Most importantly, don't let the fear of saying anything keep you from writing.
The link to the post is: http://www.yanasisterhood.com/blog/whyiheartwriting
Today we're going to take a little trip to the YA~NA Sisterhood and my post #WhyIHeartWriting, where I've shared my thoughts on the freedom a writer can find even in a censored world. If you feel the same, let me know or share with others.
Most importantly, don't let the fear of saying anything keep you from writing.
The link to the post is: http://www.yanasisterhood.com/blog/whyiheartwriting
Join me over at the YA~NA Sisterhood blog, where I'm talking about how I get in the zone to create kid characters readers care about. Make sure you leave a comment about your favorite younger characters or share your best tips, too!
Hey, everyone! I'm taking a break from editing DANIEL THE DRAWER's sequel to post on the YA~NA Sisterhood Blog. The YA~NA Sisterhood is a blog designed for readers and writers of Young Adult and New Adult fiction. I'm a contributor there, and today was my very first published post.
In The Birth of Your Book, I mash up my two professions, writing and birth work, with some amusing results. Check it out, doula's orders.
While you're there, join our Book Club. February's pick is WHITE SPACE by Ilsa J. Bick, sure to be a creepy good time. The more book nerds, the merrier!
Things have changed for me since becoming a writer, and now an indie author. And, no, this has nothing to do with my entourage, my gigantic royalty checks, or my newfound addiction to hipster glasses, infinity scarves, and the word "existential". The changes I'm talking about have to do with my reviewing.
There was a time long before S. J. Henderson, where I read books just for fun, never giving a second thought to writing technique or typos. Once upon a time I could put a book down if I didn't like it without the need to know why I didn't like it. There was no insane drive to finish this thing I'd started if I didn't absolutely luuuurve it.
And I could leave a brutally honest review without batting an eyelash. When I say "brutally honest", I don't mean leaving death threats or banishing the authors to You Should Be Ashamed To Call Yourself a Writer Land. I merely pointed out what I did and didn't like, with a definite emphasis on the did not like because I hoped to enlighten other readers.
Thinking back on it, I wrote three such reviews near the very beginning of my own writing journey. These few reviews slipped through the cracks of a brain struggling with the switchover of reading as 100% hobby to reading as professional enrichment. It's hard to explain the frustration of your writer brain analyzing sentences and making mental (and sometimes physical) notes of typos or plot holes. The overload with not being able to fully escape into a book cost me at least one writer relationship.
A friend of a friend of a friend wrote a book, traditionally published and, it seems, popular. When I read this book, my overactive brain could only pick up negatives. I just didn't get it. It wasn't a matter of jealousy or anything like that, I just wasn't the right reader for the book. Instead of smacking my fingers in attempt to keep myself from plunking out that review and posting it on a site where the author would surely see it, I wrote the darn thing. It wasn't mean, it just wasn't particularly encouraging, either. And then I wondered why she wanted nothing to do with me.
I've never claimed to be a genius, guys. Not one of my most brilliant or kumbaya moments. Obviously.
I have since taken down every review where building up a writer or a book, even when pointing out its flaws, isn't evident. Why? Because those reviews weren't helping writers or readers, they just watered the seeds of negativity already spreading like weeds on review-based websites. Writing isn't the easy, dreamy job society believes it to be. It's equally difficult and passionate work, whether a book turns out to be a bestseller or not. Even with skin thick skin, it's heartbreaking to read the review equivalent of "You Suck!".
Does that mean I need to adore and shower every book I read with glowing praise? Of course not. But if I can't share my thoughts publicly without destroying a fellow writer, then maybe I should hold my tongue or my Times New Roman altogether. Just a crazy little thought.
To the friend of a friend of a friend who will probably never read this, I'm sorry if I offended you. I'm sorry if I changed anyone's mind about your book. If I knew then what I know now, I would have done things a lot differently. While I can't change the impact it had upon you or even upon any sort of friendship we might have had, I can do better from here on.
I will do better.
Let's all do better.
Well, the Interwebs have reminded me once again of the predators lurking in the shadows of even the friendliest places. The good news is that I already needed to deactivate my check card and start using a newer one, so at least there's that.
I figured I would post a beware for other authors out there since this opportunity is popping up literally everywhere, and will probably start again in a couple of months.
Indie authors like moi are literally starving for exposure, with bleeding hearts beating to reach and inspire all the doe-eyed children of the world. Think of the children!
A member of a Facebook group I'm in used my bleeding heart (and my frustration with book promotion) against me. This person's idea sounded great, and the pitch looked a bit (okay, a lot) like this:
Showcase your books at our January Virtual Book Fair!!! Elementary students will attend the morning session and part of the evening. College students will attend the evening and night session. Registration fee: $25.00. You will receive a webcam and 100 promotional flyers through the mail.
I won't bore you with all of the details, but there were details. And grand promises of connecting with ALLLLLL the doe-eyed children and their sweet little sponge-like brains. If we registered for the event by a certain date, our early registration fee was only $25. A bargain, since the registration fee doubled after that.
Once we registered, we received a questionnaire to set up our profile page. I'm not sure about the other authors, but I certainly wrote the most epic answers ever and then whisked that baby back in record time (okay, not record time. But the organizer said, "Sure, send it in," when I asked her if I was too late to participate. Hahaha. Oh, so ironic!). Then we waited with butterflies in our stomachs for the arrival of the doe-eyed children.
Except now it's January 9th and there are no doe-eyed children and no profile pages, webcams, or flyers. The organizer has abandoned our Facebook group and people have begun disputing credit card charges.
In other words, good times.
The moral of this story, doe-eyed authors, is this:
Research any opportunity requiring the forking over of dollar bills or precious contact info.
Research would have revealed this as a scam, at worst, or a very unorganized endeavor, at best. And not because there was evidence of such on the Googlebox. On the contrary, there was nothing where there should have been something (a prior Virtual Book Fair).
But I'm here to provide one piece of evidence where before there before there was none. If you learn nothing else from me--and I highly doubt you will--learn this:
Look before you leap.
*I've taken special care not share names and links above, even though I lost money and smarts. Karma, friend.
Today we're taking a break from chattering about books and giveaways and silly characters (OH MY!) to talk nerdy to the writers in the house--specifically those looking for agent representation (querying authors) or those dragging themselves along the bumpy, winding road toward publication. I've asked my friend Kathleen S. Allen to drop a little knowledge about what she's learned about writing contests, which definitely is not my area of expertise. Thanks, Kathleen, for sharing with us what you've learned along the way.
Writing Contests: A Writer's Dream Or a Writer's Nightmare?
By Kathleen S. Allen-YA author
Welcome, thank you for asking me to post a blog about writing contests. I’m a pro at entering them. It started three years ago when I entered my first ever writing contest, PitchWars, run by Brenda Drake three years ago. I entered a middle grade zombie book and was not chosen, although one of the mentors I subbed to said I was in her top five. Then I entered the same manuscript into Baker’s Dozen and didn’t get chosen. I kept querying and got some requests but no agent. Finally, I had to shelve the manuscript because zombies are a “dead” genre right now. Pun intended.
Next, I entered several more contests, The Writer’s Voice, PitchMadness, Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, PitchMAS, Secret Agent Contests on three different blogs, plus Twitter parties galore like #pitmad and #adpit and #SFFpit. This time I had a historical novel I workshopped quite a bit and did get requests but again, no agent. My next book was a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera and I thought it would garner me an agent for sure. Again, I entered it into contests, Like A Virgin in January of this past year and was chosen. I got three requests but no deal. I finally shelved it too after getting feedback on it. Was I frustrated? Yes. Did I want to quit writing? Yes, but only for a day. Would I enter another contest? NO, NEVER. Except, I did.
One of the biggest, if not the biggest, contests on the Interwebs is Brenda Drake’s PitchWars contest. She’s done it for three years in a row and I’ve entered all three years. The first year I entered the MG zombie book, the second year an urban fantasy about witches and this year a young adult dark contemporary. In this contest you get to work one-on-one with a mentor for several weeks to make your manuscript the best it can be and then submit to agents. Many people get agents from this contest but even if you’re not chosen to have a mentor, most of them will give you feedback on why you weren’t chosen, so that’s a plus. She always has a Twitter pitch party to go along with the contest too and those are always fun to see if an agent favors your pitch. This year, the pitch party is on Sept. 9th and only for those who DIDN’T get into Pitch Wars. #PitMad 8AM-8PM, EDT. In this pitch party, you write your best 140 character pitch, including your stakes for agents/editors to favor. If you see a pitch you like, you retweet it, only agents and editors are supposed to click on “favorite.” And you must change up your pitches because Twitter won’t post the same tweet twice.
Is entering a contest better than querying? No, not necessarily. It’s important to do both. The one positive aspect of entering contests is all the other writers you meet who are just as anxious as you are to get your writing noticed. It helps to find other writers who will beta read your work for you (and you do the same for them) or find your Critique Partner who will read ANYTHING you write and comment on it. Usually you learn what mentors are looking for via the hashtag #PitchWars as they go through their slush piles, what works, what doesn’t work, how to hook them and so on. It’s a treasure trove of information.
There are so many more contests now then when I started entering them. My rule is to enter three with the same manuscript (if it gets chosen) and then retire from contests. It is important to note you MUST HAVE A COMPLETED, POLISHED MANUSCRIPT TO ENTER. You can’t have an unpolished, unedited (must be edited by at least three people, not family members) first draft. So, no NaNoWriMo novels (National Novel Writing Month in November, write a 50.000 word novel in thirty days) or Works in Progress (WIPs).
My latest novel, a YA dark contemporary I’m querying and entering into contests has been in two contests so far. Operation Awesome secret agent contest, it got a partial request from an agent I’m waiting to hear back from, another full request and a partial request. I got a full request from a Twitter pitch party although that agent passed on it.
So, the bottom line is this: enter contests, get feedback, apply the feedback if it feels right, keep querying too (unless the contest forbids it) and keep going. You’ll never achieve your dreams if you quit!
Here’s a list of contests and months they’re going on:
· PITCHWARS-August, 2014 see Brenda Drake’s blog for more info: www.brenda-drake.com. #PitMad on Sept. 9th, 2014.
· PITCHPLUS5-August, 2014, run by Adventures in YA Publishing. The contest info is here: http://adventuresinyacontests.blogspot.com
· NIGHTMARE ON QUERY STREET-October, 2014 see Michelle Hauck’s website: www.michelle4laughs.blogspot.com
· BAKER’S DOZEN: www.misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com This one has an entry fee of $10.00. Authoress also runs monthly secret agent contests except for June and December that are free and does blog critiques.
· SUN VS. SNOW-January, 2015, this is another one run by Michelle Hauck at www.michelle4laughs.blogspot.com
· LIKE A VIRGIN-January, 2015, see this for more info: http://likeavirgin.kristinaperez.com/
· THE WRITER’S VOICE-Feb./March, 2015, this one is co-hosted by Brenda Drake and others on this blog: www.monibw.blogspot.com
· QUERY KOMBAT in May, run by www.michelle4laughs.blogspot.com
· AN AGENT’S INBOX-run by Krista Van Dolzer, see her blog for more info: www.kristavandolzer.com
· OPERATION AWESOME-They do monthly secret agent contests. See their blog for more info: www.operationawesome6.blogspot.com
· ADVENTURES IN YA, run several including a workshop and first lines contest: http://www.adventuresinyapublishing.com/p/contests-workshops.html
· WRITE ON CON, this is an online conference in August, 2014 but there are agents who swing by and might request pages. http://www.writeoncon.com
And I’m probably missing some but keep an eye on Twitter for upcoming contests. Follow these contest people on Twitter: @brendadrake, @michelle4laughs, @OpAwesome6, @AuthoressAnon, @KristaVanDolzer, @martinaAboone, @FeakySnucker, @RhiannWynnNolet
So, is entering a writing contest a dream or a nightmare? Tell me in the comments your experiences with writing contests.
And even though:
Kathleen has published two murder mysteries If It’s Monday, It Must be Murder and If It’s Tuesday, It Must be Trouble, along with a YA contemporary, How To Be Almost Famous in Ten Days with Gypsy Shadow Publishing and two YA fantasy novels,Lore of Fei and War of Fei with Muse It Up Publishing. She has a Master’s in Children’s Literature with an emphasis in creative writing for YA.
Connect with Kathleen
Last month I linked up with a few of my fellow writers in the spirit of taking names and kickin' writerly butt. Or setting goals, at least.
It seemed like a great idea at the time, setting all of these awesome writing goals while four children terrorized each other in the other room. And I taught pony camp, and all of the other odd things that make up my life.
How quaint and naive I was! Not that the kids were hellions or anything, but I also didn't account for the biggest kid of them all--my main character Daniel. My novella has continued to balloon into something out of my control.
So let's take a look at August's goals and weep a little, shall we?
One out of three ain't bad, right? On the bright side, at least I've managed to add 13k more to the story in the past month. That's better than doing zip, zero, nada
September 2014 Goals
Not much change in my goals this month, but these are still my focus! Feel free to cheer me on in the comments section of this post, or check in on me via Twitter or Facebook. While you're at it, drop by Kathryn, Justin, and Marisa's blogs to cheer them on, too.
If you'd like to join in, please click the "Collected Works" photo below and add yourself in there!
When someone says they're a writer, this is what the other person imagines:
Quite a bit of this...
And the teensiest amount of this, actually. But not as much as you'd think.
It's a commonly-held belief that all writers are drunk hermits. And, yes, sometimes that stereotype is true. I bet you're wondering about me now, aren't you? Please... Like I have the time or money for any of that.
If I'm being 100%--and, when am I not?--the writers I have the good fortune of knowing are always looking for ways to socialize and promote other writers. I mean, sure, maybe we are reaching out to other introverts, but that's gotta count for something. And sometimes we switch the wine or hard stuff for coffee.
In order to get to know other writers and encourage others to reach our monthly writing goals, I'm joining in a project called "Collected Works".
Each month I will post my goals here and weigh in on how well I did at achieving those goals in the previous month. Although I technically didn't participate in Collected Works in July 2014, I DID set a goal.
July 2014 Goals
August 2014 Goals
There you have it, my goals for this month. I have a few more, but I'm going to start with these for now. Feel free to cheer me on in the comments section of this post, or check in on me via Twitter or Facebook. While you're at it, drop by Kathryn, Justin, and Marisa's blogs to cheer them on, too.
If you'd like to join in, please click the "Link Now!" button below and add yourself in there!
It sounds like the boys are going to bust through the floor of the upstairs bedroom and land in my room, in a cloud of drywall dust and splinters. I check the clock on my laptop, which I've been staring at for at least an hour trying and failing to eek out my usual 400 words per day.
"What are they doing? It's almost midnight," I groan. "I can't concentrate with them making all of that noise."
It's common knowledge that I struggle to write when I'm in a noisy environment, especially my house. Usually I have to hide in a room in my basement to make any serious headway on a manuscript, but it's difficult to do that when my presence is needed to maintain world peace. At a coffeehouse, the noise belongs to other people. The kids bawling their heads off and the high-pitched whir of the coffee grinder have nothing to do with me. When it's my kids screaming and boring a hole through the floorboards one body-slam at a time, well, I should probably look into that.
My husband shakes his head. "You're crazy for trying to write a book during the summer, you know that?"
Yeah, I know that. I mean, call me crazy (and he did), but I think it's not such an outlandish idea for my children to maybe, possibly, potentially adhere to a bedtime. And I'll give you a hint, it's not midnight. Lately, it's been playplayplay until they drop from sheer exhaustion. Thank goodness there's three of them, or else they'd expect me to be part of that nonsense. But I digress.
Here's the thing: I can't wait. I just can't.
To date, I've written four novels and a novella. I'm currently smack-dab in the middle of my second. And guess what? Half of my books have been written during the summer, amidst the usual craziness of kids and horses. The other books were written during November, with holidays and two ever-present children. It's not a great idea, but when I look at my options--writing when my house is empty (which never happens), leaving the house to write (also rare, plus, babysitters. Cha-ching!), writing with WWIII happening all around me, or not writing at all--there really aren't any that make sense. So I grit my teeth and press on with a small goal that keeps me in the writing game without my house crumbling to the foundation.
Something will always be there to distract me. A more exciting opportunity will always pop its little head out of the bushes and whisper, "Psssst! C'mere! You can write later!" You all know what I'm talking about.
It's like that quote: If I wait for conditions to be perfect, I'll get nothing done. You know the one. I'm sure you've seen it, as I have, splattered all over Facebook and Pinterest and wherever else people post that stuff.
Unless I am willing to sleep in till noon (I am) so I can stay up till the wee-est hours of the morning (my favorite time of day, wee-est), I'll rarely wind up with a house quiet enough to let the creative wheels in my brain start, and stay, in motion. It's just not gonna happen.
Isn't it the same with everything we do, or want to do? Life isn't going to bend over backwards to make sure we're able to pursue the things we're interested in. That includes our hobbies, sports or exercise, keeping up with loved ones, and basically ALL THE THINGS.
I'll give you an example. Last July, I took up running. I don't even know why I did it, I just felt like running.
By the time December rolled around, I was up to six-mile runs and hooked. Well, maybe not hooked. That's kind of a strong word to use. I was running, anyway, and then the Polar Vortex came to visit and overstayed its welcome by a few months. Wind chills kept my little corner of Michigan frozen in the sub-zeros. Two days in a row, I recall running four miles in greater than -11 wind chills. Was -11 ideal running weather? Not hardly. But running was the only thing getting me out of the house and keeping me sane, so I did it anyway. Every run day, it took me half an hour to squeeze myself into 50 kajillion layers of clothing to keep my skin from falling off my body and cleats designed for running so I wouldn't pull a Bambi on the icy back roads.
When I look back, I don't regret a single moment I spent with chapped lips or frozen badonkadonk. Those moments proved I was stronger than I thought I was, and that I could do anything I put my mind to.
Stars rarely align. If you're waiting for sunny and 70 degrees before you throw a saddle on that horse or lace up your running shoes, well, then you've got a good chance of sitting on the couch forever (especially in Michigan). If you're waiting for a quiet house and you've got four kids, you'll be waiting for 18 years. Longer, if your man-child is also waiting for the perfect conditions to land their dream job and move out of your basement. Like Nike has been telling us for decades, we need to "Just Do It".
The following is a list of simple ideas I've used to help form my daily habit with writing. Maybe you're struggling with getting the ball rolling with writing as well. Or maybe you need help in other areas of your life. This list, specifically, might not help you there, but you're a smart cookie. I'm sure some of these ideas can be adapted to give you the nudge you need. If not, give me a holler. I'll go all drill sergeant on your hiney.
Six Tips For Just Doing It
Leave a comment below sharing your best "Just Do It" tip that keeps you motivated when you just don't wanna.
Being an author is hard. Whether you're going it alone as an indie author, or you've snagged an agent and a publishing house, it doesn't matter. It's hard.
I'll stop you before you accuse me of whining. I'm not. For me (and many of my wordgeek friends), writing stories is probably the single-most-amazing thing one can do with a keyboard. Unless you're one of those people who knows how to recreate the Mona Lisa using only binary code or something. Then, yeah, you win.
Anyhow, I love writing. I love thinking of crazy stuff and actually putting it into words, sharing it, then having someone tell me that my words made them laugh. Or that they listened to their children giggling together while reading one of my stories. Writing isn't world peace, and it sure isn't the answer to world hunger, but all of that has to start somewhere. A smile. A laugh. Sharing.
As a writer, there are a few different ways to share. This book publishing thing is new to me, so I'm experimenting with ALLLLLLLLL of the ways there are to share, just to see what happens while I'm sharing and afterwards.
A couple of weeks ago, I ran a free promotion on Amazon for my Children's/Middle Grade book, Daniel the Draw-er. Earlier in the month, I also offered "Daniel" for free. Over the span of the month of June, 1,000 people downloaded my book. For free.
To the average person, this doesn't make much business sense. I gave away 1,000 copies of a book, or x amount of royalties from actual purchases. The money I didn't earn in those "lost" royalties could have paid my house payment or a car note, or, heck, bought me a new pony if I so desired (I don't. I know, I don't believe it, either). But, between you and me, those 1,000 people aren't buying my book. Those 1,000 people don't know who I am from the other millions of authors currently published on Amazon. I don't have a PR firm paving the way for my success. The only way those people will hear of me is from me. And you, oh fantastical reader. Did I lose sales from someone who likely would have eventually bought my book? Absolutely. It's okay, though. Because something important happened. A small percentage of those 1,000 people who actually opened my eBook and read my words now know that I mean business. They might have smiled and laughed with their kids at bedtime, or from a hospital bed, or on that long plane flight or car trip. They might even look for my name next time they go to buy another book. And maybe, just maybe, they might even trust me.
Authors share with other authors, too.
I'm not known for my speedy reading unless it's one of those rare un-put-downable books. Most of my friends on GoodReads know that I've been trying to read "The Book Thief" for over seven months, and that I keep starting and putting aside Lauren Oliver's Delerium. Committing to read a book is a really big thing for me, but the writing world is a community, just like any other. Authors, especially indie authors, rely on networking with other writers. If we don't support each other, few will. There is absolutely zero benefit in holing yourself up in your house with only a cellar full of booze to keep you company (although, admit it, we've all dreamed about that at least once). Cutting down another writer, even someone you see as your competition, does NOTHING. It just makes you look like a big, prententious jerkface. A jerkface in a bathrobe with lotsa liquor, but a jerkface, nonetheless.
So, guess what? In order to make my community of writers successful, I'm on a mission to not be a gigantic jerkface. My game plan:
If people, not just those of us in the writing and publishing world, would take the time to ask how we can help instead of focusing on "Me! Me! Me!", things could be better. Still not world peace, but, gosh, wouldn't it be a great first step?
What about you? Is there a need you have that someone in this community can help you with?
The random things that cross my mind go here...