Monday, August 4, 2014

She Who Will Not Be Named

Does everyone have one? Like Harry Potter's Voldemort (He Who Must Not Be Named), I seem to have acquired a She Who Will Be Not Be Named. For that reason, I will hold off on revealing my author names (pseudonyms) for a while. Bottom line, I choose not to offer someone, with whom I've spent less than ten (10) hours with during the past 10 years, the opportunity to leave negative reviews for my books out of ugliness and spite and possibly tank the series before it has a chance to gain traction with readers.

I suppose that, for some, a She Who Will Not Be Named might be an ex-coworker who knows that you know what or who she did to get and keep a job for which she in no way qualifies. Or perhaps, a supposed friend who took issue with the fact that you expect them to take responsibility for their own finances or lack thereof and that you are not a never-pay-back loan company. Maybe even a no-longer family member (by your choice) that appreciates gossip and drama way more than you ever could.

She Who Will Not Be Named could be anybody... But she's someone that's gained an obsessive interest in you, your life, and your activities. Because, in this person's perception and opinion, you are not deserving of success or happiness.

In this instance, I wish I could say that I had said or done something to this person to gain such magnanimous attention and ire, and, thus, offer an apology and make amends; however, it seems, in this situation, all I "did" to gain such notoriety and power was just "be."

Yes, my very existence is the focus of this person, for it seems I am living "the life she deserves."

Truth be told, I barely know this person, and not surprisingly, have no desire to expend time and energy in this person's stead or direction.

Why have I been the targeted, er, chosen by this, um, cough-cough, lady, and her cronies, ah, associates?

Wrong place, right time? Right place, wrong time? Because my hair is curly? My eyes are green? Perhaps my relationship choices? Hers?

Two things I know for sure: 1) my life during the last 10 years has been a thrilling adventure, and I wake every morning looking forward to my day, and 2) that if She Who Will Not Be Named focused more on her own issues, perhaps she might be living a more fulfilling, healthy, happy life, rather than wishing to live and/or cause harm to mine.

Would She Who Will Not Be Name rally her crew of like-minded folks to make an effort to harm my writing career?

Sadly, more than likely.

My advice to those who must deal with other She Who Will Not Be Named encounters? 1) Live your life, and don't hesitate to seek assistance (legally, if called for) should She cross the ugly line into stalker territory, and 2) take needed counter measures, if warranted [such as my not offering up my writing name(s) for fodder].

My suggestion for She Who Will Not Be Named: Get a life of your very own.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

5 Down and 1 in the Hole

During the past few weeks, I dove into finalizing the Young Adult series that I've been working on for the past two years. Before I go back beneath the surface once again to focus on a new YA series, I wanted to touch base by posting on the Kathy Writes Books blog.

I have truly missed blogging and will focus on making a post every few weeks as I continued to write.

Since I have seen over the past few years that readers are hesitant to invest in an incomplete book series, I banked the entire series (which means I did not publish each book as it was finished) and intend to publish the entire series at the same time in the next few weeks.

Author Hugh Howey posted about the banking technique, or The Lilian Nirvana Technique, or as Author Lilian Nirvana uses the term, 5 down and 1 in the hole.

This YA series will be my 5 down, while the first book in the next series will be considered one in the hole.

I will also be banking a trilogy for release in February, as well as focusing on the series mentioned above for the next few months. (So, technically next year's first trilogy release will be considered 3 down, with the following book of the next trilogy equating to 1 in the hole.)

Thanks to Author Dean Wesley Smith workshops and shared Writing in Public challenge my production has increased, and I am looking very much forward to the months to come.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Writing Full-Time Journey. So far...

Two years ago this month, I left my mega-demanding, time-suck job to write full time. What a curious, intriguing journey this has been.

In the first few few months (June, July, and August 2012), I drafted a developmentally flawed version of the first series book. The book contained too many character POVs; a lack of clear goals over the arc of the first book; a need for more action and showing, not telling; and too low stakes for the characters and the story. (Thank you, Cathy Yardley for your game-changing feedback!)

So, in October and November 2012, I redrafted a tighter, more cohesive version of Book #1. December 2102 into February 2012 for Book #2, then on to Book #3 through March 2012. Book #4's draft extended through April, with May and June 2012 for the drafting of Book #5.

Because I lightning drafted (ultra fast drafting, a process I would definitely NOT recommend), the next year (June 2013 until present) was spent fleshing out, pacing, and polishing all five books. (Not lightning drafting, I wrote a 1/4 of a book in another genre in April 2014 in 10 days, so an actual solid, fleshed-out draft can be created in less time than it takes to perform the extensive revisions required by the fast draft technique.)

In the meantime, I had a fairly serious health issue arise in October 2012, and even with lots of doctors visits and treatments, natural medicine alternatives, etc., the situation did not resolve until June 2014 (boy, am I grateful that it did!).

So, overall, despite health issues that slowed me down for a year and a half of that time, the timing of the books completion, from start to finish (minus the first three months I was off track with the first first draft), totals out to 4-1/2 months per book. [Approximately 2 to months or so to draft, and 2+ months for the revision. (Thanks, Kat Duncan, for your continued coaching and mentorship.)]

For now, my goals moving forward, for 2014 & 2015 include:
  • 5-Book Series published this fall.
  • Trilogy (another genre) published in late winter.
  • 2nd Series in first genre started.
  • 2nd Trilogy in second genre started.
Yep, because of the brain fog, fatigue, and the amount of muscle and joint pain I suffered, the last two years have been a challenge.

Would I do it again? I would and will (without the health symptoms, please).

Why wouldn't I?

I had worked excessive hours and made a great deal of money for the company, while getting paid very little and being appreciated even less, so now I'm working myself. There's something about working long hours for myself, that encourages,

Will it work out? I'm writing and I have my business plan. And I'm writing. One book at a time.

Today, I am continuing on to reach my goals.

Year three of writing books for a living should quite productive and major interesting.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Sad, Sad Day (NEO 2 is no more)

On a recent trip, NEO went with me, and I wrote on planes, in airports during layovers, in a tent by the light of a headlamp, sitting in the cab of a truck and outdoors on a log, at a table in a busy community dining area, etc. With effort each day during the trip, I finished 1/4 of a novel in those 10 days.

I even shared with someone about the NEO 2, which I blogged about in one of my first posts on Kathy Writes Books.

NEO is a digital typewriter that weights a mere 1.2 pounds and has 700 hours of battery life on three (3) AA batteries. Nothing on the market compares with the durability, accessibility, or the long-lasting ability of the battery life.

The NEO has been one of the primary and most-often writing tools I've used, yet when I returned home from the most latest trip, I discovered that the device is no longer being produced.

The writer's tool that had been pawed out of hands by eager boarder collies and dropped on concrete, banged on a carpeted floor, etc., and kept working so that I might keep writing had been discontinued in September 2013.

Supposedly, technology, such as the smart phone and ipads, has negated the need for a device like the NEO.

One of the most valuable tools that I have used as a writer, and the NEO is no longer being produced or sold by the company that produced them. Thanks to ebay, I was able to purchase a lot of three units, with software CDs and connector wiring, for a very reasonable price. Hopefully, these backup units will travel with me and/or be with me during the writing of many more books to come.

At this point, there is no similar keyboarding unit available with such extended battery life, durability, and flexibility.

Yes, a sad, sad day because the NEO is no more.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Work in Progress... Always

Part of writing for the long haul is writing one book after another. There is no THE book, only writing the NEXT book. With 5 skeletal drafts banked (written by lightning drafting, which I do NOT recommend), I have been working through those drafts to flesh them out. In other words, in my cycle of learning, I doubled, if not tripled, the workload of writing the series.

Thus, when I might have finished in months, the process has taken way too long and has been quite tedious.

During a recent trip that was electronics restricted (translate to no electricity or internet access), I started a fresh manuscript in a new genre.

A few weeks away from finishing the first series, I have started a trilogy as well. One book after another.

Publication of series one is set for August, with the trilogy set for release in February.

Thus far, my writing experience has been about learning the tools to write professionally and about what works and what does not work for me.

First health issues, then choosing a process that wasn't the best for me, then the time necessary to finish what I started... Well, time moves on, and so does my writing. Onward!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

I.O.U. From a Reader's Point of View

Dear Author,

When I left a past job, my ex-boss, as he did with many others who moved on to bigger and better things before me, claimed, "She owes me."

Odd, in looking back, I'm not sure why I owe him or the company anything. After working 65+ hours per week on average and keeping the business afloat and prosperous with my efforts, I'm not sure what I might owe. Perhaps I am to be eternally grateful that he gave me a job in the first place? Could it be that this magnanimous fellow feels he contributed to the work ethics I exhibit today?

I suppose there's no taking into account that I might have been underpaid, overworked, and that I had little life outside of work tasks, or that I worked numerous times to make a deadline when others left to go on picnics, watch baseball games, or because they couldn't handle the pressure of the work overload, Mr. She-Owes-Me included.

In the same way, as I read a book--for enjoyment, for escape, for entertainment--no where in the reading process do I OWE you, the author of that book, a review. I do not owe you a review nor do I owe you the purchase of your next book.

Quite prevalent nowadays, within the independent author realm, is that should I read your book, I am required, expected, and must leave a review...

Um, no.

If you as an author have met my reader needs, if I enjoy your book, if you provided a thrilling read, an emotionally stimulating read, etc., depending on genre, then I will gladly write a review.

As far as you addressing low-rated reviews, such as one- and two-star ratings, DON'T. By attempting to get readers to change their feedback, or to shame them, or engage them in some sort of conflict for sharing their PERSONAL opinion, you are revealing yourself as an author that expects an I.O.U. from his/her readers. Not only do you deign that you deserve a review, but only four- to five-star ones at that.

How arrogant and entitled is that?

Please be aware that neither I or any other reader owes you squat. We paid for your book. We read it. We may or might rate it and leave a review.

Just as it was your perogative to write the book, it is ours as to whether or not to review said book.

While you are awaiting your "well-earned" reviews, why not take classes, write more, seek a professional editor, etc., to become the author you long to be. Perhaps seek honest feedback regarding your covers, editing, book descriptions, etc., from authors and self-publishers in the know.

When we as readers can't tell what the book is about by looking at the cover, that's on you. When your description isn't clear or goes on forever, yep, that's also on you. When you expect massive sales when you only release a single book a year, that's also on you. So is poor editing and lack of marketing and promotion efforts. That's on YOU.

When you consider potential I.O.U.s, perhaps it is you that owes your potential readers the effort it takes to produce and present a professional, readable, enjoyable book.

So, Dear Author Sir or Ma'am, please be aware that the purchase and/or download of your book does not constitute a form of an I.O.U. As a reader, the only "owe" is that you as an author owe us respect as readers. Not review writers. Not someone who owes you something.

Please, be the writer you need to be, and I and others will be the readers we are. No I.O.U. issuance forthcoming.

Sincerely,

Ms. Reader

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Simply Simple Writing Tool

After many months and much struggle, I am FINALLY progressing on the revisions to the series. In addition to feeling better physically, I attribute one factor for moving me forward: Progress Tracking.

With a simple spreadsheet, I track what time I turn on the computer to what time I wrap up my writing for the day.

With just a little info, such as:
  • Day (Mon - Fri)
  • Date (7-Mar, for example)
  • Start Time
  • End Time
  • Time Spent doing What / Where / Distractions
  • Total Daily Hours
  • Total Writing Hours
I also track my daily progress.

On a second spreadsheet, I track, by chapters, HOW MUCH progress I make a day. Zero chapters, a quarter of a chapter, two chapters, etc.

At the end of the day, I tally how much time I spent writing and on non-writing tasks.

Using this simple method, I have produced, even with coming down with upper respiratory crud and being on cold meds, more in the last few weeks than I have produced in the past few months combined.THIS method is why I wrote my first drafts so quickly. No clue, why I didn't see the correlation before...for some reason, I separated first drafting and revision in my mind, as well as the processes I've been learning along the way.

I'm not sure why I tend to make thinks more difficult and challenging than they need to be...perhaps because I enjoy a good challenge, so I'm subconsciously upping the stakes... No clue, but at least I'm moving forward at a steady pace.

Tracking my time, like I did back when I had to keep tabs on specific project work on my former day jobs, has turned out to be quite an inspiring tool for me. Reminder: Keep It Simple.

Monday, February 17, 2014

NEXT: Projects and Projections

Since I've been far behind my self-imposed production schedules, I haven't posted a current and goal status in a while, so here goes:

First & Second Quarter 2014 Projects:
  • Book #1, Series #1, is undergoing that that third set of eyes read through.
  • Book #2's fleshing out and pacing is almost complete, with a goal to send to writing coach for review by the end of February.
  • Book #3 is up next, with fleshing out and pacing scheduled for March.
  • Book #4, due to family commitments in April, will undergo partial fleshing out and pacing, that will probably roll over to May.
  • Book #5 will follow, naturally, Book #4 for fleshing out and pacing in May/June.
  • Series #1 published in its entirety by the end of June, July at the latest.
  • Note: If, by tracking my progress, I am able to speed up the fleshing-out and pacing process, the series will go live sooner.
 Third and Fourth Quarter 2014 Projections:
  • July is set to write AND finalize Book #1, Series #2.
  • August is set for writing a romance.
  • September will involve the 2nd Book in Series #2.
  • October, of course, will be horror novel month.
  • November, Book #3, Series #2
  • December, Book #1, Series 3
Of course, the projected schedule is fluid, depending on the realistic pace I am able to establish. That's the key to the next few weeks, gauging and measuring how much I've accomplished in what period of time, where accomplished, and any distractions thereof.

Writing-wise, that's my 2014. Interesting times and onward!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Put Down That Thesaurus (What Not to Do)

Overwriting and author intrusion... Sure, you've read a book, I know you have, that is going along well--you're enjoying the story and the characters--then a word that the character would never use or say or think jolts you completely out of the story.

This past week, I downloaded a sample of a book to my kindle. (I was iffy about the author because I'd been disappointed with his/her earlier book.) Right up front, the book hooked me. THEN, I read to the end of the sample. One of the last few words, from the point of view of a woman who worked at a flower shop and used and thought in everyday language, was something similar to and along the lines of magisterial.

Huh?

The word, so did not fit with the story, with the character, with the flow of words, that it jarred me right of the sample and actually discouraged me from wanting to read more.

But magisterial, or any similar out-of-context word, is just one little word, right?

Yet the sample represents the author's storytelling abilities and the author's handling of the story.

The use of one word reveals that the author is more interested in using his/her thesaurus than telling an awesome well-written story. There's a big difference in the focus on writing, than in the focus on telling and writing a story well.

Instead of story, this author's real focus is on words. Yeah, you can combine words to tell a story; however, if the focus is on all the thesaurus-based, big fancy words, then the actual words become THE story. This one word, or a similar-type description, reveals that this story will be the author's story, not the characters, and that I will have difficulty relating to and connecting to the characters because the author didn't step out of the way and allow the characters to live on the page and share their story.

The thesaurus has a place in a writer's life, but ALL thoughts and actions and dialogue MUST be from the point of view of the current character. All setting, action--basically ALL words--are through the experience of that particular character. Otherwise, they are just words.

And when an author shares the point-of-view (POV) character's experiences, and intrudes with words that do not fit with or for that particular character, the reader-character connection is broken. By using words lifted from a list of thesaurus synonyms, that do not apply for that POV, the writer is cheating his/herself and also the reader.

Yes, the thesaurus can add flavor to the character's POV, but a person from the country would not describe the blue of the sky as cerulean, but more like cornflower or robin-egg blue. The description and observation would come from the basis of that character's experience, not from the thesaurus.

Cerulean, however, might fit well for a fashion designer or a psychologist, to use as a common, everyday word for a description of a drilled-down color of blue.

That's the key!

The character that the above-mentioned author shared with me was not presented, in thought, action, words, introspection, etc., as someone who would use or think such a word as magisterial. Such usage makes the story more about the author than the story or the character or the reader-character connection.

Sadly and understandably, I, and many others, I am sure, will not be buying the book. And I'm not being magisterial at all. (Yes, I looked up the word magisterial, the word I used in my example above, AND the actual word the author used, in my handy-dandy thesaurus.)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Vanilla Drumming (Say What?)

"So vanilla" and "to the beat of a different drum," common sayings, yet to the extreme of one another. On a personal level, I've never fit into any sort of expectation mold.  So, I suppose, it shouldn't be surprising that in the past two years, I have discovered that it's the difference in my style that sets my writing apart.

During my years of struggling to gain traction as a writer, over and over and over once again, critique partners, instructors, and others did their best to "vanilla" my writing, so that it supposedly fit in some sort of obscure mold within traditional publishing.

I am sure this vanillaization was not intended as harmful, and in most situations, was presented as helpful and encouraging. Yes, there are conventions of styles, plotting, and characterization that readers expect; however, I've learned during my interaction with Dean Wesley Smith as instructor for online courses at WGM Publishing on-line courses, that the axiom of "to thine own self be true" is one to live by.

Yes, there are conventions and reader expectations; however, getting deep into character and allowing the characters story to unfold, as the character's story, without so many constraints and revisions that the writing is watered down and comes across as the same-old, same-old, is possible. Otherwise, Author A's books sounds like Author B's book, etc., etc., etc.

Yes, a different style is DIFFERENT. Whereas vanilla is more most-people-will-be-okay-with-it sort of thing, difference can be polarizing. More than likely, because of the difference, some will find the style appealing, while others will dislike the stye, more than likely because of that very difference.

"So, what make YOUR writing so different?" I can hear the question echoing now.

Truly, since writers are supposedly not a good judge of their own work, please know that I don't judge my own writing as better, shinier, sharper, etc.

Different style in regards to my writing means:
  • Even though I "added to" the first drafts, the books have not had the life edited out of them. (They still retain the feel and atmosphere of the first draft, only expanded.)
  • The style is stark, but deep. Deep into character, not a lot of exposition or back story, which means the stories move at a fast pace.
  • Several plot twists that the reader might not see coming are included. (I certainly didn't perceive them, even as I wrote.)
Other than that, there's only my sense of the difference...not good or bad...just different from the norm.

I am so excited to get more reader feedback on this. An interesting journey, indeed.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Weeding The Garden (Tradeoffs and the Writing Life)

2013 brought challenges for my writing life.

First off, a situation arose in that when I traveled to an area with little phone or internet access, I returned to a personal attack on a social media site. Supposedly, I was an awful person for not responding to someone's texts and voice mails. "You never really know someone..." (Um, see above...limited access...hello!)

The odd thing was, that I had shared beforehand with this person about the upcoming trip and the possible lack of contact. Okay, while this person may have, for whatever reason, forgotten about the trip, bottom line was that he/she chose a victim role over true friendship.

Since my priority was and continues to be to interact with family, friends, and my writing in a healthy manner, in order to continue to do so without negativity and distractions, I found it necessary to weed such immaturity and neediness out of my life. So as sad, as difficult, and as hurtful as it was, I chose to cease contact with this person.

In order to avoid the continued, escalating drama, I had to let go of this years-long friendship. I was heartbroken and still miss that person to this day; however, I know for my own personal well-being and for the other aspects of my life (writing included), I made the healthiest possible choice.

As with any of life's choices, there are tradeoffs. Such as, in order to write, giving up:
  • Television, except for a few prerecorded select shows;
  • Drama-heavy people, even through I care for and about them; and
  • Contact with with others, in order to claim writing time.
Health issues were also a challenge for me in 2013. After a year plus search for answers and help, in December I underwent a medical procedure that hopefully will lead me in the direction of better health. (If the rest of December and the beginning of January are an example, I'm most definitely on the right track.) The tradeoff of battling this illness was that I did not have as productive of a year writing-wise as I'd hoped. (Yep, tradeoffs work both ways.)

In order for the healthier aspects of ones life to grow, one must weed the negative out. So, in 2014, I shall continue to weed my garden, make tradeoffs, and write.

Onward!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

SMART and Realistic Goals

For 2012 and 2013, I tended to overreach with setting writing goals, especially considering the ongoing health issue I battled. For 2014, since my main goal is to learn to gauge and set realistic goals for my writing and publishing venture, I am turning to SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Recorded, Timely) goal setting practices. 

Specific:
  • Who: Me, myself, and I, plus a coach/mentor, editor, and final proofreader
  • What: Publish entire Series #1, Launch Series #2, Launch Series #3
  • Where: In front of a computer, with a pen for markup, or on Neo
  • When: January thru May or June, publish one book in Series #1 per month,
    Launch Series 2 in late spring, early summer,
    Launch Series #3 in summer/fall time-frame
  • Which: Requires daily goal setting and sitting butt in chair and writing/revising, also requires focus and concentration), with limited internet interaction
  • Why: Life-long goal, Beginning of building a backlist to be able to write books as a living
Measurable:
  • Units of Measurement: Completed chapters, books, tasks, stages
Attainable:
  • Day-by-day production schedule and accomplishments
Recordable:
  • Track stages, task completion, chapters completed, etc.
Timely:
  • Realistic estimates, plus additional time added as a buffer, such as:
    - Complete of workshops in formatting and promotion through January into mid-February
    - Revise Book #2 in January
    - Contact e-distribution company in January
    - Publish to CreateSpace in February
  • Set Project completion goals and break down into Monthly, Weekly, Daily goals:
    - Forward Book#2 for final read-through, 1st week of January
    - Format Book #2 in editable format, 1st week of January
    - Revise 1 Chapter per day, 2nd week of January
    - Gauge pace of revision at week's end, end of 2nd week of January
    - Schedule tasks for next week, end of 2nd week of January
  • Today
    - Listen to Chapters 26 thru 29 via Dragon NaturallySpeaks
    - Polish Chapters 26 thru 29
  • Tomorrow
    - Listen to and Polish Chapters 30 thru 32
  • Next Day
    - Listen to and Polish Chapters 33 & 35
Okay, in reviewing, all current goals look realistic and reasonable. At the end of each day, I will evaluate where I stand, then at the end of each week, to step out the task steps for the following week. Reasonable, possible, doable.

May 2014 be prolific, positive, and real.