True story: Once I was forced to go to management training along with all other managers at that company. I say forced because, being the dismissive/sarcastic/know-it-all type, I was utterly convinced that it was going to be a waste of time and he would have nothing to teach me. I was wrong. No, he didn’t have my years of leading tech teams, but he did come from an IT background, he was familiar with Agile/Scrum techniques and was actually a pretty cool guy. Hey, I’ll usually admit that I’m wrong. :)
One of the things that he said has stuck with me, and it has a direct relation to writing, or any other creative pursuit. He said that you have to eat the frog first. If you have something really unpleasant that you have to do, which could be anything from returning a problematic phonecall or sitting down to write at your designated time, you have two choices: the first is to get it over with, and the second is to put it off. You can’t put it off entirely, as this is something that you have to do. What putting it off does is make you stress about it. That frog sits there on your desk getting bigger and uglier, but he doesn’t go away. He ruins your day.
So first thing in the morning? Grab the goddamn frog and choke that baby down. Get it over with, and then you can face the rest of your day with the relief of knowing that you got the hard stuff out of the way first.
Wise words, and I’ll always be thankful for them.
If you write or paint or do anything creative, you reach a point where you pretty much need to put it out there and invite people to
take potshotsgive their opinion about it. Unless you keep your work locked into a closet somewhere, of course – but that seems both selfish and cowardly, and ultimately unfulfilling.
It’s a bit like being naked in public. Yes, that dream, that horrible dream where you’re in class and you’ve forgotten your homework and everyone is laughing at you because you’re naked. That one, exactly.
So I imposed on family and asked them to read my poor book. And then I almost had a panic attack. Sitting in class naked? It would almost be easier.
And again, new covers. It is amusing me how difficult this actually is…none of these are right, even now. There is no urgency, of course…just the frustration of wanting to get it right. Some or the artwork is rough/not fully painted, as these are mockups. The initial covers are here.
Revised and new versions:
Well, the book seems to be stuck with the working title, as I’ve got absolutely nothing else. Title fail.
Below are two covers that I have been thinking about, one more literal and one a bit more simple/abstract. The story is (without giving away what it’s a retelling of) an it-happened-all-in-one-night mad chase through various fairytales and through the middle of a war between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts. It is steampunk fantasy, and would be placed somewhere between Middle Grade (as in the first Harry Potter book) and YA (as in the darker books which the series ended with).
Which cover would you be prompted to click through to if you saw it on Amazon? Which would catch your eye, and why? I think I fell into a quite unexpected trap, which is that I am having trouble visualising a cover for my own work because I am too close to it. In a recent post by Joel Friedlander, Book Cover Design and the Problem of Symbolism, he writes:
The problem is that authors are so attached to their own symbolism or to an image they have lodged in their mind that would be “perfect” for the book cover, they lose sight of the role their book cover is intended to play. One of the quickest ways to kill any good effect of your book cover is to include too many elements. In fact, this is one of the most common failures of amateur designers.
Yep, I’m there right now. So since I can evidently no longer see this objectively, what do you think? Images after the cut.
Deep into the second day of inputting all of the changes from the copyedit, I was going through one scene and realised that I had totally channelled Badger from Firefly as one of the characters. I literally hear Badger’s voice in my head when I read the scene, as I probably did when I wrote it. How odd.
I also realised during the edit that there was a whole section where I used the names Tyler (one of the main characters) and Toby (a talking dog) interchangeably. Now that kind of shit is confusing. Aside from that? Not a massive amount of changes, as those will wait until I can get people to read it for me and provide some feedback. I use too many damn commas. Aside from that? At this point I still enjoy re-reading it, which is something.
Next come the illustrations. *panic mode commences*
I’m doing a first rewrite on my story. I’m doing it ass backwards, of course (why would I do it any other way?) because there are still a few bits and pieces that need to be written. I’m hoping that during the course of the copyedit, and the rewrite of things that I know are weak or missing entirely, those missing bits will just come naturally. Hey, what do I know? I never did this before. :)
What I have learned, however, is that printing off a book manuscript makes a huge pile of dead trees. I have temporarily hidden this massive stack of paper underneath my scanner, so it won’t scare me. I’m sort of kidding…and sort of not. Tomorrow I jump in, with my editing articles* bookmarked and my red pens ready.
If anyone would like to do a reading exchange at some point, let me know. I haven’t let anyone read this, not husband or friends or family, but after I have a solid draft I wouldn’t mind getting some opinions.
*Editing & Revision Tips:
How to Revise A Novel by Holly Lisle
One-Pass Manuscript Revision by Holly Lisle
After starting my first writing project during NaNoWriMo, I started following a lot of writing-related people via Twitter and my feed reader. Some people get it very right, and it’s a joy to have a tiny vicarious window into their world. If they’re someone who writes books that I love, so much the better. But some people get it very, very wrong.
My last job was for a digital marketing agency; I headed the web team and SEO teams, and I learned a lot about building social media platforms for businesses. Social media is one of those things that everyone thinks they can do. Every man and his dog does Facebook and Twitter, amiright? How hard can it be? In truth it is very, very easy to get social media wrong and do your brand more harm than good. In fact, if you are a single person (rather than a corporation) and you think of yourself in terms of a brand, you’re probably already doing it wrong – just a guess.
There was a recent blog post that I read (as someone had linked it from Twitter, showing the importance of social media and sharing) entitled How to Network Without Networking by Nathan Bransford. One of his points was a very good one: Do Not Think of Your Network as a Network
“I don’t have a network, I have friends. And I’m really serious about this.
The thing about the word “networking” is that it has a mercenary edge to it, like we’re just going to get to know each other because of what we can get out of each other. And not only is that completely icky, it doesn’t work.
Because who wants to get to know someone else just because of what they can get out of them? How shallow is that relationship, and how is either party really motivated to help each other out when the time comes?
Find the people who you like and whose work you genuinely admire, and invest in those people. Become friends with those people. Don’t force it, don’t do it because they’re successful, do it because you like them and actually want to help them out.
Obviously when your network expands you can’t invest equally in everyone who is investing in you, but give of yourself what you can and treat people with respect and pretty soon you’ll be surrounded by amazing people that you’ll feel incredibly lucky to know.”
What he said. Treat people like people, make friends, have interesting conversations with those people. Do not push out status updates as though you were some corporate flack who had been handed the Social Media hat.
I unfollowed a writer yesterday because she had tweeted links to a post ironically entitled something like How To Build a Social Media Platform Without Pissing People Off. She posted these links every two hours or so, and I unfollowed her after six of them. How rude is that? Seriously, if you treat your posts like a sale at WalMart, why should I be forced to listen to your advertising? Be a person, post something interesting or funny or silly. Don’t be a hack.
Here are some things that I think work, and don’t work:
1. Post links to a recent post or article perhaps twice, well spaced out (for different timezone peeps). A friend said that three times is acceptable, and I would agree but say that three times during one day would make me notice it and start to get a bit irritated. Use your judgement. Any more than three times during a day is too much.
2. The same applies to Facebook status updates – don’t post the same thing over and over again. With Facebook’s recent changes it is hit or miss that people will actually see page statuses in their feeds, but still. (Facebook, yor doin it rong!).
3. Be a real boy. (Or girl, but that stretches the Pinocchio metaphor a bit.) People follow you because they want to know about the real you – be funny if you can, introspective, post links to things that you like and tell us about the stupid thing you just did. Be real – we want to know the person behind the books or the art, we want to know you. I think that Nathan Fillion is a master at this – although a very busy actor, he seems like one of the coolest, most down to earth and self-deprecating guys in the world. Captain Tightpants totally rules.
4. If you have a blog (and you should) make sure that your feed shows entire posts rather than excerpts. I generally unsubscribe to people who force me to leave the reader and go to their blog to read a post – that’s why I use a reader, folks. I read a lot of blogs and want them all in one place.
5. Have links/icons to your RSS feed, Twitter, Facebook page, etc., in a prominent place on your blog – don’t make people search for them. (I am guilty of that right now, since I can’t ftp onto the server right now.)
6. Don’t use Livejournal, ever. Those days are long over. Use a more modern, open system such as WordPress or even Blogger (although I am not a fan of Blogger – go WordPress if you’re smart). Even Tumblr is ok for short posts and pics.
Mainly what is comes down to is just having respect for your followers and readers. Talk to them, don’t broadcast or advertise. Remember that you are a person and not a brand.
Examples of people who do it right:
- Neil Gaiman
- Steven Lewis
- Felicia Day
- Nathan Fillion
- Laurell K. Hamilton
- Will Wheaton
- Chuck Wendig
I read a post tonight about Alice in Wonderland by C. M. Rubin, which someone had retweeted. It made an interesting point regarding the reader’s imagination and illustrated books.
“The other thing that we have actually focused a lot on in the exhibition is that when the original manuscript was created, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) included pictures. The pictures were an integral part of the story. There aren’t actually a lot of descriptions of the book’s characters including Alice. Instead, on the first page of the original manuscript, there is a picture of Alice. It doesn’t tell us that Alice wears this kind of a dress or has this kind of hair. It leaves it very open for generation after generation to reinvent Alice. In our exhibition there are Alices from the 1930’s, Alices from the 1960’s, and even more contemporary Alices. Each generation has been able to reinvent Alice in the style of that generation. This says something about the richness of the book too. Each generation finds it appealing and wants to contribute something new.”
This is an interesting point for me personally, since the project that I am currently working on is a re-working of a turn-of-the-century children’s story. The original (or at least the version that I have) was illustrated by Herbert Paus in a watercolour Art Deco-ish style – lovely, but a bit dated for today, and the illustrations were essential for the story. I know that there may not be a market for illustrated books today (at least you know in advance that you are greatly stacking the deck against yourself if you are trying to market one), but it really needs the art to accompany the story. What I would really love to do is slightly animated panels done with HTML5, where trees and grass and clouds move. Perhaps one day I’ll do it – I would love to see see it on an iPad. :)
But anyway – back to the article. Since I’ve taken a children’s book and updated it to an alternative-reality Victorian London, with other fairy tales woven into the original story and all of the scary or disturbing bits emphasised more than you could have done for Victorian-era children, I’m very much in favour of updating old tales while remaining true to the essence of the story. That was the most difficult thing during the bulk of what I wrote, actually – keeping true to the core story while twisting it. I’d fallen in love with it as a child, and I didn’t want to show it disrespect in my rendition of the tale. Time will tell if I succeeded, I suppose.
Is the little girl with the blonde bob in 1913 still the same girl that lives in my story, even though she is now several years older, of mixed race, and quite capable of defending herself against anything from rough men on London streets to giant black wolves and the Queen of the Unseelie Court? I very much hope so.
While I was doing NaNoWriMo, I bookmarked a lot of writing blogs. I’d always read blogs by authors that I loved, of course, but for the first time I read blogs on the actual art and craft of writing. I’m not sure how much of everything that I read actually soaked in, but I figured that it couldn’t hurt. :)
A partial list is below:
- Terribleminds by Chuck Wendig -Smart, funny, sensible advice and lots of bad language. I’m a sucker for intelligent and funny people who cuss a lot. Read this blog even if you don’t read any others.
- Let’s Get Digital, by David Gaughran
- Jeff Goins, Writer
- Being Human at Electric Speed by Jane Friedman
- A Brain Scientist’s Take on Writing by Livia Blackburne
- M J Wright
- Pretentious Title by Rachel Aaron
- Rachelle Gardner
- Novel Writing Tips & Fundamentals by Storyfix.com
- The Book Deal by Alan Rinzler
- The Creative Penn
- Writer Unboxed
- Nail Your Novel, by Roz Morris
And some writers’ resources that really helped:
- How to Get Published, from AKW Books
- NaNoWriMo Tips from Galleycat
- How to Revise a Novel by Holly Lisle
- One-Pass Manuscript Revision by Holly Lisle
Thanks to all of the folks who take the time to share their knowledge and resources – your work and and generosity is very much appreciated!
So sad tonight. News of Anne McCaffrey’s death was all over Twitter, then it was confirmed. Her books have meant so much to me since my teens, and I still have a shelf of them that I re-read. So very sad tonight.