Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I Beg To Differ

If you’re truly a writer, you write every day. Not because you want to but because you have to.

I didn’t write this quote. I paraphrased it from one I’d seen somewhere else a long time ago. In preparation for this blog, I went searching for it again hoping to use the exact quote and give proper credit to its creator. While I didn’t find what I was looking for, I did find a number of articles devoted to this very topic.

I’ll admit I didn’t read all of the articles. I skimmed over them, but the gist of them was all the same. Writers need to write every day. It polishes their craft and keeps their skills sharp. Those who write every day are not only the masters of their craft but they’re legitimate writers. I’m afraid I’m going to have to respectfully disagree. Not with everything. I don’t dispute that writing every day can sharpen a writer’s abilities. However, I take exception to the fact that it can and must be done every day in order for an individual to be considered a writer.

I’m here to tell you I don’t write every day. Or rather, I don’t make time every day to sit in front of my computer and pound out a few pages. That doesn’t mean I’m not writing. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve started thinking about the direction of my latest novel only to become caught up in writing a scene in my head. This is both a blessing and a curse. While I’m grateful to have an idea as to how I want the story to progress, I’m often the victim of writing prettier prose in my head than what I produce on paper.

To be honest, I don’t have the time or the desire to sit in front of my computer each day. If I did that, it would probably hurt more than help my writing. Many writers, me included, have day jobs; eight hour day jobs filled with stress that require we spend a great deal of time in front of the computer. Many of us have spouses and children that need our attention. After giving to our jobs and our families, the thought of sitting in front of the computer to write the latest chapter sometimes seems overwhelming. When that happens, writing crosses the line from being something we have to do because we’re passionate about it to something we have to do because we’re writers and it’s expected of us. I don’t know about my peers, but when I write because I feel obligated to do so, my work suffers. My scenes are flat, my characters are dull, my dialogue is forced and my work sucks so badly I find myself wondering why I bothered.

I would love to write every day if it was feasible. I can’t think of a writer who wouldn’t take that deal but to say that not writing every day makes me less of a writer is just insulting. I write when I want to, not when I think I should. Besides making me a better writer, it keeps writing from becoming something I dread.

Real writers write every day? I beg to differ!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Another Step Forward

I’ve finally done it.  I’ve taken the next step in releasing my first young adult novel, Like You Mean It. I’ve sent the manuscript to be formatted to appropriate e-book standards. This was a big step for me and it wasn’t because I was putting my work in someone else’s hands. It was something bigger. It was about my desperate need to make sure this work is one-hundred percent polished and ready to publish.

This isn’t my first foray into self-publishing. When I released Letters from Linc back in 2006, e-books were an interesting idea being touted as the wave of the publishing future. Now they’re so prevalent that brick and mortar bookstores are struggling to keep up.

Thanks to e-books, self-publishing a novel is cheaper and easier than ever. Authors don’t have to toil in obscurity trying to find an agent or traditional publisher. Of course, there is a down side. Thanks to e-books, anyone who thinks they can write has the ability to unleash their story on the world. That’s not to say all authors self-publishing e-books aren’t worth reading. Nicky Charles is one of my favorite as is Kyle Adams and both of these authors are self-published. What sets them apart isn’t just good storytelling, it’s their high standards for editing. Their stories aren’t riddled with errors. They don’t lower their standards just because they’re author, editor and publisher. They’ve set a standard I aspire to. Not that I didn’t take my editing seriously before.

When Letters from Linc came out several years ago, I’d read and reread the story. I’d revised and changed and edited. I’d done everything I could to make it free of blemishes so the story stood on its own. At least I thought I had. I was disappointed to get the first printing and find I’d omitted a word in one of the passages. It was a mistake I simply couldn’t afford to fix so I let it go. As it turns out, that wasn’t the only mistake. It was just the only one I saw. Recently, there was a review of this novel posted on Amazon in which the potential reader was so disappointed with my poor editing that she returned the book for a refund. That one stung a lot. I haven’t read the story in years so I don’t know what other mistakes I made, but apparently there are enough that it cost me a sale. 

I have no one to blame for this but myself. I couldn’t afford an editor. I’m not a member of a writer’s group that gets together to critique each other's work. I was afraid to ask a friend or family member to read the work. And when I did my own editing my eyes saw what my mind knew was supposed to be there.

Since then and with my newest novel in particular, I’ve changed my editing technique. I’m determined to give readers the best possible product. I love this novel so much that I don’t want to do anything to detract from its message. I want readers to focus on the story and not the mechanics. I can honestly say I think I’ve done it this time. Of course, I thought I’d done it before and I was wrong. Trust me when I say writers don’t set out to make these mistakes and we’re appalled when they rear their ugly heads.

In a few weeks, my novel will come back formatted and ready for publishing, but you can rest assured I won’t be rushing into anything. I plan to take my time looking over it to make sure nothing was missed. Until then, I’m going to relax and bask in the glow of taking another step forward.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I Totally Get It

“You like me. You really like me.”

It’s been almost thirty years since Sally Field uttered these much ridiculed words during her Oscar acceptance speech for her role in the film Places in the Heart.  This oft parodied phrase has stood an impressive test of time and managed to become firmly ensconced in pop culture. Last week, something happened to me (three times actually) that reminded me of this phrase and gave me inkling as to how Field felt that night if she spoke them in earnest.

I’ve been a writer for quite some time now.  I’ve published articles and short stories in magazines. I’ve entered contests and received modest recognition. I’ve self-published a few novels and spent far more money than I made in doing so. My greatest success by far came when I joined an online writing community known as Wattpad and began to upload my stories to their site.

Since joining Wattpad nearly two years ago, I’ve uploaded several completed novels and gained a large following. One of my most popular stories was Like You Mean It, which told the story of a blossoming romance between a teenage left arm amputee who was once the most popular boy in school and the girl who was the most forgettable ever to walk the halls of their high school. The story struck a chord with fans and made it into the top ten of both the romance and teen fiction categories of most read stories. Encouraged by its success, I shopped it to publishers. When I found an interested publisher, I had to remove the story from the site. Though I made sure to tell readers why it was removed, I received a lot of concerned messages asking what happened to it and why I would take it down and when I would put it back.

In reading past blog posts, you know that publishing deal didn’t come to pass. Rather than put it back on Wattpad when that happened, I decided to self-publish it as an e-book via Smashwords. I’ll still be offering it free of charge, but I want to be able to reach a broader audience. Readers following my Wattpad and Twitter accounts have been kept updated as to my progress in this area. Those who don’t follow one or the other don’t always know what’s going on with Like You Mean It as I found out last week when I received a message from a Wattpad reader asking why I’d removed the book that meant so much to her. When I told her my plans, she was overjoyed and regularly checks my profile page for updates. In fact, she sent me a message just today to ask if I’d post the cover because she’s so excited to see it.

Last week, I also received a private message from another Wattpad reader telling me she’d read several of my novels and loved all of them. She went on to say that she read the series so quickly because she just couldn’t put it down and she looked forward to my next work coming out because she planned on reading it while curled up under the duvet with her e-reader.

As if these two flattering messages weren’t enough, I received an email from a young Wattpad reader last week who told me that Like You Mean It was the first teen romance she read on the site. According to this young lady, she felt a real connection to the novel and the work was so good that she often recommended it others. She wanted to know why I’d taken it down and if I would ever consider putting it back up. Of course, I sent her a reply to let her know of my plans for the story and how to keep updated on its progress.

With each of these messages, two things came to mind. First, I thought of that famous phrase from Sally Field’s Oscar speech. Second, I thought, you know, this could work. Meaning, since there seems to be continued interest, it could turn out to be on a most downloaded list again. Wouldn’t that be nice? Whether that happens or not, I can say one thing for sure; after what happened last week, I totally get it, Sally Field!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Name Game

As a writer, there are two things I struggle with. One of those is coming up with a title that’s not only interesting enough to catch the eye of a potential reader but also captures the essence of the story.  The other is naming characters. 

I’m so bad at coming up with original and interesting names for my characters that I bought a huge book put out by Writer’s Digest that’s aptly called The Character Naming Book.  My favorite thing about this book is that it gives a large list of names for several ethnicities so that writers can choose names appropriate to the culture they’re writing about which lends authenticity to their work. 

Today, I came across an interesting article on the Today Show web site regarding baby names. The article was about the most popular baby names for the year; at least the most popular names thus far. It seems Katniss is a top choice for a girl’s name. Katniss is the name of the female protagonist in The Hunger Games which is not only a novel but was recently a blockbuster movie. Though I don’t personally care for the name, I am impressed that a literary character was so influential in the baby naming trend for this year. Of course, this is nothing new. Remember when Twilight was a fan favorite, and everyone was naming their daughter Bella?

Thinking about this trend got me to thinking about the possibility of being part of the naming trend. I am a writer after all. I may not be famous yet, but I’ve been told more than a few times that my books would make great movies. So, why not? Yes, I was at one time suffering from a serious character naming deficiency, but I think I’m cured. Don’t believe me? Here are some of the female character names in my more popular works: Fallon, Lauren, Tarilyn, Gwen, Danni, Chelsea, Marcy, Corina, Daphne, Angelica, Wendy, Kara, Shirelle, Mina, Megan and Lucy.  And for the male characters I’ve used:  Lucian, Griffin, Christian, Simeon, Sebastian, Tate, Darren, Justin, Nick, Ethan and Solomon. Not bad names, if I do say so myself.

I may not have the fame I need right now to start a baby naming trend, but who knows? Maybe one of these days I’ll pen a bestseller with a character name or two that will strike a chord with readers, and I’ll be a major player in the name game trend. Maybe not. Either way, it’s fun to think about. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How Dare You

I’m a writer. That’s no secret.  It’s not my day job, but anyone who knows me, especially members of my immediate family, can attest to how much time I spend on my work.  My books are like children to me, and I love my characters so much that I laugh and cry with them.  The first time I killed off one of my male leads, I cried so hard I swore I’d never do it again. That’s how much I love what I do, and I know I’m not the only author who feels this way.

That’s why I’m always appalled and disgusted when the word plagiarism rears its ugly head. Taking the work of another and claiming it as your own is deplorable and hurtful and lower than low.  There have been a number of novels I’ve read where I’ve liked them so much I’ve wished I'd written them. I’ve also often really enjoyed certain scenes in novels and had the same feeling, but I can safely say I would never lift these passages and try to pass them off as my own.  Not only is that unfair to the author who invested so much time and emotion in creating the original work, but it’s illegal and unethical and immoral.

One time, at least that I’m aware of, I found myself the victim of plagiarism. A young author posting a story on a Justin Bieber fan fiction website of all things took several scenes from my story Like You Mean It and inserted them into “her” story. She not only copied scenes, but she used the same premise. An alert fan brought this to my attention and after months of working with the site, the story was taken down and the author banned from posting, under that name anyway. With the anonymity provided by the worldwide web, there’s no guarantee she’s not already at it again.

The outrage I felt over this is still quite fresh in my mind, and my husband can confirm the many screeching rants I subjected him to regarding this issue. Sadly, plagiarism will never go away, but it never ceases to anger me as it did last week when I learned an “author” named Jordin Williams was found to have plagiarized work from not one but two published authors. It was found that several of the passages in Williams' novel were taken directly from the works of legitimate authors Tammara Webber and Jaime McGuire. When confronted with this accusation, Williams initially denied writing the novel and claimed it was the work of a ghostwriter which smacks of fraud since Williams claimed to be a ghostwriter turned author. Since then, Williams has gone into hiding. No one can find the once ubiquitous web presence she had. Anyone who purchased Williams’ novel, Amazingly Broken, is urged to return it for a refund. 

When I first heard the name Jordin Williams, I had no idea who she was. My Twitter feed was abuzz with the news that she was not only a fake but her identity was in question. I took to the web to find the information in the preceding paragraph. Now, it’s only right to mention that in the United States all persons accused of a crime a granted the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law.

All I can say is if this person really did this, and I say this on behalf of all authors who’ve spent countless hours, days, months and even years working on our stories, is how dare you!