Writing

12/01/11 Thursday Night Write , Writing # ,

Thursday Night Write – What Works, What Doesn’t?

Are you guys as relieved as I am that November’s over? Good God… What a month.

I know many of you did NaNo and are probably exhausted! Since I wrote 75,000 words in the month of November, finishing my 2013 book the night before my deadline, I can honestly say I know how you feel.

Writing 50,000 words in a month isn’t that unusual for me, but I have to say, 75,000 while being a single mother to four kids PLUS a holiday was really, really tough. I figured this might be a good time for all of us to share what worked for us and what didn’t.

So here’s my list! Share yours in the comments!

What worked;

Keeping a schedule – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I live and die by my schedule when I’m on deadline. This past month I wrote from 8am – 11am, again from 4pm-5pm, and again from 7pm-9pm, seven days a week. I tried not to answer the phone or be on the internet during these hours or do anything else that could distract me. Mac Freedom was my friend when I used it.

Take advantage of little bits of time – I usually need to be in the zone to write and won’t even bother trying to squeeze in words when I only have half an hour, but I just couldn’t afford to think that way this past month. I left my laptop in my office upstairs rather than bring it downstairs, and when I had even an unexpected 30 minute block of time, I forced myself to go up and write. These little bursts added exponentially to my overall word count.

Build in time for the necessities – My schedule allowed me to still do yoga (most days), have 45 minutes for lunch in which I read a book by myself, have an hour for tea with my daughters after school, make dinner and eat it with my kids, and still watch one episode of Doctor Who or something with them at the end of the night. This time was essential to my sanity and my need to feel like I was still being a good mother to my children.

Build in time for fun stuff – I knew I wouldn’t be able to do much writing on Thanksgiving, so I doubled up on my word count the day before and the day after. It was nice to feel like I could take that one day and not be too worried about losing momentum.

Taking care of myself – I mostly managed to do this (see my mention of sleep below!) and it made a huge difference. I made a point to take my vitamins every day, try to get in yoga and/or meditation, get enough sleep (after my initial fail), eat well, and keep stress at bay. I gave myself permission to let a lot of little things go and tried to be Zen. It all made me feel much more equipped to go hard on the writing.

Take advantage of every minute for other tasks – I wrote postcards to my readers while my tea boiled, paid bills while dinner cooked, plotted my next writing burst while I drove the kids around, and cleaned my bathroom when I was stuck on my manuscript (because it’s next to my office, I was still forced to stay in my work space). Other things had to be put off, but I managed to do a lot of little things that helped me feel at least a little bit in control of my life during this time.

Total Immersion – In some ways, I liked being forced to write this book in a big frenzied jag. Ironically, I think I did some of my best writing, and I attribute it to the total immersion forced by the deadline.

What didn’t work;

Access to the internet – Yes, I used Mac Freedom, but not nearly enough. The internet, as always, was my enemy. I wish I’d used MF more. I probably would have gotten more done in less time.

Blogging – Looking back, I would have been less stressed if I’d just been honest with you guys at the beginning of the month and said I wouldn’t be blogging or anything. The truth is, I hate to be out of touch for too long. But there were many night that I scrambled to come up with a blog post or poll or catch up on Twitter/Facebook. I should have spared myself the stress.

Waiting until the last minute to start – I should have started this project LONG before I did. In my defense, my editor and I hadn’t agreed on what it would be until mid-August. Then, I was expecting notes on another project, so I waited. It seemed silly to start a book and have to stop a week later to work on revisions for another one. I made this excuse to myself all through September, too, then finally got the notes in October. That meant I spent most of October working on those and didn’t really dig into the 2013 book until the first of November. From now on, I’m going to work five days a week on my normal schedule, no matter what, unless I’m on vacation. If I don’t have one project to work on, I’ll start another, even if it means stopping a few days later. Even a 10,000 word head start on my 2013 book would have helped when I got down to the wire.

Not getting enough sleep – Let me say first that I usually get 5-6 hours sleep a night. Then I try to take a short nap in the afternoon and that gets me through. At the beginning of the month, I experimented with staying up to write until 1am or 2am. I love to write at night and I do some of my best writing at night, but this schedule only allowed for about 4 hours of sleep and left me so wiped the next day that I LOST time in the end. I finally realized that getting enough sleep was vital. Once I figured this out, I stopped writing at 9pm every night, went to bed by 11pm, and was much more equipped to work hard the next day.

So these are my basic for surviving a super-stressful writing jag! What are yours?

<3

 

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11/17/11 Thursday Night Write , Writing # ,

Thursday Night Write – Open Mic

Since I’m under a super tight deadline for my next book and heading out with my posse to the midnight showing of Breaking Dawn, I thought it would be a good week to do Open Mic.

We haven’t done it in FOREVER!

So how about it NaNoers and all you other writers? Post an excerpt of your original writing — no more than 300 words — for comment. Don’t forget to comment at least one other entry if you post something of your own.

Hope you guys are meeting your word count and having fun!

<3

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11/10/11 Thursday Night Write , Writing # ,

Thursday Night Write – Revising Tip

I know a lot of you are doing NaNoWriMo right now. Revising is probably the furthest thing from your mind!

But I just came off a hardcore revision and tried something new that really helped me. Thought I’d share it.

Basically, I broke this book into thirds. Then I focused on making the first third as airtight as possible before moving onto the next third and so on. It was a challenge to avoid thinking ahead to the rest of it, but I found that isolating a smaller portion of the book at one time helped me to focus on that piece more intently. Everything just seemed more… manageable. When all three pieces were done, I felt like I remembered more of the detail about each piece and was therefore able to see the whole with more clarity.

It made a huge difference to me and also reminded me how much a change of strategy can help. Sometimes the things you’ve been doing one way for so long just need to be tweaked, yanno?

What about you guys? Do you have any revisions strategies that help you get through a major rewrite? If so, please share!

And happy writing!

<3

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10/13/11 Thursday Night Write , Writing # ,

Thursday Night Write 10/13/2011

It’s Thursday and time for another edition of Thursday Night Write.

This week’s TNW is Open Mic, which means you can post an excerpt of your original poem, short story, song, or novel for comment. Just make sure your entry is no longer than 300 words and remember to leave a comment for at least one other participant if you play.

Writers of all ages and experience are welcome!

And speaking of TNW, I wanted to ask you guys how you’re feeling about it. I’ve been hosting it for almost two years, and while I love reading your entries, I’ve noticed participation is falling off a bit. Back when I was able to comment, we sometimes had 75-100 entries, but as my own participation had unavoidably dwindled (I always read the entries but can’t comment anymore), so has everyone else’s.

So let me know what you think in the Comments section, okay? I’d be happy to continue hosting it if there’s interest. If not, we’ll come up with something else that’s fun for Thursdays on the blog.

😉

Happy writing!

<3

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10/12/11 Contests & Giveaway , Reading , Uncategorized , Writing # , ,

Let’s Talk About Self Publishing; An Interview with Self-Published Author Katie Klein

As readers, I’m sure you all know how quickly the publishing landscape is changing. The rise of online shopping and digital ebooks has changed the marketplace forever. But while some believe we’re doomed, others see it as the opportunity of a lifetime.

As with most things, my views are more philosophical.

Things change, that’s the truth of it. If I could hide out in a house with an abundance of beautiful old lamps, candles, and music from a Victrola, I might. But that’s just not our world, is it? With that in mind, I’ve always believed it’s better to embrace change. Only by embracing it can you help shape it. Otherwise, you’re dragged kicking and screaming into it long after all the decisions have been made.

Maybe I’m an optimist, but I believe there’s room for both self-published works and traditionally published works. As with the battle between Indies and big box stores like Borders and B&N, it was only after Borders closed that I think many of us realized we were all on the same side.

The book side.

I don’t believe authors are going to stop making money (or even that publishers will stop making money, if they can adapt and harness these changes). I hate to see self-published authors and online-only merchants like Amazon vilified, because the truth is, writers want to write for a living (who can blame them?) and online retailers have fulfilled a need that was obviously there. If it wasn’t Amazon it would have been someone else.

I like to think there’s a way this can all work together. The publishing cycle for traditional publishers is notoriously long. I see tremendous opportunity for authors to fill in the gaps of their publishing schedule by producing shorts stories, writing outside their brand, etc. This is good for publishers, too, because it keep an author’s readership interested in between books. In addition, digital content offers some very cool opportunities to make reading appeal to younger generations that have been so saturated with digital media, they have trouble sitting still to read a book.

Would I like it if all young people just LEARNED to focus. Sure! In my perfect world, we could all go back to a time when kids had very little to do but play outside and read. But that’s not going to happen. There’s no going back. We can only go forward.

So the idea of offering up illustrations, music, sound effects, video and other digital content and maybe sucking in a whole new group of reluctant readers? Well, I think that’s a win.

The one gap in all of this is the Indie. I think we MUST find a way for Indies to make money on digital books. I don’t know what the answer is (I keep wondering if there can’t be coded gift cards or something that Indies can sell but that’s probably a whole other post), but I would hate to live in a world without Indie bookstores and I have to believe there’s a way to make them a part of this change.

As all of this has unfolded, I’ve had to change, too. My dad gave me a Kindle as a gift, and while I still read a lot of paper books (and I buy anything I really love for my physical library), I have to say that I’ve come to love the things that ereaders bring to the table. I love being able to carry all my books in one little device. I love being able to try new authors without plunking down $20-$30 per hardcover (and then going out and buying their paper books for my shelves). I love supporting traditionally published authors in the digital formats (authors make more on their digital copies than on traditional ones).

And I’ve been giving some self-pubbed authors a try, too. I was curious; Was the quality THAT different from traditionally published books (answer; as with published books, there are good ones and bad ones)?

One of those authors is Katie Klein, author of Cross My Heart, The Guardian, and Vendetta. I met Katie on one of the many author forums I belong to and was intrigued with her story. I purchased Cross My Heart for my Kindle and was surprised. Because I kind of loved it, and this was a book that had been rejected by seventy-something agents.

I thought you all might be interested in what went in to Katie’s decision to self-publish and how the journey has been different from her traditionally published one, so I was super happy when Katie agreed to an interview. As part of this discussion, I’m giving away one copy (for Nook, Kindle or whatever) of Katie’s books – your choice! – to three winners. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post. Giveaway runs from now until Friday 10/14 at Midnight, EST. Winners will be chosen at random from the comments.

And if you’d take the quick poll at the end of the interview, it would be awesome (though no required to win).

Without further ado, here’s Katie!

You also write and publish traditionally under another name. What led you to consider self-publishing under a pseudonym?

At the time, I felt like I’d hit the end of the road. I’d recently parted ways with my literary agent, and began querying new agents with The Guardian. After a few misses I started querying again with Cross My Heart. Seventy-five rejections later I’d had enough. I knew that epubbing was a viable option thanks to the Kindle, and I figured I’d upload it and let the market decide if it was “too saturated” or not. The pseudonym was for protection: I assumed this little experiment of mine was going to be an abysmal failure, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself if it didn’t work out.

How does the self-publishing process differ from that of a traditional publisher?
It’s time-consuming. I put a lot of work into designing covers, formatting the books, and keeping my blog updated. My husband keeps my website going, but otherwise I am, quite literally, a one-woman show.

The best parts? No “waiting rooms.” I work on a story, and, when I think it’s ready, I upload it. I also love the control I have. No tears shed over editorial demands or cover angst. The bad news? If something’s not working, it’s all my fault.

What has been the greatest challenge of self-publishing?

Time management, without a doubt. It’s up to me to keep the readers happy and coming back for more. This fall, especially, I’ve struggled with staying active via social media, balancing the day job, and squeezing in writing time. I don’t think this is limited to self-pubbing, though. I think all writers are desperate for “more time.”

What has been the greatest surprise?

The greatest surprise is how awesome readers have been. As a traditionally published author, I was very low on people’s radar, it seems. People have totally embraced Katie, though, and the tweets, email messages, and reviews have been so positive and inspiring. The readers confirmed that I made the right decision to put my work out there.
Another huge surprise is the number of ebooks I sold this year. Since January, I’ve sold more than 15,000 copies of my ebooks. I never expected Cross My Heart to take off like it did, and it spent over 100 days on the Amazon Teen Top 100 this summer. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. It was all very surreal.

Teen readers have been slower to jump on the ereader bandwagon than adults. Why do you think that is? Do you see it changing?

To be honest, I was kind of slow jumping onto the e-reader bandwagon. I finally bought a Kindle this past spring (which I love, btw). I still read more print books than ebooks right now, but the Kindle has been great for travel and trying out new indie reads. I do get fan mail from teens, so I know they’re out there, but I think we’ll see even more teen readers after Christmas. The basic Kindles are coming WAY down in price, so I predict a popular Christmas present, and the Kindle Fire seems appealing as an “all in one” device, too. I know plenty of readers who were “anti-ebook” until they saw how easy and convenient the Kindle was. Once teens realize there’s a device out there that gives them access to books almost instantly, there’s no going back.

In your perfect world, what would the future of publishing and self-publishing hold?

I’d like to see everyone getting along. The “ebook revolution” happened so quickly (yes, a lot of romance and sci-fi readers have been reading ebooks for years, but they didn’t really hit the mainstream until a year or two ago). I think this left a lot of publishers and agents reeling, and everyone is still trying to find their place. A lot of traditionally published writers are uploading backlists or publishing books outside their genre, and unpublished writers are finding readers for the first time. We’re no longer dependant on “New York” to get our books in reader’s hands. In a perfect world, authors, agents, and publishers are working together to bring new and exciting works to readers in a variety of formats.
I’d also love to see a shift where the author is given precedence again. I’ve heard too many stories of writers being manhandled and mistreated by their publishers (both big and small). Without the author, there are no books, and some pretty important people have forgotten that. Authors are artists, too, and all artists deserve to be compensated fairly for the work they do. I want to see all aspects of publishing tip back to the author’s favor.

Any predictions for the self-publishing market over the next 12 months?

I think it’s impossible to predict anything when it comes to self-publishing. We had no idea the Kindle was going to revolutionize the way people read books, and that epubbing was going to be accepted so quickly. In the midst of the “gold rush,” though, we also couldn’t predict the changes that Amazon would make to their site to keep their bestseller lists moving. We’re already seeing a shift, and Indies are going to have to work as hard as traditionally published writers to keep their books in front of people. This is a big change from six months ago, even. Right now, I’m focusing on the upcoming holiday season. This will be my first full season of sales, so I’m interested in seeing what happens.

What do you think is the biggest misconception of self-published books?

That they’re poorly formatted, rife with errors, etc. Yes, those kinds of books are out there, but they usually fall flat pretty fast. You can tell by a cover and a description whether or not a book is for you, and the Kindle “sample” feature makes it easy for you to test the first few chapters before you buy. Don’t write off a novel because it didn’t make it past the “gatekeepers,” because there are some real gems out there.

What advice would you give to traditionally published authors who are considering self-publishing?

For All Writers: Do your research. Know what you’re getting into. It’s okay to set certain goals, but make sure they’re realistic. You CANNOT predict what sales will be like from month to month, so don’t even try. You will have ups and downs: expect the downs. Never upload a first draft of ANYTHING; part of writing is revising. Make sure you’re submitting your best work: your reputation is on the line. This isn’t a way to “Get Rich Quick.”

For Traditionally Published Writers: Fill your literary agent in on what you’re doing. Make sure you check any contract clauses that would prohibit you from epubbing works under your current name. Be prepared to use a pseudonym (and keep it quiet) if you have to. Check to see if your agency has an epubbing division, and ask what your agent expects in terms of compensation (if any), if you choose to go through them. Consider the pros and cons carefully, though. I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but there’s nothing your literary agency can do for you that you can’t do yourself when it comes to self-publishing. Paying a flat fee for something like editing or cover design is much better than paying an agency royalties on a work for the rest of its shelf life (which, for ebooks, is FOREVER).

What can we look forward to from Katie Klein in the future?

More books! I’m currently working on the final book in my urban fantasy series. Ideally, I’d like to have it available in early 2012. After that, I plan to go back to YA contemporary romance. We’ll see how things go, I guess. I’ve always said that as long as readers are enjoying my books, I’ll continue to write them. I’m not against going a more traditional route, but the right opportunity hasn’t presented itself, yet. I’m happy epubbing for the foreseeable future.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT SELF-PUBLISHED BOOKS!

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10/06/11 Contests & Giveaway , Thursday Night Write , Writing # , ,

Thursday Night Write 10/6/2011 + Library Giveaway Winners!

Tonight’s prompt is inspired by the season. And kissing.

😀

But before we get to the TNW rules, I want to announce the winners of the Library Giveaway. I know I said I would give out five sets of the Prophecy Trilogy to five UA and/or Canadian libraries chosen at random, but I’ve made a command decision to give sets of the book to ALL the libraries that were entered.

Our kids need books! And I don’t mess around when it come to kids and books.

It isn’t exactly an Oprah-sized giveaway (I’d do it if I could!), but it’s something I can do.

So if you were a librarian or someone who entered on behalf of of a library, please contact prophecypress@aol.com with “Library Winner” in the Subject line. Include the name and address of the library getting the books and a name to whom I can address the package.

Each library will get one complete set of the Prophecy Trilogy. We have two different editions of the first book; the original hardcover (it doesn’t match the other two, but it’s a hardcover so it might be more durable) and the paperback you’re all familiar with. Please specify in your email which edition of the first book you’d like sent to your library in addition to your copies of Guardian of the Gate and Circle of Fire.

I did choose five additional winners from those of you who helped to spread the word about the giveaway. Each of the following Twitter users will receive the Prophecy book of their choice;

@SarahDowlin

@CarolOates

@ramen_addict

@amethystmoon21

@sonnetess

Congrats to all! Email your choice of Prophecy book and your mailing address to prophecypress@aol.com with “Library Winner” in the Subject line.

Rules for the prompt and Thursday Night Write are as follows; use the above prompt to write whatever comes to mind, giving yourself no more than 30 minutes (no cheating!). Then post no more than 500 words of it for comment. If you leave a piece, you have to comment someone else’s piece. Thems the rules!
This is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. Having only 30 minutes doesn’t give you time to overthink, and sometimes that’s just what we writers need to shake things loose. Writers of all ages and experience are welcome to play.

Happy writing! <3

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09/29/11 Thursday Night Write , Writing # ,

Thursday Night Write 9/29/2011 – Open Mic

Since we’ve been down for a couple of weeks, I thought it wold be nice to make our first TNW back an Open Mic.

That way you can fill us all in on what you’ve been up to.

You know the rules; post for comment your original song, short story, poem, or novel excerpt of no more than 300 words. If you post something of your own, you have to comment at least one other entry. This way everyone gets a little feedback. You can post anytime between now and Sunday night at Midnight EST, but the earlier you post, the better your chances of getting comments.

I read all the entries but don’t have time to comment them anymore. I’m sorry! At this point, it’s most important for me to write new books for you guys.

😉

I do love reading your work, though, and really enjoy seeing your writing progress. And I know for a fact LOTS of people visit the blog to read the TNW entries, so even if you’re not getting tons of comments, you ARE getting lots of exposure.

Happy writing!

<3

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Michelle Zink is the award-winning author of over seven novels. She lives in New York with too many teenagers and too many cats.
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