Tag Archives: editing

O Blogger, Where Art Thou?

Yes, I know. It’s been several months since I posted, and then it was a book review. You’ve heard nothing from me in simply ages. Why? Well, I don’t really know. There are a number of reasons that come to mind, so I’m going to share them with you. Put your hand up if you can relate to any of them.

  1. Lack of material/time. I was finding that blogging twice a week was draining my mind of ideas and cutting into my writing time. I work almost full time and the pressure of coming up with material for two days each week, as well as trying to keep up with other blogs, comments on my blog, and the rest of it was leaving me with next to nothing for my creative writing.
  2. Competing priorities. Update my blog or spend time with my kids? They won’t remember having to muck around the house waiting for me to do my computer stuff, but they will remember me taking them to the zoo. Or the pool. Whatever.
  3. An overall sense of cutting out what was less important. This is an extension of #2. I blogged earlier in the year about cleaning out my cupboards at the same time as I was cleaning up my manuscript, and that attitude still stands. Things that were less important were jettisoned in favour of those items higher up the list. And maintaining my profile as a budding author, while important, felt less so than putting my life in order, spending time with kids (as above), and just generally getting myself in a position that I was happy with. You only get one shot at life so why waste it doing things you don’t want to do?

I know I could have just cut down on the blog frequency, but like a lot of people I suffer from procrastination, and there was also a very real fear that if I started it up again then I might drop back into old habits, which was what was draining me in the first place. And I was drained. I didn’t write a thing for two months, and nor did I do any editing. Nothing at all. My brain just needed a break from all that, and I obliged.

So, what’s changed now? Well, my novel is now at the point where I am happy to send it out to my beta readers for their feedback. I could tinker and fiddle till the cows come home but I don’t think that by myself I’m going to get it much better than it is now. It’s time for new eyes and new perspectives on it. So I’m sending it out for comment, and putting it down till Christmas at the earliest. Then in the new year I can take everyone’s ideas on board to improve it even further.

As such, I’m ready to get back into the world of writers. I won’t be blogging as frequently - once a week will do me, on Mondays like now, with the occasional interview or book review thrown in instead of commentary. It’s a scenario designed to keep me involved, yet help take the pressure off, and to give me more time to devote to novel #2, or the kids, or anything else that seems important at the time. One less post per week will help with my whole-of-life de-clutter that I’ve been undertaking for most of this year.

So yeah, that’s me. Sorry for the long blackout, but fear not, all is good. Oh, and if anyone reading this would like to have a look at my novel in a beta capacity, leave a comment or send me an email at Emily[dot]wheeler02[at]yahoo[dot]com. I’d love to hear from you.

 

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Purging

English: Yard sale on Green Street in .

English: Yard sale on Green Street in . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I quite enjoy a good purge. Cleaning out the cupboards and donating ninety per cent of their contents to a local charity because you just don’t need it is cathartic, exhilerating and frees up vital storage space.

I’ve been doing this a bit at home lately. Only a little at a time, sure, but the church down the street, which has large garage sales every couple of months, is certainly reaping the benefits of my efforts. I’m also selling a few more valuable bits and pieces, in the hope that the spare cash they provide will help pay for an interstate trip for the whole family to attend a wedding later in the year. I’ve made a couple of hundred dollars so far and am hoping to both free up cupboard space and cash flow even more in coming weeks.

That’s all very nice, I hear you say, but what does it have to do with the writing life? Well, I say, plenty. Purging is very much a state of mind. It’s that part of the brain that hoarders can’t seem to access, and many of us only access sporadically. But we’re all guilty. Who among us hasn’t kept something because it was nice, or it might come in handy later on, only to come across it again two years later and wonder why on earth we have it? But, when the purging spirit takes hold, you can rid yourself of a lot. And the same is true in writing.

Purging is only good, really, when you’re in the editing stage. Ridding yourself of the unnecessary when you’re still trying to get the book written can be time consuming and take away some of the creative urge. Doing it when you’re editing, though, is what the whole thing is about. Don’t need it? Cut it. Doesn’t progress the plot? Cut it. Character not adding anything to the story? Cut him/her. I’ve got rid of about 15,000 words, two characters and a whole subplot so far, simply because they weren’t adding value to the manuscript. I’ve got some more purging to do, but this ruthlessness on multiple fronts is feeling good. Cleaner cupboards, cleaner prose and cleaner schedule. It’s a win-win situation.

Of course, not everyone finds it easy to be this ruthless. And this is why I recommend doing the purging on many levels at once. When you’re already in the mindset to clean up that space under the bed and just get rid of things you’re not using, why not get out the manuscript and have a hack at that as well? You’re already thinking in that way. Try to make the most of it!

So that’s me at the moment. Going through what makes up my life and just cutting out things I don’t need any more. It applies to a lot of things and, the way I’m going right now, I should be cleansed and clear in no time. (Sounds like an ad for a face-cleaning cream … maybe I should think about re-wording. Oh, heck. Why not just cut the whole sentence?) (See what I mean?) And it’s my recommendation to anyone who is having trouble with their editing. Don’t just edit your manuscript. Edit your whole life. You might be amazed what you can achieve.

 

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Looking for exclamations(!)

English: A black exclamation mark Magyar: Egy ...

English: A black exclamation mark Magyar: Egy fekete felkiáltójel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Ah, the humble exclamation mark. So much debate about such a little thing. Or is it?

 

For the uninitiated, exclamation marks are, apparently, to be used sparingly at all times. Elmore Leonard once famously opined that “[y]ou are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.” F Scott Fitzgerald once told a student that “an exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke”. More modern rules include the directive that you should use only one in any one e-mail, for example. In other words, exclamation marks are a bad habit of the novice writer, which must be broken at all costs.

 

Naturally, there are exceptions. I recently re-read the Harry Potter series, in which exclamation marks are sprinkled with gay abandon. In fact, even a novice writer such as myself noticed the excess of exclaiming, which perhaps says that there may have been a couple too many. A lot of sentences are, in fact, stronger and more meaningful with just a full stop (period) rather than an exclamation mark.

 

Is the exclamation mark rule quite so cut-and-dried, though? Stuart Jeffries from The Guardian argues that they can make the written word friendlier, especially in things like e-mails which can feel a little sterile otherwise. (It depends, of course, on the content of the e-mail, but “Thanks!” usually sounds friendlier and more enthusiastic in its gratitude than “Thanks.” does. Don’t you agree?)

 

But what about in fiction? I admit, using it too much is off-putting, and using it in narrative rather than dialogue  is just plain annoying. But then again, in dialogue the rules change – apparently up to six per 100,000 words is considered acceptable. A quick scan of my novel (thank you, find function) had somewhat more than that, so clearly I need to do some work on this aspect of my writing, but sometimes I wonder how much weight that old rule still has.

 

I’m not alone in my appreciation of exclaiming. After all, people do exclaim and that should be recognised. But even I (along with like-minded thinkers) understand that there needs to be a limit. I’m just not sure that six per 100,000 words (in dialogue only) is it.

 

 

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A little here, a little there

Writing

You may have guessed that of late my writing itself hasn’t been at its peak. Of course, it probably doesn’t help that I’ve been working on three different projects, or that in my spare time I’m trying to do a number of other things (like find a venue for a child’s birthday party that doesn’t cost the earth – ugghhh!), but yes, it’s been sporadic at best and non-existent at worst. I suspect this is one reason I’ve been throwing myself in to editing so readily: because the writing thing just isn’t really happening for me at the moment so at least if I’m editing I can feel like I’m achieving something.

Of course, there are a million blog posts out there telling people how to get past writers block. Heck, I’ve written some myself. And I’m sure that if I really applied myself, I’d be able to get a lot more written … but therein lies the rub. If I really applied myself. The trouble is, getting around to applying myself just isn’t really happening.

This is risky behaviour for me. On the birth of my youngest child I gave up writing (and reading, for that matter) for  the best part of nine months. For anyone who knows me, this is nothing short of remarkable behaviour. Me, not read? It’s like asking the sun not to rise in the morning. But, I sense that it might be a very easy trap to fall back into. If I take too much of a break from writing – or reading – then goodness only knows how long it would take before the bug bites me again. Last time it was nine months …  who’s to say it wouldn’t be longer next time?

Yeah, yeah, I know. If I’m to call myself a writer then I have to write. Most people write because they can’t NOT write. Me, well I’ve proven that I can quite happily go without writing for several months. Does that make me less of a writer? I don’t think so, but it does make me pause to think.

In any case, I’m still editing. You know, that zeal that makes you want to get that manuscript just right, no matter how long that takes. Or maybe not just right, because it will probably never reach that peak, but at least good enough to send out into the world. And editing is a key part of writing, so in that sense I’m definitely a writer. And in the meantime, I do find myself jotting down ideas for my other two projects – character traits, things to remember, things to include in the plot arc. And that counts, right?

Yep, a little here and a little there. It all adds up. And that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

 

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I would be writing, but …

Family watching television, c. 1958

Family watching television, c. 1958 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

First of all, I’d just like to apologise for not posting earlier in the day, like I usually do. The fact is that I was having so much fun editing my novel (yes, I know, weird) that I just couldn’t bring myself to take a break and blog. But hey, I’m here now, right?

 

Today I’m going to talk about things that stop you from writing. Some would call it excuses, but to be nice I’m going to call it priorities. You know what I mean – the decision to read on the bus on the way to work rather than jotting scenes into a notebook, for example, or the decision to leave the pen and paper at home when you’re at the kids’ sporting events. Some people might see this as time wasted because you’re not writing, but maybe you’ve just made the decision that paying attention to what your children are doing is more important. It’s just priorities, and they are different for all of us.

 

Me, I’ve been spending time with the kids and, well, editing like there’s no tomorrow. Just today I deleted about 1000 superfluous adverbs, and I must say that my prose is looking a lot neater as a result. But I’m not even really talking about that sort of thing. Specifically, I’m thinking about that old fallback – television.

 

You see, last week two of my favourite programs started up again - Doctor Who and Game of Thrones. I love them, and I’m not afraid to admit that I will forego any number of things to stay up to date with them. Sure, I wait till the kids have gone to bed before turning them on – my children are a little young for even the good Doctor as yet – but I try not to wait more than a couple of days after release before I watch them. This is my escapism at the moment, and I’m protecting it fiercely.

 

I don’t feel guilty in the slightest. It’s been pointed out before that absorbing someone else’s creativity can be just as useful as your own in inspiring you, so I figure that’s as good an excuse as any. And hey, in the meantime I can check out how they are telling their stories, to get ideas for my own.

 

There. That’s my confession. Now it’s up to you: what won’t you miss to further your writing? And how do you justify it? Life is, after all, about our priorities.

 

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Editing

Edit Ruthlessly

Edit Ruthlessly (Photo credit: Dan Patterson)

I know, I know. I haven’t blogged for two weeks and I’ve given exactly no reason for it. Well, to be honest, I’ve just been too busy lately. What with Easter and a bunch of other things going on (birthday of youngest child, for example) I simply haven’t had the time. I’m sorry. :( I’m also going to be writing a Monday post on a Friday, mainly because I have something I want to talk about.

I’ve been editing. (What? I hear you say. You’ve had time to edit but not blog? What sort of author are you?) The thing is, of course, that editing does not require the internet so I haven’t needed a web connection to do it. This isn’t saying a web connection isn’t handy, but it’s certainly not necessary.

The funny thing is, I’ve been enjoying the editing process immensely. Sure, there’s still a long way to go, but there really is something satisfying about taking a red pen to a manuscript. Figuratively speaking, of course – I haven’t yet printed out my novel and I don’t want to until I cut at least another 10,000 words. (I’ve cut 15,000 so far, so it’s not impossible.) This isn’t due to any preference to editing on screen, though I generally have little problem with that, but more that I don’t want to use up too much paper. Especially considering that the only decent printer I have access to is at my work.

Generally, I’m happy with the structure at the moment. There are still some scenes that need rewriting or moving or incorporating into other scenes, but overall it’s looking pretty good. So what I’m focusing on now, because it’s easy and something I can do when I’m feeling a little brainless, is taking out words I use too much. A few samples of web-based editing services have told me “that” is a word I use approximately eight times as much as I should, and “just” is the next worst offender, so I’m using that old staple of find-and-replace to either change those words to other things, or, in many cases, just delete them entirely. I think I got rid of 1000 words by that method alone.

Like I said, though, there is still a long way to go. I intend to go to a proper professional editor when I am finally as happy with it as I can be through my own editing, but in the meantime there are some really helpful sites out there. Sites like Autocrit, FirstEditing, and Book Editing Services (to name a few) will give you a free sample edit, which is really helpful for identifying some of your common errors before you commit to a paid service. Helpful hints can also be found everywhere, like here and here. I’m now taking a few days off the edit to spend with my kids, but come next week, wish me luck!

And while we’re on the subject of luck, I know I’ll need more than a little to make it very far, but if you like my blog then I would love you to vote in the Best Australian Blogs competitions for this year. Just click on the button below and look for Emily’s Tea Leaves in the list.

I think you should also consider voting for Confessions of a Stuffed Olive, which is one of my favourite blogs and one I’ve mentioned more than once on these pages. You don’t have to be Australian to vote but you can only vote once, so please do so with care and consideration. Thank you.

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I’ve done it!

Celebration champagne

Celebration champagne (Photo credit: Lisa Brewster)

 

Yes, folks, it’s celebration time. After WAY too long (I started this process over two years ago), I have finally finished the first draft of my novel.

*pops champagne*

It’s been a long and interesting process, and I’ve learned a lot along the way, both about storytelling and also about myself. From my decision to cut over 70,000 words back at the start of the year and restructure the whole thing, to the blogs I’ve been frequenting and the courses I’ve attended (a big hello to Lucy Clark, who has been extremely helpful), it’s been a journey of ups and downs, peaks and troughs, finally culminating in today, when the last scene was penned and the book finished.

It’s an odd feeling. I have written completed novels before, but this is the first one that I’ve felt confident enough to unleash on an unsuspecting public by way of publication. (Yes, I have other things online, under another name, but that’s something else entirely.) And I know that this is only the start – there are months of editing ahead of me. Heck, I haven’t even read the whole thing through from start to finish yet to make sure it makes sense! I have a bundle of notes that I will keep handy when I get to that point, just to make sure I’m going in the right direction when it comes to structure and the like, and I’m full of enthusiasm to get that process underway. I know, though, that I need to let it rest for a little while. Give myself a break. Because only when I’m looking at this story with fresh eyes will I be able to edit it properly.

As such, I’m taking December off writing entirely. I shall continue to blog, of course, and to read, but the novel is being put away until the Christmas and new year celebrations are over. Then, once I’ve had that break, I’ll bring out the red pen and really go through it – structurally first, then characterisation and the like, and finally line edits. I’ve chosen this order because line edits are so easy to do, and if I start with those I’ll get sidelined with those and never do the big stuff. Besides, why busy yourself with the minutiae when you know that it’s all likely to change anyway when you do the structural edits?

So there it is. I’m about to uncork the champagne to celebrate, and I’ve promised my fingers a manicure as a reward. After all, they’ve done the bulk of the work here. And then I’m putting this manuscript away until 2013, when I can hopefully attack it with fresh eyes.

Boy, am I exhausted. But really, really pleased with myself at the same time. This is a milestone and one I’m determined to mark. Cheers all!

 

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Guest post: On writing Illusion, by Dy Loveday

This blog entry was first posted on Beth Cato’s blog Catch a Star as it Falls. Beth is Dy Loveday‘s critique partner, and she  (and Dy) have very kindly given permission for me to re-blog it. Dy’s first novel, Illusions, was released last week by Liquid Silver Books and is available from there and Amazon as an ebook.

In the interests of full disclosure, I will state here that I work with Dy’s partner, so I’m doing my best to give her and her book as much publicity as possible. I’ve started reading it and it’s incredible so far, so please give it a try.

Anyway, take it away Dy!

——————

Illusion, by Dy Loveday

I remember sending my first 50 pages of the novel to a crit buddy I’d met on the Online Writers Workshop (OWW-SFF). She gently told me I’d made some of the same mistakes she’d made when first starting out, and proceeded to show me exactly what needed to change to get the manuscript into shape.

Writing Illusion wasn’t easy. It took me around 6 months to get the first draft down and another 18 months of hard slog to revise structural problems. Writers often focus on the line edits or nits, misspelled words or agonize for hours over paragraphs of text. But the real problem usually lies in the harder to fix structural issues: boring main characters, superfluous secondary characters, a clichéd or obvious plot line, and my particular bugbear, the wrong point of view. I recently wrote a short story and it just didn’t work. Until I realized I’d been telling it from the daughter’s point of view when it was really the father’s story. Thankfully, it was only a short story, but still …. *bangs keys extra hard for emphasis*

Major revisions can also be enjoyable. During the revision of Illusion, I found myself fleshing out characters, giving them stronger goals and motivations, cutting entire scenes and adding new ones. Maya became less sarcastic and more vulnerable, more specific in her reactions as events in the scene moved her further away, or closer to her goal. I wanted the climax to be exciting, so I spent extra time foreshadowing events, creating decent causal links and giving Molokh a clear agenda. By the end of the book I hoped that even if the reader didn’t like Maya, they’d understand why she did the things she did, and find her interesting and believable.

Working with my OWW crit partners helped a lot. I think every writer needs to surround themselves with a good writing community, because let’s face it writing is a lonely existence. Writers spend so much time in their head it’s easy to forget there are others out there, trying to do the same thing. The virtual support community was essential for me and helped me to develop the skills of the craft. I say ‘develop’ because despite various workshops and writing degrees, I’m still learning. That’s the great thing about writing. It’s such a complex art, you can only get better.

I revised Illusion with the reader in mind and focused on four questions:

1. What contract with the reader did I establish on the first page?

2. What anticipation is this scene creating?

3. Is this causally related?

4. And most important of all, did I fulfill the contract with the reader? Did I deliver what I promised to deliver?

Thank you Beth for hosting me on your site and for helping me with Illusion. Your unique blend of encouragement, humour, gifted writing and ability to find the answer to plot holes was immeasurably helpful, from those first 50 pages to the final product :-)

——————

Thanks Dy, and thanks also to Beth for allowing me to re-host this. I hope that you all check out the book, and importantly leave a review! :) As a first time author, Dy needs all the support she can get so please do your best and share the love a little. I promise, I’ll do the same for you.

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Tag, you’re it!

English: Parallel dialogue (2008)

English: Parallel dialogue (2008) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I’m going to talk about dialogue tagging. You know, the “John said” bit of “I can’t understand it,” John said. (Okay, that was probably a little basic, but please stick with me.)

There has been a lot said about dialogue tagging, and how to do it best. Get rid of all the adverbs. Take away all the descriptive tags and replace them with “said”. Ignore them entirely. Naturally the whole thing is terribly confusing and novices like me have no idea which advice to take.

Take adverb reduction, for example. Look, I get where this is coming from. The dialogue should speak for itself without the writer having to explain the tone of voice. “What are you doing?” Mary asked sharply could be replaced with “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Mary asked, enriching the dialogue itself and eliminating the need for the description.

But the thing is, I think there is room for the occasional adverb. Not all the time, and not at the expense of better written conversation, but description can sometimes add to the whole experience. Besides, I am yet to read a book completely devoid of adverbs. So maybe, I’m thinking, it’s not a case of cutting them out entirely, but instead thinking about each one and whether it’s really needed. Most won’t be, but some will.

Okay, onto the “said” brigade. This is replacing the likes of “Speak for yourself,” Andrew muttered with “Speak for yourself,” Andrew said. The idea behind this is that again, the dialogue should speak for itself without the author having to explain things. Again, though, I’m less than convinced. Sure, it makes the text neater and simpler, but then again I think you lose some of the texture and feel of the scene. Perhaps again it’s a case of selective application. I’m just not sure.

Finally, there’s the idea of removing tags altogether. Now don’t get me wrong, no one does this exclusively, but it can work pretty well with conversations. It doesn’t necessarily mean not tagging the dialogue at all, just removing the “he said”, “she said” type of thing. For example:

Sarah frowned. “I just don’t see where you’re going with this.”
“Are you kidding? It’s as clear as day!” Mark got up and walked to the window, looking out. His frustration was obvious.
“It’s as clear as mud. What exactly to you hope to achieve?”
“World peace. Power over the universe. Or, failing that, I’d settle for getting that prick fired.”

I quite like this. It’s clean, it’s neat and it doesn’t detract from the conversation. However, what it can do is make the reader lose track of who is speaking. To use the example above, at this stage of the dialogue it’s clear whose voice is being used, but if it went on for two or more paragraphs I would find myself counting back to work out who is saying what. Maybe I’m alone in this – just about every book I’ve read this year has had this in several places, with me getting confused as to which words belong with which character. But then again, maybe I’m not alone, and authors (or editors) are inadvertently sacrificing clarity for the sake of brevity. I don’t know. So, while I quite like the technique, I think it should be used wisely so there is as little reader confusion as possible.

So where am I going with this post? Well, I don’t have advice to offer or an argument to make; instead, it’s really just a train of thought about how best to write dialogue. I don’t know that there are any right or wrong answers, but as I inch ever closer to the editing stage of my manuscript, I find myself thinking more and more about this sort of thing.

In the end, I think it’s down to personal tastes. Sure, there are some rules, like don’t go over the top with your descriptions – after all, isn’t it better when the reader has to make their own picture? It gets them so much more engaged – but really, do what you think feels right. Sure, some people won’t agree, but there are others who will … and if you get it horribly wrong, your editor will point it out anyway, right?*

 

*Unless, of course, I have it horribly wrong, in which case feel free to correct me. Thank you!

 

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Author interview: Shayna Gier

Today I’m interviewing Shayna Gier, author of Stuck in Estrogen’s Funhouse. Shayna is both an author and book reviewer who is just as dedicated to helping other authors promote their work as she is to promoting her own, and she very generously set out some time to answer a few questions. Here is what she has to say.

Shayna Gier

Tell me about the book. What inspired you to write it? What has the response been like?

Stuck in Estrogen’s Funhouse is a really fun book, at least the first 30 times you read it. I must admit that while I love the characters as much as ever before, after all the read-throughs I no longer find it as fun, but I highly doubt that anyone but me and my editor will ever read it to that point.

It’s about a young bartender, Marti, who is married and, due to an increase in medical costs and such, chooses to go off of the birth control shot. Within three months her body has still not returned to normal, and what’s worse is that despite having a series of negative pregnancy tests (once she figures out how to actually take the test correctly), her body is showing all the signs of pregnancy. To make matters even worse, between frequent trips to the bathroom and unexplained exhaustion, she’s definitely developing cravings, and not just for food. Despite her happy marriage to her husband, Spencer, Marti finds herself more and more flirting with the cute and young new bartender who has just joined the team… and her best friend, who thinks life is to short to stay with one guy, just doesn’t help any at all.

What inspired me? Basically, I wanted to write a book in which the doctors were all wrong. Around 1/3 of the way through the book Marti goes to see her gynecologist, to see if the tests are faulty. Dr. Duck (I love that name!) tells her she’s experiencing a perfectly normal “puberty” maturation, just a bit earlier than it usually hits women. This  happened to me, only it took me over 500 dollars worth of doctor bills to be told that. In the meantime, I was searching the internet and trying to figure out what was going on. I ran into a ton of stories about people not finding out they are pregnant, despite frequent testing, until well into their 2nd trimester. Then, when I was told what was happening, about the effects of estrogen and how it controls both the puberty stuff and pregnancy, I looked into the science of what else estrogen does to women, and used that as a framework for Stuck in Estrogen’s Funhouse.

The response has been overwhelmingly good if you don’t include my inner circle. A lot of people find Marti entirely relatable and really enjoy the book. My inner circle goes either way – my friends love it; my family…well, most keep equating me with Marti and advising that I don’t drink when/if I get pregnant, or else are “disappointed with what (I’ve) made of (my) life” based off the decisions of Marti and her friends. They don’t seem to understand fiction is made up, or how the writer’s mind works, or any of that.

I can see that the book was a collaboration with another author. What made you decide to co-write it? How did the experience work for you?

I give Carissa Barker credit publicly, because if you saw my first draft (available on my website in the archives) you wouldn’t really recognize it. Marti started out as a teenager at Applebees. She was, of course, still going to struggle with pregnancy symptoms and the craziness of hormones, but that was really hard to write, even with her being 19. (I was 21 when this puberty thing hit me… and that was still really young.) So I wrote the actual story. Carissa is my editor, and was able to take my idea, and put it on the paper. It just wasn’t there in the first draft. It was apparent, to a point, in the second draft, and by the third and fourth draft we were working at what I’d consider a typical author/editor relationship. Before the final drafts started to show up, however, I commented to my husband that “I feel like a ghost writer. It’s my ideas, granted, and my words, but Carissa’s done all the work!” And so, in honor of all her work, I listed her on Amazon as having a collaborative part of the story. Because, really, she did.

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How long had you been writing before you began to take it seriously?
I’ve always wanted to, and always have written something or other. My first “published” work was in kindergarten or first grade entitled Chocolate Chip Cookies and Milk which was an assignment that everyone had to do, of course, but mine was good enough to get published in the district’s “outstanding literature” book they put together each year of the student’s works. So either everyone else sucked, or my writing was decent for y age even then. Take your pick.

After that though, I didn’t focus on writing until I was in 6th grade when I started turning out book after book (and starting even more) of fan fiction. Not yet confident enough to invent my own main characters, I thrived off writing my own Jimmy Neutron fics that were just as long as any young adult book at the time. (Now there’s more novels. But if you remember the days of Encyclopedia Brown, you’ll know what I”m talking about in length. I was good too. I didn’t think so, and I don’t know either, but others did. I actually received fan mail several times telling me how much they liked my stories. Some even follow me today as a writer. And, I suppose if I’m honest my fan fiction was at least a cut-above-the-rest of normal fan-fiction… I just compare it to now and squirm though.

After fan-fiction died off, I didn’t really pick up the pen (or computer as it may be) until I was 19 and my best friend, and then ex-boyfriend dumped me. That “caused” me to start writing Lilliana’s Story, and led to a bunch more incomplete works but that are now original fiction. Stuck in Estrogen’s Funhouse was the first to be completed and then published. I’m hoping that more of the current ones will make it to paperback and e-book as well… but at the moment I’m suffering a bout where my writing is painfully bad since my grandma’s death… so I don’t know if the others will make it or not. I hope so, because I love the characters so much!

Why did you decide to self publish? How has your experience been?

Honestly? I suppose there are two reasons. The most important is that I cannot stand the fact that publishers want you to literally sell your rights to them. I love the idea that my book would be read by more people, but there’s a cost to that. In my mind, I don’t care if I get 50 million dollars from having it cooperatively published, it’s not worth selling my ideas and giving up my rights. I understand “risk” to them if I should decide I want to give my book away all around the internet, but as a writer, if I decide to do that, that is my prerogative. I went to a book fair with a ton of authors recently, and they announced over the intercom that “All authors can buy their books at 20% off.” And that itself almost made me lose it. They freaking wrote it. Without them you wouldn’t have the book to sell. The least you can do is give them rights to their own work and give them free copies.

Now, I do realize that most authors are given a few free copies, but if you ask me an author should be able to ask for as many copies as he or she wants, whenever they want. Again, it’s their work. I shouldn’t have to pay for something that comes out of my own head. And with self publishing, I do call all the shots. And while I have to pay for printing, I do get free copies of my work for all intents and purposes. I just pay shipping and handling and production costs.

I’d say the experience of self publishing has been about what I expected. It’s hard to get your name out there, and to market your book… but it can also be incredibly fun! I love having all rights to my work, and while, yeah, I’d love to sell a million copies, I’m seriously just thrilled when I hear of another person that I didn’t know before reading my work. That is awesome. And I love talking to the readers after they’ve read it as well.

What advice would you give to any aspiring authors out there?

Write. Simple as that. Participate in National Novel Writing Month in November, or otherwise turn your inner editor off. Personally, I wouldn’t listen to “don’t talk about your work” because that drives me crazy. Tell people the general idea, and then when you find someone that is just as excited about it as you are, release it to them chapter by chapter as you write it. I find that writers tend to be needy. If I’m the only one excited about my work, it wears off. But if you have someone there to bug you with “what’s next?” and “You have more, right?” Then you find yourself excited to answer their questions and share whats in your mind, with them. This is great motivation to actually writing it down. Just, at least for the first draft, tell them that while you want happy-feedback, it’s not time for constructive criticism — or criticism of any kind — yet. They can tell you that when you’ve finished the first draft, if you feel comfortable with that, or if you ask for it along the way (say you are stuck and you want to know when they think it “went wrong”). Better yet, after the first copy, read it over beginning to end by yourself, no asking others about it while you do so. Take notes. What do you love, what do you think “um… did I really write that?” Were your characters’ motivations clear? Questions like that. Then, start revisions, when you are done re-writing the second draft, have the same person that read it as it was written read it. This is the ideal time for criticism if you elected to not hear it at the end of the first draft. After this, go on to editing and such. But I think that if you follow the above (and nothing tragic happens in real life) then you can easily see your dream of being published come true.


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