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A Writer’s Top Ten: Behavior & Perks

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I’m always excited to do a blog post with fellow writer Valerie Day Sanchez. Today we are going to explore our shared opinions on being a writer and what that means.

Being a writer is like no other job. It is fraught with a plethora of emotions and quirks that are unique to the profession. Valerie and I decided to do a combined top ten list that describes each individual aspect.

Unsurprisingly, we both share many attributes and this is probably the easiest collaboration we have ever done together,

 

Val’s Take 

10. Isolation: I have this intense desire to be alone so I can finish my novel but that rarely if ever is granted. So I have to find ways to be alone while surrounded my others. Headphones, Pandora, YouTube,  (in case I need a particular song on repeat to get the chapter completed) are gold. My family knows not to talk to mean if I have a pen, paper, and headphones in.

9. Comfort and ultimately extremely unhealthy food eaten in mass quantity: There’s lots of chocolate and popcorn, because there is no way I’m stopping to eat unless it’s very simple and provides lots of calories to keep me going. If I can be writing why would I be cooking? I pack snacks and refreshments so that all I need to do is take a quick trip to the kitchen to refuel rather than stop.

8. PJs: There’s no time to get dressed and besides writing for me me means burrowing in my cave and not interacting with the outside world.

7. Insomnia: Sleep is my reward for when the book is done (I know Arianna Huffington wouldn’t approve). Early mornings when no one else is awake yet and very late at night when the rest of the house is quiet but my mind is screaming pivotal plot points are my favorite times to write. These times of day i don’t feel guilty for ignoring my family because they are far away in dreamland.

6. Obsessive: I become hyper focused in a way that is borderline sickness but I can’t help, it, it’s much more powerful than me. I think about my novel all the time, the characters, where they end it up, how they get there, who they meet along the way, the why of it all is always present until it’s published.

My Take

5. Daydreaming. Is there any job in the world that includes, and is almost a requirement, to stare off into space as we dream up stories? I love to put on my headphones and think of my story as I turn it into a live action movie in my head. If I can see it play out then I know I’m ready to write it down.

4. Freedom. There is a delicious sense of freedom being a writer. We are not bound to do the same thing every single day for the next thirty years. We can write what we want, when we want too. If we don’t want to write romance, we can write gritty science fiction. We can expand young minds in one children’s book to fouling it up the next time with an erotic thriller.

3. We own the word Crazy. Everyone knows writers are nuts. We isolate ourselves. We talk to ourselves. We create unrealistic realities and bury ourselves in them to the point where we almost can’t find our way out. We’re proud of it and where you see a straight jacket in our future, we see a potential story we can write in the asylum as we mingle amongst our peeps.

2. The accomplishment of writing a book is like no other feeling. I don’t know if it’s because few people who start actually finish or if it’s because when you do finish writing a book you’re so exhausted, but typing out the words ‘The End’ is almost indescribable. It’s an euphoric feeling of epic magnitude to us writers and we remember each and every time we finish our novels.

  1. Identity. Yes, we isolate ourselves and live in dream worlds. We make up stories and imagine details that you may not read about, but we know are there. ( I actually wrote a whole paragraph one time about a mailbox, but decided to cut it. I still remember it though). We create characters that become our friends and we laugh with them, and cry with them. We know their secrets and we may or may not share them with you, but they will always be with us

We forgo sleep because we have this aching need to not only get the story out of our heads, but because we desperately want to share them with our readers. Our diet is akin to a 7th grader being left on their own for a weekend.

We daydream. We crash. We burn. We straddle the line of insanity all while trying to maintain normality in front of our kids and families.

We obsess about everything we have ever written and we do this because we are so focused on trying to convey our stories to the best of our ability.

It’s emotionally and physically draining sometimes, but at the end of the day though, I wouldn’t trade being a writer for any other job in the world.

 

Want more Val? Check out her blog and books!

http://www.valeriedaysanchez.blogspot.com

/https://twitter.com/valdaysanchez

http://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Day-Sanchez/e/B00HFG0JDA

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The Editor Dilemma…a Collaborative Tale with Val Day-Sanchez

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When I usually collaborate with Val, I post my view first and then post her take on whatever subject we are writing about, but today I am doing things differently. I am letting Val’s article be proudly displayed front and center.

 

Val’s Take:

As an Indie Author you are in charge of creating, publishing, writing, editing, selling, promoting really doing any and everything associated with writing a book.  So if you are like me and have a family, a job, (or two or three) you find yourself seeing your shortcomings.  Like you may be great a weaving a tale, but you may be awful at sighting grammatical errors so you think; “hey I’m trying to move my family to a new city, find my 5 year old a school, rent out our house, start a new job, finish a novel-while publishing another, I think I’ll hire someone to help me edit, it’s not my favorite thing to do, and I really don’t have time.”  So you do some research, find someone that won’t break the bank and get your book edited.  After all the  first go around it went great!  You’re reviews were exemplary they made you doubt that you put something out there that was so well received and then the third book happens and your editor screws you over.

They send you a fake edited manuscript, guarantee their work, and you believe them and publish it.  In case you’re thinking Valerie why did you trust them?!  It’s because as an indie author I have met amazing people from around the world.  All of which are not very affluent, and so dedicated to their work rather than the profit, you start to feel that you are a part of a tight-knit community that supports one another, that wants to see you thrive.  They too are also less concerned with money but completely engaged in the art that is being produced, so you trust people as if we are all intertwined in this creative community that looks out for one another and then you realize that there are still sharks.

These sharks want your money and they don’t care how many years you have waited to pursue your dream.  They don’t care how your only wish was to see your work in print, to have your name among authors, your heroes.  This carelessness leads to them giving you horrible work that you then publish and receive a backlash of reviews for, because the small fan base you have managed to acquire feel disappointed and betrayed that you would put something out that was so unpolished.  The readers don’t realize that you made a mistake and trusted the wrong person.

This blog is an apology as well as a rant as well as a warning.  If you want to pursue your dreams be careful who you ask to aid you on your journey.  I asked fellow author Shannon Barczak if she to has experienced such woes during her journey in self-publishing and she had this to say.

 

My Take:

 

Val’s view on this is written eloquently and with passion. I felt like raising my fist in joyful solidarity when she emailed it to me.

I am not going to be as nice as Val on this subject because quite frankly, I am ticked off on her behalf, and I also have a tremendous amount of guilt weighing heavily on my shoulders.

Several months ago, I found a reasonably priced editor. I checked out her website and her references. I crossed my fingers and sent her my manuscript, as well as, half her required payment.

At first glance, I thought she did a good job, but then I noticed a few discrepancies and I was disappointed. I chalked it up to a lesson learned and moved on.

If I acquired any useful knowledge about the experience is that she used the Macro widget on Word to plug in overused words and adverbs. I, being a newbie, had no idea about this wonderful invention, so when I became aware that I could do that by myself, I was psyched.

In my disappointment and new found Word prowess I had forgotten that I had mentioned her to Val. I saw that she used her as an editor and I figured that she had better luck than me so I wasn’t going to mention my experience because I didn’t want to cast any doubts in her mind if she was happy with her choice of editors.

When I received Val’s email describing her recent disappointing situation, I wanted to email this person myself on Val’s behalf, and write a profanity laced letter.

Val touched on something that I think is extremely accurate. As an Indie Author, we do come into contact with great people that are in the same boat as us and we form an immediate kinship. We do support one another and when one of our own gets the shaft, we take up arms and batten down the literary hatches as one.

I think what is important to convey to everyone, is that as an Indie Author, we wear many hats and it is always a relief to find someone that offers us a service to help make our lives easier.

Unfortunately, no matter how careful we are or how vigilante we are in checking references and reviews, we can still be taken in by someone with no conscience.

The simple reason is greed. You can spout off different excuses, but it all comes down to money in the end.

All I have to say is, shame on you.

How dare you take a writer’s manuscript and not do what you say you are going to do.

A copy of a writer’s book is like an extension of themselves. In some way, it is our baby, our child that we nurtured from nothing but a thought and developed them into full blown characters with a history, as well as, a future.

When we give it to someone else to read or edit, we are trusting that person to help make it better. It’s like when we send our kids off to school and we pray that they are kept safe, and that they receive the love and attention they deserve.

To have someone that poses as an editor not fulfill their obligation can be crushing and I have to believe in a little thing known as karma because Val did not deserve that nor did her book.

If you have read my blog posts or know me personally, you might have an idea on what I did when learning this news.

This editor received my favorite kind of greeting when I pulled up her email…my trusty middle finger.

 

 

 

 

SXSW Monthly Collaboration: Juggling Writing and Editing at the same time.

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How excited am I to be working with the fabulous Val Day-Sanchez again?! Our monthly SXSW articles have been hard to write because we are both so busy and it’s nice to get back into the collaborative swing of things. This month we are focusing on the art of juggling both writing and editing.

 

Shannon’s Take:

It’s always difficult to brainstorm for articles with Val. We always have so many ideas and we are always on the same page that it is hard to pick just one. I have had several questions running through my mind lately and I recently asked one to a Facebook group for Indie Authors. It was fairly simple, but the answers I received were astounding.

I wanted to know what other authors thought about editing one book and writing another book at the same time. It turned into an extremely interesting forum because the more responses I got, the more insight I gained into the mind of fellow writers.

I almost had to laugh because it started to feel like a pissing contest. I had a few that answered right away and one of them them mirrored my thoughts that it almost feels like your cheating on one book if you write another.

I mentioned that I also think it’s important to take time in between each project and I was almost scoffed at, but not in an unfriendly way. The conversations were cordial, supportive and helpful, but again, I couldn’t help feel that everyone was trying to one up another.

One woman has four different books in various stages of production. She wrote that if you want to publish several books in a year then you have to work all the time. There were several other individuals that made similar statements.

I had an uncomfortable thought though, and it is one that I did not share because I did not want to seem rude, but if you’re focused on so many different books that you’re writing, can you really be churning out decent stories at such a fast pace?

Now, I have to be honest, I can’t imagine writing three or four different stories at once. When I write, I become deeply involved with my characters and their situations. The thought of even trying to disassociate myself from one book to another is impossible for me.

If I do have an idea for another story then I make notes so I can reference it later, but I have never even attempted to try and start another book when I am writing.

One man mentioned that it is possible to edit one book and write another at the same time, but it requires discipline and I agree. I think it easier to do that when you are writing a series and I have done it before with The Fae Witch Series.

I also vowed not to do that again, but here I am starting on book two of The Hidden Realm Series, The Fairyland Queen, while I wait for The Fairy Door to come back from my editor.

I have to be honest at the end of the discussion thread I almost felt an amateur loser, but then I realized something. We are all in the same boat. We’re all Indie authors trying to make our way in this tough world and we have to be on top of our game all the time.

We are the writer, the publisher, the promoter, and all those different hats have to be presented, as well as, articulated whenever we have that chance.

I do believe that each person that responded wanted me to know that it was possible to do several different aspects of writing at once, but I also feel that they were in a way promoting their abilities.

I was envious of the lot, I must say. There are some truly talented authors out there, but at the end of the day I need to do what’s best for me.

I tip my cap off to those that can achieve so much in a short amount of time. I know that I will never be able to write three or four different books at once. When I start something I need to finish it before I can move forward.

I have no interest in creating and writing several different characters, and stories because I feel that my characters deserve my full attention. Their story is important and one I must tell with every attention to detail, as well as, with my heart.

I’ve accepted that I will never be the kind of writer that publishes seven or eight books a year. I’m honest with the fact that I suck at promoting, and I have no interest in a Pulitzer.

I write for me. The stories I tell are what I want to read. Writing is not about making money, it’s about being able to express your creativity. I wish I could be more driven, but I can’t and frankly I don’t want too.

Again, I applaud you authors who are cranking books out left and right. I am amazed by the way some of you can compartmentalize different stories and characters at once.

Writing is my passion and if it ever started to feel like noose around my neck then I would probably stop publishing my stories. I know that the lure of fame and fortune can cloud your judgment as you type and edit furiously, but isn’t the process of writing enough to make your soul enriched with a deep sense of creative joy?

I think I’ll just stick with one at a time and adopt my son Wyatt’s favorite quote:

Slow and steady wins the race…

 

Val’s Take:

 

After a brief break, Shannon and I are back with our joint articles!!!  I missed her deeply and so this week when I emailed her it was kismet, as it so often is with the two of us.  We each had a few ideas for a topic to blog about and they were very similar (seriously I think she lives in my head, weird and a tad creepy I know, if I haven’t lost you yet, read on I promise it gets better/less weird).  We decided to talk about something that we’re both going through, juggling multiple writing projects.

I know that both Shannon and I, like most writers perhaps, have written the majority of their lives.  However they don’t get to pursue it full time, it’s a hobby until it make you money right?  That’s the society a lot of us grew up in?  Writing is something we love but could never dedicate the time to it that it truly deserved.  A little over 5 years ago I decided to do just that.  I was lucky to have the opportunity that was becoming a stay-at-home mom to an infant. It provided a work schedule all of its own doing but I got to write again and after I finished my manuscript I was determined to publish it.  And when I told people about it, it was described as a “once and lifetime experience.” But then, I had started a trilogy, I had never planned on once.  I didn’t let myself, I completely ripped the option from the table.  I was going to be a full-time writer.  And so in the beginning I could never conceive of multiple projects I was just so happy to be able to write. To make sense of my life; what it had been, what it was becoming that I was still feeling lucky.

Then Harlow was released.  Others were reading about her. The second book, when I asked for it, was hard-coming so I changed my life’s course again.  And when things had worked themselves out, I wrote the second book in three months, with ease.  But it had come clamoring through me, a mind of its own, I had no time to doubt. I wrote as if no one would ever see it.

Book 3 began the same way because we were going home, me and my characters knew who they were and what they wanted so again I didn’t ask for it, it appeared on the page, every line, every sentence.  Even when I edited, it finished my thoughts.

As Book three was seemingly flowing through my fingers Lucas Saavadra had showed up, said without much bossiness but full of confidence, that he was the protagonist of my first standalone novel.  How could I deny it?  I was going to write a book that I had no idea about except this singular character???  The moment I ignored it, went to back Book 3 to edit or complete it.  (An emotional wreck because it was over). I would have these conversations with Lucas and every time I tried to write it…It was garbage, nonsensical first draft ugliness.

I can’t be surprised that is how the entire project went.  So when I was finally publishing Harlow 3 Threshold was coming to a close.  But there lies the question.  Is it fair?

Are you cheating on your work?  I’ll let you know after I edit Threshold next week…​
Want more Val? Check out her links below:

January SXSW Collaboration: Inspiration and Character Development

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This month’s SXSW collaboration with my fabulous author in crime Valerie Day-Sanchez is about creating characters and finding inspiration before, during and after writing a novel. Let’s start with what inspires me as a writer.

I’m going to be honest with you. I find inspiration in the craziest and sometimes most mundane things in everyday life. I recently experienced a complete lack of direction after taking a few weeks off before starting my third book in The Fae Witch Series, The Cursed Dagger.

The problem wasn’t that I didn’t know what direction my book was going to go because I always have a clear picture and general outline of what I want to convey in each story. Any author who has written a trilogy or series, can relate to the fact that you are essentially writing all the books in your head when you start the first one, but no my friends, the issue with me just a few short days ago was the dreaded first chapter.

You have to do some sort of recap because just in case there is that one reader (you know who I’m talking about) starts reading your book and has no clue there was a first or second book before that, you as the author, are obligated to go over every important piece of information to bring them up to speed, but you also don’t want your faithful readers to roll their eyes and shout, “I already know this crap, come on!”

I struggled with this, as I always do, and then one simple phrase from my teenage son had me scrambling to my laptop. He had to write an essay explaining the famous quote from the Charles Dickens classic, A Tale of Two Cities, and when he flung out, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,’ I suddenly had this flash of inspiration.

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The third book in my series is a bit darker and my main character goes through a lot of emotional upheaval and self-discovery. The quote inspired me to firmly see that I needed to have, even with all the recapping, a faint premonition of what was to come and that is how the inspiration of setting an effect of the calm before the storm came about in my mind.

Character development to me is more organic. I always have a pretty good idea of who my characters are but until you really start writing their thoughts and words, I don’t think you can truly connect with them.

I have always been a big proponent of imagining and daydreaming about your story much like a mini movie before sitting down to write it out. I think it gives you a clearer vision of the path you are setting for yourself as a writer and for your potential readers. I like to write the characters names out in my outlines and give myself specific guidelines on who I want them to be, but eventually, in the end, I am always surprised at some of the quirks that seem to flow from my mind as their personalities begin to take shape the further I delve deeper into the story.

Any inspiration you have, whether it is, about your story or your characters can either be gradual or hit you like a freight train. Yes, sometimes you have to look for it, but in some cases it can just be one little phrase that you hear or a picture that you see on your Facebook news feed that can drag you out of the depressing writing doldrums and into the creative light.

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So I guess my advice is to just wing it and see what happens… 😉

 

Val’s take:

 

Inspiration?  If you’re a writer or involved in any of the arts I’m sure people ask you, how did you come up with that?  I always think of what inspired me.  That is something that changes constantly.  Sometimes it is a song that I hear on my way to work.  Other times it’s an experience, not even anything profound but just a dinner with good friends, and one sentence from our conversation that evening will linger in my mind and evolve into a story.

Inspiration is different than ideas or focus it is the driving force that makes you feel like you are going to explode unless you get something written.  It is what pushes a story forward even when you’re tired or hungry or completely consumed with other things.  It is what makes you feel that you are creating something of importance.  It is reassurance.

More than anything inspiration is about being open, allowing your mind to wander; giving yourself permission to daydream.  Inspiration comes from anywhere and usually when you least expect it.  As a writer that’s why it is so important to always have something to write on.  For me, once I am knee deep into a story I will often get ideas or storylines out of nowhere.  But there are times when I am working on one project and something will come to my attention, sparking an idea for a whole different story.  I don’t discount whatever that new project may be, instead I write it down and save it for when I actually have time to fully flush it out and provide it the attention that it deserves.

This may sound maddening and counter-productive and believe me it can be, there are at least three different story ideas going on in my mind on any given day, not to mention the regular grocery lists, kid’s playdates, work, puppy appointments, and all the other stuff that is also floating around in there.  But my simple mandate of writing it all down, even when it doesn’t make sense seems to help.  This is why inspiration tome is a bit of sly devil.  It never seems to come when you need it.  It never appears when I have the house to myself and a blank document opened in MSword.  No instead it will rear its trixy head when I have two kids in the bath, and a stack of papers that I need to grade.  Oh the arts, no one ever said it’s easy.

 

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Want more Valerie?

http://www.valeriedaysanchez.blogspot.com/

https://twitter.com/valdaysanchez

https://www.facebook.com/harlowwhittakertrilogy

http://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Day-Sanchez/e/B00HFG0JDA