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IWSG: Regrets?

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

Question of the Month: As you look back on 2017, with all its successes and failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

I recently posted a retrospective of 2017 in terms of my writing, and overall it’s been a really good year. However, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do some things a little differently! For one, instead of releasing one book in February and another in May, I’d have spread them out more. I had strong sales over the summer, but due to a lack of anything new (except my Moriarty story), things began slumping come October. Well, I attribute at least some of that slump to having no other big release. I know part of it is probably holidays, too. I really should write something seasonal . . .

Writing Where the Heart Is

Image courtesy of pexels.com
I recently had a conversation with a publisher who was interested in an older property of mine, something I wrote some seven or eight years ago. However, the book would need considerable revisions and reworking to suit them. That’s fine; I know the book isn’t publishable in its current format. (Long story, but the details aren’t important.) Still, the more I think about it, the more the piece of work in question feels like something I once had a passion for but no longer do. In short, while I could rework it, my heart’s not in it.

Whenever someone tells me I should write more Sherlock Holmes or, well, more anything really, I nod. Yes, I should. Readers might like that. Might. That’s key. And yet, if my heart isn’t in it, if my love for that character or subject has migrated, even temporarily, I won’t like it. And I’m pretty sure that will show in the work. Then readers won’t like it either, and what will I have written it for?

Part of this is my own damned easily distracted mind. I get bored and wander off from things. So while conventional wisdom is that an author should sit and write a series so that readers get hooked and keep buying . . . I struggle with that. I’ve written four Sherlock Holmes stories (if you count the Moriarty one, which I do), and while the first flowed, I had a much harder time with the others. I’m fighting my way through Changers 2. I have a strong idea for another K-Pro novel, though I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to it. Maybe, if I find that enthusiasm for it again. I had it once, but I don’t know where it went.

It’s weird because I used to have an obsessive nature. TV shows, movies, books—I would fall in love and fixate. But it seems I’ve outgrown that, or else haven’t found anything recently that calls to me that way. And while my own characters do sometimes bewitch me—I was in love with Peter Stoller for a very long time—they seem to be easily supplanted. A shiny new somebody knocks on my brain and tally-hoo, I’m off in another direction.

I’m probably not disciplined enough to be a writer.

Actually, though, I seem to have found a happy medium. Something that feels fresh enough to keep me excited while still hangs together in a loose way. 1. Regency romances. Because readers of the genre will happily read more, and yet the characters and situations I write can be all new. Which is why I’m having such fun writing Faebourne. 2. My Shakespeare adaptations. Hamlette was a hoot to write, and I’ve outlined two more in the “series.” Yet, again, the stories are all new each time, so I don’t lose interest with the work.

Still, I do promise to finish Changers 2. And I won’t rule out more Sherlock Holmes some day if and when the mood strikes. Or even more Peter Stoller, though I think it will be Simon and/or Jules that I focus on in the next go-round.

All I’m really saying (in very long form) is that I must write where my heart is. Follow my passion—for whichever character(s) have set fire to my blood.

When I look back at this old piece of writing the publisher and I discussed, I’m very proud of it. In fact, I think it’s some of my best work, and maybe that’s why I don’t feel compelled to rework it. But I think it’s more that I’m a different person now. That story was a part of me back when, is now an artifact of something past. I could drag it into the present. But do I want to? Or would I rather walk forward unencumbered?

I stop and look behind me, and the view is lovely. I can take a photo. But I can’t take it with me, and I have no desire to walk up the hill and rebuild a replica of what I’ve left behind. I learned a lot building those previous structures. Now I will use those skills to create something new.

WIP Wednesday: Motivation

Well, with Hamlette finished it’s now time to turn back to Changers 2 and Faebourne. I’m fortunate in that I have a writing group to help me focus on Changers 2. I have a second writing group to which I may bring some of Faebourne. That’s really one of the only ways to get me writing sometimes: hold me accountable. Weekly writing groups/deadlines definitely help.

Of course, with the holidays upon us, groups may not meet as regularly, and it can be difficult to find time to write when there is so much else going on besides.

Sometimes I get more motivated to write when I already have a cover for my book. That means I’ve invested money, you know, and therefore need to finish the book. Plus, a beautiful cover simply excites me. I want to have the book to go with it so that I have a reason to plaster it everywhere. (Yes, I know, I can do a cover reveal but then what? Once you have a book to market, you have so many more ways and reasons to show off that cover.)

Still, for books I’m hoping to sell to an agent or publisher, paying to have a cover made ahead of time makes no sense. So I do really need people to crack the whip over me to get me going. I can be such a lazy writer, especially this time of year. I need that external pressure. If no one else cares whether I’m writing, why should I?

The work is its own reward, sure. I like to write (most of the time), but I’m easily distracted. Yet I was always a good student, always had my work in on time. I was in journalism, and there was nothing like the high of getting something in at deadline. But I can’t set my own deadlines because I simply don’t take them seriously.

What about you? If you’re a writer, how do you stay motivated? If you’re not a writer, well, how do you stay motivated for anything you do? I’m always curious about what keeps people going. Internal drive? I have some, but it doesn’t always get me all the way to my goal. I usually need a push along the way.

Looking Back at 2017

I know, I know, there’s still more than a month left of the year! I shouldn’t be so eager to close it out, right? But I’m always a lot less productive in the final month of the year. Between the holidays and my birthday and the kids out of school . . . It gets harder to get anything done, at least in terms of writing.

So with the fair certainty that I won’t magically be finishing another book in the next 30+ days, I want to look at what I did accomplish this year. Because it’s quite a lot, and listing it makes me feel better about myself and the coming laziness.

In 2017, I:

  1. Published Brynnde, which went on to strong reviews, good sales, and won a cover design award
  2. Republished my Sherlock Holmes stories as a collection and simultaneously put out an audiobook version
  3. Finished Hamlette
  4. Edited books for paying clients
  5. Wrote a short script for an indie director
  6. Had a short story accepted to a fairy tale anthology; it was released earlier this month
  7. Wrote and published a new Sherlock Holmes story (really a Moriarty story)

That’s a pretty productive year, especially for me, someone who isn’t a very fast writer.

However, I didn’t accomplish everything I originally had on my list for the year. Though I made progress with Changers 2, I still haven’t finished it. So going forward, these are my goals:

  1. Finish The Great Divide (Changers 2)
  2. Finish Faebourne
  3. Write Epiphanies
  4. Write Merry/Annette (title subject to change)

Wow, that’s a lot of work. Deep breaths. I can do it. Might take a while, but it can be done.

How has your 2017 been? Do you think you’ll accomplish anything in the last month? Are you already looking ahead to 2018? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments!

I’m Back!

That’s me, second from the left in the middle row. Not my most flattering moment, but there’s a story here, and as a writer I always want to tell a good story. But to do that, I have to go back a couple decades.

I first went to Disney World for spring break while I was in college. This is some 20 years ago. My dad took me, and we went on what was then called the Tower of Terror. It was a Twilight Zone-themed ride that really just drops you. I’d never been on a drop ride before. I don’t remember what I felt about it at the time, but I do know I never went on it again.

A year or two later, my friends Natosha and Abby and I went to Six Flags Fiesta Texas and also did the big drop ride there. I hated it. Now, that ride is somewhat different since it’s all outside and you’re just hanging over the park. And it didn’t help that something caused them to have to pause a long time while we were sitting and waiting at the top. I don’t know if something had gone wrong or what, but at that point I was never going to do another one of these rides that drops you.

Twenty years later . . . We’re at Disneyland, and what used to be Tower of Terror is now Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout. I love GOTG. And I’m thinking maybe a ride like this isn’t as bad as I remember.

But the minute the car pushed back to what I knew was a big shaft that we were going to be dropped from, I regretted my decision.

And this ride didn’t just drop us once. Oh, no. This ride is like being on a yo-yo. Up, down, up, down. It felt like it went on forever.

The thing is, the ride itself is very cool. The story and everything—I really enjoyed it. But I don’t love the sensation of falling. The weightlessness, the way my stomach attempts to exit my body.

My nine-year-old daughter, however, adores these rides. That’s her next to me in the photo. I asked her, “Is it almost over?” and she reassured me that it was (even though she didn’t really know; she only wanted me to feel better). So there she is in the photo, telling me it will be all right.

When the ride did finally end, I was shaking. I started crying. The people getting off the ride weren’t really sure what to make of that. You see them in the photo, all having a great time. Not me! I cried, and also laughed a little with relief. I could barely walk, I was shaking so hard.

But! Pics or it didn’t happen! So here is the evidence. I bought a t-shirt too. And a tiny part of me wants to try again. Because it is a clever ride, and maybe exposure therapy will make me more able to tolerate it?

Or maybe I’m crazy.

Still, I think I look even more afraid here:

And happiest here:

Your Baby Is Ugly

We all think our own babies are beautiful. Our extended families do, too. Perhaps they—and we—see something beyond the physical. Perhaps we add the preparation and labor to our overall vision of this baby and, because of all that went into having the baby, we think it must be beautiful. We could not imagine a world where all that work resulted in something . . . if not downright ugly, possibly subpar, or at best average.

Why are we talking about this? you wonder. Because your manuscript is your baby. And, sweetie, it’s ugly.

At least, it’s ugly when it first comes out. Then it gets cleaned up a bit, and looks a little better. Once you start really caring for it, your baby might not be model material, but at least it no longer looks like an alien. It looks, you know, babylike.

For all of you birthing novels during NaNoWriMo, keep this in mind. Your first draft is ugly. That doesn’t mean you can’t show it to anyone. You don’t have to throw a blanket over your baby’s head and hide it from the world. Actually, what you should do is show it only to people you trust. People you know will tell you the truth about it—but gently. By which I mean, find a critique group. They’re a “parenting group for writers.” Some of them have experience because they have a lot of children themselves. Some don’t. But they’re all there to support you.

And if you’re a member of one of these groups, remember to first compliment the baby! “She has beautiful eyes,” you might say. “Look how blue!” Do that before pointing out, “But her feet are deformed. You might want to do something about that.”

(I’ll admit, coming from an editing background I sometimes forget to do the complimenting part. But I do try to remember!)

Bottom line: every baby is born ugly. They get cuter as they grow. Just be sure to take good care of it, and seek advice from other book parents as needed.

Remakes Blogfest

So the point of this blogfest, as conceived of by Alex J. Cavanaugh and Heather M. Gardner, is to blog about a favorite remake. This means movie, song, whatever. Is there any time a remake is as good as—maybe even better?—than the original? Of course, that’s a matter of opinion. So FWIW, here’s mine.

My favorite remakes tend to be songs. Two in particular spring to mind. I really like Sheryl Crow’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mississippi.” To be fair, I heard Crow’s version first, so I had no preconceived notions of the song going in. I think we often prefer the first version we see or hear of something because that’s the one that makes the lasting impression. We can appreciate other renditions, but it’s not the same.

The second cover I particularly enjoy is Rob Thomas’ [gasp! you’re so surprised, I know!] version of Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979.”

Here’s the original, which is a great song in its own right:

You can listen to Rob’s version on iTunes here.

I was never into Smashing Pumpkins much, so I think my love of the remake is probably rooted in my love for Rob and his music. Matchbox Twenty did a really haunting version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Never Going Back Again,” too, which I adore. You can listen to that here. Compare it to the relatively upbeat original here. I do really admire artists who can take something and completely transform it.