Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Five Stages of Writing a Book

1. The Idea

One of the most magical times for the writer, the idea phase can include daydreaming, staring off into space, goofy smiles, and ecstatic babbling to friends and family. The writer is hopeful, confident, and convinced that this idea is THE. BEST. IDEA. EVER.

No, seriously.

2. Writing

 Now the rubber meets the road, and it usually isn't pretty. There are sleepless nights, screams of frustration, and occasionally entire ice cream cakes consumed. Some writers grimly park themselves in front of the keyboard and type until they have met their word count goals, while other writers employ brilliant strategies of procrastination, like cleaning the garage or mopping the floor or working on other writing projects. Somehow, painfully, the book is written.

3. Editing

Although complete, the book is inevitably a disgusting mess of run-on sentences splattered with adverbs and dripping with excessive similes. The writer must now take a knife to the precious manuscript, ruthlessly killing his or her darlings with the stoicism of a Roman soldier. More ice cream cake is consumed.

4. Self Doubt

This stage may actually appear during many of the other stages. In this stage, the writer may lie on the floor and moan, curl in a fetal position, or obsessively search for alternative jobs. Self doubt can be particularly acute during the editing stage.

5. Bookmoon

The bookmoon stage can occur before or after editing, when the writer feels that the manuscript is complete and perfect and unlike any other manuscript ever born from a writer's sweat, tears, and over-consumption of ice cream cake. Like a honeymoon, the bookmoon is a time when the world is viewed through a glow of happiness and the illusion of perfection.The bookmoon phase often lasts until querying begins.

When it melts like cotton candy in the sun.

At this point the writer may feel somewhat disillusioned. She realizes the story is not the most special story ever written. It may not even be brilliant. Just good. Maybe even just good enough. She comes to terms with this, and moves on. She feels mature, grounded, and worldly-wise.

And then, the writer gets ANOTHER idea ...

And it's the BEST. IDEA. EVER.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Author Interviews

I'm hoping to introduce a few new things around the blog, and one thing I thought would be fun--author interviews. I would LOVE to help you spread the word about your book.

So, if you're a fiction author (indie, traditional, small press, Big Six, WHATEVER) and you want to be interviewed on the Southern Scrawl blog, shoot me an email at katydid05(at)gmail(dot)com!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Letting the Story Marinate

I am an analogy fiend. I pretty much think in pictures, and I relate to things by finding similar things I can compare the new thing to in my head. So forgive me if I use a lot of analogies … they work for me.

So anyway, I’m working on a new project, but I really have several WIPs on the table, because of my style of writing. I’m what Mark Twain called a Tank-Filler, meaning that I have to give myself time to let the creative tank fill up sometimes, even in the middle of a project. It’s terribly inconvenient for a deadline. So I try to start working on projects far in advance. Or rather, I marinate them.

If you’ve ever grilled steak, you probably marinated it first. You pull it out of the fridge, put it in a dish, pour the marinade over the meat, cover it with foil, and put it back in the fridge. It may not look like you’ve started cooking yet, and technically you haven’t, but this is an important part of the process.

When I have an idea, I pull it out, ruminate on it, figure out the characters, plot the story, etc. Sometimes I even write 3-5 chapters of the beginning, just to get a feel for the characters and the setting. But this is all prep work. I do all this stuff, and then I put it back for a while in the “fridge.” Because inevitably, I’ll have an even better idea for some key plot point a few days or weeks or even months later, and then I get the click and THEN I can really start. Because once I have the click, I have the voice, and the theme, and the emotional resonance.

I used to just start writing as soon as I had a good idea, and I would just try to muscle through the story whether I knew what I was doing with voice/theme/etc or not. This generally led to me throwing out large chunks of story and starting over. (I still have to do that sometimes, mind you, whether I wait for the story to marinate or not. It isn’t a magic bullet.)

But it’s good (for me, at least) to let the stories marinate awhile too. The best part is that I can do that while writing something else.

Multitasking! *jazz hands*

Do you let stories marinate? Or do you charge into them right away, as soon as you have the idea? What works better for YOU?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Roller Coasters and Writing: Experiencing the Click

If you've ever ridden a wooden roller coaster, maybe you remember how it goes--first the car leaves the station with a hiss of releasing brakes and a slight jerk. Usually the track twists a little, sometimes there's a slight dip to get the cars moving a little faster, and then there's the incline. You begin to go up the first hill based on speed gained through gravity alone, and then ... there's a jerk and a click as the safety rachet engages, and then a clack clack clack clack clack as the cars are dragged to the top.

And then you're flying.

Sometimes writing a book feels a bit like a roller coaster to me. And I don't mean that in the emotional way--although it definitely has those aspects too--but what I wanted to focus on is that click.

I can't write the book until I experience it, actually.

When I first think up a story and all the elements--characters, setting, conflict, resolution--everything is jumbled up. I can't see how it all flows together. I fumble with the characters, sifting through their personalities, weaknesses, strengths, trying to understand what makes them tick and what motivates them. I ruminate on the world and what challenges the setting presents. Sometimes I get impatient and try to start writing, only to delete chapters of material later. See, I'm waiting for the click.

Once it happens, the story grabs hold of me and drags me forward. Everything (voice, emotional resonance, theme) rushes together in a moment of clarity, and I can really begin, because now it all makes sense. It's like being pulled up that first hill. Then everything starts moving really, really fast.

I'm not sure how this could be taught or learned, or even adequately described. It's very instinctive to me, and based completely on intuition.

Do you ever experience "the click?"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tips for Staying Focused on Your Writing

1.       Turn on computer.
2.       Open book file.
3.       Stare at blank page for a while.
4.       Check email JUST IN CASE an agent has emailed you begging to represent you.
5.       Check Twitter because YOU NEVER KNOW if @JKRowling has replied to you.
6.       Check Blogger because MAYBE?? your following has quadrupled since last night.
7.       Check CNN to see if pigs have started flying.
8.       Unfortunately, pigs still aren’t flying.
9.       Repeat steps 3-6. Twice.
10.   Write 1 sentence.
11.   Delete it.
12.   Write another sentence.
13.   Take a break and make moaning sounds while holding your head in a fetal position tell yourself you can do this.
14.   Get a drink of water.
15.   Scour youtube for videos of sheep fainting the internet for inspiration.
16.   Return to your word document.
17.   Count number of words written.
18.   Total word count: 11
19.   Decide you are going to be a physical therapist or something equally random instead of a writer.
20.   Eat ice cream cake.
21.   Feel better.
22.   Try again.
23.   And again.
24.   And AGAIN.

And again and again and again. Until you have a book.

(I don't always have this problem, FORTUNATELY! But some days I just. can't. write. a. word.)
Do you know the feeling?

Monday, April 18, 2011

First Cover Reveal

Happy Monday, everybody!

I am about a month away from the launch date for my first indie book, The Curse Girl. And that means ... a tentative, experimental, maybe-not-final-but-maybe-final cover reveal!!

* drumroll *

Notes about the cover:
* Do you like it?
* I made it myself, and I have zero design experience, so hopefully it isn't too terrible *bites nails*
* It cost me about $6 for a couple stock photos and putting them together/changing the colors/tweaking everything took me a few hours.
* I know some people (many people?) are not fans of "face" covers. I usually am not either. But this was easiest, trust me.
* More on the face thing ... I feel a good cover should do three things: 1) be colorful/interesting enough to catch a reader's eye, 2) clearly display the title, and 3) evoke some sense of the story's mood. Hopefully this cover does all those things, and if it does, then I am satisfied.
* MOST PRESSING QUESTION ~ Do you hate the way the C and G cross? I personally like it, but then the style/positioning of the words themselves gave me the most problems, and this seems to work, and I have probably lost all objectivity at this point. I wanted to do something slightly stylized without overpowering the sparkles in the background (and I could not find a script-ish font that worked for me and had a good, non-weird C and G), so I opted for simple and did the cross thing. If everyone HATES it I can change it. The only feedback I've gotten so far was positive, but that was just my husband and he is easy to please. But he specifically mentioned liking it--I didn't even ask.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

The New Motto Around Here

My Latin may be a bit rusty, but I'm fully fluent in AWESOME. Take that, zombies!

Did I mention I'm Team Unicorn?

Thursday, April 14, 2011



1. a period of euphoria following the completion of a WIP, during which the author feels that nothing has or could ever be as perfect as the finished manuscript.
2. an unrealistic adoration of an author for her book.
3. the glow an author experiences after editing and before being critiqued/rejected by betas, reviewers, or agents.

a mashup of the words honeymoon and book, created by me to describe the weird, giddy, almost obsessive love authors can experience for their precious manuscripts.

--Related forms
bookmooning, verb

love, obsession.

pessimism, realism.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Joys of Editing

I'm not really a fan of editing. I guess it's sort of a letdown after the rush of finishing something. HOWEVER I am a "fan" of editing in the sense that I think it makes everything way way way better. So it's good and necessary. But it SUCKS.

Right now I'm editing The Curse Girl, my first indie project. I'm feeling especially pressured to catch all the typos and problems that normally I wouldn't be as worried about, since I'm not going to have an actual editor to help me some day before it goes out to the reading public. I'm in the thick of things right now, and as usual, I feel the tiniest bit overwhelmed because there's a sea of words and only one me.

So I wanted to ask you guys ... how do you edit? Do you read through first and then go back and change stuff? Do you break it into chunks or try to do it in one Red Bull-fueled, fell swoop? I've been all over the board with editing through the last year years, and I'm trying to come up with a solid strategy for myself.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Pros and Cons of Indie Authorship

When I was considering going indie, I made a list of pros and cons. I wanted to share it in case anyone was interested:

* write what you want, not 1) only what is expected to be popular in two years or 2) what agents and editors aren't sick of seeing
* no long, soul-sucking query process
* creative freedom to manage all aspects of the book yourself (title, cover art, editing, release date, subsequent sequels)
* freedom to manage your books the way you want (price, distribution, marketing)
* high royalties (as high as 70% for books of a certain price on Amazon)
* author retains all rights
* complete control of one's career
* ability to release as many books as desired according to the author's schedule, rather than only one or two a year.

Annnd then, the cons list is sort of similar in some aspects:

* no backing from a reputable publisher that might otherwise prompt people to buy your book sight unseen
* brand new ways to be rejected, through reviews, book bloggers, and people who look down on indies
* creative responsibility to manage all aspects of the book yourself (or pay someone else to do it) (title, cover art, editing, release date, etc)
* responsibility for business aspects (distribution, formatting, marketing, price)
* no advance
* lack of distribution/exposure in some places (for instance physical bookstores, libraries, school book lists)
* stigma in the minds of some people (they'll expect shoddy editing, terrible writing, etc)
* not applicable for SFWA and other writer organizations, not eligible for various prestigious awards, etc

As I see it, a lot of the pros are also cons--it just depends on the individual person. For me, the idea of being involved in the cover art and the business aspects gives me a thrill. It'll be a challenge, sure, but it sounds like a load of fun. For others, the thought of formatting their manuscript or doing all the marketing themselves might give them hives. And that's okay. It's not for everybody. I don't even know if it's for me! I have to try it first.

Some of the cons (like the lack of distribution in certain areas and the inability to be a part of certain writing organizations) are reasons I'd still like to be traditionally published too. Of course, who knows how/when that will all change in the future. Indie authors are now eligible to be on the USA Today's Bestseller List, for instance.

When it came down to it, a lot of the things that deter people from indie publishing actually attracted me. It just depends on the person and their goals and desires for their career. I don't know how this will work out, but I'm excited to give it a try.

Can you think of anything I missed?

Monday, April 4, 2011

In Which I Announce A Huge Decision

I'm trying out a new path.  Photo (C) John Hudson

"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm." - Sir Winston Churchill.*

Today I'm sharing something that ties my stomach up in KNOTS. I'm making a slight change in direction. I'm not really sure how big this decision is, or where it will take me. So I'm a bit nervous about it. But at the same time, I don't feel like I have much to lose. And I'm EXCITED about it.

Short story: Basically, I'm going to indie publish some books. (Okay, technically novellas, more about that later).

Long story: So I have heard the advice about self publishing over and over since I began writing with the intent to publish, and I totally agreed with it. (I still agree with it, at least a lot of it, when it comes to print self publishing). I didn't want to try to sell my books to bookstores, have to drum up the money to print off a bunch of copies that might never sell, etc. Then along came ebooks. And everything changed. Suddenly there were ways to be in a "bookstore" (like the Kindle store) without having a big six publisher. Distribution problems were solved. You didn't need a ton of money up front. And so on.

 I mean, you've probably been hiding under a rock if you haven't at least heard about the possibilities of indie publishing lately. The internet has exploded with articles and posts and tweets about it. JA Konrath, Amanda Hocking, Zoe Winters ... etc, etc. These people are making serious money and living their dreams. But let me back up. That isn't really what this is about.

So I write a LOT. I've been writing about 3 years now, and I've been pretty prolific in that time span. To illustrate: I sat down to make a list of my projects the other day and I made three columns. Finished, In Progress, and Just Ideas. The finished column had about 8 books in it. The In Progress column had about fifteen. The Just Ideas had about 5. I say "about" because I keep adding stuff as I remember/find it on my hard drive. And that last column is just fully fleshed out ideas, not even counting all the fragments and snippets floating around in my head every day.

Sometimes I get pretty discouraged about all these ideas. Only so many of them are what I'd consider "agent viable," and the rest get put on the back burner indefinitely (or they are written in guilt, with me fretting the whole time about wasting my precious writing time and energy on stuff that isn't going to sell in this incredibly competitive market.)** Heck, forget selling. It isn't going to get a partial request from an agent, let alone ever seen an editor, because it isn't what's hot. (Now, I don't want to sound bitter. I understand how the process works, and I understand why agents and editors make the choices they do. To some extent, I think the process is broken, but I don't hate the people involved in traditional publishing. Not by a long shot! I think they are passionate about books just like me. I'm just saying the system has a lot to do with luck and a lot to do with things I can't control).

Basically, as much as the business part of "guessing the next big thing" is a part of the process for most writers, I have come to HATE IT. I hate it because it kills my creativity and makes me jaded. I can't write what I want to write. Instead I feel like I have to write what I think will sell.

Let me take a time out to say this might not be everyone's problem, and people might point out that I should just focus on "writing a good book." Since I am so swamped with ideas right now (and I think they're all good--author's bias!), I am paralyzed by the idea that I could spent 3-4 months slaving over something and then discover I should have been working on idea #16, which is much further down the line, and so basically I just have to throw what I'm working on away forever and start again. I don't have 1 or 2 books I'm trying to write. I have dozens. So I just end up being anxious and frustrated that I will do all this work for nothing over and over. I want to know that I can at least share it with some sort of readership when I'm done, and it won't be all for nothing.

Back to business. I'm not against being smart or knowing the business--I think it's necessary. But it's very hard for me to reconcile that with with myself while I'm trying to create the art. I have stories that beg to be written, but I just keep asking myself, what's the point? This isn't going to sell. And it ends up just making me not want to write at all.

Anyway, I had this idea for my novella The Curse Girl about 2 months ago. I really liked the idea because it was whimsical and fun, and I started working on it even though I knew I wasn't going to query the finished product. I told myself maybe I could make it a short story, but it got way too long for that and turned into a novella. I didn't want to make it a novel, and now it was too long for a short story by a long shot. So I resigned myself to finishing it and giving it to a handful of friends to read. The end.

But then I read Amanda Hocking's post about her indie publishing success (this was from August of last year, before she became a millionaire and got a movie deal and a traditional publishing deal, etc). She was just writing books and selling them and it was working for her. I was entranced--but to be honest, I was more thrilled with the idea of complete freedom, flexibility, and creative control she talked about more than anything else. There was a way to actually make money (not necessarily a lot of money, but then, you haven't seen my paychecks ... I'm not getting rich at my day job), reach readers, and still call the shots? I could decide when to publish, what covers I wanted? I could write whatever I wanted--sci fi, fantasy, etc without fretting endlessly over staying in one niche genre because that's all the agent I was trying to get would rep?

I started daydreaming about it in a totally hypothetical way. I told my husband, "Of course I'm not actually going to indie publish, but if I DID, this is what the cover would look like, and this is what I'd do..." Then one day I sat down and said, "What if I did indie publish this novella?" And I discovered I really wanted to do it. I did some research--would this blacklist me to agents forever? Would this somehow ruin my writing career, or like the short stories, would it enhance and strengthen it? I was getting more and more intrigued by the minute.

Fortunately for me, this is exactly when everything indie started to get big. The day after I said to myself that I MIGHT want to indie publish The Curse Girl, I hopped online and it seemed like everybody either was an indie author, or talking about one. Information poured into my lap. I started getting excited. But here's the REALLY cool thing:

I started writing like crazy again. The stress of "writing something commercially viable" vanished, and I could just lock myself away and write again. I got about 5 new ideas for books and started working on about 5 others again. The rush of creative energy overwhelmed me--in a good way. I haven't been this excited since before I started querying in the first place. Basically, I had some sort of sense of hope again. But here's the funny thing--I came up with several ideas that WERE commercially viable. I feel like I've gotten a just shot of confidence in every single area of my writing life.

Basically, indie publishing gives a lot of freedom, and that is incredibly attractive to me right now. I don't expect to make a ton of money, and I don't expect to get famous or become the next Amanda Hocking, just to be clear! I'm not all starry-eyed about becoming the Next Big Thing. I DO, however, expect to keep telling stories. Lots of them. This is one more way to do that.

This blog post is becoming turning behemoth, so I'll wrap it up. Basically, let me state what I'm not doing.

I'm NOT "going indie" completely or giving up on being traditionally published (I mostly say this so if I ever do become modestly successful, ha, and then turn to traditional publishing, people can't say I sold out). I asked several agents if they cared if someone querying them had been indie published, and they said no. Bonus points if I still haven't given away my debut novel virginity (hence, novellas, at least for now). I'm also NOT bitter or angry at traditional publishing. I'm just trying to explore all my options. One thing I love about this day and age is the plethora of choices I have when it comes to my career. Like with short stories, I'm trying something new. I don't know if I'm going to stick with it forever or how it will turn out, but I know I will massively regret never trying.

Oh, I'm also NOT turning this blog into an indie soapbox or anything, so if you aren't indie-inclined don't worry. I'm interested in writing, period.

Tomorrow I'll put up my list of pros and cons for both indie and traditional publishing, at least as it relates me me and my writing, so stay tuned!

Is anybody out there indie published, or thinking about it? Do you have any advice? Thoughts?

* I don't think I've really FAILED at anything, unless you count my massive list of rejections as failing. But I still find this quote incredibly inspiring, especially as I start this new leg of my writing journey.

** For instance, if I want to write a vampire novel I really CAN'T write one in traditional publishing. Nobody is buying them anymore, it seems, although readers seem to still be buying them in droves (See Amanda Hocking's books). And if I start writing a dystopian or something else that's really hot right now, I'll fret the entire time about whether or not the market will be saturated by the time I've finished it, edited it, polished it, and sent it off to agents. Not to mention the two years or so until it's published IF it gets sold. So the market viability is a huge thing on my mind, and it creates an enormous amount of pressure for me.

Friday, April 1, 2011

How Do You Feel About Love Triangles?

I was rereading one of my favorite contemporary YA books the other day, Scarlett Fever, and it has a love triangle,* and that got me started thinking about love triangles in books in general.

I’ve been trying to decide whether or not I like them.
First, let’s define a love triangle. I’m talking about REAL love triangles. Not a genuine love interest and then some sort of relationship red herring, or a jerk who is being forced on the heroine, or so forth … for instance, once I was reading this review for the movie Titanic (it was part of some series where the movie critics reviewed uber-famous movies they’d never seen, which was why I was reading a review for a movie from the 90’s in like 2009, anyway, I digress) and the critic spent a really long time talking about the “love triangle.” Okay, hold up. That was not a love triangle. Rose most certainly didn’t love the douche bag. (The critic even went on the bemoaned countless plots where the girl can't wake up to the fact that the guy’s a jerk. I was like, did you watch the movie?) Another instance... Wickham in Pride and Prejudice is just a red herring. That's not a love triangle. I don't think anybody was rooting for that relationship to work out.

No, when I say “love triangle” I mean a character is genuinely torn between love, or at least attraction, to two other characters, both of whom have a legitimate chance of being chosen in the reader’s mind.

Now, I was thinking about all this, and about the plethora of romance-related geometrical shapes I’ve seen lately in YA in general, and I starting wondering.

What is so popular about them?

1) I think the easy answer is that, at least when it’s a girl and two guys (and the reader is a girl), it’s a very powerful ego trip if you’re vicariously living through the character and she's got two men fighting over her. Which is kind of funny too, because honestly, the situation really sucks in real life and you would not want it to happen to you. I was stuck in a so-called love triangle for about six months when I was in college (Long story short, it was awful, and I got accused of all sorts of things, including just stringing them both along for the attention, which I was NOT doing). Real life love triangles suck.**

2) But then on the other hand, they have TONS of drama involved, and drama drives books. So there’s that. Love triangles give you endless potential for stories surrounding the relationship, I suppose.

3) But the other thing, which occurred to me the other day (and I’d never thought of it this way before), is that a genuine love triangle actually shakes up the expectations a little. You know the drill. Love stories are fun, but predictable. Two characters meet, fall in love, overcome obstacles to be together. Nice, but you know what’s coming. With a love triangle, there is some genuine guessing going on as to who the character will end up with, and maybe people dig that. (Although SOMETIMES it's pretty obvious, and people are deluding themselves).

I think I lean slightly towards the “dislike” side of the spectrum when it comes to love triangles, for a single reason. I almost always favor the wrong couple, and it SUCKS! I get very emotionally invested in the cathartic payoff of this fictional relationship, and then … nope. Nada. Nothing. (Although to be fair, I didn’t read Hunger Games for the love story. That was tangential for me. So I didn’t mind too much that she went with Peeta … I expected it. Plus Gale was sort of a dick in the third book). I don’t even like the winning*** guy best in the love triangles in MY books! (I only have two books that have anything approaching a love triangle, and in both cases I came to prefer the guy who I knew would not end up with the girl, for character/circumstantial reasons. I was totally powerless to change it, too…)

Maybe I’m just a sucker for the underdog. Okay, I KNOW I’m a sucker for the underdog.

So at the end of the day I sort of dislike love triangles, because no matter what happens, a portion of the fans are going to be disappointed. As a writer, that upsets me. I want to make everyone happy (which is probably a huge weakness, but I digress). I know I can’t make everyone happy. But still. And as a reader … well. I’ve almost started avoided books with love triangles because seriously. Every. Stinking. Time. 

I'm a bit of a hypocrite, however, because I still totally write love triangles. Sometimes. It's not my general habit, but it happens. They can be fun, if you favor the winning duo, so to speak.

What do you think about love triangles, and why?

*I am VERY worried about the Suite Scarlett series, by the way, and the outcome of that love triangle. I don’t like Eric very much at all, and I adore Max. And I have a terrible track record when it comes to these things.

** Some people get really critical about it and accuse the person in the triangle of nasty things, like just being a slut, etc. Having been in the situation, I can attest that it's a really difficult place to be and I think people are way too hard on the character sometimes. But yes, it's easy to get annoyed about it if you've never been there. Or even if you have.****

***Winning is said slightly tongue-in-cheek. I realize it's not about winning (silence, Charlie Sheen!)

****Also I feel like there's more judgment against a female with two males interested in her than against a male with two females interested in him. Hmm.


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