Friday, January 30, 2015

Sabbatical Is Officially Over!

It was actually over yesterday, but tomorrow is when the 2000 words a day officially starts. I did write today with my small group but didn't keep track of how many words got written. I can tell you that the book is now at 32,377 revised words. Also, my copywriting class began yesterday and I have homework already. Seems to me I now need a schedule.

I already know it's best to write in the morning. If I wait until after lunch, most likely it won't get done. I am most anxious to get the book done and shoved out the door now that the severance nest egg is quickly dwindling. Not that I think I'll make loads of money off the first endeavor. I just want to get on with the next one, get it done so I can move on to the next one after that.

I've probably mentioned this before, but a repeat certainly can't hurt - especially since I'm saying it for my own benefit as much as anyone who happens to be reading this.

My plan has always been to just keep putting my books out there on Kindle, Nook, and any other place it can be self-published, build that audience then maybe go for an agent once that audience is there. I said maybe because I've learned something important about having an agent and being published by one of the big houses - I don't get to keep all the money my books earn.

Now, if I were, say, J.K. Rowling, that might not be such a big deal. As a nobody just getting started and in need of an income - yeah, pretty big deal. I see heads nodding in agreement so I know I'm not alone with that thought.

I understand why, though. An agent hopefully works hard to get their client published. The publishing house works hard to bring that book to the masses. There's also the possibility of that all important advance when agents and publishing houses are involved. On the other hand, self-publishing means the book is out there a lot sooner, so it can start earning a lot sooner. Maybe not a lot to begin with but with more books on the virtual shelf, the better the odds of one of them making it big. Right?

That's my theory, right or wrong.

I know, I know - just putting a book out there doesn't mean it'll sell. There's got to be a little more effort put in and I agree. No one can buy my book if they don't know it's there. That's where social media comes in.

Facebook and their greedy ways aside, there are other ways of selling my wares. This blog is one example and even if Facebook won't share my posts with people who actually want to see them, anything I do post there ends up on Twitter. I can have a website created to feature my books, share that URL around. Lots of free and inexpensive options for getting the word out and probably some I haven't even heard of yet.

Word of mouth is also a way of getting a book known, bought and read by more people. If it's good enough, that is, and I hope it will be by the time my beta readers have torn it apart and I do final revisions based on their suggestions.

One thing must happen first, though. Gotta finish the darn thing.

Tomorrow, 2000 words a day, everyday. More if possible. Book out to the masses - end of the year?

Doable, I think.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Apparently, I'm On Sabbatical

I've been feeling lately that I really should be doing something. I think it's been stressing me out, too.

I haven't done a lot of writing since my last post. Can't seem to get back into the groove yet. I was lamenting this to one of my friends yesterday and she said that I should consider myself as being on sabbatical until the 29th, when my copywriting course starts.

I like that word, sabbatical. Means I'm allowed to do whatever I want, even if that's nothing at all. Well, that's the definition the word is getting for me right now.

This conversation took place at Panera, where I should have been concentrating on writing but just couldn't do it for some reason. I'd start a new page, get only halfway down, read what I just wrote and erase it all to start over. Just could not get into it. Sometimes, when it gets like this for me, I'll pull out the old "Novels In Progress" file from my computer and read some of my past writings.

Though a few writers might deny this, every writer has a similar folder or notebook or something where they've written pieces and parts of new projects that were subsequently abandoned for one reason or another. For me, it's generally that I either lose track of where the story was going, lose interest or the story just isn't really going anywhere to begin with. These are the projects that I keep because 'someday' will come.

There's quite a bit of good writing in this folder and even I will sometimes swear at myself for abandoning what might have been a good story. Rarely does that mean I'll pick the project back up to work on. A lot of what I've written in the past revolves around Star Wars characters. Whenever I get stuck or just need to free write a plot idea, I'll use the characters from Star Wars so that I don't have to fiddle with character development. I can just write the plot and see if it's useful. A lot of times it isn't because the other elements from Star Wars tend to creep in and I just don't have it in me to try and come up with alternatives.

Still, these stories are a good read for me and I do find encouragement to battle on once I've read some of them.

I also have a folder entitled "Story Ideas".  Again, many of these involve Star Wars characters but are only a few lines and mainly written for my own entertainment. Not really something for public consumption. I also get a boost from these as many were written off the cuff and within a short burst of writing frenzy, something I apparently do quite well - except with my current project.

Um, where was I? Oh, yeah.

So, yesterday, when I tried to look at some of these abbreviated and abandoned projects on my laptop, I had forgotten that while these stories were written in Word, I do not happen to have Word on my laptop. Computers no longer come with Word as a standard program - haven't for a long time. Which means, when I pulled up some of these files, all I saw was a bunch of garbled nonsense. I guess sometimes Word documents don't translate well to Notepad or Wordpad.

That's when I decided to see if there was an ad supported Word program I could get for free. My friend has one on her netbook and since I only wanted it to read these files, I didn't think the ads would bother me. How did it work out? Let's just say that I ended up doing a system restore. Not only was the program not an ad supported free program, I ended up with a lot of other bloatware on my computer that would reinstall itself as I was trying to uninstall it. Lesson learned.

Once I got home, I started searching for a compatible program or app that would allow me to at least look at these files in a readable format. Little did I know, I already had something like that on my laptop - Google Docs. Who knew?

So now I can look at these files, read them more easily and continue to gain inspiration from them. I finally came to the conclusion that, while I'm not sure where to go next with my current project, I do have one or two things that definitely have to happen in their current setting. I'll make a list of those things and then see if that doesn't inspire some written prose or dialogue. But is that the kind of thing one does on a sabbatical?

I do feel the urge to do some free writing, though. Who knows? Might actually come up with something useful there.

One thing I have done, I downloaded a program called Grammerly on my chrome browser. It's reviewing this post as I write and telling where I'm going wrong. At this point, it's saying I have two critical errors in what I've written. Let's go see what those are, shall we?

Well, it didn't like my phrasing of 'One thing I have done' and it also didn't like its own name, Grammerly. And now I have to tell it to ignore its own name again.

For those that don't know, Grammerly is a program a writer can use to find grammatical mistakes in their writing. It really doesn't like its own name. Hilarious. Continuing on.

The free version of the program (ha, fooled you, Grammerly!) works inside the Chrome browser and will review anything written in the browser - like blog posts. It only picks up the more typical issues. It will advise on the more advanced issues, but that's a paid upgrade and right now, this poor author can't afford it. Still, that much is helpful even if a bit annoying at times.

You can also upload files into the online version of the program and it will do the same thing there. It's helpful but not really something I'll rely on. Some of my characters do not use correct grammar when they speak and this thing will drive me nuts pointing out all those errors.

I kind of did a bit of rambling there, didn't I. Well, I am on sabbatical so there.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Life After The Flu Or How to go back to writing after not....writing

So, the first full week of the new year saw me down with the flu after spending a week with family in southern Ohio. An aunt of mine had passed away and my Mom and I went down for her funeral. We spent some time after the funeral with my Mom's youngest sister. Her husband was sick and, of course, Mom and I became sick once we got home. We didn't have it as bad as my uncle did but it was bad enough to keep me, at least, doing a lot of sleeping to get over it.

I am better now but it has been a little over two weeks since I've written anything other than my last post here and one on my nail blog and some Facebook comments. Oh, I did do a little editing after realizing I had created a couple of major continuity issues with the first few scenes. I suppose I did do a bit of extra lines to continue a scene but for the most part, I haven't touched the book for a bit of time.

And no, I did not prepare a short story for the contest at Writer's Digest. Well, I could probably cut down something I already have written but I think my time would be better spent elsewhere now. They always have a contest of some sort going so I'll get another chance at a later time. For now, I'll be headed in a different direction.

I don't know about you but when I've been away from writing for a bit of time, I need to get reacquainted with the story and characters before I can continue on. That usually means skimming through from the beginning to reacquire the flavor of the piece. It also usually means I see places where changes are needed.

Today was to be the beginning of my copywriting course but I've learned that the live version starts at the end of the month and I would really prefer to do it live. The sessions will be updated and I just think the feedback would be better.

All of which means, I have another couple of weeks to work solely on the book. Time to get back into the habit of writing everyday. But how does one do that when one has been doing pretty much nothing but binge watching Falling Skies and playing Disciples 3: Reincarnation or Torchlight 2 or any one of the many games I have on my computer?


That word. That word! Oh, that word.

Yes, it takes discipline to stay the course when there's so many other things that are calling for my attention.

Discipline never has been one of my strongest abilities. I am very easily distracted by things shiny and otherwise. Imagine the dog from the movie 'Up' and you'll understand. There's always something else that I could be doing but not everything leads to the kind of productivity I need in order to make this full time writer thing work out financially. You have to have a finished project in order to sell said finished project.

So, it's back to daily writing for me. But not just writing. Not only should the writer practice the craft on a daily basis but the writer should also be open to continuing education relating to the craft. This means reading - not only books about writing but published works by successful and, dare I say it, not so successful authors.

If you own a Kindle or a Nook, you know there are a lot of books out there for free or cheap. Not all of them are good but I believe a writer should be reading the not so good as well as the good. For me, it's a lesson in how not to write. Of course, being a writer myself, it's hard these days to read as a reader. I'm constantly rewriting in my head what I'm reading in the way I would have written the story if it were mine. It's only when I'm reading something excellent that the writer in me can walk away and leave the reader alone - as is the case with what I'm currently reading, Watership Down by Richard Adams.

It also helps that I've bought the professional narration to go along with the book. I'm being read to as I'm reading and I'm finding it quite easy to forget I'm a writer while my mind imagines the scenes I'm hearing and reading. It's been a long time since I've read this book but it's still just as good as I remember. Mr. Adams writes so well that it's easy to imagine the action and become so immersed in the story that it feels quite real.

I have found in the past that if I'm reading while working on my own project, my writing tends to improve, especially if what I'm reading is an excellent example of good writing. Not that I adopt the bad writing from the books that are just plain not good. I learn from them as well. It doesn't matter how good or bad the reading is, the writer can always learn from it.

Which brings me back to that word - discipline. It takes discipline to stick to anything worthwhile. That includes daily writing, daily reading, daily exercise, daily you fill in the blank. For me, I'll apply the concept of discipline throughout the rest of this month to my book as well as both types of reading. By then, I should be so steeped in discipline that it will be easy to stick to the copywriting course schedule and complete those assignments on time.

It's back to 2000 words a day for me, regardless of what the days bring. More than likely I'll exceed that goal and will eventually increase it but for now, that's the goal. Writing in the morning, reading in the afternoon - sounds like a full day to me.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Welcome To 2015!

Year end vacation is nearly over. Monday the work begins again. I'll be starting that copy writing course as well as getting back down to it on the book. Although, Writer's Digest is having a short story contest right now. They extended the deadline to enter until January 16. I'm thinking of banging something out and sending it in.

Maximum word count is 1500, entry fee is $25 per manuscript. In addition, all entrants will receive a special pass to an upcoming webinar on marketing short fiction. You can find more details here. If you've never explored the Writer's Digest website, I highly recommend you do so. Lots of good information for free and even more when join up.

I also recommend their tutorials. There is a cost - either monthly or yearly. Yearly is the best value. I'll be watching more of those beginning Monday, as well.

For now, though, since it's gloomy and gray and pouring with rain outside, I think I'll just get bundled under a quilt in my chair and continue with the book I'm currently reading - Watership Down. I finally got the book on my kindle and even got the professional narration. They call it immersion reading. I'm finding I quite enjoy being read to. The narrator even alters his voice for each character. I had forgotten just how good this book is. I remember reading it a long, long time ago.

Hope everyone had a good holiday and is looking forward to a brand new year. I know I am.

Oh, and since I am in Ohio.....GO BUCKS!

Sorry. Just had to do it.