I’ve always resisted participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) because I felt like I couldn’t corral my ideas and force them on paper every single day during November. My words need to be free! Yeah, whatever. Now that I have a 40 hour a week day job, I have even less time to write, so how could I possibly produce 50,000 words in one of the shortest months of the year that includes a major holiday? No idea.
A few weeks ago, after I’d wasted my precious hour of writing time on the internet and producing next to nothing, I saw a Facebook post from a fellow writer mentioning NaNoWriMo. When I first heard about the event four years ago, I posted my reasons why I wouldn’t participate. One comment stuck in my head: it teaches you to be a disciplined writer. Well damn. Maybe that’s what I need. Distractions will always plague me. The internet isn’t going away. The mind-numbing day job won’t either. I need to learn to block all that stuff out and focus. Maybe participating in NaNo can set my words free in a way I never expected.
This may not even work for me. I might be the kind of writer who can’t function in such a structured environment. But something needs to change in order for me to continue writing. I need to keep my day job to support my writing addiction, so the change needs to happen with me.
My NaNo user name is AmeliaJames12. Look me up! I need friends.
*Disclaimer: National Novel Writing Month will immediately be followed by personal editing, rewriting, revising, what-the-hell-did-I-write month (or two).
Evolved Publishing highlighted three of their authors today, including me, in a post that discusses their past, present and future in the publishing industry.
I’ve been with a small press for a couple of years now, but my posts about why I chose to self-published and why I was happy with it still get a lot of hits, so I thought I should write an update. Let me explain, no, there is too much. Let me sum up:
Why I loved self-publishing
Why I left self-publishing
I’m not saying signing with a publisher is right for everyone, but unless you’re willing to go into business for yourself, you may want to stay out of self-publishing. I still have to deal with some business issues and promotion, but being with a publisher allows me to focus on my writing. And that’s where my real freedom is.
And why we need to read more of them.
Energizer Girl is sick again so I’m spending lots of mornings reading books to her. I’ve got a couple of favorites and a couple I want to toss in the trash and burn because they’re so badly written. But most of them follow a distinct pattern. If romance novels have a formula, children’s picture books have a definitive style. Here’s what I’ve noticed:
They repeat words – Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar? (That would be me.) My number one rule of writing is never to use the same word twice in one sentence, paragraph, and sometimes on the same page. Children’s books repeat the same word over and over and over… until my brain goes numb. This is an effective method for teaching vocabulary, but it’s a bad habit for a writer.
They use too many dialogue tags – I’ve pretty much abandoned dialogue tags in my writing. (He said, she said, etc.) One of my daughter’s books is so loaded with ‘kid said, mommy said’ that I skip them when I read it to her. Children being read to need this device for clarity, but adults have developed the ability to infer from context. I’ve learned to shake this bad habit and use the character’s actions to show who’s speaking.
They use weak verbs –The above-mentioned books I want to burn are loaded with was, were and other non-action verbs (along with tense-shifts, practical impossibilities, and terrible sentence construction). My publisher calls these state of being verbs (SOBs), and my editor slashes them mercilessly. Children benefit from this simple, direct approach. Cutting the weak links from your sentences adds the excitement adult readers crave.
We grow up reading repeated words, dialogue tags, and weak verbs, so when we start writing, that’s what we use. So why not burn all the children’s books? Because the really good ones do more than teach us basic reading and writing skills.
They teach us about differences between people. Giraffes Can’t Dance, one of my favorite books, says, “Sometimes when you’re different, you just need a different song.” I’ll read that book to my daughter over and over and over until she learns how to find her song.
They teach us about our world. The dialogue tag overkill book tells how a rainbow is made. Simple, direct, and smart. Look for a rainbow the next time a storm passes. What colors do you see? And that leads me to my favorite lesson.
They teach us how to imagine. Bridge to Terabithia. Cinderella. Snow White. Peter Pan. These stories and others sparked my imagination long before I started writing. Reading to my daughter keeps that flame alive.
Imagination makes us great writers.
I’m back in the job market. I wasn’t going to tell anyone that I’m going back to a day job, but it’s going to be part of my life so I may as well expose it. 😉 I lost my last full-time job three years ago this month, and since then I’ve been working on a career as a stay at home mom/romance author. I’m not finished with my writing quest by any means, but I can no longer be a SAHM for several reasons.
1. I’m bored. I can only write while my three and a half year old daughter is asleep. She doesn’t take naps anymore, so that means I get up at 5:00 a.m. and write till she wakes up. I have often said that I work harder as a mom than I did at any office job, and that’s still true, but spending seven days a week doing laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, and trying to keep up the house doesn’t challenge my brain. Sure, I have some down time (when Energizer Girl allows me a moment to sit) when I could read or do something for me, but when I get bored, I eat, and when I eat too much I get depressed. That drains the desire to do anything fun.
2. I need a dependable income. I tasted writing success early. My publisher released Tell Me You Want Me in June 2012 and by September it was in Amazon’s Top 500. Within six months, my royalties nearly equaled the full-time salary I’d lost. I thought my income would keep increasing as I published more books, but the post-holiday retail slump set in and sales dropped. I’d seen that happen while I was self-published so I didn’t worry, but the second quarter of 2013 was even worse. Many economic and publishing experts predicted a turn-around in the third quarter, but it never happened. I can’t live like this. I thought I’d reached the point where I could live on my writing income, but it didn’t last. I want to focus on writing without worrying about how well my books are selling. And if I have another income, I’ll be able to put more money into advertising and promotion. Someday I’ll be able to support myself and my family as a writer, but it’s going to take a while longer.
3. My daughter needs friends other than me. This is the most important reason. Energizer Girl is an only child. She gets my full attention, but the drawback is I’m all she has. She goes to preschool two days a week and she loves it. Every day of her two and half week holiday break, she begged me to take her to school. Poor baby missed her friends. She’s got lots of imaginary friends (even an imaginary mom), but she needs real social interaction. I have nothing in common with her school friends’ moms, and all the moms my age have kids in their twenties. If I go back to work full-time, she’ll be in daycare with kids her age. She needs that. I need that.
So I updated my resume and posted it on all the major job sites. I’m looking for something in social media. I don’t know if I’ll find it in this town, but I can wait for the right opportunity. I’ll keep getting up at 5:00 a.m. to write, and soon I’ll have a lunch break I can spend writing. And maybe I’ll regain a little bit of my sanity. I’ll be working full-time, writing part-time, promoting part-time, raising a child full-time, keeping house evenings and weekends…. How much time is that? Wait, did I say sanity?
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I make goals for the year. If I don’t reach my goal, I carry it over to the next year. I’ve been doing this for several years and it works for me.
I went into 2013 flying high off of 2012’s achievements. By February reality (i.e. the market) slapped some sense into me. But I still pulled off some amazing things last year. Here’s a recap.
2013 Accomplishments: (What I wanted to do. What I actually did.)
Publish The Twisted Mosaic, books 2 and 3: Their Twisted Love and His Twisted Lesson. Done. Released the omnibus edition too.
Start writing Ramsay series. (Meet Billy Ramsay in The Devil Made Me Do It: Under His Kilt.) Well, this got postponed indefinitely. Austin and Jack want their sequels written first.
Do book signings and appearances. Go to RomCon 2013 as author. RomCon was awesome! Going again in June 2014, and I’m going to Pure Textuality in October.
Get Secret Storm into Amazon’s Romance Top 100. Done. And Her Twisted Pleasures made it to #1 in Erotica on both Amazon and B&N, temporarily knocking off you know what shade of crap.
One major achievement that wasn’t on my list was my feature on USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog. Awesome doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Release Tell Me You Want Me sequel by December.
Start writing Secret Storm sequel for release in 2015.
Work on getting current titles into brick and mortar stores. (Carried over from 2013.)
Release current titles as audio books.
Continue to build Trashy brand, name recognition. Expose myself! Um… wait. Or as my publisher calls it, the long slow grind.
Upgrade my blog/website. Actually, that’s geek-in-training’s (Hubs) project.
Lesson learned in 2013: The only thing harder than making the #1 spot is staying there. I’ll be back. 😉
I’m guest posting at Evolved Publishing today. Come read about my unusual writing process. And more details about my holiday sale!
Pardon me, my geek is showing. This actually fits my process. Go figure.
I’d like to think I did pretty well. In the three years I’ve had my daughter, I’ve published two romance novels, written and released an erotica trilogy, and established a career as an author. I’d set up a writing schedule that worked great for my daughter and me. Then, two weeks after her third birthday, we put her in a big girl bed, and my carefully arranged schedule (and my sleeping habits) got shot to hell.
We figured out a new routine, but that only lasted a week, so while I struggled to find another way to work, I came up with a list of things I’ve learned during the last three years as a writer-mom:
1. Be flexible. Learn to write at every opportunity. If my daughter gets up with me at 5:00 a.m., it’s a pretty sure bet she’ll take at least an hour nap during the day. So I just wait for her eyelids to drop and then fire up the laptop.
2. Be patient. The one constant with young children is change. This will pass and then we’ll have to deal with an entirely new challenge. (That’s why flexibility is #1.)
3. Do something else. Writing fiction requires my complete attention and focus. I must have quiet, no distractions. So if she gets up during my writing time, I switch gears and work on something that takes slightly less concentration: planning promotion, writing blog posts, answering emails and other administrative tasks. At least I’ve accomplished something.
4. Give her something to do. My daughter is completely obsessed with Madagascar 3, so if I can get her engrossed in that, I can work undisturbed for an hour or so. Or until it drives me crazy.
Put that on repeat for an hour and see if your sanity hangs around. You’re welcome.
5. I’m open to suggestions. How do you write, or accomplish anything, with children, pets, or spouses demanding your attention?