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Pondering the “Author Lifestyle”

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I read an interesting article the other day about how writers view our careers. Now I can’t find the article, which is annoying, but the author of the article spoke about our skewed vision of what our lives look like with successful career.

She wrote that we live with this whimsical idea ‘a real writer’s life’: living in a small apartment overlooking a city scape with mountains of books along the walls. We head to coffee shops to write, our days and nights are spent laboring over words and concepts, and we never keep a regular sleep schedule.

Or maybe we live in a cabin in the woods, or on land — either which way, some sort of solitary space where we stare out of the window for hours and as the world moves slowly past.

Recognize that visual?

She brought up an interesting point: this writing-life ‘ideal’ is straight from the era of writers who we consider classics (addendum from me: classical white male writers, anyway). The most prominent of these writers lived these kinds of lifestyles that pop up often when someone thinks of Author Life. But — and this is a big but — she mentions that these authors did so by living in countries that were post-revolution, post-war, or post some other crisis, where living expenses were cheap and aesthetics were set to ‘elegant grunge.’

She continued her point by saying that this kind of lifestyle and way of living no longer really exists. Nowadays, most writers have day jobs: some other means of support as writing isn’t, or isn’t yet, enough.

Writing is not a terribly profitable career. It’s not necessarily steady or high-paying, and it takes an enormous amount of energy and creative blood. We do it anyway, for a variety of reasons including the inability to stop writing really. But in order to live in a capitalist society without personal patrons to sponsor the arts and the like, it takes years for us to be able to survive on just writing (if ever at all). And often, there’s a partner involved.

(Well, actually, that could be said for most careers — it’s very difficult to realistically live in a single-income household, so maybe that’s a moot point.)

So her point was that the ideal of Author Life needs to shift, that we need to incorporate and give room for reality that includes working another job, always or until writing becomes profitable.

Even before reading this article I’d been noticing something, but it clicked into place especially after I read the piece. It seems that a large percentage of the women writers I know and love tend to be stay at home moms. (Which is a job, mind you.)

The point is, they have financial support from their partners, work a job raising the next generation, and it (often but not always) allows the flexibility of sneaking in writing time around managing the household.

Now I’m not saying this is what people need to do. And I’m probably overestimating what percentage of writers are stay-at-home parents. I’m just saying that there’s often a kind of flexibility in that path that more readily allows for a writing career.

That is not to say that there aren’t other ways or that writers don’t juggle two careers. It’s pretty common for successful writers to have two careers, or be a writer after a different career. Hell, I know a lot of writers who love both of their careers. So maybe this article is aimed a little more towards those who really only get satisfaction from writing.

Me, for example: I find little real satisfaction in my ‘career’ outside of writing. But I think that has more to do with being in the wrong field than anything else. I actually want to do something other than writing, even while I know writing will be with me till the end.

At the same time, when I’m working full time it’s so difficult to make any sort of writing happen. But again, I find that most often with jobs that are draining, uninspiring, and frustrating. So I’m wondering if the nuance being teased out here is less about “other job or no other job” and more about what kind of job. How much is flexibility key in helping make a writing career possible?

And there’s another factor that adds into this. I’ve heard often, and have recognized in myself, that if all you do is write, you often run out of creative energy. So to another point, how important is it that writers do have other careers or big influences in their lives to feed creativity/prevent creative exhaustion?

I know, it’s not necessarily what any full-time-writer-hopeful wants to hear. You have to expend more energy, take time away from writing, to actually write? The more I think about this, the most intrigued I am by the history behind this Ideal Author Lifestyle that resonates through a lot of writers.

Why do we have this image of the reclusive, kept-to-theirself writer as the hallmark standard? Don’t we, as writers, write to pinpoint some aspect of the human condition, or seek or entertain through some window of the human soul? Why do we think that being cut off from society is the way to do this?

Don’t get me wrong, I get it. I’m definitely an introvert, as most of those plagued by the writing bug tends towards. And I know, the introverted and introspective tend to think deeper and harder about things in general, so it’s not like we have to be plugged into society at all times in order to observe and try to understand.

We writers need to be in the world, for financial reasons or at least creative ones. That isn’t to say that we don’t need introvert times, as writing is intrinsically a very solitary endeavor. But we still need to have some part in it.

Isn’t it interesting, that a lot of those who write about the human condition kinda often don’t really want to engage in it? Or we do, but in a way that we can retreat from when we need.

Anyway. Where I’m trying to go with this meandering stream of thoughts is that maybe the above-mentioned article right, that our image of what Ideal Author Lifestyle looks like needs to be challenged. There were quite a few Author Life whimsy depictions in the article that resonated with me (though many that didn’t as well); I hadn’t realized how much of that idea I’d internalized from a bygone era.

It seems that maybe this misleading ‘ideal’ may be to blame for some of the frustration that a lot of writers seem to feel about how their lives look now. There are so many paths to making a successful writing career, and so many ways it can look.

So what is it that we really need to be looking for out of our professional lives?

 

What do you think? Do you have notions of what a writer’s life looks like that you want to strive for? What’s your Ideal Author Life?

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New Year, New Launch

A New Year... A New Launch

Goodbye 2017, hello 2018.

This can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. For me, ’18 doesn’t exactly look like it’s going to be much better in terms of my country devolving into a Tyrannical State, but there’s something about a new year that gives hope anyway. It may not reflect reality; it may be a false sense of positive change. Yet we all need reset times to take a breath and settle ourselves.

So, to everyone out there wishing and feeling hope for a better year, you got it. I believe in you. I hope this is the reset you need to accomplish your goals and dreams, and that you are able to forge a better world, because we’re going to need you, your voice, your power.

2018 is also different and special for me because my debut novel is set to be published in Fall. It’s the first in an alternate-history fantasy, following a headstrong and a little bit broken girl as she searches for secrets and truth. (A bit more about it here.) Because of this, several things are happening.

To begin with, I’m launching a new blog series of author interviews. I’m a part of a group of those who debut this year, and we’re all trying to support and boost each other. It will be called “Debut Authors ’18 Interviews” and will detail all sorts of talented writers and fascinating stories. (By the way, know someone awesome debuting this year, particularly in my genre or age group? I would love to host them!) So you’ll be seeing a lot more posts from me with author interviews, alongside my normal posts and less-often series, Behind The Scenes of Being Published, which has been detailing my publishing journey so far.

On this first day of 2018 I also sow the seeds of another new launch. My newsletter is officially starting up. With my debut coming, it’s time I start teasing you all with exclusive first-looks at the upcoming cover, sneak-peaks into the characters and world, and extra content that doesn’t make it into the book but is too good not to share.

All of that will be accessed through my newsletter, where I will keep you all entertained with my writing and behind-the-scenes stories of my author adventures.

If you’re not familiar with my writing, you can get a taste through a few short stories I’ve posted. Here, you can find a story of yanking someone back from the brink of death. Here, you can read a story of two civilizations meeting. Both are myth and magic, and both are a little dark (all like me). My debut takes place in the same world as that first story; the main character you’ll end up meeting soon in the series as well.

SO. Like my writing, think my debut series sounds interesting, want an exclusive first-look at my upcoming cover?

 

Here is the sign-up form for my newsletter.

 

I hope your 2018 is starting off well, and I wish you all the best health, happiness, and success as the year moves forward. 


Conclusion of NaNoWriMo2017

Well, if you haven’t already seen, my project for this National Novel Writing Month was actually a manuscript I’d worked on last year, but now from a different perspective. I go into greater detail about the whys and whats in my previous NaNo post, but the short of it is, the manuscript needed a dual POV to make it work.

I’m glad I forced myself to churn out that creativity. As per usual, the pressure of NaNo helped me get my head in the game and just drive through it. I found myself absolutely loving the second POV, and found further points in the plot that could be expanded or re-framed.

A few differences from other years: the ‘dislike’ of this manuscript popped up sooner and actually continued until the end. Usually I get over it the last week. I think it’s because I’ve been working on this story for a while, and it’s a complex concept dealing with a lot of issues — from environmental themes to colonialism to white saviorism… all with very complicated people (because I can’t seem to write simple people). In all the complexity it’s easy to mess up.

There’s so much potential in this story, but that doesn’t matter if I don’t have the skills and ability to get there. Sooo at the end of the day, I think all my problems came from artistic doubt.

That being said, I still ‘won’ the thing:

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So I shouldn’t complain too much.

Whether or not the words are good is the next problem. But I think only a clear head and some serious beta readers are going to help me solve that. It would also help if the damn manuscript was finished — I haven’t written a solid chunk of the ending, basically because I have no idea how to get from point A to Z with any sort of clarity. Every time I try I end up down another rabbit hole!

I think that there are elements that need to come together in the ending that I haven’t teased out enough in the beginning and middle, so it feels awkward and weird. That being said the manuscript is sitting at 134k words so I’m not sure how much longer I can make this this… But, I can also cut later.

Anyway, back to NaNoWriMo.

As I mentioned before, my last work assignment ended in November, so I ended up suddenly having a lot of free time on my hands this month. So if anyone out there reading this is frustrated because you didn’t ‘finish’ — A) don’t compare yourself to me, I was probably doing a lot less than you, and B) hey now, whatever you wrote is WORTH it. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart. NaNo is just a tool to get more words. 50k is pretty arbitrary when you think about it.

I managed to keep good habits, both writing wise and personally getting things done. I’m not sure I really *learned* anything more about myself as a writer, unlike in past years, which is a little disheartening. But it might click later what doesn’t seem obvious now.

But that’s all boring. The point is: more words! Whooo! I’m leaving the manuscript alone throughout December because I need a clear head, but I’m going to really commit to this thing next year. I need it done, so that I can see it whole and then revise for real. I’ve been planning and writing and fiddling with this manuscript for like two years. It’s starting to fester in my brain.

Anyway, that’s the conclusion of what I have here. It was a weird NaNoWriMo for me, guys!

How was yours? Any new insights into yourself or your manuscript?


Published: Behind the Scenes (Oct. 2017)

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All right, the recap: I sold my alternate-history fantasy series almost a year ago now (wow) to Glass House Press. Since then, I’ve been detailing my journey of what goes on behind the scenes in the hopes that it will help people have a glimpse into the process. My publishing journey, of course, will be different than someone else’s — this is just one path.

If you’re interested, here is:

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Since the prequel was back in the hands of my editor the past few months, I’ve spent most of the time working on other projects. I’ve talked before about the benefits of working on two projects at once (under certain conditions) and it’s something that’s slowly become part of my routine.

A mental refresh, if you will. Or a pallet cleanser.

Either way, it seems to be working. I have a clearer picture of the Obsidian Divide series now in my head. I even figured out a few elements about the world and even a few character quirks. (Unfortunately, they are details for farther along in the series versus the actual prequel that Editor and I are working on, but whatever. It’s new fun stuff, and I really ready to tackle the prequel again.)

Though now that NaNoWriMo has hit, most of my energy is focused towards my that manuscript. (If you’re interested, I wrote a short story related to the world that’s pretty dang interesting, if I do say so myself.) I could have worked on something related to Obsidian Divide, but until the prequel and Book One are firmly set developmentally, I’m worried about working too far in advance.

So I will be extra prepared to look at the prequel with fresh eyes when my editor comes back to me with edits.

In other news, I’ve been working on setting myself up branding and marketing wise. I had a designer build a logo for me a few weeks ago, and I might have another exciting branding project in the works here soon.

Otherwise, I’m really starting to think a lot about bloggers and reviewers. 2018 approaches, and the reality of needing to build buzz and get reviews and make people actually KNOW about my book is getting heavier. I’m starting to get a little paralyzed by the idea of all of it.

So! To try to head off this panic, I’m trying to be proactive.

For about the past year I’ve dinked around reading articles on marketing, listening to different marketing ‘experts’ about what to do, and signing up for all sorts of mailing lists. There’s a lot information floating around in my head, but unless I put it in some sort of order, it’s not going to help me very much.

(By the way I recommend to all of you to start reading information on marketing. Don’t get anxious, don’t think you don’t do ‘the right thing,’ don’t worry about changing anything right now. Just start digesting some of all the information out there. It’ll give you time to figure out what might work for you and get a grasp of the size of it all without it becoming overwhelming. I’ve talked a little bit before about marketing, specifically the branding aspect of it, which is pretty dang interesting, if I do say so myself.)

So! With some help (a buddy of mine who also has her trad-published-debut coming out next year is doing it with me), I’m going to start planning. Like, in a planner, with it all written out. I’ve even got a really awesome one picked out. I’ve been writing out notes, and sketching out general ideas of how they might fit for me, and trying to gather lists of influencers in my genre. But now I’m going to make A PLAN and put it together.

This plan primarily revolves making people even realize my book exists. Which means interacting with people who have a lot of interaction with other people who might want to read my book.

All while keeping up on my social media interaction and branding.

Which means, of course, ads, free stuff, guest blogging, interacting with influencers in my genres, putting the book all over Goodreads… and yeah, so much else I’m probably forgetting here.

Either way, I’m hoping that I’m going to have a real plan written out here by my next update. I think I might write another post here soon about a different segment of marketing as well.

Oh! And before I forget. I wrote a short story a while ago that actually has to do with my debut series. It’s actually a part of Book One, versus the Prequel which will come out earlier, and from a different perspective. But it’s really good, if I can say so myself, and you might be interested in reading it. Let me know what you think…

I hope you all have a wonderful writing week! 


Staying True To Your Story: A #FicFest Update

When revising your manuscript with an editor, how do you handle all of the changes when it can feel like the story isn’t yours anymore?

Well, first you have to look at that sentence and realize it’s misleading. If you’re making a change (based on advice, your own realizations, or aliens controlling your brain), it’s still YOU making the change. It’ll be your words, your expression, your ideas on how to implement it.

A while ago I read that you can’t copyright ideas in fiction. The only thing that is truly ‘yours’ is how you use your words. Which, if you think about it, really makes sense. Because if only one person had the copyright on dark mysterious vampires I’m pretty sure the paranormal romance market wouldn’t exist.

Kidding! Kidding. Seriously, there’s a lot of other neat stuff in the genre, but you see what I mean.

But I’ve found myself thinking about how ideas are formed and implemented during this wonderful/stressful/crazy revision part of FicFest. Ideas are just a mixture of the things I’m working out in my own life and what I ‘feed’ myself based on what I’ve read, but they become so close to our hearts. Unfortunately, we don’t really get to ‘own’ that part — not to mention the fact that the publishing process is going to rip my manuscript apart, anyway.

It’s easy to become enthralled and hyper-focused on your manuscript. And when you have an idea of what revising is going to look like in your head, and then it’s totally different, it can really put you off balance. Especially when you look at it all at once, like I said in my previous post.

However, the past few weeks I’ve taken my own advice, and carefully looked at each suggestion individually, and only one at a time, and made changes as I saw fit.

Honestly, I ended up implementing almost all of her suggestions. Because when looking at them individually and not letting my ego interfere, they made sense. And oftentimes I found that, bizarrely, when I made one change, it made her next suggestion divinely ‘fit.’

For example: It was suggested that I move a scene to earlier in the story. It was a simple move, not one that sent me down ‘ohmygodifImovethiswhatwillhappen’ street. In the scene, the magical version of the CIA approaches my MC with a job offer. Originally, I had it later in the story, alongside a bunch of other scenes to create a sense of ‘oh crap all these people know about the connection to xyz event she’s stuck now.’ Moving that scene made sense, not only because it made more sense for the CIA-like character (they approach her more covertly), but because it spiced up another section.

But because of it’s new placement, a new theme just magically fell into place: Blackmail.

All of sudden, from neither my mentor’s suggestion nor my own pre-planning, there was this new tension. The ‘job offer’ took on a life of it’s own and started changing the rest of my story, shifting character motivations, creating issues that were both good and bad. It changed a trust dynamic with two individuals completely.

At first I kinda freaked. ‘What? No! That’s not how I want my story to go! Crap! I’m going to have to take out the blackmail part and –‘ and, and, and.

Incidentally, as I was talking about above, this change magically fit into another suggestion by my mentor: I needed more tension in the second half. There wasn’t a direct obstacle to my character’s goals.

Originally, that’s kind of what I wanted. Look my character is finally succeeding with this thing she’s been obstinately fighting for for half the book — WHAM, climax, look at this creepy bad guy you knew was coming but hoped wouldn’t, MWAHAHAHAH!

Weeeeell. Yes. But.

I stuck to my plan at the beginning of this thing, that I was going to try on everything my mentor said, and I could always change it back if it really wasn’t right. I continued on with this new ‘blackmail’ element and wrote it out for the rest of the book.

Oh look at all the new delicious tension that my MC has to deal with!

Probably manifesting my own opinion on the matter, my MC frantically ignores the whole thing. LALALLALA it doesn’t exist hahaha I’m so kidding myself. Then, in a moment of vulnerability, she screws up.

Cue ‘all is lost moment’ — (which my mentor also said needed to be a bit more punchy, so, HELLO, two things fixed with just one scene change, wtf?). MC thinks she’s lost what she’s been fighting for this whole thing. Evil bad dude comes out of nowhere to ruin the day (okay, week). I added in a bit threatening what she values most in the world — independence — and voila!

Much heavier all is lost moment.

Am I freaking out that my story has changed A LOT and is this still my story oh my god I had to change so much around I suck as a writer?

Abso-freaking-lutely!

I found myself struggling with my writing identity: I must suck at this, to have so much change.

Now reread what I just wrote up above with the scene change. What did I say? Oh yeah, the whole thing that followed was all my work. My mentor didn’t specifically suggest blackmailing my MC. She gave suggestions that, considering marketability and the structure that keeps readers interested, could improve my manuscript.

My original scene move (which I completely agreed needed to happen and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself) didn’t leave me nervously not knowing the balance between keeping true to oneself and taking good advice.

Everything that followed, followed naturally. I wrote it. Did it fit into a whole bunch of her other suggestions that I felt nervous about implementing? Magically, yes.

Was it because my mentor said so, or because it just ‘fit’? Does this mean that there’s just a divine formula for book structure that happens naturally? Was I influenced by my mentors suggestions when I was rewriting?

Does it matter? The real question is: Is this still my story?

You bet your cute butt!

So my advice to you is this: Own those revisions! No matter the source. They are yours. And if they don’t feel like it, make them your own.

Do you have any crazy revising stories to share? What writer-y lesson have you stumbled across lately? 


Rambling Advice on Editing: #FicFest Update

I have zero desire to write this blog post, but I’m doing it anyway. I skipped/missed last week’s post, somewhere between laziness, picking up my (almost) mother-in-law for her month long stay, and furiously editing my manuscript for FicFest. So as I write this week’s, and I figure as long as I keep rambling, something will come out.

That’s what they say about writing habits every day, right? Just start writing anything, and the flow will come.

But anyway. Let’s talk about FicFest updates.

I received my edit letter almost a week ago… wow, has it been only a week? Yikes. It feels like it’s been longer. Anyway, I got the edit letter, and it’s been a little bit like having free access to crack ever since. It’s impossible to pull away. I’m definitely editing on the sly at work. I’ll find myself reading over her edits and making changes for hours and don’t even remember how I got there. It helps that she’s so freaking smart and spot on about everything.

I’ve run into my first problem, however: knowing the difference between a good change that improves my craft and story, and knowing when a change will alter the ‘heart’ of my story too much. I think it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of comments by a mentor, an editor, a beta reader — whatever you’re happening to read over in that moment.

I don’t really know the answer to this yet, but I have gotten some great tips from writer friends and family.

My first piece of advice, coming directly from me, is this:

Read through all the advice and suggestions. Then, take a step back. Take each edit one at a time, and only that one at a time. Take the one suggestion and work only on that until it’s done (and maybe give yourself a time limit if you’re a super-perfectionist). Don’t try to do everything at once as you’re moving through your manuscript.

 

I started with finishing the line edits, and have just moved onto the overall suggestions; right now I’m working on making my setting more vivid (and ONLY on the setting). Once that’s done, I’m moving onto making a particular character from the past have a little more influence on the future, to not be quite so shrouded. Then I’ll be working on this one character quirk that needs to be further explained.

Do you see what I mean? Focusing on one aspect makes it a lot easier to digest and implement. I’m finding I’m not nearly so overwhelmed, and I can see each comment more clearly as what it is: advice, and intelligent suggestion.

Another piece of advice that really rung true for me was this:

Take each suggestion at face value (again: only one at a time) and look at it through the lens of what story YOU are trying to tell (you’ve probably heard this advice a hundred times, but for some reason this really hit me as helpful).

Be open to all suggestions and improvements. Consider everything carefully, after a few days to digest the comments you’ve received. Come at your story after a deep breath and a step back. Determine what kind of story comes across to the reader, and if it’s the story YOU want to tell. Some suggestions may change the story to feel like something else, or the characters to be like other people. It could be good. It could be great. Or it may change something too much.

Don’t cut off your nose in spite of your face, but keep true to the story you are trying to tell.

 

Does anyone else struggle with finding this balance? What’s your method to work it out? How about my FicFest friends, how are you all doing?


Writer Validation: FicFest Mentee

There are a few social-media implemented competitions out there which can really help a writer gain some exposure and some help from a great writing community. Like, most people know what #PitMad and #PitchMadness are. Well, I discovered a new one the other day called FicFest. So, being the ever-eager-to-do-everything author-to-be I am, I submitted. It’s a lot like PitchMadness with the selection process and mentors/editors live-tweeting their thoughts about submissions, only the mentors/editors have two months to help perfect your manuscript before the agent round.

I kid you not, I got chosen.

*cue shock*

My mentor told me that she couldn’t stop thinking about my world and story, and she knew she wanted to mentor me pretty much right off the bat. Every time I read it I feel like giggling inanely and pointing to myself like “Me? Really? Are you sure you don’t have me mixed up with someone else?”

She’s currently reading through my whole manuscript, because the first thing we have to tackle is my LARGE word count. She wants to see if we can find areas to cut. So after all of that excitement for being chosen, I’m anxiously sitting on my hands and mostly feeling like I don’t know what to do with myself.

To make things even more unreal, another VERY exciting event happened immediately afterward — but in the interest of being a smart and wise writer on social media, I can’t go into it right now. Let’s just say, my mother is convinced that my great aunt who recently died is working some supernatural writing love magic.

I can’t even sit still when I’m at home. My brain is preemptively trying to feverishly work through everything, and mostly I’m cleaning a lot because it’s hard to keep still. I’m so very excited! Hopefully the hard work will be arriving here shortly and I can dive into this thing!