Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

Changing Support Needs

I started writing seriously in 2006, Squiders. I mean, I’d had periods before that–I’d been writing on and off since I was 8, including a fairly prolific time in high school (where I admittedly started a lot of novels I never made it very far on, though I did enter some poetry contests). I started doing Nanowrimo in 2003 and won in both 2004 and 2005.

But in 2006, I made the conscious decision to focus on my writing and to actually do something with it. Part of this was because I had a lot of free time. I graduated from college in December of 2005 but my new job didn’t start until March of 2006, which left me three months to do nothing, which turned out to be terrible. At the time I had no responsibilities and had just moved to a new city/state where I knew absolutely no one.

So it was as much a decision to save my own sanity and work my way out of depression as to work on something I’d enjoyed for most of my life.

Having been successful with the Nano model, I searched out a yearlong community called NaNoWriYe (National Novel Writing Year), which was a good start. It gave me some place to check in, had monthly challenges (including a fun one where you had to smoosh two unrelated genres together), and had team challenges as well.

The issue with WriYe was that everyone tended to start the year out strong, but few people managed to make it the full year. So it tended to be a bit dead as time went on.

Next I found April Fool’s, which was a challenge every April where you could pick your own word count goal. AF was active, and had fun perks like word count bars and winners’ pips. It also had an extremely active dares forum. AF was a good community, with people who bothered to keep track of each other’s work and goals.

And then it got hacked and everything got lost.

From there I settled into my current online writing community, where I have been for ten years now. And I got a real life group out in California that met once or a couple times a week. And things were grand! I was productive, my friends were helpful, and I was getting all the support I needed as a writer.

And then we moved back to Colorado, so I lost my in-person group, though one friend and I kept up virtual write-ins for a few years past that. And eventually I found my current in-person group, the one that I run the storycraft meetings for.

And it’s just become obvious lately that–I need something else. My online group has changed a lot over ten years. We had to close membership due to a truly ridiculous amount of spammers, so we don’t get a lot of new blood, and slowly but surely most of the people who were once regulars have been eaten by life. So it’s not terribly active anymore. And those who are left, I love, and they are supportive, but many of them aren’t writing regularly, or aren’t writing with similar goals, so they aren’t always the most helpful.

And with my real life group, well, it’s the same sort of thing. It’s dying out, and a lot of the people at the same or a higher level than me don’t come anymore.

I’ve joined some other online groups that specialize in things like query critiques, but they’re not really communities–people just show up for help and don’t really make connections with one another.

So I find myself feeling a bit adrift. As I mentioned on Thursday, I’m feeling low confidence lately, and working with people with similar goals and levels, or people who are more experienced, could be really helpful, I feel.

But for the life of me, I have no idea where to find such a group. Or a mentor might also be really beneficial, but same thing. Where do you find a person/people who might be a good fit?

Any advice you might have on the matter would be greatly appreciated. If you have a group or a mentor, would you mind sharing how you went about finding them?

A Poll, a Conference, and an Update

Can you believe it’s April, squiders? And, yes, I realize that we are halfway through April, which almost makes it worse.

At the end of April, I am going to be attending Pike’s Peak Writers Conference (henceforth PPWC). This is my third time going, but it’s been five years since I last went. (My mother and sister went last year, and when they renewed for this year, they bought me a registration too. Really hard to say no to a free conference.) I probably talked about it here on the blog back in the day.

(I checked. I did.)

Part of me is really excited. I stopped going partially because it is expensive (almost $400 for the conference alone) and because I’ve spent the last several years working on indie projects (such as Shards, which came out in 2013, and City of Hope and Ruin, which came out last May, as well as ton of really fun anthologies). I am trying a few projects traditionally again this year, so the timing works out.

I’ve even secured choice assignments–an acquisitions editor at Del Rey for my pitch assignment, and Carol Berg (!!!) for my read and critique.

But I’m also not in a great place confidence-wise at the moment. While I am finally getting somewhere on my rewrite (approximately 35K in at the moment) it’s quite obvious to me that this isn’t the final draft. I’m still worried about pacing in the first part (now that I’m past the inciting incident, it seems to be fine) and the first chapter is just a mess all around.

And I feel like I’m being overly critical of my basic sentence structure, which makes flow hard, and what if there’s not enough description still, and…

Oy. You get the point.

At the end of March/April I considered switching projects before PPWC. My options were:

  1. Pitch my YA paranormal that I’m finalizing submission stuff for. The novel is polished, the stuff is mostly ready, I could in theory start querying agents any day now. But I would have had to switch my requests for agents, etc., and that late in the game I was not likely to end up with anyone who was the right genre.
  2. Switch to my space dinosaur space adventure story. It’s at about 54K, the draft thus far is very clean, and the approximately 30K left is easy to get done in a month. Plus, no switching on agents, etc. But I would have lost several days to project switching, and there were no guarantees that I wouldn’t have run into issues with the last part of the draft and still would have ended up at PPWC with an unusable manuscript.
  3. Stay with the rewrite.

Which is what I did, because basically I’m not going to be ready no matter what. And here we go, come hell or high water.

I have been thrown into a bit of a panic re: Carol Berg. My first thought was “Oh God that is a lot more major of an author than I expected to be participating in this” and my second was “Oh God my first chapter should be burnt in a fire.” Having thought about it rationally-ish for a few days now, this could be a really good opportunity to get some help on something that has been giving me a lot of trouble. But it could also be an opportunity for me to make a giant fool of myself. Time will tell, I suppose!

Anyway. I’m going to keep the rest of the consistency topics for the book, so it’s time to figure out what we should move onto there.

As such, here is our favorite poll, yet again:

The weather’s been lovely here lately, squiders. I hope you have good plans for the weekend and that things are going well for you.

Why Consistency is Important

On to a new topic today, Squiders! But first, I want to tell you about a promo that’s going on through tomorrow, March 17. You can get a variety of fantasy novels or series for free or $.99 through here. I’ve got my first novel, Hidden Worlds, included. There’s some good stuff (I may have bought a couple myself) so take a look!

So, we’ll start with why consistency is important today, and then in subsequent posts we’ll look at ways to build up and maintain consistency as well as what to do when life is getting in the way. Like the submitting/publishing posts, there’s some stuff I’ll leave off the blog posts so that there’ll be some new info in the book when I put it out, though I’m not quite sure what exactly as I haven’t finished outlining this book yet. But that’ll be done before next week.

Merriam-Webster defines consistency as a “harmony of conduct or practice with profession” which is a bizarre way to put it, if you ask me. The Oxford dictionary defines it as “consistent behavior or treatment.” (And also “the way a substance holds together,” which is irrelevant to this discussion.)

If you do a quick Internet search, you’ll find several dozen articles on why consistency is the key to success. But what it basically comes down to is this: if you’re not regularly doing something, practicing it and improving on it and trying new things, how can you expect to be successful?

I heard a tenet once, many years ago, that said you have to write a million words of crap before you get anywhere. Not sure who said it originally, since the writing community picked up the idea and ran with it. A million words sounds like a lot. It’s 10 100K word novels. 20 50K, if that’s more your length. It took me about eight years to get through my million words of crap, and that’s not counting earlier stuff from my teens.

So, to be specific, why does it pay to be consistent with your writing practices:

  • Things get done. A novel can seem like an insurmountable goal, and if you’re writing once or twice every month or so, it very well could be. By writing consistently, you can break a goal into something manageable and see that you’re actually getting closer.
  • It helps improve your craft. The thing about that old “practice makes perfect” saying is that it’s true, to some extent. Sure, there is the occasional odd duck who can put out a story that gets them everything they want on the first go, but most people have to work at learning some aspect of the writing process, whether it’s plotting, description, characterization, structure, etc. Writing consistently can help you learn to see the errors in your own work, and also help you try out ways to fix those errors.
  • It keeps you from getting rusty. When I was younger, I’d write for, oh, six months of the year, and then take the other six months off and do other things. Whenever I came back to the writing thing, it was as if I couldn’t remember what I was doing. Sure, it’d come back eventually, but I could have saved myself a lot of time and pain if I hadn’t taken such a long break.
  • It helps you push yourself. Most writers have a list of things they’d like to get done eventually. For example, I’d really like to write a cozy mystery someday. Maybe set in space. By writing more consistently, you can get through projects faster, which leaves you time to experiment, or to say to yourself that maybe now, finally, is the time to try the epic time traveling romance you’ve always wanted to do.
  • Writing becomes a habit. And habits tend to get done in a day around everything else.
  • More opportunities will come your way. If you’re more consistent, you’ll probably build up a reputation in your writing community for being dependable, which means that when that editor needs a last minute story to round out an anthology they know you’ll be good for it. Or if that small press you’ve had your eye on opens a call for historical romance, you’ll have a novel waiting in the wings ready for submission. Or if you’re at a conference and overhear an agent say that they would give up coffee to get their hands on a MG scifi adventure with a female protagonist, oh hey, you just finished one up last month.
  • The writing business isn’t for the faint of heart. Writing can be very depressing. There’s a lot of waiting and rejection and a lack of response, and if you’ve got one novel done and you’re waiting for it to sell for a million dollars and make you a bestseller, you’re probably going to be disappointed. It helps to move on to new things, to have more than one project, to keep your mind off of what a single project is (or isn’t) doing and to keep your momentum going.
  • It keeps you up to date. The publishing world and its trends change often, and it can help you tailor your goals and what you’re working on if you’re generally aware of what’s going on.

Anything I’m leaving out, Squiders?

Books!

Oh, Squiders, tech/dress rehearsal is kicking my butt. I am getting nothing else done except a ridiculous amount of laundry. I mean, I didn’t even know we owned so many clothes. I think it’s the combination of doing the laundry from the trip (cruise, so mostly summer clothes) plus clothes from before we left (mostly winter clothes, but not really because it’s still unseasonably warm in these parts). Anyway. No one cares about my laundry. I don’t even care about my laundry. It’s just neverending.

Anyway, what this mostly means is that I haven’t figured out anything profound to blog about today. I went and looked at the most popular posts this blog has had, and with the exception of the alpaca poetry (how could you go wrong there?) they’re all things like the Character Archetype or Sub-genre series, and that is more brain than I am willing to go for today.

So, I thought we’d talk about books. I’m about two or three books behind where I want to be for the year (having only successfully completed two books in February) but hopefully I’ll catch up here as soon as the musical is over.

So! Books! I started off the year with science fiction:

  • The Man in the High Castle (1962)
  • Escape Velocity (1983)
  • Unremembered (2013)

I once had a fellow writer say you should never read anything older than five years so you could get a good handle on the market, which is probably true, but I am bad at sticking to that principle, and also sometimes I feel like a lot of the new stuff reads fairly similarly, and I like some variation.

I also picked up some new fantasy books:

  • Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day
  • Wintersong

Both of which are new this year. The first is a more novella-length offering from Seanan McGuire (whom I’ve heard a lot about but have never read before) about the dead and witches in modern society, which had some very interesting worldbuilding. Wintersong I picked up because I went to a workshop in January that talked about taking your favorite stories and changing them to make something new (and also mashing two things together–I got Hamlet and Hawaii 5-0, for an example) and I had started thinking about Labyrinth, which is one of my favorite movies, but hadn’t gotten anywhere with it (see previous posts re: revision). Anyway, long story short (too late), Wintersong deals with the Goblin King and caught my interest since I’d just been pondering this sort of thing, but I had to give it back to the library and don’t find myself much motivated to go and get it again.

And then I ventured out of spec fiction, which happens occasionally:

  • The Calder Game (children’s mystery)
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (contemporary)

The Calder Game is the third in a series that I’ve typically liked, which mixes art history with mystery in a way that’s generally pretty ingenious. (The other two books are Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3.) This one was lacking both on mystery and properly integrating the artist, so it was just sad all the way around. And I read 85% of A.J. Fikry on the plane back from Florida on Monday. It didn’t get too traumatic, which I find is often an issue with contemporary fiction, where someone always seems to die even in the most lighthearted of books, so it was a win for me.

I also read a novella that was written to go along with a mobile game I was playing, but the book was awful. And I haven’t touched the game since I finished it, actually, so I guess that backfired on them.

I’m in the middle of a few books as well:

  • Timebound (science fiction, 2014)
  • American Gods (fantasy, 2001)

I’m actually making pretty good progress on American Gods, which I took with me on the trip, and, hey, it’s working better for me than Gaiman normally does. Timebound it feels like I’ve been on forever. It’s not a bad book–I’m just not drawn back to it very often. I also have a couple of nonfiction books (one random, one writing-related) that I am not really reading, but did start.

How about you, Squiders? Read anything good so far this year? Any recs for me?

Results, a Poll, and a Crazy Week in General

Good news, Squiders! I think my crazy plan of fixing the writer’s block on one novel by starting a completely different novel may actually be working. It’s a miracle, I know. I don’t have a huge amount of words on the new novel (which is tentatively titled Gabe and Rafe’s Fabulous Adventures on the Ark) but it is going, and going fairly easily, and some of the cobwebs are shaking off of Book 1 as well. Plus I think stepping away has helped me to refocus a bit, to remind myself that the characters are what are most important, and to focus on them and their specific problems, and that I can add in more stuff about the world and the overarcing plot as time goes on. Whew.

(We were on a cruise, which is why I missed Thursday’s post, and though I have been off the ship for over 24 hours it still feels like I’m on it, which is very annoying and makes me feel a little sick. But anyway.)

My general plan is to poke at the new story and let Book 1 percolate until Friday, at which point we switch back. This week is mostly a waste anyway because MY MUSICAL OPENS ON FRIDAY AAAAAHHHH.

Sorry. That’s about how I feel on the matter. Anyway, every night this week is eaten by dress rehearsals, so who knows if there will be any writing time at all. Percolating is good for my schedule.

(Also, I hope I haven’t forgotten anything since I missed a few rehearsals. I mean, it was only a few, but aaaahhhhh)

(aaaahhhh)

Anyway, for my own sanity, I’m going to do the poll for the next nonfic book subject today, and we might dive into it on Thursday, or I might talk about something else on Thursday and then start the nonfiction topics next week when my sanity shall hopefully be back to mostly full.

Anyway, please pick a topic that interests you!

Smashwords’ Predictions for 2017

Hey Squiders, we’ll jump back into the nonfiction stuff on Thursday to answer the question “How many rejections is too many?” but for today, I’d like to share Smashwords’ 2017 predictions for the book industry with you. It’s kind of a sobering read, but I’d love to hear what you guys think and any trends you’ve noticed the past few years. As I mentioned when going over City of Hope and Ruin‘s marketing results last year, some of my go-to launch activities, such as advertising on Goodreads, no longer work as well as they used to, and I wonder if some of it comes from the number of books coming out/available these days.

Mark Coker (who runs Smashwords) also mentions that KDP Select has been a terrible thing for authors, and Kindle Unlimited is only making things worse. I don’t have much of an opinion on that as of yet–I’ve always gone wide with the exception of The Short of It, and since it’s been a week, I don’t have many stats to look at. People who have used KDP Select, do you like it? Have the changes that Amazon occasionally makes hurt you?

Anyway, here’s the article. It’s long, but it is an interesting read. Love to hear your thoughts!

A Break from the Madness

Woo, I feel like this week’s gone at a breakneck pace, Squiders. Aside from getting The Short of It out, here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • I’m in a musical! I think I’ve talked in the past about trying out for a local community theater, and this time they let everybody in. (I’m not joking–they really did cast everyone who tried out.) We’re doing Godspell, and there was an expectation that a good majority of us would be operating as a chorus, just singing in the back on bigger numbers and not doing much else. Ha. Haha. Oh no. Let’s just say I got over 5000 steps at rehearsal last night. Between the music (a harder version than the original), the choreography, learning to sign a whole song (my “solo,” as it were), and dialogue, this is taking up a lot of my time. We open in a little over a month.
  • I’m still working on my query letter for my YA paranormal. Well, I’m on a break, because I feel like each progressive version was getting worse instead of better. So right now I’m re-reading the book again with the plan to work on the synopsis. And then we’ll go back to the query.
  • I am working on the rewrite of Book One, but it is going really really slowly. I think I’m at ~2500 words after two weeks? The beginning felt really terrible but I read back over it and it’s not actually that bad. One of the things on my To Do list for today is to make a definite plan about when to work on it, which will probably consist of setting a specific time each day and figuring out how to distract the children during that time.
  • My Lovecraft story for the anthology goes pretty well. I’m on the feedback stage, and then I hope to do a final revision and turn it in early next week. I even have a title more or less picked out, which is sometimes the hardest part.
  • I continue to work on my serial, though I’m not posting it up at Wattpad quite as often anymore. It seems really hard to get visibility over there, and it’s just not something I can spend a lot of time on right now. Anyone have any tips for using Wattpad or reaching more people?
  • I wrote a short story for publication over at Turtleduck Press. It’s in review right now, and barring rejection, it should go up on March 1st.

And, of course, we’ve been working on the nonfiction book series here at the blog. How has that been feeling, Squiders? On my end, it feels nice to be getting some progress done on that front (especially because I started in January of 2015!) though it does kind of feel like it’s eaten the blog. And I am a bit worried about writing the parts that I’m not blogging, and getting everything organized, but we’ll worry about that when we come to it.

How are you doing, Squiders? Anything new and/or fun on your end?