Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Persistence in Publishing

I'm reading Ryan Holiday's The Obstacle is The Way. (And of course applying it to my own life as I send out queries to literary agents in hopes of getting my novel published.)

It's not as engaging as his book Ego is the Enemy, which literally made me cry, but still thought-provoking. It speaks of the obstacles, the roadblocks, the problems we all face when we have a goal we're striving toward. The tagline: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph.

Some people have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to achieve extraordinary feats, such as General Grant in the Civil War and of course Thomas Edison testing six thousand filaments to invent the light bulb.

We're not shooting for such grand heights as reuniting the United States of America (even if it needs it right now) but we all have obstacles and goals too. My goal is to make a living as an author. The self-published route to that hasn't been panning out, so I've returned to the traditional publishing option. But instead of querying directly to publishers, as I'd done with absolutely no plan or organization whatsoever in my younger years, I'm reaching out to agents.

My husband, who continues to be a pain in the ass by insisting I reach for my dream, sent me this useful blog post by Jane Friedman: How to Publish Your Book.

This led me to purchasing a year subscription to Writer's Market, a database of literary agencies and agents. I track the agencies alphabetically in a laughably primitive Xcel spreadsheet, with the specific agent and date queried. (Tracking your progress in a definable way is the only way you can measure it. I learned that from working out at the gym.)

So I've been throwing myself at the wall. Lather rinse repeat. This is the nose-to-the-grindstone part; harder for me than writing the goddamn book in the first place. This is where persistence and dedication come in.

The Obstacle is the Way is rife with Stoic wisdom on the power of will, perspective and choice. It can be applied to whatever your obstacle and goal. These nuggets were particularly useful to me in my pursuit:

Alter your perspective. 

Be objective.

Most people think of a rejection as a negative. But that's you putting yourself into it. A rejection is not the end. A hundred rejections is not the end. You just haven't found the right filament to make the bulb light up.

This is not to say you shouldn't revise your query letter or tighten up your manuscript. If something's not working, you need tenacity and good old fashioned hard work in addition to dogged persistence. Look for flaws; maybe there's a reason 156 agents turned you down. Tighten it up and keep at it. But always keep moving. Action is the key. 

Set definable goals: I have 5 queries out at all times. When one comes in with a definitive NO or the estimated time window expires I send out a new one.

This strategy may not get me published, but I know what definitely won't: not trying. So if you need another reminder, in addition to the countless stories of the successful authors who were rejected hundreds of times before making it big, here it is.

Just keep swimming. Keep on keepin' on.

"When jarred, unavoidably, by circumstance revert at once to yourself and don't lose the rhythm more than you can help. You'll have a better grasp of harmony if you keep going back to it." -Marcus Aurelius, last of the so-called Five Good Emperors of Rome

It can be discouraging, but persistence is the key.

"What is defeat? Nothing but education; nothing but the first steps to something better." -Wendell Phillips, American abolitionist, lawyer and orator
Holiday advises to "Build your inner citadel," meaning basically Get Your Mind Right. Fortify yourself for the rejections and setbacks because they will come. Anticipate them, expect the worst and then love everything that happens--amor fati; you may be stalled but at least you are on the right path and whatever comes is just a bump on the road to success. So keep on truckin'.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Support Indie Authors Free Book Bash

Do you get that buzzing, sweaty-palm excitement that I do at the mention of FREE BOOKS?

That means you're a bibliophile too!

Check out the Free and Discounted book sale hosted by the Indie Author group, Support for Indie Authors, from October 28 to October 31. Over 75 free and discounted books in a wide range of genres; you're sure to find something you'll love!

*cough* Nautical Miles will be FREE October 28th only! Pick it up and support indie authors!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Nautical Miles FREE October 5th Only!

Betrayed by her family, then kidnapped by pirates, Rachel is having a rough time, but she’s not giving up. The ship’s Captain, and his dangerously handsome first mate, have no ill intentions toward her; in fact they accept her into the crew. Rachel adapts to her new seafaring life and all its adventures, including sword fights, rival pirate ships and a trip to the New World that will change her life forever.

Get ebook Nautical Miles free here today only!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

How to Research when Writing Historical Fiction

Research is a critical step in writing.

Historical fiction especially, but research when writing any kind of fiction is imperative. Unless you’re writing about exactly what it is that you do all day, some research is necessary. Nothing throws a reader off like the misuse of a term. Anything that distracts from the narrative, or pulls the reader out of your world is something that hurts you as an author.

So what is the best way to go about your research? Yes, Google is your friend, but to truly immerse yourself in a time period or region, go a little deeper.

While reading other fiction novels set in the same era is recommendable, you don’t want to simply be regurgitating facts or scenes someone else has already written. To be truly unique and credible as a historical fiction writer, find your own take on the period, your own details to incorporate.
  • Watch documentaries, or even T.V. series set in your time period. Downton Abby comes to mind.
  • Go to museums with artifacts (and likely tidbits of information) from the period.
  • Talk to someone with expertise in the area, whether it’s a museum curator, your grandmother, or in my case, my father-in-law, who worked as a sailor for his entire adult life.
My mom’s friend’s husband was also a sailor, and he told me that sailors don’t call ropes ropes, they call them lines. Imagine a sailor reading my historical romance set at sea. Laugh a little bit first, then imagine him snagging on the word ‘ropes’ because a sailor would never call them ropes, he’d call them lines. He just pulled out of my world, and maybe that’s enough for him to call it quits. At the very least I’ve lost credibility with him.

Not to say you shouldn’t do some research on the Interwebs. Of course you should. The Internet has a lot of great information to offer, but that’s just it. It has a lot. It can get overwhelming, especially if you come across conflicting information. Because no one can lie on the Internet, right? As much as we’d like to believe what we’re reading is correct, the truth is there’s no one regulating the information someone writes on a subject, no matter how professional the website looks. So what’s a more reliable source of information? Books.

Of course people can lie in books too, but the chances are lower, especially if you carefully vet your research books and get one from a reputable (somewhat large and well-known) publisher.

If you’re writing a novel where a major plot point is that the characters are building a house, read a book about building a house. Know that to lie the foundation you have to lay concrete and that the rafters are called beams. Or whatever, I don't know anything about house building, but you get my point. 

Learn the lingo. Know the specifics. It goes a long way in making your reader trust you. And when readers trust you, they’re more willing to immerse themselves in the world you create for them to enjoy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Joys of Non-Fiction

We love fiction; it transports us to exciting worlds with exciting people, whether we’re taking an epic journey across another universe or navigating a family crisis.

I’m a voracious fiction reader. I write fiction, I adore fanfiction; any kind of fiction, count me in. But if I’m being honest, the most beneficial reading I do is non-fiction.

In my naïve egotistical years, I used to make a lemon face when talking about non-fiction; it always brought to mind a washed-out navy blue cover with Papyrus font and a Shutterstock image that would be dry as a day-old cracker to slog through. What do I want to read non-fiction for? I live in the real world every day and it sucks; take me to Middle Earth.

I didn’t understand then. Non-fiction makes me a better writer. Non-fiction is research, it’s expanding your boundaries and horizons.

I recently read a book on bodybuilding. I have no particular interest in bodybuilding; I’m 120 pounds with rocks in my pockets, but in the future if I decide one of my characters likes to work out, he or she is gonna know their stuff.

Non-fiction can be inspiring; autobiographies bring to light amazing feats of will or creativity by remarkable people. They can inspire characters or plot devices that wouldn’t have occurred to you otherwise because you’re sitting in a box of your own making.

Read A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. It’s a staple, a classic of non-fiction, plus it’ll blow your ever-loving mind. Trying to grasp the vastness of time and space might inspire a novel based on a planet in a far-reaching solar system, or a futuristic novel where people time-travel as easy as hailing a cab on the street.

Documentaries have the same flair. I hated documentaries. Ugh, boooooring. But my husband forced me to watch a documentary about building a tiny house and you know what? It was super interesting. I watched a documentary about growing corn. The corn industry is whack, let me tell you. I watched behind-the-scenes at Tony Robbins’ annual life-coaching event and I bawled not just one, but both of my eyes out. Watch Cosmos, I’m begging you. Neil Degrasse-Tyson is everyone’s gentle Uncle and I want to invite him to my kid’s next birthday party.

Sure, there are some non-fiction works out there that will make you cough sawdust they’re so dry, but there’s good to be found in every word you read, even if it’s just knowing how not to do it. Plus, if you’re researching a specific subject, knowing the nitty gritty ins-and-outs will make you a literal expert, so you don’t have to just pretend to be one while you’re writing your novel.

When you know more on a wider variety of subjects, it has the bonus of making you more interesting to talk to. 

Any time you can expose yourself to something new and different, you grow as a person. Which means you grow as a writer. And if you’re not growing, you’re dying.

(Recommend me some non-fiction books in the comments below!)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Growing as a Writer and Finding Your Voice

Do you ever look back on things you wrote a year ago and cringe? 

Um, I do. 

It's a good thing, really! It means you're refining your voice. 

"Voice" is a difficult term to describe, as it encompasses a lot of 'feeling'. It's the individual writing style of that author, a combination of idiotypical usage of syntaxdictionpunctuationcharacter development, flow and dialogue. Just as a trumpet has a different voice than a tuba or a violin has a different voice than a cello, one author's style will sound different from another's (ideally). An author's voice may be described as quirky, lyrical, light or dark. 

An author may have many voices, depending on the POV they use to tell their story, and the feeling of the story itself. You wouldn't want to use a light voice to tell a dark story, or vice versa. You wouldn't want to use an overly professorial voice when telling a story from the POV of a teenager, either.

So, while your voice may change from story to story, your author's voice will grow and mature. This comes from a variety of influences, but none more so than the books you read.

What you're reading has great influence on the way you write in the long run. Reading is the best education for a writer. It expands your vocabulary and your exposure to different literary elements, plot points and character's personalities. Which is why it is an excellent idea to read different genres, if only occasionally.

I like to say that you are an aggregate of everything you've ever read, a melting pot of dialogue idosyncracies and plot devices. 

But rather than simply regurgitating what you've read, this 'melting' occurs subconsciously, and when it comes back out of your fingers on your keyboard, it has your flavor slathered all over it. That metaphor got a little gross, but you catch my drift.

There's a caveat to this, however. You can read as much as you want, but if you don't practice your writing, your voice will never grow and mature. Just as the legs have muscle and can be worked and trained for a gymnast to do her backhandsprings at the Olympics, a writer's voice is a muscle that must be used and exercised in order to be strengthened. 

The best thing I've done for myself in my career (ha ha) as a writer is simply to read and write. Happily, these things are enjoyable and don't feel at all like work. Which is probably why so many people want to do them for a living.