Good Timing

I’m in the middle of re-replotting the book I’m working on. I wasn’t crazy about what I had done at this point, but I’m not sure where to move forward with it. I can see several options for possibilities, but I don’t know which I like best. This may be a day for sitting on the patio with a whiteboard and playing with flow charts, or something. I don’t know.

Meanwhile, I’ve learned that the price drop on Enchanted, Inc. is because the publisher got a BookBub feature for it that’s running Sunday. It would have been nice if I’d known so I could have built some other publicity around it. With one of those ads, there’s always a chance of hitting a bestseller list, but it means knowing about it and timing the promotion strategically. It would mean focusing the promo and sales on the week from this Sunday through next Saturday, because that’s the reporting period. So I really shouldn’t have said anything this week in order to focus the sales at one time. Ah well, it’s a 12-year-old book, so the odds were always slim. It just would be nice to be able to put something like “USA Today bestselling author” on my covers.

And apparently even my editor didn’t know about Rebel Mechanics being picked up by Scholastic for a book club edition. Not that there’s much I can do about that to promote it, but it’s still a very cool thing that could pay off nicely for me in the long run.

The timing on both of these things is very fortunate, with a new book coming out next week. Even though the BookBub is for a different book, it still raises my overall visibility. Meanwhile, there will be one more book for all the kids who get the book club edition to go on to buy.

All this means I really need to work out the problems in the book I’m working on to have something to go out to new publishers with and capitalize on the increased visibility.

Being an Adult

Although my designated “adulting” day yesterday mostly failed because of tiredness and headache from lack of sleep the night before, it’s been a very “adulting” week. Earlier in the week, I was being a mentor, something that still kind of blows my mind. I was involved in an honorary service organization when I was in college (you had to be nominated and selected for membership), and they’ve created an alumni group. They asked alumni to participate in a mentoring program with current members, and it turns out that there’s a member who wants to work in publishing, so I was able to describe to her what I know about the industry.

This morning I had a call with a web designer. I’m working on trying to look like a real professional, so instead of doing what I can with my own software, I’m going to let a pro work on it. It’s getting unwieldy with as much information as I have now, and the company that made my web software went out of business, so it’s not being updated or supported.

This means I’ll need to write more to pay for it, but on the other hand, maybe a good site will help sell more books.

In my Facebook “memories” for today, they gave me the post I wrote a year ago today, in which I talked about how I got the idea for the current book the night before. I’m still working on developing that idea. Monday night I got a burst of information in the shower (where the best ideas happen) that may alter things, but in a good way, and that meant figuring out how it would affect things, which ended up requiring going back to the beginning to adjust some things to set it up. I’m on about the fifth draft of the first part of the book without the book being finished, which is different from the way I normally write, but I need the beginning to be right before I can move forward. I keep having to go back to set things up properly. This tends to happen in a universe I’m still developing, as I get to know the characters and their situation.

And other than a few tasks I need to take care of, my adulting for the week is done, and it’s time to play with my imaginary friends in an imaginary world.

Now I've Arrived

I’m getting a late and sluggish start this morning, thanks to the thunderstorms that went through just before 3 this morning. My weather radio woke me up at about 2:15. I couldn’t hear what it was saying, so I picked up my tablet and checked Twitter, where I follow the National Weather Service and several local meteorologists, and saw that there was a tornado warning that didn’t include me, but that was heading in my direction. I turned on the TV to get the storm coverage, saw what was going on, and decided it might be a good idea to get dressed and put shoes on. I got everything ready for hitting my “safe place,” but then the warning expired before it got to me, the storm solidified into a solid line, and it went through in about ten minutes. Apparently it got nasty again because there was serious damage east of me, but it wasn’t too bad here, as far as I can tell. When I finally let myself go back to bed, it took me forever to fall asleep again.

Even aside from the storms, yesterday was a pretty eventful day. The book went up for pre-order, but I also got a lot of other book news. It seems that the e-book of the first Enchanted, Inc. book is currently available for 99 cents, so if you want a Kindle copy to supplement your paper copy, if you haven’t tried that series, or if there’s someone you’re trying to hook, now would be the time. I don’t know how long it will last.

But the really cool thing is that a high school classmate sent me a picture on Facebook of the Scholastic book order form he was passing out to his students — that had Rebel Mechanics on it! Now I feel like I’ve really arrived. Those book orders were a major part of my childhood. The day we got the order form was so exciting, and I spent quite a bit of time poring over it, trying to decide which books I wanted (since “all” wasn’t an option). I would try to be strategic with my order, finding a way to stay within my budget and still order enough stuff to get the free poster. My walls were covered with those free posters. The day the book orders came in was like Christmas. The box would be on the teacher’s desk, and there was much anticipation while she sorted things out and then passed the books out. Then there was the anticipation of getting home and being able to dig into my new books. I’d say that most of the middle grade and YA books I own came from Scholastic orders. It gives me shivers to think that other kids are out there, looking at those forms now, and trying to decide whether or not to get my book (get it!).

I think this is one reason I like ordering from Amazon. It’s a way to replicate that experience, only the catalog is much bigger. There’s still the fun of trying to order enough stuff to get free shipping (rather than a poster of a puppy), and then there’s the happy day when the box arrives.

Productive Year (so far)

I rewrote the first chapter on Friday and I think I’m on the right track. It’s amazing what giving your protagonist a clear-cut goal at the beginning of the story can do for your plot. Duh!

You’d think after this many books I’d have learned, but apparently not. I seem to have become overconfident and skipped ahead in the process without thinking it through.

I have a busy week ahead, with getting a book ready for publication, writing a book, and doing other business-related stuff.

It was June of last year before I’d spent as much time devoted to writing as I have this year, and last year was a pretty good year. I’m kind of excited to see how much I can get written this year if I keep it up. I’m not doing any conventions during the summer, so I should be able to get a solid streak of writing done after May. I have a couple of ideas clamoring for attention that I can’t wait to dive into.

So I guess I’d better get to work …

Surprise vs. Sense

I thought I’d get a running start yesterday by reviewing the past few days worth of work and kept having a nagging feeling that something was wrong. So, I got out pen and paper and started making lists of what each faction in the story was trying to do, why, what was stopping them from doing it, and what information they had. That led to me realizing that I was doing something I’d just been ranting about writers doing. I was withholding information from readers and characters for the sake of a surprise revelation.

The nagging sticking point in the plot was that the heroine needed to do something absolutely critical but that no one had told her needed to be done (even though there were people who knew) or how to do it. They’d manipulated her into being in the situation to get it done but hadn’t just told her to do it. The obvious, easy fix was to go back to the beginning and write a scene in which they tell her what she needs to do and give her some hints, and she can still figure out how to improvise later because things may have changed. And then I had a moment in which I caught myself thinking “but that will ruin the surprise when she finds out what’s going on.”

That was at about 4 this morning. I finally convinced myself that it wasn’t a particularly fun surprise, it wasn’t a twist, readers wouldn’t have a big “oho!” moment. There were more benefits to the heroine having a clear-cut goal than to having a surprise revelation midway through the book, especially when keeping that a secret defied logic.

And that means I’ll be rewriting the beginning, which will reframe the whole story. It makes it slightly more dark and serious, when I was aiming at fun and whimsical, but I can’t really think of stakes that are high enough to make fun and whimsical work and still be interesting. Then I thought of other stories similar to this, and they all have a bit of an edge of darkness framing the whimsy. I couldn’t think of any that were pure fun without something very dire at stake.

On the light, fun, and whimsical side of things, I’ve discovered that the Disney channel is doing a TV series based on Tangled. I believe it starts tonight, though there was a pilot one-hour “movie” on a couple of weeks ago (on in heavy rotation and available on demand). They’ve got the same voice actors for the main cast, though it’s in “regular” animation rather than the computer-animation of the movie. The look takes a moment to get used to, but it works fine. The story is set in the time soon after Rapunzel returns to the palace and deals with her getting used to having a family, having people around, and having the expectations that come with being a princess. The pilot was rather cute, and it had some musical numbers, though I don’t know if the series will (but considering they have Mandy Moore and Zach Levi, you’d think they would). And yeah, even in this cute cartoon aimed at kids, there’s an edge and some seriousness, so I guess it’s not a bad thing entirely.

Getting Things Done Day

I had my first truly successful “do everything but the writing” Wednesday yesterday. I’m starting to see that organizing my time this way isn’t necessarily getting more writing done, but it is getting more other stuff done that I usually let slip by the wayside while I’m working on a book. I did most of my accounting for my taxes (so now doing my taxes will amount to plugging numbers into the forms), cleaned my kitchen and bathroom, booked my travel for the Nebula conference, handled some other planning related to that conference, contacted a potential web designer, did some promo stuff, and did my planning for choir. Normally, a lot of that stuff would have eaten into a planned writing day, or else I’d have had to push aside writing in order to get it done at the last second. I splurged a little on my airfare, and instead of booking the slightly cheaper flights that required getting up at the crack of dawn, I got the outgoing flight at a reasonable mid-morning time, and the return flight is early in the afternoon, so that I can get up and have a leisurely morning, leave the hotel at checkout time and get to the airport in time for my flight. I’ll get home late in the afternoon, but during a time when the train and bus are on rush-hour schedules, so there’s a chance that I would end up getting home at about the same time as with the slightly earlier flight, which would arrived during the time when there’s a big bus schedule gap. Since I have a lot of frequent flier miles, I’m considering looking into an upgrade to first class.

But now I’m back to a writing day (though I have some follow-ups to make stemming from yesterday’s work). I need to do a step back to fix some things before I can move forward, and I ended the previous writing session at a big turning point, so I need to figure out what happens next. That means there may be more thinking than writing today, but I need to do the fixing now so things are in the right order for moving ahead and so I won’t have to rewrite more later.

I thought I had a rather detailed outline of this book, since I actually wrote a whole synopsis. Ha! It turns out to have been very big-picture. I’m glad I made the decision to write the whole book rather than trying to submit on a partial (first few chapters and a synopsis) because the book will be much stronger. Better a later yes (and, I hope, an enthusiastic yes, with money and support to back it) than an earlier no.

And now my schedule says it’s almost time to start editing, so off to work I go …

Busting Writing Myths

There’s a lot of writing advice floating around on the Internet, and not all of it necessarily good — at least, not necessarily good for everyone. Even one of my favorite authors has lately been spouting something that I find to be not true at all for me, but saying it as though it’s an absolute. So I thought I’d address some common myths about being a writer that can be detrimental to you if you treat them as absolutes rather than figuring out what works for you.

1) A “real” writer writes every day — I noticed this in an interview recently, with a writer comparing writing to a bodily function and saying that it would be impossible not to do it every day. I guess you’re not a real writer if you write on days you have time to write or treat it like a job and take weekends off. If you let yourself fall into this way of thinking, you might become discouraged or wonder if you’re meant to write if you aren’t driven to do it absolutely every day.

It may be more accurate that a writer thinks about writing every day. Bits and pieces of the story you’re working on or a future story that you’re still developing may float in and out of your brain all the time, even if you aren’t actually physically writing. However, it may be unwise to go too far in the other direction and use this as an excuse to procrastinate, telling yourself that if you’re thinking about writing, you’re okay.

Bottom line: A writer writes. Writers may write every day or they may schedule their writing sessions when they have the time to write. They’re probably thinking about their writing every day, but as long as they actually write something, they can call themselves writers.

2) “Real” writing is done with a pen and paper — this one’s been going around lately (and severely mocked). I don’t even know where that’s coming from. I know very successful writers who write by hand and then do their editing as they transcribe. I know very successful writers who type on their computers. I know people who record dictation and transcribe. I know people who write on their phones. I know people who use real typewriters and then transcribe into their computers. As long as the result is words, you’re writing.

That said, there has been research about the mind-body connection being different when typing as opposed to writing by hand. Most of that has been about memory — you’re more likely to retain information you write by hand than information you type — but switching to writing by hand might be an idea to try if you’re stuck. It can be good for brainstorming or even composing if you find yourself staring at the screen and drawing a blank. There’s nothing wrong with giving writing by hand a try, but it won’t make you any more of a real writer.

3) Talking about an idea will kill it — This is definitely something that varies by individual, and it is apparently true for some people. I just don’t think it’s true for everyone or in every circumstance. I first heard this when I was in college, and it’s been going around the writer clusters on Twitter lately, thanks to a very successful author repeating it. The idea is that you expend most of your enthusiasm and creative energy for an idea in telling it to someone, and you may not have any enthusiasm or energy left to actually write it. There’s also a concern that discussing an idea with someone will mean you’ve been influenced by others, so it’s no longer purely your idea.

This may be true for some people, or even a lot of people. It’s not at all my experience. I find that my ideas bloom when I talk about them with others. I like brainstorming out loud. I’m not necessarily getting input from anyone (my mother will joke about whether she actually needs to stay on the phone or whether she can put it down and go do something else while I talk about my story), but sometimes their questions really help me develop my idea. I came up with a lot of the elements in the idea that became my Enchanted, Inc. series when I was chatting with an editor about it at a party and she asked me questions. It was an idea still in its infancy, so I didn’t have answers to her questions, and I was making things up on the fly. It ended up working like a good brainstorming session. She didn’t add any input, just the questions that made me dig deeper into the idea and develop it. Obviously, eight books later, I didn’t lose interest in writing that idea, and talking about it before I had a single word written didn’t kill it. I tend to find that if talking about an idea kills my enthusiasm for writing it, I probably didn’t have enough enthusiasm to go through with writing it, whether or not I talked about it.

However, it really depends on how you work, how strong you are in holding onto your ideas, how developed the idea is, and who you talk to. This is where you have to know yourself. I may have a very different approach because I have a background in working at an advertising agency, where we had big brainstorming sessions for a lot of our work. That may have trained me to think in that way, getting more and more excited by an idea the more it was discussed. I think it also makes a difference that I live and work alone, so by the time I get around to talking with someone about a story, I’ve done a lot of development in my head already, and I’m ready to get outside input. If you’ve noticed that you’re always coming up with great ideas and then losing interest in them, look at whether you’ve discussed them, and then try writing without talking about it. If you find that you get excited about your ideas and rush to write them, then end up with stories that seem half-baked or underdeveloped, try discussing your ideas with someone.

Is there any other bit of writing advice that you’ve heard and wondered about?

A Music/News Flashback

I had a real gold-star kind of day yesterday. I passed my word count goal, outlined today’s writing, did some development work on other projects, did laundry, practiced my choir music and worked on the piano, did some yoga, and went to bed early.

This morning I had a dentist appointment (no cavities, not even the flossing lecture!), which kind of threw my morning schedule off, but I should still get all my writing work done, though I also have grand plans to bake something using the ton of blueberries I bought because they were ridiculously cheap. I picked up some more on the way home from the dentist, so I should have enough for a pie. I’m thinking of making mini pies in the muffin tin and freezing some of them, so I can have blueberry pie whenever I want it. Not that I have that much room in my freezer. A space to put in a chest freezer is on my wish list for my dream house.

The dentist seemed to be in a late 1970s groove today, because that’s the music that was playing. It took me back to when I was living in Germany and listened to the Armed Forces Radio Network on a little transistor radio. Their FM station was more “easy listening” (basically elevator music), but they did play some current music on the AM station, and the dentist office music today was the kind of stuff they played — Supertramp, Steely Dan, Kansas, etc.

But the funny thing was, the bits of songs that jumped out at me weren’t because of hearing those songs as songs. There was a thing they did on AFN that I don’t know if it was a syndicated thing, locally produced, or something someone did and released it as a comedy “song,” but they did “interviews” of various famous figures, using little clips of songs as the answers. Like, there was one that was interviewing some official about the energy crisis and asked what he was personally doing, and the answer was a clip of the line “I try to get undressed without the light” from the Kenny Rogers song “She Believes in Me.” There was also one that used a clip saying “take the long way home” from the Supertramp song.

So as I was lying there, having my teeth poked and prodded, individual lines of songs were jumping out at me as being interview answers, which reminded me of that thing I hadn’t thought about in years. I was a weird kid who read the newspaper, so I actually got the current affairs jokes (and in some cases, these “interview” segments made me look up info, so I was learning about current affairs from them), and I remember being really frustrated when I taped these things and played them for my friends or told my friends about them, and they didn’t get the joke.

Does anyone in my age bracket or older (remembering the late 70s) remember something like this? Was it just a couple of servicemen working at AFN goofing around, or was it a national thing?

Beastly Plot Problems

It took a little more than a walk to the movie theater and back to work out my plot problems, but I think over the weekend I finally figured it all out. I’m bad about doing a lot of handwaving when I plot my books. The start of the synopsis is really detailed, then about midway through it becomes more a case of “and then stuff happens.” I figure it’ll come to me when I get there. But when I get there, I need to be a lot more specific than that. I’d reached that point in the book, and every idea I came up with fit into the “but why would they do that?” category. It’s very frustrating. I do think I figured it out, though. We’ll see when I get to work today.

I loved the new Beauty and the Beast. It fixed some of the issues I had with the animated version and the Broadway version. I’ve always been a bit bothered by the enchantress cursing the whole castle because the prince was leery of letting in a stranger. Supposedly, he was being punished for judging by appearances, but if she’s the kind of person who puts that kind of curse on someone and on all his innocent servants, then maybe he was judging her by what was inside. This movie alters that a bit so it makes a lot more sense. I’ve also always been bothered by the fact that the way he shows that he’s changed from judging by appearances is to fall in love with the most beautiful girl in town. In this case, in spite of the song lyrics about Belle being the most beautiful girl in town, I think they make a distinction between her kind of beauty and the kind of beauty he was previously interested in. She’s more girl-next-door pretty, and I don’t think the prince before the curse would have even looked at her twice. He was more into the very artificial Baroque-era beauty of powdered wigs and face paint.

I loved the music enough to immediately buy the soundtrack and have listened to it repeatedly. There are a number of new songs — not just coming from the Broadway version, but new for the movie — that I really love, and I enjoy the new versions of the old songs (Ewan McGregor had WAY too much fun with “Be Our Guest”).

I was really impressed with Dan Stevens’ version of the Beast. His facial expressions really come through even in the CGI, and his eyes say so much. It looked nothing like him, yet was obviously him, if that makes sense. I even managed to have a few Downton Abbey flashbacks, where I recognized a look on his face, in spite of the fact that in this he looked like a fur-covered beast.

So, yeah, this will be one I buy on BluRay on release day. Then I may have to have a massive fairy tale weekend, watching this and Cinderella and maybe mixing it up a bit with Into the Woods and throwing in some Tangled. With lots of chocolate and pink champagne.