Sunday, January 26, 2014

Game Plan in the Works

Football may be what everyone is talking about these days but my Game Plan has nothing to do with the Super Bowl.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m thrilled our Seahawks have made it to the Super Bowl…they deserve a shot at the title and I’d love to see them win.
No, my Game Plan is personal.  My Game Plan is going to help keep me inspired and moving forward.  My Game Plan will give me direction, motivation and results to help me monitor my progress.

Why do I need a Game Plan? 
Because I want to continue to be inspired and I don’t want to get stuck just going through the motions.  I want to continue to have a passion for writing, a yearning to continue to learn more about the craft, and I want to continue to feel inspired so that the ideas just flow through me like water from a faucet. 

Everyone needs some kind of plan so they know what they want, what it will take to get the results they need and what the next step will be once those results are achieved.  We always have some kind of plan, whether on paper or in the back of our minds, but sometimes the plan gets fuzzy, or it fizzles out, or too many gray areas take over so that we may become side tracked from the original plan.  The desired end result may never change but sometimes, when the daily grind of every-day life threatens to suffocate your muse, you have to get serious, take control, and put together a plan of attack, aka a Game Plan. 
So, here’s what my Game Plan is going to be…

  • I’m going to continue to write as often as I can and when life gets tricky and keeps me away from my writing longer than I’d like, I’ll make up for it the best I can but I won’t beat myself up about it in the process.  The negative thoughts and self-loathing attitude that can come from believing we aren’t doing well enough is something I’d like to remain free from. 
  • I’m going to join at least one, maybe two writers associations.  I’ve meant to do this for some time but just kept putting it off.  Now, I’m come to realize I probably missed out on a number of opportunities by not taking part in a local writers association and I look forward to joining an established group who I can continue to learn from and where I can relate to other writers.
  • I’m going to finish editing the proof of a short ghost story I wrote over the holidays as a gift for my kids and I will make it available for others as an eBook and as a small paperback.  I really hadn’t thought too much about writing short stories but after finishing this one, I discovered just how much fun they are to write and how rewarding it is to be able to offer something else in between the books in my series. 
  • Because short stories give that extra bit of satisfaction, I’m going to play around with the idea of trying to write and publish a couple of short stories a year in between my regular books.  Short stories are a great way of dabbling in other genres and it will also help me strengthen my writing skills.
  • I’m going to take a chance again and enter one of my books in a contest – this time Best Kept Secrets will feel the brunt of scrutiny by judges but I have to step away from the fear and take a shot because you just never know what might happen.
  • I’ll continue to study the craft and while blogs and websites do offer quite a lot of useful information, I’m going to focus again on actual books on the craft and I will study them like the student I am.  The knowledge I gain from these books will continue to inspire me and the very act of reading will keep my eyes on the prize rather than on the World Wide Web where my thoughts can be so easily sidetracked. 
  • I’m going to make plans to attend an upcoming book fair I was recently made aware of which will occur in Seattle at the end of February.  While I won’t be able to take time off to attend the annual conference, I do look forward to attending what will be one of the largest book fairs I’m sure I will ever view first hand. 
As I write, I will continue to learn and as I learn, I will continue to write.  That’s all any writer can do.  And with this Game Plan under my belt, I look forward to the inspiration that will continue to fuel my passion for writing and move me even closer to the future I see for myself as a writer. 

Short story coming soon!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Unproductive Blogger = Productive Writer

I’ve been on hiatus from my blog, partly due to no choice of my own because my Internet connection was completely lost for a few days, and then partly due to the need to stay focused on what was important…my writing.  It’s only been a week and a half since I last offered a blog post but for the time I was unproductive as a blogger, I was very productive as a writer.

Blogging is a form of writing but it’s no substitute when you’re writing a book.  What it is, however, is a nice distraction and a way to share thoughts, feelings, fears, annoyances or whatever else comes up during your journey as an author.  Sometimes, though, blogging and any other sort of social media can clutter the mind and take too much energy away from the book at hand so that the author doesn’t fully invest themselves. 

Limiting your thoughts to just one project and fully investing yourself can sometimes mean the difference between what might be a struggle and what might turn into full-blown momentum.  And full-blown momentum is a completely awesome feeling. 

I’ve been working on my third book in the Jorja Matthews’s mystery series and while much of the story has been easy, there was one area in particular that I felt I was forcing.  I finally realized I wasn’t completely sure what was behind the actions of a particular character, which made it difficult to move forward with certain aspects of the story.  I had an idea but yet, I felt there was more to the character’s attitude and intentions than I was giving them credit for.

So, as my characters have done from the beginning of this series, they might let me flounder for a bit but eventually they will tell me what it is they want or why they want it.  You think I’m the one telling them?  No.  It’s a funny thing how this works for me and it may not make sense to some but that’s just the way it goes.  The characters and the stories run through my head and I do my best to make sense of them and get them down on paper.  As it happens with this particular character, I knew there was more to the story but I just couldn’t put my finger on it.  And then, one day last week while I was driving home from work, thoughts about the character kept coming at me until eventually, I finally began to see the bigger picture.  You can’t imagine what a wonderful feeling it is to finally be let in on the secret.

Does that sound just a bit odd to you?

It might.  You might have this picture of me driving and talking to myself as I try to figure out what my characters are up to but I promise…I keep most of the conversation in my head and I try not to move my lips.

All humor aside, it’s the way it works for me.  Even if I don’t get what I need all at once, I’d much rather my characters help me work out the details of their story to better understand their intentions than to force something that will only later feel contrived and uncharacteristic.

Did I miss blogging?  Yes.  Did I mind the break?  No.  The break gave my mind the space needed to allow other thoughts to come through.  And now that I have what I need, the pages of my book are filling up even faster than before.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Breaking in the New Year

We’re at the end of our first full week of 2014 but it seems like more than a week and a half has passed since we rang in the New Year.  This was a long week for me, especially since it’s only the second full week of work I’ve put in at my day job for over two months.  However, it is nice to finally get back on track with a regular routine, even if I still hate the alarm in the morning as much as I always have. 
The New Year means the busy holiday season is over, traffic is not as stressful and I can run errands during my lunch break without swimming against large crowds.  It means way too many weight-loss commercials during re-runs which are showing in place of the continued long breaks from our regular shows.  It means catching glimpses of Valentine’s Day cards and other trinkets for your loved ones right next to decorations for St. Patrick’s Day.  And for some, it also means getting more serious about whatever weight loss resolution you may have made when you see the skinny-mini bikinis already on sale.
What the New Year means for me is getting back to my regularly scheduled program of my life as a writer.  I’ll admit life does get busy off and on throughout the year so that my writing schedule might suffer but the holiday months are definitely the worst.  There are too many distractions with no true schedule so that the time I get to write is more random and less fulfilling.  While the months of January through March are more quiet than most (except for those nasty storms), it’s a good quiet which allows me to savor the moments as I brace myself for what needs to be done to break in the New Year.
And I’m certainly ready.  As I’ve already said, I believe this is going to be a great year.  There are so many more opportunities for indie authors and it’s just going to get better, even if it does get more competitive.  I’ve been reading a few of the predictions other writers have made for the year 2014:  Joe Konrath’s version is here and another recent article by Mark Coker on HuffPost Books is here.  While these predictions may or may not come true and they may or may not affect me, what I do agree with is that the world of publishing is changing very quickly, in good ways and especially for self-published authors, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.
So let’s bring on the New Year!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Please don’t hate the author…

Authors are a fine mix of talent, curiosity, imagination and bravery mixed with a pinch of anxiety and fear.  Okay, sometimes there’s quite a lot of anxiety and fear.  We boldly share what we create from the depths of our heart and soul and while we’d love to say to hell with anyone who doesn’t like what we’ve created, movement towards any type of professional writing success can only occur if we find readers who enjoy our work.  To be really successful, an author has to find many who enjoy their work.

When authors do find a following of readers, it’s a great feeling to know how much others enjoy your work.  It’s amazing to hear readers say they are anxiously waiting for more and the positive feedback helps to inspire the author, especially on any given day when the anxiety and fear want to take hold.
But what happens if an author finds a large following only to later create a story or ending the readers don’t expect or even want?  Readers get sucked into the world of the characters created by the author and become extremely invested in what happens to those characters, especially in a series.  Until recently, I had no idea just how ticked off readers can get if an author decides to go against the grain of what their readers might expect or want in a story.

And it isn’t pretty…
A few days ago I was reading some blog posts, linking from one to the next until I came upon the blog of someone who is now a very well-known author of a trilogy series.  I was reading her FAQ and came upon a post about why she no longer allowed comments to be posted on her blog.  Curious, I read further to discover she disabled the ability for others to leave comments due to some anxiety she had been dealing with.  It saddened me that an author who should be on the ride of her life is also dealing with so much anxiety.  Not stopping there, I moved on to her Facebook page because I thought I might also follow her author page while she continues on her successful journey as an author. 

But what I saw on her Facebook page saddened me even more…
Apparently this author’s large following of fans came from the first two books in the trilogy but the ending of the third book has really set off quite a number of readers.  I was shocked to read some of the comments by so-called fans who now claim to hate this author and said they would never buy another book written by her again.  It was awful to read and after a good number of the same type of comments, I could read no more.

Obviously, many of the fans of this trilogy did not like how the third book ended.  They made that very, very clear.  There were a few people, however, who did give the author positive feedback and who made note of how brave the author was to go against the happily-ever-after ending readers are usually provided with.  It is those positive comments I hope the author pays attention to; rather than the venomous words offered by the others.
While readers usually can expect a happy ending with most stories, that isn’t always the case.  I do get that readers become very invested in what happens with the characters in a series.  I get that they expect to see the characters live happily ever after and ride off into the sunset together.  But like our real lives, stories aren’t always meant to be predictable.  If readers want to read something cozy with a predictable ending, they need to stick with cozy mysteries or romance books that generally end with only warm and fuzzy feelings.  But if readers want to take a wild ride with characters in a new suspenseful series, they need to remember…it’s not the reader’s story.  It’s the story of the characters as told by the author. 

So, please, don’t hate the author.  If the author made the reader feel something, even if it is sadness, it meant the author, through her characters, touched the reader in a very moving way.  That, regardless of what the reader expected, is a talent all authors can only hope to achieve.



Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 is Full of Possibilities

It’s the first day of a new month in a brand new year.  The holidays are now over and most of us have put away the decorations and returned the house back to its normal state.  Some may be feeling sticker shock at how much was spent over the holidays.  Many might be looking forward to using the gift cards they received once the after-holiday crowds have thinned out.  Some may be missing the extra time they were able to spend with family while others may be counting down the days until the kids finally go back to school.
While I did have a terrific holiday with the family, what I like about this time of year is the peace I feel now that everything is back to normal.  No more marathon shopping, last minute preparations, parties to prepare for and to-do lists to check off in full.  More importantly, I can get back on a regular schedule with my writing. 

For me, the New Year means looking back so that I can move forward.  I think about what I’ve accomplished, what worked, what didn’t and how I can change things to move closer to my goals.  While 2013 was a good year for me, I look forward to 2014 with anticipation I haven’t felt for a long time. 

I truly believe this is going to be a great year. 

I’m optimistic that 2014 will move many in a positive direction because it is full of possibilities and promise.  I feel extremely inspired about the coming year and what I can continue to accomplish, not only in my personal life when it comes to family, health and work, but also as I move closer to the goals I have as a writer. 

How do you feel about 2014?  Have you thought back to how 2013 treated you and what you’d like to accomplish this year?  Do you treat each New Year as a clean slate or is the New Year a continuation of steps you’re taking to reach certain goals?  However you view it, I wish you a Happy New Year and I hope 2014 treats you very well.