Sunday, August 25, 2013

Making A List, Checking It Twice

Anyone who knows me, even a little bit, will tell you I'm a compulsive list maker. Grocery lists, weekly work check lists, weekly writing check lists, new launch check lists--you name it, there's a list floating around on my desk for it.

Right now, the list that's truly giving me trouble is the checklist I've devised for each book I produce. I go scene by scene through the book, checking for overused words, my seven deadly sin words, four news ones to avoid as a result of my most recent workshop, and if the senses are in evidence--not all of them in each scene, but I want an adequate representation of them throughout the book. It's the most tedious and boring part of my process, and I just have to grit my teeth and get through it.

When I'm done, and can send off the polished up version of my manuscript, I can breathe a sigh of relief, but only for a minute. Once the contract is signed with a publisher, I pull out my self-promotion checklist and begin working on that. Once I have an ARC for review, my checklist of what I need to do to get the book ready for launch comes out and I begin to check those items off. This part of the process only gets more complicated if you are working with more than one publisher, or are self-publishing.

Am I compulsive? Maybe, a bit. But, in this past year as a published author, I've learned that there are so many different facets to this new face of publishing and in order to keep them all straight,  I need a checklist. My early tries at winging it had me duplicating myself, asking for guest blogs in places where I was already scheduled, going through the tedious process of having my book listed on Book Pulse or Author's Den, only to find I'd already done so. I'd go to bed at night with all these little to-do items screaming around in my head like cars on a NASCAR track, I couldn't sleep. Coming up with a checklist just made sense to me.

And allowed me to get my eight hours of snooze time. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Getting Ready For School

The month of August hasn't exactly been unfolding as I anticipated. I have the next book in my series due to the publisher (my self-imposed deadline), and I'm thinking about the next book I'm going to write. But am I doing any of that? NO! Instead, I'm spending the month of August writing guest blog spots.

This is an important part of the business of being an author. It's not enough anymore to merely write a book. Merely? Who am I kidding? I meet people all the time who say 'I've always wanted to write a book." But how many actually do? It's tougher than you can imagine. And then to get it published requires an historic effort, along with perseverance, fortitude and a thick skin.

But, I digress. The business of being an author means you have to find new readers, one at a time, at least in the early years. This means blogging on various sites in hopes of enticing just one more person to be intrigued enough by what you have to say to buy and read your book. And hopefully, to leave a nice review. I have a release in September. September 9 to be exact. The Tempestuous Debutante, fourth book in the Cotillion Ball Series, is going to be released to the general public on that date. It's like sending your child off to school for the first time. You've done everything you can to get your child ready. The editors at the publishing house have helped you get your baby properly clothed and polished up. You put said child on the bus (in this case, the Amazon bus), and cross your fingers that someone will be intrigued enough by the outward appearance to invite your child into their homes for a play date.

An important part of this process involves reaching out to a potential audience in the form of guest blogs. In my experience, I've found people aren't so much interested in me, the author, and what my quirks are. They'd rather read about how I come up with my ideas for stories and characters, how I use my life's experiences to create memorable plot lines, that type of thing. So, in this spirit, I've had to come up with unique content for each guest appearance I'm doing in September and October, to promote the book. It's difficult
to come up with a whole lot of ideas, which is why I am trying to space them out. An off-hand comment, a workshop, a conversation between me and a sibling--all are put into the cauldron of ideas and stirred around. I have two more posts to write before I'm done with my current obligations. I'm sitting here hoping for two more brilliant ideas to pop into my head this weekend, so I can mark "write guest blogs" off my list and get back to the magic of writing an actual story.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Power Of Repetition

I attended a writer’s workshop yesterday. The instructor, whose teaching is not limited to romance authors, told a roomful of romance writers that we have to unlearn things in order to get better. Years of devouring romances have taught us bad habits and we need to break away from the old way of doing things in order to someday reach the NY Times bestseller list.

Interesting stuff.

Case in point. In my critique group, we have a person who has an English major background. She takes her red pen and underlines places where I’ve reused a word in a paragraph or (heaven forbid!) the same sentence. So, I’ve been diligently removing repetitive words from my manuscripts for years now. Except in places where I’ve meant to do it. That’s when I put my foot down. (Speaking of putting your foot down, that’s a cliché to avoid, but that’s a topic for another post.)

Turns out, putting my foot down when I intentionally reused a word or phrase was the correct response. Repetition can be a powerful tool in writing. It creates cadence and flow. And, if you were just zooming along through the story, using the same phrase over and over will draw your attention to the sentence and make you aware that something is about to happen. Something that involves those particular words. It’s a common enough device, used by poets, orators, songwriters and, lo and behold, great writers. Here’s an example: "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." (Benjamin Franklin)

My English major red-pen toting friend is still correct in pointing out my overuse of some words. The repetition of words and phrases loses its power if sloppily applied. But when you want to highlight or ratchet up the tension, it’s definitely a tool to pull from your arsenal of writing techniques.

I’d say the cost of the workshop was money well spent.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


I jokingly told one of my friends the other night that my TBR stack was getting out of control, and, if I could only have one night of insomnia where all I did was read, I was sure I'd get caught up.

Be careful what you wish for.

Not more then two nights after our ill-fated conversation, I came down with a summer cold. It began innocently enough, with just a runny nose. By the time I crawled into bed, I couldn't breathe through my nose, and I was all clogged up. I tried sleeping while sitting up, but that didn't work, either. It seemed my wish had come true, and I was going to have one night when I couldn't sleep.

As my conversation with my friend flitted through my mind, I thought it was rather ironic that I had all this reading to do, not to mention writing, but my brain was so fuzzy, I couldn't keep my mind on the book queued up on my Nook. It was as if my brain was on holiday--MIA. Giving up, I dozed on and off, but kept waking myself up with my moans of suffering.

Have I mentioned that I'm not a good patient?

I rarely get sick, and when I do, I expect to be down and out for only a short time. I give myself permission to feel bad one day only. I'm now on Day 2, and not liking much of anything. I called in sick to work at my grocery job. Speaking of groceries, nothing tastes good, so I'm not eating. Ice cream is good for my throat, as are popsicles, so I'm managing to go through a lot of that. When I'm sick, nutrition takes a back seat to comfort.

I can't read and make sense of anything, so I certainly can't try writing. Maybe it's time to take a snow day in the middle of summer. In the midst of all my promised reviews and my personal writing deadlines, I'll just prop my feet up, watch some television and cuddle with my dog. I'll have a Scarlett O'Hara moment and worry about everything else tomorrow.