Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Novel idea...

As many of you know, I am in a constant state of indecision regarding whether to go the self-publishing route or stick to the old "query 'til you drop" route...which is most likely only successful if you truly do query 'til you drop rather than giving up for a month after every 50 queries which is what I tend to do. I don't really have the stamina to put my creative hat aside for long periods of time to write cover letters and research agents and their interests.

Though I'm not really any closer to a definitive decision for my own work, I did notice something interesting the other day when my Alumni Magazine arrived from my Alma Mater. I did the usual perusal for my graduation year and noted the new arrivals and who's been named to what boards and graduated which medical schools. Then I noticed a page dedicated to new publications from various alumni. Right there on the page was a color photo of each book, the author and a brief synopsis along with the book price. There was a children's book, a self-help book and two novels. I didn't know any of the authors myself, but I did recognize the publishers. In fact, 3 of the 4 were SELF PUBLISHED!

I'm chagrined to admit that my first I thought was "Oh they are self-published" as a justification of sorts. But then I recognized the little green monster for what it was and wondered if the majority of alumni reading this page would be informed regarding the various names of self-publishing companies - and would they even care? And then I thought: Who cares - this is GREAT free advertising to a HUGE alumni network!

So I'm back on the fence. Mostly because I'm perhaps not ready for the huge self-promotion work it will require to be successful as a self-published author. After all, I still have a toddler at home - my time is not really my own. Or perhaps that is just an excuse. But either way, I'm gathering the courage (and marketing ideas) so that when I DO decide, I'll go out there into the professional arena with a bang!

What are your thoughts? Any great marketing ideas from those of you who have opted for self-publishing?

Monday, May 24, 2010

My Schizophrenic Mind

Okay so my husband and I were seated among friends at a school dinner the other night and the conversation between my friend beside me went something like this:

Her: So how do you get the ideas for your books?

Me: (Stumped for a moment...after all, how do you describe the entire creative process persuasively and succinctly?) Um, uh, eh, well... (Yes, I was brilliant...)

Her: I mean, do you meet people and tell their story or what?

Me: (Laughing now at the thought that this woman was perhaps vetting me for how much to say and how likely her conversation would end up the major plot in my next novel) No, I might go somewhere and be intrigued by the lifestyle or scenery and decide to write about the people who live there. I tell the story of someone I imagine is there somewhere.

Her: But where does the story come from?

Me: The stories are just there waiting to be told. Once I meet the characters at the beginning of the book, their stories just unfold.

Okay, so now she just looks at me with her salad fork hanging somewhere between her plate and her lips as if I just told her that a multitude of personalities live in my schizophrenic mind. She thinks I'm crazy, I decided. So I shrugged my shoulders, I told her the truth...there's not much more to say. I said I'm a writer not a professor...that's not my thing.

Laying in bed later that night, I thought more about how I really do come up with my books. The more I thought about it, the more I marveled at how remarkable the process really is and how little we writers are really understood. I truly do feel like I meet my characters in the opening pages of my novels. I meet them, see what they are wearing - how they move and react to the things around them. Before long they are running the show. They show me where they have been and where they are going. It's my favorite part of writing actually.

I still remember during my last book, there came a point where my main character did something totally unexpected (even to me!) but it just felt right for her. I remember running to my husband who is always patient with my writers ramblings and said: "You'll never guess what Andie just did!" He kind of looked at me cock-eyed as if to say: "and this is news to you?"

But that's what I love. That's how I know the work is authentic and worth writing...that's how I know I'm writing something worthwhile and not simply toward an audience who wants a happy ending or a kiss here or a murder there. At the end of the day, I'm a writer because there really are a million characters out there just waiting for us to claim them and let them tell their stories.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ocean Oasis

So we mozied over to the beach last night with the kidlets to see the sun set (which was conveniently obstructed by the marine layer of course) and was reminded once again just how much I love the smell of the salty air and the sound of waves crashing against the dunes at high tide. In fact, it looked a lot like the photo at the top of my blog...which reminded me why I had put it there in the first place: I feel my most creative at the ocean's edge. I breath easily and drink it in with all my's my perfect creative oasis. I've always done my most productive writing and editing at the beach - even as a teenager writing short stories - my beach bag always has a notebook and my favorite fine tip pen (the right pen is essential!)

My husband always asks where I want to retire and truthfully, I can only think that I want to retire next door to my three children - because of course they'll all want to live on the same road next to their mother, right? But last night, as the kids ran around on the dunes and I watched the waves and the tall grass wave in the wind, I realized that what I really want is to retire at a beach front property with a cozy writing room overlooking the water with giant shuttered windows - and of course the perfect fine point pen...

Do you have a favorite place to write...someplace that releases your creativity like no other?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Since when did this computer become my life?

Today was going to be a great day. A productive day. I had my usual to-do list, but today it was filled with computerish things - sell a couple things on eBay, balance the checkbook, order some party favors for our Girl Scout Party next month, upload some pics from my camera and of course blog. Missing were the usual household chores that always take priority. Somehow I had caught up on the laundry, the dusting - even the dishes were clean. And to top it all off: THE TODDLER WAS TOTALLY IMMERSED WITH HER LITTLE PEOPLE TOYS! This almost NEVER happens that I can go online while she's awake. It seemed that the gods were truly shining down on me today.

Then it happened. I poured myself a perfect cup of coffee and tiptoed to the computer. No connection. Crazy. I tiptoed to the other computer. No connection. NOOOOOOOO!!!! (I would have screamed but for the thoroughly occupied toddler mentioned previously who might at any moment notice I'm not looking....)

So I was left to wonder (for the better part of the morning) how did this happen? How did I get so dependent and wrapped up in this computer. How did everything become a computer operation. Hadn't I balanced the checkbook by phone? Hadn't I flipped the pages of a catalogue to order things from Oriental Trading? Hadn't I taken the film to the store and been done with it for 3 days until it was developed? Had it all been a dream?

Well, don't you worry. I've learned my lesson. No, I'm not trading in my digital camera for film (after all, I'm not crazy!) But I will be sure to NEVER finish my household chores again! :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

How do things develop?

What's the deal with every agent under the sun requiring book to begin with extreme action or plot conflict within the first couple of pages?

What happened to those wonderful books that eased us into the scenery and wove us through the complexities of history all the while keeping us wondering what delicious disaster was about to erupt? Am I the only one who enjoyed those books? Has even the world of readers been stymied by the age of computer games and instant gratification? Am I the only reader willing to read background and setting description before I get to the meat? I certainly hope not.

I have been agonizing over how to rearrange my WIP so as to infuse excitement into the first few pages (just to please Joe-agent) when I don't truly believe the action belongs there. The story develops slowly and temptingly...after all isn't that usually how things DEVELOP? Does anything really develop in a hurry? Hmmm...if I think of things that develop - butterflies, young bodies, the brain, our understanding of mathmatics (which continues to elude me) - nothing develops in the rapid fashion that the current publishing and reading world says they desire.

Personally I'm about to throw it all to the wind and continue to write the way that comes naturally to me. I'm tired of writing toward a group of people I don't even know in hopes they buy into my style. My style is my style and perhaps I just need to believe in it a bit more. So my "conflict" is going back to page 25 where, frankly, I believe it belongs!

Friday, May 14, 2010


I confess - sometimes when I'm flipping through writing magazines and journals, I'll stop to read the ones titled THE 8 WRITING BLUNDERS YOU DON'T WANT TO MAKE or THE 3 THINGS AGENTS DON'T WANT TO SEE - not to find tips to improve my writing necessarily. Usually it's to make myself feel better. You know the articles - when to use whom vs. who and avoid using 'ly dialogue tags. Part of me figures: I have a degree in Creative Writing, I understand grammar - certainly I can check off these "blunders" and give myself that much needed pat on the back. (Yes, I realize this is arrogant and self-serving - but that is a topic for another post!)

Well, GULP, I found a blunder. Yes. I'm sure there are many more I am guilty of, but I found a blunder that seems so basic now that I read it that I can hardly believe I succumbed for so long!

The blunder was the use of ellipses in your writing. Now I've used ellipses often in my dialogue and thought nothing of it. Heck, I've used ellipses in almost all of my blog postings! But according to this article, ellipses are cowardly and lazy. In real life people's speech and conversation doesn't just die off. Real people simply stop speaking (thus a period) or their thought is interrupted (a dash). How true. To use ellipses in your dialogue, then, would seem to be a way to rush the dialogue without paying true homage to the character's feelings and intent.

Perhaps even more humbling then realizing I've been making this blunder for so long is thinking about how many ellipses I need to now go back and fix!

I'm sure you all have many more blunders, I can add to my list. Feel free!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Charts, charts, charts...

So my friend called the other day with a discipline issue concerning her 5 year old, and while we creative problem solving, it got me thinking about how I have handled these issues with my own kids.

I'm what my children would call "chart obsessed." The second a behavior or issue presents itself, I create a chart. Not a loose-leaf, hand written, fly-by-night chart, mind you. I create large, poster board sized charts with stickers and reward points and names in big letters. And the crazy thing is: the charts work. For a time. All the charts work for a month or two - in which time, I hope the behavior has corrected itself and the chart is no longer required. Then inevitably, another chart pops up on the wall by the breakfast nook. My latest chart attempts to have more cheerful cooperation in the chore department (and so far so good) but I've recently had great luck with a chart to help track TV/video game time and keep it to a minimum as well.

On Monday, my 11 year old came home and found a new chart in the kitchen and said: "Mom, your charts are really creative." His statement made me laugh. He wasn't buttering me up or using his gorgeous baby blues to get out of work. Rather, it was just his simple acknowledgement of my effort and the creative bug inside me that apparently must come out one way or another. Perhaps if I get back to my writing more, my charts will disappear all together and I'll have to find a nice painting to hang on that wall!

So I wonder, do you find that your creative inspiration oozes out in ways totally unrelated to your writing?

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Illusive Work in Progress

I read an article in Writer's Digest the other day that really got me thinking...okay worrying is more accurate.

The article focused on the number of "stories" an author has in them and how generally speaking only 1 out of every 10 "stories" ever comes to fruition successfully. The vast majority, the writer suggested, get tossed out in the first draft or sit unfinished in favor of a new story that pops into the author's mind.

Now while I read the article, I was nodding my head in complete agreement. It sounded perfectly logical and reasonable. But later as I sat down to work on chapter 10 of my current WIP, I wondered: Is this one of the 9 that will never see the light of day? Is this the one that gets away? I quickly pushed the thought from my mind considering it completely self-defeating - and quite possibly self-fulfilling - and tried to get back to work.

As a newbie...only working on my second novel, I'm curious: how many of your works in progress actually get completed?