The Design Team: After Manuscript Submission

Monday, July 16, 2012

The submission process took only a week. After only a few emails between my submission contact and myself, all of the paperwork required for publication were put into order and my book was sent on to the next team – the design team.

This team will work with me to ensure that all of my images are placed in the correct pages throughout my book as well as the front cover. I sent in the images I wanted for the cover and the inside pictures. The Design Team is now taking my images and inserting them into my manuscript. Then they will add the title and other wording to the cover image so that it complies to industry standards.

I can’t wait to see how it’ll all flow together.

 

The Next Step Towards Publication: Submitting the Manuscript

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Friday, June 30th, at 11:23 p.m. I to the next big step – I submitted my manuscript. It wasn’t just that, though. I also sent in all of the illustrations (beautifully drawn by my young teenage daughter) and other necessary submission forms (you know, the paperwork required for the royalities to actually end up in my bank account).

Then I waited the weekend out.

On Monday morning I received my email confirmation that all materials made it safely there.

And now I wait some more. It will be after the July 4th holiday before my manuscript travels any further. The actual process from submission to publication is brand new territory for me so I’ll be learning as I go along.

Ready to learn with me?

Editor’s Responses: Taking the Criticism

Thursday, June 21.2012

As a former English teacher, I understand that the first draft of any type of writing is an incomplete product. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise, that he/she is capable of writing anything perfectly on the first attempt, is not a writer. (That and they probably never made anything above a C on an English paper.) However, this truth does not negate the necessity for a positive attitude towards others’ editing comments on your work. I have poured months of writing and rewriting into this first draft of my novel. I’ve lost sleep. I’ve skipped meals. I’ve hibernated myself away from family and friends for extended periods of time in order to concentrate on my work.

But there came a time last month when I had to stop working on the novel and hand it over to some fresh eyes and differing perspectives. That’s hard to do, but a necessary step towards a polished work. I knew there were mistakes in my writing, but I could no longer try to correct them all over and over again without someone else’s criticism.

Criticism – it sounds harsh, but it needn’t be. It really just a fancy word for a person’s opinions and suggestions. And that’s how I really need to view these edits to my work. It makes the listening and the reading of comments easier to handle. Does it sting when a flaw is pointed out, or another person tells me that he/she disagrees with how I wrote a scene? Yes, of course it does! Should I ignore the comment or opinion? No, and I shouldn’t let my gut reaction to defend my writing get in the way of trying to understand the other person’s point of view either. A good writer listens, says thank you, and then takes those thoughts and opinions back to a quite place where they can be filtered with a new perspective on the work without the emotional attachment.

So that’s where I am now. I’ve heard from most of my editors. I’ll have all the reddened manuscripts back in my hands by this weekend.

The next step – my own editing – and then it’s on to the publisher’s hands.

Hurry Up & Wait: The Editing Process

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

In the midst of the last two weeks’ grind, I failed to keep my readers up-to-date of how things are going. Ooops!

Okay, now with that out of the way, I can explain where I’ve been.

Good news! I wrote the last word of my rough draft yesterday afternoon!

Bad news! I wrote the last word of my rough draft yesterday afternoon.

These last two weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions. One day I’m completely hyped up that I’m almost finished with the rough draft of my novel. The next day, I spend most of my time staring at a computer screen that seemed to shout back at me: “Come on! Write the ending already!” Really, I think I spent more time writing these last three chapters than I did on the first whole half of the book. But, in spite of life happening, it’s done!

Now comes a part of the process which is absolutely necessary yet every writer dreads – editing. As a former English teacher, I understand the pain of handing over a written piece to be scrutinized by others. It’s hard enough when their opinions determine your grade. The sweating palms, the sleepless nights, the wondering what will the teacher think about this part and did I do the formatting all right. I know. That’s why I was always careful in how I edited my students’ work. They were handing me a part of themselves – even if it’s only a research paper or a little five-paragraph essay. Our words show others a piece of the inside regardless of whether it’s an assignment or free write of self-expression.

Usually, something as weighty as a research paper can take weeks, even a month, to complete. That’s a lot of time and effort.

I spent over seven months on my rough draft. And even as I hand it over to the red pens of a few carefully chosen editors, I’m already thinking about what to fix, what to add, what to delete, and most of all What will they think of my writing, OF ME, after having read my draft?

But for now I have to force myself to focus on something else. I have to write something totally different. I have to dig in to household chores, family summer functions, people. I have to wait.

My first chosen editor was “handed” the draft electronically soon after I finished yesterday. My second one gets a copy today. My third and fourth editor have arranged to get theirs Thursday. And while they read/edit, I’ll wait. (Did I mention that patience is not one of my fortes?)

Taking Notice of the Details

Monday, May 14, 2012

It’s amazing how much detail gets missed until you become responsible for them!

This past week I’ve been familiarizing myself with the details of book formatting and layout. This seemed to be a simple task until I began working my way through my publisher’s guide to formatting my manuscript. Now you would think that a former English teacher and bibliophile such as myself would already know every detail about how to layout a book, the lingo even, but not so. I’m learning there’s a whole different world out there in the publishing realm and I only knew a tiny portion of it.

For example, I’m learning the common font used, how many pages go before the first chapter (including those blank ones), when and where to start numbering pages, and all of that. It hasn’t been easy retraining my brain to think more like a publisher and less like a teacher.  Here’s some questions that you might not know the answers to right off, but try them anyway. Don’t cheat by pulling a book off the shelf and looking! Let’s see how many you get right, then go look at the actual source.

  • How many title pages are in a book?
  • What’s the standard font style and size most publishers use in their printing?
  • Is the main text single spaced, double spaced, or somewhere in between?
  • What’s the first page to get numbered?
  • Where do page numbers get placed on the page?
  • What all information is included (and omitted) in an author’s bio?
And these are just a few, a mere sampling of the questions I’ve had to answer this week. I’m still working on them even now.
Details, details.
Ironically, though, if I get the details right most of my readers won’t even notice. It’s if I get something wrong that my book will present itself less than professional. Thank goodness I’ll have an entire team helping me.

The Contract: Creating a Business Relationship

Monday, May 7, 2012

With the manuscript almost complete, the next step is to enter into the business aspect of writing a novel ~ signing the publishing contract. As a writer, this can be a scary aspect of the publishing of a novel, but also an exciting time. In toady’s publishing world; however, there is a slightly different approach.

There are three routes I could take towards publication: (1) Traditional Publishing, (2) Self-Publishing, or (3) Indy Publishing.

And there are pluses and minuses to all three.

(1) Traditional Publishing:

Taking the traditional route as a new author requires a more long-term commitment to the hunt and a thick skin towards rejections to a manuscript. Traditional Publishing houses receive thousands of manuscripts daily. They have been in the business a long time and have created names for themselves. Therefore, the Traditional Publishing house can afford to be choosy in their picking a new author. It requires risk on the company’s part and a lot of patience on the author. Sending out manuscript after manuscript to hundreds of publishing companies in the hopes that even one will say yes can take months if not years of waiting and rejection letters.

On the plus side, once a writer gets in with a traditional publisher, she is able to take advantage of the expertise and connections available with the big names in the business. Also, the writer’s contract will include an advance payment prior to the book’s publication date. This financial relief is one huge advantage to a new writer. However, in the royalties realm, the split between author and publisher is usually skewed more in favor of the publisher since they invest all the money up front towards printing and marketing.

(2) Self-Publishing:

With Self-Publishing, all of the benefits and responsibilities fall upon the author. While the author may have the final say in every aspect of the book, from size to cover design, all of the costs and responsibilities are also property of the author. And author controls how quickly the book goes into print, but it is usually not as polished and lacks the professional presentation of one sent through the rigorous editing process of a traditional publisher.

(3) Indy Publishing:

Indy Publishing combines the guidance of a publishing company with the author control of self-publishing. An author pays for a particular printing package, therefore investing financially in the book up front. The Indy Publishing company then guides the author through the publication process, step by step, offering advice and expertise to the author along the way. Signing with an Indy Publisher creates a more equal partnership between the company and the author.

This is the route I have chosen. And throughout this week and on into the end of the month of May, I will work on completing and polishing my rough manuscript. Then it goes into the hands of four different people I hand-picked for the initial editing phase. Now, I could pay the publishing company more to edit my manuscript, but I would prefer to have those I’ve come to know and trust do this first. Two people will be reading it for content. Two will be reading it for grammar and conventions.

The path is getting ready to really get both exciting and stressful. Hang on!

Hey! It’s Me: When Your Characters Speak

Monday, April 30, 2012

As a fiction writer, you never know when your characters will start to take over your story. You come to the blank page with an idea, a set of characters, maybe even a conflict or two to start your creative juices flowing. Then somewhere along the line, the characters you have so painstakingly knitted together begin to come alive – so much so that they actually start speaking and acting for themselves. These are the moments, more so than the actual completion of a work, that make the writing life worth while. It is a fiction author’s job to bring to life realistic characters within the confines of the written word, to be a literary Frankenstein, so that our readers are compelled to believe the existence of our make-believe world. And when our characters start taking control of their own world, that’s the real writer’s reward.

Now don’t get me wrong. Getting paid to write is also rewarding; however, in a utopia world where money is not necessary to sustain a living, where people trade one another’s work simply for that sake of helping each other live happy and fulfilling lives, watching my characters live on the page would be enough. Unfortunately, though, we writers must also make a living so I will also try to write well enough to get paid. 🙂

But back to the more exciting subject – character control of the story.

This amazing phenomenon has occurred more than once in this particular novel-writing process. Twice, though, I have been in the process of weaving in a minor character only to discover that it was only another character in disguise.

The first time, I had a major character who needed a childhood friend to introduce him to a certain hobby. Pretty simple. Plug in a little kid for a few brief moments to fulfill the position and then move on, right? Nope! The more I wrote about this childhood friend, the more he looked like someone I’ve met before. It took me a day or two to realize that this childhood friend was just a younger version of a character I’ve already created. So right then and there I had to edit my writing to make sure that my readers knew this as well. Funny, he was “yelling” at me for a few pages “Hey! It’s me!” before I finally got the hint!

The second time it happened actually took me longer to realize what was going on. (Yeah, I know, you’d think I learned my lesson, but I’m actually quite stubborn. Most writers usually are when it comes to their own writing.) I had subconsciously already made the connection, giving both the seemingly insignificant character and the already fashioned one the same name! It was this confusion that actually got me to reexamine these two characters. And when I finally made the conscious connection that both were actually the same person, it was as if she heaved a sigh of relief on the page, “Whew! Took you long enough to recognize me,” because after my light bulb came on, the writing just flowed.

From now till the end, I’ll try to be a bit more observant of my characters. It makes for quicker resolutions in my story. However, I’m pretty sure there will be another surprise or two.

Technology & The Writer: Frustration & Elation 

Monday, April 23, 2012

“Isn’t technology great! :)”

That was the text message I received from a really great friend of mine when I shared my latest point of frustration – technology.

The art of writing has developed into an almost highly sophisticated endeavor. Now I know there are those who still prefer the simplistic method of pencil and paper, but more and more of today’s authors of any genre are relying upon the facets of the computer and even the internet during their moments of inspired literation. (And after this week, I’m a bit tempted to return solely to simplicity.)

I’m one of those mid-generation writers. I write with whatever tools present themselves at the time inspiration hits. Therefore, I have transferred my thoughts to paper, computer screen, Kindle, my phone’s Notepad, restaurant napkins, and just this week a Skydrive.

Lately, I’ve been working on the formatting and layout of my manuscript as I write, so I’ve been mostly confined to Microsoft Word as a way of organizing it all. Simple enough, but still typing away at the memory capacity of my laptop’s hard drive. And when I failed to bring my power cord along with me one day this week, storing my manuscript completely on my personal computer became a threat to a wasted day of writing. Oops!

So what was I to do? Luckily, my computer had enough power left to allow me to transfer the file to a flash drive before dying on me. (Yes, I’d also failed to fully charge my laptop before leaving home without the power cord, too.) While it was a task I’d meant to do sometime, I had forced my own hand. My now alienated manuscript needed a new home if I was going to continue writing without having to transfer from paper later. I had to create my Skydrive account. This also meant creating yet another email account (I’m working through three different ones up to this point) with Windows Live so that I could gain access to their Word program online as well as their server’s seemingly endless storage capacities. Flash drive in hand, I successfully transferred my manuscript, uploading it to my new Skydrive on another computer, and furiously began work on a chapter.

Technology, once again, was my friend. Reading through the first part of the chapter I was working on, editing parts, writing on, I made a point to save frequently. (You never know when technology decides not to work. Even the internet has its moments.) And it was a good thing I practiced my ol’ high school computer teacher’s advice too because technology had one more trick left.

I had just finished a whole page of writing and clicked  Save, but it didn’t save. Instead, the Skydrive took this moment in time to send me a thoughtful message: Your work did not save. Unable to connect with server.

What! Another panic session; here I had almost finished this chapter out and technology strikes again. So what did I do first? Of course, I clicked  Save again…and again…and again, receiving the same sad message each time. Frustrated now more than when I began, I searched around me to see what I should do next. I could copy the whole page down by hand and try to retype it all later. Oh, but what a waste of time. So I did the only other option besides waiting on the Skydrive to reconnect to the server. I took a picture.

Yep, I pulled out my phone and snapped a picture of the page! Hey, it worked. I “saved” my work without having to waste too much more of my time. And when I got home, plugging in my computer now that laptop and power cord were reunited, and signed onto my Skydrive to see the damage I was going to have to repair.

Bad news: I did have to retype some of my lost work. The server was not able to recover all of what I had worked on earlier in the day.

Good news: I only had to type in three lines.

And while the publication world relies heavily on technology to put forth the works of millions of writers, we cannot be without a backup, a hard copy somewhere.

Yes, technology is great – when it works. Keeping in mind that it’s advancements are all made by man, and therefore, will fail from time to time just like we humans do will help keep one’s mind from too much insanity.

I will remain a mid-generation writer. Both advancements in technology and the life of simplicity have their place.

Spring Break Business: Reboot and Refocus

Monday, April 16, 2012

Well, last week was Spring Break for my kids. That meant that quiet time for Mommy to write was out the window. I could have wasted the whole week complaining about how little I was able to get done on my writing, and I almost did. However, about halfway through the week (yeah, I’m a slow learner) I realized that my kids’ Spring Break from school should not be viewed as a wasted week of work for me, but rather a recharge of myself through spending valuable time with my kids.

And here I almost missed it!

Yet it is within our very nature as humans to fight against that which is good for us. Think about it, even God Himself rested after seven days’ work. How much better are we to keep going and going without giving ourselves a break from the work which so drives us than the One who created us?

The answer: none.

So while I was fighting and fighting for bits and pieces of time to devote to my writing, and failing miserably, I was actually wearing myself out for no good reason. I was actually working against my goal of getting the novel complete.

It was when I actually gave up and gave in to the gift of having my kids home with me that my mind (as well as my spirit) began to relax, began to clear. Frustration can act as a fog to the brain, making it nearly impossible to function properly.

And not only did my giving in help me, it helped my kids too. They were allowed to have their Mommy in a way they rarely do ~ free from the schedule of work and school. We were allowed to enjoy each other’s company and embrace what time we had together.

It was great!

And then an amazing thing happened ~ I got some writing done! Now, granted, it was only about three more paragraphs added to my novel, a few poems posted here and there, but I was able to write again.

Was I able to fly through another chapter or two after that? No.

So was this last week a failure in my writing? No.

It was a week of recharging. A way of reconnecting with my children and my spirit.

As solitary creatures, we writers cannot risk losing sight of those around us who love and encourage us regardless of how many words we get down on paper. They were there before the writing career began. They will be there after it is done, that is, if we allow ourselves the Spring Breaks to wrap up in their loving embrace away from the computer, the pen and the paper, long enough to remind them that we know they are still there. For after the book is done, it’s the people you come home to that really matter.

Finding Inspiration: In Quiet Space, Water & Routine

Monday, April 9,2012

For the last few weeks, I’ve been able to write in complete solitude at a friend’s house. After I confided in them about my problem finding a space where I can write without someone interrupting me, they opened up their home. There I’m allowed to sit, stand, wander, talk aloud without be looked upon as “crazy” and I can write and edit my writing the way it was supposed to work. Only a small handful know where I go each day during the week. This keeps the interruptions to a minimum so I plan on keeping it that way. (My apologies to my faithful readers here, but my lips are sealed.)

I’ve also been able to keep a steady routine of swimming before I go write. This part of my writing routine is beneficial in multiple facets of my life. (Laugh if you want, but yes it is a valuable asset to my writing.) The most obvious benefit is the exercise I get. But I’ve also gained some new friends, new “characters” for present and future stories, and an interesting place to do some sorting out and “editing” before I go sit in front of my computer for the day.

As a matter of fact, I’ve come to a hill of sorts in my progress. I have only 3-4 more chapters to complete before the initial writing stage is finished. That’s a milestone, but also a challenge. I’m beyond the outlining stage, but now I’m writing through the kinks and details of characters’ lives and sometimes those details get jumbled up. While I may take notes on a part of a character’s life in one spot, I get a whole new set of ideas another day for the same character. The challenge then becomes what do I include, what do I leave out, and if I keep two conflicting ideas how do they fit together?

I met up with that last challenge this week in one of the most difficult character’s stories in the whole novel. There was a conversation piece with her that absolutely needed to be in the novel, but I also had her reacting to another character in a way that clashed with the timeline of her story. They both needed to be included, but how? They didn’t seem to want to work together as neatly as the last two characters I completed prior to tackling her story. She posed a writing challenge.

So how does swimming fit into all of this? Well, it was during my water time that the kinks were fixed, the details rearranged to where they fit perfectly. Even an ending fell right into place.

Without this aspect in my routine, I’d probably still be trying to figure out her story within my novel, but as it is, the water set things straight.

So not only was I able to overcome this challenge in my writing; with my swimming routine and a solitary place to write unrestricted by other people surrounding me, I was able to get through 2 1/2 chapters this last week! It’s amazing what all can be accomplished when the pieces fall into place.

Now if I can only survive my kids’ Spring Break from school this week.

One More Month

Monday, April 2, 2012

Well, it’s the last month before I speak to my publisher. The deadline is getting closer. I’m getting excited, nervous; confident I’ll finish in time one minute and doubting my book will even sell the next. Loosing weight. Loosing sleep. Loosing time.

But I can’t let any of that stop me now. I’ve come too far to just up and quit. Nope, I’m so close I can see the ribbon at the finish line, just dangling there, waiting for me to break through. It’s a scary, daring adventure and I’m not through yet. The details are all falling in line. There’s a conclusion forming in my mind. My daughter’s drawings are piling up on her little corner desk at home as she keeps asking me what she can draw next and how close am I to finishing.

Yes, even if I wanted to quit now her beautiful blue eyes searching my own for answers are enough to keep me typing away at my computer until a final manuscript is complete.

Honestly, I never really thought I’d make it this far.

I’ve always been one to plan and outline, but never produce a finished product. It’s always stayed as an idea, a mere dream wandering around inside my head knowing that it’ll never culminate into an actual physical existence.

There’s still that chance it won’t.

But then again, that chance is slowly fading into the deep cracks of yesterday.

And while the practicality of loved ones around me scream of my own insanity at the daily routine I’ve managed thus far to keep the creative sparks flying, the doubts of others that I’ll succeed, the pressure of the what if’s constantly bombarding me at the end each day – regardless, I keep focusing my eyes on the end.

Of course, now, I know that the end (meaning, my book actually getting published) of this journey only signifies the beginning of another chapter in my life, it is still an end. It is a pause, a period in my life’s sentence at this point in time.

But to get there, I now have to work harder. I have to work longer. I have to keep going. For it is the last leg of this writing journey that is the hardest. Putting the final words onto the page. Feeling strong enough to say, “This is it. It’s as complete as I can make it.” and hand it over to the publisher to rip all my hard work to shreds with red ink editing.

So enough of my agonizing over what little time I have left. I must fly away from this page and continue writing. I must reach for the ribbon.

Clearing Away the Distractions

Monday, March 26,2012!

Well, it’s the last week of March and I’m only a month away from my self-set deadline of a completed manuscript. Wow! How time flies when you’re distracted by the ever-present conviction that you must be making money while working on a bigger project. At least that’s the trap I have fallen into myself this week. (And, writers, I know I can’t be the only one who’s done this. Confession is the first step.)

Human nature pulls us down into the muddy waters of everyday living while we beat ourselves up over looming deadlines that we have conveniently forgotten while making ourselves busy with the present “needs” of bringing in an income.  And so, for the sake of making some money while I’m “working” on my novel, I found myself accepting a writing project that kept me so busy that I didn’t even write one word of my novel this week. Yikes!

Here’ s the truth of the matter: If I don’t write on the novel, it will not get written. Period. It will be just one more half-written manuscript to collect dust on my computer’s hard drive and a dream that will only fade away with time. This tragedy just can’t happen.

Therefore, I’ve made a vow to myself, but I didn’t keep it to myself. I now have my daughter’s future at stake here too. I had to let her know of my dilemma. Accountability it the key to successful completion of this project. I took her aside last night and confessed that Mommy hadn’t been concentrating on her novel like she should, and that I would be working on nothing expect for the novel this week.

Will it be tempting to accept another writing project this week that will bring home some cash? Yes, absolutely!

Can I afford to keep putting of finishing my novel? Most definitively not!

And now that my daughter knows what my plans are for this week, she will hound me daily about it. And if I slip up and decide not to work on my novel even one day, she is the best person to get on me for slacking off. Believe me, a teenager (especially a girl) is the best motivator for this writing mom.

So I’ll stop procrastinating now and get writing! (Just as soon as I post this… 🙂 )

Becoming a Family Affair

Monday, March 19,2012

Somewhere along the line, I discovered that I could turn my debut novel into a family project, sort of anyway.

I still haven’t (and won’t) allowed any family member to read any part of my manuscript-in-progress. That is just a writer no-no. Blood relation equals bloody feud in the writing world. They are the critiques most quickly to advise you in the opposite direction.

“You know, dear, this might be saying things a bit too harshly.”

“Is this how you really feel about me? I never knew.”

“You’re not really going to publish this, are you?”

For you writers out there, you know exactly what I mean. No, it’s not too harsh, it’s the truth. No, that’s not how I think about you. As a matter of fact, the character is NOT you, in spite of your own insecurities about what you’ve read. But maybe my writing about a fictional character was worth you reading so that you would take a good look at yourself. And, yes, I’m going to publish it. It’s the reason I’m writing it in the first place.

So, no, when I say I’m turning my novel into a family project, I’m not stating that my family is to be the first editing crew prior to my submitting it to publication. I’m actually talking about my daughter.

Here’s some background on her. She’s thirteen. (For parents of teenagers, I don’t really need to go into more detail than that. I accept all sympathy and advice.) She’s also a very talented artist regardless of her age and inexperience.

And the idea struck me a few weeks back: my daughter could be my illustrator!

I sat her down and asked her opinion about my idea. Not only was she happy to now be included in my novel, she was thrilled to start sketching away.

“Oh, Mom, this is going to be so cool! What do you want me to draw, huh? I’m going to get started right away. Tonight!”

Needless to say, it hasn’t been all excitement and blissful communication between writer and illustrator, but it has given us a common bond in communication. As a mom, I couldn’t be more thrilled to have her on board with me. I gave her a few ideas of things to draw and then sat back and waited on the results. I wasn’t setting my hopes up too high knowing that she is still quite young in her skill set.

Yet I was pleasantly surprised, and I must say, proud. With a few pointers on the details I wanted included in each picture, away my daughter drew. And with each picture she completes, I am at awe! Really! I knew she was good, but now I know why God tapped my shoulder and whispered to me that she should be my artist.

By now she is ahead of my own writing schedule. All the drawings I’ve requested are complete, but I still have a few chapters to finish myself before I can tell her what else to sketch out for me. It’s just another sign that God’s timing is perfect. If I had started writing this book when it was first laid upon my heart, my daughter would not have been skilled enough in her drawing to do this with me. It would have been another blessing in my life that I would have missed.

And regardless of how successful my novel becomes once it’s published, I will always cherish it because it is the first project my daughter and I worked on together.

The Benefit of Keeping a Journal: Pulling Inspiration from the Past

Monday, March 12,2012

As a writer, you never know when a journal entry will become important. I’ve kept various journals over the years: ones just filled with poetry, another for snippets of conversation overheard, still another for working out my emotional upheaval during a particularly trying time in my life. Then there’s my little spiral black notebook. Only certain tidbits of writing go into this one, but most people wouldn’t understand that just by looking through its contents. Only the special pieces of writing go into my black notebook, but rarely does any of that writing emerge for others to read.

And when I get stuck on a piece of writing or just can’t seem to think of any words for that day, I turn to these journals. I’ve come to rely on my past musings more and more these days, whereas before I was just writing things down simply because an idea hit me and I didn’t want to lose it. Not that I would actually get to put those words into any work for publication. Nah, that thought had long been squashed by the time I started to keep journals faithfully. Publication was not seen as a possibility. I had been directed towards a safer career path and away from my dream of full-time writing by time I graduated high school.

And I secretly wrote my thoughts, my poetry, my emotions for the next fifteen years or so. I kept these words hidden in the pages of multiple journals.

Until I awoke from my nightmare close to six months ago and headed straight towards my dream.

Slowly, ever so slowly, poems and phrases were pulled from their journal pages and published online. Not the most secretive ones, mind you. No, those still lay tucked away in my little black spiral notebook. That’s not to say that I didn’t look through its contents for inspiration on occasion. I did. I still do. But those were only for inspiration.

However, last week I was stuck. Truly stuck. So with my novel deadline quickly racing towards me and my creative mind at a grinding halt, I began flipping through the pages of my secrets. Not only did I find my inspiration. I found the key to an entire chapter. There, written almost seven years ago, were the words for which I had been searching my brain to find. They weren’t in my head, though. I had already emptied them into the pages of my little black notebook. And in less than an hour, my chapter was complete.

But they are painful words. Words that almost did not see themselves into a soon-to-be published work. So don’t ask me, now or even after my novel is available for reading, in which chapter or for which character did I pour out my heart.

My hidden words my have finally been revealed, but their identity will remain for only me to know.  That’s still my little secret.

When Life and Writing Collide 

Monday, March 5, 2012

As a writer, when real life collides with your works of fiction it can cause necessary turmoil within your mind. You can struggle with the conviction of writing the truth versus hurting those closest to you. This week stands as a testimony of this reality in my own life, and in the sincerity of staying real to my convictions without breaking the spirits of those near me, I will attempt to explain myself as vaguely clear as possible.

Not everything hidden within the lives of church goers is a sin. Some things kept secret are just too shameful or painful to face for fear that the rest of the world, especially those within the faith community, would shun us if we revealed our inner burdens.

First off, while I had already discovered this revelation of writing on thin ice prior to this week’s experiences, the bitter cold of its presence smacked against my face quite forcefully. As a result, my inner conviction to write on the more painful, and for some taboo, life experiences in my novel holds for me a delicate balancing penning to remove my readers’ spiritual blinders without cutting too deep that they choose to keep the blinders pushed up against their souls’ eyes all the more tightly.

This week, I stood as a witness to some quite painful life experiences and was privileged to be a listening ear in some raw conversations about past incidents that left behind more questions than answers. While listening, shedding tears, and loosing some sleep of my own over this new knowledge of other people’s personal struggles, I had to revisit some of what I’ve already written as a wrestling match inside my head over what content should be edited out, reworded, or even inserted to ensure the proper balance of truth and love in my words.

A hard task for any writer with a heart for her readers.

Let me lay out a few general examples. For some, the shame of their childhood family atmosphere lingers as a dark cloud around their promising future. There are those who wish to bury past abuse (whether by someone one else or themselves) thinking that it will cause them to lose precious opportunities to worldly success. There’s the embarrassing family member, be it a drunkard parent, a poor or uneducated cousin, the clinically mental nutcase of a grandparent. Whoever it may be, while we cannot separate our familial DNA from them, we also cannot ignore or hide the past. Their life still plays its part in defining who we are now.

A hole in the ground, now matter how much you may wish to ignore its existence, is still a hole in the ground. You can choose to acknowledge its presence and fill it, or blindly walk around it and eventually fall in.

And how can we truly call ourselves the body of Christ if we do not work together as a body? How can we call ourselves Christians (“little Christs”) if we do not reach out in all of His compassion and love to help carry one another’s burdens? And how can we expect the church to effectively function as a living example of Jesus to us if we don’t unashamedly share those burdens?

In truth, we can’t.

But we’re afraid to try, and so we put on the masks of a smile and all the world it right as we walk into the doors on Sunday morning while deep inside we are hurting, broken souls. For the Sake of Appearances, we hide our true selves, but at what cost?

A New Place of Inspiration

Monday, February 27, 2012

In an article prior to my writing sabbatical, I mentioned the need for a secluded and quite place where I could concentrate on my novel. I received several comments from fellow writers on this topic of solitude and writing, but there was one that stood out from the rest. While most writers were in agreement as to the ability to concentrate on writing alone, one commented on how she writes better in a more public place like a cafe” where every person seems like a story” to her.

Last week, I got my chance to try out her public place inspiration. With last Monday being a national holiday, my normal place of the local county library was closed, but I’m not one to stay home (too many ‘should be getting this and that done’ distractions) so I made my way over to the mall. I saw it as a good sign when I walked in the front door and discovered that the Chick-fil-A inside offered FREE coffee all day! (Yes, I’m a coffee addict too. And since I’d rushed out of the house that morning without my usual fix, this was a blessing!)

After preparing my freebie, I settled down in the corner of a mall couch, pen and steno pad in hand, ready to people watch and maybe get a few character notes down, if I were so lucky. Honestly, I didn’t have much hope for inspiration at first. I was actually settling for the “character analysis” schedule because I just knew I wasn’t going to be able to concentrate fully on any writing worth reading.

Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised!

During my writing sabbatical a few weeks ago, there had been a couple of characters who had stumped me – I just couldn’t get through to their own personal story. There names where there, but not their inner lives. Well, one of those characters came alive, at the mall. And so I began to write…and write…and write. The other ‘characters’ walking around me, past me, became just background noise, filtering through my brain without disrupting my progress.

And by lunchtime, this once flat character breathed his story onto my blank, lined yellow pages. My pen could hardly keep up with my revelation at times. It was amazing!

So, fellow writer, thank you for giving me the inspiration to branch out into a place I didn’t think I could. It may just be one of the more powerful chapters in my book.

Recuperation from Writing

Monday, February 20, 2012

Reality check ~ spending alone time with your literary imagination, while productive, may also have adverse effects on your physical and mental health.

After secluding myself last week, I was exhausted this week. Mental note to self, writing can be hazardous to the writer.

So I vowed to not work on my novel all week. I almost made it, well sort of. While I didn’t actually write any more chapters, I couldn’t help but take more notes on the characters I have come to know. Now that they have names, faces, lives, connections, I just couldn’t find it within myself to completely abandon them for an entire week. Not after all we had gone through, not after how far we came.

Yes, I said we. A writer does more than write the story. A writer, a good writer, goes on the journey with his or her characters. And once you begin that journey, it’s hard to put it on hold. You want to keep writing, not because you want to keep recording the story, but because you want to learn what’s going to happen next, to discover where your characters are going and how they will grow. We are our first reader. Discovery is a very important aspect of the writing process.

So I found myself  realizing snip-its of conversation between characters and saying “Wow! I didn’t know that.” silently in my head. I found myself making notes on how people should meet and where and why.

And while I didn’t completely abandon my characters this last week, I kept myself from falling to the temptation of multiple late night writings in order to recuperate physically, getting at least some of my lost sleep back.

Coming Up for Air ~ A Report on My Success in Seclusion

Monday, February 13, 2012

Last week I announced my high-reaching goal of a completed skeletal first manuscript for my debut novel For the Sake of Appearances. And while I unfortunately cannot report that I was able to complete the entire manuscript, I still consider the week in seclusion a writing success. Why?

Well, for starters, I was able to complete six full chapters along with the Prologue – that’s half-way to my goal of a twelve chapter draft. And considering the necessary interruptions of family, sleep, stretch breaks, and a daily breakfast, I am basically happy with my accomplishments.

Yes, I said it – interruptions. But wasn’t this supposed to be a time of seclusion from society? Ideally, I would have been in total seclusion, but reality seeped in.

Considering my timing of reaching for this goal of becoming a published author, I had to pay heed to the needs of my two children and my parents who were babysitting them so that I could have the majority of this precious time alone. In life, there are compromises, and the writing life holds no exceptions. If one takes the time to create a family prior to building up your writing career, family must take special priority. I could not allow family obligations to completely slip my mind for an entire week. Besides, I’m sure their regular interference kept my insanity partially at bay.

Plus, even I knew I was setting a high goal for myself of writing the whole first draft within only a week’s time, but I needed to aim high. If I had only set the goal of six chapters, I don’t really believe I would have worked so feverishly to get that far. It would have seemed too simple a task. I’m one of those writers who needs the push of time and quantity to get my creative fibers working on full alert.

So where do I go from here? I have an April deadline before I speak to my publishing representative again so I’m well ahead of schedule. I have those regular weekends without parents or kids around too. (After this week, they have come to realize how valuable my time alone is to getting my novel published.) These weekends will have to suffice as mini-bursts writing sessions for me.

Going into Seclusion ~ A Writing Sabbatical

Monday, February 6, 2012

Okay, I’m about to undergo the most necessary, yet the most scary part of my novel-writing journey so far. I’m going into seclusion. And while it’s only for a week, it’s the longest I’ve ever been away on my own, literally by myself, in my entire life. Alright, I admit it, this will be the first time I’ve ever been away on my own, but that’s beside the point. The point is that I am getting myself physically away from all other distractions for an entire week, away from all other responsibilities and people. What’s the purpose, you ask? Simple, yet not so simple. I am going “under” in order to emerge with a full length skeleton manuscript of my novel. For an entire week, I am focusing on no other writing except for my novel.

It’s seems a selfish undertaking, I know, in order to get this novel into print, but the writing life, a successful one, requires the writer to come to grips with the fact that we are secluded creatures by our very nature. Writing is not a group effort, it is a solo expedition. It is a lonely existence for the most part, but the ending result of our inner stories being exposed to the world is a rewarding experience. It is how we writers truly communicate with you, the reader. We are naturally socially shy people except where our writing is concerned. We can be eloquent in our words, we can be ourselves in our words, we can be in our words.

So while I may be physically apart from friends and loved ones during this time, I will have you all in mind as I write feverishly during this time. So, wish me luck, and I will reappear next week with a new enlightenment of literary revelation.

Character Models ~ Treading Lightly

Monday, January 30,2012

The first character I’m working on for my novel is a preacher. It’s amazing how, when you’re thinking about a specific type of character to include in your writing, those people in your real world get put under a microscope of tick-tack character traits. You start to notice little quirks or habits of those around you that normally would go unnoticed. For instance, I became quite acute to my own pastor’s stance and mannerisms while he was preaching his sermon. True, I should have been more focused on the message, but it’s a writer’s curse to miss those cues for other subtle movements: fluctuations in voice, repetitions of where someone looks (or avoids looking), the change in breathing during certain aspects of communication. And while I didn’t see my pastor in a “whole new light” I also now find it hard to ignore the nuances I have discovered in his personality.

This is icy ground in a writer’s world. It’s tempting to mold a character directly from someone’s life, but I can’t do that. For one, it wouldn’t be fair to the person I’m attempting to recreate in my writing. He might not like how I represent him in my writing. There are those who would be offended in what I choose to point out about his personality. Now, granted, there are those people who would completely brag about being the object of my inspiration, but those people are rare jewels.

It would also be unfair to my readers. People don’t read fiction just to see real people described. No, we read fiction to be drawn into another world, seemingly real word, yes, but a fictional world all the same.

So while I draw my inspiration from those who live and breathe around me, I do not simply recreate my family, friends, and acquaintances through my writing lenses onto paper. So don’t shrink away from me when I pull out pen and pad (or the notepad on my phone, or my kindle) and take notes. You have just become a spark of inspiration. Fell a touch of honor, I found something noteworthy in your life. And while you probably won’t be able to point out your mirror self in my next piece of writing, smile knowing that a piece of you is in there somewhere.

The Dangerous Relationship between Busyness and Procrastination 

Monday, January 23, 2012

For the sake of making another dollar, I took a break from the novel and attempted my first article assignment on a praiseworthy site called VWorker.com. It is essentially a site set up for those who work on the internet from home. Before taking the plunge on this site, though, I had to do my research. Now at first glance, it looked like any other bid-for-projects site. I have tried other sites similar to VWorker, but found the competition for projects to be far too superior to my novice internet presence, but since so many were praising the success on this site (mind you, not the overnight pipe dreams success, but actual, gradual success), I thought I would give it a try. (Besides, a writer has to earn a living before the novel is complete.)

And success I had! I decided not to waste my time bidding my experience for too many writing projects as I had done previously. Instead, I carefully read through the available projects and choose one close to my heart as well as my area of expertise – a request for some well-written articles on ADHD. For those of you who know me, you are already aware that my youngest was diagnosed with ADHD while he was failing kindergarten (yes, I said kindergarten). It was a struggle to accept his diagnosis as something medical and not him just being 200% boy, but after seeing 6 months improvement in his academics after only a few weeks of treatment, I became a firm believer.

But I digress.

Needless to say, I was accepted for the bid! The initial excitement of actually getting a chance to make more than a few dollars on a writing assignment turned into “Oh, no, I have to write these articles in order to get paid and they’re due soon!” So I abandoned my novel-writing with well-intentions of returning to its pages as soon as these articles were complete.

Good news – not only did I get the articles written and turned in on time, I earned my first paycheck greater than $10.

Bad news – I haven’t written another word towards my novel.

And the two go hand in hand. In my busyness (though productive in producing a paycheck) I was successful in procrastinating. The challenge from here on out, to balance earning with intentional novel-writing. So even when shorter deadlines pop up in my daily online writing, I must not ignore the ever-approaching one of my novel’s manuscript. It is a balancing act we must all strive to perfect.

But what happens when that balance is thrown off kilter? When we abandon other important areas of our lives to achieve greatness in just one area, how do our lives suffer? And what about the lives of those around us – our family, our friends, our co-workers? How do we regain control of that balance or is it really our control to regain?

Next time you find yourself busy, stop long enough to think about where else you are procrastinating.

Scatter-brained patience

Monday, January 16, 2012

No one every said this writing a novel thing would be easy. Actually, there are plenty out there who are quick to say that it takes more patience than most people are willing to give. I’ll just have to resist the urge to be impatient. I’m not going to pray for patience, though. That’s just asking for writer’s block and needless anxiety since the only way to become patient is to go through trials which test your patience. No thank you!

Yet in the process of not praying for patience I have achieved starting a scatter-brained  manuscript. This, in essence, is more dangerous to read than simply a rough draft. A rough draft has a sequence to it at least. A scatter-brained draft does not. It bounces from one chapter to the next, one character introduced here only to be abandoned for the next inspired introduction there. And these bits and pieces of scatter-brained writing are not even in the same notebook, or as is the case for my longest one to date, digital document.

Now to continue my pattern of probing the mind, let’s get to the questions. Some of you might be thinking that I’m focused on pulling out all humanity’s skeletons from the closets of our minds, but that is simply not the case. This novel is to be an eye-opener to those “secret sins,” yes, but those are not the focus. The focus is on ourselves and how we relate to one another, regardless of any aspect of our life. So here’s my question. Just how far do you try to go through life on your own? American society has forced-fed us to believe that the only true way to measure success is through individual achievement. We are to have it our way, do things our way, and independently scale the walls of financial, social and religious ambition. To ask for help is a sign of weakness, right? What has to break into your life and drag you down before you reach out to others? Is it job loss? Illness? Relationship failure? How far does someone have to fall before crying out, “Lord, save me!”?

And the writing begins…

Monday, January 9, 2012

Last week I started off by letting you know that I was going to keep you all updated on my novel-writing project. Today I’m here to tell you that I’ve completed my first draft of the first chapter. Not that anybody (including myself) can actually read every word, but it’s down on paper. The drafting process is one of the most crucial parts of writing. Getting my ideas down on paper is key. Without the thoughts transposed into an actual draft (regardless of how rough it may seem) there could be no novel.

I have spent most of the last three months working on the outline, the skeleton of the story. Now comes the meat – piece by piece.

So did you think about the question I put forth in my last post? Let’s see just how many of those “hidden sins” I try to reveal. Church service has just started, and all eyes are on…? Yes, all those in attendance know the answer should be Jesus, but how many of you remembered looking around your church’s sanctuary to see who was there and who wasn’t? And who is that new guy she’s with? Where did the balcony regulars get the money for their fancy new Bimmer when just last Sunday they were complaining about the Capital Campaign as a strain on their already depleted wallet?

Oops, did you just think that out loud? Yes, we all are guilty of it. Playing God. But just what would happen if God wasn’t playing? What if He chose to act on those judgments, calling us out on our closet transgressions while we were busy pointing out those of our brethren? Hidden sins, there are so such creatures. We just pretend that God is as blind to them as we wish He was.

So what if he physically paid you a visit, appearing on your front step, knocking? Would you open the door? Or would you simply pray Him to go away?

The choice is yours.

Hello, friends and loyal followers!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year!

I am in the beginning stages of writing my first novel. This has been a dream of mine for over fifteen years, and this year I am finally going for it. Throughout both the writing and publication process, I will be posting updates here.  I will try for at least one per week. Feel free to comment on my posts: suggests ideas, thoughts on my sneak peeks, and anything else that comes to mind. I will take all serious feedback to heart. (That doesn’t mean I’ll put them into print, but I will take them to heart. )

Here’s the first question I have for you:

What secret do you think most religious people have? Why?

(Okay, I know, that’s two, but as an English teacher it’s just so natural to add the second one in there.)

27 responses »

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  10. I loved your post about finding inspiration, aspiration and maybe a few quotes in your old journal. I just re-read one of mine and found all of the above, too. My adult daughter has complained a few times about being grounded as a 16 year old over grades. She felt it had been unfair; I had no recall. Found it in the journal, along with the whys and the love behind our decision. And it turns out that in 1999, “.com” ads were all over the TV and I, I!, had a clue they were on the way to something big. Too funny! Good luck to you.

    • Yep, it’s interesting how we forget even what we have written. The passage I am using in my novel from my own journal was one I had completely forgotten about. I find that our limited memory is the real reason for the written language ~ to help us remember, or to be reminded of, those thoughts and ideas we have abandoned yet still need. Thank you for your response. It’s encouraging.

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  12. Hello there, You’ve performed a fantastic job. I will definitely digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I am confident they’ll be benefited from this site.

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  15. I would like to thnkx for the efforts you’ve put in writing this web site. I’m hoping the same high-grade site post from you in the upcoming as well. Actually your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own site now. Actually the blogging is spreading its wings rapidly. Your write up is a great example of it.

    • Soulbird, love your name, the poet in me 🙂 Thank you for finding my little blog, which led me to yours–I so love finding people who are so different then me ( mine being about helping people with weight loss, who have an injury) and yours about writing, I just think it’s wonderful!

      I loved your ‘When Life and Writing Collide’. Not being a ‘writer’ per say, but my Husband is ( you can find his site on my blog, I found this fascinating and so very true. There is a fine line between beliefs and what you pen, if I was reading this correctly. Just like there are ‘Sunday Church goers’ and there are ‘believers’ and I hope that does not offend anyone but if you only go to Church on Sunday and only open your Bible on Sunday, then you are truly missing the true meaning of of what Jesus wanted for us. I say this because this was me and something I am learning and trying to become more dedicated with. I have always had ‘faith’ but I needed to back it up! If you would truly like a good book on this and one that will rock your world, check out ‘ The hole in our Gospel by Richard Stern’, it’s amazing!

      Again, I hope I am not offending anyone. I truly, truly enjoyed your post and your blog and I look forward to keeping up with it!

      God Bless!
      Traci

      • Thank you so much, Traci, for your wonderful comments. I am humbled by such an uplifting post. I’ll be sure to look up your husband’s site and the book you recommended. 🙂

        • Aww thank you! I look forward to reading more of your blog, I find it fascinating! And thank you so much for kind words, they mean so much to me! I love finding Sisters in Christ! We can never have enough of them!

          xoxooxox
          Traci

    • Thanks, I’m privileged to offer inspiration to others through what I love to do! I will strive to continue to post the high quality writing expected from me.

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  17. What secret do most religious people have?

    My guess is there are still significant issues of character and sinfulness they struggle with day to day. They don’t dare admit this because they think God should have already solved their problem, or they think they are the only one with that problem.

    • Thanks, Steve, for your reply. Your insight is refreshing. I had not considered this angle to my “secret” questions. Hum, I’ll have to investigate this idea of God solving people’s problems as I write.

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