D. Lambert, author
Enter a new world. Stay for a while.
These are a bit random, but useful in their own ways. Most arose from conversations with other authors or in talks at SiWC. I'm not a member of all of them. Please don't consider this an endorsement as I don't know the ins and outs of all the platforms in great detail, but I do think they can help someone out there!
1. The 12 steps of Intimacy.
This wasn't where you thought this was going, was it?
So this is useful in general. Desmond Morris is credited for defining the twelve stages of intimacy. These steps increase bonds and provide a better connection. The fun thing? Well, it's also how you build a realistic relationship in a novel. You can't skip through these, else things feel rushed, forced, or artificial.
There! Now you know! And for me, who struggles to get characters together, it helps to ensure I didn't just skip over a few steps.
Reference: Morris, D. (1971). Intimate Behaviour: A Zoologist's Classic Study of Human Intimacy. New York: Kodansha America, Inc.
2. The Creative academy
This is an online community with resources for courses and mentors. Fully in, there are writing prompts, daily forum conversations, and access to mentors. Connect with other writers and take advantage of three experts: Donna Barker, Eileen Cook, and Crystal Stranaghan. I could lose days in there, learning! I'm putting it on the back burner for now, but it comes highly recommended.
3. Rambo's Academy for Wayward Writers
Another community, this time put together by the amazing Fantasy/SciFi author Cat Rambo (her blog: http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/). Courses by a veteran author and teacher (30 years and counting!) But also support, market news, and critique exchange on their forums. Being that it's Cat Rambo, the website is populated by the fantasy and science fiction community. Plus, she's an awesome person.
4. Writing excuses podcasts
This long-running podcast series is at https://writingexcuses.com. It covers a vast gambit; from personal reflections on books, to interviews with authors, to nitty-gritty of the industry, including marketing and financing (you know, those things new authors don't know anything about). There are many, many hours available, but season 2 and 3 are the most useful for me so far! Check it out (and be prepared to spend a lot of time enjoying their conversations!)
5. Canva.com website
I did warn you these were random.
I was recently introduced to this and wow! It's a free (you can pay for a fancier version) website with a huge stock of images and templates for any kind of visual art. This means posters, advertisements, twitter banners, facebook posts, and more! No more worrying about resolution; it handles that! It's easy to learn and fast. Once done, you can download your image and use it again and again and again....
I hope someone finds these at least useful!
To explain: this is the third year I have attended the Surrey International Writer's Conference (check it out HERE), albeit not consecutively. I enjoy it every time, but I cannot always afford it or the time off to get there. I seem to get more out of it every time, reflecting on where I am as a writer. This year has inspired several posts. I'll start with the 'main takeaways,' the gems. These are the points or ideas that kept coming up, reinforcing themselves, desperate to be accepted.
1. Your first book is unlikely to be the first thing you publish. In fact, it's unlikely to ever be published at all.
For some reason, while I knew this fact, I had never heard a published author admit it. Everyone (with a few exceptions), has their trunk books. These are the books you write on your way to writing your bigger, better, awesome book. These books get hidden deep within a trunk and never see the light of day. They are where we make our mistakes, learn about ourselves, and explore the craft. This is how we learn what a story is. What makes it tick. Where it goes wrong. How to fix things. They are necessary steps along the journey.
Then we bury them in the trunk and ignore them for the rest of our writing career. Or at least don't bring it out until it's had an overhaul.
And that's ok. The process of writing the first book (and yes, you need to finish it!!) moulds us as writers and puts us closer to the true goal: our real novel. It was just nice to hear someone admit it.
2. Character arcs and plots are not separate things.
There are ways of breaking down plots (3 Acts, the Hero's Journey, etc.), but they actually follow the same pattern as the character arc. Of course, there is no hard-fast rule about how this must be done, but it's a pattern to be aware of. In particular, if you're stuck on a character or plot, and something's not right, it's the thing to fall back on. Figuring out the Character Arc (Elizabeth Boyle is a wonderful teacher) as it nests within the standard 3-Act story was enlightening.
Entire courses and books go into these points in fascinating detail, but suffice to say, if your story revolves around just the character or just the plot, you're missing out. They are inseparable.
3. We're weird. That's ok.
This conference is weird, and everyone keeps saying it. For some reason, it shocks people to have top-of-their-game authors and agents sharing their tips and tricks. At SiWC, there are newbies and veterans, and everyone is welcomed. As a relative newbie, there's a degree of 'inside jokes' and some circles of friends, but no one is deliberately keeping others out. And where else are you going to see people in capes, tiaras, and fabulously bright footwear? Better still, no one bats an eye at it! Authors are weird, but at SiWC, we are in good company!
Stayed tuned! The next installment will cover new resources. While I know not all are for me, I hope they can help others too.
After that, we shall see!
I rather accidentally created pre-orders for the ebook of Dragon's Voice, set to launch November 4th, 2019! So check it out at THIS LINK!
I also discovered a glitch in the print copy, which meant I had to have the cover artist repeat the paperback cover (oops) and have now submitted it to KDP for print. The ebook distribution to Amazon does take a little longer (I missed a few steps!) so it's not up as of the time of this note, but I hope it will be soon! It's a sharp learning curve over here...
So here it is... the real deal!
I'm a little excited.
Things I learned today while playing with publishing.
Sharp learning curve, but I know more today than I did yesterday! And Dragon's Voice ebook (link-depending) should be available shortly for pre-order. Check out this YA romp with dragons! It goes live November 4th, which is coming up way too fast!
I'm an award-winning author, at least according to the local Sooke Fall Fair. Like last year, I submitted a handful of short stories to the local fair in the Literary arts Section. Unlike last year, I had a lot more competition. Blue ribbons for first place don't mean quite as much when you're the only one in the class…
But this year, I had three firsts and two seconds. In only one category, I was the only entry. The others had competition! A much higher turnout than I recall from last year. Still, my ability to generate a lot of words (even if they are not always the most impressive ones) helped me garner the trophy prize; Most points in Literary arts. I suppose that it was bound to happen when I enter five categories and place in all.
It's not as prestigious as some, but it's my second set of ribbons, so they're going into the box beside my bed. I can pull them out when I start feeling inadequate.
I don't always feel like I have time enough for basic things. That's why I have a list sitting beside me right now, and I keep scribbling stuff on it. ("Write on the Blog" was not on it, but here we are.) If I'm really efficient, I might get it all done. Then maybe I'll have time for fun stuff like writing or editing or querying. Ok, querying is not that fun, but it's a necessary evil. And it's something I'll get to if I finish my list.
When I'm that pressed for time, why bother with Beta Reading?
Just in case, I'll define this: A Beta reader is a person who looks at an unpublished manuscript and provides feedback, usually right before publication. They are not editors (although I'll wear both hats unless someone tells me not to). They look for inconsistencies, character development, flow, and other far-arching things that would concern a reader.
I love Beta Reading, and there are several reasons why.
1. It gives me a reason to read again.
If I don't feel like I'm being useful, I may not make time for reading. But I enjoy reading, and it's easy to forget to do it. Once I commit to someone, I have a timeline to stick to. That means reading is now a higher priority on that list.
2. I learn something every time.
I always have to look something up because I'm being critical of what I'm reading instead of just accepting what's on the page. I learn. Sometimes I learn what doesn't work, but that's still helpful. I see common mistakes and can make sure I don't make them. Or I spot tricks others are using and decide if I think they would work for me.
3. I remember I am not alone.
Seeing another work-in-progress helps me remember that I don't have to be perfect right away. We all go through a process to get to the final product. We often only get to see the finished product, polished to a sheen. When you're looking at your own roughly shaped lump of wood, comparing it to a perfect sculpture is disheartening. But Beta Reading gives me a look behind the scenes and permits me to be imperfect. Then I remember that I'm in good company and can move on.
So there you go; why Beta Reading helps aspiring authors. Consider it 'required reading' for anyone going ahead with publishing.
Now back to the list.
This post is inspired by my husband buying me socks.
Through my academic career, we had to dress formally. That meant black socks with dress shoes. What my professors never knew is that I wore socks with coloured heels and toes. They couldn't see the neon pink or sunshine yellow I was hiding, but it was a splash of fun in an otherwise bland day. It is a trick I maintained for years, until I couldn't find those kinds of socks locally. Lately, I've been wearing the black socks they all expect of me.
My husband bought me socks. He found the coloured heel/toe socks again. Today, I'm turquoise. It's a spark of joy where only black used to be, where black is meant to be.
A CBC article (link HERE) said: "..."self-care" is quite often is just another added duty that can overwhelm…" and I've been finding that. But my socks have changed my point of view.
Self-care can't be scheduled in. You can't make yourself relax just because you took a hot bath, or attend yoga and expect the world to be a better place. These large scheduled 'self-care' moments are just one more thing weighing me down. If I schedule lunch with a friend, I lose three hours of the day during which I would normally be doing other things. Not to say I won't do it and enjoy it in all likelihood, but I may regret it later when the dozens of other things that need to be done show back up. And what if I can't afford to go on that holiday I feel like I need? Am I doomed?
Thus, I am advocating for little moments of self-care. Don't feel obliged to take long holidays (but if you can, go for it!) or schedule in 'quiet time' if it means paying for it later. You'll just be sitting in the bath worrying anyway (or is that just me?) about the things you are not doing. Instead, find small self-care moments that can be fit in anywhere.
A cup of tea
Fun-coloured socks (thank you husband of mine!)
Listening to good music
Sit outside when reading/writing/doing emails etc. Or at least open a window!
Enjoy small pieces of dark chocolate.
Then listen to I'm unworthy by Cheryl Wheeler and have a laugh on me:
Not to sound like an evil overlord but... my plan is coming together perfectly.
It's time to expand. When I started, I set out a 6 point plan. So far…
1. Join another local writing group
I joined the Sooke Writing Collective. This surprised me by turning into my FIRST publication (https://sookewriters.com but the new one's not up there yet) of a short story. It ties into the world of Espar (more to come on that) but is independent. I'm tickled pink! Even got some compliments about it. It seems there are many closest fantasy buffs just looking for someone to be bold enough to share.
2. Start submitting stories into contests.
I've done three submissions to contests, two to shorter publications. Just finished one, in fact, to the Helios Quarterly Magazine. I got a bit confused by time zones, but I think I made it by nearly 24 hours under the deadline. It's for "Shifting Sands," a desert-world tale from the Nanterac universe.
3. Put up the website.
Yep. Still here.
4. Polish up and get beta readers for one of the stories.
In the end, I had three beta readers for "Dragon's Voice," which is aiming to come out November 2019. It's Sair's story (check it out here) in the Tales of Espar world. A bit of a classic tale of a nobody tossed in way over his head, with witty fairy dragons, demons, and the doom of magic the world over. I'm looking forward to sharing it.
5. Attend SiWC to make connections.
Which reminds me: I need to buy business cards.
I got tickets for SiWC. I set multiple alarms, paid for the hotel deposit months ago, and got tickets within 30 minutes of them going on sale. That's a good thing, as it sold out in about 4 hours, or at least the full weekend/meal tickets did. Yikes! But it should be fun. I get to go with not one, but two, of my local Victoria Creative Writing group.
This was the big one. And it's going to have to be several points in the end. There is so much involved! But I'm on my way. I'm on chapter 12 of 22 on review, I've got the first cover draft made (more to come!), and I'm building connections on twitter as well as Facebook and writing groups. Work in progress? Yep! I'm still debating whether I can afford a second edit (next time, editor AFTER Beta Readers!) on this one, but I'll try.
So there it is. No more 6 point plan. Now, just point 5 and 6 to go. Wish me luck!
This will probably be short, else I risk sounding preachy. But I've been silent for a few weeks because life got in the way and it has reminded me if a simple lesson.
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." It's attributed to Ian Maclaren, but motivational posters abound. I prefer an extended version: "Be kind, for everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about."
I have a secret. Perhaps some of those who read this will know what I'm referring to, but they will be few. It's not important what the secret is. I'm almost back to normal (or at least what I consider my normal) but, for one week, I have carried my secret around. I have been pretending to be fine this week.
I was chatting with a friend who struggles with chronic pain and depression. We got to talking about how little we know about the people around us. It's part of our culture to ask "How are you?" but then the "correct" answer is "good" or "fine," even if it's a lie. We ask, but we don't expect anyone to answer honestly. Why even ask?
Because it's polite.
And why do we lie in our answer? Those who are suffering do not wish to burden others. Why discuss how much your disease makes you hurt today? Or how terrible of a day you've had? Why complain when the person in front of you cannot help?
I don't expect people to change that cultural habit. I'll still say "okay" when someone asked the inevitable "How are you?" but I want people to remember to be patient with others. You do not know what another person's secret is.
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
The slogan for the conference in Nanaimo, BC (just up the road from me by 2 hours) was "Where will my words take me?" It was an eclectic mix, ranging from poetry to genre fiction. It reached out to publishing, contracts, and editing as well.
This conference was less frantic than others I had attended. There were opportunities to do two or three topics a day, no more. Evenings had social events. At the same time, I came out with new information that made the trip up and hotel costs well worth it.
#1 Fantasy is hard.
This is not to say that crime is easier. Or romance. Or poetry. I couldn't write a poem without resorting to couplets if my life depended on it! But the fantasy genre was not a huge presence, I suspect because it's difficult. I was thrilled to find an excellent talk by Jo-Anne McLean exclusively for fantasy writers. Her author page is HERE. It put me at a table with ten other writers who wrote fantasy in one form or another.
I may offend some people, but I think creative non-fiction is more straight forward. While a great story can still be killed by a lousy writer, at least the characters, world, and plot are pre-determined.
Fantasy makes us build it all from scratch. That's hard.
#2 Genres confuse everyone!
I am not alone! After researching genres extensively, people have started asking me where a book lands among genres and I often do not know the answer! All stories are not quite the same as the stereotypes of their genre. That's a good thing!
Dragon's Voice is definitely a fantasy action and adventure story. I wrote it to have a product that fits into a category. But the World of Taint walks a line between epic fantasy and action and adventure, with some dragon and magical creatures tossed in. So where does it fit?
I learned I should look at the Book Industry Study Group website for the BISAC codes. Find the one that fits best. It won't fit perfectly! Then find a second, because that helps marketing. That becomes the genre.
Apparently, if you ask Amazon via email, they may allow you to select up to ten categories when you market your book. That will be handy for some!
#3 I need an editor
As someone who loves to edit and has stories around 100,000 words on average, this news disappointed me. Thrillers, crime, romance and other such genre fiction usually run shorter than fantasy. Science fiction is the only one who matches our penchant for loquaciousness. Hiring an editor is not a $500 investment; it's worth over $1000. Looking at my eleven completed novels make this number daunting.
I have decided to take it a book at a time. Even professional editors said they use an independent editor for their books. Authors are too close to the manuscript and miss things, even if they are editors themselves!
And it doesn't matter if you're going traditional, said one well-published author with thirty years of experience (ok, it was Betsy Warland. Website HERE). As much as we want to think the publisher will do edits for us, they are looking for manuscripts that don't require the effort.
So hire-ye an editor.
(I did learn about PEAVI.com, which sound like a friendly, local group.)
#4 You can fake it
I'm an introvert, but I faked being an extravert for the weekend. I engaged with people at the table across from me, asked their name, what they wrote, where they were at in the process, how they were enjoying the conference and a million other things. I got to know a dozen people. For someone daunted by networking, I surprised myself. I now need to buy a business-card holder to keep track!
It was exhausting, but without someone to start the conversation, most authors would remain silent. We are a shy lot, happy to sit at our keyboards anonymously and do our own thing. That's the writing part we love so much.
But marketing and publishing are not the same. So I learned to fake it to a debatable level of authenticity.
#5 The most valuable piece of advice
I have to thank Jo-Anne McLean for this one. It was her last tip, and it resonated with me:
"Writing is not a competitive sport."
I have been working on self-publishing, feeling intimidated by the need to get through the 'noise' of the genre and somehow come to the surface of the flood of ebooks online.
But a reader doesn't stop at one book. Just because they read someone else's, it doesn't mean they won't read yours! Having any book out there to get them interested in the genre helps all writers. We're a team.
I have felt the love of the writing community, a family that sees beyond genre and accepts that you too hear voices in your head and have characters that take your story somewhere you never expected. My teammates sympathize with getting stuck on a climax or finding time to put words on a page and have tips for improving your craft. We support each other because when a reader reaches for a second, third, or fifty-second book, we all win.
I hope all writers can learn to recognize this.