Saturday, April 25, 2015

Just Because I Feel Like It

Fair Warning: This post has no particular subject in mind, just some rambling I felt I needed to do.

The Spring Plague is slowly losing its grip on me. Still on the antihistamines, though. Otherwise, I feel like I've got a garden hose shoved up my nose. Sorry for the visual.

I've got three short pieces I need to write for classes that are due tomorrow. Not really motivated but at least they are short. Two are about my hero and heroine, the other is...kind of hard to explain but I think has to do with the premise of my story. I think. It's a little abstract piece based off of 205 words written by George Orwell from his essay "The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius." This piece is supposed to be about the culture in my story. My piece should be roughly the same length. Getting in deep in these classes, I might add. But it is good practice to get to know the culture in which my characters live so I will throw my best efforts at this one.

Subject change!

Something interesting popped up this week: a debate over whether or not we should be using 2 spaces after a period or 1.

Now, personally, I tend toward using 1. I guess I fell into that habit because it seems to me that when you read something in print, it appears there's usually only a single space between sentences. Yes, I was taught to use 2 but in reality, a single space is much easier to accomplish when typing quickly. I always did stumble over that second space when in the midst of a speed typing test. My fingers are already used to a single space between words so there was no real learning curve to a single space between sentences.

Some people said blocks of prose were easier to read with 2 spaces. I have never had that problem. To me it just looks too spaced out when that extra space is there. But then, I'm  used to the single space so that's probably why. Still, the debate got the mental juices going. Really made me think about why I write a certain way. No real conclusion to that debate, though. It's all up to what the writer prefers as well as what a publisher requires, I suppose.

And speaking of publishers (and now you have some idea of my brain on allergy drugs), I've also been reading a lot about the pros and cons of self-publishing versus traditional. As I am working on a project that will eventually see daylight, this is a subject of particular interest for me.

It seems to me that traditional publishing would be the harder, more circuitous route to becoming a published author. On the other hand, that's where the potential for six figure advances is greater. If a writer has become a resounding success for a traditional publisher, they are more likely to fork over more money at the onset because the author already had a good track record with them. Not so much for those of us unknowns who just want that first shot. Our manuscripts, no matter how brilliant we think they are, are more likely to end up on a slush pile, unread. Not a reflection on our work, to say the least. Just proof that traditional publishing is something for the already well known - ok, mostly. Before somebody pipes up that they know of a friend of a family member's friend that got their first book published that way, I'll concede that miracles do sometimes happen. I'm just not counting on it for myself.

These days, from what I've read, breaking into traditional publishing is nigh on impossible unless an author is agented. Being with an agent is fine, I suppose, but isn't that just one more person who gets a cut of whatever your hard work might bring in? Yes, an agent will work their tail off promoting your work, getting it into the hands of a publisher so the rest of the world can enjoy it, too - a good agent will, at any rate. But is it really necessary to even hire an agent?

I have a friend who is unagented as of this writing and who has just signed with one of those independent publishers who use this new publishing model where the author chooses members of his/her publishing team and works closely with them. Each member gets a cut of whatever royalties the author receives. Based on the contract with Kindle Direct Publishing, for example, the author would basically end up with 30% of 70% of whatever the book earns. That ain't much, folks, based on the recommended price point of $2.99.

Of course, we all know that only a small percentage of published authors make the big bucks - and if you didn't know that before, now you do. Authorship isn't a get rich quick activity. Most authors write on the side while holding down at least one full-time job.

While I didn't start down this road in pursuit of any possible riches it might provide, I would like to earn a little something from my hard work. Spreading that 70% so thin doesn't seem like a good idea to me but I'm trying to remain objective until I see how my friend's book does with this publisher.

There's also the time involved in traditional publishing. Even the big names have to wait a year or more before they see their hard work in print. I've already worked on this book for nearly a year and I really don't want to wait another year to see it appreciated by more than just me and my writer's group.

I think you can probably guess where I'm going with all this. My plans are to self-publish. At least, in the beginning. The only time I'll have to wait once I have a final draft in hand will be for the cover art. I already have an artist in mind for that, as well. I'm planning for something original, though. I've looked at the already done covers and while I have found a few I liked, I've also found that, despite claiming they only sell one copy, they actually sell the same cover more than once. One I thought would be good for another project has already been used at least 3 times on books I actually have on my Kindle. I would prefer to pay a little more for something original that I'm not likely to see on someone else's book.

Well, I believe I have rambled myself out. I just felt like I need to get all this out before I start working on what I need to get done today. Thanks for putting up with it.

Or, since the antihistamine just kicked in, I might go take a little nap before I get to work.

Oh, any writing inconsistencies in here - just chalk it up to lack of oxygen to a brain influenced by allergy medicine and everyone will be happy. Me, especially.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Writer's Life: Permission To Be Sick

Ah, Spring. I knew you were here even before the calendar told me. Any other Spring allergy sufferers out there?

Today I write about another perk to the Writer's Life: Guilt Free Sick Days!

Yes, cube life does sometimes grant sick days but you wanna know a secret about those? Your employer really doesn't want you to use them. Oh, they'll say it's ok to take a sick day but just try taking one. Go ahead. I dare ya. Anybody else call in sick and get that "you are a bad employee" vibe from their boss?

I always did - from the last boss, anyway. I went through a tremendous amount of stress first thing in the morning while trying to decide if it was worth the agony to call in sick or should I just suck it up and get my sick self into the office? I usually went in. Didn't get a whole lot done but at least I was a warm body in a seat for the day. And that's really all that matters in cube life.

You see, the thing is - and this where the rulers of cube life are short-sighted - a person comes to work sick, they spread that sickness to their co-workers and soon, half the office is out sick. However, if that sick employee had been allowed to stay home at the first sign of the illness, that might not have happened.

Now, you should know that I was the kind of employee that if I was calling in sick, rest assured, I was sick. Only once in my life did I ever call in sick when I really wasn't and by the end of that day, I had a stress migraine from worrying that I would get caught. Never did it again.

But that's cube life for you. As a full-time writer, sick days are something completely different. For one thing, nobody makes me feel like I'm a bad writer because I've decided to take a sick day. I mean, the only person who could do that would be me and since I'm the sick one in the first get the picture.

I'm not saying that writer's don't also answer to a higher authority. If a writer is working with a publisher, they will have deadlines to meet but generally, from what I've read, those deadlines are achievable even if the writer takes a few days off to recuperate from illness. Even sick, a writer can do a little something every day if they feel up to it.

I have accomplished very little this week. I did make assignment deadlines over the weekend, but that's about it. Those pieces were pretty much already written anyway, they just needed a quick tweak before sending them off. After that, I succumbed to the Spring plague with a clear conscience.

One of those pieces may get a little more work. The Writer's Digest Annual Writing Competition deadline is approaching and I am considering sending in my entry. The max word count is 4000, so I can flesh out my story a bit more using my instructor's suggestions. Deadline for early entry is May 4. Check out the Writer's Digest website for more information if this sounds like something you might like to try.

Speaking of being productive, I'd better get cracking here. I have a webinar recording to watch/listen to and tons of reading to catch up on before composing the two writing assignments due on Sunday.

My Writer's Life in action.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Chaotic, Antihistimine Sedated Days

April has begun with a bang for me. Lots of reading to do, lots of writing to do, not nearly as much energy as I would like.

It's allergy season for me right now, which means antihistamine, which means I live sleepy on a daily basis. But, thanks to a new mindset that says, "Yes, you can write while sleepy," I am getting some writing done in spite of it.

What usually happens when I feel like I'm too sleepy to write? That inner whine that says I'd rather go back to bed. I don't. I sit my butt in the chair, plant the fingers on the keyboard and write. Even if it doesn't make any sense at the time, I continue to write until I've written at least 500 words.

Of course, halfway through, the inner critic, who seems to be more wide awake, starts telling me that what is coming off my fingers is a load of crap and that I should stop before I do any more damage to my story. To her, I say, "Shut your mouth, lady, and crawl back into the dark, dusty corner where you belong."

She doesn't, by the way, but at some point I'm too sleepy to pay attention to what she's saying.

By this time, you must understand, I've either hit a groove where I can keep going or I stop at word #500 (or at least finish the current thought). That's when I shut down whatever writing program I'm using and go on to something else. I don't even read what I've written yet. That, I save for the next day. If the urge to write resurfaces, I'll write - it usually doesn't, but at least I've gotten some writing done for the day and that's saying a lot.

So what does this forced writing exercise look like the next day? I'm often surprised to find I've not written nearly the load of crap my inner critic seemed to think it would be. In fact, there are the rare occasions when what I've written is quite inspired.

So if you have one of those days when writing seems like too much effort, just sit down and write 500 words. That's all. Even if you can't think of anything to write. In fact, you can start your writing session by writing: "I can't think of anything to write." You might be surprised at what that simple sentence might just inspire.