Monday, January 28, 2013

Ah, Publishing, How You Have Changed

Okay, so I started writing about 6 years ago. I queried my first book in 2008, and my second in 2009. I got an agent in 2009, and a publishing deal in 2010. My debut novel, Possession, was published in 2011.

And let me tell you, publishing is so much different today than it was in 2009, which was only 3 short years ago.

I've known this, of course, but I don't think it truly sunk in until this past week, when I went to a local book group. See, they were reading Possession, and they'd invited me to come talk about writing, and the book, and whatever.

Someone asked me how I got published, and I started telling the story. As I was speaking, I realized just how different things are today.

See, in 2008, the Kindle was still new. Ebooks were still a novelty. Everything about publishing was wrapped up in print -- and to do what I wanted to do, I needed an agent.

Well, now in 2013, the Kindle (and other eReaders) is not new. A lot of people have them, and digital books are commonplace. It's amazing to me how things can change in a relatively short amount of time.

So I found myself speaking about my publishing journey, and as I was, I realized that one thing has NOT changed. And it's this: No matter what you want to do in publishing - go out on your own, submit to a small press, a medium press, or try to land one of the big New York publishers - you have to first know what you want, and then be willing to work to make it happen.

At least that much hasn't changed.

What do you think? Have you seen publishing evolve over the last 5-6 years? In what ways? Has your perspective of it changed too? In what ways?

Monday, January 21, 2013

On Following Your Unique, Creative Self

Okay, so I'd never thought of myself as a creative person until I started writing. Over the course of the last year, I've realized just how incredibly creative writing is, how much energy that takes, and how in a creative endeavor sometimes we only see failure where this is much success.

I've tried to silence the part of publishing that calls for a commercial idea. I want to write for the love of crafting a story with the kind of words that draw emotion to the surface. Of course, I have to work on the commercial end of things all the time, but when I have a blank page, I don't want any of the words I try to be influenced by whether or not my novel will sell.

I've attempted to surround myself with articles and blog posts and friends who share this creating-for-the-joy-of-it philosophy.

My amazing and wonderful husband sent me this video -- he is an amazing and wonderful photographer, which is extremely creative and artisitic -- and it's just a fantastic reminder that we need to be true to our own selves. We need to follow our own creative vein.

This is a documentary on professional photographer Joel Grimes--and his photos are gorgeous. My favorite line? "Work from your uniqueness." (I especially like how he talks about trends, and hard work, and building a body of work, and rejection and the need for it, among other things.)

It's long, I know. But the part you really want to start watching is at the end. So drag to about 37:00 and watch to the end (If you want to see some of his photos before you listen to him, start at 35:10 -- they are awesome). That's about 10 minutes. Just put it on while you're answering email or something. It really is fantastic, and you can substitute any creative venture (writing, painting, dancing, music) when he says photography.

Are you working from your uniqueness? Are you enjoying it?

Monday, January 14, 2013

The (Dreaded) Backstory

Okay, so sometimes I know the history of my characters. Sometimes I don't. That makes for some awkwardness at critique group when I get asked questions I can't answer. 

That's been happening a lot lately, so I sat down this week and actually took notes. (Pick your jaw up -- it's been known to happen!) I discovered that it's the backstory that provides a lot of the little details that make the stories I like so memorable. It's what happened before the story starts that intrigues me, that I want to know more about, that I want to see the main character overcome in the story.

This might not be revelatory to you, but it was to me. I mean, I've known about backstory and sprinkling it here and there and that your main character needs to have a past they draw from to make future decisions. I've known it, but I'm not sure I've ever internalized it.

So as I've been working on this revision, I've really been trying to nail down the details of the past for my main character. I want them to be a whole person who has conflicts and brings baggage from their history into the pages I'm working on. I want to add those memorable details to create the kind of book I like to read.

So I'm thinking more and more about backstory and taking notes on my main character and using that history to round out the divots in my plot and character arc.

What are you working to improve in your writing right now?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Lessons From Being Critiqued: Flaws

Okay, so it's great to be back! I'm re-envisioning my blog (yes, again), so hopefully we'll be able to have some awesome discussions this year.

Up on tap today: Lessons from the Critique Trenches.

Receiving a critique can be hard. I think I've become completely desensitized to it somewhat. I get edited extensively from multiple sources, and I think I know how to look past what might hurt my feelings and into the novel to find the potential.

And some of that potential includes creating characters with flaws.

I'm terrible at doing this. If my main character isn't perfect, her boyfriend is. If he's not, her best friend is. Someone always is.

There are a couple of problems with this.
1. No one's perfect, and we hate that person who appears to be. You know, the one who decides to try out for the ballroom team and makes it, and then decides to run track the next and is the best? Yeah, that person. We hate them. Writing them into books isn't a good idea.

2. If the MC is already perfect, they have no character arc. And no arc = bad news for your novel.

3. If the MC has people around them that are perfect, what's the point of the secondary character? This is a question I've been asking myself a lot lately, trust me. I've cut entire characters from books before, so I can do it. It just makes for a lot of work, and sometimes I get frustrated that I haven't learned this lesson yet. I mean, seriously.

So lesson for today: Create flawed characters. Or at least be willing to revise them into that non-perfected, able-to-grow-and-change person they should've been when you drafted.

Do your characters have flaws? Do you actually think of these in advance or are you a non-perfector during revisions like I am?

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