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


That Pesky Point of View

Stardate 95719.53

I feel like I’m doing a lot more blogging than writing lately, but it is, I suppose, my therapy during this process. That’s what writing essentially is – a process. Writing is also considered an art form but in the long run it is also a process. Why do you think there are so many tip websites, self-help books, outlining, and plot line diagrams to help move the stories along? Whether you like it or not many authors/writers like myself need to have a bit of a helping hand.

I feel like this blog is only about the problems I’m encountering as a writer.

I’ll never forget the first time I tried to write a story. I don’t remember what it was about but I do remember that when I went back through it later on I realized I had a problem. A point of view problem. I feel like this blog is only about the problems I’m encountering as a writer. I don’t mean to be so negative but how else am I to seek assistance from those more matured in the craft than I?

In that first story I kept swinging back and forth between the pronouns. I’ve heard others say to not worry about the technical aspects of your first draft – just write it. I know that’s what first drafts are all about; hashing out what you want and adjusting, adding and amending later in your second or third draft. But I’m afraid of slipping back into that old school habit of switching between the POVs from one chapter to the next and losing that continuity. What’s funny is one of the authors I follow on Twitter mentioned the same thing several months back – that she had to go back and edit because of a POV issue. I don’t remember if it was Nichelle Rae, Melanie Dickerson or someone else, but it’s nice to know that even already-published authors experience the same things.

I recently came across a sub-page called Grammar Girl who writes articles about, well, writing (imagine that!) that covers this very topic, and covers it much more eloquently than I ever could. While the article is from 2011 and it is now 2018, some thing never change in the writing world and I am grateful for that. I just know that from here on out I’ll most likely have a post-it somewhere that will constantly remind me of what form I’m using for my point of view. What’s also making it easier on myself is that I’m only doing one character’s point of view per book.

That was the other problem I had months ago – how many characters do I want to give voices to throughout the journey? How many times does that POV change within a chapter? Or does it stay the same in a single chapter? Keep it simple. Keep it real. Keep it within one mindset.

Maybe my next series can be a bit more complicated, unless I never actually finish the Firedamp series. I certainly hope that won’t be the case! I’m just hoping that, as someone who has never taken on a task like this before, I am at least on the right track. The main goal was to not bite off more than I can chew (which was entirely the case during my initial planning phase of this book!). Now if only I can get all the logistics under control… 


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!


Speaking of Libraries

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Stardate 94505.05: #WTOTD

If you are looking for a library to research in and you are in the Pittsburgh area, I suggest stopping by the Northland Public Library. Not only is their staff incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, but they have a tiny little snack store with a microwave where you can refuel if you want to keep working. Not only that but they offer classes on everything from basic computer skills to crafting, the Virtual Book Shelf, Bookmobile, meeting rooms and more. It has become one of my favorite places to visit for research material and it is consistently busy with several schools being nearby. So there’s my simple Tip of the Day. Nothing on this website is sponsored, but as I work more on my novel I’ll be exploring other local libraries.


Pros and Cons of Writing

Stardate 94261.87

I threw that wish in the well, and you know for sure I will tell cuz I am ready for this and nothing’s in my way…

Did I really just rewrite the first two lines of Carly Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe song to begin this blog post? I believe I did, but the writer in my was happy to do it. This writer is also happy that the top row of the QWERTY keyboard has all the letters to spell the word “writer.” I am too easily amused…

But onward to the topic of today’s blog post, the Pros and Cons for First Time Writers. I don’t think that there is a writer who, at one time or another, thought that they weren’t good enough. I never knew them personally, but I am sure that JRR Tolkein, Stephen King, CS Lewis, JK Rowling and James Patterson all probably wrote something the were not proud of and never published. So for the first time writers out there, let’s look at some. I have grouped the following four points into a “Pro, Con and Resolution” pattern. They’re things I have discovered about my own writing style that I hope you will find useful.

Pro: You ADORE a well-written historical novel and want to write one yourself.

Con: If you love history and want to write a gorgeous piece set in Victorian England, you are writing a historical novel. And if you are writing this type of fiction you better do your research. Why? Because readers are going to analyze it. They’ll know if you don’t know the grammar of that time period, the clothing or locations. That’s part of the challenge, and the fun, for this form of fiction.

Resolution: Do your research. It’s as simple as that. Not to mention you’ll most likely discover something you never knew before, so you’ll write and learn all at the same time. During the process you may also network with historians, library staff and other knowledgeable folks you may never have met otherwise. If you can afford to, travel to the area your novel is set to get immersed into those elements. Of course not everyone can afford the luxury of a plane ticket to France or Germany, but sometimes seeing is believing in your story and can bring new plots to light.

Pro: You LOVE writing but:

Con: You wrote a lot mostly in high school but now you want to write again. Can you really do this?

Resolution: Of COURSE you can! I taking the plunge myself. Don’t let those self-doubts get in the way of progress. Think of it this way: if one of the most hated men in world history can write an autobiography called Mein Kampf, you can most certainly fill the pages of your own. But give yourself time. Don’t dive right in without testing the waters first. I went back to my roots by beginning a short story. It’s no longer short…it’s basically a novella now…but once you start something, FINISH it. I believe that is the toughest thing for any type of artist to do – FINISHing their projects.

Pro: Resources are available in abundance.

Con: Maybe one too many?

Resolution: Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed, which is easy to do in this digital age. You want to network, yes, but make sure you network worth like-minded and trustworthy people. Don’t let the idea of social media and marketing yourself scare you off because you are going to want to sell yourself and your writing to potential readers, authors, publishers, and other online resources. Don’t burn any bridges unless the relationship becomes detrimental to your goals.

Pro: You know your vocab. You took high school English or majored in a librarian or journalistic career

Con: Yet novel writing isn’t exactly your forte.

Resolution: In today’s digital age ANYbody can be a writer, whether it’s a blog post, a journalist position, a news prompt writer, or if you’re like me, you’re shooting to have an actual book published with pages people can turn. If you feel like you need a confidence booster, it’s okay to go back to school. Many colleges and universities offer writing courses and some can even be donne by correspondence. My point here is: we are constantly learning. Even if you think you know how to write there is not one person who can know everything, so don’t take yourself too seriously if you reach those dreaded writer’s blocks. Learn something new, get outside, switch up your work space, and let your mind relax.

From one non-expert to another I hope that this blog has been somewhat useful. I am a new author myself, and this post was also a way to get out of my head the lessons I have learned from the past few weeks. Remember that you can be your own worst enemy when it comes to staying on task. And unless you are already contracted with a publisher, you can set your own pace. What are your pros and cons? Don’t be afraid to critique yourself.

Find what kind of prose makes you happy and run with it. If you dream it, you can do it.

Keep calm and write on!