Monthly Archives: October 2011

What’s worth most?

When I started to write, I didn’t think much about whether people liked what I wrote or not. I had to get the stories out of my mind. But as soon as I reached the point where I decided to have a career not a hobby, I looked at published stories in my genres. Yes, there were moments when I thought ‘How could they publish this rubbish’ but more often I wondered why no publisher brought anything different from what was there.

Then, J.K. Rowling proved to publishers that readers do read stuff that’s different and filled with new ideas. I thought everything would change now — far from it. Again, publishers were chasing trends, this time in Fantasy. My (enthusiastic) agent has offered five different manuscripts to German publishers, and even when the editors liked it, we got a polite “No thanks, it’s too different/wrong time” (depending on the genre).

Frustrated, I began to hone my English and started writing my stories in my second language. Lo and behold, I got recognized. Readers of samples, flash and short stories told me they loved what I did. I even got shortlisted for two awards. So, when the eBook revolution opened a whole new set of opportunities, I took my chances. My first eBook “Urchin King” sells slowly but continually. I’m not earning millions, but I get feedback from readers who love my story. This pushes me to write faster, so I can publish another one soon.

Sometimes at night, I am wondering. I read an online article recently where an author’s contract was canceled because she self-published with amazon. Would it have been better to wait for “The Deal”?

I don’t think so. Sure, I’d have gotten a lump payment up front but what then? I’d have to start writing my stories the way my publishers want, and if readers need time to find me and connect with me, traditional publishers won’t give much time to me. They pulp books if they don’t sell fast enough. Where does that leave the midlist and the longseller?

What do you think? Are authors better off on their own? Or with a traditional publisher? Or is a mix of both the best option? I love the independence eBook publishing gives me, but I’m not fully set against tradition publishers. After all, money is tight in these times.

Tell me your opinion.

Conflict: The Heart and Soul of your Fiction

I’m currently reading Kay Kenyon’s Bright of the Sky, and it reminded me of an excellent article I read in one of her newsletters a while back. Kay was discussing conflict — one of my toughest stumbling blocks when I first began to write.

I wanted to imagine my own worlds, and I wanted them to be perfect. Consequently, I avoided conflict. As one critique partner put it, I wrote nice stories about nice people who had nice things happen to them. In short, my stories were nice, which quickly translated to boring.

Now, I’m not saying that you can’t write stories about nice people or that you can’t have happy endings, but conflict is a necessity. Your characters have to struggle. They need to earn that happy ending.

Let me quote Kay’s excellent article:

If you’re ambivalent about conflict, let me urge you: get over it! Without tension and conflict a story is boring and your readers will abandon it. Without a collision of wills, your characters will appear flat.This is one of the most intriguing intersections in fiction: the outer drama of conflict reveals deep character. Conversely, it is character that makes action meaningful: why does she do what she does? How will he find the understanding or strength to do what is needed? Don’t create a cardboard hero, then, who is pure at the beginning and remains so. Rather, make her a compelling personality who is not yet wise enough to overcome opposition. But who will be.

I love the last part of that quote. I don’t want a cardboard hero who is pure at the beginning and remains so. I want a compelling personality who is not yet wise enough to overcome the conflict I’m going to throw in her path, but who will grow and learn and ultimately make wise choices.

I think that’s one of the reasons readers read … to be reassured that if my character can grow in wisdom and learn to make the tough choices, so can they.

Give your readers what they want. Show them that opposition can be overcome, that nice people can become better and that conflict can be faced with dignity and grace.

Onward and upward.

Beating Writer’s Block

For the last couple of months, I’ve been having trouble, big time, with #amnotwriting.  What shall we call it?  Procrastination? Writer’s Block?  Aren’t they the same thing?

My worst enemy has to be procrastination/writer’s block.  Even when I have a deadline, I can always find something to do to keep me from doing what I ought to do. (Whew!  Trying saying that last sentence fast, five times in a row.)

Instead of writing on my novel that needs to be done ASAP, I find other things to do. My desktop really needs cleaning.  These magazines need to be organized and put away.  My fingernails are too long; I must clip them.  This article is so interesting.  I need to cut it out and file it in my idea file.  I need to work on the treadmill.  Twitter is calling, and I am supposed to be on social media to build a platform, aren’t I? The butt in chair approach doesn’t work when I work on a computer and the internet is only a click away.  Suddenly I look up and see two hours have gone by.  Writing time is gone.

Truly, procrastination had me in its evil clutches.

I looked through my writing material files and found many ideas for curing Writer’s Block.  Most of them involved not writing, which is what I was already doing–so how does that help?  I did see three that looked promising. 1.Reward yourself.  Promise yourself something special when you finish your project or x amount of pages. 2.Read over your notes before you go to sleep and let your unconscious (muse) work. 3.Write something, anything, but just write during your writing time.

But what is procrastination/writer’s block really about?  Why am I (Why are you?) putting it ( whatever IT is) off?  Really.  Why am I not writing?  I want to write, don’t I?  Yes I do, just not on this book.  I want to be writing my next book.  And why is that?  Well, if I don’t finish the book, then there’s no chance of it being rejected.  If I don’t write on a daily basis, I can use the excuse that I don’t have the time because I am so busy.  If I don’t finish the book, I won’t have to write a suspenseful ending.  If I don’t finish the book, then it can’t be compared unfavorably to my first book.  If I don’t finish the book, I won’t have to promote it.  (I HATE self-promotion.) So, I must be playing both “safe” and “perfect.”  They are like little devils sitting on my shoulder whispering dismal prospects.

Safe–if I don’t finish the book, then I don’t have to face rejection or self-promotion.  Perfect–if I don’t finish the book, then I don’t have to face not having a perfect book.

It all boils down to one thing: Am I a writer or not?

If I am a writer, then I write.  So, I force myself to open up my WIP document and read over the last few pages to get back into the flow.  I start writing.  I don’t know where I’m going with this.  The first ending I had doesn’t work anymore, but from previous experience, I know it will come if I keep on writing. Hmm. I get a flash of what could happen next and keep on writing.  Something I never even thought about pops into my mind.  Finally my block is broken.

I know my “safe” and “perfect” devils are not gone.  They are just waiting for the right time to jump back on my shoulder, but now I am ready for them.  Writer’s Block be gone!




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