How Butterflies Saved My Book

When I sat down to write IN THE AFTER, I was battling two forces.  The first being writers block and the second being an undecided ending.

Writing a novel, it’s not easy work.  So much depends on how “in the game” you can get your head, and how much the characters are willing to share of themselves with you.  Without those two things, you’re fighting a losing battle.  And, I had neither going for me.  I was coming off the back end of abandoning a story I been fighting with and for since November … and IN THE AFTER was nothing more than a rough outline and few character sketches.

IN THE AFTER revolves around the story of two women, Emmy and Sidney, they very different women with one commonality … they are best friends.  They never picked their predestined friendship, it was born before before they knew better, it was willed upon them by their mothers who traveled in the same circles.  And still, they never outgrew it.  Each needed the other because, or spite, of their differences.

When Emmy disappeared on April, 7th 2010 … Sidney’s world changed forever.  Gone was the girl Sidney had always known and now she was forced to face not only all the ways she failed Emmy over the years, but the emotional backlash of a loss like that.

I knew, as I stared at the cursor, where I wanted to focus my energies.  The story is lightly based in reality, but blown up to fictional proportions for the sake of “a novel” … and I knew who they women were destined to become to the reader and how I could tell their story respectfully to the underlying current of domestic abuse.  But how did it end?

In a story like this, there is no “add water” ending.  It can’t be a happy one where they skip off into the distance to live forever and ever because something that easy wouldn’t do justice to the other aspects of this book.  But the thorn in my side was the how — how do I create a compelling end to a novel that will stand up against the rest of it, so that when someone does read, they are left with the bigger picture.

Suddenly I was faced, again, with the prick of writers block … and if you’ve ever felt that, then you know, you can’t fight it … it needs to work itself out.  And as I learned, it would …

My husband and I were out running errands one Saturday afternoon when I came upon the thing that would essentially blast my writers block to hell.  It was as benign a coffee cup.  No, I didn’t find the answer I was looking for at the bottom like some tea-leaf fortune … it was written.

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was ending it became a butterfly” – proverb

And I had it — all the answers and all the resolution and the final chapter.  It was really that stupidly simple for me.  So, essentially, butterflies saved my book.  How that will be … I guess you’ll have to read to find out …

Now, I have this weird thing I do … before I go to bed at night I write.  A few minutes and sometimes a few hours.  I’m writing patchwork style and every day is something new and totally non chronological as I tie up the trail of breadcrumbs.  After I close the lid of my computer and climb into bed, I mentally ask my characters to tell me their story … and then, I dream about them.  And when I wake up in the morning, I do have a clearer vision of what they want from me and how I can live up to that.

But, the bigger point is … when you’re feeling like your piece isn’t sewing itself to your side … open your eyes.  LOOK for the resolution you need because it could be out there hiding, waiting to be found.  For me, it was a mug … for you, it may be something else.  Writers block can be disheartening and hard and scary — I know I wondered if I’d be a one time writer, never to publish again — but I believe that good stories can be hard to tell, because if they were easy … everyone would do it.

On a side note, because I’m so tickled by this — while looking deeper into the quote, I’ve discovered how much those words mean to people.  Literally, girls have them tattooed on their ribcages.  And I think that is so special, and I’m so excited to bring that quote to life in this novel.  I just can’t wait for it to be finished and out there!

 

 

 

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Publicity and All That Jazz

I’ve been a bad blogger lately … and I’m sorry.  This blog has been painfully slow as I try to balance writing my second novel with putting the finishing touches on The Milestone Tapes.  I apologize and I’ll try to be better.

Before we jump into this latest post, I have a little housekeeping to do.

1. Please, please, please remember to sign up for the The Milestone Tapes Giveaway!  We have just under a month left!  More information can be found here under the “books and events” page!  Thanks for your continued support as we round third towards home.

2. I’ve finally, thank you Jesus, broken the curse of writers block.  Abandoning my initial idea allowed me to tell a story I’ve been haunted by for years.  Like with THE MILESTONE TAPES, IN THE AFTER will hit close to home for me as I explore what it means to really be a friend in the darkest of hours.  IN THE AFTER, unlike with THE MILESTONE TAPES, is a morbid story that will ping directly into current events and hopefully put a looking-glass over the definition of spousal abuse and the ricochet effect it has on relationships.

Okay … now, onto the topic …

Yesterday I posed a question on the Kindleboards about whether a new author would be better served going Select or if they should branch out into the wider distribution of B&N, Smashwords and the like.  I also mentioned that I had hired a publicist to work with me on the launch.

While some people stayed on topic, hashing out the highs and lows of Select … others broke off into the idea of a new author using a publicist to spread the word of their release.

I was told that with one novel my success will be nil and that it’s only with the what I do next that I will see what kind of author I meant to become … of course, I’m paraphrasing, but more or less, that was the gist.  That, rather than investing time and money into my first book, I should be killing myself for the second — dedicating every waking minute available to seeing the second novel through to completion.  Of course, this was from authors will multiple books in their signatures.  I was told that I should just publish, publish, publish … and if, in a year or so, I decide my work reads as “amateurish” … I can always pull particular works down.

…Ummm….

As I’ve said … over and over again … I’m not a seasoned vet, rather, I’m a first timer with no back-list and yes, that puts me a real disadvantage.  Everything I publish will be from the moment, and I will give to it all I can manage.  I won’t ever have the luxury of being a fast and furious author.  If I can publish one a year, I’m doing good.  Each book will come from its own place, literary fiction doesn’t lend itself well to sequels by the nature of it being.  And, the audience of literary fiction is an interesting bunch itself.  There is a set expectation of a book that is written for the genre … and it’s different from YA or SciFi or Romance.

So … let me tell you why I’m still going ahead as planned …

THE MILESTONE TAPES, draft one, was finished in August — or rather — five months ago.  I’ve held on to it now for longer than it took to write.

The editing of THE MILESTONE TAPES was completed November — or rather — nearly three months ago and I’ve still kept it to myself.

The cover, number two that is, was finished in November as well, for three months I’ve stared at it.  But, cover number one was completed in October.

The formatting for THE MILESTONE TAPES was finished earlier this month — I have the proof in hand and it’s flawless, but still, I haven’t clicked “publish”.

Why?

Because it’s not ready. The book in and of itself is as good as it ever will be … and its publishable material.  As I write this entry, the truth is, I could be a published author.  I could have had THE MILESTONE TAPES up for sale for nearly a week now.  Heck, I could have slapped a cover on it and it could have been for sale months ago … but that isn’t my style.  That’s not what I wanted for this story and it won’t be what I want for any story that shall follow… and that’s not how I’m going to step into the publishing world now or ever.

When a Big Six publishes a book there is hoopla.  It gives an author — new or old — a presence.  This mantra of letting the pot boil is one that was honed by trial and error.  They obviously know what works when it comes to launching a book and meeting sales quotas.  I, do not.  But, to my credit, I’m a researcher.  I was a reader long before I was a writer and I that sort of branches out into my quest to get it right.

The irony is, is that when an indie author grumbles about poor sales … the first thing that is often suggested or commented on is promotion.  Why?  Because it’s a way to get the word out, inspire interest, cultivate excitement … as the Big Six regularly do.  In the case of sluggish sales, either the author didn’t do enough or didn’t manage to target the correct areas.  But, in my mind (and to quote Larry the Cable Guy) … that’s like checking on your burgers after they’re burnt.  It’s an after the damage is done kind of thing.  New books have a short shelf life before they become old books.  Strike while the iron is hot is my personal philosophy.  Make as much of that moment as you can, give yourself every opportunity possible and you’ll never wonder what if.

With all of that said, I also know that everyone is on their own journey.  That what works for one may not work for another.  So, rather than make blanket statements about what you must do … I think it’s more pertinent to encourage all options.  Success comes in many forms … and that path too it is often different and designed by an individual.

So … now it’s question time … as a new author, what did you do to spread the word?  🙂

 

 

 

Now I Know Why Authors Write Sequels

I have writers block … and it’s bad, like really, really bad.

I have the idea for book two fleshed out … it’s titled and outlined and plotted down to the very end … and still, I cannot write it.  I can’t figure out how to put these characters into their lives and how or why they’d be where they are.  Well … that’s not exactly true … I do know the why and the how … it’s the elaborating that I simply fail at.

It’s absolutely the most frustrating thing in the whole world … I could literally rip my hair out at the root, bash my head against the wall, quit and just walk away.  Oh, I’ve tried to get past this mental road block.  I think — counting today — I’ve started this story eight times over the last three months.  I have started from various points of view, places in the story, points in time.  I’ve closed the computer and walked away … I’ve forced myself to sit in front of it for hours watching the annoying optimistic cursor flashing.  I’ve tried reading … tried watching movies … tried thinking about one hundred other things hoping that along the way the small fire of brilliance would kindle itself to self.  Yet … here I sit with a few thousand useless words.

Truthfully, I’ve got nothing … nada … zilch.

Now I get it, the reason why authors squeal over sequels … because they just know everything there is to know, the map is draw, the characters are flesh and bone, the conflict is primed and ready for paint.  New books … they give you nothing.

I was lucky the first time around.  I came home with a story … and I wrote it so quickly.  I lucked out big time.

My greatest fear is being a “one-hit-wonder” — and I’m not even saying book one will be a hit, just that, in this moment, I fear that’s the only solid story in me.  There is no longevity in doing something once.  Its the time and time again that gives a person fulfillment.

Recently I read an article about that girl from Hairspray (the movie) … Nicky Blonsky.  You may remember her story.  She was working at Coldstone Creamery … the ice cream store … when she was discovered.  Thrust into the world of Hollywood, she starred opposite John Trivolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Amanda Bynes, and Zac Effron.  She was a big deal for a hot minute.  Now … she works at a hair salon … doing makeup.  Take it from me … that is not glamorous work.  She’s talented … she can sing, she dance … but she could never recapture the fire of her Hairspray … she couldn’t turn it into a career.

She tried, sure.  Some ABC Family network show and a few other little gigs on Lifetime, but nothing stuck … and now, she’s just another MUA working the counter in a small town salon.  And I’m not saying that isn’t honest work … because it is, believe me, I know … but it’s not what she wanted, and I’m sure it’s nothing she ever saw coming.

Writing is hard work … it’s frustrating work.  I am at a place where I realize I may need to give up the ghost … walk away from my idea and my work and either breathe for a while or start something new — what that would be, I don’t know — but this is not a good thing.

 

I Have Bloggers Block…

Doesn’t that sound like a disease?  It certainly feels like one–and I’m sorry.  I can’t think of a single thing to talk about…I’ve got nothing…nada…zilch.  Tomorrow will be better, promise!

But for today, I’m going to share a post from another blog I read this morning.  It’s funny–dripping with sarcasm–but, it all depends on how you read it.

Andy Straka Gives It To You Straight