Monthly Archives: August 2016

Perfection or Publication…You Pick

My last blog post talked about changing your mindset from a “writer” to an “author,” and I mentioned a little something about perfection. I want to go more into that today.

One of the biggest problems I had when I spent my time as a “writer” was that I kept waiting for my book to be perfect. I waffled between self publishing and traditional publishing for a long time. (I may talk more about that in yet another post.) But I had these two thoughts:

  1. If I go with a traditional publisher, they’ll provide an editor for me. I won’t have to worry about it being perfect…but if it’s terrible, then they won’t even pick it up. I should do another two or three revisions.
  2. If I decide to self-publish, I don’t want to be like one of those writers who throws a book together, maybe reads it once or twice, and then puts it up on Amazon for the world to see. I should do another six or eight revisions.

I was stuck in a circle of seeking perfection, and never got it ready to publish. A friend reminded me today of the aphorism “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” That search for perfection may very well have been the cause of my distraction as a writer. I would sit down to revise it and get frustrated because it wasn’t perfect and it never would be, so I would work on a new book instead, because first drafts don’t have to be perfect. Published manuscripts do. (At least, that was what I thought)

And then…Painted Blind.

I’ll be posting a book review of Michelle A. Hansen’s novel titled Painted Blind on Wednesday, but let me tell you just a little bit about it now. I met Michelle at a writer’s conference last October. I asked her which of her two books I would like best and she suggested Painted Blind. So I bought it, brought it home, then put it on my shelf and forgot about it for three months. Long story short, when I finally decided to pick it up, I couldn’t put it down. I loved it. And do you know what? I found a few errors.

I didn’t throw the book in the trash and walk away from it. I didn’t circle every error in red pen and send the novel back to the author. No way. I saw it, thought, “Oops. That was supposed to be gait, not gate” and then kept reading to find out what would happen to poor Psyche.

It wasn’t perfect. But it was published, which gave me the opportunity to read it and experience a story that I absolutely loved. If Michelle had refused to put that book out there until she “knew” it was “perfect” then I would never have read it.

Right now I have done the best I could do on the revisions of my upcoming novel the Afterdeath. It’s currently in the hands of my editor who will take what I’ve written and polish it up. When she’s done I have three beta readers lined up, and then Shabang…it’s off to the presses.

So the next time I ask myself, Perfect or Published? My answer will be simple.

Polished AND Published.

So what about you? Have you locked yourself in a never-ending cycle of perfection? Look at the wikipedia article about Perfect is the enemy of good. I saw my writing woes in so many of the “related concepts.” All I can say is, it won’t be perfect, but if I tell a good story, then the readers will enjoy it no matter what errors are present.

Have fun and enjoy the writing.

Writer Vs. Author

My life has changed.

Well, my writing life. But the first sentence sounded more dramatic.

I’ve decided to act like an author, not a writer.

I have been writing for more than half my life, and all that time I have approached it like a “writer.” I write, yes, as both the writer and the author must do. But as a “writer” I write for myself. I have no specific goals. I work on whatever tickles my fancy at the time. Sometimes two…or three or four novels at a time. (I mean, take a look at the first fun fact I wrote about myself. I did this to the extreme when I was younger)

I wanted to get published when I was sixteen, but, well, that didn’t happen. I kind of forgot about it until 2010 when I decided to “actively” “try” to get published.

I love that. Actively try. That’s what I said I was doing. Actively trying to get published, and I couldn’t understand why it simply was not happening. And then it clicked.

I was acting like a writer. Not an author.

Wait. I have a little logic statement for you here. All authors are Writers, but not all “writers” are authors. (Go ahead. Draw up a Euler diagram if you’d like. If you’re a NaNoWriMo-er this may look familiar from a few years ago. This, however, is a Venn diagram. I had to look up the difference.)

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Anyway. This whole distinction might just be something that makes sense only in my head. I might be the only person out there who sees a difference between being a writer and an author. But one thing I’ve learned throughout the years is that we’re not quite as unique as we think we are, and if I’m starting to realize there’s a difference between “writer” and “author,” then maybe someone else needs to realize that too.

So let me show you what it was like being a “writer.” A day in my life as a writer goes like this: I sit down to write, (usually late at night after all the bedtime battles have been won) and I open up my current “Work In Progress.” Good old WIP is completely written, had a quick read-through once, immediately after it was completed (because I love reading my books), and has had a few little errors here and there corrected, but it’s still pretty rough. There are plot holes and smudges, marshes and deserts, and at times a few skyscrapers of useless information. A little overwhelming, but I start to work. This needs fixed, that needs improved. Change this character and delete that one and…

By now I’m tired. Not ready to go to bed tired. I’m just tired of knocking down skyscrapers and filling in holes, firming up mud puddles and watering down deserts. My mind wanders to that wonderful idea I had a week and a half ago. Of course, that idea belongs in my New Book, but what harm would it do to jot the idea down? So up comes the file for NB and I jot down the idea. And I jot down how the love interest reacts. And I jot down how the antagonist uses that to her advantage. Oh, and there’s this incredible argument scene where the hero, the love interest, the antagonist all get into a fight and…

The next thing I know I have eight thousand new words. I feel so accomplished! I’ve done so much tonight, really getting somewhere! Next stop on this bus is getting published AND…

Wait. The WIP has been halted and ignored for the last six hours while I had my little affair with a love interest and antagonist duking it out in the New Book. I was supposed to have this whole chapter rewritten, but now it’s two AM and my brain is mush, and every word I put down in my revision feels a thousand times worse than the first words I used. And the first words were Awful!

I’m awful.

I’m a terrible writer.

How am I ever going to get published?

Well, some day luck might smile upon this “writer” and I might make it through ten or fifteen, or twenty revisions of that poor Work In Progress. All the skyscrapers will have been completely knocked down, every hole filled, leveled, and raked over. The landscape will be park-perfect grass as far as the eye can see…and the book will be boring.

But perfect, I suppose. Let’s just publish it.

Great. Time to work on another one to get published. Hopefully it won’t take me another ten years.

Perhaps this example is a little over the top, but honestly, not too over the top. I decided in 2010 that I had a book that was worthy of publishing. Everyone I showed it to, be they friends, family, or complete strangers in the writing world, thought it was worthy of publishing.

That was six years ago. Has the book been published? No. But it’s been through fifteen or twenty…or maybe forty-five revisions. The “writer” in me is still not satisfied with it.

I realized I needed to change something. There was no way I could keep up this sort of pace at getting books ready to publish and get anything done. As prolific a novel “starter” I am, I have literally dozens of books that need to be polished up and put out there. No one is enjoying them but me, and that’s selfish to keep them to myself. (At least, that’s what a writer said to me last October, when she exclaimed that she wanted to buy my book but didn’t have the opportunity because I hadn’t published it yet.)

It was last October that changed things for me. I realized I couldn’t live my life as only a “writer” if I wanted to be an “author.”

It’s about discipline. It’s about focusing, setting goals and actually striving to obtain them. Yes. I still have those random thoughts about that New Book I want to work on, but I don’t allow myself to get caught up in long chunks of writing on something that is not pertinent to my Work In Progress. I allow myself a few hours a week to work on something new if I really want to, but something I’ve started to realize since I have begun writing like an author, is that I don’t want to work on that New Book. Not now at least. Take notes, keep track of ideas, jot down those brilliant one-liners, yes. But sit down and work on it for hours? No. I’m an author. I’m going to publish my book, and I’m sure my readers won’t want to wait five or six or ten years before they can read the prequel, then book two and three. It’s a Young Adult novel. My whole audience will be like…thirty before the series is done. (okay, let’s not bring up Harry Potter right now.)

The thing is, I need to stop being selfish. I need to stop writing for myself. I love writing novels, but I also love sharing them. My world would be a pretty lonely world if I never let anyone else live in it.

So what are your thoughts? Do you write like a writer, or an author? If you’re a “writer,” are you happy with just being a writer? (I know a lot of people who are, and that’s fine.) If you’re not happy with it, are you willing to discipline yourself a little more in order to get that book out there? If you write like an author, but you haven’t gotten published yet, well then, in the words of my October friend, “You’re selfish! I want to read your books. Susan wants to read your books. The WORLD wants to read your books!”

Wherever you are as a Writer, (all inclusive,) I just want to say this: You never grow unless you push your boundaries.

Have fun, and enjoy the writing.

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P.S. Don’t let your Young Adult Readers look like this by the time they finish your series. Please. If they do, there might be something seriously wrong with them. Like…black magic or something.

Groupies!

There’s something about belonging to a writer’s group that is incredible. I belong to several writing groups. I have a fiction writer’s group that meets once a month on Wednesdays, a women’s writer’s group that meets once a month on Saturdays, and a bunch of NaNoWriMo friends who just never quit holding write-ins every other week when November ended…like, three years ago.

So every month, (If I’m lucky and don’t miss a group because of children or schedules, or anything else) I get to attend some sort of writers’ group four times per month.

To be honest, I need it.

This evening, when I met with the “Spokane Fiction Writer’s Group” at the fire station, we all stood outside in the foyer for about fifteen minutes because no one was at the fire station to let us inside. It’s summertime, though, and our usually large group was fairly small. There were only six of us who were close enough to “on time” to realize that we were locked out for the first part of the meeting.

We started talking about publishing. I am sitting there, right on the edge of getting published, and one of my friends at this meeting has been so supportive of me just getting out and doing it. We all started talking about publishing and as I listened to everyone talk, I realized that four of the six of us there tonight had been published.

Four of the six! I thought that was incredible. Over half of that little group had been published, and I have the opportunity to meet with them each month and discuss writing, pick their brains about what to do and what not to do when getting published.

How inspiring for me as a writer who is so close to getting my own work published. I love the friendship, the sense of belonging one can get from a group like that. Every month when I get home from that meeting, I sit at my computer and feel so focused and excited about writing. It’s something I look forward to for the next four weeks. If I could give any writer, published or unpublished, a suggestion of what to do if they’re not feeling that Love for Writing anymore, it would be to find a good, supportive writer’s group.

Have fun, and enjoy the writing.

Wildfires, Apples, and Dishes

Time for another post, Since it’s been quite a while since my last one. I have a goal to actually start blogging regularly, but I’ve got a confession to make. I’m kind of addicted to breaking things.

But…We’re up and running again, after picking the brain of my brother-in-law who is good with computers for numerous hours and then finally resorting to good old Fiverr again to fix my woes, I once again have a working website.

No excuses not to blog, now, right?

Well…Except all the thousands of excuses other than a broken website. I could list them. But then this blog would be a post about nothing but a list of excuses.

I still feel like I’m trying to get the hang of blogging, so please bear with me if I sound a little rambling on my first few posts. Trust me. I’ll get better.

I’ve got a few things on my mind today. Fires. (Currently there are two large wildfires burning in my area). Fresh fruit. And house cleaning.

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The fires scare the crap out of me. I’m going to be honest. I mean…Yes. I realize the closest one is still several miles away. But when you wake up in the morning and your house smells like a campground, you look out the window and think there’s a storm coming but then realize it’s just the smoke…It just creeps me out. It’s not as bad as last year, when there were…what, six, or ten fires? I literally was surrounded by fire the whole summer. (And then a garage caught fire in the apartment complex we lived at. So that didn’t help.)

I have a writer’s group I enjoy attending once a month, but it’s held at a fire station. (Yes. Our writing is on fire! We thought we’d work on it somewhere safe…) And there are questions going around on the site right now as to whether or not we’re going to actually hold the meeting tomorrow night because of all the fires. I think we should. See…I’m scared of fires, but when fires threaten to come between me and my writing…I’m like, “eah…It’s just a little scorched earth…Don’t worry about it! Let’s just write!!!”

Of course if it were a fruit orchard being burned to the ground, I might have to put my writing on hold for that.

Because…I love fresh fruit.

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Still, I have to ask myself, Why do I do this to myself every year? Some friend mentions that they’re going to buy a bunch of fruit, and, hey! would I like to pitch in and get a box or two? Sure! Peaches, apples, pears? Sounds yummy.

And then here come a bunch of big boxes of fruit and I realize. Oh, yeah. I signed up to preserve this stuff.

My family loves dried fruit, so out comes the dehydrator. Lemon juice, sticky fingers. And when you do peaches, you have to do peach stone jelly. It’s like…a law. (according to my grandmother, at least.) So out comes the boxes of pectin, the three pounds of sugar, the canning bottles and water bath. By that time my kitchen is a disaster, which brings me to my last thought…

House cleaning. Sometimes I feel like I load the dishwasher and unload it. Load the dishwasher again and unload it. Do it yet again and look at my poor sink and the thing is overflowing with dirty dishes. When Did I Get So Many Dishes? It’s the same with clothes, but I really do have too many of those.

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Okay. This post was more a train of thought post than anything. But I do promise to get better. I’m working on it. What about you? Do wildfires scare you? Do you always get bullied into buying fresh fruit this time of year? Do your dishes participate in a mud wrestling competition while you’re not watching?

Have fun, and enjoy the writing.