Sunday, December 22, 2013

Getting back to business

I'm not going to lie...I let myself get lazy in my writing career. Whether it's been a needed break or if I just slacked off the last two months, I don't know. But what I do know is that it's time to get back on track. This coming March marks one year since the last release in my Primordial Guardians™ series. I had planned to write 3-4 books in that series during 2013, and I've let myself down in that regard. Yes, I've worked on other projects, and I've spent some much-needed and much-appreciated time with those that I love, but it's time to get crackin'.

Even if I can't find that energy or time right now, I know the time is fast-approaching. Soon, my little family will be experiencing a shift-change, I guess you could say, which will allow some alone-time. In the past, I've used that time for writing, and is how I wrote three full-length novels in less than a year (pre-baby, but three novels nonetheless). So if I can't squeeze in that time now, I know it's coming up.

On a side note, while I have not been keeping myself busy with writing, I have been tossing around marketing ideas. As we all know: writing the book isn't enough, we authors have to market them too.

I've been trying some different things to get my books in more people's hands. Since I self-published The Highlander's Curse, I've been able to drop the price and see how it affects my sales. For the paperback, I dropped the price from $10.99 to $8.99, and I lowered the eBook first from $2.99 to $1.99, and now I have it at $0.99 until the end of 2013. Since I self-published it, I can see its progress as often as I want, so it's been an interesting test. Come 2014, I'll decide what sale price I want to set my book at. If I don't see much of a difference in sales, it may just go back up to $2.99, if not more.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I've written a what?

I finished my book about a month ago.  It was the tenth revision/rewrite that took me around three and a half years to reach.  I completed the life goal of writing a book, a real novel with over 75,000 words.  It's no longer an idea or a dream.  It's my reality: I've written a book.  Now what?

That was the question I asked myself each day for weeks after this great milestone.  Now that I had a completed project, what was I supposed to do with it?  I knew I wanted to publish it and that I wanted to get it to the public as soon as possible.  But I also knew it wasn't ready to throw on Amazon.  It needed to be polished, worked over, worked on.  I knew there were grammatical errors and syntax problems that needed to be resolved.  I wanted to be sure I tied up all the plot points, that my character development was at its finest, that my world-building was at its peak.  With all the things I knew, there was only one solution--I needed an editor.

If writing a book was a daunting task, finding the right editor seemed like hiking Everest.  I sat in a dazed state for another few weeks, immobilized by the idea of scouring all of the professional editing world for that one editor who would make my work the strongest it could be.  Somehow, through my catatonic stupor, the thought came to me that my goal wasn't complete.  I wanted to become an author and not just an author who wrote books, but an author who shared my books with the world.  I was only halfway there.

I had to keep going.  No one ever hiked Everest without preparation and determination.  I had to start somewhere.  That somewhere was with research.  There are so many to choose from: copy editors, developmental editors, all of the above...and the price range is all over the charts.  Sifting through the editors that didn't meet my needs, narrowing down my list to just a select few I believe will help me take my writing to the level I want it to be at.  It's time to prepare a query to send to my first choice and I've made a list of backup editors.  I'm prepared to make my investment to follow through with my goal and become the writer, the author I've dreamed of becoming.

It all started with a step.  Everest doesn't seem so daunting anymore...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Deleting Distractions

This may or may not have been covered before, but I want to testify of its brilliance. Now, distractions can be anything; kids, animals, youtube, facebook, food in the pantry, the neighbors burying a body in their backyard, or the front room needs rearranging. Get rid of them! Now, I'm not saying send the kids and dogs over to go help the neighbors bury the body, but I am saying, find a way to get rid of them so they wont distract you from writing. For me, social media is a HUGE distraction. I love/hate social media and it doesn't take long for, "I'll just check facebook really fast before I start writing." to turn into a solid hour on facebook. I'll admit it, yes, I have spent a solid hour commenting, liking, and staring/scrolling aimlessly at my stupid newfeed. AND FOR WHAT? Nothing, I tell you. For many reasons, I decided to delete the facebook and twitter applications from my phone. They are obviously still accessible, but getting rid of the direct line definitely helped keep me away. Since Friday, I have written 8,500 words in my novel. Keep in mind, I have not been making much progress thus far... because of distractions. Now, that was just for me, but I encourage all to find what these distractions are and get rid of them, even if its just for a few hours so you can dedicate that time to your project. Happy deleting!!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

When in doubt, talk it out!

Telling a story isn't like other hobbies where you know exactly what to do and how to do it. You've got to create something entirely from scratch. If it sucks, it's your fault. If it's awesome, it's your glory. Either way, you need to develop good habits to help you learn and grow as a writer.

The first thing I hear when listening to other authors give advice is to just finish writing your book. But if you've ever tried this you know it's a lot easier said than done. What happens when you've set a deadline for yourself and you push aside all plans with family, your homework, reading that amazing book, cooking dinner, and any other distractions just so you could write? You pull up your computer eager to knock out some major word count and...nothing.

This is where I use the, "When in doubt, talk it out" motto. Turn to your writing partner (if you don't have one, get one. Or two, or three) for those times when you get stuck. Talk to them about the scene you're trying to write and what comes next and I promise as you talk about it, you'll be able to unfold the details that seem to elude you.

If you're the writing partner being called, make sure to ask a lot of questions. Look for gaps in the scene transitions or plot. Make sure the scene is propelling the story forward and that the characters are consistent. Let your partner explain things and most the time you just have to sit back and listen, asking a question here and a question there.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Find motivation - wherever you can get it

As you may have gleaned from the posts in November, our main theme is "How to improve your writing." The other three Chics have written incredible posts on practicing your craft, using real life experiences to influence your writing, and finding your (and your characters) voice. I'm rounding out the month talking about motivation.

We've all been there: You want to write, your characters keep you up (or wake you up) in the middle of the night showing you awesome scenes that you're desperate to type up. But, oh crap, you've got to get up for work in three hours, so you better not stumble out of bed unless you're pretty much awesome at pretending you're not groggy while at work. So how in the crap can you get writing done when life gets in the way?

Find motivation, wherever you can get it...and I can't stress this enough: At the times it will help you most.

If you can squeeze in 30 minutes of writing time when you get home from work, make sure you do something that will help you get in the mood. Whether its driving home in an eerily quiet car as you think of your characters and picture a scene you've been wanting to write but haven't figured out the details yet; or maybe you want to blast the crap out of your sub-woofers and sing at the top of your lungs to a song that helps you visualize your characters/book. Just do it. That way, when you get home, you're feeling that undeniable pull toward your computer/laptop to put those fingers to the keys.

Here are some things I do to help me get motivated (obviously depending on the story I'm writing at the time):
Listening to music
Listening to an audio book
Reading a book
Watching TV

In my experience, finding the right kind of motivation can be one of the most beneficial things to improving your writing craft. If it helps draw you into your story (whether you're writing or editing it), how can it hurt? In fact, it could enhance you're emotions so much that you actually improve what you've previously written.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Voice: How to find yours

Voice: it's what we always hear about at any book club, writer's conference, and critique group.

The voice was so well done I didn't care about the writing.  
The author's voice was so well defined that I felt like I knew each character like they were my friends.
You need to work on your voice.  You transition from sarcasm to drama and back loses the reader...blah blah blah

We've all heard people say things just like this, usually the last is directed at our work and the former two are about some other wonderful, successful, published author.  We've been told countless times that until we get our voice nailed down and solidified, our work isn't going get any serious attention.  I've even been told that finding my voice is the single most important technique to develop as a writer.  And it's all true.

And yet, after all of the conversations about voice and ways to develop it, we're still just as lost as ever in regards to how to tie down our writing voice.

My experience has been one of those long, painful, learning curves, without which I wouldn't be at the level of writing I feel like I've come to today.  When I first started writing, I wanted to show just how many words I knew and just how artfully I could craft sentences.  I was so focused on making each phrase wonderful that I missed out on the underlying reasons for writing: a story, a plot, a theme, character development...etc.  I didn't have a cohesive story, only pretty sequences of phrases that didn't make much sense or even catch anyone's interest, not even my own.  I knew what I'd done wasn't anywhere close to being a novel, so I basically scratched the whole thing and started over.  I focused on the plot rather than on the writing and by the time I finished the book, I actually had a book.  But it still wasn't acceptable.


Because there was no defined voice in the novel.  It was all over the place.  The characters reacted in volatile ways because I didn't understand them and that led me to write them reacting to whatever situation the way I was feeling the day I was writing that particular scene.  It was like being in a relationship with someone who hadn't been taking their medication to keep them balanced.

I had to do another major revision.  Instead of starting over completely though, I could keep the theme, plot, and story.  I just had to develop that one aspect of writing that had been so elusive to me over the four years I've been working on my writing: voice.

I researched voice, reading as many blogs by authors, agents, editors, and publishers that I could stand.  I was still clueless though until I thought of my writing as a person.
What does that even mean?
I'll try to break it down in the way I finally understood it.

Take any person you know well and think about their personality, think about them.  How do they react when they are happy?  What kinds of words do they use when they're angry?  What about the way they express their feelings or deep desires?  I bet you knew the answer to every single one of those questions because you know that person so well.  And because you could answer those questions with confidence, that means the person you thought of is consistent.  They are defined as a person and that definition comes out depending on the situation.  But that person also isn't monotonous, emotionless, or boring.  They simply are consistent.  So it is with voice.  It is consistent and must be throughout your entire novel.

That was it.  All I needed to do was think of voice as a person and once I did that, it became consistent.  And remember consistency doesn't mean monotonous or emotionless.  So now I've finished another major revision that revolved around consistency: consistency in my characters (due to the amazing tool of character sketches), and consistency in voice (which came easier once I understood my characters).  Consistency has been the key to my development as a writer.  Hopefully it's something that can help you too.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Real emotion/life experiences

As writers it is our job to make people feel emotion with the use of our words. Emotion makes people connect to the story. So what is it about the words we are using to describe, say... "My heart ached." Anyone can say that. How do we as authors make someone truly feel the aching of the character's heart? We draw on personal life experiences and then we find a way to describe the sometimes indescribable.

"There was an emptiness where I normally used to feel things."
"My heart felt like it weighed a thousand pounds, but somehow still beat."
"It felt as if something had a hold of my heart and continued to squeeze it tighter and tighter."
"The pain and anguish settled where love and hope used to abide."

These are all different descriptions, and each is unique in their own way, but they convey a sense of aching. We as human beings experience so many emotions. Wonderful and horrible emotions. The beautiful thing about being a writer, is we have the gift to connect intimately with our readers. We make them feel as if we are writing this story just for them, because they lived it, or they relate so closely with one of our characters.

I think the best way to do that is by using what is latent within us-these emotions that everyone feels-but we have the ability to make it a reality. Being someone who has little experience with emotions (Yeah right. I'm a girl, who are we kidding), I find that is when I connect the most with a story or character. I like to challenge myself sometimes and come up with multiple ways to describe one emotion/reaction and its always interesting to me just how many I can create. Emotions are relatable and a ready source. Use them.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Practice Makes Perfect

One of the best things I ever did for my writing career was take a creative writing class. In that class I not only learned there are other forms of writing that I actually enjoy, such as poems-yikes!-but I learned that writing is a skill or talent that can be learned. And not just learned, but perfected.

Whether it be writing on your blog, journal, or even a paper for school, you should write as much as you can, as often as you can. This is going to be your craft, you should be good at it.

Find ways to grow as a writer. Since taking a few writing classes I now proofread all the communications that go out to our distributors from our corporate office. This responsibility helps me practice looking at grammar, sentence structure, and punctuality and now that I'm in the editing stage of my book I can tell you it has definitely helped me catch things.

Want a writing challenge? Here's one my creative writing teacher had my class do: 

Pick a fictional character of your choice (could be one you're writing or one you've read about). Set a timer for three minutes and write about a place your character can't return to. Ready? Go! 

The character I chose to use for this prompt actually surprised me. It was a character from a book I started years before and put on hold so I could work on my current novel. I was quite interested in where the rest of the story would have gone if I hadn't run out of time.

I eyed the plane ticket wearily. My fingers itched to reach out and grab it, just hold it for a moment. But I couldn't. I knew they would come after me if I took that ticket to its destination. Oh how tempting it was though! It was my belated birthday present from my sweet grandmother, who had no idea that I couldn't return to Europe. There were a lot of things she didn't know about me. Who I really was. What I really was. No one in my family did, and how could they? They weren't there when I made the decision in Europe to go to the dark pub on the corner of Heaston. They weren't there when I ran my mouth and got into trouble. 
*Copyright Jayne L. Bowden*

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Don't spread yourself too thin

I'll admit, I've had a tough time coming up with what I wanted to write about this month. I usually have a pretty good idea what I'll touch on weeks before it's my turn to post, but no matter how much I've tried to decide on a subject, I've come up with a big ol' blank. And you're about to find out why.

As you may know from previous posts, I gave myself a strict deadline for when I wanted to publish my most recent novel, The Highlander's Curse. I'm one of those crazies who, once I have a goal in mind, I'll do practically anything to achieve it. That piece of my soul that dies along with a failed goal is a lot more than I like to deal with, so I'm pretty adamant about finishing what I started. This brings me to my point (and as you may gave guessed, folks, the subject of this post).

Don't spread yourself too thin.

Having goals is a good thing. A great thing, in fact. But you should be smart about it. If you just started writing a book, and you're planning on it being close to 100K when it's done, don't set your goal to have the sucker finished in one month. Unless you're some kind of rock star who can crank out a crap ton of words every day and you don't need to edit it, then yeah, shoot for it. But I'm warning you, you're going to be in recovery-mode for a heck of a lot longer than you might think. Yes, I wore myself out. I'm currently in that dreaded funk authors call writer's block, only it isn't just affecting my writing. It's affecting everything. I have...mental-function block. I can't write, I don't want to read, heck, most of the time I don't even watch TV, I just stare at the pretty pictures flashing on the screen as my mind wanders over...well, nothing. It just wants rest!

So, what do I suggest?

I knew you'd ask. I'm psychic like that. And before you say "Ah-ha!" because I had enough mental know-how function to write this post, please note that this has taken weeks to formulate. ;)

Okay, on with my advice...

Please, just please, don't push yourself as hard as I did. Don't commit to that end goal without thinking through and planning out your smaller goals. Look at your normal productivity and factor in the fact that you can't (and seriously don't want to) shut out the entire world so you can write your book. Do you write 1,000 words a day? Awesome, your maximum goal for a week should be 7,000 words, and that's if you're planning to spend some time with your novel every single day. More than likely you won't be able to give that much love to your characters story, so give yourself some cushion. Maybe you could write 14,000 words in two weeks, but why not make a more manageable goal of 10,000 words in two weeks. If you surpass that 10,000 or even 14,000 words in that two weeks, then you have my permission to consider yourself a rock star until it's time to kick it in gear for your next goal. Alright, two week goal set? What's your month goal? Or, if you want to make smaller goals, why not set weekly ones? All I'm saying is, come up with your smaller goals and hold yourself to them. If you slack some days, you'll know what you need to make up later to keep yourself on track. And if you keep on track with your smaller goals, then nothing should keep you from reaching that long-term goal and completing your novel.

That was the end of my post, I just thought I'd add my funniest typo for this post: I kept typing "goat" in instead of "goal." If any sneak through, you get the gist.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Stand Alone vs. Series

What is better: a stand alone novel or a series?  I used to have a strong opinion about one or the other, but now it doesn't matter.  I'll tell you why.  The reasons we love a book are these: we are drawn to the characters and we like the plot.  Those are the basic reasons anyone enjoys a book.  No one says, "I loved the language, but I didn't care about the characters and the plot was unbelievable and boring.  But the way the author wrote it was worth the read..."  It doesn't matter how you tell your story so much as what you have to tell.

So regardless of whether it is a ten book series or an 80,000 word novel, the most important elements of your story are character development and plot.

I already spoke about character development when I posted about character sketches.  Knowing a character's motive and ultimate goal is the first step to great character development.  You then know how that character is going to react, regardless of the situation that occurs.  It also draws the reader to your character because the character is constant and knowable.  A character sketch will be the single greatest tool for you to develop your characters.

As for the plot, that stems from character development.  Once we understand the motives of all the major characters, even the minor characters, we can see how some characters goals will contradict other characters, which gives us plot elements and twists.  Along with Hannah's last post, there is opportunity to weave strategy and twists into the plot.  There are connections to make between characters, plot points, and action sequences.  And that all comes once you know your character.

So instead of including plot, let's just say that character development is the most important thing you can do to write a great story.

At least that's been my experience.  If you've had a different experience, let me know and tell me how it has worked for you.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Layering your story with strategy

Not really having a theme this week has thrown me off a bit... I mean, the possibilities are endless to talk about! Haha well, I have recently been watching a couple tv shows that have just really made me appreciate the talented gift of writers. We really have the ability to transform a simple story into something epic and profound, and give to give it meaning and depth. I have found that the most enticing stories have phenomenal interwoven story lines and plots that have been well thought out and strategized. Homeland or Breaking Bad(these are the shows, by the way), two wonderful examples of plot layering. I realize these are both tv shows and not novels, but I am mostly concerned with the writing and structure of the plot. I don't plan to spoil any of them for those that haven't watched them, but those who have seen them can maybe understand what I mean about the layering. Every plot twist seems to make sense, and even if it is a little out there, you have to make sure your characters motives and goals are intact with the plot twists. They have these imperfect characters and they either grow as the plot thickens, or they deteriorate, but they never stay the same, they are always having to change, and adapt.
Breaking Bad's overarching theme is watching this normal man become an anti-hero. With every twist, and with every turn, we watch him sink lower, and lower, but yet we still cheer him on. The choices he makes are very decided and he knows what he wants as a character, albeit his motives are skewed.
Homeland's intelligent writing and characters are what make this story a success. Again, the characters are deeply flawed and when they make mistakes, they are mistakes that affect not just themselves, but the Nation. Every move is calculated and thought out, and its hard to stay ahead of the bad guys.
I think the things that intrigue me the most about these two story lines, is that it puts into question our humanity. They ask questions, or put the characters through situations that I find myself saying, "How would I respond?" or "What would I do?" They are stories that make you want to evaluate yourself. That is what I consider good writing, when you can tell a story, but also make the reader (or consumer) turn inwardly to connect with the story.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Forget the Happily Ever After!

Sometimes as an author it's easy to get caught up in the "perfect world" story. (Que Duloc song from Shrek). You learn to love your characters, so naturally you want the best for them. You want them to succeed at every turn, have the safest path to their destination, and get the happily ever after ending.

Guess what, that's boring!!! And not just boring, it's typical. Readers don't want to read a story about a typical character going through typical life. They want something exciting, someone different who stands out. So how do you make your story different and exciting?

For a lot of writers the story is already outlined in their minds from start to finish. For others, the story unfolds itself as they write. No matter which type of writer you are, the story is an ever-changing, ever-expanding thing that you get to mold. Your job is to tell it as best you can, which means you have some control over the circumstances, no matter how miniscule.

Use that control to test your characters. Throw things their way and see how they react. Not only will you learn a lot about your characters, but your story will be a lot more exciting. Go through the plot and try to find ways to twist the events. If there's something your character is dreading more than anything, throw it at them. If there is something invincible or unbeatable, throw it at them. Find a different way for your character to beat it or overcome it. Think of the most unimaginable, worst thing that could happen and make it happen. Get the point yet?

An example from my own experience is a scene where my protagonist is racing through a house to beat someone to her room because she's already supposed to be there. I knew my character would beat that person to her room (A good twist would be, what if she didn't? What would she say about it, how would she react?) and when there was a knock on her door we both knew who it was. Or so I thought. I had a moment where I questioned what was really coming next. Is it the person she was knew was coming to look for her, or was it someone else entirely?

I decided to go with the entirely different person, someone she (and I) were not expecting. I had no idea where the story was going and as I wrote I was just as anxious to find out why this new person was there. It turned out to be a very pivotal point in my book and now all the pieces have fallen into place.

Trust your characters, they'll let you know if it's right or not. More often than not, your character's reaction will be in line with the story and help propel it forward.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Lessons from a first-time self-publisher

First off, I'll just apologize for the lengthiness of this sucker. I didn't mean for it to go so long, but felt that I should give the info I could on the subject...

For the longest time, I've wondered why publishers keep such a high percentage of an author's royalty, well, I'm starting to get it. Now, don't get me wrong, I love the publisher I've worked with so far. They're on the ball, have an incredible designer, and their editors are easy to work with. All in all, I love them. But that didn't stop me from wanting to try self-publishing.

Even before I signed my contract on my first novel, I've wanted to try self-pubbing. Getting a higher percentage of your sales and having the freedom to do what you want with your book (like setting promotional prices, etc) is really tempting. Would I change how I went through a publisher for my Primordial Guardians series? Nope. Not at all. I'm happy with the team I have at Evernight.

But, I mean really, how much does the publisher actually do? They pay someone to edit the book and pay for the cover, and that's it, right? That's not it.

So, how has self-publishing gone so far you ask? Well, I'll tell you some of the things I've learned on this journey, and how it has differed from my experience working with a publisher.

No matter if you're going the traditional publishing route or doing it on your own, editing is an integral part of producing a great book. Here is how, in my experience, the processes have differed.

  • Publisher: Your publisher will take care of not only paying for this, but they've also got editors on-hand that they know and trust to do a good job.
  • Self-publishing: You have options. You can decide if you want to pay for an editor (they charge a certain amount per word), which means, unless you know someone will do a good job, it's kind of a shot in the dark. If you don't want to pay someone? Just hope that you have some incredible critique partners to let you know what you need to improve on. Also, you'll want to edit, edit, edit yourself. Just to give you an idea of what it might cost to pay for an editor, let's just say that the average for one of my books would be around $500.00. We'll tally up these costs at the end and see where we're at.

Cover Art
Everyone knows that you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but let's face it...we all do. The cover can make or break a book in those first precious few seconds that a reader is trying to decide what book to buy next.

  • If you use a publisher, this is also something they pay for. Again, they work with designers they know will do a good job, and they strive to make it the way you want. They'll generally send you a cover art worksheet that you fill out with character details and the main theme of the story so that the cover artist has a good starting point. Some publishers allow you to reject a cover if you're not happy with it. With others, you're stuck with what they made, even if it doesn't really work with your book.
  • If you self-pub, you can pretty much do whatever you want. There are sites out there that offer completed covers, and when you order them, they'll fill in the Author Name, Title Name, Series Name, etc. for you and email you a high res copy of your cover. On the flip side, if you're a master at editing graphics, you can search through stock photos and piece together your own - just make sure you read the policies on what can/can't be done with the photos. In many cases, your cover/stock photos can only be used a certain number of times, so if you sell that many books (and let's hope you do!) you have to buy them again in order to continue using them. As far as costs go, you're probably looking at at least $20.00 for stock photos you put together yourself, vs. up to $150.00 (if not more) for completed covers. For our little tally, let's split the difference and go with $85.00.

What's that you say? Yeah, this one snuck up on me in the wee hours of the morning while I was getting ready to upload my file. An ISBN is a unique number that's sortof like a book's social security number. Each version of your book has it's own. So, if you're going to print your book, there's one ISBN, if you're going to do one for Kindle, there's another. Want to do one for Nook, well, there's get my point. In my research, some authors do not assign an ISBN for their eBooks. I'm not sure how they get around it, but it appears publishers do assign one for eBooks, so I followed suit. I also found that some print-on-demand companies offer a free ISBN for your print book. I did not go with that option though, as I found some cons I just didn't want to deal with down the road. Do your due diligence and see what's best for you. Here are the differences between publishers and doing it on your own:

  • Publisher: They pay for your ISBNs. The great thing for publishers is that they can order hundreds or thousands of these at a time, so they can get the numbers a lot cheaper than self-publishing authors (unless your well off).
  • Self-publishing: You're covering this cost yourself. When you go to the website (for those in the U.S. it's Bowker, or you'll want to check your local ISBN agency), you'll see options to buy your ISBN. You can buy one for $125.00 (I would not recommend this unless you are planning to publish your book in one version and one version ONLY), or it goes up from there, so you can get 10 for $250.00. For our tally, let's go with the $250.00 option.

This might not seem like that big of a task, but it adds up with all the different versions. Things I was able to get away with in the print book (fancy text), I couldn't do in the eBook. Not to mention that you might as well start over with formatting between each version because, so far, none of them are even remotely the same.

  • Publisher: They take care of this. Whether they do it themselves or they pay someone, it's not on your time, or on your dime (except for a percentage of your royalty).
  • Self-publishing: It's all on you, babe. If you're like me and you're trying to save money, you'll probably attempt this yourself. You might pull your hair out, you might not. Either way, you'll either pay someone to do it (I've seen sites that offer it starting at $50.00 for each version), or you'll spend hours figuring it out on your own. For this one, we'll just assume that you do it on your own for our tally, so it costs $0.00, just a lot of time.

Print-book cover art
Wha-wha-what? Yeah, this isn't included in the normal cover (unless you had the forethought to worry about it from the get-go and found a website or stock images that took care of it all in one swoop).

  • Publisher: They take care of the costs and design of this.
  • Self-publishing: Here again, it's on you. Based on the costs tallying so far, you might just do a plain cover with some fun fonts or even a gradient (like me), or maybe you'll get some more stock images and do a fancy one. Either way, you're going to need good graphic design software (can we say something along the lines of PhotoShop?) because of the requirements on dpi/ppi, sizing, etc. Don't do what I did and assume that you can get away with making one in Paint or PowerPoint, because that was just hours wasted. For the tally, let's go with the $0.00 route and assume that you found a good, free software that can export to print-quality PDF for your cover.

No matter which way you publish, you'll be doing your own marketing. Yes, publishers have a good following of people, as well as other authors that support you, but that doesn't mean you can sit back and wait for the money to (hopefully) roll in. Social Media, swag, conferences, book signings, blog tours,'re doing it all. I won't break down the differences between self- and regular publishing since I just listed how similar the two are.

Now, that I've listed the points (I apologize if I've missed anything) let's tally up our totals.
Right now we're at $835.00 on costs to self-pub. To re-coup those costs, here is a fun little breakdown of how many books it could potentially take to earn your money back based on a 70% royalty (this excludes other distribution fees you may incur, and just acts as an example):

Sell price         # of books
$2.99              400
$3.99              299
$4.99              239
$5.99              199
$6.99              171
$7.99              149
$8.99              133
$9.99              119

So, hopefully this little (cough, cough) list of differences will help you decide which route is best for you.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ideas into reality

I first started writing my novel years ago. It was a skeleton of what it is now. Actually, less than a skeleton, it was the femur, a few carpus bones and maybe a rib.  I had an idea of what I wanted and I wrote it down. It wasn't until a few years later that I got more serious about it. My commute to work at that time was somewhere between 35-45 minutes, I used that time to really focus on what I would write and how I could build upon my little idea. I would figure out what scene I would write that night and think of dialogue, plot building, character reactions, what characters would be present in the scene, etc. Then I would get home and get to work writing. Its interesting to me to see how that tiny, little idea has now become something that I simultaneously hate and love at the same time(if you are a writer, you understand the love/hate), but also something that once its done, I will want to share with everyone.
Ideas are easy to come by, they are around us every day, all day. I sometimes meet people and think, "Oh my gosh, they would make a phenomenal character." Or I hear a story and I think, "Man, that would be really cool if this (this, being whatever I think would be cooler) would happen." Also, some ideas are stupid. That's some truth for you, right there. Thats why when you have those ideas, you have to follow through with them and try and build upon them. Usually you get stuck or hit a dead end or everyone of your family and friends are telling you that its a stupid idea, thats the time you should probably quit and find a new idea to work on. Its weeding though all of your crazy ideas and picking the ones that make you excited; the ones that make you want to tell the whole world. 

I once went to a conference and in one of the panels, I remember the author talking about the "zing". Its a feeling you get when something strikes your artistic brain, or it hits home to something that piques your interest. Whatever it is that gives you that "zing", I say write it down. Some ideas will never go anywhere, but then you have others that could become the next big thing. Every great project starts with a little idea. Its the amount of work and effort that you put behind that idea that determines the outcome. Tracy Hickman, a famous author from Utah, once said, "Talent without discipline is a waste of air." I agree, sir. As writers, we all have some talent to write. We just have to take our ideas, be disciplined, and make them a reality. Lets face it, thats the only way its going to happen. Go team! 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Focusing Your Thoughts

Once the idea has cemented itself in your brain that you are going to write a book, then what?  Do the words spill out of your head onto the pages effortlessly?  (You might want to see a doctor if something is spilling out of your head.)  Does the plot come packaged and ready to go, complete with subplots, character development, backstory, climax, and resolution?  All you have to do is lock yourself in your room for two days and you walk out with a completed manuscript?

I doubt it.  Most of us don't have it that easy.  What we usually have are snippets of the story that we try to write during the snippets of our day that we can spend writing.

As a stay at home mom, I have about two hours a day when I can work on my writing.  That precious time is called nap time.  Once I sit down and have taken a few deep breaths to focus myself, I get to work.  I had a problem though: I couldn't get my thoughts off the list of daily tasks and on to creative, irresponsible thinking.  For a while, the time I spent "working" on my book was actually spent staring at the last sentence I'd written months ago.

I knew I wasn't going to get anywhere at that pace.  So, after one of the above described wasted periods of time, I decided to try to focus on my book during other times of the day.  Pushing around my vacuum, I thought of where my current plot point was going.  As I folded the laundry, I thought about my antagonist's motivations.  While driving around doing errands, I brainstormed about the climax of my work in progress.  And when naptime came the next day, I knew exactly what to write.  I got more done in that writing session than I had in months.  So I tried it again.  Trotting (it can't really be called running) on the treadmill at the gym, I thought about how the secondary characters wove into the protagonist's development.  Washing the dishes, I worked through an idea I loved, but didn't really fit in with the rest of the novel.  And then I sat down and wrote.

It's amazing.  I finally know what works for me.  Instead of letting my mind wander aimlessly while engaged in mundane tasks, I try to control my thoughts and put them to work.  Even though I can't sit down and write for hours, I have the outlines of work ready to be written when sleep gives me the break I need to write.  The more I focus my thoughts on my book, the more progress I make, the better my ideas develop, and the more motivated I become.

So, try it.  Focus your thoughts on your work in progress while you're doing things that don't require all of your brain power.  Hopefully you will find that you get more done and you get to see your whole story come together.  And that's exciting.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ignite your passion

Like Jayne said in last week's post, anyone can write. No one thinks they can do it when they first start. Heck, I hadn't read a book in almost a decade before I finally picked one up and got hooked on the romance genre. What right did I have to write one? When I started typing up my first book, I really hadn't planned on anyone seeing it except for family and a few close friends. Little did I know, I was about to write an entire novel. I ignited that passion for writing by continuing to do the two things, which, to this day, motivate me more than anything else:
Listening to music and reading those incredible books I fell in love.

So if you're not sure you can write, or you think it'll suck, just remember that everyone goes through that. Whether you're green or a seasoned author, those doubts will happen no matter what. Just make sure you continue to do things that motivate you. Cultivate your passion and see where it takes you.

Here are a few authors and songs I've used to motivate me (in no particular order):
Kresley Cole
JR Ward
Gena Showalter
Richelle Mead
Karen Marie Moning
Diana Gabaldon

Muse - Exogenesis: Part 1 (and, well, pretty much any song)
Christina Perri - Almost any song, but mostly Tragedy and The Lonely

What songs and authors/series motivate you?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Idea Factory

How do authors come up with such crazy, brilliant ideas? They all have secret built-in Idea Factories of course! Only the most exceptional, special, talented people have this hidden weapon inside their mind and only they can unleash it's power to the world. Muah ha ha ha. Not!

Honestly, I'm a firm believer that anyone can become an author. You've just got to practice being creative. Everyone has a unique way of looking at the world and if you can just convey your take in a way that people can relate to, you've got yourself something to write about. Take me for example. I have the most bizarre dreams imaginable and often times I would stay awake thinking about them and trying to remember every possible detail. I finally got smart and immediately wrote my dream down the moment I woke up. It was a snowball reaction and I now have to keep a notebook and pen at my bedside so I can keep up. And what started as just a dream has now become my most precious project. My first novel. Thanks to my nocturnal habits, I now have over a dozen ideas that I plan on turning into stories someday. 

Point of all this is, you've got to build your own Idea Factory by writing down any and all of your ideas. They may seem stupid or underdeveloped, but once you write it down and get it "cooking" in your head, the more you think about it over time and create a story.

So, like I seem to do lately, I'm going to give you one of my examples. I've copied it word for word out of my dream notebook. Don't judge, this may be a best seller someday.

One of the Gods decides to strike a deal and beyond all odds loses to a mortal who requests the payment be that they switch places. He has no choice and is made mortal, while the mortal takes all and becomes a God. Forced to live on earth, he despises and resents the other humans for their weakness. He meets a woman named Slynn who is extremely beautiful. She's the kind of woman he, as a God, would have just taken and he expects her to fall for him. She wants nothing to do with him and he gives up hope of ever having the luxuries he once did as a God. Gradually he learns more about the mortals and he comes to appreciate their hard work. He falls in love with Slynn and somewhat becomes adjusted to life on earth. But the mortal who took his place as a God learns that the switch can still be undone while the once God still lives. He decides to send hounds and lesser beings to kill him. While the once God is no longer immortal, he knows everything about the creatures sent to hunt him and is able to defeat them. One of the lesser beings was actually his friend when he was a God and pretends to go hunting for him, but when he finds him he tells him that the switch can be undone and how to accomplish it. The once God decides to leave at once, but hesitates when he sees Slynn. He's not sure what he wants anymore: the immortality and power he once had or the woman he's fallen in love with. She tells him he should claim what was rightfully his. Not fully understanding the new emotions he is feeling he thinks she does not return his love. He sets out on the journey to regain Godhood. After going through more trials and suffering than the once God ever dreamed possible, all the while missing Slynn and feeling empty, he finally defeats the man who stole his life. A God once more he thinks his life will go on as normal, but he still feels the emotions he did as a mortal and regret is a completely new feeling for a God. Upset, he decides that because he is a God again he can just take Slynn. He goes to her, but when he sees her sleeping he has no desire to force her to do anything she doesn't want to do. He remembers what it felt like to feel weak and helpless and he decides to never do that to anyone again. He goes to leave, but Slynn wakes up and is so happy to see him well and alive that she jumps into his arms and kisses him. He is so stunned and confused at her reaction that he doesn't move or respond and she is embarrassed at her actions. He finally realizes that she did return his feelings and he's made a mistake by choosing Godhood because it's forbidden for Gods and mortals to be together permanently. But he will always feel that emptiness when she's not with him. He decides to break all the laws of the Gods and make her immortal. 
*Copyright Jayne L. Bowden*

HOW Contest Finalists!

Congratulations to Katalyn and Leesa on being finalists in the 2013 HOW (Heart of the West) Contest! Good luck you two!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Killed it? Resurrect it!

To go along with this month's theme of "Killing your Babies," I've decided to do a post on resurrection. It's difficult to cut scenes (or characters) from your novel, after spending weeks, months, or even years of outlining, writing and polishing your manuscript. One thing I've learned is that you've got to be true to your story, and true to your characters. This is the only way you'll know what to do with your baby.

While writing Dark Seduction, I had a few more Guardians in the mix than what made it into the final cut. Even though I love every one of those characters, I had to face facts and make some cuts. There were just too many for readers to get to know, and I didn't have to throw every single immortal warrior at them from the get-go. So I took some of them out and modified my story using the Guardians that were left. My point is that just because you kill something or someone off, it doesn't mean you can't resurrect them. I've introduced some of those characters in subsequent books, and plan to add even more later on. Did it suck to have to make those cuts? Yup. Do I think the book (and the overall series) is better off with those changes? Abso-freakin'-lutely!

No one really wants to kill off scenes and/or characters, sometimes it's a necessary evil (or blessing depending on how you look at it).

So go ahead and cut scenes or characters, and save a new draft of your manuscript. If it flows well, then you've made the right move. If you're just not sure, then get a critique partner.

If you killed it, resurrect it.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Happiness in Death

Love scenes: some of the hardest writing I do.  I don't know why I have such a hard time writing a decent romantic scene.  Maybe I'm dead inside and don't feel emotions like other people, or maybe it's because I go too far when I write them, either too cheesy, too aggressive, too pornographic...who knows?  All I know is that I struggle with them greatly.

The irony of that opening statement is that I can't stand to read a novel without some element of love.  I enjoy that giddy sensation that gives me a chance to change the emotions I'm experiencing during the rest of the novel.  It adds climax and excitement to the story.

So, while I know what I like, making my characters act that way, making my brain think that way is difficult.

With my work in progress, there is an element of romance that builds and builds.  At the height of this romantic relationship, I felt like the scene where it all came together fell flat.  Something wasn't right.  All of the actions were right, but it didn't fill me with that sense of giddiness, that excitement of something that had been developing throughout the novel coming to its climax.  It just wasn't working.  I wrote this scene a few months ago and moved on with the novel, knowing I was going to need to come back to it.  That time finally came this month.  I read it and changed a few things here and there, but it still didn't feel right.  I left it and came back the next day, and the next, and the next.  It just wasn't working.

Finally, it came to me in the dark of a sleepless night after being stuck for about two weeks: the protagonist wasn't behaving like she would.  Her emotions weren't congruent with her character.  I was writing her acting, feeling in a way contrary to any way she would ever act or feel.  When morning came, I eliminated all traces of the previous emotions I had given her and rewrote that romantic scene.  She no longer felt things she would never consider; she was focused and driven, just like she had been since the beginning of the book.  While her actions surprised us, her motive didn't.  It was the same as it had always been.  The scene came together.  The feelings I had been trying to force onto the reader came, not because I wrote them, but because our protagonist acted like herself.

Killing that scene, which I would have loved if I didn't know my protagonist like I do, brought the emotions it had been deprived of.  While it sounds hard, and it is, it is always worth the change.  I won't ever regret erasing that scene and changing it like I did.  I love it now and it brought the energy to the novel, to that plot element that I had been missing.  Have the courage and kill them.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Everything else I thought to put here sounded too morbid...

Well, this months theme, is "killing your babies". Up until this last weekend, I knew exactly what I was going to write about. What inspired the change? Well, lets just say, I finally realized that in a sense, I had to kill my first born. I am going to have to start from the beginning and rewrite my whole novel.

 I started my novel probably 6-8 years ago. Obviously, I was never really consistent with it through those years, only pulling it out when I felt some new bit of inspiration, day dreaming about the kind of story I wanted to tell. It has only been in the last 3 years I have been serious, and even then, I haven't been committed to it fully. Life happens.

Over the years as I would write little scenes here and there, I knew what story I wanted to tell, but I didn't put much thought into characterization over the whole novel. Later on when I wanted to bridge the gap and make the little scenes piece together, I found I was constantly making changes to what the characters would say and do, because they didn't fit.

A couple months ago, I decided to change a huge plot point in the book. My heroine originally suffered the loss of her mother, which devastated her. In that loss, I wanted to write a book where she could grow and regain herself through her friends and the people around her. I was constantly struggling with, "Would she really care about that?" or "Why does this even matter to her?" Those questions were constantly circling the inevitable drain. SO, I changed her struggle from a loss of a parent to a devastating break up. Maybe a little more mainstream, but I feel for the story I want to tell, it really opens up a lot of avenues. I found my character's responses started to make sense, I felt an urgency to get on with the story to find resolution for them.

Now I have tried to go back and implement this large plot change through out all the work I have done. I kept hitting walls. Even though I was on board with the plot changes, nothing felt congruent. With all of this, I have decided to rewrite the whole novel. Some scenes will be the same, but I feel that if I leave it open as a blank canvas, it will open up a lot of room for discoveries that I couldn't quite reach before.

It could also send me into depression. I feel as though all the hours and work I spent on the previous 97,000 words mean nothing. I know that isn't true, because with out that, I wouldn't know what direction I wanted to go.

I realize this has ended up being a eulogy for my dead "baby", but don't worry, I am working on a new one, and by darn it. Its going to freaking rock.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Killing Your Babies

Don't let the title fool you, we're not talking about killing real babies. Our theme for this month is about making your characters do something or change something that you didn't want to do or change, or killing off a character in order to make the story better. A sacrifice you've had to make for the greater good. While I haven't had to kill off any of my characters (yet) I have definitely had to make some hard cuts in order to improve the flow of the story. One particularly difficult cut was a scene where my main protagonist is spying on the main antagonist and overhears a conversation between him his mom. The reason this scene was hard for me to take out is because I think it really shows the motivation and core of my antagonist and reveals a more luring side to him. But alas, as my story developed I realized that this scene not only gave away too much too soon, it also didn't quite fit in with my new revisions of the story and had to go. I still very much plan on adding it as a deleted scene after I publish my book. Want a sneak peak? You got it! Okay, it's not really a peak, it's the whole thing, but I couldn't decide where to stop it. Enjoy.

I crept a little closer so I could hear what they were saying. Mrs. Thomas’s voice cut through the air and it was obvious she was not happy.
“Why her? Darling, you could have so many other girls and they would all be a much better choice than her.”
“No, mother. I want her and I will have her,” Lucas replied confidently.
“But why? She’s nothing special; she’s not even that pretty. I don’t understand why we can’t just get rid of her.” I felt my heart beating faster. I could only imagine what get rid of her would mean for me. Like I was some dog that bit her hand and now had to be put down. That’s how she saw me. I noticed a sliver of light spilling out by the door and leaned toward it to try and see inside. The only thing I could make out was the form of Mrs. Thomas, sitting in a large chair by the fire. From the way she kept moving her head she was watching Lucas pace the room.
“I’ve already told you, I want her,” Lucas said again. When Mrs. Thomas didn’t reply he said impatiently, “You don’t see the way people look at her as she walks by. Or how she lights up whenever she talks about something she’s passionate about. People are drawn to that light and they listen to her.” I felt myself frowning in the dark where no one could see me. He thought people were drawn to me?
“She can be a very powerful asset if she chooses to be on our side,” he finished.
“Or a very powerful enemy if she chooses not to be,” Mrs. Thomas countered.
There was a moment of silence while they both contemplated this. Mrs. Thomas was the one to break the silence. “And she doesn’t even like you.” At that Lucas sighed. I thought he’d lost the battle, but he wasn’t ready to give up yet.
“Just give me time, mother. She’ll come around and you’ll be glad you decided to let her stay. She can live here so you can keep a close eye on her and I’ll be with her at school. If she steps out of line even once, you can send her back,” Lucas said.
“Sounds like you’ve got this all worked out. You realize how much of a liability she is?” Mrs. Thomas asked.
“I do, but I’m willing to take that chance,” Lucas replied. I was taken back at the utter confidence he had in me of all people. I found myself a little flattered that he was willing to risk so much for me, but I felt bad for him. He was a fool to think I’d cooperate. A fool to think I could just sit by and pretend like everything was real. He would risk a lot and he would lose it. Mrs. Thomas seemed to think the same thing.
“I hope you’re right about her darling. I would hate to see you heartbroken over such an unworthy girl, but I love you too much to not give you what you want. Especially when you’re willing to risk so much for it. She can stay,” Mrs. Thomas said as she got up and walked toward the door leading back to her wing. She paused in the doorway.

“For now,” she added. I couldn’t see Lucas through the crack of the door, but I heard the exhalation of breath. He was relieved. I could have hid when I heard him coming, but I didn’t. He came out the door and stopped short when he saw me standing there. He didn’t look embarrassed or angry like I thought he would be. He simply smiled and bowed slowly, his eyes never leaving mine. Then without a word he continued on his way as if he’d never been interrupted. As if he hadn’t caught me listening in on his conversation. He wasn’t disappointed that I heard.
*Copyright Jayne L. Bowden*

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Difficult character? Try all of them!

For the last few weeks Jayne, Hannah, and Leesa have posted on difficult characters and/or how to deal with them. I'll admit, I've thought of what to post since I learned what the theme o' the month was, but nothing has really struck me as "the post."

In my blog post last month, one of my suggestions was to write about the character that is motivating you the most at the time. But what if there are different characters from different books screaming at you inside your head? Well, then you'll be where I have been for the last few years. My most difficult is all of my characters.

That might sound like a joke, but I'm not kidding. It's hard to weed through the chaos going on inside my head and distinguish one voice from the others, to learn that person/demon/whatever inside and out, while keeping the other alpha's at bay.

The last few days I've been off-grid, enjoying some time surrounded by pine trees and quakies, deer, bears, and mountain lions (thank God I didn't see the latter two), and that's why I'm getting this post in so late. If my characters could speak to you without my knowing it, well for one, I'd be schizophrenic. For another, some of them would tell you that I was a big old meanie-head (not in those words of course. My big, burly demons probably wouldn't say it quite like that...). I opened two WIPs (works in progress) this weekend. The two that were the loudest. And I'm so glad I did. At first, I figured I'd be bouncing back and forth between the two books, adding in paragraphs or entire scenes as my men demanded, but what happened was that once I started typing in one book, I couldn't stop thinking about it.

So this month, my advice is nothing more simple than: Just write. You'll get farther than if you don't.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Character Sketches

The theme of the month (if it isn't apparent) is characters.  This is an interesting topic because of my story.  For the first five revisions, the sidekick to my main character, was much more likable than the main character herself.  The more I re-read my book, the less I cared about the main character.  Does that somehow seem wrong?  YES!  My main character should be the driving force of my novel.  I should want her success and safety more than I want any other character.

So what was the problem?  Inconsistency.  The main character didn't have a real personality.  Instead of being able to understand her, she was all over the place.  She was volatile and unreliable and inconsistent.  She would react one way in a certain situation and if that same situation were to arise again, she would react completely different: not because she learned from her mistakes or past reaction, but because she didn't know who she was or what drove her.

Now, I wasn't looking for a character that was so predictable to the point of boredom because, let's be honest, no real human being is like that.  What I wanted was a real character.  For example, in a given situation, I can guess more or less how my husband is going to react because I understand his personality.  It won't be a mystery to me every time that same situation arises what his reaction is going to be.  Because he is who he is, his actions will be fairly consistent.  Once we understand a person's personality or we see, through their actions, what drives them, that will either draw us to that person or repel us.  That's what I needed for my protagonist.

I did some soul searching for the both of us and what I concluded was that I needed a character sketch.  I needed to know who my main character was, what drove her, what her faults were, what her personality was like.  From this character sketch, I was able to understand what it was that led her to act the way she did.

With my character sketch in hand, I had to make the story reflect that drive, that motive.  That meant I had to rewrite the entire book.  You think I'm joking, but I'm not.  The story was just as erratic as the main character had been.  But with the personality of the main character being definite and consistent, plot elements came out that I had never seen before because now I understood her.  Heck, even the entire climax and plan of the story, when she realizes what her flaw is and just how much trouble it's gotten her into and her plan to resolve her issues, have changed completely.  The best part is that I love the changes.  The plot now is character driven rather than just action driven.  The twists and deception and manipulation that occurs are more intense because now I'm rooting for the main character.  I love her more than any other character now.  I'm invested in her because I understand her personality to a certain degree and I am drawn to it.

The character sketch has been the most useful tool I've found in my writing.  I didn't only use it with my protagonist.  When I sketched the antagonist of the story, revelations of new scenes came to me.  Now the antagonist is more complex.  It makes everything that much more gut-wrenching because of the understanding I now have of the characters.

So if you're ever in a slump or you don't know where to take a scene, ask yourself how your character would react.  If you don't know the answer, try a character sketch.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Difficult Characters

It is interesting that some characters come so easily while others take some effort to get to know. The majority of the time I think the reason I have issues with my characters is because they react to situations differently than I, so I find I get caught up in thinking about how I would respond, or what I would say, versus giving my character the opportunity to tell me. So basically, I get in the way of my characters. As I have become more self aware of that, I am trying to let go of what I want, and let the story flow. 
As for the most difficult character... It is my heroine. I don't know if I would say that she's difficult, but more so that I am still trying to figure out her emotions.  I feel as though I know who she is and what she wants, but then she responds differently when I am in the flow of the story. I am throwing a lot of trials in her path and figuring out how she will react. Again, it comes back to, I want her to react a certain way, but she wants to do something else entirely. For people who aren't writers, I sound like a crazy person. I am throwing a lot of emotional turmoil at her and its hard to gauge just how much she can take. As writers, not only do we have to be concerned about the communication between our characters, but we also need to be aware of the communication going on between us and them. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

My Most Difficult Character

My most difficult character right now started as a supporting character, with a very small role to play, and turned himself into another main character. I wasn't expecting him, nor did I want him, but it turns out I needed him. And now that I need him I have to spend time figuring out what it is that he wants, which he isn't willing to give me freely. He ends up helping my protagonist in a way that makes the story more believable, she wouldn't be able to do some things without inside help from him, but I just can't figure out why he helps her. He is supposed to be one of the bad guys, one of the people she is trying to defeat, for lack of a better word. Does he suddenly have a conscience or change of heart, did something happen in his past that made him flash back and realize he was on the wrong side? All the other characters he is associated with believe so strongly they are doing something good that they are blind to how wrong it is. So why not him? That's what I'm trying to figure out and this particular character is making me work much harder than I anticipated. Perhaps it's because I doubted his need in the first place, who knows. Maybe that is what motivates him now; vindication.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

You can write

As I think back over the last few years, I realize that a lot has changed, and a lot hasn't. I may have a few more books under my belt now, but I'm just as unsure of myself as the day I did my first pitch to an agent. Today, I'd like to talk about our fears as authors.

I'm not good enough. Seriously. It doesn't matter what I've written or the epic stories that are currently  whirring around inside my brain, waiting to be typed up... I'm just not good enough. Now, I know, I know, some of my friends that are reading this right now are getting ready to give me that kick in the pants they're so awesome at doing, but I just have to say that it's true. I think this just comes with the territory. I don't know a single author who doesn't fret over what they've written. The key is to just try and believe in yourself.

What If's will kill you
I, for one, am a worry wart. I'm a nutcase - never being able to make decisions and always wondering "what if?". Should I write so-and-so's story now, or someone else's? Should I write my story in first or third person - or both? Should I have long chapters or short? I can't tell you how many times I've written entire chapters in two different ways so that I could figure out what felt right. There really isn't a fix I can give you for those of us who just can't seem to decide what to do. All I can say is: just let your characters roll with it. It's your job to write what they give you. If a certain character is motivating you today, write about him/her. If a different character is pushing you tomorrow, give that one the spotlight. Very rarely will you get anywhere by trying to force a story out of someone who isn't ready to tell it.

Your story will never EVER be perfect
This is true. You will finish your book and go through X number of edits before you might feel like it's ready to submit to a publisher (or self-publish if that's your route). You'll probably have read the words "The End" at least five times, and you might even hate your story by the time you're ready for that next step. I've been there. I've done that. And then I've sent off my query letter, synopsis, and (in some cases), the full  manuscript. As soon as you hit that send button, those doubts fill you and you think, "Crap, did I change this? And did I ever change that his eyes were blue instead of green? Or, did I write enough detail, or did I head hop, or did I..."
You get my point.

My suggestion is to make notes as you think of those problems. If you've already sent off that full manuscript, at least you'll have a chance to make those changes during the editing process. If you've only sent off your query and synopsis, then I'd sleep on it (again, take notes as you think of fixes) and go back in after at least a day to make those changes. You might hate your book by the time it's published, and you might feel like everyone will hate it as much as you do at the moment (we authors can have a love/hate relationship with our book sometimes). Don't worry though, it'll turn into full-on love again after you've gotten a break from it.

Full of What If's, self doubt, and a story that may or may not suck? Here are my notes:

  • As I just mentioned, make notes. Whether it's tweaks you need to make to the story line or to details within the story, or maybe it's mistakes you make over and over again, make a "BEFORE YOU SUBMIT" list, and follow it every time. Spell check, double spaces, formatting, etc.
  • Ever heard of the phrase: Two sets of eyes are better than one? Yeah, there's a reason that's a saying. Find someone you can trust to read and critique your work. Chances are, you're like me, and your brain auto-corrects words/sentences, so you could have really jacked up somewhere. A critique partner will help you catch those. 
  • Read it out loud. I know, that sounds weird, and it can feel uncomfortable. If you can find some alone time, read your book out loud. This can help you improve flow, and sometimes you'll even catch those pesky mistypes I just mentioned. Chances are, if it reads well when you speak it, then you've nailed it.
  • Don't write for someone else. Write for your characters. Write for you. Some people will like your book, some will hate it. Don't focus on those haters. For one, some people thrive by making others feel bad (aka: bullies). For another, you shouldn't waste a single breath on them because there are other, more important people to focus on: the people who love your book, those whose lives were changed by merely losing themselves in the story you brought to life.

And finally...
You can write. Your characters chose you, because you rock that much. Anyone who tells you otherwise can bite you.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

First Time

I often have people tell me that they wish they could write a book. This always makes me laugh because I never thought that I'd be able to. That got me thinking about the first time I decided to sit down and write. I was sitting in my car listening to music and I got the strange feeling that I was being watched. I looked around and no one was there, but that got me thinking. Who would be watching me? Why would they be watching me? How would they go about watching me? When and where would they watch me?

I started piecing together a story in my head by asking the most essential questions (who, what, why, where, when, and how) and making up my own answers, or so I thought. One thing I've learned in my adventures with my characters is that they are very, very selfish. They desperately want to have their story told and as long as you are willing to listen and let them tell it they will give you all the details. It wasn't me coming up with the answers, I was just listening patiently and taking the time to write down what they told me.

So, I have a question and some advice. My question is, what was your experience the first time you started writing? My advice is very simple. If you want to write, shut up and listen!

Sunday, June 16, 2013


If there's one thing I've learned with an infant at home, it's that human beings love routine.  Once we start our nighttime routine for the baby, it's like a switch goes off in that developing brain that says, "It's bedtime.  I'll get a story read to me, followed by a nice bath, clean pajamas, and a warm bottle with a song to put me to sleep."
Why haven't I programmed my own brain to respond to writing like that?  It takes such a long time from the moment I open my computer until the time I start working on my book that anywhere from twenty to forty minutes have passed.  Yeah, time waster!  If you asked me what I do during that time on the computer, I wouldn't be able to tell you because I find myself stunned that so much time has elapsed.  It's embarrassing. 
I need a routine.  Granted, my routine can't take nearly as long as the bedtime routine does, but if I had some sort of routine that took anywhere from two to five minutes where my brain recognizes that it's time to let all my creative sauces spill then I could work for as little as fifteen minutes and still get something done.  Maybe I need a song or a snack that I only pull out when it's time to write.  The snack itself might be worth writing for...
So that's what I'm hoping to learn from all of you: what do you do to tell your brain that it's time to write?  

Sunday, June 9, 2013


You know, I've had all week to work on this, you would assume that I would have thought it less poignant to write this before now. But, I am getting ahead of myself. Recently I visited my sister and her family down in Arizona and she had me listen to the first couple chapters of a book/author who I instantly admired. The author's name is Jon Acuff and his book is, "Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job". Within the first chapter, Jon is able to make any dreamer feel as though their dream is well within grasp, but he also brings you plummeting back toward earth making you realize that truly achieving your dream, means hard work, focus, and sacrifice. He brings to life that quitting your day job, which chances are, you aren't that happy with, isn't going to get you anywhere near your dream job. You need the day job, to fuel the dream job. 

I have put off writing my novel, or just writing in general, for a number of different reasons. Currently, I am sure I could list of every single one of them and tell you exactly why each one is so applicable to why I haven't written in months. They are rock solid excuses, no getting around a one. So I think the reason I really latched on to this great idea so much is because currently, there are a lot of things I really love about my day job, but it also has a lot of restrictions. I find myself day dreaming of quitting my job and working full time to finally achieve finishing my novel. Usually this day dream lasts a total of 10 seconds, because then I instantly let monthly bills flash through my head; knowing that quitting isn't the answer. What usually happens is the opposite. I let my day job dictate how much time I put into my dream job. I get home from my day job and I am tired or I have social functions to attend, because not only do I have to support myself, I have to get out there so I can hopefully find my prince charming that will sweep me off my feet and take care of me so I don't have to work a regular job like everyone else. Then... I can have all the time in the WORLD to write! .... I've started day dreaming again. Back to business. I let excuses get in the way of my dreams. Basically that is what I am trying to say. I let every little tiny excuse get in the way of something that I really, really want. And why? Because, I'm scared it isn't going to be worth anything? Because, I am scared of getting rejected? Because, I'm worried no one is going to like it? 

So what. If its something I really, really want. I will force myself through the tiredness, I will skip the social functions, I will push past the questions and doubt and I will push harder than I ever felt possible, because thats what you do when you want to make a dream a reality. 

Or... so thats what I got from what Mr. Acuff was trying to say...