I Wrote Today!

After more than five weeks, I finally wrote today.

Between moving across the country and starting a new job, I have recently found myself with absolutely no time to write – and no real interest in it. Until tonight. Before now, I was just too tired.

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Sure, there were moments when I wistfully thought about my WIP, or jotted down new story ideas, but most of me was consumed with unpacking and work. Every now and then, though, I’d get frustrated. How was I going to be a best-selling author by 30 if I didn’t make time to write? When was I going to stop making excuses and just do it?

These thoughts weren’t helpful. If anything, they just made me feel worse about being too preoccupied to write.

I could completely relate to Elena Greene‘s Writer Unboxed post when she wrote:

I used to sit down to work and just churn with resentment that I’d missed so many planned writing sessions and despairing that I’d ever finish anything again. Sometimes I felt guilty for taking time for myself. None of that was helping.

[…]

So I ended up having to accept that I would deal with starts and stops. I also knew that once the story was done, I’d spend extra time going through it to make sure it flowed as a whole.

Brilliant! I thought.

So, I let go of my internal critic who assumed I was doomed to failure if I didn’t get x number of words written a week and just decided to write when I was able. And tonight, I turned off the tv, sat down at my computer, dusted off my WIP, and got to work.

And, darn it all, it felt good.

Traditional Publishers Are Wooing Authors? The Times, They Are A-Changin’.

Nothing makes me get my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard like hearing that an author made three million dollars in two years off of self-published e-books.

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(comic courtesy of Bo’s Cafe Life)

But even more exciting is this: enough people are taking the self-publishing leap that [at least in Romance] traditional publishers and agents are actually having to go after authors instead of the other way around. Yes, you read that correctly. Barbara O’Neal reports that, at the Romance Writers of America conference this year:

For the first time I can remember, ever, editors and agents were wooing authors. One notable workshop featured editors from major houses presenting the things publishers could do for authors.

Meanwhile, speakers on the self-pub track, assembled single-handedly by self-publishing millionaire Barbara Freethy, packed the room. The ballroom. Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble sent their teams to hold meetings, present workshops, and even offer a wine-tasting. Authors were wooed here, too—by merchandisers and editors for the indies.

Read the entire article about the changes she’s seeing in publishing here.

Even Writer’s Digest is hopping on board the self-publishing train with their new self publishing service division, Abbott Press.

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They’re even trying to help consumers judge the quality of self-published books through the use of “Writer’s Digest Mark of Quality”:

Manuscripts published with Abbott Press will be reviewed by a professional editor hand-selected by Writer’s Digest. Titles deemed to be of exceptionally high literary merit will feature the Writer’s Digest Mark of Quality, a prestigious mark designed to convey the book’s excellence.

Now, I have no idea how successful that will be – nor how successful many aspects of self-publishing will be. Things will continue to change and evolve, and what works for a self-published author today might not work in two years. Or even one. And, of course, there are sharks of all types out there trying to take advantage of naive writers who haven’t done their research.

But still. $3,000,000 from self-published e-books is pretty amazing. Who knows what the industry will look like in ten years? I don’t know about you, but I find the possibilities to be very exciting.

Oh, Hey, Fear – I Thought That Was You!

On Friday, Robin LaFevers (author of two children’s series and one YA series that looks amazing – it involves nun assassins!), wrote an amazing and timely post for – what else? – Writer Unboxed about some of the ways in which fear impedes our writing.

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For a while now, I’ve been struggling with my WIP. I have been working toward my usual word quota – which is how I thought I could best motivate myself. But the story hasn’t felt right for a while, and I really hit a wall on Friday. And then I read that LaFevers – a writer who has written 14+ published books – had similar feelings on her most recent manuscript. And it was kind of nice to know that this sort of thing happens to seasoned professionals as well.

However, as nice as it was to be able to feel less alone in this, what LaFevers did to get out of her writing funk was pretty terrifying, too.

She removed 7,000 words from her manuscript. Chop, chop.

In her words:

I woke up to the fact that I was writing the wrong damn book and had to delete the FIRST TWO HUNDRED PAGES OF THE MANUSCRIPT.

Now, that’s scary!

But it made me realize what a part of me has been whispering for months: I’m writing the wrong thing, too. All the stuff that inspires me and is cool about my current WIP? Yeah, it needs to be center stage – not something that I “can’t wait to get to in the third act”.

So, I’ve taken out the scissors and glue and am cutting out the things that don’t work and adding to the things that do. I’m not sure how much of my 160 pages I’m keeping…but I guess we’ll see.

Sure, there’s still plenty of fear involved, but, for the first time in a few weeks, I feel like I’m getting back on track.

My Foray Into Voice Recognition Software

Do you ever get frustrated that you read so quickly but type so slowly? (Holy cow, I sound like a cliched infomercial!) Let me rephrase. I read fast. Really fast. But I type at what I think is probably an average speed (60 wpm). The combination of those two things drives me crazy. I’ll be writing one scene in my WIP for days, and I’ll start thinking, Good Lord, am I still working on this part? And then I bang my head on my keyboard and cry a little.

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Because. Writing. Takes. So. Long.

So then yesterday I had a brilliant idea: why not try voice recognition software? Surely, that would speed things up. Right?

Wrong.

First, when I looked into it, I realized that – holy cow! – this stuff is expensive! Dragon, the most highly reviewed software, is $100 or more, depending on the version you buy. Yikes! Then, I stumbled upon a little known PC fact: Windows has a moderately good voice recognition program that is part of most PC packages. So, since I have a PC, it was free!

It took me an hour to find it, go through the tutorial, and get my word doc up and ready. Then I dove right in. Imagine my chagrin when I realized that I was way slower with voice recognition than I was just typing my story out. Now, some might argue that, once I got used to the software and it got used to recognizing how I pronounce things, it would get faster. And they would probably be right.

But the bigger issue that completely took me by surprise was this: I am used to thinking out lines of dialogue, description, etc. several lines ahead of where I’m typing while letting my fingers catch up as I go, but, since I had to speak each line to enter it into my word doc when I used voice recognition software, I was stuck with only being able to focus on one line at a time. It completely disrupted my flow.

And that’s why, after writing less than a paragraph with voice recognition, I have returned to typing things up the old fashioned way. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so slow anymore.

Anyone out there tried the voice recognition route? How’d it go for you?

$%#! It; Cursing in Writing

I recently read an interesting post on Writer Unboxed in which Keith Cronin discussed whether or not to “talk dirty” and use curse words in writing when seeking publication.

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I thoroughly enjoyed his post – especially its tongue in cheek tone. For instance…

I’ve learned that there are more people than I thought who are offended by profanity. And not just the F bomb. Several reviewers have taken me to task for “using the Lord’s name in vain.” Others simply complain about “swearing” or “foul language.”

My reaction to the first bad review was, well… fuck ‘em.

Now, I rarely swear. At all. Okay, except when I shut my finger in the car door, or trip over a plastic dog toy in the dark. But other than that, I just don’t. And, if we’re being honest, I don’t really like to hear all that much swearing.

However, I can read it to my heart’s content and be completely unruffled by it. Currently, I’m reading Web of Lies by Jennifer Estep, an urban fantasy in which the F-word and others prance across every chapter.

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And it truly doesn’t bother me.

Which makes me wonder: does anyone else have this same quirk? I don’t like reading about rape, gratuitous violence, etc., but swearing can appear on every page and, if it’s in character, I don’t blink an eye. Am I the exception to the rule? Are most people either pro- or anti-swearing in life and in print?

Another Inspiring Resource for Writers

As a subscriber to Writer’s Digest e-mails, I recently discovered Chuck Sambuchino’s column “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far” in which he gets published authors to list, well, seven different things they’ve learned on the road to being published.

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I love reading the different responses from authors who write books that are all over the genre spectrum. It inspires me to get writing, giving me that motivational kick in the pants I sometimes need. Because, if I don’t get to work, how will I become one of them?

The Power of Fans

Sometimes, it’s amazing what fans are capable of, both bad and good.

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Last month, I read a WSJ article about readers’ reactions to the end of the Southern Vampire series written by Charlaine Harris (upon which True Blood is based). Yes, Sookie Stackhouse’s books are ending. And people are not all that happy about it. Apparently, True Blood/the Southern Vampire books have garnered a cult following that just doesn’t want to let go. Sadly, the series ending was leaked before the book even came out, and angry memes popped up all over the internet (i.e. Boromir’s face with the words “One does not simply f*** with ones readership”), Harris received threatening e-mails, and she decided not to tour to promote her book due to the tidal wave of angry True Blooders.

On a different side of the spectrum, there’s going to be a Veronica Mars movie. You remember Veronica Mars, right? Teenage noir murder mystery, starring Kristen Bell? Yeah, that one.

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On March 13th, the creator/actors of the Veronica Mars tv show launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to fund making a movie. The campaign broke two Kickstarter records, according to a New York Times article on the project:

It was the fastest campaign to reach its goal ($2 million in under 12 hours), and it had the greatest number of supporters in Kickstarter history (91,585 people donated $5,702,153).

So, fans basically created a movie! That’s amazing. And, yes, I’ll definitely be seeing it.

Both the fans of True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse and the fans of Veronica Mars impress me. Sure, there’s a heavy dose of crazy in there on the fringes, but how cool is it that people love these characters, these stories so much that they are willing to step outside their normal, everyday lives for them?

In my opinion, very cool.

Violence on Screen and In Books (AKA I Didn’t Need to See That)

I’ve got a vivid imagination. Always have, and I suspect I always will. Lately, however, it seems that some authors and screenwriters are doing my job for me – they describe and show everything, leaving little for me to piece together on my own.

For example, the Following, which premiered last fall on Fox, was a gory hour-long show about a serial killer. It held nothing back, and was criticized for being so intensely graphic. Hannibal is another (an NBC creation based on Hannibal Lector before the Silence of the Lambs) with a shocking number of gory, creepy scenes.

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In terms of books, an excellent example is the Song of Ice and Fire series, by George R. R. Martin. It is rife with descriptive imagery of human brutality. No rape scene is off-limits, no murder too shocking for Mr. Martin.

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I stopped watching both the Following and Hannibal after a few episodes, and I stopped reading the Song of Ice and Fire partway through the third book. My imagination doesn’t need help – all graphic descriptions of violence, murder, and rape do is turn me off.

Now, I understand that TV shows and movies have been on a trend toward showing more and more basically since the beginning of TV shows and movies. But how much is too much to show? I pose this question not in terms of keeping things appropriate (there are plenty of discussions about that), but from a perspective of making our imaginations lazy. Sometimes the scariest things in the world exist only in our minds – and they are different for each person.

Isn’t part of the joy of immersing oneself in a fantasy world the ability to control our experience? When some of the little details are left to the imagination, we can make that story our own. We decide how much violence to focus on, how deep into the mind of the killer to go. When we aren’t given that option, I feel like some of the magic is gone.

Well, that and I have nightmares.

But, in all seriousness, I think about the issue of showing too much all the time as I write, read, and watch TV. I’m not sure I’ll ever know where the line is between too much description and just enough, but I do know that there is one. So, come on, let’s give readers and viewers a little credit: our imaginations aren’t dead – they are just waiting to be put to use.

My Newest Discovery: Writer Unboxed

So, this is a short, little post because I have bronchitis and severe allergies right now, but I wanted to let you all in on a cool, new writing resource I recently stumbled upon: Writer Unboxed. It’s a blog that is bursting at the seems with posts by writers and writerly professionals with all sorts of great advice.

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People who post to Writer Unboxed talk about all aspects of writing, from the creative side to the business side. I find that reading a post or two from blogs like this helps me break through writer’s block by getting me fired up about writing.

I love to hear about new [to me] writing resources. If any of you out there have any that they recommend, I’d love to check those out, too.