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!

Char

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!

Char


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!

Char

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

It's MY Work, MY Copyright!

Many artists (writers, musicians, illustrators, songwriters, etc.) who have their copyrights infringed can't fight back- the cost of litigation will bankrupt them, possibly ruining them financially for the rest of their lives. I have seen it happen, I know someone whose work was stolen and she could never recoup.

In early October, a group of congressional representatives consisting of:

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D, NY)
Rep.Tom Marino (R, PA)
Rep. Doug Collins (R, GA)
Rep. Lamar Smith (R, TX)
Rep. Judy Chu (D, CA)
Rep. Ted Lieu (D, A)

sought to address this gross injustice.

According to The Authors Guild in their newsletter of October 18, 2017, Reps. Jeffries and Marino introduced the Revised Small Copyright Claims Bill, in which:

     "The legislation would give authors a much-needed tool to combat copyright infringement without having to go to federal court- an extremely expensive proposition for even the most straightforward copyright cases, and one that few authors can afford. If the bill is passed, individual creators and other small copyright owners will have the ability to enforce their rights without hiring a lawyer or travelling to federal court. This should effectively place copyright remedies for the first time within the grasp of an entire class of creators who otherwise could not afford to avail themselves of the legal system."

Anyone who's had to hire a lawyer for any reason knows how prohibitively expensive even a single consultation can be. To fight against an artistic thief who has a stranglehold on your work, never mind against the resources of a large corporation, under current judicial and regulative conditions, is all but impossible. This situation needed to be addressed- and should have been decades ago.

Known as the CASE Act (the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2017), this bill is an updated version of a preceding bill, but that bill did not make it to the Congressional floor before the session expired.

The Authors Guild support, along with input from "public hearings, written commentary from authors, industry groups, publishers, technology companies, scholars and other stakeholders" helped shape both the early and current drafts of the bill. Conditions and provisions of the legislation include:

1- any tribunal is voluntary.
2- engaging in a tribunal does not affect either party's right to a jury trial.
3- the Copyright Office must expedite registration certificates; such certificates being a prerequisite to enter a tribunal.
4- a provision that allows the copyright holder to request a subpoena which could compel an Internet service provider to disclose the identity of the person/user accused of the infringement.

The last provision, says the Guild, is an especial boon in the fight against Internet piracy.

Mary Rasenburger, executive of the Authors Guild, thanked the bill's creators; "Their persistence on behalf of this nation's creators is a testament both to the importance of the creative community and to their recognition of that importance," and for "hearing the concerns of the nation's authors, photographers, songwriters, and other creators and taking action."

In addition to the desperately needed and long overdue legal remedy, Rasenburger concluded that "Congress, by passing the CASE Act, would demonstrate its recognition that individual creators and small copyright owners are the backbone of the creative economy" which is something we creators already knew.

In order to give the bill a boost towards passage, write, call, or email your congressional representatives and express not only support for the CASE Act, but demand they actively push to have it passed. This bill benefits the true owners of copyrighted materials- so do it today!

Char


Thursday, October 19, 2017

5 Good Things About Failing NaNoWriMo

It's October- and besides monster movies, football injuries, and early Christmas commercials, it's time for all the NaNoWriMo buzz. For the unknowing, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, takes place during November- where by writing 1,667 words a day, aspiring novelists hope to present a fully written novel of 50,000 by the 30th.



But some never finish.

Here are 5 good things about not finishing:

1- You started. You attempted. If I had a nickel for all the people who told me, "I'm going to write a novel" yet never even wrote a line, I'd have enough nickels to buy a very large overpriced frappucino. For so many people, beginning is the hardest part. Like Mary Poppins said, "Start at the beginning, it's the very best place to start..."  You've done that. Kudos!

“Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.” -Tupac Sahkur 

2- Doing any amount of writing let's you know your characters better. It's like what I call the 'E-Harmony of dating your character.' By starting to write your novel, you know a little bit more about them; not everything because writing, like dating, takes time to get to know your character. If you've written one chapter, that's like one date. Several chapters, a month of dating. Even after you finish the novel, you don't know everything about your character (sequels...). I know my hubs still surprises me after so many years and that discovery (usually) makes life more fun.

3- You're in the groove. Okay, so 1,667 words a day are hard; you have family, jobs, obligations. We all have situations that demand and steal our time. But if you got into the habit of at least writing even 100 words a day, and it becomes like that cup of coffee (or tea) that you must have every morning, you're creating a positive writing atmosphere and lifestyle. My first novel took 10 years to write as I juggled a full time job, college night classes, a house, and a husband. I wrote, in my car, on my lunch hour. (Yes, even in winter when it was cold! New Jersey winters can be brutal!) But I wrote almost every day. Use the smallest bits of time efficiently and consistently.

4- The word police didn't come banging on your door to take you away. This is a purely voluntary undertaking. While colleagues and friends may say, "Did you finish that novel yet?" you are not required to finish in that month's span. Maybe a family or friend needed you. Was there a move? A sickness? A lottery win and you were on the beach without access to your notes? Whatever the reason (and I'm sure it was a good one), you didn't finish. Even if you didn't have a good reason, that's your business, but don't let it prevent you from picking up where you left off. Finish the novel over the next month (yeah, good luck in December with all those holidays), next year- or if you're like John Grisham and me, the next 10 years to finish it. There are no NaNo police interested in your word count productivity. Don't put stress on yourself. There's always next year, and that's cool.

5- Look at what you've learned. Maybe 1,667 words are too much. Maybe you need a break after a week of intense writing. Maybe this novel won't work and you need to fix a major plot problem. Maybe you've met some people and get along well enough to start a new critique or support group. Maybe your novel needs to move from middle grade to young adult. Maybe a thousand different things that will change your novel-or you. This experience of not finishing could be a blessing, a boost, a life-changing epiphany for you. Embrace it, use it. And march onward.



So, there's always next year. Maybe by not finishing (I won't say fail because you haven't), you know what you need to do, or not do, to complete your next attempt. Let me encourage you join a NaNo prep class (go to the NaNo website, they can hook you up. I just gave a class at our local library). Take the year, or a month, to prep, make notes, outline. There's no law against finishing in six months.

But finish that novel- it's a dream you can make come true.

Char

Monday, October 9, 2017

Good Intentions

I deliberated quite a few hours over whether to write about the Dr. Suess controversy- several authors felt part of a mural was racist. People have a right, and I think, an obligation, to be upset over racism in any form.

Especially when the racism is deliberate.

But was Theodore Geisel's illustration deliberately racist?

At the risk of getting vilified by everyone on Twitter and some in the book world, I don't believe the intent was there.

And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, the book at the center of the controversy, has a depiction of an Asian man with chopsticks, pointed hat and slanted eyes. Yes, it's a stereotype. Yes, it should not be among the illustrations featured. But the book was written, according to the very authors whose boycott led to the cancellation of the celebration, over 80 years ago.

cha


Are we to start scrubbing our artistic history?

How much literature and other art, would survive?

Movies- made in China- by Chinese directors, actors, producers, etc. have used this same depiction; I have seen it. Should we ban those movies? Are they to be labeled racist traitors for their uses of the image?

I think it comes down to intent. Dr Suess had many wonderful titles promoting acceptance and diversity, like The Sneetches. His books promoted not only diversity, but conservation and inclusion. The Washington Post quoted the three authors:

"The career of Ted Geisel, writing as Dr. Seuss, is a story of growth, from accepting the baser racial stereotypes of the times in his early career, to challenging those divisive impulses with work that delighted his readers and changed the times. It was our hope that the administration of the new Seuss-ian institution would be able to take inspiration from Mr. Geisel’s journey and find creative ways to allow children of all backgrounds to feel welcomed (or, at the very least, provide context for this hurtful painting)."

The museum easily could have added a small sign as suggested by the authors and the celebration of a man who wrote wonderful stories for children, and grew- as the authors stated, would not have been cancelled. I think everyone lost out.

That part of the mural will be replaced, but I think of all the children and even adults who lost out on a wonderful day with many planned activities. There are some who want to ban Dr. Suess altogether, and that makes me sad. He was human, and we all are on a journey of growth. Who among us can say we always got it right?

Char



Monday, October 2, 2017

Groovin' On a Monday Afternoon

Actually the song says Sunday afternoon, and I started this on Sunday, but it's Monday when I'll finish it. I claim poetic license.

After a frenetic and frantic summer, I got out of the groove of the writing business. I had a lot of commitments and events that stole my time. Plus, yes, I have to admit, I was discouraged. I've been querying agents (one hand has more fingers than I got agent responses), revising older manuscripts, and trying to get my Evolution Revolution Trilogy into schools and libraries. (Yeah, hitting a brick wall there.) Indies get no respect (but I've cried this mantra before and have to move on). It's so easy to tell someone to 'just keep writing' when they have writer's block (even though that's the best way to break it- write about anything, just write).

But what if you don't have the incentive to write? That's where I was. I had ideas. I had beginnings. I had outlines. But no will. I languished.

So I weeded my gardens, refinished the floor in the guest room then painted and spiffed it up, painted the master bedroom, started painting the hallways, read some books, worked at fixing up our church parsonage, hung out with some friends, and lastly, decorated for Halloween. Hardly a speck of writing in there. (Grocery and To Do lists don't count as writing unless it's for a character or plot).

But everyone's back in school or to work. My pool is closed up and it's too cold to hang out on the patio. My knee's had enough of the painting (although I do have to touch up the hallway paint where I spackled a dent.)

Time to get in the groove. Now. Okay, I'm going. *Sits there. Sigh...

My messy desk, which needs to be cleared before I can work. Add that to the list.
I have to revert back to a trick that I share with a few of my friends. The To Do List. I find it easier to mix the tasks up rather than list Writer Things to Do, Household Things to Do, Mom Things to Do. On the list are: Put up blog post (working on that now), spackle holes/paint in bedroom where I removed extra curtain rod (that's drying; later I'll sand and paint), I have to call the orthopedist for that stupid knee (I'll get to it...), and at 1 pm I have a conference call. Those are the things I have determined I MUST get done today. Additionally, I need to do the first revision pass on my Frankenstein short story for Leap Books anthology, Thus Are Our Souls Constructed (deadline is December, so go check out their website for details).

I already have some things halfway done, like this blog and fixing the holes in the walls.

See? Halfway done; spackled and sanded, ready for painting.
 The bed is made, kitchen cleaned, house straightened up. Damn, gotta wash that kitchen floor. But by writing this blog, being forced to do it every week (sometimes better late than never), it kept me writing at least that little bit and I can build on it now.

I'm going to call the orthopedist and get that off my list. Then, I'll make the holes disappear. Look at Frankenstein short, and then it will be time for my conference call.

Groovin....on a Monday afternoon.

Char