Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I finally got a strong lock on my goals for this year. They're some pretty big goals. I'd like to complete 4 novels this year. Yes, I said 4. You heard me right. Why Four?

It's not a magic number, it's just I write pretty fast when I'm working like I'm supposed to. If I'm not twiddling my thumbs there's no real reason why I can't finish a novel in 6 months time. Now I realize there are only 12 months in a year, but I have a "simultaneous work" plan that's working out really great for me and allows me to complete twice the work without the burnout factor. (Each day I write I'm doing around 3-4 hours of actual writing work, and since I don't work outside the home, that's definitely not excessive.)

While editing one novel, I'm writing the rough draft for the next one. So, 4 novels. I may not get an agent this year, or even any kind of ebook contract (yes, I'm ready to consider the possibility of ebooks until I make it to New York, more about that tomorrow.), but I will up my odds considerably by working hard, and getting things completed on my deadlines and getting them out there in the world circulating.

Right now I'm 26 days into the novel in 90 challenge, and at the end of the 90 days, my goal is to have my paranormal romance completely done and ready to go out the door, and my query letters ready, and also to have the rough draft of the erotica novel I'm writing. Then as soon as I send my queries out, I can start work on the rough draft of the next paranormal while I edit the erotica.

My production goals are pretty big this year, but I believe I can do them, I've never written and completed four novels in a year, it seems insane on the surface of it. But I'm ready to commit to this full time and I'm practicing what I preach. My goals may be big, but you can't reach a goal you don't set. If I set lower goals, I'll only go that far. I want to set a goal that's impressive if I reach it.

I would love to get an agent this year, or a contract with someone, but even if I don't, completing four novels will move me down this road closer to that agent and contract.

What are your goals for this year?

Monday, January 29, 2007


Let's talk method. I'm still fine tuning mine, but the more I do this novel writing thing, the more I figure out what method works best for me. And what alternate routes I can take. I'm much clearer on the beginning parts of my method cause I've done them longer. When I first started trying to write a novel, I tried to write a rough draft and made several different attempts before I actually got through a rough draft. Then I got to where I'd completed several rough drafts and that was no longer impressive. I'm still fine tuning some of what works for me on revisions, since I haven't been at that stage as long. bore is my method. (Don't worry, I'm going to ask for yours too, because I really am interested in how everybody else works.)

1. Idea and Outline. I'm an outliner not a pantser. I tried pantsing once, and still haven't gotten that mess cleaned up. It was truly scary. I admire those who can pants, but I'm not among them, I'm way too anal retentive. When I make up my outline I decide how long I want the book to be, how many chapters, and divide the chapters evenly for word count. Now every chapter isn't EXACT, some are over, some are under, but I really like fairly even chapter lengths because it helps me with my pacing, as does the outline. This part takes me maybe a few days.

2. Rough draft. I try to write this as quickly as possible. The faster the better. My personal best is this past november when I wrote a 93,000 word first draft in 29 days. (next I want to try to do "Fast Draft" A rough draft in 2 weeks. The idea of being able to do that thrills me! And I really think I can.) Also during the rough draft, I follow the outine as a general 'pit stop' guide on the way to my ending, cause I can't start if I don't know my ending. I always veer though, and so I revise my outline accordingly. (Yes, I know I'm freaking ANAL about this. It's my safety net. It keeps me from sitting in front of the computer and just staring at it. It's nice to know what I'm going to write about at least in general before I get there.)

3. Then I let it sit for a few weeks. During this "sitting" period, I start working on my query letter. This is when I do my research and character sketches. Which may sound counter intuitive but I basically bullshit through the first draft on most things. I do my fact checking and research during the cooling off period, because then I know what I actually need to know and I'm not just filling up 30 notebooks with research that may or may not help me. (clearly I don't write historicals, because then I would probably HAVE to have 30 notebooks of research.)

4. Then I revise. I'm finding that just jumping in and editing and cleaning it up helps a lot. Because this can be an overwhelming stage. It's kind of like the rough draft though. Before you start the rough draft it's incredibly intimidating, but the only way to do it is to just jump in and do it, and not try to be perfect. I think revisions are probably the same way. Best not to second guess yourself, just save all your drafts and keep working at it. I'm finding a chapter a day of edits is working well for me. (of course this isn't the only pass through.) Someone on one of the loops suggested keeping a list of problems to fix as I come to them and then marking them off as I fix them. (like plot holes, scenes that need to be moved, etc.)

Also I've started something new, that is working out so much better than I anticipated, which is...while I'm editing one novel, I'm writing the rough draft of another novel. It allows me to do more work this way and allows me to shift gears.

That's as far as I am in the steps. I'm assuming the revisions stage could go on through several passes, finally getting to a polish, and manuscript formatting etc. But yeah...that's my method at this point.

What's yours?

Saturday, January 27, 2007


I'm known as an opinionated person (Frankly I think all writers are. If we didn't have this intense need to express ourselves we wouldn't be writers.)

On a writer loop I frequent we've been discussing expressing yourself without sabotaging yourself. Online it's so easy now to connect with others in the publishing world. And what you say lives on with you forever. I think about this a lot. And I addressed it to some degree on the post where I talked about persona and whether or not I should kill off Zoe Winters.

I decided 'no' on that, btw. And the reason I did is because I'm not a runner. I don't run from people or situations. I sometimes get frustrated, I've occasionally made an ass of myself, but I don't run and hide. When you are part of a community, people get to know you. I've seen sides of people I once perceived as one thing, and now I see them as something totally different, something more human and worth knowing.

Before I started chatting online with other writers, in other online personas I had a reputation as being a bit on the bitchy side, but mostly snarky. I could make posts without thinking too much about it because people kiss and make up and that's that. Sometimes they don't, but in the grand scheme, it wasn't hurting me any. With writing, it's a whole different ballgame. From the very beginning as an unpublished baby in this industry I have to think about how I come across.

I've never been one for self censorship. I've always admired emotional honesty and wanted it to be something I display. However, you can't just let everything hang out all the time. There is a time and a place for everything.

What I once viewed as "sucking up" in other people, I'm now starting to view as "being professional." There is a public/professional you and a private you, and the more one can get a handle on that, the better.

If given a choice between "self expression" in online forums and "being published" I would pick number two. I would rather learn to curb my bitchy side in order not to burn bridges or turn off potential agents and editors. I'm not willing to do anything to stand in my own way.

It would be awful to not succeed based, not on the quality of my writing, but based on a reputation that I wasn't careful about. Very slowly I'm starting to try to get rid of old habits, and in the writing sphere follow an attitude of: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

On some level it's not fair, because I'm not a prima donna. I'm not hard to work with. I accept constructive criticism for my writing and make changes where changes are necessary. I'm career minded, but at the end of the day, if I spouted my mouth off to someone on some forum somewhere, it might not matter.

I think everybody has bad days though. No one is perceived as perfect all the time. We are not Stepford people, cardboard cutouts of humanity with no souls... I think it's a cummulative effect. I think it's a karmic effect. A matter of sending out the type of treatment you want to come back to you in return.

I wanted to live in a world in which my words made an impression, being online, now I do. It's up to me to decide WHAT impression.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Training your brain not to quit:

This blogpost is inspired by today's post at Magical Musings The post was on how science is discovering that you can rewire your brain in a sense. Most purveyors of positive thinking techniques have known this for a long time. You CAN condition yourself to be an optimist. And you CAN train your brain not to quit.

You can also train your brain to have a positive attitude toward rejection, thereby making it possible for you to keep going through the "no's" until you get to "yes." The first thing to remember is: Rejection is inevitable. This is actually pretty encouraging. It means if you get 50 rejections it doesn't mean you suck. Author Kate Perry stated on a yahoo group recently that she received 70 rejections before she got an agent and 25 rejections after that before her first book sold (and the first book, was actually the third book written since obtaining an agent.)

This is encouraging. What if she had quit on query number 69? Or what if she gave up after the second book? We live in a fast food culture where we want it NOW! Well tough. Publishing doesn't work that way. And actually success in life in general doesn't work that way. This "now" mentality I believe is at least partly responsible for vast groups of people never accomplishing anything, because if it doesn't come fast and easy it must not be "meant to be." To be very blunt, that's crap, and you know it. Name for me ONE successful person in any area of life who begins his story like this: "So this one day I woke up, and on a dare decided to do this really successful thing, and voila, look at me now. It was just meant to be." No one? K, that's what I thought.


The following are some positive ways you can deal with rejection when it comes...besides understanding that it's normal:

1. Send a thank you note. No, I'm not insane. Do you know how rare it is for someone to express actual gratitude that someone took the time to consider their work? This suggestion isn't something I just pulled out of my ass either, it comes from Carolyn See, author of "Making a Literary Life." It's a bit of psychic self-defense. Instead of being down, you take the rejection and you lob it back to it's target in the form of a genuine nicely written thank you note. Practice an attitude of gratitude.

2. Before you really get involved in anything else, send out another query. Seriously. One for one. One rejection, one new submission. It keeps things circulating and moving. This is a long enough process as it is to just wait to hear back from everyone before you start sending out more. Don't wait until your first 10 queries come back rejected to send out 10 more. Go one for one.

3. Do something nice for yourself. It's like behavioral conditioning, if you get something nice when you get a rejection, you keep submitting because hey, when you get the rejection instead of jumping off that cliff like you planned, you can buy new shoes. Isn't that so much nicer than the cliff idea? Of course you want the acceptance and you can REALLY celebrate then, but do something nice. Get a manicure, watch a funny movie, buy a new pair of shoes, whatever. Make a list of all the things big and small that you would like to get or do for yourself. Don't make them all monetary, since we don't all have endless pots of money. But make them all something nice. Rejection. Nice thing. Rejection. Nice thing.

4. Finally, be working on something else already. Rejection for one piece is much easier when you have already shifted your attention and psyche to the next project. Start the next project when you send out your first batch of queries (unless you're the type that works simultaneously. Like I'm editing one thing while writing the rough draft of another, by the time I start sending out my queries for this novel, I'll be editing the next one and starting the rough draft of a third one.)

I used many of these techniques when I was submitting short stories and articles. They work. They make you pro-active. They keep you moving. Start training your brain. Try these techniques for your next rejection letter. You're almost kind of looking forward to it now, huh? So, very very twisted. ;)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Self-Defeating behaviors, and revisiting the lottery.

I'm going to be very blunt. However my knowledge comes from observing other people, not direct experience (yet) in my own publishing saga. And so feel free to ignore me. My complete talking out of my ass in fact is a very safe space for you to be in right now, because you can think I'm idiotically naive and not be troubled further.

Here's the thing: Publishing is not a lottery. YES, some good books don't get published. And YES some bad books do... However, this REALLY is not like your name getting pulled out of a hat, or your raffle ticket drawn. There are things you can do to increase your odds exponentially. Studying the business intensely is one. Surrounding yourself with successful people is another. Reading and writing as much as you possibly can is another. (I mentioned in another blog entitled: "But mine is different..." that a short query and not too much set up in the first chapter of your novel will put you miles ahead of a lot of the competition.)

THE odds in general are not the same as YOUR personal odds. Don't make the mistake of confusing the two. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking "delusions of grandeur" here. I'm saying, someone else's personal success or failure in no way has anything to do with you or what you can or cannot accomplish.

Whatever you can do to improve your craft, do it. If you fail, it might not be your fault. But it might be. Take responsibility for your own faults, whatever they might be. I am in no way, shape or form implying that any one individual person is wholly responsible for their failures, I'm saying, on the whole to grow, you must own up to whatever you have done that is self-defeating.

Over and over I've seen people who have "made it" have very similar attitudes. Maybe you believe they have those attitudes because they've succeeded, but I believe those attitudes are partially responsible for their success. I'm not just talking about writing, I'm talking ALL areas of life. Most people I've ever met who have ever succeeded in any area of life had a winning attitude to match. If you don't have the attitude, get it.

You have GOT to believe in yourself. Absolutely, above all else without reservation. There are many roads here. You don't have to take any given one, but get on a road and go somewhere. Don't bitch about "the industry" as if it's personally out to get you.

Figure out what you have to do to get where you want to go and start moving. Stop bitching. The world hasn't promised you anything. You aren't automatically entitled to anything. You have to make it happen. You have to know you ARE the magic.

Attitude and talk alone won't get you there. The power of positive thinking can't be what completely steers your ship. You have to have a plan and you have to work it. But please, for the love of God and all that is holy and unholy, don't allow yourself to fall into the traps of self-defeat. Just refuse to do it.

You might put all your hopes on one dream. You might try and strive and be good and have a great attitude and not make it. (If we are talking odds and you do ALL these things and don't just lie to yourself about it, those odds aren't nearly as great.) But so what? Your entire identity and self worth cannot rest on the success or failure of one dream. Even if you fail, you have to believe it's worth the attempt. If you don't believe that, then yes, your odds suck.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The hardest part is starting...or why Zoe had to be punished:

So, as cosmic punishment for being so flip about writer suffering the other day...I had a bad writing day. Well it didn't end up bad, but it was a struggle. It's because the hardest part sometimes is starting.

I love those days when I can just get out of bed, sit down, not check email, just dive into the story, write my words and go on. Those days are shining beacons of hope and wonder. They are epic. Usually I procrastinate a little first. I check my email, shower, eat something blah blah blah.

Yesterday I REALLY procrastinated. I spent several hours whining about how I didn't want to write. I DID want to write, I just didn't want to write it "wrong." Despite my preaching about the "crap draft" I too have sinned. (yeah, I know that wasn't a big revelation to you all.)

When I finally stopped fussing over the plot (which is important, granted) and sat down to write my words it took me about an hour to get 889 done. ALL that build up...ALL that fuss. I could have just sat down and written.

I realize I build up too much performance anxiety before hand by expecting to write something "great" or even "not craptastic" the first time out of the gate with any novel. No wonder alcohol is the classical writer's drug of choice. It lowers inhibitions so you can perform. It's like the viagra of writing. Since I don't intend to take up drinking, I have to deal with this another way.

Maybe that's the problem. "Performing." When we write with our eye on publication we tend to start thinking in terms of "what the market will bear" and while that's certainly a concern, possibly the ROUGH draft isn't the place to deal with it. There's this lovely and wonderful phase of writing called the rewrite. I should embrace it.

I'm revising one novel while starting the rough draft on the another. The last novel, the rough draft was easy. Why? Because I wasn't trying to write something "great." This one though is darker, has deeper themes, has the potential to be something psychologically gripping. It also has the potential to never be written.

I'm spending too much time worried about if this will be publishable. I feel like I need to write this particular novel to stretch myself and see what I can write. It isn't paranormal romance, my normal fare, it's just an idea I got. I feel like I need to write it to have the experience of writing it. That somehow it will enrich my writing in some measurable way over the long haul even if it never sees the light of day.

So...yeah. That's where I am right now, trying not to perform. Just sitting down, writing the words and not caring if they're shit. I can fix it in the rewrite. If I don't have that attitude, I won't GET to the rewrite.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Have you suffered enough?

There sometimes seems to be an almost pathological masochism in the writing community at large. This undercurrent of “you need to suffer more.” It can't be too easy. No part of it. Ever. That rough draft? By better spend hours staring at the blank screen, agonizing over every single word.

You are a serious writer now, dammit! Forget that it's a rough draft and you just need to get the damn thing written first so you can fix it. No, it should take all day to write 500 words. If it doesn't, then you must be a hack.

You should read every classic ever written no matter how dry or dull. You must make yourself read it because this is the flogging portion of your punishment. It's what makes you a contender. Didn't you know? If you can read everything any academic has ever deemed “literary” and STILL want to can go on to the next level.

Your level of masochistic glee must be great if you wish to be able to add to the great literature out there already. You should spend months upon months doing research and maps and outlines, texturing a world that you probably won't get around to writing the rough draft of because you spent so long acquiring notebooks of notes now too large to sludge through.

How can you write a novel, a narrative, when you have that many notes? No wonder you just spent three hours staring at the blank screen. You can't top your research with your fiction. So go along little darlings...suffer some more.

Don't enjoy the process of creation, don't just let it flow, don't read things you enjoy. Make everything a “task” a “chore” a “punishment.” Because must be punished. That's what it comes down to right? You feel guilty for liking it?

There are women who can't reach orgasm because they've been raised with such guilt toward the sexual act. Is the writing act like that for you? Can you not reach the orgasmic release of creation because it's naughty for you to be doing this while someone else is working long hours in a factory developing carpal tunnel? (By that logic, you should stop enjoying your food due to the children starving in Ethiopia.)

This may be a bitingly sarcastic post, but I think you should think about it. Do you feel guilty for liking it, or like you aren't a real writer if you like the process too much? On the other side of the fence, are you a prima donna who just wants to look like they are suffering? Should we get you one of those fainting couches?

I'm not trying to downplay genuine difficulties with writing. I'm asking you to examine yourself and think really hard if this is some kind of psychological block brought on to you by the fact that the writers around you might be trying to “suffer.” Will you join the hive mind, or will you smile politely and say: “Oh, yes, it's so terribly difficult” while smiling secretly about it?

There is no shame in enjoyment. If you like a book, read it. If you like the Classics READ them, enjoy them, with my blessing. If you don't, don't force yourself to choke them down so you can “suffer for your art.” If you aren't enjoying the process of writing why are you doing it?

I'm not saying that some days aren't hard. I'm not saying you should only write on the days you want to. I'm saying if you don't love it, the process, the act, then find a way to recapture it. But for God's sake, stop punishing yourself.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Zoe Winters, Literary Heretic:

I'm a heretic. With very rare exception, I don't like the classics. I like Poe and I like Stoker. Not much else. I don't like Austin, or Dickens or any of their ilk. I know this makes me a heretic. It's practically shameful to say you aren't in love with the classics, that you don't idolize and bow down before them.

It's a bit like a high society woman admitting she's secretly been a whore for the past decade. But there it is, I said it. And now the world knows my shame. (Ok, not the world, just you five people reading this.) I can't sit and pretend to be engrossed by Charles Dickens, although I will admit that “A Christmas Carol” wasn't as dry to me as most of his stuff.

I can't try to be in love with something that just doesn't grip me so that I can seem more “literate.” Suffering through books you don't want to read is what you do in school, not life, in my opinion. Granted, it's been said that you can learn many things from reading the classics. This is true. Of course you also should guard against the one thing you don't want to do, which is “learn to write like a dead guy.” (or girl.)

In their time, most of the authors of the classics weren't writing something “literary.” They only became studied in ivory towers and whispered about in reverent tones, in most cases, after their deaths. During their lifetimes, most of them were writing for the common people. One of the most famous “commercial writers” of his time, was Shakespeare.

What he wrote was crass, baudy, vulgar, common. Although rich and poor alike went to see his plays, few would have elevated it at that time to the status of great literature. Today one of the largest examples of commercial success is JK Rowling. Right now she's “too commercial” in the eyes of most of the literati. In about 50 years she'll be elevated to that worshipful status. I can see absolutely no reason that the Harry Potter series won't become a children's literature classic.

If I like something, I like it. But I make no apologies for not liking a classic author someone else might like. When a piece of writing survives for a long period of time and becomes a classic, it must have some merit. And time goes on, the writing style and voice, while connecting with a certain segment of the population who love it, or try to, it won't connect with the majority of people in the way that modern fiction will. After all there is a reason why if you write now like they did then, you'll likely get a polite form rejection slip.

I guess my point, today in 2007, this is your audience. These are your readers. Don't be afraid to be “common.”

Friday, January 19, 2007


So, I have this blog. And while I have ideas I need to write down, it's not the only purpose. I have this blog to start to create a space for “Zoe Winters” to exist in. To network, to start some small scale promotion of my name.

So now I obsess. I have this horrible habit, which I'm working right now to break, of giving TMI. Sometimes to the point of alienating others. There is a time and space for everything, but dragging the persona I'm trying to gradually create through the proverbial mud is counter productive.

I see the writing loops and while many of them are closed and private for the most part, it's still “out there.” It's not totally private. You don't know every person who sees what you write. I'm at a cross roads. Do I murder Zoe Winters while she's still young and start over? Or do I keep going and try very hard to know what's “appropriate” to attach to my name and what isn't?

Because sooner or later I'm going to “make it” and then this paper trail I've been creating, is going to come to light. I mean unless I make it REALLY big, it's probably safe to say that most of the world won't know most obscure things about me that I've posted. many strangers is too many to let into any aspect of your private world, even if you operate under some level of anonymity with a pen name?

Something that I really admire in authors is emotional honesty. Someone who is real and naked as a person and not hiding. To me this displays courage and a level of “kickass” that I aspire to, because it's so raw and real. At the same time, sometimes it can alienate. I won't name names, (because it could come back to haunt me as I try to learn the fine art of diplomacy...yes...she can be taught!) but I've seen some author blogs where they are just catty and bitchy and whiny all the time and I think they are alienating their fans because in some way they are alienating me.

And yet at the same time it's like a car wreck...I just can't look away. Who can really say that scandal has hurt most people's careers? Once you get big enough and well known enough for anyone to CARE about your personal scandals, it just keeps making you larger than life in the public view. There comes a point where there really is no such thing as bad publicity.

Then there's the issue of people saying you said things you didn't say or saying you are a certain way that you're not. Even the most carefully planned “persona” can still end up revealing things about you you don't want floating around. Some of those things will be true, some of them not. The more public you are, the less people think you have a right to privacy or feelings that aren't up for public scrutiny.

I won't kill Zoe Winters just yet. It could be a messy death and I'm not sure where I would hide the body. But I'll try to keep in mind when I post something, that someday the whole world could know it. And I'll try to remember that even though there are some things I don't mind being public knowledge now, that might not always be the case.

Beliefs change, views change, how we approach life changes. But once you're in the public eye, you're a static figure. If you said a political party was stupid 20 years ago, it'll stay with you, even if you're now a part of that party.

How do you feel about your public persona versus your private identity? How much emotional honesty is too much, and TMI? Is it all a matter of individual opinion? i.e. A case can't please everyone?

By the time anything near “fame” happens to me, if it ever does, the things I've shared that may be “TMI” will likely already be assumed about me, just by reading what I write. Fiction is fiction, and yet people often assume certain things about authors based on what they write. I'm not sure one can write “anything” for publication while still insisting on being totally private.

You're often out there pretty naked, even if you don't think you are. Some people will always read between the lines and be able to separate what's fiction from what's fact. And even if they're wrong...that won't stop the gossip.

Wow...cheery huh?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sometimes all you need is a solid plan

So I'm doing this whole "novel in 90" thing which I've mentioned enough times for you to want to beat me with a stick. And I got a bit overwhelmed. There are some things I need to do before moving on to the next draft of this novel. But it all seemed overwhelming. I'm a bit of a weirdo because I outline before writing a rough draft but I don't do character sketches or tons of research (just bare basics) until the second draft. Because the first draft is where I figure out who my characters are as well as what it is exactly I need to find out. Basically I bullshit through the first draft and act like I know what I'm talking about.

Anyway I was a bit overwhelmed because there is always the danger of stalling out at this phase for me and not actually getting into the rewrite portion because I have to access a different part of my brain here.

Turns out...all I really needed was a deadline (which I already had) and a solid plan. So I took all the things I had to do and made specific lists. Exactly WHO do I need character sketches on? Place sketches (maps and descriptions)? What EXACT things do I need to research...list them. Then divide and conquer, reasonable chunks a day and micro-deadlines.

Now I'm back on track and not feeling so overwhelmed by it all. In fact in the overarching original deadline chart, I'm only going to be one day behind if I stick to this plan, which I'm sure I'll catch up at some point. It feels doable now.

Another thing I did today was start the rough draft of the next novel, which I'll be going at a slow and steady pace of 750 words a day on. Getting back into the creative space, I think is helpful to keep me in this whole "writer flow." Plus, by the time I finish revising this novel and send it out into the world, I've got the next thing to revise, I'm already on my way to the next thing.

I was a little hesitant about starting this next book. I know there are dangers to working on too many things at once. And yet I think working on one "rough draft" and one "edit/revising process" isn't overkill, because they are two fairly different processes. Some days i will have to write new scenes on the edit draft so I will likely not write new stuff on the rough draft on that day...I'm just going to play it by ear. But I figure if I ever get published I'm going to have to learn to switch gears like this to keep forward momentum and I think I can do it.

You never know until you push yourself.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


While I don't think I'm freaking Buddha by any stretch of the imagination (observe my inability not to engage in argument), I've recently had an "awakening" of sorts.

I don't know exactly when it happened. I was in this big ole non-writing slump. I could call it writer's block, but I don't believe in writer's block unless you lose a hand or something. You can just might be crappy. The universe never promised more.

But I started writing again. It started with fanfic. Yeah, I know, go ahead, mock. But it got me going again. Then I was looking at my other novels and planning to edit one of them, and then Nano was here. And out of nowhere I got this great idea for a novel, so I had something for nano.

Then I actually overachieved for nano...93,000 words in 29 days bitches! Then I got ready to start revising and there was this novel_in_90 comm and I'm like KICKASS. So I'm just rolling along.

At some point in all this, I woke up one day and it just struck me, "This is it, this is what I want." I mean yeah, I've always thought this in the back of my head...probably since I was about eleven. It was just always a "pipe-dream" like a nice thought but not realistic. Suddenly I'm like "Why the fuck not?" If the mystical "They" can do it, I can do it. Hell, my mama didn't say: "You can be anything you want to be" for me to waste it on a "safe and sure" goal.

It's just...until that moment of clarity I was floundering trying to develop "other goals." Sure I've gotten passionate about other things. Other ideas, other businesses, etc. But nothing has been a constant companion in the same way that writing has been. So suddenly I'm more serious.

I don't know if I'm getting to an age where I'm just ready to buckle down or what. Maybe it's not an age thing. I'm just ready to be completely fucking honest. I want to write. Desperately. That's what I want to do, it's who I want to be. This is me.

In all my permutations, nothing has screamed more loudly than the writing thing. I just woke up one day and I "wanted it more." I started getting in gear, setting deadlines, KEEPING deadlines (that's a big deal cause I used to set goals and deadlines and not finish them.) The earth just shifted on it's axis and I was like: "Oh crap, this is what I'm supposed to be doing. I better get busy."

When did you wake up?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Writing REALLY Offensive things...

I'm not talking about writing sex that might make Grandmother Lulu blush...I'm talking REALLY offensive, politically incorrect things. At some point, the question arises over whether or not it's irresponsible to write fiction that might cause a group of people to look bad.

For example...

Let's say you write about a priest that's a pedophile. This has become a pretty stereotypical example, and yet it happens. Does writing about a pedophile priest make the entire Catholic church look bad? Does it cast a negative light on ALL priests? Religion in general? God? It's a slippery slope.

Another example...

The Neo-pagan community has at various points gotten in an uproar over the fictional depiction of witches because supposedly it makes them "look bad." Despite the fact that I don't really think anyone confuses a "hollywood witch" with a "Wiccan." I mean really, I don't know anyone who shoots lightening bolts out of their fingertips, do you?

What about kinky erotica which explores various sexual fantasies like the "rape fantasy?" By writing the fantasy itself instead of a "real life" BDSM treatment with safewords, are you making an entire community of kinky people look like rapists and abusers? Do people understand that nonconsensual kinky stories explore a fantasy and don't condone a reality? (i.e. Can it really be argued that the world of Erotica would be better off without classics like "Story of O")?

One might be deeply disturbed by the writings of the Marquis de Sade, and yet we wouldn't even have the word "sado-masochism" if not for his literary contribution.

Anything you write is going to piss someone off. Forget Grandmother Lulu. We live in a "Politically Correct" climate where many people feel they have the inalienable right not to be offended. Rather than just choosing not to read certain types of books, there are those who will insist you are doing something "wrong" by even writing them. They might not out and out condone censorship but they'd be thrilled if you quietly sat in your corner and stopped writing things that upset their sensibilities.

No group's PR image should override the free expression of ideas. Nor should it, IMO make a writer hesitate to write about things which might create controversy.

Writing requires courage on many levels. If you only write about things that don't upset anyone, are you really writing anything worth reading? I don't want to be controversial for the sake of it, but I'll be damned if I only write what's "PC."

Fiction is a safe space in which darker things can be explored. Concepts and ideas too dangerous to explore in any other way. What happens when people decide the fictional expression is too dangerous as well?

Is the problem that fiction makes certain groups of people "look bad" or is the problem that the general population seems to have increasing difficulty separating fiction from reality?

Monday, January 15, 2007

But...mine is different...

I was reading one of my favorite blogs the other day, Magical Musings, and the topic was about “Beginnings” by guest blogger, Carolyn Jewel. She was talking about finding the real beginning, and maybe the beginning you think is your beginning really isn't. Novels really start somewhere in the middle according to her, and I agree. It's finding the right place in the middle that's the key.

By some weird magical blogging serendipity, on the same day, the illustrious Miss Snark posts the beginning sample pages she requested from the “Crap-o-meter.” I love it when everything in the universe seems to converge like this.

Over and over again, about these first pages she says: “this is all set-up” Almost everything sent in spent pages setting the scene rather than just getting into the story. Three guesses what is going to put you ahead of the competition once you get over the query hurdle? If you guessed a kickass, strong, in the thick of it beginning, you guessed right. You get a stuffed teddy bear.

Over and over again people in the industry tell writers what they're looking for, and over and over, writers, even savvy ones, give them the exact opposite saying: “But....mine is different...”

This is true of query letters also. Several times I've heard agents say: “keep it short and to the point.” They cite repeatedly how rare it is to get a SHORT query letter. And yet...despite these blatant instructions, writers still send in long letters. I mean sure, the query letter has to be good, but don't you think you might stand out by being concise? (Yes, this will be a hurdle for “the zoe” clearly, but I'll still do it...and freaking hell if *I* can be concise, I don't want to hear that you can't.)

Same with if they ask for a partial...If you know that most people give too much set-up in the beginning pages and don't get right into it...don't kid yourself that yours is some kind of exception. Give them what they ask for. Be the rare writer that gives a good and concise query letter, and then the even rarer writer that gets right into the story instead of giving five pages of set-up.

It'll put you in the top ten percent, and that ups your odds considerably. If you persist in believing that publishing is a big lottery...look at your query letters and sample chapters. Do you find yourself saying: “But...mine is different...?”

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Who wants to win a book contract?

So, there is a big buzz going around about what is basically promising to be the "American Idol" of book publishing. Slut it up here

I have some pretty strong opinions on this which I will share below. It's not going to be pretty or polite, so if you're looking for "Nice Zoe" she's left the building for the day.

To be very blunt about this contest, I think it's lame.

I read the fine print. In the first place, with all the people who are going to be entering this thing I think your odds are really no better than they are if you were to go the traditional route trying to get an agent or submitting to small presses.

Supposedly these people are just Desperate to increase book sales and find new talent. If that's true, you should just leap right out of the slush pile, right? I don't buy it. I think it's just a bunch of publicity nonsense taking a bunch of newbie writers' hopes and dreams for a ride through their Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory of Doom.

From the site:
Submissions may not be submitted elsewhere unless and until the entrant has been eliminated from the Competition. By entering your Submission in the Competition, you hereby give Touchstone/Fireside (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) first publication rights to your manuscript until such time as you are eliminated from the Competition.

Excuse me? What? I'm your butt monkey now? I submit and you own me in some kind of novel limbo until such time as I'm eliminated? Yeah um...ok. Sure. I'll get right on that.

Granted, I do understand the purpose of them holding rights while the individual is in the competition, it would be crazy for someone to win and go: "Yeah, sorry I just got offered a better contract somewhere else." Still, the fact remains...if I've put my hat in the ring of your writing lottery, I can't actually pursue any other means of publication. (i.e. querying agents to represent me.)

And while it's RUDE to simultaneous submit to editors, it's pretty impractical to let a manuscript sit in a slush pile forever while you're waiting on someone to pass on it. Still, THIS says they own your ass until you're eliminated. If I was real serious about getting published...which I seems a bit silly to tie myself up for months at a time when I could be sending out query letters.

The other thing that makes the little red flashing lights go off:
• By entering this Competition, you agree that if you are selected as the Grand Prize Winner, you will sign Simon & Schuster’s standard publishing agreement within five days of receipt of the agreement.

Whoa, there assuming I'm the "one true chosen one" I have to just sign over my soul within five days? Is this a fiction contest or a hostage situation?

Also, is five days really enough time to find an agent or a lawyer to look over it to protect you? I mean we're talking a big publisher here with giant thirty page contracts designed to screw you over without the proper buffers in place. Does ANYONE go into a contract with a big publisher without a second set of eyes to protect them from evil legalese?

They aren't incredibly specific about what's in it for the poor sob that wins. ($5,000, a publishing contract, and distribution through Borders. Excuse me for saying so, but Borders alone isn't very wide distribution for a publisher of that clout.)

So...I'm just going to sit back and watch it like reality TV, like I did when Darva Conger, love her heart, won "Who wants to marry a multi-millionaire" and married a relatively poor (for a millionaire) balding ugly guy with no personality, whose later very public divorce was splashed all over the tabloids.

I imagine this will be something similar. I can't wait to meet the little Darva.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

750 words a day

Yeah, I'm raising the bar, slackers. ;) So I made a blogpost not too long ago about "100 words a day"

100 words is literally nothing. It's so easy that anyone who even THINKS about calling themselves a writer, can do it.

Now that we're over that hurdle I'm proposing 750. Now before you start digging in your claws and freaking out like I'm taking you to the vet to get you neutered...hang with me a second. 100 is like a "trick" to get yourself going.

It's the "well, just do it until then and see how you feel." It's the thing that "gets you started." And that's all fine and good. However, once you get to the place where it's easy for you to "get started," the 100 words isn't very motivating anymore. You write the 100, you're going, but now where do you go? What goal is a worthy goal?

Enter 750. Let's do the math here. If you write 260 days a year, (that's 2 days off a week, like most people with regular jobs), you've written 195,000 words. That's 2 novels (though you still have to edit/revise.) If you write every day, because really, what's 750 words in the grand scheme of things...that's 273,750. Damn!

I had to redo that on my calculator just to make sure the number was right. That's 3 decent sized novels. Consistency is so much better than writing in fits and starts.

So why 750? Maybe it's some kind of psychological trick, but 750 still feels like almost nothing. It's not the daunting, scary "official" 1000. But it's still a respectable amount of words that slowly builds over time. Also, it doesn't take forever to do.

I type pretty fast, and when I write a rough draft I don't sit and second guess myself, I just write it, so I can generally write 1,000 words in about 45 minutes or so. A lot of people can probably write 750 words (on the computer) in 30 minutes to an hour. This isn't a huge time involvement and it's something you can do successfully over the long term without burning out.

Most professional writers don't do actual "writing" 8 hours a day. You burn out too quick. ACTUAL writing, most I've talked to, we're talking 2-3 hours. (and if it was longer, a lot of that was spent staring at the screen or something, not actually typing. I'm talking actual typing here.)

Anyway...enough rambling. I think 750 is my magic number. What about you?

* The 750 words a day idea comes from the LJ novel in 90 community.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Do you steer your ship or do you wait for the wind to blow you?

Magic. Fate. Luck. They're all very romantic notions that probably every writer at one point or another has spoken of. I know I have. With me it's the "magic of this" or the "magic of that." But the "magic" I think it's good to remember, is you. Dumbo's feather wasn't the magic. It's nice sometimes to think those things, but it can be a crutch rather than a help in the end.

What about fate? And luck? Writers often want to credit good luck with their success and blame failures on bad luck. I'm not sure I believe this is a healthy way of seeing things, because it makes you dependent on the whims of some outside mystical force that you can't predict, so why try?

If something is defined as "good luck" then how can you replicate it? If you blame "bad luck," how can you learn to grow? I know it's a horrible cliche, but I truly believe luck is when hard work meets opportunity. All the luck in the world won't help you if you haven't been honing your craft and completeing manuscripts to submit.

It's not a very popular idea, but I believe taking responsibility for your writing will get you farther down the road than believing in magic or luck. The best shot you have is becoming a truly great writer. Make your goal something more ambitious than just "good enough to be published." Both "good writing" and "great writing" are subjective, but whining about someone not recognizing your brilliance does nothing but identify you as a whiner.

A lot of writers want to blame bad luck. And maybe someday I'll be bitter and cynical and be one of those writers, but I hope not. Maybe my adorably cute "naive optimism" will someday be gone. Still, I hope I always understand that my greatest shot is to develop a strong writing voice and produce great writing. Take responsibility, it's empowering. Far more empowering than sitting around and wishing on a star. If your writing isn't great, figure out how to make it so.

It always comes back to craft. Read more, write more. Get your work critiqued, enter contests. Submit. Submit. Submit. But don't wait for luck. Just get better.

Take control of your ship.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Crime of Fanfic: An evil, soulless miscreant speaks out:

I stumbled upon a big ole self righteous argument about fanfic on Lee Goldberg's blog. (note the self-righteous behavior wasn't his actual blogpost. While I disagree with a few of his views on it, he wasn't an arrogant jerk, so I'm not going to make an issue of it.) It was really other people who responded to his blog that were misbehaving. views on fanfic:

First the legality/morality issue of fanfic:

The words "copyright infringement" are bandied about by a lot of people who don't seem to understand why copyright law exists. Copyright protects the ACTUAL EXPRESSION OF AN IDEA, not the idea itself. There are no new ideas. TRADEMARK protects characters and worlds. It is my opinion that a fanfic author could not ever win a lawsuit to protect a fanfic from being "stolen" by the original author. Not because of "copyright" law, but because of trademark law. That story cannot BELONG to you because they aren't your freaking characters. And everyone knows who's characters they are.

(I thought of an exception to this, since authorized media tie ins I believe are copyrighted in the author's name. But I think the keyword here is "authorized." You can't just write a star trek novel and get it copyrighted if it isn't authorized.)

If you're a big enough author to have fanfic written about your stuff, trust me...we all know who your characters belong to. So far a "fanfic" case has never actually gone to court. (And don't bring up Marion Zimmer Bradley...that never went to court, there were just threats of lawsuits. Anyone can threaten. It doesn't mean they have a case.) Also, the vast majority of fanfics posted online have a copyright legal disclaimer making it clear that the intent is not to infringe on copyright, pretty much waiving the fanfic writer's "right" to sue anybody.

Until a case goes to court, I'm going to consider the "incredibly famous author could lose rights to stuff everyone in the known universe knows is his" concept as retardia and nothing more. When a fanfic case goes to court, then let's talk about this.

I don't personally agree with authors who complain about fanfic. I can maybe understand a little bit of the fear that drives it despite the reality of a fanfic case never having gone to court. (Take the infamous Marrion Zimmer Bradley cautionary tale. While I feel that this is a pretty insane reason to send cease and desist letters, the story is whispered almost reverently among published authors fearful of their fans revolting.)

HOWEVER, despite my diagreeing with authors who disallow fanfic, I would never write fanfic in a verse where the author had explicitly said "no, don't do this." Of course I won't buy their books either. That's just how I feel about it. And I have a right to those feelings. It's not a petulant "you won't let me write fanfic, I won't read your stuff" It's more a: "I feel like you're overreacting and showing lack of support for your fans and I'm not on board with that attitude." I'm a fan and customer, and like any customer, I'll vote with my wallet.

People who are against fanfic whether it's based on some kind of classist elitism or self righteous indignation, or they just plain don't like it, often paint all fanfic writers as amoral miscreants. The vast majority of those who write fanfic, write it and share it for fun and to be part of a larger fan community. The vast majority respect the wishes of the Author who says "don't do it" and just don't play in that sandbox. The vast majority would never try to sue or harm an author whose world they wrote in.

So really, if you're still on this: "OMG aren't you ashamed you're so evil and immoral" bandwagon, get over it. It's tired and makes you look like a ninny IMO.

The other issue of fanfic that seems to be argued ad nauseum:

You aren't a "real writer" if you write fanfic. I believe this is a strawman argument. For one thing I've yet to personally meet anyone who thought they were a "real writer" BECAUSE they wrote fanfic. I HAVE, however come across people who write original fic and ALSO happen to write fanfic for fun who call themselves real writers.

There is this elitist classism among the "holy and respectful and real" writers who don't write fanfic against the "evil, heathen, defacing, disrespectful, criminal fake" writers who make all their original writing null and void by participating in a hobby.

When framed that way it DOES look pretty stupid doesn't it?

So why do I like fanfic?

1. Well, it's fun for one thing. I think really that if you have a passion for something, say writing... It's emotionally healthy to participate in the act in ways that aren't for profit. i.e. fanfic. Paul Goyet referred to people who write fanfic as "soulless." However I think doing something for the sheer enjoyment of it without looking to fame or monetary gain is one of the least soulless things you can do.

2. It builds community for fannish geeks like myself. We like to speculate about other people's characters and what if they did this or that. (And despite people complaining about anal sex fanfic, I think even fanfic smut has it's place as a way of exploring situations that would never be appropriate for the 'mainstream' audience of the original story/show/whatever.) Although...I will say, Harry Potter porn? Nasty. Isn't that like vicarious pedophelia?

3. And finally, ANY writing you do improves your other writing. The act of writing teaches you to write. And while I agree that fanfic isn't "real writing" in the same sense that original fic is, and it's not a literary genre... I still think it has its uses, like any writing exercise in the grand scheme of things. I mean really...if given the option do you want to do a writing exercise describing the clear blue sky outside or something that happened to your cousin when he was three, or would you rather write about something that you're passionate about?

So...fanfic, yay or nay? Stupid? Pointless? Evil? Fun? Weigh in. I might be away for a bit...I have to write some of that evil fanfic anal sex that people get so worked up about. *Listens to the sound of a thousand fanfic haters screaming.*

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

That dream where...

Ok, I know what writing is like...well, writing for an audience at least... (I know this on a very small scale and I assume it's even more true of a larger audience.)

It's like that dream where you're in Wal-mart and everybody is staring at you and you look down and you forgot to put clothes on. You just somehow left the house without clothing.

Stick with me on this one...

Anytime you write anything you're exposing something. Hell, you might not be running stark naked down the street, but you're at the very least showing a little leg or some cleavage. Has this metaphor gone on too long? Yeah, I thought so...


Whatever you write has to come from some place of honesty if it's going to really affect anyone. At least that's what I believe. And when you do that, you're exposing yourself in some way. Your thoughts, your feelings, your basic psychology, all out there for just anyone to see. You might as well just get rid of the blinds at your house and have naked day. (Sorry, I said I was gonna stop with the naked talk.)

And it doesn't matter what you write, how innocent it will offend someone. It doesn't matter how great it is...someone will hate it. You could be a bestselling author with tons of awards and still some people will hate what you write. (wow, I can feel the positive energy flowing around the room, can't you guys?)

I was reading Laurell K. Hamilton's blog not too long ago and she was talking about her "negative fans." These are people who buy all her books, and go to book signings and stand in line for hours just to tell her how much they hate what she's written. Eeek.

I'm not a negative fan of hers, although I did stop at the book about Edward, cause I couldn't get into it as much as the others cause he wasn't a vampire or a werewolf. Not that I don't like normal men, I mean that's what we really have here, but I'm just saying if I have a world with vampires and were-whatevers as an option...I'm going that route. I didn't just skip to the next book because I hate to read a series out of order, but I might just have to because I'm told it gets very very dirty. And therefore I have to read it.

I do find myself doing the "negative fan" thing with fanfic though. I don't go out of my way to find it, but if I find something really horrible or tiresome in one way or another I'll read every update of it just out of morbid curiosity.

So that you're feeling all cheery.... You're going to have this. If you share your work with the world there will be people who love it, and there will be people who hate it. The people who hate it might just stop reading, or they might keep on just out of morbid fascination and speculate about your mental health.

Still you have to write. You chose this...actually scratch that. It chose you. I believe pretty strongly that writing is a calling. You can't really quit. It's inside you, you have to let it out. Now you can choose not to share it, but the writing part itself...I pretty much think that's your calling. It's your superhero gift and you should use it.

But...if you decide to share it in some form, well, no one said you got to keep your clothes on. Oh look, it's Wal-mart! :)

Ok, so why did I drag you through this mud? Why did I rain on your parade and make you feel all yucky? Because...if you write and if you intend to share it in some form, you are one of the brave ones. And courage is a kickass quality. You should be proud of that. Most people can't put themselves out there like that. If you can...then you rock!

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Honesty vs. Bitchiness

This is something I struggle with a lot. I post it here in the "writer blog" because I've lately gotten back into message boards and group stuff online and my current discussion venue of choice is writing related message boards.

Let's be frank about it. I can be a bitch. I'm sure a lot of people can. In my desire to be "honest" about how I feel about things, I sometimes cross a line. Something that I'm becoming increasingly more aware of and trying to stop doing.

I have several different factions of myself at war with each other, and sometimes it gives way to bitchiness. On the one hand, I'm very much against false sentiment. If I don't like you I won't go out of my way to pretend that I do. If I don't like something you said about something, I won't just "go along with it" to appear more popular.

But there is a line, which I have on occasion crossed, from honest expression to bitchiness. I'm not sure what it is about me, but it does ocassionally crop up. The thing is, that's not who I want to be. I genuinely don't want to be a person who says things that hurt other people.

Some people say this type of bitchiness stems from low self-esteem, but I don't think that that's the case with me. I do have my moments of self doubt, but on the whole my esteem for myself is pretty healthy. Maybe it's this whole "being in my twenties" thing.

I've heard a lot of women in their twenties sort of flounder trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be. I think I'm there right now. Two things tend to make me "bitch out."

1. If I feel backed into a corner or like someone is trying to walk over me. I'll stand up for myself. I say what I think about things. It's important to me that other people know that I'm not someone who is "nice" just not to rock the boat. I hope that I don't actively seek out confrontation (I know I have before), but I don't avoid it at all costs either.

2. If I'm a part of a discussion where I feel like there is a lot of "fakeness." Sometimes I have to call bullshit. The trouble with that of course is that we call bullshit as we see it. But seeing it doesn't make it so, especially when we're in our own little worlds of perception.

Neither of these concepts by themselves are bad. It's perfectly noble and OK to want to be a genuine person, even if it means being blunt, and standing up for yourself. But there is a line that can be crossed. I need to find that balance within myself.

I post this here and think about it because I'm putting myself and my name out there. And while false sentiment annoys the holy fuck out of me...maybe it's not such a bad idea to follow the "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all" principle. Because people remember things. I don't want five years from now someone to despise me based on some stupid thing I once said on a message board based on some weird little 'be true to myself' compass.

Perhaps it IS it's own little variation on the self esteem issue. In some areas I have loads of self esteem. In others, maybe not so much. I should work on that.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Reading: the missing ingredient:

If girls are made with sugar and spice, great writing is made with lots of writing and lots of reading. Yeah, it doesn't sound as sexy as 'sugar and spice.' Oh well. Despite the lack of sexiness, I'm a firm believer that these are the two most powerful and basic ways to improve your writing.

The writing part is often the easier of the two, even when it's not easy. You know you want to write, so you set your goals and you sit down and you do it. It's harder to carve out the time to read. Mostly because when you already have other responsibilities and you're trying to carve out time to write, you feel pretty guilty carving out time to read too.

Many people greater than me have said it, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write." (Actually it may have been Stephen King that said those exact words, but I'm sure he wasn't the first and won't be the last.)

I've decided this year, to track my reading progress. LJ is spotlighting a pretty cool little community that accomplishes this called:50 book challenge

The goal for members is to read 50 books in a year. My goal isn't 50 books exactly, but 50 novels. With nonfiction I rarely read every word. I tend to skim to the parts I really need the most. I also intend to keep track of the novels I read in a reader's journal I have, where I can write the books I read and review them and put the date, blah blah blah. (I know, I'm a big dork.)

I generally try to do my reading at the gym. I read while I'm walking on the indoor walking track. (And I don't bump into things...go me!) So I manage to do two things at once that a lot of people (women especially) seem to feel guilty doing for themselves, exercising and reading for pleasure.

As a side note and veering just a tiny bit, a lot of writers say they don't have time to go to the gym. I think it's important to try to take care of yourself and exercise is an big part of that. You know you need to read, you know you need to exercise, so go to the gym and read. Incidentally, you don't have to walk on the track to do it if that weirds you out; many bicycles and treadmills are set up for reading. Two birds, one stone. As Larry the Cable Guy would say: "Get er done!" Okay, I promise I will never use those words again.

Now go read!

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Motives for publication...validation:

If you're on the road to magical happy greatness, why are you on it? (Translation for magical happy greatness: publication and beyond.)

I think you can end up happily published with many different motivations, but at the same time I think motivation can be important. Is it for vanity or ego? Is it for validation? Is it to share?

I think for many writers there is a process you go through where your motives for the goal of publication slowly change. At first it's simply for vanity. So you can say: "Look bitches, I wrote this. They put it in a bright shiny book and it has my name on there!" Although I'm sure you wouldn't say it quite like that.

Then a little bit of time passes and that becomes less important amd while there will always be that tiny bit of vanity there, it shifts to something else. External validation. I think a lot of writers get stuck here. We work hard, we develop our craft, we want publication.

Publication says that we weren't wasting our time. Although, on some level I have to wonder about the person who thinks writing is a waste of their time if they never get published. For me, writing is who I am. I learned a long time ago I can't NOT do it. I LIKE it. I like the process of creation and the process of molding that creation.

And yes I like for other people to read things I've written and to say it's good. Everybody does. But it's my personal opinion that external validation isn't the best motivation for seeking publication. For me, I want to be eventually happily published, because I want to share my words with a wider audience, and yes, get paid.

To me writing reaches it's highest expression when it reaches an audience. And while it's done it's job with even one reader, we writers are greedy and like to reach a lot more than one. I view publication as sharing.

You have to validate yourself. Don't look to someone else to do it for you. I think if your motive is for someone else to validate you then whether you get published or not you're always going to keep looking for that validation, because it comes down to self esteem and you not having it.

Self esteem isn't something someone else can give you, it's something you have to build within yourself. It's kind of a "Field of Dreams" thing. If you build it, they will come.

Am I saying there are "wrong" motives for seeking publication? No. This is a free country and anyone can seek publication (or any other goal) for whatever reason they choose. I'm just saying it won't validate you.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Postscript to the last post:

Ok, to go along with this, you HAVE to read THIS blog. This rocks my world:

Liz Maverick's Guest Blog on "Magical Musings"

Join me in making "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice your theme song. (come on, please be a dork with me. You have to read the blog to get the reference.)

This is totally my dorky theme song for the next 90 days!

Sometimes the universe is magic:

Ok, so this post is a bit more personal and zoe-centric than some of my others. I'm currently in the edit stage for the novel I wrote for nanowrimo last November. I had set a self-imposed deadline to getting query letters out the door (which means also getting the novel completely revised and polished and ready to go should someone want to see the completed manuscript) by April 5th. (a self-imposed and psychologically significant deadline for me to get moving on this.)

Today I found out that a new LJ comm was started today called novel in 90: Novel in 90 Community link

The goal is to finish a novel in 90 days. Now, I already finished a rough draft of a novel in 30 days (nanowrimo). And I did a clean up edit in December. But the novel isn't finished. It's not REALLY finished until it's ready to send out to someone is it? So this is the phase I'm at, to FINISH this novel.

That means editing/revising, researching (for characters, story etc. things that will help flesh the book out where it needs it.), writing new scenes in places, getting my query letter ready etc. etc.

The goal for the comm is 750 words a day. I don't know that I'll be writing that many a day. Some days it'll be more cause of new scenes. Some days, much less. But the point is, I need to really commit to getting this thing done. I'm making a personal to do list so I can pace myself properly but I'm thinking I need about 2 hours of actual work ON the novel (in some form) a day.

So what's the magic here? Well. Coincidentally...this comm was started today. And...counting today and April 5th (my deadline) it's EXACTLY 90 days. So yeah, I'm a complete goob, but I totally believe this is the universe going: "Zoe, get your ass in gear, I can't hand this to you any more plainly." So I intend to finish the novel in 90 days. My punishment for not completing will be total mocking. (no, really...that's the rules on the comm. they get to mock you for failing to work.) :)

If this is something you think you want to do, I encourage you to check out the comm and jump in!

Friday, January 5, 2007


I'm not talking about book banning, I'm talking about self-censorship. A lot of writers have the image of some family member or beloved elderly person perched on their shoulder whispering in their ear "don't write that, that might upset someone." As a result they have flat characters, dry plots and stories that just don't have the truth and emotion that they need to fly. Writing is about making yourself vulnerable. It's a kind of nakedness on the page. I don't want to read some "polite" story that your grandmother Lulu approved of.

I want to read something gripping, a little bit bad, just a touch controversial. Not controversy for the sake of it to be a drama hound...but because somewhere deep down, it's true. The truth always pisses someone off.

Too many people write with Grandmother Lulu's voice of disapproval constantly in their ear. First of all, her biggest problem isn't if you write something dirty or offensive. Her FIRST problem is that her name is Grandmother Lulu...

You're always going to offend someone. If you come anywhere close to the truth of any real emotion or story worth telling or reading SOMEONE will be offended. Someone will whisper to their ladies league of decency about you. Some school board will have a hay day. Some minister's wife will turn her nose up when she passes you on the street.

I hate to say this, but SO WHAT? If writing is your passion and your calling you'll rise above it. You don't need to be faithful to Grandmother Lulu you need to be faithful to your characters and stories. If you must, write under a pen name, but be honest. Tell me what is deep inside you.

I don't want to hear your surface stories, I want the stuff buried underneath. If you can't share that, why should we care? There are a lot of books out there, and a lot of writers willing to give us that on the page. Be one of them.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

100 words a day

Yes, that's right folks. That wasn't a typo, I'm advocating consistent mediocrity...betcha you can't do it. I will bet you that you can't write just 100 words. This could be a writing slogan to rival the “betcha bite a chip” Chips Ahoy cookie slogan.

On another blog I frequent and comment way too verbosely on, a fellow commenter mentioned that she writes 100 words a day. She got the '100 a day' concept from Jody Wallace, article here: article link

Now she doesn't stop at this point, but continues on usually, but the goal is 100 words and I thought it was a wonderful idea. (So far this blog post is 108 words.)

This same method is often used for exercisers. When I first started working out I was told to just plan on exercising for five minutes, then if I felt like stopping, I should go ahead. Of course the trick is...once you get to five minutes, you've gotten into the groove normally and you keep going.

So the same idea applies to writing. I would recommend the book Making a Literary Life by Caroline See, to anyone serious about creating a regular writing practice. She suggests writing a thousand words a day, every day.

When I set a goal normally I set a thousand words. For nanowrimo last year I set 3k a day because that was what I needed to reach my 90k goal that month. However...I can see the value in setting a ridiculously low goal. The higher the goal, the more daunting.

Some days a thousand words a day seems really hard, even though I can knock it out usually in an hour or less if I'm working on a rough draft of something. But there are days when that seems like a lot.

So then how about 100 words a day? Because really...once you sit down and write a hundred words (we're talking about approximately 2 good paragraphs here), you're probably in your groove.

If for some reason you get to a hundred and aren't feeling it that day, stop if you want. If a thousand sounds like too high to set the bar and 100 sounds like too low go for a different number. Maybe 250 is where you really start to hit your stride. Go for 250 and then see how you feel about it.

The point is...write something and do so regularly. Let's say you really did ONLY write 100 words a day, just for the sake of argument let's say you never hit a stride after that and always stopped right at 100. (We also have to assume you are completely insane.) Let's also assume you take off two days a week for the weekend, or whatever two days you choose if weekends are big writing days for you. (Not that you're really going to need a big break from writing just 100 words a day.)

So that's 261 days of writing. That's 26,100 words, a very short novella. But it's something. Or it could be about 2-6 short stories. Consistency is key and it adds up. No one will really write just a hundred words a day every day.

If you have that passion and drive to write you'll do it, unless you're a masochist or something. Then you'll hit your stride wherever you hit it, hopefully by 100 words in, and you'll keep churning the words out until you get to a number that's generally comfortable to you whether that's a thousand words or some other randomly chosen magical number.

So this blog is 600 words. I get 5 days off now, right? Just kidding. Jeez, take a pill or something.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Where do you get your Ideas?

This is "the" writer question. I mean it's not the only one, but almost always writers are asked this question and invariably they either say they don't know and lapse into some kind of quasi-mystical explanation about the magic of the universe and planets aligning or they say "everywhere" which is true, but pretty damn vague.

I haven't yet started networking to attract more readers to this blog, so it's a pretty small reading audience right now, but I'm going to ask "Where do you get your ideas?" And I'll also tell you where I get some of mine:

I think when people ask this question what they really want is a charming anecdote. How did YOU get THAT idea. I'm not sure it's meant to be as general a question as it comes out, but maybe it is. Anyway...I find that ideas come in all sorts of forms. I've had a few ideas come to me in dreams. Practically entire primary plot lines on a few occasions have arrived this way. Add a couple of subplots and voila. (It's not that simple, I have to take out the dancing monkeys of course...unless they add to the plot, but you get my point.)

This past year for nanowrimo (National novel writing month: ) I was going to try to bring back a dying corpse of a novel I wrote which was on the third draft and not getting any fresher. I was feeling pretty apathetic about it because let's face it, some novels are practice novels. Not everything can be fixed. Maybe I should say, not everything can be fixed at this time. There might come a day when I'll be able to fix that one. I like to remain adorably optimistic about it.

Anyway...I'm derailing here...So it was three days before nanowrimo and I was driving down the road and practically an entire plot fell into my head. I saw this beautiful old house I've loved since I was a kid and then this story started playing out in my head. And I had a basic idea. I fleshed the idea out into an outline and formed a mythology to get me through the first draft and away I went. It needs some work, but it's the cleanest rough draft I've written.

Some ideas come to me in pieces, and those can be fun. You get a tiny piece of the puzzle over here, then at another time and place you get a completely unrelated idea and then those two ideas get together and have coffee and decide they'd like to go steady. That's always fun. Today I had two different occurences, one involving a seemingly bland statement on a message board and another involving a cat, and from that two characters came up to me and were like "So yeah, we want to get together for coffee, do you think you could hook us up?"

I tend to write all my ideas out in a notebook, and date them and label them and do insane fussy things with them, because we all have our little quirks. And I like to make a note of how I got the idea because I'm quite sure that at some point when I have a published novel out, someone is going to ask me, "Where do you get your ideas?" And I'll have a charming little anecdote, at least for that story.

So that's me, or at least a couple of recent ones. What about you? Where do you get your ideas?

Monday, January 1, 2007

Happy New Year!

It's the first day of the new year, a day when most people are looking ahead with hope and big plans. This is the year they plan to lose 50 pounds, stop eating cheesecake, get happily published, and take over the world. And every year by February or March most people have forgotten their resolutions or considered themselves failures and have gone back to Ben and Jerry or watching reruns of "Three's Company."

Like me, many of your resolutions are probably writing related, whether it's to finish a novel or screenplay, get an agent, get published, or beat your previous sales record. I've successfully achieved and kept resolutions in the past because of a slight shift in mentality. So if you want to make your goals for this year read on:

Whether your resolutions are all writing related or whether you have other goals like losing weight or going to the gym more often, there are a few things that will make you more likely to reach your goals.

1. Be very specific. And then write it down. Don't just say: I want to write more often. How often? Set up a schedule, deadlines, a rewards system. Anything to make the goals clear. If you want to lose weight, how many pounds? In what time frame? If your resolutions are very vague you are less likely to achieve them, because how would you know that you did? You have an idea of what would mean success to you so be very specific and then write it down.

You haven't made a solid goal until you write it down somewhere. As long as it's just fuzzy in your head, it's not likely to go very far. Write it down in specifics and put some power behind it.

2. Ditch the "all or nothing" approach. Most people who consider themselves resolution failures have one thing in common, they are so strict that the second they falter it's all over with. Say your resolution is to write a thousand words every day. An "all or nothing" goal setter would fail one day and then just figure "well, I failed" and either quit working toward the goal or slacking off. If you fail one what?

Look at the goal behind the goal. Is your goal REALLY ultimately to write 1,000 words a day? Or is that only a vessel to get you where you ultimately want to go? What possible purpose could 1,000 words a day just for the sake of it serve? If this is the point where you start arguing with me, I'd say you've found your root reason. Are you going for publication? Or improving your writing? Do you see how if you miss one day you haven't lost?

If you have a goal that is framed in this way, if you fail one day, forget it and pick back up the next day. Call it a vacation and aim to do better. You do bad one day, you haven't "lost." And you don't need to wait for Monday to start all over again. I have no idea why this is, but many people who make goals think if they mess up one day they have to wait for the start of the week to "start all over." You don't have to start all over, just keep going.

One of my resolutions last year was to lose weight and go to the gym more often (I was more specific of course at the time) Did I have days where I ate like a pig? Yes. Did I have days where I didn't go to the gym? Yes. I lost 27 pounds. Because all of your actions are cummulative.

In January of last year, the gym was jam packed with new year's resolution makers. By February only the strongest were left. By March I had the gym to myself again.

Get over your perfectionism and be more flexible with yourself. I highly doubt that your goal in life is to be perfect. You're looking for a compounded effect here. If you fall off the horse get back on.

3. INSTEAD of "all or nothing" resolutions, make deadline oriented goals: "By the end of this year I would like to..." This isn't to be confused with vagueness. This is giving yourself a reasonable time to accomplish something. Instead of focusing all your goals on being perfect Focus them on the end result and when you would like to have it by.

Also all of your goals and resolutions don't have to be in the framework of an entire year. If you have some big goals, you'll likely need some smaller goals and deadlines to get you there. Which brings me to point 4:

4. Make smaller goals to get you to the larger ones. Let's say your goal is to write and polish a novel in 2007. That's a noble goal and you should go for it. But without any firmer deadlines for smaller portions you are likely to flounder. Set a deadline for all aspects of the process. When do you want to finish research/outlining? This is assuming you do research at this stage. I do most of my research after the rough draft. I find that I know more the direction I need to research if I just wait and wing it with the rough draft. Yes, you're allowed to "make it up" with the rough draft and fix it later. I promise, no one will hunt you down.

When do you want the rough draft done? When do you want various revisions and critiques in? When do you want to get all your agent/editor research done? etc. Make firm smaller goals to get you to the larger ones.

5. Revise your goals as you go. I'm a big "outline reviser." I don't write well without an outline, I need to see where I'm going. But I don't slavishly follow it either. During the course of writing a novel I tend to revise my outline about five times. As the characters surprise me and go in new and better directions than I had originally planned, I redo the rest of my outline to see that I'm still heading ultimately where I want to go.

Resolutions and goals are like this too. If you make a goal, don't be afraid to change course a little bit. If something isn't working for you in the exact form you set it, don't feel compelled to keep going just so you won't be a failure. That's insane. Do what you have to do to make the goal workable. Maybe you set the bar too high and you're only frustrating yourself and you need to take smaller steps. Do that. As long as you are moving toward some goal you aren't a failure in any definition of the word. If you set the bar too low and you aren't challenging yourself, don't be afraid to make it a little more challenging.

Follow these steps and you are well on your way to meeting your goals in 2007. Have a great year!