The Publishing Dilemma

Stardate 96171.08

To self publish or not to self publish. That is the question. I may be borrowing and mixing up a line from literary history, but that’s how this week’s thought process has been going. Although The Firedamp Chronicles series is still in its infancy stages, I am starting to think on the later steps as well. Do I self-edit, self-design and self-publish? Or do I go the more traditional route by paying others to do those steps for me. Self publishing sounds instantly gratifying, but how can you really do a book tour on a zero dollar budget? And what if there are too many uncaught mistakes in the final product?

Although The Firedamp Chronicles series is still in its infancy stages, I am starting to think on the later steps as well.

For most of my life I’ve been a traditionalist. [I may lose a few readers here but…] I am a libertarian in terms of my political views. I believe in minimal government involvement in our daily lives and letting the American people thrive on their own choices rather than having so many regulations, taxes, HOAs, etc. to tell us what to do. I still believe in the American dream – paving a way for ones self and encouraging others along the way. I still believe in the sanctity of marriage, the logical order of things, of a harmony between science and religion. All that might be a bit much for a post about how to publish, right?

Not really, because it all leads up to the point of this blog post. Throughout my childhood I’ve dreamed of becoming a published author, like my uncle. But I always felt like I had to please everyone else around me and I never thought I was good enough of a writer to begin with. Folks I know still don’t believe that writing is a legitimate job, but it’s still hard work. It’s just slower work. It’s disciplined work. It’s organized work. It’s work that has been around as long as any other profession – maybe not a social media analyst or IT director; those jobs weren’t really around until the late ’90s or early 2000s. You get what I mean.

It’s disciplined work. It’s organized work. It’s work that has been around as long as any other profession – maybe not a social media analyst or IT director; those jobs weren’t really around until the late ’90s or early 2000s. You get what I mean.

I am a traditionalist when it comes to publishing. While I do own a Kindle and I have several books on my app on my phone, I still prefer physical books. Their smell. Their feel. The occasional paper cuts when you turn a page too quickly.  Boy, do I sound like a lunatic. But if you are a book lover like I am, you understand.

I’ve seen some pretty bad self-published works out there. There was a story I bought on-the-cheap last year and I found several spelling errors every few pages, awkward sentences, and abrupt scene changes. You could just tell the individual was a new author working on a minimal budget. They didn’t have the resources – or, if they did, just wanted to scrape by in order to get the work published – and I get that. I don’t have several hundred dollars to spend on an editor or publicist or cover designer.

The fear of falling into the bad side of self-publishing is terrifying to me.

The fear of falling into the bad side of self-publishing is terrifying to me. If I am going to put a story out there that took me several years to research and write, it’s a representation of my abilities. Sure, there are some who are able to do all that and are successful at self-publishing. but that’s where my traditionalism comes into play.

It’s been said that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter received rejection after rejection before it was finally published. With all that rejection through the traditional route she still pressed on. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone just had its 20th birthday (I was 12 years old when it came out. Dang…). But now she also has that editor, that publicist, that assistant, that help. That team of people who believe in her abilities and the characters she created.

I’m not sure if being that well known of an author is a route every person who writes aims for; at least some recognition would be nice. But I think that there are many writers out there, like myself, who have to do it on their own. Maybe self publish one small work, like a novella first, to get their foot in the door. So, at the end of this blog post, I’m still undecided on which direction to go. There are pros and cons to both methods, that’s for sure, but you’ll never know what you’re capable of unless you at least try.


On Social Media and Being Yourself

Stardate 96165.61

Writing is a process. No writer can go into a story without knowing that there is a general logical order of things every step of the way. There’s a process with the writing. There’s a process with the editing. There’s a process with the publishing. And there’s a process with marketing. I don’t claim to be an expert, being as new to this as sprouts are on the first official day of spring. But I thought I’d take a break from my own writing to share what I’ve learned so far. I hesitate to use the word journey because I feel as though I’ve beaten that word to death with overuse on this website already. Expedition? No, that’s too scientific. Campaign? No, that’s too political. Ehhhhh, I’ll think of something!

Processes. Decisions. When you choose to write first you have to choose your niche. Are you a fantasy writer? A historian? Is your history going to be straight up history or history with a twist? Are you going fiction or non-fiction? What kind of characters do you hope to develop? Do you choose simple story arcs or more complicated ones? Are fairy tales your passion or do you prefer hard-hitting journalism?

Is your head spinning yet?

Those are the first questions I found myself asking the day after the idea for my work in progress pushed its way into my life. For some, the beginnings come naturally. They’re able to just write, without thinking about outlining or grammar terminologies or Venn diagrams. For others, like myself, they need that structure to help them along. However you choose to write, stick with that method.

I found myself becoming overwhelmed with all the options and I realized, as I went back through my earlier documents, that that uncertainty was most certainly reflected in the early stages of my thought processes. Occasionally I have to regroup and spend several hours whittling down, rewriting, and condensing information back into a format that made sense.

After two years I feel like I’ve finally found my niche – the things that encourage me to keep going and not to just give up with my writing. That’s what this blog post is all about. Maybe it’ll make some kind of sense, maybe not. But maybe you’ll find something in this post you can relate to in your writing life.

For some the beginnings come naturally. They are able to just write, without thinking about outlining or grammar terminologies or Venn diagrams.

onsocialmedia
Social media is an evil necessity. There are days where I think about completely erasing my footprint from the likes of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and so on in exchange for a simpler life. The life, you know, that existed in 1995. In 1995 Bill Clinton was the 42nd President of the United States, Star Trek: Voyager made its debut into the Trekverse (my dork side is showing here), the domestic terrorist attack in Oklahoma City took place, Syria was in peace talks with Israel, a 7.3 earthquake rocked Japan and the Space Shuttle Atlantis was launched. Oh, and everyone was enraptured by Tom Hanks’ Apollo 13 film.

I was ten years old in 1995 and blissfully unaware of how the Internet, used only through a modem and dial-up back then, would become such an entwined part of daily life. Now, for better or for worse, everyone from actors to publicists to news anchors to the Presidents of the United States uses it. If you’re looking to sell your book digitally, you almost have to have a media footprint. Almost.

It’s something I’ve come to accept as a 32 year old. I have Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I don’t have a YouTube channel because I hate being on camera and I don’t have thousands of followers. But I’ve found that I enjoy creating blurbs to spark interest in writing. I used to create graphics for my church’s social media, preferring to avoid any potential copyright issues, and I’ve carried that over to my own website and other platforms. This, however, leads me into my next point.

onbeingyourself
What can I say about social media and staying true to yourself that hasn’t already been said? While social media is, indeed, useful in marketing your work, yourself, your image, it’s easy to lose yourself into the streamlined persona that everyone has come to expect. You know what I mean – those ultra filtered perfect looking photos that makes you either A: want their life or B: makes you wonder what they’re hiding behind that facade. It’s also why mental health has become such an issue.

The problem with social media is that *some* folks who follow you can have not only those unrealistic exceptions I’ve already touched upon, but they want you to always be online and respond instantly. Know yourself first, have your priorities straight second. If you don’t you can easily find yourself getting sucked into the “fast fame” mindset. Find a balance.


Social media is a double edged sword. It can be used to gain fast fame or to defame. It can be an incredibly useful tool to expand your readership or it can be an incredible distraction. However you choose to utilize this tool in the 21st century, think twice before Tweeting, Posting, or Snapping. Ask yourself if you’re lifting someone up or tearing them down with the post. I’m not advocating that we shouldn’t express opinions or have strong views. I’m only advocating being smart with it. There is a difference between social justice and spitefulness. There’s already enough of that in society.

Image result for Kindness memes

Kidding…kidding!

I end this post with a hilarious bit from Britain’s great Mr. Bean. In this skit, he goes to library and, as usual, chaos ensues!


The First Betas Have It

Stardate 96129.44

I knew this day would eventually come – I would have to start getting opinions from readers and using that feedback to better enhance my writing. Awaiting the results of those opinions, in my opinion anyway, is worse than waiting for a prognosis from a doctor about a medical condition.

Why?

Because when people read your work they’re reading a bit of your soul, your time, your effort. A doctor assess what is wrong with your physical body. Readers can maybe, sometimes see what is wrong with your mental…body?

Knowing I was going to have my family (of all people) read just the first page of my novella I’d spent all day at work nervously staring at the clock for the hand to hit 6:00 pm. When it finally did I scooped up the two copies I’d printed out, crossed out the last line because I already knew I hated it and joined the rush hour traffic as we all made our way home.

Family dinner nights have been a tradition since my parents started watching my niece as a baby over five years ago, when my sister went back to work after her maternity leave. And again after my nephew was born. My Dad’s a baby-man. Kids love him and he knows how to handle them. Watching him with my niece and nephew has given me a peek into how he was when my sister and I were that age. But I digress.

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day. Breezes flew around the Pittsburgh valley, across the waters of the Three Rivers and into our neighborhood. We had a light dinner of sandwiches and salad and decided the conditions outside were fantastic for a quick ramble around the neighborhood. Of course, for that entire three-hour time frame, my eyes kept searching for one of them to pick up a copy of the first page. I wanted them to read it yet not at the same time. Quite the conundrum, right? Finally they did and I realized that I had to learn not to be so defensive about my work.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.”
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th US President

Mom: “You used too many adjectives.”
Sister: “I thought they were brothers. What do you mean they’re not?”
Dad: “Do you want my notes now or later?”
Brother-in-law: “I’ll read it later.” (In his defense he’s on council for a local government and a lot was happening last night. I let him slide!)

Sigh.

While knew that the first page had already undergone several edits – I started out by just taking down the original ideas, recognized that I started too many sentences the same way and changed them, etc – there was no way my family could have known that so I had to expect that they wouldn’t sugar coat their opinions.

I think that’s what many folks of modern American expect – sugar-coated opinions and nothing but praise. If all you receive is praise and approval with everything you do how can you expect to grow or change something about yourself without the critique of others?

It’s not completely back to the drawing board with my novella. I’m rather glad twelve hours later that I decided to ask for someone to read it this early in the writing process than much much further in without seeing my faults.

Write some, edit some.
Write some, edit some.
Study sentence structure.
Make it better.
Repeat.

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.”
Colin Powell


From Exposition to Resolution

Stardate 95717.53

I have many problems. C’mon now, they’re writing problems. It took me weeks to figure out my story’s ending and even then I knew that all the pieces weren’t going to be resolved in one book. (Read my prior blog post about that particular issue here). Now the problem is everything in between.

This is something that has followed me from my fan fiction writing days. I have never been able to finish a story – it just keeps going on and on and on and….well, you get the picture. Think about that graphic – the one from high school English or Creative Writing class. This one:

story arc

Now this is the most basic of basic plot graph you can find. It doesn’t even have the same word I use in my title. Then there’s this graphic:

arcs

I’d say that kind of thing would accurately represent the J.R.R. Tolkien The Lord of the Ring’s novels. (And now the theme song is stuck in my head. Thanks brain). I highly doubt that Firedamp is ever going to be that complicated, maybe that first little bump on the left hand side, but not the twenty bumps after.

It’s that first section of bumps that encouraged me to have not one outline but multiple outlines. I am positive that by the end of this I’ll also have a “family tree” of sorts on my home office wall showing how each character is connected to each other. I would rather have them all connect somehow than to have one random individual off in La La Land dancing around like Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Unless they have a purpose.

And all that’s the challenge of writing, isn’t it? How to not make your novel feel like a cancelled TV show that has a cliffhanger ending that leaves you wondering what the point of even writing it? I always thought that finding the ending was the hardest part, but now that I have both that and the beginning, now it is everything in between. That’s all part of the adventure that I think I’m slightly scared of because they say that you write a bit of yourself into each character. Baring that little bit of soul can be intimidating and you don’t know who can read between the lines.

But you know what? That’s okay. In order to make your characters be ones folks will want to know more about you gotta bare your soul so they have soul. And when there’s that soul you can easily go from the exposition to the resolution.


I know it’s from The Hobbit film instead of LOTR but it’s in my head!


Why I Gave Up On Wattpad

Stardate 95645.98

Community. It’s something I think every writer seeks to be a part of whether they want to admit it or not. We crave reviewers, feedback and opinions from others who may be more experienced in the field even though we may disagree with it at the same time. That’s why a place like Wattpad seems so appealing. It’s a community of other writers and readers who crave new stories, but who also crave being taken seriously as they write. There are downsides, however, to this kind of format and that’s what I’ll be exploring in today’s blog post. So let’s dive right into my thinking here with my Top 3 Reasons for Why I Gave Up on Wattpad.

1: Fan fictions
Now I’m not here to “dis” on fan fictions (and some readers of this blog may strongly disagree with me on this). Far from it. Writing fan fiction was partly how I got my inspiration to write an actual novel.  I grew up writing Star Trek stories (before I even knew what the term fan fiction actually was) and it morphed into Supernatural stories in my college years. There’s, most likely, more words in my Supernatural fan fictions than there were in four years’ worth of college papers combined. There is an overwhelming number of fan fictions for every fandom you can think of. Kpop bands? There’s fan fiction for that. Supernatural? Of course. Ninja turtles? Yep. Anime, manga and OST? Definitely.

Let me return to my original premise: I’m not here to “dis” on fan fictions. I had one, based off Supernatural, called Sam in Wonderland, that I thoroughly enjoyed writing. The problem with it, though, was that I could never seem to finish it. And since it was an un-publishable fan fiction, I just kept it going. But here’s a pro for stories such as these: there are some truly amazing ones out there. And Wattpad does give non-traditional writers a place to practice and find others who enjoy what they do as well.

Solution: If you want to get good feedback on a story you eventually want to publish either through traditional means or self-publishing, finding someone to critique your work who has been in the biz may prove incredibly useful. You may argue about scenes you love verses what they may see as not part of the story, but that’s what they’re there for. And fan fictions may even turn into a potential episode script (we’ve seen it happen before! Let’s face it, The Orville is basically one big Star Trek fan fiction within itself!)

2: Noise
Wattpad boasts a “large reading audience” but it can be very overwhelming and difficult to get “noticed.” Unless, of course, you write something that’s trending or popular. There’s a rather uncomfortable level of sexy stories with incredibly mature themes that anyone of any age can read. I love finding new stories, but I have the same problem with my Amazon Kindle that I do Wattpad – there’s a never-ending supply of new books and stories and sometimes ones with potential fall through the cracks. You can tailor your searches but I found myself browsing more than reading and never actually posting stories myself.

3: Potential for Theft
This is something that makes me nervous about posting something on a website – anyone can just copy-paste your story and try to pass it off as their own. Of course plagiarism exists even when a book is actually published and in readers’ hands (flashback to high school English class with the MLA Handbook for research papers and how to not plagiarize), and the website does require you to have an account before you can even browse for something to read. So I don’t think that I would ever want to have a story up on an unsecured site where anyone can just grab it for their own. Call me paranoid but unfortunately you can’t be too careful in today’s world with everything from debit card information to stories.

Final Thoughts
While Wattpad and other sites like it may be overwhelming for some they can be incredibly useful tools for others. Some have had success and Wattpad itself even has a list of books that started out as stories online. But there are those who, like myself, definitely prefer the “old school” way of publishing. Sometimes a place like Wattpad can be too “noisy” and other types of free software can help minimize distractions. Everyone has their own methods and what helps them write. If Wattpad is that for you, then by all means. If finding critique partners is it, go for it. The publishing world can be competitive but that doesn’t mean we have to stomp on anyone’s toes to get there. This blog may have been slightly tongue-and-cheek so I hope it made sense to someone out there!


The Complex Nature of Working Titles and Accidental Fan Fictions

Stardate 95587.96

Working titles are just that: working titles. When I first started this journey into this novel (that’s going on two years now), I was convinced I wanted to name it Carrick. In Pittsburgh history, Carrick is a historic neighborhood founded in the 1700s and was not given the name Carrick until the 1853 when it officially became a borough at the request of Dr. John O’Brien. In the 1920s it officially became part of Pittsburgh suburbia and is the location of the historical Wigman house. The Wigman family may make a brief appearance in this novel, but who knows!

As I dove deeper into my research I came across mining terminology, and one such combustible item stuck in my mind. I don’t want to mention it here for fear that A: someone else would like the term or B: there’s already a book with the same title.

Not only did I end up with two working titles, I gained two separate story lines as well. Let me tell you – that confused me even more! It wasn’t until I was halfway through the first chapter of the second version that I realized I was fully basing it off one of my new favorite shows, When Calls the Heart, where the town begins life as, surprise surprise, a coal town. My mind’s eye was picturing their town houses, their families, and their geography. Several problems arose: Pennsylvania isn’t Canada. Pennsylvania didn’t have Mounties and Canada didn’t have canals. I was basically writing a glorified fan fiction.

That’s part of the danger right there: letting your mind become distracted from your original goal and allowing your fan fiction-writing past over influence your own novel. The first half of my writing “career” was mostly in the form of Star Trek and Supernatural fan fiction novellas – many of which I never finished – and I refuse to let myself get sucked back in. They were what helped shape my decision to actually write a full fledged novel. I’ll admit it right now: I’m scared. Scared of never actually writing it. Scared of the rejection letters. Scared of not having the funds to have a really good editor or someone having faith in the story to want to edit it in the first place. I’m not seasoned like many of my favorite authors who are able to crank out stories because it’s their second nature. They know their characters inside and out. I’m still just treading water, waiting to do that butterfly meter race and win with a published book.

Step one: Have confidence in myself.
Step two: Complete my outline.
Step three: Be brave enough to find someone to critique it.

When you write you pour a bit of yourself into each and every story. It’s like putting your heart on your sleeve and I haven’t had great results with that before. But this time. With this novel – regardless of if the name Carrick sticks or not – I will complete it.


Apparently “Beta Readers” Are a Thing

Stardate 94955.95

When I first ventured into this new phase of my life I never knew there was such a thing as a “beta reader.” As I looked more into it the more I realized that maybe I should find a few of my own. But then that “fear” crept up again. You know…the fear

Of course in Rachel’s case it’s fear of quitting her job and making something of her life, but I think the same concept applies here. I’ve been afraid of showing others not only what I’ve written so far but how little of it I’ve actually produced.

But then I realized that that is what I have been craving. I needed input. Someone to tell me whether they like it or hate it. Whether it’s a storyline they’ve read before or not. Whether it’s something they think is marketable, relevant, or fresh. I think it’s something every writer has to face some day – the criticism. I think that that is what’s been causing the mental block in my head from continuing with what I have already. Now thankfully I think I’ve found someone with whom I can share these fears, a fellow writer who is also working on her first novel as well.

There’s still that trepidation though, of whether or not you’ve chosen the right person, but beta readers are a necessary part of the writing process, and there’s only doing, not just trying. (Though I’m sure I’m butchering that phrase just now!)


It’s Okay to Take a Break

Stardate 94854.8

For the past six months I have been researching. Researching so much that I felt overloaded with information and that overload caused me to have to take a break. I find myself still staring at four library books I’m praying are not overdue. But that’s when I realized, two weeks ago, that I needed a break. I felt boxed in by my own tiny office and desktop. I felt the drive leak away. I really had burnt myself out.

But with Spring in the air, a new laptop, and new resolve, I know I need to keep going. I need to finish at least one story I’ve started in my life. I’ve always found that to be my weak link. I get an idea. Start it. And then complicate it so much that I don’t think I’m good enough to get myself out of it.

That’s when I realized that I absolutely HAVE to keep going with Carrick. I need to keep chasing this dream I’ve had since I was a child. My biggest problem is I don’t have a proper outlet. I don’t think I mean outlet. I have the social media outlet. I suppose I mean like-minded folks in my own town with whom I can relate, but the introvert in me is rearing its head. So please excuse today’s ramblings. It’s time to get back to work!


Lazy Language: A Short Analysis of Linguistic Pet Peeves

Stardate 94777.46

Picture it.

You’re sitting in a café, in your favorite spot on the patio with your favorite drink when someone says it. That. Phrase. The phrase that sends chills up and down your spine. The phrase that your friends can’t understand why it makes you uneasy. I am sure that there is a psychological study out there that sufficiently explains why our bodies react the way they do but I am no neurobiologist who can find that easily. I can, however, sum it up into two simple words: Lazy Language. The problem is that everyone uses it, and everyone has their own pet peeves when it comes to it.

The “Delish” Culture 

Advertising is everything. Companies will be forever pushing the next season of products long before the current one has finished. When television shows coin their own terms, like “delish,” we all embrace it. Advertising has become so engrained in our American culture that it is almost expected. Catch phrases are so commercialized that companies spend millions to have theirs air during major sporting events. Can the think tank behind this be appeased by all of us turning our devices off to it? Most likely, no. But it is by no means lazy. Scores of research and debate goes into what is eventually put out. And while it’s not always steeped in proper grammar it gets stuck in your head. That’s why I consider advertising a pet peeve because every one of us buys into it on some level. The key: don’t let the ever-constant consumerism overtake your daily life and influence your decisions in the wrong way.

The “Thank You Much!” Culture

It is no secret that language changes with everything else. No one speaks Shakespearean anymore unless they’re in a literature class, an artist, or an aspiring play write. Who would walk up to a complete stranger and start using wherefores and thereofs? While it is completely romantic to fantasize about that period, it is rather impractical.

“If I profane with my unworthied hand
this holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.”                   ~Romeo~

Undoubtedly romantic, but outdated nonetheless. It’s been replaced by shortened phrases spoken out loud that should remain in text form, i.e. LOL, ROTFL, OMG, just to name the acronyms. “Thank you much,” in this writer’s mind, is just as cringe-worthy. We are starting to sacrifice daily conversation in the interest of getting things done more quickly. And in my mind, it just doesn’t work.


What are some words or phrases you hear in your daily lives that make you cringe? Perhaps it would be prudent to find out why they cause you so much angst. What’s worked for me is taking steps to eliminate the habits from my own life. I constantly resist the urge to use “lol” overbearingly in Tweets and texts (though not always completely successful), and I think carefully before I speak to make sure I don’t make any more linguistic faux pas to better verse myself in varied word choice.

But to each their own, I suppose. We can only focus on our own habits; we cannot force the world to always use proper grammar. Heaven knows this casual blog attempted to do so at 10 PM on a Sunday evening.

Happy reading.
Happy writing.
Keep Calm and Research On.


Why You Should Research Your Historical Novel

Stardate 94766.96: #writetip

Every writer has to start somewhere. Every potential author needs to know that they don’t know everything. That, quite honestly, is one of the cold hard truths of the fast-paced publishing world. When I started this book last September, all I had was one tiny idea. One tiny element that would eventually grow to be this beast of a project where I am consistently learning new things.

If you’re going to write about a certain time period, KNOW that time period. You can’t write on the mid 1800s if all you’ve seen on the subject is a single film version of Jane Eyre. You have to immerse yourself in it. Be analytical of the content you find and be extremely picky of what you choose to include in your own nonfiction.

For first-time writers the task can be daunting at first. It was for me when I realized how little I knew. Some authors can pick up their pen and crank out half a novel in a night. Don’t let yourself become discouraged if you find yourself getting stuck. That’s what the research there is for! If you’re not sure what type of hat your character could have worn, or why they believe what they believe, or if the town you chose for your backdrop is the proper setting for your climax, research it.

Another truth: readers will know, and want to know, why you chose the details you put in. Your readers will also be able to pick up on false facts, especially if you’re writing something historical. Granted, it will be your take on events that actually happened, but be prepared to be able to explain the why.

Is research daunting? Yes. But you will not only find connections in the process but gain a wealth of knowledge on your subjects that you may otherwise have never known.