Archive for March, 2011
Thursday, March 31st, 2011 by Candace Havens
I’ve talked about this before, but every time I write a book it’s different. I never seem to come at it the same way twice. When I wrote my first book, Charmed & Dangerous, the majority of it was done long hand and then transferred to a computer. Everything was chronological. The second book in that series, Charmed & Ready, was chronological too but all on the computer. It was The Demon King and I where I discovered that I could write the end first if I wanted to. It seemed like such a crazy idea, but it worked. Dragons Prefer Blondes I wrote scenes that came to me, and then I had to put them all together.
With She Who Dares, Wins (In Stores Now), it was more or less chronological. Though, I would occasionally skip around. That book I wrote down the bones really fast, which I usually do, then then I went back and layered and layered. Not just revisions, adding depth and really fleshing out the characters.
Truth and Dare, the book that is coming up in May, I wrote their first love scene. Patience and Cade were so vivid in my head and they just couldn’t wait to get at one another.
My November release, The Model Marine, that I’m working on now began with the idea of a runway show and took off from there. I couldn’t quite seem to figure out chapter two. It was driving me crazy. So I skipped to the next thing I did know. Well, not really. Hannah was taking Will to a club. I didn’t know until they arrived that it was a blues club. I also didn’t know until well into that chapter that Will played the blues and he was damn good at it. Once I had that scene, the whole book seemed to solidify for me and flew out of my head and to my fingers almost faster than I could type.
I’d never really plotted until the last year or so. It isn’t really plotting. I use Jim Butcher’s arch, and basically have tics with scenes I know need to go in the book and the major turning points. But it does help. Still, I like not knowing much about my characters and discovering them as I go along.
My point is, never be afraid to shake things up a little. Try something new you learn in a class. Or follow a train of thought that might sound a little crazy at first.
Have you tried something new and it worked? Doesn’t have to be just about writing.
Tell me, I really want to know.
Wednesday, March 30th, 2011 by Bob Mayer
We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog for some news and some random information.
First, is my decision to turn from traditional publishing and go out on my own. On 12 April, my epic novel, Duty, Honor, Country, a Novel of West Point & The Civil War will come out in ebook and in trade paperback by the end of the month.
It’s a difficult decision to part ways with traditional publishing especially after twenty years and over forty books and relying on my writing for my livelihood. However, the reality is, if you aren’t a ‘brand’ author that the publisher backs, your career is almost guaranteed to be doomed. I believe the days of surviving with multiple midlist titles is coming to an end.
One key factor in deciding to bring Duty, Honor, Country out on my own is that the publishing date (12 April) is the 150th Anniversary of the start of the Civil War. I’m seeing deals on PW Daily where books are being contracted today, for publication in 2014. That’s archaic in the digital world.
With Amanda Hocking’s success, there seems to a “gold rush” of writers throwing their books up on Amazon and other sites. Succeeding at self-publishing is as hard as succeeding in traditional publishing, the difference is, more of the control is with the writer rather than the vagaries of others. I’ll be blogging more about this on JA Konrath’s blog on 12 April.
The same traits for success are required in both areas: well-written books, author platform, author promotion, and most of all, perseverance.
On other fronts, a couple of things. One is a couple of authors have made the mistake of responding to negative on-line reviews of their books by going after the reviewers. Suffice it to say, those authors are pretty much smoking ruins at this point. I don’t think it’s a good idea to respond to reviews, especially negative ones. Walk away. I think it’s wrong for authors to respond, but the venom I see in some of the comments, especially from anonymous posters, about these authors pretty much negates the original offense. I dismiss anonymous posters, whatever their motive is for being such. If they can’t take credit for what they say, don’t slam someone who did and is getting destroyed for it.
On the same front, there are “industry experts” who, when you check their bio, are such because they call themselves such. They list no body of work produced. No job experience that relates. But they are experts. I saw one guy on a panel simply list his bio as: Publishing Genius. When I went to his web site, it went on and on that he was a genius, but listed not a single job or real accomplishment in publishing and nothing published. I just shake my head at such geniuses.
Sad to say, I see a widening chasm in publishing. Reminds me of the chasm between ‘literary’ writers and genre writers that has existed for decades. They give one set awards and the other checks. Joking. Not. Is Larry McMurtry a western genre writer with Lonesome Dove? For which he won the Pulitzer. A good writer is a good writer. Now the chasm is the trads vs the indies (by the way, I’m trademarking those terms). I think each writer has to make the choice that is best for them. And we don’t need to attack those who are different. No attacking other authors or reviewers. Anonymous and experts who aren’t, I can live without.
It’s an interesting new world in publishing and as we say at Who Dares Wins Publishing: Lead, Follow, or Get the Hell Out Of The Way!
Tuesday, March 29th, 2011 by Sasha White
“Don’t play for safety. It’s the most dangerous thing in the world.”
— Hugh Walpole, Writer
I’ve been doing a lot of cleaning up the last week or two. Not just cleaning the house, but organizing my office, trying to get it arranged in a way that feels right, cleaning crap off the hard drive of my computer, adding new music and creating playlists for writing. I’ve been doing pretty much everything but writing….again.
Strangely I’m not freaked out about it. In fact, I feel like a pregnant woman nesting. I’m getting ready to dive into some serious writing. I have 2 projects that have been in the back of my mind for more than a year or two. Projects that I think can take my career to a new level, if I have the courage to do them justice.
With my cleaning, I’m rearranging some of my bookshelves, which has led to trimming them. Going through and deciding which are keepers, and which will be going to the used book store. While doing this I’ve been re-reading many of my keepers, and one thing has become obvious to me. It didn’t matter what genre the book was in, the ones that were all my favorites had one thing in common….there was a level of risk in each story. Something about a character, or the plot, that readers would either love or hate…something that could’ve been toned down, but wasn’t, and in not doing that the story was better for it.
I know now that I wasn’t ready to write them when they first came to me for a reason. When I first starting writing I had no fear. I had no fear because I had nowhere to go but up. Then somehow, I lost that quality. I can’t say I became scared, because I really don’t think I did. I do think I lost some of my own passion though. Passion for staying true to my own vision of things instead of what I thought would sell better.
This last couple years I’ve done a lot of thinking about what I wanted from my writing career, and one thing that has become crystal clear to me is I want to be proud of what I produce. For the most part, I am proud of my past works, but there are a few I’d like to wipe off the bookshelves and out of readers minds. Not because they were bad, but because they weren’t as good as they could’ve been, and that’s my bad. I started to play things safe, and I lost my passion. In losing my passion, I lost my voice.
That’s about to change.
I’m going to keep writing some erotic fiction, mostly short stories or novellas, while I work on Big Idea #1, partly because it will satisfy my short attention span. But mainly because I have fun with it, and to be honest, human sexuality fascinates me. I love well done erotic fiction, and it boosts my confidence to write something I’m good at. I need that confidence and that passion so I can write Big Idea #1 the way it deserves to be written. I plan to break some ‘rules’ and have a hell of a good time doing it.
I think readers will have a hell of a good time reading it when I’m done.
Monday, March 28th, 2011 by Carrie Vaughn
I’m going to talk about something I haven’t thought of in a long time, because I’m so happy to be out of that part of my life: my crummy day jobs. “Crummy” defined as those low-paying, low-skill, hourly-wage, no-chance-for-advancement type jobs your parents warned you about.
I worked crummy day jobs for twelve years. It wasn’t hell. It served its purpose. There is no shame in crummy day jobs. In fact, for me, the crummy day job was awesome because it wasn’t a career. I wasn’t emotionally invested in it. I was there for the paycheck. In at least one case, when the employer asked for more commitment, I quit. I already had a career. Just because I wasn’t getting paid for it yet, didn’t mean I wasn’t committed to it. I just needed the day job to pay the rent.
After the job I quit because I refused to make it a priority in my life as the boss requested, I worked in a bookstore for three years, spending part of that time as a buyer, which gave me a great education in publishing. I loved that job. When I sold my first book, I already knew about things like BEA and co-op advertising, what a dump was and how book tours worked. Then I went to grad school (to see if I wanted to be an academic — I didn’t) and worked part time as an administrative assistant at an accounting firm. That lasted almost eight years. I temped for a year after that. Then in spring of 2007 I got my first royalty check. I quit working that week.
The thing about all these jobs: I rarely had to work overtime. They weren’t difficult. I usually came home ready to write. In fact, especially at the book store, I’d jot down notes about the current work in progress throughout the day, shove them in my pocket, and in the evening come home, pull out all the notes, and write.
So what’s the problem?
There’s a stigma in the U.S., especially in middle class families like mine, about working low-paying, hourly-wage jobs. They’re not a career. They often don’t require degrees, they don’t have retirement plans. (I was lucky to get health insurance.) There’s an assumption that if you aren’t working a salaried, ladder-climbing job that comes with a nifty title and a chance for promotion, you’re not doing well. That you’re not good enough. When I was at the store, one of my teachers from high school came in one day, saw me there, and asked when I was going to get a real job. Yeah, that’s what I dealt with. It’s all BS, I say, because the world is filled with crummy-day-job type jobs that need doing to keep the world going, that earn real money, and let you have a life on the side.
I wonder how many people quit writing because they think the only way to make a living is with a respectable career, rather than “paying the rent” type day jobs, and they decide they don’t have time/energy to do both. This makes me sad.
My parents are great, because they never hassled me about getting “real” job. We used to talk about it — did they care what kind of job we did? What we aspired to? I wanted to be a writer from the start. My brother majored in theater and wanted to work in that field. Both areas are unconventional and not known for high-paying job prospects. But my parents always said, “It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you can pay the rent.” I didn’t understand at the time how liberating that was, but I see it now, in hindsight. My only obligation in this world was to support myself. The job I had didn’t matter (as long as it was legal…). I didn’t have to impress anyone. I wanted to be a writer — and as long as I supported myself while I worked for that goal, all was well.
I think too many people look at the situation as either/or. Either you pay the rent, or you be an artist, as if one must necessarily detract from the other. That just isn’t true. There’s no reason you can’t do both. Lots of people do. What’s more, day jobs provide lots of fodder — there’s a reason the main character of my next release, After the Golden Age, is an accountant.
It’s like we keep saying: figure out what you want to do, then figure out how you do it. I wanted to support myself, and be a writer. My crummy day jobs let me do that.
Saturday, March 26th, 2011 by Ken Scholes
Howdy Folks. Hope your Saturday is rocking evenly.
I had an entirely different blog post that I was preparing and it went something like this:
WRITERLY MOMENTS NUMBER SIXTY EIGHT
It is a quiet morning. I can hear the mumbling of rain on the roof, harmonizing with the crackle of the fire I’ve set in the stove.
My work station is complete: Hot coffee to the left of my laptop (along with my mouse) and headphones laid out with a writing mix of songs numbering in the thousands. But I won’t need music for awhile. The rain and fire will hold me.
Yesterday, I drove out to the tiny town of Bay Center, Washington, on the Willapa Bay — an oyster lover’s paradise. I unloaded a weekend’s supply of groceries and seven bags of wood pellets for the stove. It is a great gift of grace, this borrowed house, and the last time I visited, I knocked out 6,000 words.
This time, I’m aiming for closer to 15,000 but I’ll be satisfied with 10,000. I’ve planned out each day’s sessions and have movies packed for the gaps between.
The night before, laying in bed and struggling to sleep, my words marched out before me and I saw that they were good. I was ready.
It was time to write.
That was the beginning of the blog post I was intending for today. I’d even figured out a local spot a dozen or so miles closer to civilization where I could pull down some wifi and find WordPress.
Life trumps work. So I’m at home now with two sick toddlers, both in and out of fevers and fussiness. I was packing up to head home the morning after my first night because that’s what needed to happen.
I sat on a lot of panels about balancing life and writing before I became a parent. I had lots of great ideas for new writers on how to manage themselves and their time. I was a regular repository of knowledge, being bivocational and managing to grow my writing career quite effectively while working full time etc.
And then I had twins.
Well, my wife had them but you know what I mean. Since then, I’ve not been at the cons to sit on those panels because…well, life trumps work. And it totally makes sense that it should.
These days, if I were asked how to balance life and work, I’d shrug and say “I’m not exactly sure but I think you just keep trying different things until something sticks and you find a rhythm that works for you.” It’s hard with small children and full time jobs, that’s for sure.
Now, I am a person with a fairly good work ethic under most circumstances. But when it comes right down to it, one of my core values is that life has permission to trump work, especially when it comes to the people in my life. Particularly the little ones. Because I know at the end of it all that I will not regret having written fewer books and stories than I could have. But I could very easily regret not giving my best to the people I love. Or missing out on the first years of my amazing daughters and all the good, bad and ugly that comes with Daddyhood.
Of course, the sticking point where we all have to find balance is when part of giving our best to the people we love includes working to create resources that meet those people’s needs. And writing is a job as much as it is anything else and it will not behave as a job unless it’s treated as one.
So for me, there’s no hard and fast rule, no easy measuring stick. It’s a judgment call that’s made on a case by case basis. But somethines, that means shifting gears and trying something new over and over again until you find your rhythm. And sometimes it means packing up the morning after you’ve arrived to your writing hideaway to go home and take care of sick children.
Last night, I woke up to repeated kicks to my back from the tiny feet of a feverish, restless daughter. She wouldn’t sleep so we slipped off to the guest room so that Jen could. And sometime later, Lizzy settled down and in the morning, I found her cuddled up to my back and snoring. It was not a bad way to wake up.
As much as I hate losing the words — especially now during this time of writerly drought I’ve been in — I know that ultimately, the words will come. And they will glorious. I’m good with laying them aside for another few days if that’s what it takes.
And I’m sure the beach house will be waiting for me when I make my next attempt. Until then, I’ll find my words where I can.
And cuddle my babies to sleep as needed.
Trailer Boy out.
Friday, March 25th, 2011 by Rosemary
My brain does not want to put words together today.
I’ve always said I don’t believe in “Writer’s Block.” This always seems slightly drama soaked, with a whiff of excuse. But there are plenty of times when, for one reason or another, the words won’t flow. Sometimes it’s the writer, sometimes it’s the project.
So what do you do about it?
Skip ahead. If there’s something blocking you in the scene you’re writing, make a note of what needs to happen there, and skip to the next one. You’ll either find that (a) you didn’t need that scene anyway or (b) having a definite target helps define the scene. But our subconscious can be smarter that we are– sometimes it knows there’s something problematic about what we’re working on.
Write something that “doesn’t matter.” Write a character sketch or a scene that happens outside of the book. Write a journal entry from your heroine’s POV about the hero. Write your heroine’s grocery list or describe her bedroom. Writing something that “doesn’t matter” can overcome the stagefright that can shut you down when doubt starts whispering “this sucks.” It doesn’t matter if it sucks, because it’s not going to be in the book, but what you learn from it will.
Do the other stuff. Outline. Research. Write out the backstory. Write a glossary of your world terms or a family tree of your main character. That way your writing time isn’t wasted. But be honest that you’re not just procrastinating.
Take a break. If I take a walk, or do the grocery shopping, or vacuum the house, my brain is usually working on the scene while I’m busy doing other things, and a lot of times I’ll have a breakthrough “aha!” moment that sends me running to the computer knowing exactly what I need to do next.
Walk away for the day. It’s okay to give yourself a break for the day. There may be a physical or emotional reason your words don’t want to connect. For me, it’s usually better to acknowledge this (after a truly honest effort) and say, “I’m walking away for the morning, or the afternoon, or the day” rather than beat my head against a wall, until I’m frustrated and blocked worse than ever.
Try, try again. No matter what you do, come back to it later.
Thursday, March 24th, 2011 by Candace Havens
Usually around this time I’m a nervous wreck. It’s that time of dread for most authors – the week before the book comes out. And I probably would be doused with hardcore insecurities, except the online retailers took care of that. They began shipping out the book more than a week early. Sigh. And yay! I’m really excited about people getting to read She Who Dares, Wins. But I wish I’d had a little more time to get the promo ready.
I haven’t even sent out a newsletter yet, which would normally send me into a panic. But for some reason I’m so Zen right now it is scary. I absolutely expect my book to do well. It’s a fun, sexy romp with a great mystery. I’ve written characters I absolutely adore, both of whom are quite different than anything I’ve done before. It’s set in London, which automatically gives it a cool factor. And it’s super hot.
I think part of my Zen is that I’ve learned, after eight books, that you give the book wings and then you set it free. You hope people love it as much as you do, but you also know that you’ve done the best you can. There are also so many things you can’t control as an author. Distribution is one of them. I don’t have to worry about that so much with Harlequin, as they are the masters when it comes to distribution. But I haven’t been so lucky in the past. It’s hard to sell books if people can’t find them.
So I’ll do what I can with promotions. I’ll run by local bookstores and sign stock copies. I’ve set up some book signings (www.candacehavens.com) and I’ll be out at the RT (Romantic Times) convention in Los Angeles. I’ll be showing up on some blogs and I’ll finally be blogging on my own blog. (It’s been awhile.)
If you feel like adding to your good writing karma, you can help a girl out by telling your blog, Twitter, Facebook and My Space pals know that I have a new book out. Tell them I’m one of your besties (because I will be if you do) and that you love me.