Monday, January 19, 2015

Time is Irrelevant

Good Morning. Anne R. Allen had a great post this weekend on what mistakes newbie writers make. I laughed as I read it because I made every single one of them and then some. I thought back to then, and up to now, and how much I learned over the y-e-a-r-s I've been writing.

I've been writing since I was a kid. Just like most of you. There's some inexplicable NEED in us to get the stories out of our heads and onto paper, or in this day and age, onto the screen. In my comment to Anne, I said how I began scratching out my prose on legal pads, and then graduated to a Smith-Corona electronic
typewriter with erasable ribbon. That was big back in the day. No delete button anywhere.

I didn't get my own pc until 2005. I knew how to access email, but other than that, had no clue what a computer could do. I started writing my first story THE LADY'S MASQUERADE on it, copying what I'd written down on legal pads. I had it nearly finished by the time Monster turned 18 months. She was in day care then, while I worked as a housekeeper, and one day I caught her pushing buttons on my pc. Well, it seems the sitter at day care had an old pc that could access games, and Monster wanted to play them on my computer. Alas, she crashed it (or so I thought because I had no idea how to fix the mess she made) and I lost everything on it.

We moved to NC in 2007, and I was back to legal pads. My cousin Tommy is an IT guy and has his own business (very successful I might add). We visited one day in 2008 and he gave me an old XP desk top. Because I knew nothing about computers other than how to access Word, he said it had 5GB of RAM. I asked what that meant. He said, "It can hold 100 books at 100,000 words each." Yay. I could write whatever I wanted and not have to worry about running out of paper.

So here I sit, 7 years later with my obsolete XP desktop, with (has to be by now) a billion words in my RAM. (And I use it every single day.) I have 16 books published, with a few short stories thrown in, writing a half dozen more books that I may or may never finish. I did a mock-up cover for the latest book I'm writing, and put it on Twitter over the weekend.

Why am I telling you all this? Because if I can do it, so can you. We are only as inhibited as we believe we are. "But I can't learn that stuff," you cry. I never believed I could do any of that either. How many times did I want to give up, throw my computer through the window? Gadzooks, I need to meet a person 6 times before I remember their name. Do you have any idea how long it took me to learn how to format a book. IN WORD. Do you have any idea how long it took me to figure out how to erase the green and red squiggly lines, or how to set my margins, or how to create headers? A long time. A really long time.

Do you have any idea how long it took me to figure out what a gerund was, or a double negative, or just the basic "rules of writing"? YEARS. Yes, I took high school English. Yes, I took creative writing courses in college, but that doesn't teach you how to write in the real world, for real readers. It teaches you how to write "perfectly". Real people don't want perfect, they want a good story.

A mom at school, who didn't know I was a writer, said, "Oh, you write novels. Gee, that must be really hard." Yes, yes it is. I didn't know "writing is hard work" until I published my third novel. That's when I began to make money. That's when I figured out that writing for money is a JOB.

And with every job in the real world, there's always something new to learn. I read industry blogs to see what's going on. I read writing blogs and craft books to refresh my skills. I figured out which social media I can use to keep my name circulating. I figured out what to do to spur sales. And found out the hard way that it's pretty much -- just keep writing, publish the best book you can, pray a LOT, and hope for the best.

Time is now irrelevant in this new publishing dynamic. I published my first book in 2011. With Amazon's algorithms geared toward indies back then, I rose like a shooting star. I thought I had made it. I thought the rest of my career would be easy. Then with traditional publishing seeking some of that, I sank like a rolling stone. Algorithms change. Only now, 4 years later, with the Grace of God and my series completed have I seen an uptick.

And that's the way it is. Up and down, back and forth. We can't always be on the way up. We have to come down sometime. However, time is irrelevant. If you only have one book in you, then so be it. Write it. Finish it. Publish it. How many authors have only been one hit wonders? Harper Lee. Margaret Mitchell. J.D. Salinger.

And yes, those authors are pretty much national icons now. But how long did it take them to achieve their success?

No matter how long it takes to write THE END, just write the book.
Write the best story you can.
Learn the rules before you break them.
Read the craft books. Even if you think they're hogwash. Read them.
Find your "voice" and don't give in when someone wants to change it.
Learn how to edit.
Learn how to format.
Learn whatever it is you need to do to get the best story possible.

Just keep writing.

Time is irrelevant.

Tell me -- How long did it take you to finish your first book? How long before you published it?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2015

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Year of the Popcorn Kittens

Good Morning. For the last two weeks, since Monster's winter break began, I've been laying around the house, visiting with friends, eating like a small tornado, and just pretty much been living in the real world -- something I haven't done in almost five years. I had almost forgotten what it feels like to be "normal". Whatever that entails.

I finished the last book in my Reluctant Grooms series in November. Once that went to publication, I went back in and line edited (again) the rest of the books in the series, tweaked a few things in the Hesitant Husbands series, changed my backmatter across all the books, and reformatted everything for upload to Google Play. (Again. No, I haven't uploaded those yet. As soon as Monster returns to school, I'll let you know how it goes.)

As the volunteer Gift Card Coordinator for Monster's school, December is a crazy month. Everyone wants gift cards, second quarter reports are due, end of year reports are due, balance reports are due in January, and next year's projected budget need to be thought about. It's a full time job to be sure, albeit with no pay. While on winter break, I tackled a bunch of that stuff so I could start January with a fairly clean slate.

To say I've been busy is an understatement. I just realized I haven't written a blog post since the beginning of December. I knew it had been awhile, I just didn't think it had been a month.

Now that the series is finished, I've been thinking about my life as a writer. What to do, what to write, where to start. Five years ago, I wrote up a business plan. Believe it or not, I accomplished everything on it. Time to write a new one. Thinking ahead to 2020 has me stymied.

A few years ago, Kristine Kathryn Rusch wrote a blog post called  "Popcorn Kittens"  (or something to that effect). For those of you who follow her, you know exactly what I'm talking about here. For those of you who do not follow her, you should.

In a nutshell, the post deals with the possibilities of writing whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. Oh the ideas! One kept popping up right after another, like the kittens on the video.

And this is where I am right now -- in the middle of a herd of popcorn kittens.

I have so many ideas, I can't decide which one to tackle first.

The beginning novel to the new Regency series?
The contemporary romance that's been sitting on the hard drive for the last 4 years?
The sequel to Remembering You?
The surprise Valentine's Day Regency novella?
The literary fiction that won't shut up in my head?
The short story/flash fiction mash-up contemporary boomer romance that's been haunting me since 2012?
The fictionalized version of the real life drama I endured last year as the gift card coordinator?

I need to make a decision and stick with it.

Writing the Regency series was weird -- in that I had never intended to write an entire series. When I began writing THE LADY'S MASQUERADE, my intention was a trilogy. Now it encompasses 6 novels, and 2 novellas, with another 4 novellas on the side.

During the writing of those first three novels, I also wrote the contemporary romance REMEMBERING YOU. Back then my writing was more or less a hobby. I had no idea what I was doing, had just moved to NC, was trying to find a job, and writing to keep my head out of the depression because the job market tanked (Remember the crash?). Somewhere around the 4th Regency novel, when I received an email from a "fan" did I realize that writing WAS a JOB. (Will someone please explain this to my parents? They still think I'm writing as a hobby.)

The real problem with popcorn kittens is, they're so much fun to watch, I can't get anything done. They aren't part of my job description. After spending five years on Regency romance, I'd like to take a break for a few months. But why then do I feel so guilty every time I think about contemporary romance? If I take a year off to write other things, will my fans desert me? If I start the Regency series, will I be able to finish it in a timely manner? In today's market, it seems if you don't have a new book out every four months you lose whatever traction you've gained. (And I know this from first-hand experience.)

Looking ahead to 2020 (my God, that is just crazy), I know I'll finish up the new series. And maybe throw in a couple of contemporary somethings in there for good measure. I have a lot to write about and I'm sure I'll get new ideas along the way. But for right now, I need to begin something.

Tell me -- Are any of you experiencing this kind of angst about your writing? Are you on track with your business plan? Do you know exactly what comes next in your writing life?

Here for your viewing pleasure is The Original Popcorn Kittens video.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2015