Dragon*Con

If you’ve never been to Dragon*Con before, you must go. Run, don’t walk, to the convention next Labor Day weekend. Why? It’s only the biggest convention for science fiction/fantasy fans ever! In my dream world every weekend would be Dragon*Con. I’ve been told many times over the past two weeks that I’m a nerd, or a geek, because I love Dragon*Con. What these people don’t realize is I take that as a compliment. 

Now, I’m not one of those brainiac scientists, or even computer techies, who are advancing life on this planet as we know it. But seriously people, what would our world be like if it wasn’t for the true geeks, as you call them? It’s not the people who are watching reality TV every night that are making changes for the better. Hate to break it to ya. 

So, when I go to things such as Dragon*Con, I wave my mini geek flag proudly and hope that someone inducts me into the geek club. At a minimum, maybe they won’t mind my presence while I absorb all that I can to take back to my lair and eventually do something with. And, did I get a lot of stuff this weekend!

First of all, I must say that I was quickly disheartened at my first panel on Saturday morning. I won’t name the panel that I attended, but this very popular TV series lost my respect and I don’t feel inclined to finish watching the series at this point. The actors spent almost the whole time on their cell phones Tweeting, and who knows what else, instead of paying attention to their fans. Yep, the fans who stood in line to get their Dragon*Con pass, who paid nearly $100 for the pass, stood in line for the panel, and some even stood in line for the Q&A section. You can’t put your cell phone away for one hour to show some gratitude to your fans? Really?

At any rate, the rest of my weekend was fabulous! What I experienced after this bummer of a panel totally surpassed my expectations. I took away so many encouraging thoughts, advice, and stories from artists, actors, and authors that my bucket is now overflowing. 

Some highlights … 

I really enjoyed listening to Mary Robinette Kowal at the “Writing Short Fiction” panel. She is the Vice-President of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (an organization I am not a member of … yet). There was a great debate in this session of whether or not writers use a different set of skills to write short fiction vs. long fiction. She was adamant that the skills are the same, but it comes down to economy of words. All panelists brought up excellent points and the jury is still out in my mind. I know that I struggle immensely with writing short fiction, but I intend to rise to the occasion and improve my short story writing skills. Her greatest words of advice, “Write, submit, rinse and repeat.” The biggest hang-up for writers is not finishing the story and then not submitting it. So, once again, “Write, submit, rinse and repeat.” I also got a lovely little flag that I stuck to my Dragon*Con badge that says, “I am all out of excuses.”

I am, too. 

The other session that I loved was the “New York Times Bestselling Authors Tell All.” The panelists were Kevin Anderson, Terry Brooks, Charlaine Harris, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jonathan Maberry, and Nancy Knight as the moderator. These authors were true professionals. Nancy did an excellent job moderating the panel by leading the authors in a discussion that was so well thought out and applicable to writers who are starting out. The authors seemed open to putting it all on the table.

Guess what they spend their time doing? Writing. 

The life of a NYT bestselling author isn’t all fame and glam. They get up in the morning, spend normal work hours writing, and then they have to promote their books. They also have lives outside of writing. Don’t forget families, too. The biggest motivator for all of them seemed to be a paycheck, which you can’t blame them for that. NYT bestselling authors have bills to pay like the rest of us. 

One point they made that really popped out at me was how important it is to set the precedent that those around a writer respect writing time. Just because someone works from home, they are still working. Even if you catch the writer staring off into space, they are still working. It takes time to get into that writing zone and unnecessary distractions can quickly take a writer out of it, which leads to them having to spend more time trying to get into that place again. 

Best words of advice … write, write, get honest feedback, write, and write some more. 

I’m now going to wave my little geek flag as I head off to do as I was told … write. 

Goals and Time

Or should it read Time for Goals?

The school bell has rung and it’s back to work for me. And really, that’s all fine and dandy. What is looming over my head, though, is mass amounts of fear. Fear that my day job will take over my night job. Fear that I won’t get enough sleep. Fear that I’ll hate myself months from now when I look back and reflect on how little writing I’ve been able to accomplish. 

I’ve always been a goal setter. I like seeing the end and having something to work towards all while enjoying the journey (of course enjoying the journey, that’s what it’s all about, right?). But then I read other blogs about not setting goals and just going with the flow all the live long day. Hmm. What is a person to do? 

I fear that if I don’t set writing goals for while I’m back to working full-time that I’ll simply never accomplish a thing. 

Once those goals are set, when do I actually do the writing? Once I’ve cut the cord and made it back home, had dinner, spent time with the pooch, and gotten work out of my system I’m ready for bed. So, do I force myself to burn the midnight oil and write anyway at the time of day when my heart just isn’t into it. Or, do I rise around 4am and write what I can before having to rush off to work? 

I’ve read many strategies of how to balance a writing life along with a full-time job. Some very successful writers had to rise long before the rest of the world to get in their creative time before heading off to work. 

If they did it, I suppose I can, too. I want to be able to write when my mind is fresh and untouched by the world. To be able to go from the dream world to my own writing world is ideal. It takes too much effort some evenings to try to pry off the expectations of society in an attempt to get back to myself so I can write. Honestly, some days I just don’t have it in me. 

So, that’s the plan. I’m going to try to rise super early during the work week so I can write. It makes sense, really, since I seem to be naturally waking between 3 and 4 a.m. anyway. 

I didn’t accomplish much writing this week and I noticed a slight layer of dust collecting on the novel-whose-title-keeps-changing. Unacceptable. I’ve reacquainted myself with my story over the weekend and feel that I’m back on a roll. If I keep up the pace I had this weekend I should be able to finish my second draft by the end of the week. 

Time to go set my alarm for tomorrow. No excuses. 4 a.m.

Blogging – What’s in it for me?

The other day I read a blog post by another writer entitled “Author Blogging: You’re Doing it Wrong” and it got me thinking. The author shared her own thoughts about an “author platform” and how blogging isn’t the best way for a fiction writer to sell books. She claims the real benefits are networking with other writers and honing your craft. 

I think she’s right. 

I thought about this whole idea of blogging and why exactly I did jump on the bandwagon. When the-novel-whose-title-keeps-changing is finally finished, is this blog really going to help me sell it? No, probably not. Especially with only two followers. (Thanks, Mom!) 

It is time consuming. There’s time spent thinking about a blog post. Time to actually write the post. Read over it and edit it. Let it sit for a bit. Read and edit it again. Let it sit for a bit. Do it all over again. And then finally click that magical button–Publish. 

So, what’s in this for me?

Accountability – This is probably number one. Taking that leap of faith and declaring to the world that I want to make a go of this holds me accountable for putting my work where my mouth is. Talking casually with a friend about someday finishing that novel is different from posting publicly to the world, “Hey, I’m finishing up the novel I wrote a while back and I want to publish it”.

Networking – I completely agree with her about this. I love connecting with other writers and hearing their advice. We writers spend so much time alone in our own heads that it’s nice to connect with others in a similar boat if only to remind ourselves that we’re really not alone after all. There’s someone else out there who gets it.

Craft – By diving into any type of writing (novel, short stories, journal entries, blogging, etc) I am honing my craft. I am getting more experience, continuing to find my voice, and always stretching myself a bit further.  

In the end, I might not sell a lot of books because of my blog … and that’s okay (for now). This is my journey and blogging is one way of making me step out of my comfort zone. 

Time to let this sit for a bit …

Short Story Problems

I have a problem. See, I get this overwhelming amount of story ideas throughout the day and, unfortunately, night. Some of them are so awesome that they just rock my world. I’m convinced they are truly genius …

And then I start to write them. And I flounder. And I get tired. And never finish most of them.

I have notebooks full of great story ideas, pithy one-liners, and even half written stories. But, to be honest, most of them never see the light of day. They are kept in darkness, tucked safely away in my notebooks, never to have true life breathed into them. Many don’t even make it to my laptop. 

To be granted permission to live on my laptop is a true honor for these stories because it means that they actually have a chance. Stories never start out on my laptop, though. I don’t know what it is. I get seriously blocked when I look at a blank screen. Hand me a notebook with clean, lined pages and I’m Stephen King … okay, maybe not The King, but you get my point. 

I don’t know what it is that happens between “Once upon a time” and “The End” that kills some of these stories. Am I afraid of commitment? Good grief! It’s called a short story for a reason. Do I lose momentum? Suck it up and just finish the damn thing. Do I not get ahold of paper fast enough before the fire inside the story burns out? Who knows.

Last night I experienced thunder and lightning unlike anything I’ve experienced before; last night was special. I couldn’t sleep while the earth was trembling beneath me, of course, so my mind ran wild. And … voila! I got a story idea. 

So, after two lattes this morning I grabbed my notebook, plopped in the recliner, and spent over 3 hours writing my story–from beginning to end. This story didn’t plummet to its death over the side of a cliff. I handwrote all 36 pages in one sitting and it felt great! Well, except for my aching hand. 

After months of short story droppings (see reasons above combined with my being busy with the novel-whose-title-keeps-changing), my story is now basking in completeness. Enjoying just being in the moment. Brace yourself, Story, because you’ll be moving to my laptop soon … very soon. 

Splash!

(For the record, I have other short story issues, too, but I’ll save the rest of my confessions for another day)

Moving Forward …

“Many people have a novel inside them, but most don’t bother to get it out. Writing is grunt work – you need to have self-motivation, perseverance, and faith… talent is the smallest part of it (one need only read some of the titles on the NYT Bestseller list to see that…) If you don’t believe in yourself, and you don’t have the fortitude to make that dream happen, why should the hotshots in the publishing world take a chance on you?” ~ Jodi Picoult

Two years ago I wrote a book, and it took me two years to give myself credit for writing that book. Over 300 pages sat and collected dust because I was scared that it was garbage and because, I would later learn, it was a young adult book, and I was firm in my position of not being a young adult writer. Who wants to write young adult books anyway? Ick!

So, I set aside the excuses and fears  and got moving this summer. I decided that I’m no longer going to talk about writing; instead I’m going to actually do some writing. 

I gave credit where credit is due. I stopped minimalizing my writing and what I have accomplished so far. I stopped talking about my book as some abstract thing that maybe someday I would actually hold in my hand. I gave myself credit for actually writing the book.  

“And – here’s a critical part – when you finally start to write something, do not let yourself stop…even when you are convinced it’s the worst garbage ever. This is the biggest caveat for beginning writers. Instead, force yourself to finish what you began, and THEN go back and edit it. If you keep scrapping your beginnings, however, you’ll never know if you can reach an end.” ~ Jodi Picoult

Over a month ago I received the latest Writer’s Digest magazine in the mail. I’m embarrassed to admit that something about the picture on the cover absolutely bugged me. I can’t explain why. Maybe it’s because the author interview was with a very successful young adult author I’d never even heard of (and who wants to read advice from a young adult author that you’d never heard of–really?). At any rate, it took me about a week to set aside my pride and delve into the magazine. What a life changing experience it was! Had the interview been with any other young adult author it might not have had the same effect. As it turns out, the interview was with Sarah Dessen, who is being hailed as this generation’s Judy Blume. 

To my surprise, this woman had gone through the same shocking experience as me when she realized that the book she wrote was actually a young adult book. That was a rough discovery for her but one that she quickly settled into and has made into a career.

This interview was a real eye opener for me. Somehow my mind was able to rest with the realization, and acceptance, that my book was targeted for young adults … and that’s okay. With this acceptance, I was able to give myself permission to move forward with my book. I crossed a major mental hurtle and now I’m able to keep moving. 

So, I’ve dusted off my book, and I’ve been in the process of editing and rewriting. This has been an amazing experience. Some days it is grunt work and other days it just flows naturally. Some days I’m convinced that it is a pile of garbage and other days I think it isn’t half bad. But I’m moving forward …

Why now?

Quite a while ago I swore that I would never jump on the blog bandwagon, so why am I jumping on it now? 

<deep thinking>

I’m not exactly sure of all that this blog will encompass. The bottom line …

I am a writer, and I hope to see my work published someday. It’s time for me to start putting myself “out there”. Where is “out there”, you ask? I’m diving into the world of Platform Building. Splash! I hope to connect with writers, readers, and pretty much everyone. That means you. 

So, there it is. This will be the place where I keep you abreast of this writer’s journey. Splash!

Stay tuned to read about what I’m working on now …