Anybody Can Write a Book, Right?

It used to be that if you wrote a story and it appeared in book form, then you were published.

Okay, maybe it still is like that, except now there are qualifiers. The unspoken (and sometimes spoken) question is how were published?

It feels a bit like the battles I stepped into after my second child was born when I stopped working full-time and stayed home to raise children. The working mothers vs the stay-at-home moms. The assumptions flew both ways and were equally unfair and at times, ridiculous. We were all still doing the hard work of being mothers.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about traditional publishing and self-publishing. Continue reading “Anybody Can Write a Book, Right?”

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The Unshiny Parts of My Holiday Season

The holidays aren’t just bad for my weight, they’re also not too great for my writing. At least this year I didn’t set any serious writing goals for December. The great thing about this is that any writing I get done (like this post!) is a bonus. The really hard part is that story ideas, snatches of dialogue, and essays wander aimlessly through my mind and I never have time to grab them and pin them to the page.

The other hard part is that when I’m not creating, I’m not happy. I feel anxious. Luckily, this holiday season I have puppies to distract me. Although right now they more closely resemble moles than puppies. They ‘swim’ around with their stubby useless arms flailing, their eyes shut tight, Their little spock ears are basically horns at this point for all the good they do them.

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Still, they’re puppies. So, you know, who can complain?

Not me. Nope.

A big part of being an author is social media and platform. It’s not the fun, shiny, exciting part, though, it’s the stressful, time-devouring, awkward part. Of course, you can be a writer and never even go near the internet, but if publishing is on your list, platform is paramount and begging for ratings and reviews is a painful reality. Sure, I wish I could just hole up on my hillside and write. But as my mother would tell you, “If wishes were horses beggars would ride.”

So, this month, hoping that the holiday happy and the presence of puppies will counter it, I’m focusing a bit on my platform and social media efforts. These tasks require short bursts of energy – chores like tidying up the website, responding to blog comments, getting involved in passionate debates on Facebook, visiting Linked In to see what the adults are doing, experimenting with the timing of tweets, looking for connections with other authors, and even venturing into new realms like Instagram.

These are tasks that I never seem to have time to tackle, but I’m on it. I’m even making an effort to unearth the Tumblr blog I created several years ago and abandoned. I’ve been reading other blogs, commenting on posts, and last week I spent nearly forty minutes trying to figure out how to change a few things on my Amazon author page (I never did manage it). December is basically spring cleaning time for me as a writer. And who actually likes spring cleaning? Me, neither.

This week’s goal is to apply for a residency somewhere, submit a few pitches to magazines, and seek out an opportunity to guest blog. Oh, and investigate the possibilities of goodreads a bit more, experiment with my blog template, organize my pictures for social media, and finally finish reading The Fire in Fiction (which I started more than a year ago). My list is long and for the most part, boring.

Luckily, I’ve got a silly 13-foot Christmas tree that makes me giggle every time I pass by it on my way to the kitchen to make more tea.

Plus, puppies. Super cute. Always available.

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So I’m slogging through. Hope your holiday season is unraveling/unfolding just as nicely!

p.s. Last week I finally put out my very first NEWSLETTER! That ones been migrating from to-do list to to-do list for over 2 years, so yeah, big accomplishment. If you didn’t recieve it, you better sign up (just in case I ever write another one!). And if you’re interested, you can read it here.

 

NaNoWriMo Day 30: My Magical Crayon

 

One day left. Hours really. And, are you ready for this??? I’m only about 400 words away from completing NaNoWriMo!! Yeah. I’m impressed, too. My latest novel is now 79,600 words! It’s gonna happen people!

But before I finish, I thought I’d reflect on the adventure that was NaNoWriMo for me this year.

I started it on a whim, not really all that serious about it. Yeah, maybe I’ll do it. I lined up all my excuses to explain why I wouldn’t finish it. They were good excuses. Excellent, in fact, so when the end of the month rolled around and I was still stuck somewhere around 30,000 words, I’d be able to explain.

With my safety net in place, I started writing. In the beginning the words just flowed and flowed. That was mostly because I’d been sitting on this story for months, so I had a lot to turn loose on the page. It felt good to finally write it down. And doing it in such a crazy rush, felt good, too. I was on a writing high that first week. Who cares if this isn’t my best writing. Just get it on the page, I thought. I’ll fix it later. That’s a very freeing feeling. Kind of like dancing when no one is looking. Or singing loudly while driving on back country roads. I was just flying over those hills and swinging my hips like I was still twenty and hadn’t birthed three babies.

And just when I thought I’d write the whole dang thing in a week, the election happened.

I was frozen in my tracks and waffled on how to proceed. I could let me emotions be a roadblock to my progress and just one more excellent excuse for why I didn’t finish, or….I could use that anger/sadness/horror/fear to drive my writing, just like a basketball team that lost the previous season by one point and goes into the next season FIRED UP. Instead, I went with another option.

I dove whole-hog into my story and pretended that the real world didn’t exist. I shut down social media, silenced the radio and television, nodded sagely while silenting saying “blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-I-can’t-hear-you” each time other people brought up the election results. I lived inside my story.

And you know what? With the exception of a really nasty character with a bad combover appearing in one chapter, it worked. I wrote like a madwoman, pounding out that wordcount right up until….Thanksgiving happened. Cousins and food and friends and wine and the prolonged presence of several foster puppies took over my house. I lost almost a whole week to gluttony and sloth and puppy poo. When I finally got back to my laptop I thought, No way. Ain’t gonna happen. Break out the excuses.

But I wrote anyway. Even if I was going to fall short of my 50,000 word goal. With three days left I still had over 10,000 words to write and I was stumped. I couldn’t see the ending and I was getting bored with my characters’ indecision. So much for NaNoWriMo. I couldn’t sacrifice my story just to get a winner’s badge.

And then yesterday, I sat down at the computer and I thought—just write something. Anything. Even if it’s a stupid idea, just slap it on the page and see what happens.

And you know what? The ending found me. It was nothing like I thought it would be. Once again those characters surprised me. They were much better people than I’d imagined them to be. The magic happened. This is why I write. I write for these moments when what comes out of my fingertips comes straight from my heart, completely bypassing my brain or my conscience or my grand plan. It appears on the screen and I think—wtf? Who wrote that? This is the magic I love about writing.

Remember that book, Harold and The Purple Crayon?

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It was a simple little book with a purple cover. All the illustrations were line drawings. Harold starts drawing a picture and suddenly he’s in the picture and he’s creating a whole world and then he’s in that world. He encounters a forest, but doesn’t want to get lost so he draws a forest of only one tree. He’s hungry, so he draws apples on the tree to eat. But like any good story, there is peril! He almost drowns, but he draws a boat to save him. His adventures take him anywhere his mind wants to go. This is how writing works for me. I have one idea, so like Harold, I just start, and then I see where it takes me and if the story is fun/interesting/moving for me, then there’s a good chance it will be for the reader, too.

Would I have completed this story if I wasn’t doing NaNoWriMo? Probably. Just not in a month. What was so cool about doing it this way is that it forced me to keep going when I didn’t trust my characters or my crayon or the magic. And I learned that the magic will always show up. I just have to start writing.

Speaking of writing, I have 400 more words to spit out….