busy paying off Christmas.

The results- No sales.

So now it's the second week in February. With still no sales and I'm beginning again with the social advertising and connecting. My office is all but finished, my family game room is taking shape and will be complete when I resurface my pool table, my storage/craft room is still a work in progress...but I've got to get back to business.I'm going to be busy as a bee creating more BUZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Excellent Article for Authors

I saw this over on my friend Sara's blog and read through it. It's a wonderful article on a toolbox for writers. HERE It is broken down into useful sections and gets a definite thumbs up from the editor side of me. Print it out and post it over your monitor for a handy reference.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

E-Books vs Paper Books

Followers of my blog know that I have a rather extensive physical library. I love books and have for decades. I have extensive first editions and twentieth editions from lining walls from floor to ceilings. The smell of well worn and time aged pages, the feel of the wood pulp reconfigured into masterpieces, the visual impact of different typesets of words and illustrations on yellowing is a love affair that will never end for me.

I recently bought a Kindle. So I can compare the two experiences. Sounds strange that I finally broke down and bought one considering I have been e-publishing for over a year now. Notice while I went on and on about paper books my e-reader is one line. There is a reason for this and I'll correct that below.

Yes, I'm an old fogie. I've spent decades carrying books around with me everywhere. You'll find one of two hard bounds in my car at all times along with a Kindle in my purse. Sounds crazy doesn't it? Today's society is disposable. It's all about instant gratification. It has been my experience that instant gratification is short lived. The same is true about books which is why I paperback publish AND e-publish.

  • e-books are easier to take in bulk on vacations, true.
  • e-books are lighter by tons compared to paper ones, true.
  • e-books are instantly available in all subjects, true.
  • e-books are instant gratification, true.
  • e-books fit in any purse or pocket, true.
  • e-books by the hundreds can be stored in a small amount of space, oh so true.
Wow, shouldn't that be enough "trues" to make me a convert? Nope.
Being a writer I always play what-if games...
  • If the power goes out? Ah, I hear's batteries.
  • If the batteries die? Yep, you have extras.
  • If you don' are FUBARed. *freaked up beyond all recognition
  • If it breaks? You go out and spend another hundred of hard earned currency.
  • If the internet dies? You won't have access to more books.
  • If you drop check it, it's history.
  • e-books are cheaper, sometimes.
  • If a newer model comes out, you may have to buy another one to be able to read your book...think of computers. Remember Windows 1,2,3, 97, ME, XP, 7? Do you still played games or save stuff on 5 1/4, 3.5 disks or CD-ROM, Zip Disks? That's only the last 20 years!
But a paper book is a book. Some of the copyrights pages in my collection date back to the 1800's and a few 1700's. Yes, they can be ruined by air pollution, water, bugs, and a host of other things. Being an organic based product, they will decompose, but it will take time...think of the Dead Sea Scrolls. They are still readable, enjoyed, and cherished. That's my two cents and with inflation...a dime's worth.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Voice and Style

Whether you are just learning how to write or a seasoned writer there are two terms you will hear or see frequently...voice and style. When I first started writing this confused me to no end. There are tons of how-to books out there on the subject and to me they are basically the same part of a whole.

Take for example this picture. If you read the whole thing it is the example of a good writing style and showing your individual voice in writing as an author. It's memorable. Now, focus on the large print. This is an example of how not to write as an author. It's gone.

You will often hear agents and publishers say they are looking for fresh voices and styles from an author...a character driven novel in which they are blown away by. What a difference a correctly placed "n" makes. So what makes up writing style and a unique voice?

1) They are appropriate to the story and character portrayed.
A friend of mine wrote a novel about an eight-year old kid who becomes the next Alexander the Great. Now most kids I know at that age are barely able to command their own lives let alone an army. But this author suspends belief, shows you brief glimpses into his past, and takes the reader on a journey of how this young boy masters his command skills.

2) It's the mood or tone for the writing.
I started "The Sacrificial Lamb" with a murder as the opening scene. It's dark and ominous for the main character. The novel continues in this frame as the youngster battles the skeletons in her closet and around her.
3) It evokes strong feelings and statements.
How many times have you seen or read something that made you say, "I'd never do that!" Watched a horror movie where the intended victim stops, turns around, and looks to see if the killer is still behind them? Something a normal person wouldn't do. If it were me, I'd keep running for several miles before I even thought about stopping.You get the idea.
4) A definite and well rounded character.
This is where most authors fail. They do not know their characters well enough to be definite. I regularly have arguments with my characters. I'll write a scene and have them tell me they wouldn't say this or that in a given situation, or "uh uh, that's all wrong. I'd never do that!"

Style is basically how you put the words together. What punctuation you use and when you use it. This ties into the voice. Think of Style as the frame work and Voice as the filler.
1) Adding diction.
Are the ideas...Abstract or concrete. General or specific. Denotation or connotation. And the big no-no cliches and bromides.
2) Paraphrasing
When you take something known and twist it into something new. Sort of like a plumber who fits an intricate set of pipe work under your sink to allow water to flow in and flow out.
3) Syntax (ARGHHH! Grammar!) Yep you got it. It's all about the grammar you use. It's independent clauses. Your choice of whether you use subordinate clauses and HOW you use them. Whether the subordinate clause is before or after the independent clause.

There are thousands of examples and definitive resources available on both Voice and Style. So what is mine? I dunno! I'm just a puppet writing what my characters tell me to write. No matter how much I want to control my stories my characters win.

Most times I'm character driven to the point of insanity. Which reminds me of a psych-eval I took once upon a time.
a) Do you hear voices?
How can I get them to shut up?
b) Do these voices tell you to do terrible things to yourself and others?
When the character voices are at their peak...I don't eat, sleep, and bounce in my chair until my eyeballs turn yellow. "But why do I have to kill this character?" I whimper. "I like this character."
c) How stressed do you feel after work?
You mean the work actually stops??? I can't shut the voices off in my head.
d) Do you feel anxious?
Doh! I write suspense.
It continues on like this until I get to the question...
e) What is your current career?
I'm an author. I hear the psychologist breathe a sigh of relief.

So what is your style and voice in your writing?

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Eleven and a Half-Foot Desk

How many of you are typing your blog or writing your books on your lap? For me while I have done that in the past, it's history. When I change rooms for my office in my house I took several things into consideration. How close it was to the master bedroom, how much storage was needed, and how much elbow room did I need.

My husband also sits in the office to read the news and play games so it's an office built for two. Anybody go shopping lately for a huge desk? Don't bother they don't make them. This picture was sort of my inspiration for my office desk. Of course being me, I had to design a desk that I wanted and built it.

The room is 11 1/2 by 9 1/2 ft sq.  No, I didn't build it from scratch. I adapted unfinished base cabinets for storage and support, and hung wall cabinets. On top of this configuration I cut MDF (medium density fiberboard) for the top at 3 1/2 feet wide. (monitors, notepads, printers, phones, etc take space. It is a built in unit and not going anywhere. That's the beauty of owning your own can do anything to it. It is unique like me and totally functional. Where the closet was is now bookcases on huge piano hinges so the back of the closet is accessible for hidden storage for all those reams of paper, ink cartridges, etc.

So what's my point...

To work as a writer, you need your space to work that has everything you need within reach. Yes, you could get up and down repeatedly to fetch whatever you need, but when you are on a roll and writing isn't that distracting? Being prepared, planning, and execution is all parts of doing any job.

I wanted the desk to wrap around the long side and halfway across the short sides. What would I need to achieve my goal? (I want a huge desk or write a book) What are my strong points? (creativity, stubbornness) What are my weak points? (Stubbornness, a bit impatient... I want everything yesterday, and have limited mobility) And being honest with myself. (But can I do this? Yes, but i may have to ask for help) This is the planning phase. So how do you prepare to write a novel or book? It takes some creativity, a spark or kernel of an idea, but mostly it comes from reading. You read what other authors have written, how-to books on writing, and blogs of those who have gone before. I can't stress how much reading you need to do. I hear you now, I've read books all my life. Yeah, I know me too. Did you like what you read? Did you say to yourself, I can do better? Or wow! I wish I could do that. There you go the first step of writing is in your hands.

Because no store had an 11 1/2 foot desk with side arm workstations, I had to design my desk. In writing the planning is the harder part of this. Designing your novel or book is crucial. What genre is it? I spent the better part of my blogging last week trying to find one genre my novels fit in and I still don't have an answer. What's the premise of your story? Can you describe it verbally without hem-hawing around? Can you write a description in a paragraph? In one sentence? A word? Who are you characters? What is your plot line? What are your subplots? Why should anyone read it besides you? Is there anyone out there who is interested in your story besides family? On this last point I'm going to mention I have a VERY large family with in-laws and out-laws, adopted, blood relations, etc. Well that would account for most of my sales in 2011, but wait there are people who are not family who bought my books. **Big smile** I must have done something right for a change.

The implementation is the hardest or easiest part depending on your point of view because nothing is easy and if it were, why do it? Where's the sense of accomplishment?

I've read blogs, and hear from a lot of people excuses of why they don't sit down and write...this writer included.  It doesn't matter if it is good when you first write it. It doesn't matter if it takes you ten years to write one book. It doesn't matter if you have ten kids, a job, school, and a host of other things. Just do it.

In writing, the accomplishment is this...a word written? That's it one word at a time. One sentence at a time. One paragraph at a time. One page of 200 words at a time. If that's all you have time to do...just do it. Stop making excuses for not writing and write it down or type it. You can always change it later if you don't like it. That is the one thing that makes life life...adaptation and change. Revel in it, accept it, and then move on. That being said I'm going back to work.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.