Monday, June 30, 2014

Sometimes, It just doesn't flow.

Hey all, Adrianne here. I have five novels published. Three are stand alones and two are part of a series. I am currently working on the final book in that series.

Or shall I say, I should be working on it.

I have been writing THE UPRISING for going on five months now. Aside from my first novel, LIFE ON LOAN, no book has taken me more than two months to write the first draft. I'm not even close to being done. I *might* be half way. Maybe.

So what's the problem? I have an outline. I know where the story is supposed to go and I know how I want the pieces to connect. I love my story and I love my characters. So why do they fight me so? It could be the fact that this is the final book in the series and I want it to be JUST RIGHT. I want THE UPRISING to answer all the questions that The Mackenzie Duncan Series has introduced. I want my readers to love it as much as the first two books. I want to leave the series knowing I gave it everything I had and that it is the perfect conclusion to this story. I am so worried that it won't be good enough that I can't even get words on the page without second guessing every little letter. I am filled with doubt in my story, in my characters, in myself.

So what do I do? Do I push through and force it? Do I worry about every word that hits the page? I had thought that I had to finish Mackenzie before even considering writing anything else. I mean, I am already so far behind on my schedule, writing something else would just push that even farther behind.

But no matter what I am writing, I always have ideas brewing for future books. There is this one, I shall call it the Sekret project for now, that wouldn't leave me alone. Not a ton of details to it yet, just a basic idea, but I couldn't ignore it. So I sat down and said, I will write out the little blurb that's in my head and go right back to Mackenzie. So I opened Word and started writing. That little blurb turned into an prologue. In five minutes.

Holy crap, my flow was back. The words flew from my fingertips like they haven't in months. The story played out before my eyes and made me smile while writing again instead of constantly scrutinizing everything. I haven't even gone back to edit it. I just hit save and moved on.
It felt so good to write. And I got a new idea for Mackenzie. So I guess what I am saying is, if it doesn't flow, write was does and come back. A little mental vacation from one story may actually help. It did for me :D

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Where the grass is greener: Writing full time versus squeezing it in with a day job

Hello again, Igniteers. It's Stephanie, and today I am going to talk about writing full-time versus juggling writing with another job (or two).

Everyone has heard the expression "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." And everyone knows that this isn't necessarily true - the people on the other side of the fence envy your grass, too. Nonetheless, it's hard, sometimes, not to look across that fence with longing. Cliches become cliches sometimes because they bear a kernel of truth.

And this particular cliche may have unique meaning for writers. Those of us who work full time at other demanding jobs imagine it must be quite the life to be able to devote oneself to writing all the time (at least all the time that we're not chasing kids or running errands or working on promoting/selling books). I know that most of the time when I get the rare half hour to sit down to my work-not-much-in-progress, I have to remind myself what the hell it was I was writing weeks or sometimes a month ago. I know I should write something everyday but that's just not always possible.  So after an unintended break,  going back to writing can be  kind of like going to a family reunion when you have amnesia. I look at the pages I've written and ask myself about the characters Who are these people? What am I supposed to be doing with them? When I am knee deep in my "day job", I'll write down plot points and ideas on scraps of paper, but often when I go back to the notes they might as well be written in Sanskrit for all the sense they make to me. Sometimes, I confess, I get so frustrated, so defeated, I just give up trying to write  and read a book. And then the book makes me wish I were writing.  

This summer, for the first time in years, I have a month off before I have to get back to teaching again and before my kids get out of school, and to a very large extent, I have dwelt in the writers's paradise I imagined full-time writing would be. I get up, check my email, take the kids to school, work on the blog or more email, then go for a four-mile walk during which I come up with tons of ideas. And then I write until I have to stop. Now that my brain is free to focus on one "job", writing,  I have even come up with ideas for all of the other stuck plots from old works in progress that I let die on the vine because I didn't have time to focus on them.

I won't lie. It feels really good.

But I'm not sure it would feel so good if writing really were the only job I had to focus on. I know that it would at least feel different.

There are some advantages to being a "part-time" or squeeze-it-in writer, not the least of which is that if I am feeling really exhausted or overwhelmed, I can take a day off and watch bad movies on TV. I try not to do it, but unless I have a deadline with my publisher, the only one who suffers from my retreat form work is me. And I don't have to worry a lot of about profit from the books, and if my family were relying on my writing income to pay the mortgage and eat more than a can of beans at mealtimes, we'd all be in need of some charity.  The checks that come with the sales, admittedly, have only bought me some copies of my books to give away in contests and a couple of shirts from this amazing consignment shop in East Windsor, Connecticut. I can't quit my day job. But I can write more or less what I want and that is a blessing. I cringe every time a full-time writer tweets their word count for the day, but I don't have to worry as much about establishing and maintaining a brand or writing what people expect me to write. Sometimes lower (or no) expectations are a good thing.

Among the Indie Ignites ladies, ST Bende and Adrianne James are "squeezers" like me - we squeeze in writing at night and on weekends. As Adrianne puts it, "I had planned on being a full time writer, but life happens, ya know? I wish I had more writing time, but I just don't. Bills are important and if the books aren't making enough to cover them something has to." Our full- timers include JC Emery and Nazarea Andrews and I asked then: Is the grass any greener on their side?

Nazarea says that she's always wanted to be a writer but now that she is, she doesn't always want to get to work any more than anyone else does with any other job. She "schedules" laziness, you guys. 
More importantly, she feels the pressure to write for her audience. She says, "I don't always write what I WANT to write but I do write what I think will sell because this is my profession and I need to make money, so what sells matters more than I want [it to]. I'm happy that sometimes the two line up. But it isn't all coffee shops and lazy glasses of wine waiting for inspiration. If I did that, I would never publish."I empathize with the first concern - much as I would like to have a market or a readership to claim as my own, without one I can write what I want (as long as someone is willing to represent or publish it). And that second concern - it's not all wine and inspiration - is the reality for any writer. Sometimes you have to write even if you don't feel like it, and for the squeezer, sometimes that feels like "Okay, this is my forty minutes to write for the week so make it count. Go!!!"
JC admits that the pressure of being a full-time writer can take the "passion" out of writing. She says the "biggest difference" between writing full time and "squirreling away" the hours to write between work and life is the "change in mentality." "Now it's a job," she says. "Now it comes down to . . .[the fact that] financially this has to be a profitable business. It almost takes the fun out of it." She's quick to add that it is "wonderful to be a full-time writer" but writing used to be something she did for "fun", "specifically for" her. When she told me that she misses the fact that she "got to take [her] time with it" before writing was her day job, that really resonated for me. Sometimes I look at output like JC's and other full-timers I know and feel like the biggest sloth in the world. It takes me literally years to write a book, in part because I'm not writing everyday but also because I think that that is how my brain works, like one of those old-fashioned coffee percolators. the pressure they're under to get that manuscript pub-ready yesterday.
When I'm finally writing it seems sometimes like the ideas just pop up unbidden but they don't, really; the ideas  have been percolating for years sometimes and rise to the surface when ready. Full-timers don't have that luxury. I have the advantage of percolation time. For example, last month I contacted my editor and asked for another month to keep working on a book the publisher had already accepted. If I had a stricter publishing schedule, I wouldn't have been able to do that - and I would have given them a book I didn't feel was ready. I'm not saying that any of my full-time writers friends would ever do that, but I can appreciate the pressure they're under to get writing done quickly.

So, if you are in the position to have your choice of the writing life, full-timer or squeezer, which would you choose? What would be your dream scenario of the writing life? Let us know in a comment below.

Happy reading and writing!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Indie/Self-Publishing and Copyrights

I'm a day late on my post, but I have a genuinely good excuse... I thought today was the 15th! ;) Whoops.

A few months ago, I did a post at Operation Awesome regarding copyright issues for authors. We all know what copyright means, but how does it specifically apply to books and covers? BookWorks explains it pretty well on Publishers Weekly (see BookWorks: Understanding Copyright: What Every Indie Author Needs to Know below for the full article): is important to understand how copyright works, and what can be copyrighted and what can’t. Copyright protects “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form. This includes literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, motion pictures, sound recordings, and architectural works. As you probably know a copyright notice looks like this: Copyright © (year of creation) (your name).

Here are a few posts I've come across regarding copyrights recently. (If you have come across any other informative posts, feel free to add them in the comments!)

BookWorks: Understanding Copyright: What Every Indie Author Needs to Know 

* Copyright Is Not A Verb via Brad Frazer

* 5 Copyright Terms We Need to Stop Using Incorrectly via @plagiarismtoday

Book Cover Copycats: Is it Flattery or Copyright Infringement? via Anglea Ackerman at Writers Helping Writers

Highlights on Copyright & Publishing from the Indie Author Conference via Ruth Carter 

Of course, there are many other articles regarding copyrights that you can find with a bit of searching, but these were the ones I found most interesting. 

Happy Monday! 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Facebook Takeovers: A Techno-Dolt Talks

Hei hei, y'all! ST, here. A few weeks ago I got to take over Verna Loves Books' Facebook page with fellow Igniteer Laura Howard. I'm an admitted techno-dolt, who still uses a flip phone (#Truth) so this was a massive jump for me. It was all kinds of terrifying, but also all kinds of fun. And you know what? I ended up meeting some of the nicest, most supportive fellow book lovers! I'm so glad I stepped waaaaay outside my comfort zone. It was totally worth it.

I openly admit to having no prior experience in takeovers, and in general no idea what I'm doing on the interwebs, but here are a few FB takeover tips that worked for Laura and me:

(1) PLAN. Things fly fast and furious come takeover time, so the more pre-packaged posts you can plan out, the easier your time will be. We pre-wrote a slew of posts, about five for each hour of our takeover time, and ended up using nearly all of them. It freed up the rest of our time to interact with readers on the various comment threads. Who wants to be planning their next post when they could be socializing instead? Not moi. :)

(2) GIVE THINGS AWAY. Laura and I corralled a slew of our writer friends and asked if they'd be willing to donate an e-book. It gave readers a reason to comment on the posts (because commenting was a requisite to enter the giveaways), and it gave us something fun to talk about. Readers love getting books. And writers are generally happy to donate an e-book in exchange for some exposure. It's a win-win.

(3) PLUG YOUR FRIENDS. Those authors who donated books during our takeover? You better believe plugged the dickens out of their books and looped them into their threads, so they could interact too. Laura and I are lovely and all, but I seriously doubt a lot of people would want to talk to just the two of us for three hours. However, people did want to talk to the seven additional authors we brought along with us. Because the more authors, the merrier!!

(4) HAVE FUN. So often we're locked away in our writing/editing caves, all by ourselves. It was a blast to get to go onto a page and actually chat with readers! Laura and I both write NA Paranormal Romance, and we probably wouldn't have met most of Verna's more contemporary oriented readers in our normal FB circles. We made new friends, got to talk book boyfriends (because no FB takeover is complete without talking book boyfriends), and spent a few hours hanging out together on a Saturday afternoon. What's not to love about that?

What about you? What kinds of things have YOU done to connect with readers?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ugly Realities

We own a small business. A little bowling pro shop. Sells some bowling balls, shoes, bags. The this and that of bowlers who make it a serious hobby. It's a cute little shop, with a funky smell of plastic and the fruity scent of new bowling balls.
People come in and buy stuff and talk to my husband about which ball is best for which oil patterns. (Seriously. I had no idea there was so many intricacies to bowling until I married my husband.)

Every once in a while, people come by and grab a towel and don't pay.
It's becoming a bit of a habit, but you know. It's part of owning a buisness. Mike works hard, and he doesn't have time to track down every unpaid for towel. Not if his other customers want their bowling balls drilled.
Last week, a guy came in and grabbed a few bowling balls. Then he went into the lanes, and sold them. For half price.
And when we said something--polite, legal letter delivered to him--he ignored us.

And because we're just talking bowling balls, I mean. Mike LIKES his job, and bowling is just for fun. So why not? People can use the lane balls for free, so what's the big deal??

So this all sounds completely ridiculous right? I mean--shopplifting is a crime. Stealing a bowling ball is a crime. If this were to happen in my husband's shop (no that part isn't made up) we'd call the cops. Immediately. Because even though Mike DOES love his job, it's how we pay our bills. And letting people steal from us is stupid.

So why am I talking about this here?
Piracy. You guys. You guys.
I write books for a living. I make calculated decisions, weight the cost and how much I need to sell to break even, and how much time a book will take to produce. I work literally ALL THE TIME. (My kids are having a balloon party outside as I write this. Because summer break is for them, not me.) What I earn from my book sales pay our bills--it goes to rent, and keeping our kids in a school that fits their individual needs. It puts gas in my car and food on my table.
Piracy is a thing. It happens and I send my DCMA take downs and I move on. Because thinking about it kind of infuriates me. It's not ok. Just like it's not okay to steal from a buisness, it's not okay to steal books. I know the arguments, ok?

Libraries don't charge anything--that's great and you are welcome to visit one. Libraries pay for their copies, by the way.
It's too expensive--um. I have nothing that is fit for polite conversation but--just no.
You enjoy writing, so you should be okay with this. At least I'm reading.--by that logic, we shouldn't pay football players. Cuz. You know, they enjoy it. Yes. I do enjoy my job. But I still pay good money to make it a quality product and there is a time commitment to it and frankly, I shouldn't have to justify why you should pay for a service.
Pirates wouldn't buy it anyway--So freaking what?? I wouldn't buy a shirt at Walmart, but I highly doubt they'd be okay with that logic if I walked out of the store with it.

Stealing is exactly that--stealing. Don't pirate. Support an author and drink coffee at home while you read their book. And remember it's good for you as well--you buying that book means there will be more books. more giveaways. more events. Book sales support that. <3

Sunday, June 1, 2014

May's tweets from Indie Ignites: #indie business advice

As some of you know, Indie Ignites also has a Twitter account. Though we do tweet a lot of our bookish news and events via Twitter, we also share quite a bit of indie and self-pub advice, articles, and statistics. Here are seven selected tweets shared in May that might be useful to fellow indie authors:

How to Make the Bestseller Lists: Why Categories and Keywords Matter
via Anne R. Allen and @writerplatform (link)

Facebook Ads: Should #Indie authors Buy Them?
by @caballofrances via @JFbookman (link)

How to Be a Good Critique Partner
via @Wiseink (link)

Publisher's Weekly to Launch New Site Focused on News and Info for Self-Published Authors
via @thDigitalReader (link)

How to Create a Google+ Community to Grow Your Business
via Social Media Examiner /@writerplatform (link)

The Vin Diesel School of Facebook
via @duolit (link)

Business Plan Basics for Authors and Bloggers
via @MollyGreene (link)

Not following @IndieIgnites yet? We'd love to connect with you! (Click here to find us individually on Twitter!)