33

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. The awesome co-hosts for the August 1 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover, Susan Gourley, and Lee Lowery!

Hoo boy, this is my first post on the blog in WEEKS and I simply must apologize to my followers and readers. Offline life was wild in July. The good: I went on an AMAZING vacation to Iceland (which I will talk about in another blog post this week). The suck: my ‘day job’ has increased in hours, responsibilities, and the demand for my attention, so I’ve had a hard time being around on here even when I’m not on vacation. Real life bites, doesn’t it? Except when it nibbles.

That’s where my insecurity comes from this month, of course–all the outside demands for my attention means my writing, and certainly my blogging, is suffering. Some nights I literally come home from work, sleep, and go right back in the morning. In theory, this situation is only temporary due to various factors at work, but it leaves me no time or energy for writing right now. I can barely maintain my house and run errands let alone find time to be creative.

But, I’m going to try to fit it in, chaos be damned. Because I have fit it in, all my life, no matter what was happening. I’ve always MADE the time and I’m going to have to do that again until things get smoother. I just have to find the focus. Hey, at least I made it for the IWSG this month!

August 1 question – What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

One thing that took me a long time to realize is not to rush things. Though it hurts to admit, not everything you write is gold. Especially when you’re a fairly new writer. In fact, you write a lot of crap that you think is brilliant but is really, well, crap. When I was younger I tended to think I was some kind of magician with words and was quick to send all my fine masterpieces off to publishers way ahead of them actually being ready for publication–and I received an ever-growing steaming pile of rejections as a result.

Writing and perfecting a work takes time–a lot of time, and a lot of patience. And even when you do shape and mold it carefully and get it all pretty and shiny, it might still be a dud and never get published. But if us writers are anything, it’s gluttons for punishment. So try, try again!

Thank you to all my readers for sticking around during this time. I’m going to try to get more posts up this month!

9

Last week, the IWSG question of the month was about coming up with titles–and boy, does it hit close to home right now!

Titles are something I struggle with, except when I don’t. Sometimes, wonderfully, the title comes to me along with the story. I start getting an idea for the plot and my brain says “and by the way, this would be a perfect title.” That’s always an amazing thing and I bless whatever muses decided to bestow such a gift upon me. But, that only happens about half the time. The other half, it’s like the muses forgot I exist and lost my phone number.

I was struggling to come up with a title for the book I’m looking to submit soon, and I think I found one, but…it might change before I actually go through with the submission. I’m not sure I’m satisfied with it. Ugh! Why does it have to be so difficult? I wrote an entire book, surely I can come up with one measly little title!

The problem is, titles are a BIG DEAL, even if they’re the smallest thing about the book. They have to do a lot of things: be catchy, be interesting, encapsulate the book, and be appropriate to the story, genre, and the feeling you want to convey. No pressure! It’s only a huge marketing tool, after all. And we’re supposed to be creative, right? We should be able to do this. Well, as I said, sometimes we can, and sometimes it’s a struggle. Also, sometimes my own personal feelings about the story make it so I don’t think anything I come up with is worthy of the book. I need something grand and perfect, but I just can’t find it.

Here’s a few suggestions that might help you come up with titles. Feel free to also use the “pulling your hair out and screaming into the night” method, although I’ve used this somewhere between ten and five hundred times, and it doesn’t really seem to help.

  • Brainstorm. Sometimes it helps to just throw anything out there that comes to mind, in the hope that while you’re dumping the trash you come across the diamond earring you lost. Let it all flow no matter how bad it is, putting random words and phrases together, testing ideas. Something might pop out that works. It doesn’t have to be practical, either–just throwing anything out there, including silly stuff, can really jog your brain. And who knows, ‘The Story About That One Thing That Happened That One Time’ might turn out to be a bestseller.
  • List your themes. Make a list of major themes and plot points in your story–things that are important, including people, objects, ideas, places, and emotions. Something might be hidden there that will spawn a title. And dammit, we’re writers, we should be able to connect things and make metaphors work on multiple levels, right? So looking at what our story is ABOUT should help us tell readers what it’s about in one catchy, amazing phrase, CORRECT? Please let me know if this works for you or if it’s just me that has a brain that immediately goes on vacation the second I type the last word of the book…
  • Look at other titles. Browse other titles in your genre with similar themes or plots, and see what they’ve come up with. Unfortunately, this may lead you to discover someone else already stole THE PERFECT TITLE and more tearing of your hair. The good thing is, multiple books can and do have the same titles, but if there’s a popular book already named that you’ll probably want to try something else.
  • Title generators. There’s lots of book title generators on the internet, but I’ve never honestly come up with a title from one. I have, however, amused myself with the ridiculous titles they come up with sometimes, so if you need a break from the stress and a good laugh, these are a fitting place to look.

TITLES are HARD. May your muse be kind and give you plenty of good ideas. And while they’re at it, tell them to stop by and visit me, huh?

37

It’s time for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop! The hop takes place the third Wednesday of every month (minus November/December) and focuses on the sharing of resources and learning tools for authors.

Stop by the hop page and check out all the participants and their posts this month! Also check out #AuthorToolboxBlogHop on Twitter.

Life Isn’t Easy

This month for the blog hop, I thought I’d tackle something I’m going through at the moment: real life getting in the way of writing. Unless you’re a professional writer (meaning you make most or all of your income through writing) you’ve probably had the “day job” block your creative flow. Most writers, I think, have dealt with the trials of life bludgeoning them in their writing kneecaps: a job, kids, family issues, illness, tragedies, stress, and all those other nasty curveballs life likes to throw at us to knock us off our feet. By the time we get a moment to write we’re too physically and/or mentally exhausted to make the words come. What we’re slogging through not only makes us tired, it makes our brains sluggish as well.

My job has been difficult for the past month or so and it’s draining my resources. The good news is this will end eventually, but not until sometime in June. Until then, my focus will continue to be off, I’ll continue to resent that I don’t have enough time/mental capacity to write, and I’ll continue to be bitter, feeding into this awful angry, non-creative cycle I’m stuck in right now. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

Well, it’s not.

I’ve decided to try to come up with a game plan to make this, if at least not better, then more tolerable–and maybe, if you’re stuck in the mud too as real life continues to dump more dirt on your head, you can use it as a shovel. I’ve come up with a few ideas that might help me wedge writing in around all the chaos:

  • Schedule time. I’m not a scheduler, so this is hard for me. I tend to write when I write, and I don’t really like to make a rigid structure out of it. If you do, you’re already ahead of me on this one! If I know I’m going to have a stretch of downtime where I don’t have to focus on anything else, I can pencil my writing in there. Will I want to write when I get to that time? I might not, but they say the best way out of a rut is to do things anyway, even if you grumble and groan, and eventually they get easier. Just like exercise–it hurts at first and you feel resistance, but eventually your muscles get stronger and the workout easier.
  • Break the writing down into smaller chunks. This is also hard for me, because when I write I tend to write a lot, but I don’t have the time or energy for that right now. If I promise myself I’ll do smaller portions, eventually those will all add up to something big, even if it’s not as fast as I’m used to. And that’s okay! I need to give myself reasonable assignments and goals during this tough time. I can write only 1,000 words or edit one chapter and still feel accomplished.
  • Be consistent. This is a hard thing to maintain when life is a whirlwind, but consistency also makes the wind feel less like it’s trying to knock you over. When I tell myself “I’m going to do X and Y on these days, and I’m not going to waver from that,” it helps things feel a little more stable. Hopefully, this will also give me small things to look forward to. Routine is comforting, especially when the rest of your life is out of whack.
  • Stick to one project. If you’re like me, I always have several writing projects going on at once. That’s just how I am. If you don’t do the same thing this bullet point won’t help you and I envy your dedication! I definitely like to juggle several balls at once, but right now that’s making me not do ANYTHING because it all feels so complicated and overwhelming on top the other difficulties in my life. During this time I’m going to try to focus on one thing only and get it done, bit by bit. At least then I won’t just lay around crying about how I’m not getting anything done.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. This is the most important task for me, and one I really, really need to take to heart. Is the world going to end if I don’t get another book written by the end of summer? Of course not. Is everyone I know going to hate me and refuse to ever speak to me again if I don’t stick with my writing right now? Why on earth would they! Are the writing police gonna show up at my house and arrest me if I don’t get some writing done every day? The writing police don’t even exist! Or do they…

I’m trying to be easier on myself right now, as well as trying to get my brain to shut up about how I’m being lazy and not taking care of my muses. Wish me luck!

How do you deal with life when it gets in the way of your writing? Any tips or tricks?

40

It’s time for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop! The hop takes place the third Wednesday of every month (minus November/December) and focuses on the sharing of resources and learning tools for authors.

Stop by the hop page and check out all the participants and their posts this month! Also check out #AuthorToolboxBlogHop on Twitter.

The Dreaded Synopsis

So, you’ve written an entire book. You’ve polished it until it shines. You dotted every i and crossed every t. The plot makes sense, the characters feel real, your beta readers absolutely love it, you’ve checked for mistakes a million times, and the book is as good as you’re going to make it. Now, it’s time to submit it. But wait–before you can do that, you have to do the really HARD part, the part that’s even harder than writing the book.

You have to write a synopsis.

*groaning from the audience*

If you’re like me, you can make the effort to write a book without batting an eye, but when the time comes to write the synopsis you fall down on the floor and whine and cry like a two-year-old who was just told they can’t have a fourth cup of chocolate pudding. Writing a synopsis is hard. It’s an art form as much as writing a book.

First of all, you have to condense your ENTIRE book down into–how many pages? Well, that depends. There’s no absolute standard “this is how many pages a synopsis is” largely because the editor/agent you’re submitting to makes this decision. Some want a short, one-page synopsis. Some want it to be longer, sometimes 5+ pages. One would think a longer synopsis would be easier to write, but it’s not, necessarily. Because a synopsis is also about telling a story, and yes, it needs to sound just as interesting as your book in order to sell it.

When editors and agents look a synopsis, they’re looking for a couple of things: they want to see if the plot works when it’s all pieced together and if it makes sense, and they want to know what happens in the book from beginning to end to find out if it’s original, engaging, and if it will sell. It sounds unfair, but these professional people don’t have time to read your book if the synopsis makes it sounds weak, disjointed, or just overall boring. The synopsis is a briefing of what’s to come, and it tells them if it’s worth their time to explore further.

So, what needs to go into a synopsis? Here are the key components:

  • The major characters. These should be introduced quickly and their role in the story should be sufficiently explained. Depending on the length of the synopsis you might also add in some of your minor characters, at the point where they come into the story.
  • The conflict. This should be presented immediately, so the person reading the synopsis will understand right away what this story is about.
  • The major plot points. When you have to write a short synopsis, it’s helpful sometimes to list all your major plot points, and then figure out which ones you don’t really need to mention, or can gloss over, because you’re going to have to be very, very succinct.
  • The climax. What happens at the pinnacle of the book? How are things resolved? What changes, and how do your characters deal with it?
  • The conclusion. Synopses are not spoiler-free zones. The editor/agent needs to see how you end the story, to know if it’s appropriate and satisfying.

Writing a synopsis is not a whole lot of fun–at least, not for me. And guess what I’m doing right now?

How do you go about writing a synopsis? Do you have any advice for other writers?

15

Right now I’m doing a whole lot of revising/editing on a book I recently finished. Sometimes this is the best part of the process for me–the first draft is down, the story is told, and now I’m in the process of fixing it up and making it shine. It’s a time for clipping and adding and rearranging, and honestly, I like it a lot. Probably because in most aspects of my life I like to organize and sort things. This is the stage where I get to work on putting everything in order. It’s funny because when I initially started writing  years ago, I HATED doing edits and revision. I don’t know what led me to love it, but I’m glad I do now.

I’m finding, as I often do when I revise, that I have a bad habit of repeating myself. Thankfully, I can spot it and eliminate it as I edit, but I still get irritated at myself that I do this. To clarify: for some reason, as I write, I feel the need to keep bringing up the “point” of the story–whatever the main character’s struggle and main issue is, they keep circling back and focusing on it. I know this isn’t needed, because you really only need to say it once, and then reinforce it with the events as they unfold. Yet, I keep doing it!

I usually feel when I’m writing if I don’t occasionally remind the reader “x character feels y about this situation” that I’m either not giving the situation enough gravity, or the reader will forget. The funny part is when I revise I see these things sticking out as the unnecessary bells and whistles they are and quickly pluck them out. So why write them in the first place?! I could save myself so much time if I left them out to begin with!

I think the reasons I do this may be one of two, or a combination of both:

  1. It’s part of the process of talking myself through the story. Even though it’s a lot of useless repeating, I’m mostly talking to myself and reminding myself of plot points when I do this. It helps me stay on the path. When I revise, I can take these markers out, but during the first draft they help me stay on course.
  2. Anxiety. I feel if my character doesn’t think about the problem enough, then their journey isn’t going to seem realistic. I mean, when something big is happening to you, isn’t it all you can think about? Doesn’t it consume most of your life? If my characters don’t keep circling back to the problem, it’s not REAL.

Number one is useful, but I end up overwriting when I lean on it too much. Number two really isn’t true, because telling a story isn’t the same as living real life. The reader doesn’t need to be told every other page that the character is focused on the situation they’re dealing with, because we’re watching them deal with it. The fact it weighs heavy on their mind can be just as easily, and much less invasively, merely implied. In both cases, I need to trust myself–and the reader! I don’t need to beat anyone over the head with plot points.

Despite the fact I know and understand these things, I still catch it during revisions on every book I write. It’s almost like filler and it annoys me when I see it–even though when I was writing it, it seemed like the right thing to do. Going forward, I’m going to try to be more mindful while I’m writing. If I catch myself repeating, I’ll try to ask myself instead how I can remind the reader with actions instead. I give anyone who’s editing right now this piece of advice: look for what you constantly repeat, or draw attention to, and ask yourself why. Also pluck it out, even if it seems more “realistic” to keep bringing it up, because I assure you the story is already keeping these things in the reader’s mind.

Do you find yourself circling the same points when you go back and do your revisions? Have you managed to spot it while you’re writing and stop yourself?