What Scares You About Being Published?

 

What’s your biggest fear about being published?

My biggest fear about being published, if it ever happens, is being in the public eye.

I’m a social person, but I don’t like criticism, and I have to admit, I’m a bit of a control freak. Turning my novel loose on the public opens me up to all kinds of opinions, all kinds of scrutiny. And that terrifies me.

It also opens me up to books signings and public appearances. And that’s where the real insecurity rears its ugly head. What if I’m lame, or boring, or…and this is the worst…what if nobody shows up?! #writerfears

I would probably write under a pseudonym, but in the information age, I’m not so sure a pseudonym protects your privacy. In the old days, you know, pre-internet days, a pseudonym probably was fairly effective. But not so much anymore.

About 10 years ago, I wrote a Letter to the Editor of our local paper. It got printed, and much to my terror, a woman looked me up, and called me at home! Fortunately, it was to tell me that she completely supported my position, but it was still unsettling. What if she felt differently?

You see where I’m going. Of course, if I ever do get published…I could probably get over it. LOL

So what scares you about being published? Do you think it holds you back?

If you are already published, what surprised you the most?

Starting Your Query before Your Novel is Completed?

I’m a Panster, (or is it Pantster?) which means that my characters tell me their story, not the other way around. It’s unconventional, from what I’ve been told, but it works for me. Outlines are painful, arduous, and too confining for me.

My first novel, I had no idea what I was doing. I just wrote it: no outline. I was naïve, and just had a bunch of notes for a story that I’d been sitting on for 20 years (no kidding…20 years), and finally had the time and determination to write it down. It felt great to complete it! Even if nobody else read it, at least I finished it.

While writing my second novel, I happened across an article in a writer’s magazine that showed step-by-step how to outline a novel. So, I followed their example, and I plotted, and outlined, and then tried to write according to that outline.

I hated it! It felt as if I was writing in a foreign language and trying to force feed the words to fit the outline. I scrapped the outline and wrote the book my own naïve way. And, again, I finished it.

Several novels later, and I’m in the midst of querying. While I sift through rejection letters and wait for the golden ticket, I’ve started another novel.

I struggled to get this one going on the right track, until I realized I was over-thinking. So I tried something different, but not on purpose.

One night, as I was trying to fall asleep, I was writing the query in my head. But that’s crazy! I was only 4,000 words into the story. I shouldn’t even be thinking about a query, right?

But I couldn’t get it out of my head. Maybe it was because I had been querying for that other novel that my brain kept thinking in that direction. So instead, I wrote what would be on the back of the book jacket, or part of the query. It worked! It helped me focus where the story was going, but without the constraints of an outline. It brought my novel to back to life for me, and made it more compelling.

Since then, I’ve updated it several times and keep adding to it. I guess you could call it an outline, but it’s more entertaining than that. I see an outline as a dry, step-by-step summary of what’s coming. #panstertroubles The back of the book jacket is the ad that causes the reader to buy the book. And isn’t that what we, as writers, are trying to do? Get people to buy our books?

Writing the book jacket keeps me focused on the goal of what I want my story to tell, and who I want my story to reach.

I don’t know if it will work, but it’s kind of fun. The way I look at it is whatever gets you focused and writing is best for you: whether it be an outline, scribble in a notebook, or a query. That’s just my two cents. Happy writing!

Writing Like a Panster

I finished my latest Manuscript and am seeking representation, which can be a long process. So, until then, I’ve started a new project.

But it’s been slow going so far, and I think I know why.

I’m OVER-THINKING.

I’m not an outliner, I’m a “Panster.” Which is weird, because being a “Panster” goes against every other part of my life. With the rest of my life, my family, my finances, etc. I am a planner. Type-A all the way.

But not when it comes to writing. Writing is the one place that I give myself permission to fly free.

I usually start with a character and go from there. The story reveals itself to me along the way. Of course, that means there is going to be a lot of tweaking and rearranging, but that’s the price I pay for being a “Panster.”

If you’re an Outliner, you plan your novel way ahead of time, from what I understand. Some people have story arcs and everything before they even start writing.

This time, I started my story with a few characters and how they interact and I immediately jumped to plotting. And I’ve been trying to make my story “fit.” But doing that for a #Panster is like putting a size 10 foot into a size 8 shoe. There’s a lot of forcing, and whining and pain involved. And it isn’t fun, and it isn’t productive. Trust me, I worked in a shoe store when I was young and watched hundreds of women insist they were a size 6 when they were clearly a size 7, and then proceed to blame it on the shoe.

I’m blaming the shoe right now instead of just finding the right fit and giving myself lots and lots of room.

So, I’m starting over…in my own Panster way. I’m going to let my characters tell me their stories. I’m merely the recorder. I need to let them tell me their hopes and dreams and fears and conflicts. If I set them free on the keyboard, they will show up. But I need to stop shoving my large characters into the small shoe.

How do you start a new story? Are you a Panster or an Outliner?

Here we go again…novel finished…and waiting…

Here we go again…

Novel #3 is finished and ready to find a literary agent!

Now I know, it’s never really “finished” until you actually FIND the agent or publisher and it’s sitting on a retail shelf complete with bar code. But that could take some time, if ever.

So, in the meantime, what to do, what to do?

I don’t know about you, but I immediately start brainstorming on the next book. Since I write women’s fiction, I usually start with a character or characters and then build from there.

I had a “Character Journal” until my last laptop was stricken with the “Black Screen of Death.”

It was a sad day, or a liberating one, depending on how you look at it. Nah, who am I kidding…it was sad…tragic even. All those ideas lost. They’re still on the computer, I just have to get to them.

I already have a name for my next main character. Besides starting a new “Character Journal,” I’ve started a “Name List.” Names are just as important as character development. You know how sometimes a name can conjure an entire character? That’s the sort of name I have in mind. Now I just have to figure out her story.

Tragedy? Comedy? A little bit of both? Hmmmmm…..maybe it’s time to head to the coffee shop and soak in some color. Am I the only one who does that? Hijack someone’s conversation? Think about that the next time you’re at the coffee shop and there’s someone sitting there all alone on their computer.

Or maybe the woman in the grocery store will wander into my next novel…or the sales woman at the department store…or the clumsy waitress that served me dinner last night.

Thank goodness we don’t have to pay royalties to the strangers that inspire us. But thank you to all the strangers that let us writers into your lives, if only for a moment, or even from afar. Stories are inspired and you are our inspiration.

Where do you go to find your best inspiration? Do you keep a Character Journal or a Notebook of phrases and ideas?

Entering a Local Short Story Contest

 

Every year, our local library holds a Short Story Contest. I’ve entered for the last three years, and have yet to place.

I’m considering entering again this year, just for the practice.

But I don’t write short stories. I never have.

I write novels, so writing a short story, for me, is a bit of a challenge. I’m also a “panster” which makes it even more challenging. Without an “outline,” it makes it much harder to wrap up a story in 2500 words or less.

I write women’s fiction, and women’s fiction differs from most other genres. Without completely sounding like I have no idea what I’m doing, I’ll try to explain what I mean: women’s fiction isn’t necessarily trying to “solve a problem,” as in conquering the neighboring tribe, or saving the planet from the comet headed straight for it. Women’s fiction tends to be about “relationships.” It isn’t as cut and dry as some other genres, and I don’t mean any disrespect by that at all. I just don’t can’t write those other genres without sounding like a 4th grader wrote it (no offense to the 4th graders out there).

Women’s fiction is different in that it’s character-driven. There’s still a problem to solve, sometimes many, but it’s painted with a much broader brush, at least the way I write. My characters are flawed and their flaws are what drive the plot.

So, back to the short story.

First, condensing a story to 2500 words is daunting for me. That means that I need to come up with a premise that can basically be solved in one and a half chapters! What?! That’s when things usually just get going in a women’s fiction novel, not resolved!

Thinking of something that fits into that box is really, really hard for me.

I’ve tried using writing prompts, but have yet to find one that inspires me. I’ve tried different genres, but I really can’t write fantasy or SciFi…I just can’t.

But, like most writers, I like to bang my head against the wall, otherwise I wouldn’t be a writer. (Writers will understand that). I’ll keep trying. I’ve started 3 short stories so far that have fallen flat. I still have until July 31st to submit my entry. It isn’t impossible, just improbable, and I can work with those odds.

What about you? Have you ever tried to write something different than you’re used to? What got you over the hump?

Explaining Being a Writer to Friends and Family

 

I should start by saying that I have not yet published a novel. I’ve published poetry and articles, but I haven’t hit the mother lode yet.

Explaining being a writer to friends and family can be frustrating and humorous.

First and foremost, unless they are writers themselves, they don’t understand the process, the time commitment, or the frustration that comes with wanting to be a published novelist.

Every time I talk to my mother she asks me “Are you going to get this one published?” as if I just need to walk down to the local bookstore and hand them my book. I would love to tell her, “Yes! It’s going on shelves next week!” But when I try to explain that it’s completed, and that it really isn’t “finished” just yet, I hear silence on the other end of the phone. She doesn’t get it. It isn’t her fault, she just isn’t a writer and doesn’t understand that writing is a process.

Truth of the matter is, aside from the initial completion of a novel, most of my non-writer friends and family could care less. Some of them ask about it from time to time, but then glaze over when I bring up editing, or second drafts, or the nature of the business. They don’t really want to know.

Even my own husband has only read one of my early novels. In fact, when I was teasing him about not being interested in what I was writing, he insisted that he was interested, and that he’d read my book. That was 3 manuscripts ago! If it was me, I would want to know what my partner was writing about: am I in it? Is the psycho man-hater character modeled after me? What sort of personal stuff did you put in there? But not him. I guess I should consider myself lucky on that note. I could write a whole book about him and he’d never know it until it was on the shelf of Barnes and Noble. Hmmmm…maybe…nah, I wouldn’t do that. But the point is that I could, and he’d never know.

The truth is that writing can be a lonely business. People won’t understand what you do. They won’t understand the effort you put in to character development, and structure, and plot. They won’t understand what’s taking so long to get your book published. They won’t understand that just finishing a first draft is an accomplishment in itself, even if it never gets published. And writing a second or third novel is even more impressive.

So if it seems like you don’t have the support of family and friends when you’re writing, don’t give up. Those same family and friends will be there when your book goes on the shelf. They might even buy a copy…maybe. They may even open it up and read it just to see if they’re in it.

Don’t worry about finding an answer when they ask if you’re book is published yet. Just tell them it’s in the works. Because it is…the moment that first word is written, your great novel is in the works.

More writing and less explaining!

Besides, the writing community gets it.

Do you have a creative way that you explain writing to your friends and family? I’d love to hear it.

Head-Hopping is Making My Head Spin!

 

There are hundreds of rules when writing a novel that a writer has to follow to get through the slush pile. Rules that I would venture to say most readers have never heard of (unless they are writers themselves).

Head-hopping seems to be the LATEST ‘NO-NO’ on a really long list of Taboos that writers MUST follow. But even a lot of editor’s CAN’T AGREE on when it occurs, especially in Third Person Omniscient POV, which is the POV I generally use. So how am I supposed to avoid it when I can’t even get a straight answer?

Head-hopping is my biggest pet-peeve and is probably why I will never be published. Head-hopping is when the writer suddenly changes the character point of view. There are obvious instances, but it’s the subtle changes that trip me up. I just don’t see it.

As a reader, it doesn’t bother me, or at least it didn’t until I heard about it.

I read a book and if I like it, then fabulous! And chances are, I have probably run across lots of head-hopping and never even noticed.

Take apart any work of fiction and you’re going to find it: Stephen King, Hemingway, Nora Roberts…the list goes on. They’ve all been guilty of head-hopping and survived the critics. The caveat I’ve heard is “that they’ve done it well, and the reader doesn’t even notice.” Huh?

But it’s supposed to be a cardinal rule! A giant mistake! It will get your manuscript tossed in the trash can at the first instance (or so I’ve read).

Here’s the way I look at it (and I’m probably wrong, so don’t listen to me – I’m not published):

Head-hopping is a guideline…A GUIDELINE. There are lots of editors and bloggers that will tell you that it’s a cardinal sin and will ruin your career before it’s even started. And they may be right. I mean, they’re the gatekeepers, right? They make the rules and as writers we have to follow them. But like I said before, even THEY can’t completely agree on it!

I understand that they are just doing their job, following their protocol. I’ve just gotten so frustrated with the publishing process lately. As soon as I think, “okay, I’ve got this,” I find out something else that I’m totally missing. Getting published seems further and further away every time I go deeper into that rabbit hole.

Back to the drawing board.

Head-Hopping…Ugh!

What’s your two cents on head-hopping? And if you aren’t a writer, have you ever noticed it when reading?