If you’ve been around, you realize that I have recently seriously pursued publication. Seriously as in I actually did something about it. It’s been a long time coming and it’s been a really, really long time since I began writing.
(Just to recap:
- Began writing a stupidly Star Trek story in 2002.
- Began writing in February 2003
- Submitted stuff to a writing contest in December 2003. (Which gave me 3rd place.) First time I allowed pretty much anyone to see what I wrote.
- Started role playing in spring of 2004.
- Somewhere here I began seriously writing my first novel.
- Gave up on first novel in August 2008 as being too difficult to fix all the holes and I wanted to write another novel.
- Wrote second novel’s first draft between August 2008 and December 2008. Began editing.
- December 2009 began this blog.
- Submitted some stuff to the college writing contest in January 2010 and lost.
- Submitted Just Trust Me in January 2011 and came in 3rd place in Spring 2011.
- March 2011 began another novel, mermaids.
- Finally finished a synopsis in December 2011.
- Submitted Shad for publication in Feb 2012 along with Just Trust Me to Tor.com.
In between 2007 and 2012 I’ve also been writing so many other stories, both novels and short stories. This just mainly highlights the big things that happened physical, And why do I show this? Because I’ve been working hard. I’ve heard a lot since I began writing to get to where I am. To get to the point that I am pretty good.
So why do I bring this up?
Because a facebook friend of mine mentioned that she began writing in October an idea she’s had. Okay. That’s fine. I wrote Shad based off of an idea I had for over a year. But the problem I’m having, and where I’m struggling, is that she then says that she is going to do a read through to make sure it looks good and then submit it for publication. (Not only that, but she got a call for a publishing house. I have a gut feeling based on what she said though it’s a self publishing house.)
Still, it’s hard, because I read this and it’s like she might have it all figured out when she has only been writing since October really. And I want to justify why my stuff is better than hers but that’s not fair either. I don’t know. Maybe it is.
On the other hand, maybe we could help each other. I mean, after all, we both write. I have been dying for a writing partner. But does that do me any good? I don’t know. I would be so scared that I would assume a superior attitude unintentionally because everything tells me that logically, what she has can’t be good. And besides, I don’t know if, in the beginning, I would have been ready to tear apart my novels to the degree I do now.
You know, that’s an interesting thought. Okay, I am actually going to change the total tone of this post starting now. Why? Because sometimes it works better for me to brood and sometimes it works better for me to help. So I’m going to try to help.
Here are the biggest things I have learned from that past experience writing.
1.) Learn to write badly. With some stories (not all) it works just getting a brain fart on paper and fixing it up really carefully. I’ve done that with my last two stories and they’ve come out pretty decently. Sometime, especially beginning writers, get so caught up in making it look good the first time that they forget to actually edit.
2.) Editing is a long, long process: Nothing is good the first time. Good only comes from careful editing that often happens several times. In a short story, I went through one scene almost four times before I finally moved on, just because I couldn’t get it right. Then later I edited it another two.
3.) Sometimes editing involves deleting. Anyone who has done any kind of editing knows that editing isn’t pretty. It’s hard. It involves making decisions and sometimes those decisions require a delete key. I’ve combined two scenes into one, which involved rewriting both scenes. I’ve deleted whole sections. I’ve discovered after complete a story and editing it once that the story didn’t have a really good plot and I needed to fix that. It doesn’t involve just a read through.
4.) Characters need to talk. No story will be good unless you yourself can hear the characters. I have looked at scenes and said, “No. I don’t like that line. He won’t say that.” I’ve also written scenes where it felt like I could hear the POV character’s in my head. The more you get to know your characters, the more you will have to listen to them. And sometimes that means bad/annoying things happen. Sometimes it means pretty cool things happen.
For example, in mermaids I had problems because I wanted one character (Ronen) to kiss another (Avi). I got it so that it would. However, Avi’s reaction that I originally wrote didn’t work and instead, she banished Ronen from ever seeing her again. (Haha!) Problem is that Ronen was needed to 1) tell her she is going to be reagent and 2) make her eventually fall in love with her. (Evil author strikes again.) I could listen to Avi and allow her to banish him or I could make it easier for me. I chose the former and–tada!–the story actually came out better. (See why it’s important now.)
5.) Your first novel (typically) sucks. I don’t remember where I read that exactly, but the message is the same. The person said to write you first novel, learn everything you can, and then hide in a drawer because it really isn’t good. Though I still love the characters and the plot in Hope (my first novel), I did eventually discard it because it was so bad.
6.) If you can find them, find a writer support. When I first began, I had my brother. Then my sister kinda took over the place along with my friend, Alyssa. Now, I have no one and it is actually really hard. I would love to be able to sit down and talk with someone about this thing I should be writing instead of this, but I don’t have anyone. So find that special person and keep them close.
7.) Don’t ask yahoo answers for any help. They won’t help you.
That’s the big things I can think of right now. Writing is fun. It takes time. It’s hard because it is a personal activity that doesn’t involve other people too often. But if you really want to learn how to be a good writer, then go for it. Because nothing beats having hundreds of characters dancing in your head.
(Edit: I don’t know what happens when you follow posts, but I did accidently publish this last night and didn’t want to publish it until Friday.)
I made the joke earlier this week about how I should run an etsy account this summer to get money, because OBVIOUSLY, I’m not getting the job I want. (One that has me working with kids. :) ) Yesterday, I looked into it and dropped the idea completely. Etsy seems dangerous and very much of a scam. I prefer places that take a cut of what I sell, instead of have me pay in hopes of selling.
But I began thinking: I have so many other skills. I’m not great at crafts. I’m not bad. Just not great. However, I am pretty good at two things.
1) Writing stories. (At least, I think so, and you guys haven’t said anything contrary. :) )
2) Sketching people (and drawing people in general.)
That made me wonder: Why don’t I see about publishing ebooks over the summer instead? So I did whatever I do whenever I get an idea; I researched it. (And now you get the benefits of my research.)
(That isn’t to say I won’t also pursue sketching people. You can actually find me and submit a picture via Picture for Pencil on facebook.)
It starts with this article about how this person, who analyzed the ebooks published on Amazon, discovered that the majority if ebooks sold were actually bought from independent sellers.
When I began my research, I found this one cnet review on the numerous ways to self publish ebooks out there. That made me look at smashwords. I have done some slight looking into self-publishing and ebooks before, and if I recall correctly, smashwords was where I liked the best. Mainly because they reach out to the majority of separate publishers, so I can get on the ibookstore, Barnes&Nobel and other places all from one place.
(Here is a random link on what some authors thought of smashwords, but note that it is from the smashwords blog.)
I really began looking into though, because I have nothing better do with my afternoon besides play mario kart battle (online). There are some huge, mega success stories out there, such as here with Amanda. But does that mean anything? I don’t know. I know there is still a one in a million chance.
Here’s my thought, and then I’ll go into everything else. I have already submitted two works of mine to traditional publishers. One, Shad, I won’t hear about until probably May or June. Another, Just Trust Me, I won’t hear about until probably August or so. (My mouse is acting funky and it’s really hard to type a post with that going on. :P I know. Totally off topic.) That’s all fine and good, but I don’t think much of anything is really going to happen with either of them.
What if I offically published my short stories as ebooks though? I am currently loving short stories (I’m reading Sherlock Holmes right now.) because I can read them in an hour or two, and then move on. Or, if I don’t have time, I can not do anything. Between my two stories I just finished and Time of the Dragon Slayers (the newspaper version), I have two stories I can put up almost immediatly. Then, I also have two to three stories that just need a bit of editing, and they can go up as well. I’d only sell them for $0.99.
Would this work? Would anyone buy anything? I don’t know. I look at my stats and I see that there has been only a handful of views in the stories I provided here. However, I would think that when someone is going to read a story, they won’t go browsing wordpress; they go directly to the place that sells their ebooks.
On the negative side, people don’t buy short stories as much as they buy novels. Apparently, not everyone agrees with me. On the other hand, though, I THOUGHT short stories was how someone got into publishing novels, but the more I read today, the more I saw that it seems many places don’t even buy novels anymore. (Or maybe they just don’t buy collections of short stories. Not sure about that one.)
So, what is involved? Well, a lot of things.
I would need to design a cover. I’m trying to decide if I would want to do that myself or hire a friend of mine to do it. (Well, friend’s sister.) I think it would be fun to design one but I’m not sure if I can do a good job at it. And even though everyone SAYS not to judge a book by its cover, you know everyone does.
I would need to format the books so as to actually be able to upload them. That means I need to use Word. (EVIL!!!!) Then again, no big deal. I can work with that.
Finally, I’d need to do some promotion. I don’t know how to do that. I don’t even know how much is too much. According to that post by Amanda, it is a good idea to get the book reviewed on book bloggers sites. However, I’m not a very assertive person when it comes to self promotion. (I might not even post it on facebook, which, as I think about it, is really stupid. But I’m shy like that.)
One final thing that I must do is have it edited on some level. This one is really hard for me because I THINK I have become a pretty decent editor myself. But no one sees all of their mistakes. So I don’t know how much I will or won’t do that.
Why would I pursue this over traditional publishing? The biggest reason is that I like to maintain my rights to everything. It’s mine and I want to keep it that way. From what I was reading, traditional publishers don’t let you do that. They also don’t let you maintain your rights to an ebook. (Some of what I read today talked about how much they might make you change, which scares me. I’ve worked hard on tightening my stories as much as possible.)
There’s also the fact that I can get more books out quickly. I’m waiting from February until at least May or June to get an answer back on Shad, which, since it’s my first novel, will probably be no. So it’ll take a couple years until I get any kind of acceptance. On the other hand, I can start getting my writing, and not just my name, out there by next month. Besides that, people do get contracts if they are popular ebook sellers.
Also, though this isn’t as much (okay, it’s some. I need $1000 for school next year. $3000 if I decide to drive.), I can make more money through an ebook venue per book. Don’t know if that’ll make much of a difference or not. Compared to a traditional publisher, I won’t be getting any kind of advance.
Traditional publishing helps you more in the editing process. They also may get books in the store. An article promoting traditional publishing said that if most people who got rejected immediately by a traditional publisher went the self publishing route, they would never actually improve. (Which I disagree with actually. More writing improves practice.)
However, they don’t help you much with the promotion of your book. I, as the writer, still must do that.
Am I going to do this? I don’t know. I’m seriously considering it. If I did, I would get both a smashwords account and an amazon account. However, as a word of warning, Amazon’s lending system (AKD) mandates that you do not have your book for sale anywhere else. You can disable this, and I would do that. This way, I get both the Amazon market (which I’m pretty sure I don’t get with smashwords. Still trying to figure that out.) and all the other markets.
Any thoughts on ebook publishing?
What makes something good good? Obviously, if I had a simple solution to that question, I’d be a millionaire. However, if you’re one of those people who can think and analyze something, then you might like this idea.
In short, in order to what makes something good, look at what is considered good overall. Then, look at what is average. What is the differences between the good and the average; that is what actually makes something good.
I’ve found myself doing this a lot recently. The first time I did it was when I listened to Brian Regan for a couple hours. Then, it just happen that I listened to Tim Hawkins. (He’s a Christian comedian, which is probably why you haven’t heard of him.) In all reality, he wasn’t that funny. However, by seeing them so closely back-to-back, I could easily see what made Brian Regan so good, and what worked for both of them.
Same thing with comic strips. I read Pearls before Swine every so often. I like it; I think it’s pretty funny. (Now I bet that’s something you normally don’t see together. A Christian comedian reference and something as dark as Pearls.) Anyway, if you didn’t know, Lion Brand also tries to have it’s own comic strip about a silly little old lady named Lola. It’s basically pretty lame. However, I’ve been trying to compare Pearls with Lola and that gives me, not as good if an idea, but a pretty good idea how to make a decent comic strip.
This, obviously, can apply to writing too, which is why reading a bad book isn’t always a waste of your time. Just look at what made it bad and don’t do it in your own writing.
Subtile information in stories is good. That’s how I like giving information in fact. I hate telling the reader flat out that such-and-such is going on. It’s much more fun to make the reader guess and think that it’s happening.
However, just because I like doing it doesn’t mean I’m good at it.
Especially with it comes to romance.
In my mermaid novel, I have two possible romances. Okay. Forget possible. I have two real romances.
Romance one is between Nessa’s bad/evil/corrupt brother, Sagi, and a woman who helps him win the election, Chava. Somehow, I need to make it seem perfectly understandable both why Sagi likes Chava, when he’s avoided all other possible romances for the last twenty years, and even more importantly, why Chava likes Sagi, all by the halfway point of the book. The Sagi one is going to be particularly hard considering that he has been basically breaking the law, been a jerk to his sister, cheated on the election and poisoned his dad. (Though I don’t think the reader will know for sure that the dad is poisoned until after they get together, and Chava knows none of this.)
All this when I haven’t really had any real relationship ever. I can’t imagine it’ll seem that realistic.
Yet, that’s the easy romance.
The harder romance is between Nessa’s half sister, Avi, and a lawyer, Ronen. if you haven’t read Just Trust Me, you should, but besides that, you would know that Avi is considered a huge shame upon her family because her mother had an affair with an Adamah, what would be pretty equal with the blacks of the South in the 1950s. (Keep in mind, Nessa’s family is royal.) Ronen, on the other hand, hates Adamahs because they killed his best friend when he was younger and then basically got off the hook.
However, he starts to like Avi. He doesn’t want to like Avi so he promptly tries to be curt with her. (In the mean time, Eyal starts to woo Avi but that’s for a completely other problem I’m having, also involving hinting, but I won’t put it here so I don’t give out too many hints.) So, I need him to somehow be mean without being too mean and I don’t know what to do about that!
This all comes because I’m working on fixing up this chapter that invovles an argument with Avi and Ronen but I don’t have any basis for the argument. As such, it seems awkward and uncertain in my mind. I’m not even sure if it is needed. But if I can properly set the scene, perhaps I can make it needed.
Which sounds horrible. But I don’t think that I can just drop it. Otherwise, I do this huge jump from a debate and Sagi’s reaction to the debate to Nessa’s seating. Okay, maybe I could jump that much. But I really want to get some Avi/Ronen action.
This is why I should have properly listened to myself and sworn off love stories. Because then I wouldn’t have this issue at all.
Then again, I still would, because I have the problem with Eyal’s background, Sagi remember Gilah, Itamar changing against Nessa, and hundreds of other little things to sneak into the story.
And did I say before that I like writing novels? Maybe I should change my mind on that one. :)
Note: I’m writing this on Monday the 29th, which is why I’m still at home.
The majority of my readers live in America. Being in America, especially regular, middle class America, means that we have little true experiences with things we routinely put our characters through, like getting beat up, stabbed, kidnapped, creeping along dark hallways and shot. As such, we need to put the few experiences we have together in order to piece a coherent picture of what Jane feels when she is kidnapped and held for ransom.
Or we end up experiencing them.
Now, I am not saying that the story I’m about to tell you in any way resembles what a kidnapped victim would feel as they return to the scene of their assault. Or that it compares to any major trauma, even if the police did get involved. This is a small, small fraction of what these people would feel like and, based on this recent experience, I don’t think we can ever communicate how that would feel realistically enough to fool someone who was in that situation.
That being said, here’s the situation where I proved that I am not as brave as I thought I was.
See, I always thought I was brave in emergencies and level headed. After all, when the tissue box caught on fire, or the french bread wrapper, I knew what to do. (At my house, we have somehow caught a boiling pot of water on fire on an electric stove. Even the firemen say that is impossible. So don’t ask me what happened there.) I always imagine that if a plane crashed, I would be one of the 10% of people who would be able to pick her way among the wreckage, help passengers who are panicking and get my mom out (she’s legally blind) without breaking down until we are safe. I thought I would make a good ER nurse, just because I am that kind of person who can tell myself to think, stop panicking, and my mind usually listens.
Now, the other bit you need to understand in this story is that we live in South Dakota, in a 100 year old house, and a typically thing that happens during August is that bats get into the said house. No, none of us have had rabies shots just because a bat is in our house. They aren’t rabid. They just want a warm place to stay and see the brightness and so they wander in. Then they can’t find their way out. My brothers and dad hit them with a tennis racket and either kill them or stun them enough to bring them outside. We average about two a year.
The important thing to understand from that is it is my dad and brothers. I am rarely involved in this. It began first because I worked while the bats were in our house, and then my dad’s fear of bats began to hurt me so that I was slightly timid of bats. I still teased my sister for her fear of bats, and would tell her that the bats were dancing in her bed, passing around a coke bottle.
Then came the day when my dads and brothers were both out of town, and I saw the bat.
I thought I could do anything I set my mind to. But bats are fast. They zoom and zip and disappear and reappear, all without making a noise. Moreover, I’m thinking about my sister, who is freaking out behind me, and my mom, and I’m terrified that the bat is going to sneak up on me or something. I don’t know what. But I didn’t want my back uncovered. Meanwhile, it’s dancing through our TV room, dining room, kitchen and living room.
To make a incoherent story short, my sister got escorted to the bathroom to hid; I made it to the kitchen, trying to pull up my courage. And while I’m waiting for the bat to come back into the kitchen, and yet ducking every time it comes so I never have a chance to hit it, a bat (I now think it is the asme bat but at that moment, I was thinking it was either #2 or #3.) comes up from the basement stairs and is about 6 inches to a foot from me.
At that moment, I lose it. I sink against the refrigerator and begin sobbing, saying that I can’t do it, I just can’t. (Basically praying, because I don’t know what else to do at this moment.) My mom, since she can’t see the bat and isn’t afraid of them, led me outside.
Here’s where the fear begins.
I stayed outside for almost an hour, holding a dog, and crying quietly. I saw everything that moved (including a bat) and would occasionally jump when I thought I saw a shadow that could or could not be a bat. I’d pace, or sit on the trampoline, and just wait. I would not go back inside, even when my mom told me that she locked a bat in the bedroom and there weren’t any others that she could see. (I said she’s blind (in love) and still refused to go in.)
We called the police to kill the bat, which he did. I could hear him upstairs, smacking and smacking. My hyperactive imagination told me my mom really locked three bats in the room, and I could just see him dancing around, trying to hit the bats swarming in our house. I couldn’t handle that sound and walked away.
When I came back, my mom said that the cop had killed the one, and saw none others. I still refused to go inside. I KNEW there to be more than one bat in the house and the idea of walking into the house, just to have the bat swoop across the house towards me, scared me terribly. I refused to go back into the house again until my brothers and dad showed up, finally, at around 11:30, a good three hours after the initial bat sighting. When the bugs touched me outside, I jumped.
Even when I walked into the brightly lit house, my skin crawled. I was almost about to cry, again. I forced myself to make coffee, because at least that would give me something to do. Even as I sat in the dining room, I would jump if I saw a fly that might happen to be a bat. I made my mom go upstairs to check on the bat situation, and then stayed in my bedroom for the rest of the night.
The next night, my arms were shaking with fear as sunset and the time of bats waking neared. (My arms shake when my body is stressed. Not visibly but that’s what it feels like.) I escaped and felt victorious when I made it out. When I came back home around ten, I both looked inside the house to see if there was a bat, and demanded confirmation that there were no bats. However, I still felt like something was watching me as I walked around our dining room, and spent as little time as I could there, escaping into the TV room as soon as I could.
TV distracted me against the idea of bats coming out, but as soon as the show was over, I was back to worrying about bats. I got ready for bed quickly, my dad checked the upstairs against bats, and I ran to bed.
Sunday, I escaped again to Walmart this time and did some needed shopping for college. I did ask about bats but I managed to walk into my house without feeling like something crawled over my skin. I even read until almost midnight. However, my dog, who thinks that bats are giant frisbees and plays catch with them, started barking in the basement. That scared me enough I ran upstairs, though this time without someone. And back downstairs because I forgot something. (Turned out my dad was in his basement office and that scared the dog.)
Monday, I didn’t leave. I’m still a little nervous. I keep glancing into the dining room to see if a bat has come out. I think I could stay in my TV seat if one did, but I don’t really want to try. (GOT THAT, BATS!) I also feel like something is watching me as I move through the dining room. But I am doing better.
I can’t imagine what I’d be like if something really traumatic actually happened, like I was attacked, because that what it feels like the bats did to me. I never thought I’d be that pathetically scared over a dumb little hamsters with wings, so to tell you all this is very humiliating. However, I think now I have a glimmer about how to create fear into a character, and maybe this will help you too.
As I start another fun summer of roleplaying (figured out that I’m excited about that yet), I find myself drawing a map. For the longest time, Alyssa and I have used the same world, Isrlan, but now we are moving on and creating another.
Since she is much more busy than I am, I drew the map. But instead of drawing random things, I did a few specific details. In order to explain why this matters to you, I need to explain South Dakota to you first.
South Dakota is literally divided by the river, namely, the Missouri River, but since we abbreviate everything, we just call it the River. That makes East River and West River. For a traveler, that means mainly that when you cross the river you change time zones. For us in South Dakota, East River is mainly farming and baseball caps and West River is mainly cattle and cowboy hats.
In general, our weather moves from west to east. All our storms come from the west. To the farthest west point is the Black Hills (were Mtn Rushmore is). Mountains cause the clouds to rise, rain on the mountains, and give all the prettiness found there.
However, the clouds run out of water as soon as they over the mountains, so then they hit the Badlands. Personally, I find the Badlands incredible, because the dirt there is basically clay and there are many, many ridges, valleys and storm formations. I could spend a whole day there. (Or hide there with my secret organization that is taking down the government.)
Before too long, however, the clouds hit the River. This is where it is important, because the river fuels the clouds. The clouds suck up all the water, then move along across South Dakota, raining from the river onward and giving us our lush farmland. However, since we don’t get that much rain, we typically have hot, dry summers. (Expect for last year, but last year we broke record rainfalls.)
With that in mind, I made my map, keeping a river near the mountains to fuel the clouds, so my country doesn’t become a desert. See?
On another note, and I don’t know how this really plays into things, but if you look at my map, you can see a little river about half way between the border and the Missouri River. Besides the fact that “river” floods every year, a lot of weather alerts are determined merely by whether it’ll happen west or east of the James River (Or, since we abbreviate everything, The Jim.)
I just realized I haven’t written here all week. Bad, bad Abigail. (Nor have I found a job.) MOving on however…
Facebook status last night:
Today is a happy day. My characters FINALLY started talking to me. Only took them until Chapter 35. I so did not want to start my first draft without them talking though, so we are good now. :D Thank you, Sagi, Ber and Avi! Now Nessa… about you….
Now, besides the fact that all my friends now know I’m crazy, this is really good news.
See, I’ve been having a problem connecting with characters in the way that I need to connect in order to write a good book. The last story this really happened with initially was Shad, and I think that had to do with the fact I thought about writing it for over a year before I actually wrote it.
Instead of trying to force my characters to talk to me, I turned back to how I learned to listen to characters and began writing in a modified role playing format. I call it my pre-first draft and you know how bad first drafts are suppose to be? This is worse. :)
In short, I only add the details I know. I put in dialogue as I feel it works, some emotions, indications that the character speaks, but nothing extra. I’ve been doing this since March and just now I’m figuring out how the houses look.
The problem with this is that if the characters don’t start talking to me by the end of this, it’s really hard for me to edit and typically I toss the story before I finish it, putting a good two months of work to waste.
However, since this is the first time I’ve done it with a novel, I can say I do believe that this is going to work. Three of my main characters are finally clicking with me, and really giving me a clue about themselves. The only problem I have is actually my main character, Nessa, but she’s a little more complicated than my other characters so I think it’ll be fine.
As for weekly word count, I’ll post that tonight because I’m hoping to finish my current chapter before tonight. (I don’t write from Friday night to Saturday night, since someday this’ll be work, but that’s another post.)
Oh, and right now I’m toying with the idea of naming mermaids “For Keren.” It’s not a very strong title I don’t think, but it’s a common theme that a lot of the characters say. Just a thought. Maybe “Avicherfa” would be better though, since she is the real motivating factor behind a lot of things.
Mermaids last week: 30,470
Mermaids this week: 37,584
Total this week: 7,114
However, I did not finish my chapter. I perhaps wrote… 100 words today. Bad Abigail.
Word count for last week: 24,985
Word count for this week: 30,470
Total for the week: 5485
The only problem is that I discovered I’m on Chapter Twenty-Eight. That, in itself, isn’t bad. However, I estimate only forty chapters total. Which means I am basically 3/4 of the way done.
Well, technically, because looking what I have coming up, I know I’m missing things, and I also know these chapters will be on the larger size. I’m also writing a very rough draft, to the point that if I don’t know something, I just skip it. The idea is to get the story on paper and come back to it. So maybe, just maybe, I can get it up to 120,000 by the end of my first draft. (This is a pre-first draft as i call it. So bad that no one should see it ever.) From there, I can then drop it to 100,000. Either way, I’m not going to worry about it yet. This story should be solid enough as it is.