Tuesday, December 12, 2017

I.C.E. for Authors and Artists

Like the Ghost of Christmas Future, the specter of death will someday visit us. I know, gruesome thought, but we are all of this mortal coil. And no, this is not an attempt to sell you life insurance, or donate your body to science (although that would be cool).

Everyone should have an ICE folder; In Case of Emergency. Many people, including me, have a folder I can grab as I exit. I've notified everyone in the immediate family where it is (not that they'll remember). It contains the necessary vital info: financials, important documents, phone numbers of family, doctor, schools, accountant, lawyer, pastor.

If you died, or became incapacitated, you may have set guidelines for your physical body, but what about your body of work? Here are 6 things you need to consider:

Who will contact your agent in the event of the worst kind? Whoever will be handling your affairs needs to know the name, address, phone number and agency (in case the agent has moved on). Keep this important info with your other legal documents. The same holds true for a publicist.,

What about your editor? If you're in the midst of a rewrite, or launch, they need to be notified so they can take the appropriate action. (You might want to check your contract to see what it says- it's possible that any advance might have to be repaid if the book isn't finished. Leave a copy with the other legal documents for reference.)

Authors have many business contacts- conference/workshop/store hosts, etc. who will need to be contacted immediately that you won't be attending. Always leave numbers and names of contacts for such events in a handy place (on the refrigerator?). And don't forget, that if you're going the Indie route by CreateSpace, Smashwords, or other vehicle, they will need to be notified. However, a death certificate and possibly a Power of Attorney or other legal document giving you authorization may be required to cancel or access accounts.

Your actual works- have you decided what is to become of them? Will they die with you? Even if you aren't published, that doesn't mean that they never can be. You could leave them to someone to publish after your death. I made my sister my 'artistic' beneficiary, with the expressed hopes that even if she went Indie just for the family, that certain manuscripts would be published (notably my Evolution Revolution series, but that's pubbed now, so I have to update my 'wish list.') Or, you could designate that they remain part of the estate and stay within the family to pass down. Just make a provision for your work like you would your jewelry. No matter what, put it in writing; it's best if it's part of a legal Will, with a copy of any provisions about your works, sent to whomever will handle  your artistic matters. You should consult a lawyer about specifics; this is only an advisory to seek proper legal protection.

Maybe someone shares your passion for literature. They might be the perfect person to handle your author affairs. Again, I designated my sister not only because she's one of my biggest fans, but because she understands the importance of my wishes for my works. Lawyers won't get involved in that unless there is a contract for a film, TV series, licensing, etc.

Finally, (and I shouldn't even have to mention it), but make sure there are copies of your work in secure places. What good is it if everything is on a flash drive, but it's in your desk drawer and your house burns down? What good if you have multiple copies on your laptop, but it's stolen? You could store it in the cloud (after the leaking of Hollywood celeb pics, I'm not too sold on cloud security), but there are other formats to save your work, rather than bulky, vulnerable paper copies. (One cheap way is to email it to at least 2 accounts. Make sure someone you trust has the password, or you leave it with your other important documents.) A list of where all your works are will ensure that they are protected.

As a former paralegal specializing in Estates and Trusts, I've seen too many examples (even in my own family) of messy estates where assets were fought over, stolen, or neglected because there were no binding legal guidelines. People felt uncomfortable talking about final disposition of their assets. If you don't decide what happens with your property, the state will (and each state is different, so don't depend on a verbal discussion you had with someone at some time, in another state, etc. See how confusing it can become?). Even if you make a simple list and make the direct people involved aware of your wishes, it can go a long way toward guaranteeing that your manuscript babies are provided for.

Photo courtesy of Pexels.com


Monday, December 4, 2017

To Mountain Tops and Paths Not Chosen...

I have climbed the mountain. And won.

I finished my middle grade novel, a sequel to a previous NaNoWriMo project. 50,066 words. In late afternoon on the 30th of November. Was it a smooth ride? Heck no. But here's what I took away:

1- I digressed from my outline. The characters refused to comply with my wishes and led me down a different path. Obviously they knew the story better than I did, so I followed their lead. Good thing!

2- Even though we ventured on the path not (originally) chosen, we finished up in the same place. The ending was almost exactly like my outline, just a little more twisty.

3- It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, even with holidays, family and church obligations, author events and traveling, and plain housework. Someone told me, "You could do NaNo every month." If I'm inspired by a book, I probably could. Not that I'd want to. I'm taking December a little easier.

4- It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. I'd planned on doubling up on the word count for several days so I could spend days prepping for Thanksgiving, enjoying Thanksgiving, and for days on the road at events. Somehow I ended up busting my butt on several days to catch up. After the first week, I was always behind. Nothing like a little motivation.

5- I'll continue to do NaNoWriMo. I may not finish (I actually didn't one year!), but I find it a good exercise in writing madly. When I get a deadline, I know how to handle the pressure, how to prioritize, and how to push forward through seemingly unpassable obstacles.

Now it's December and while I'm not writing as much, I'm still doing blog posts, marketing, and querying. I won't start revisions on this project until January, when I'm snowed in, the house is quiet and bare of decorations, and I can focus on all the ugly that lurks in the manuscript.

If you didn't finish by November 30th, that doesn't mean you can't finish it by the end of the year, so keep plugging along and we'll talk about revisions in January.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Staring Down the NaNoWriMo Deadline...

Well, NaNoWriMo is almost over. I have 4 days to write 14,622 words, or 3,656 words a day.

I probably won't make it.

But I'm not going to sweat it. I'm not giving up on my project, and I'll give it a shot. Here's why I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't make my goal:

1- Who the heck picked November for NaNoWriMo? Between Thanksgiving and Christmas and other end-of-year holidays, it was insanity to pick this month. Sometimes I feel it's a bit of an unfair challenge, like only people who 'really' want to finish their novel will succeed. Why didn't they choose March? Nothing going on in March but snowstorms and nasty weather, and everyone hoping for an early spring. That makes much more sense. So, with all the other time requirements I have to fulfill, I can only squeeze in so much more.

2- I'm going to finish this project. Just because I don't finish it in 30 days doesn't mean a thing. I've written a number of novels in 30 days, so I know I can do it. I just don't have to.

3- When a novel is written, that's only half the story. There are plenty of novels sitting in drawers or closets (and I'm guilty of that), that need a complete overhaul. NaNoRevMo (revision month) is in June. JUNE???? When there are graduations, weddings, vacations, yard work? Seriously some people planning this whole thing are calendar-challenged. If NaNoWriMo was in March, the NaNoRevMo would be in October. Perfect. Am I the only person to think of this? Revising in December is also hard, but to finish off my NaNoWriMo novel? I can totally do that, I only have 14,522 words to go.

4- If I choose to finish this novel later, it's because I have several projects in the air and if one of them comes to fruition, it's going to take my time and attention. I'm querying agents, doing blog posts, doing book events. If my one big project comes through, all those listed above will go on a back burner, along with family dinners. So, it's a matter of priorities.

5- There's always next year, if I feel so inclined, but I usually don't wait until NaNoWriMo to write the next book, I'll write it after and before November. I do NaNoWriMo for fun, to challenge myself and cheer on others. I'm not going to let it give me heartburn or sleepless nights.

Next post, I'll let you know how I did. In the meantime, I'm encouraging you not to give up, as I won't. Some will succeed, some won't, but in the end, it all depends on finishing the novel, not how fast you got it done, and polishing the novel, not just sitting back after the writing.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

It's Time to Talk Turkey!

I'm a little behind in my NaNoWriMo words (about 3,000 and it only looks to get worse with the holidays coming). I have to clean and cook for family coming both on Thanksgiving Day and the 3 days after. I have meetings and bell practice, then there's the Thanksgiving service at our church on Wednesday night when I'm playing bells (and one piece is a real doozy). Plus I want to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade. Phew!

So I'm going to cheat and just post a cute pic:

I wish you all a day of peace, family, friends, or other loved ones, and bountiful blessings.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Almost Halfway There...

Hey! If you're doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) you're almost halfway there! A little behind? A little ahead?

I'm on course, (unless I don't write anything today, then I'll be behind) but anything can happen. I've had book events on two weekends, so I brought notes and wrote in down times. I have family visits that will take me out of state, so I'll have to plan around that.

Suppose I don't finish....?

So what? I will keep going. I will get there, and that's the point: TO FINISH (even if it takes more than 30 days).

I've wandered away from my outline...

And? Is the story moving forward? Are you writing? Sometimes our mood, the characters, a sudden inspiration changes the course we plotted, kind of like a rogue wave or a sudden wind. If you like the direction (it's okay to be scared, racing through unknown waters scares all of us), stay with it. Isn't life about the journey, and not the destination?

My character is coming out different than what was in my head...

Your character is growing up, becoming their own person. This is a tough 'parenting' call when you have to let your babies go their own way versus where you want to send them. They may falter, even fail, or have terrible things happen to them; it's okay. That's life. If this child has become a stranger, talk to them and watch them, get to know them.

The plot is speeding by! I'm almost to the end of the story with no where else to go and I won't reach 50,000 words...

Whoa, slow down! It's okay to reach the end of your plot. You've got the bones. Now add a little flesh. Is your setting fully mapped out so that a reader will feel like they are on the street where the hit-and-run occurs? Will they feel the chill ill wind when they turn down that dark alley? What about the five (some argue six) senses? Does your character taste the bitter bile as they realize the horror of what they've done? Can they smell the sweet tartness of lemon cookies hot out of the oven at their grandmother's house? Go back to any chapter that seems thin and add some stuffing. No one likes a lean turkey on Thanksgiving, don't give them a skinny story.

I've lost my muse...

Maybe take a step back- spend a half hour, reading the last few chapters you've written, or maybe even the whole thing. Sometimes immersing yourself non-stop in the story helps you pick up the energy, the momentum, that you've lost. It's not easy starting, stopping, starting, stopping; it almost goes against our creativity. Don't despair, don't give up. If reading through doesn't spark some words, write a chapter about a character/setting/scene that won't end up in the story, like a flashback to a childhood incident, a terrible fire that spread through town, a confrontation that should have happened. Spread your wings. At best, it'll jump start you. At worst, maybe you have the seeds for a sequel or completely different story.

Now I must tend to my muse because where my story is headed? Well, I never saw that coming and I'm on the edge of my seat, waiting for my characters to finish their tale...

Keep writing! Keep Dreaming!


Monday, November 6, 2017

5 Pick Ups For Midlist Authors on Book Events

Authors do book events: conferences where they present workshops, book festivals where they sign books and interact with readers, library appearances, etc. Sometimes, they're a lot of fun and very successful.

Other times, not as much.

Here are 5 things I've found that are generally, but not always, true:

1- When you're a midlist author (as most of us are), if famous authors are invited to the same event, you can expect to have much lower sales. People come to see famous people. That's life.

2- While everyone's gushing over the famous people, you will have a lot of empty time, sitting at your table, wishing for a reader to buy your book. Use that time to get to know your tablemate. You make new friends and connections, you share information, and maybe can network and cross promote. 

Table-mate and new friend, young adult author Jennifer Wolf Kam

3- At events like conferences where you give presentations and then have time until the book signing session, use those minutes wisely. This weekend, at nErDcampLI, while my writing colleagues were giving their workshops, and because there wasn't one that I was interested in, I found myself with two empty hours so I used that hour to work on my NaNoWriMo novel. You can bring revisions that need to be finished, outline a new novel, read a book for research or pleasure. I know people that knit when they have some free time. 

Workshops don't fill all your time; have something to do!

4- Your GPS may make a mistake... so print out the directions anyway. Seriously, I was going to Long Island and my GPS wanted me to take the NJ Turnpike South. (No.) On the way home, it wanted me to go from the Long Island Expressway, through Manhattan, one of the tunnels, and then into NJ. (Are you freaking crazy??? Go through MIDTOWN?) Plan a backup route...

5- Always carry a granola bar or something to eat, because there may be food issues- you have to get your own and maybe you're not near an eatery or don't want to drive in unfamiliar towns, or they provide food but you can't eat it because of sensitivity issues or preferences. Usually there is bottled water available, or water fountains, but keep at least one bottle with you.

Till next week!


Monday, October 30, 2017

The NaNoWriMo Dash!

Countdown! Today and tomorrow are the last days for your #NaNoWriMo prep. Have you done your character sketches so you know not only what your characters look like, but what their favorite food is? What's their darkest secret? What are they afraid of? What song makes them tear up? Even if you don't use that info in the final draft, just having it gives you a familiarity with the character so you can zip-write scenes. When you're stuck on where to go next, reading a character sketch may give you an idea for a scene. Write the scene, figure out later if you want to keep it, change it, or move it. It still satisfies your word count and may lead you exactly where you need to go!

Same with your world building sketch. Even if your novel takes place in your home town, you'll need to make a note of things for easy reference- is a road closed off that could give your character a problem- that can be a scene. Is a landmark being torn down? What season is it? Has the US changed its government from republic to martial law because of an apocalyptic event? If your setting is a different time period, or on another planet, then you'll need good notes on economic, governmental, social, and other systems.

As for my outline, sometime I have one sentence for the chapter- "On their date, he discovers she's a monster." I can work those specifics out as I write- no need to outline every detail because you don't want to interrupt the creative flow and shut down all the possibilities that suddenly pop into your head but you ignore because you have 'THE OUTLINE.'

Sometimes though, you need more than one sentence, maybe several because of changing points of view, a leap in time, or a number of things that must happen in the chapter. That's good- you have an idea of what you want to write. Just remember the outline isn't written in stone. If you go off kilter and don't like what you've written- don't erase it! It counts as written words and you may use bits of it, or the scene entirely elsewhere. Plus, if you keep deleting words because they don't fit at the moment, you may never achieve your NaNoWriMo completion.

So make those notes, sharpen those pencils, X out time on the calendar. We got this!