Keeping a Deadline Despite a Busy Life

How does anyone manage to write regularly when they have a family and a full-time job?

No, seriously. How?

Hopefully you didn’t come here to find out, because if I knew I wouldn’t be writing this apology post three months after my most recent one.

At the beginning of this year I set myself the goal of posting at least once per month. I was working on call, so the only thing hindering my ability to post was the fact that I was living with depression while parenting a two-year-old. I posted in January and February but, like most New Year’s resolutions, progress stalled after that. I got a full-time job in March, and I haven’t posted since.

Well, that’s about to change. Unlike most New Year’s resolutions, I’m jumping back on the horse!

There’s a writing tip, if that’s what you came here for: Don’t give up. Even when you feel like you’ve fallen short. Even when you’ve taken an unintentional break and your brain is rusty. When you fall off the horse, you get back on.

I said I was going to write a feminist blog series on Disney Princesses, and that’s what I’m going to do.

Coming soon: a feminist take on Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

I can’t wait!

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Honesty is an Editor’s Best Policy

With the new Star Wars coming out next week, some friends and I decided to do a marathon. Starting with The Phantom Menace and ending with Return of the Jedi, we’ve been watching one movie per week until The Force Awakens.

 

We were all ecstatic when we completed the most difficult part of this marathon: the prequel trilogy. Phew! It was all downhill from there!

 

Watching those prequels got my husband and I to wondering, How? How in the world did those movies get made? How did those special effects pass for acceptable? Better yet, how did the scripts even make it through the editing process in the first place?

 

My husband had a great insight into the answer to these questions: The Star Wars prequels are simply a demonstration of what happens when nobody tells the writer, “No.”

 

Before The Phantom Menace, George Lucas could do no wrong in the eyes of many of his fans. (In hindsight, the rerelease of the original trilogy with “upgraded” special effects should’ve tipped us off.) People were actually excited for the new trilogy.

 

No one wanted to tell George Lucas he should hire someone else to write the romance between Padmé and Anakin. No one wanted to tell him he was going overboard with the special effects. No one wanted to tell him Jar Jar Binks was a terrible idea.

 

That is, until The Phantom Menace came out. Then, suddenly, they couldn’t wait to tear George Lucas to shreds. Even his most devout fans have lost faith in the once-great George Lucas, and they rejoice in the fact that he no longer has control over the franchise.

 

Of course, this (often not-so-constructive) criticism came far too late. As much as we would like to pretend they never happened at all, we must now live in a world in which the Star Wars prequel trilogy exists.

 

Therefore, the lesson to be learned from the catastrophe that is Episodes I, II, and III, is the extreme importance of editing and getting honest feedback before signing off on a completed work. Whether you’re a rookie author writing your first short story or a big time Hollywood director expanding your pet nerd-verse, you’re going to need to revise your drafts multiple times. Get over it.

 

So when your newest project is fresh off the printer, don’t rely on your best friend, significant other, or mother to give you constructive criticism. Get an unbiased opinion. Hire a professional editor (I’m available, btw) who won’t treat you like a diva. You don’t need to be babied – you need to become better at your artform.

 

Once you have that editor, don’t take their critiques personally. They’re not trying to hurt your feelings. They’re trying to strengthen your writing. Remember that when you’re mourning the Story That Was. Know when to keep your own voice, and when to make changes.

 

And for goodness sakes, know when to cut that annoying, racist, poorly-CGI’d character out of the story entirely!

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Kindred Spirits

Last weekend was my very first time attending a comic book convention: Wizard World Comic Con. Being here in Reno, Nevada, it was a relatively small convention, but it was an amazing experience.

I’ve wanted to go to a Comic Con for years now, even though I was not entirely sure what to expect. To be honest, the biggest appeal for me was probably the cosplay. I do love having excuses to dress up! I got to pull out my steampunk costume, which is always fun.

But the highlight of the Con, for me, turned out to be a panel on world-building and story-telling. I hadn’t put much thought at all into hearing a panel, but I’m so glad I did.

Panelists
from left to right: David Michael Slater, Genese Davis, Tracy Clark, & Heather Petty

I’d forgotten how much I love being surrounded by other people who share my passion for writing. I learned new things and walked away with some great tips, but mostly I just wanted to soak up the energy of that room filled with creative minds bursting to put their ideas on paper.

Panel

Panel Audience
You can see me in the audience, about halfway back!

There’s something about being with kindred spirits that makes you resist waiting any longer to pursue your dream.

 

 

If this is the feeling I got from a single writing panel at a Comic Con, imagine what a conference focused entirely on writing can do!

It’s been almost four years since the first and only Writers’ Conference I ever attended. The time has definitely come to revisit one. Obviously the TMCC Writers’ Conference is most convenient for me, but I’ll be looking into those of surrounding areas as well. The conference I attended in 2013 was so inspiring – and it got me out of my comfort zone as well as introduced me to some friendly and influential people in the publishing business.

I’m already excited to go again!

Selling Your Skills (writing skills, that is – nothing illegal)

If you’re a writer, Authors Publish is a helpful resource. If you “like” their Facebook page, subscribe to their free magazine, or just poke around on their website when the mood suits you, you’ll find writing advice and reviews of publishing companies, among other things related to writing and publishing.

One of my favorite articles I’ve found through the Authors Publish Facebook page is a list of three ways to promote your writing by Emily Harstone. It begins with a quote by John Green: “Writing is something you do alone. Its a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.”

This is exactly why marketing can be so difficult for writers, myself included. We tend to not be the kinds of people who enjoy putting ourselves out there.

But self-marketing is necessary, especially now in the digital age. Publishers are not likely to spend much money (if any at all) on marketing a new author, so they need to know they’re signing a writer who can build their own reader fanbase.

Harstone’s first two suggestions for writers to market themselves is via a blog and a Facebook page. I’ve got those two down! (Well, at least I’ve got them. And I’m determined to do better about posting frequently.)

The third is to have a business card. This is an idea I’ve toyed with in the past, but haven’t gotten around to actually following through with yet. That’s about to change!

I went to a writer’s convention last summer and met a few authors who were passing out business cards and – drum roll, please – bookmarks. What a genius idea for a writer to have a “business card” that is actually a bookmark! It’s functional, and therefore less likely to be thrown away. It ensures that the writer’s info is going out to someone who does in fact enjoy reading, and it keeps the writer fresh in the reader’s mind.

However, one particular author (who shall remain nameless) should have thought his through a bit more. One side of this author’s bookmark includes a synopsis of the book and how to purchase it, while the other side gives a short bio on the author. Here’s the synopsis:

“When a research scientist is found dead at the Lab, the head of security begins to investigate. Dr. [character name] of [fictional company name] has many secrets that could jeopardize his relationship with government benefactors he desperately needs.”

Is Dr. [character name] the dead research scientist? If so, why does it matter if his relationship with government benefactors is jeopardized? He’s dead. I don’t think he cares much about the state of his relationships.

Or is the character the head of security? If this is the case, why is he a “Dr”?

Could the “secrets” possibly be even a little more intriguing?

Could the desperation possibly be even a little more specific?

Basically, this synopsis is just too vague and confusing to be interesting.

Here’s the author bio:

“[Author] has been writing stories since he was thirteen years old. He grew up, watching television…”

I’m going to stop my critique right here, because this is where I decided that I truly did not care one bit to find this author online and read his work.

Why do people seem to think punctuation is unimportant? I mean, when I see a misplaced comma in a text message, it’s a pet peeve. But when I see it on a bookmark that is supposed to be convincing me that someone is a good writer? No. There’s no reason this should not have been caught and fixed before all those bookmarks were printed out.

That comma should not be there. As it is, the fragment “he grew up” should be able to stand alone as its own sentence. And I think it’s safe to say that we all know that this person grew up, as he includes a photo of himself in which he has graying hair.

The moral of my story is this: proofread! You are selling your writing skills, so you’d better be certain your writing skills are at their best on any marketing material you produce.

That said, can you spot any errors on my bookmark? Please let me know now, before I print a whole bunch of them!

author bio on the front of my bookmark/business card
author bio & web addresses on the front of my bookmark/business card
"Finding 'Ohana" excerpt on the back of my bookmark/business card
excerpt from the first chapter of Finding ‘Ohana on the back of my bookmark/business card

Why

In his first published book, Nicholas Sparks wrote that it’s not the whats and hows and wheres that matter in life, it’s the whys.

While Nicholas Sparks’ writing certainly has its faults (which I won’t go on and on and on and on… and on… about right now), this quote has always stuck with me. Focus on the whys in life, and life will be simpler, happier, and less stressful.

While reading through some old blog posts, I was reminded of why I write, and why I’m trying to get published:

 

There’s one story… on one of the special features of The Little Mermaid DVD that I borrowed from my parents. One of the creators of the movie tells the camera about the various fan mail they received after the movie was released. In one letter, a man told the studio that immediately after seeing The Little Mermaid in theaters, he called his daughter, whom he hadn’t spoken to in years. I get teary even rewriting this story that happened to people I will never meet. Possibly because remembering it instantly brings to mind the image of Ariel hugging King Triton and whispering, “I love you, Daddy.”

I love you, Daddy

This is what I want to give to my readers. This is what I think about when I’m discouraged about my lack of being “discovered.”

Among other things, Finding ‘Ohana is also about a young woman wanting to reconnect with her parents, even though they cut her out of their lives years ago. If I could reach someone who’s in a similar situation, I would consider my book a success.

Just Keep Swimming

Something I’m trying to work on this week is to just keep going. It’s a mantra that’s applicable in various areas of my life right now, writing and trying to get published included. It’s been pretty rough, and I’ve been getting a little discouraged…

So I looked back over a couple of posts I made over a year ago. The first one was exactly what I needed, so I want to reblog it now as a reminder to myself:

 

[To] “Keep Going” is all about perseverance. It reminded me of a Bible scripture, believe it or not. James 1:2&3 “Consider it pure joy, my [sisters], whenever you face trials of any kind, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” I’m not very religious (anymore), but this scripture has always had a nice ring to it for me. Maybe it’s my annoying tendency to be optimistic. It’s like the scripture that says that God works for the good of those who love God. Bad things can’t always be bad. There’s always something good that comes from them. If nothing else, perseverance.

So maybe I’ve gotten some responses from agents saying that my novel isn’t what they’re looking for. But that’s only testing my faith that my novel is worth representation, and as long as I hold firm to that faith with perseverance, it’ll pay off.

I know, ever the optimist. Annoying, right?   : P

Just Keep Swimming

“I love you, Daddy.”

“I love you, Daddy.”

“[M]arketing should be viewed as a liberating endeavor, not an oppressive burden… If you find [marketing through social networks] tedious and difficult, then you may have forgotten your value or the fact that people deeply need it.” -Rob Eagar

Confession time. When my friend first told me that she was using social networks to get her book published, I didn’t get it. I didn’t see how that could help. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been a little technologically challenged, but I just didn’t know how you could get people to start following you or how that would help when trying to get published. 

It wasn’t until the conference on Saturday that it made any more sense. Nina Amir did a talk called “Evaluate Your Book for Success” about figuring out what publishers and readers want and determining if your book gives it to them. I’ll be honest, in the past I just thought, “Publishers want something people will read. I’m a reader, so I know what readers want. I would want to read my book, so other readers will too.”

It goes without saying, this is way too simplistic.

Nina gave a detailed (and extremely helpful!) point-by-point list of what publishers want, the hardest part for me being that they want writers who are good business partners. But I’m working on it. I’m starting by doing what I should have done when my friend first mentioned it to me (if I had known how to at the time): social networking!

I’m finding that it’s a lot easier than I thought it would be. Turns out, I could talk about my book, and writing in general, forever! It’s like the scripture the WildFire Marketing blog (linked above) refers to — why would I light a lamp and then put it under the bed? I believe in my book. I love my book. So why wouldn’t I try to get the word out to as many people as possible?

So far, marketing has been liberating for me, rather than burdening. (Now I just have to try to hold on to that when I get the inevitable rejections!) It’s like David Stipech said, if I focus on what I want to get out of my writing, I’m going to be disappointed and frustrated. But if I focus on what I want to give to my audience through my writing, I will have more energy and motivation. Not to mention, I imagine it will be more fulfilling once I do get published.

So what do I want to give?

There’s one story that always comes to my mind. It’s on one of the special features of The Little Mermaid DVD that I borrowed from my parents. One of the creators of the movie tells the camera about the various fan mail they received after the movie was released. In one letter, a man told the studio that immediately after seeing The Little Mermaid in theaters, he called his daughter, whom he hadn’t spoken to in years. I get teary even rewriting this story that happened to people I will never meet. Possibly because remembering it instantly brings to mind the image of Ariel hugging King Triton and whispering, “I love you, Daddy.”

This is what I want to give to my readers. This is what I think about when I’m discouraged about my lack of being “discovered.”

Among other things, Finding ‘Ohana is also about a young woman wanting to reconnect with her parents, even though they cut her out of their lives years ago. If I could reach someone who’s in a similar situation, I would consider my book a success.