Friday, March 30, 2018

Re-releases

At least once a week I see authors posting about the cover reveals or upcoming releases. I enjoy seeing the way they move forward and how the celebrate the next big thing in their careers. It also gets me down on myself sometimes because I haven't published anything since 2015 and the project I am currently working on is actually a release of a book I already published once.

I don't mean I haven't been writing. That would be far from the truth. I have five full length novels drafted and ready to be edited. I also have a small collection of short stories I could edit and submit for magazine / blog publications. My problem is I get stuck after the writing part. I am working to correct that but because it is a struggle I find it slows down every part of the process for me. Then the fact that I am working on a rewrite of a previously published book makes it that much more difficult to feel like I am moving forward.

What I keep reminding myself is that I can use what I have learned through the different channels of writing to make this previous novel a much better version when I release it back to the world. The cover has been elevated. The story is being reworked. The formatting was atrocious but now will be done correctly. Everything overall will make it something I can be proud to promote while I use these same editing skills I am honing now to get another of my novels currently sitting on my desk collecting dust the chance to see the light of day.

Once I have published Never Give Up again and released Breathe to the world I will be working on completing a series I cannot wait to share. With the four novellas and one novel in that series along with the previously mentioned novels I should have a decent amount of work to take to book shows while I work to complete my next series which will be submitted for traditional publishing consideration.

Working to rewrite something I thought I was done with has been frustrating but I know in the end it will be worth it. Sometimes moving forward isn't about creating something new but instead using new knowledge to improve something and give it the potential we know it should have had all along.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Editor's Block

Edits will be the death of me. I have written a number of novels. I have a series of novellas either fully drafted or at least outlined. I have files for more than two dozen books that are just waiting to be written, and I would be thrilled to write them all. The problem comes once I have finished. When those two beautiful little words arrive, The End. It should be the fun and exciting time of letting it rest before I jump in, make the needed corrections, then prepare to unleash it on the world. For some reason though I never feel that way.

I get lost in the story as I write it. The scenes playing out in my head only moments before the inspiration spreads through my fingertips to the keyboard and brings the characters to life. I have specific playlists for every book / series and I can feel the music begin to course through my veins, taking on a life of its own. I am one with my story and I discover new elements of my characters, scenery, and storyline around every corner and with every click of the keys.

But then those two words come that take everything away, The End. It's over. I see the words and simultaneously face the joy of accomplishment blended with the annoying indifference I have always associated with editing. Once I have discovered the story and taken the emotional journey through the pages I cannot muster the same enthusiasm to go on that ride again. I don't reread books I buy, I rarely rematch movies, my books are the same way. I am always eager for the next one instead. I am pushing myself to complete some of my books and get past this wall I have encountered so that I can get to those tantalizing tales staring in my brain.

There are characters calling out for me to come explore their world, or in the case of Amanda, to finish the series so she can have her story completed. Some books are emotional on another level and therefore difficult to write but I believe in the importance of the story being told. I have created a list of books and the order I would like to finish them. The plan is to get caught up and always have one book being written, one being edited, another being formatted / published, and one or two being submitted for traditional consideration.

I am hoping by the end of the year I will have trained myself to follow this plan and be working on books currently only in the concept stage. If I can do it I will have two novels and two novellas published, one series nearly complete, the third novella drafted, and the last novella researched. That will set me up perfectly to move forward next year. Time to cross my fingers and see how well I can stick to the plan.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Alienation

Earlier today I was scrolling through Facebook, as I do frequently to see what is new with friends and family. I saw updates on how kids were doing, some posts about new vegan recipes a friend was trying out, a request for recommendations on a good chiropractor, and then it happened. I was blasted with a full on political assault. It was only one post but the comments within that post were so hate-filled it nearly took my breath away. I instantly wanted to jump in and respond. I even went so far as to check out the other comments on the post and they were as spiteful and horrible as the initial post had been. I realized I would be crucified by the group if I decided to say anything.

It made me think back to the election when a famous author I follow posted his opinion of one of the candidates being more evil than any of his characters ever were. I happened to agree with his statement but as I read through the vile spewed at him from those that disagreed I realized just how far we have come from the time we could sit down and discuss a situation from different points of view in order to find common ground. Everyone seems to set in their ways and completely divided that there is no more discussion but only the need to despise those who think differently. Instead of presenting your side with evidence to back up your claim and being met with understanding and a calm retort all we have now are people calling each other names and ignoring any desire for an intellectual debate or conversation. It is enough to make a person want to leave social media altogether.

Because of my writing and the need to be able to promote, market, and interact with my readers, disappearing is not much of an option. So what is the answer? Do I simply unfollow, unfriend, or block every person that fills my newsfeed with this sort of hateful narcissism? Do I engage and continue what seems like a fruitless effort to change people's minds and open up the discussion? Should I only surround myself with those that feel the same as I do and behave like the rest of the world and ignore those that are different? I honestly don't know the answer. I do not want to alienate those who may support me or my work but I struggle to deal with people being so openly terrible to each other. The dream of our country, and atone time our society as a whole, was that people were people and what made us different could make us stronger and more well rounded but all of that seems to have fallen by the wayside which makes me sad.

It is possible just making this observation public and announcing that I did remove that particular person from my friends because the level of hate was too much may lead to a further loss in friends and support. For that I am sorry but for my own personal well being it is more important to not let the level of negativity get too high as to overwhelm my desire for a better world for us all.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Milestones

I have followed a number of shows from pilot to finale. I love seeing the evolution of the characters as well as what milestones the storyline accomplishes. Understandably, the longer a show goes on, the more difficult it is to find new goals for the characters to work toward and milestones to reach. Eventually things can become outlandish or lose any sense of direction. The same thing can happen when it comes to books.

If you write only a stand alone book but it is a long and intricate story the reader may become confused or exhausted trying to get through everything. It might be better to split the book up into two or more and focus on specific parts of the story in each book, keeping the flow going throughout each in the series. It is also important though, to end at the right time.

If you have a series that has been going for three books and you have an idea for a fourth, fifth, and even sixth book there is nothing wrong with extending that series to include them. If you have been writing the series because you love the characters but have run out of ideas it is better to wrap it up and give closure for the characters and readers. Don't keep inventing reasons to write about the same characters if you have come to a natural close. The writing will feel forced and the story will lose resonance with your readers. 

A solid ending is just as important. If loose ends are left flapping in the wind the readers will feel unsatisfied but a good finish can leave the reader wanting more. When a series ends if the reader is looking for more it can push them to check out your other work. In television shows I have watched I have seen ones that center around what will happen at the end aka How I Met Your Mother, it had one of the most unsatisfying endings I have ever seen in a television show. Then there were endings like the first time Will & Grace were ending that was done extremely well.

I know many writers are quick to distance themselves from television unless they hope to become screenwriters but I see many parallels between the two. I find inspiration for what has been done wrong and ways to emulate things I think flowed perfectly.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Time Crunch

Today I was watching an episode of Cake Wars on the Food Network. For those that don't know, there are two rounds of competition where bakers and cake artists battle to present cakes with design and flavor to represent a given theme. They are given a challenging time limit and must present their creations at the end of that time. As happens in every episode, someone struggled to complete their cake within the given time causing it to be unfinished and look sloppy compared to what they were trying to achieve.

It got me thinking about writing. Some authors, myself included, work well under a deadline. We find that looming goal to be an inspiration and it spurs us on the the finish line. There are others that find such constrictions to be oppressive. It makes them shut down creatively and makes any work completed seemed forced. There is nothing wrong with either style of writing but I got to thinking about those deadlines. If you create, or accept, a deadline and it is racing toward you but you find yourself behind, does your work suffer and become sloppy because of that pressure?

Do we decide to cut a chapter short. gloss over details of a character's background, or skimp on describing a particular scene in order to complete the story in time? Are there things we can ignore for the sake of meeting our goals or are we justifying less than stellar time management? On the show the judges critique the cakes and send home the contestants that don't live up to the challenge. In the writing world it isn't that cut and dry but we are judged constantly and a series of bad reviews can follow if you cut corners in your work.

I need the deadlines in order to push me but I think it is a lesson in time management. Without a particular time in which to complete a book I will linger over details, get distracted, or even start a whole new project without finishing the first one. I still need to be conscious of how I am progressing though. I want to put out books I'm proud of and make sure I am giving my readers the quality they deserve. It is a balancing act, much like getting a cake with the perfect amount of flavor and decoration.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Not Writing

I see people post about dealing with writer's block often. They go on about how they have no inspiration, cannot get the characters to talk to them, and how upset they are about the entire thing. I see people giving advice on how to break through the walls or encouraging them to go out and try something away from the craft for awhile in order to let their mind reset. There are many I know that believe the only reason an author doesn't write is because they are experiencing this phenomenon.

What happens when you have more story ideas than you could ever have time to write? What about when your characters are all feeling chatty, and not in the all talk at once way that causes migraines but in the helpful you pick one and they tell you their story kind of way? Why would you not be writing if you have the playlists ready to go, a complete understanding of the layout of the book, helpful cast of characters, and couldn't stop the epiphanies even if you wanted to? How about dealing with something far worse than writer's block, depression.

A large part of the PTSD I have discussed before if dealing with the irrational and sometimes seemingly trigger-free depression that flashes into my life like a freak storm, disrupts everything in its path then disappears again so I can pick up the remaining pieces. I know following the event and the lack of turn out I struggled slightly but I was feeling better yesterday, at least I thought I was. I still felt like crying from time to time and only got through it by forcing myself to do labor focused chores around the house. Today I am sick and stuck resting with little to distract me which is making the frustration stronger.

I used to hold in these feelings but when I found myself having a complete breakdown from bottling my feelings up inside I realized a few things. The first is that keeping it in was harmful to my own wellbeing. The second was that others out there are fighting with the same issues and if I let the world know what is going on it may help someone like me know it's ok to talk about it. For writers like myself who are dealing with the double edged sword of being too depressed or anxious to focus on the thing we normally use to relieve those feelings, I understand. It's ok to hurt. It's ok to cry and pull away for a bit until the feeling lessens. Don't wait for it to go away entirely. As soon as you start to feel better take that energy and write again. Or bake, or paint, or go for a run. Do something that you enjoy and makes you feel productive. It is the first step on the road back home.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Event Wrap Up

Two days ago I held a charity book signing. My event partner and I worked for months to find a venue, gather raffle prizes and pick out items for a concession stand. We contacted authors to fill our tables and created a room layout so everyone had a space to call their own. We wrote and distributed press releases, partnered with other events, put up flyers, and contacted every person we could think of in order to market our charity and our authors.

Then came the big day. The venue had kept a few rules to themselves until the last minute, such as no entering the room for set up until the event was supposed to begin, no putting up flyers or any form of advertisement outside the room, and keeping everything for our function confined within the room making it nearly impossible to let people know where we were. She and I are both authors as well as being the event coordinators so when there was a lack of foot traffic we were just as disappointed as our authors.

Most seemed to understand how much we put into planning and empathized with us on the unfortunate turnout. There was one who instead decided to berate me and do their best to turn others to her own negative way of thinking. She accused me of keeping the money, insisting we were not going to donate the proceeds to our charity (something we did this morning shortly after they opened). She made her way around to other authors doing her best to bad mouth us before sitting at her table with arms folded and glares of disapproval coming my way.

At the very end I announced the winners of the raffle prizes. The microphone was not wireless so I was forced to stand by her table as I made the announcements where I was once again harassed as she and her assistant made constant comments under their breath. She was eager to leave, insulting us and our event right up to the minute she walked out the door. I am honored to say everyone else has offered us nothing but positivity and encouragement.

I struggled a bit yesterday. I will admit the lack of turn out combined with the personal attack got to me. Today though, we had the opportunity to hand over the financial donation and the collected books to our charity and see them light up with gratitude. Seeing the kind words from our participants gave us both a much needed boost. Being able to share what we did so that more children can enjoy the adventures a book can provide is a priceless gift. We are thankful and already looking forward to creating an even bigger event next year. Hopefully this time we can bring even more joy and crush the negativity.