Friday, January 28, 2011

Brain Under Construction

Wow! I had no idea I've missed so many blogging days. I'm terribly sorry about that! I've been reading heavily so I can catch up on book reviews I have to post later this weekend. I've also been gearing up for conference, and that means a lot of study, writing, and preparation.

Speaking of study...last year, as part of my New Year's Resolution, I decided that I would buckle down and do whatever it takes to learn the aspects of fiction writing that I felt I didn't have a very good grasp on, such as theme, high concept, story structure, and plot. As of December, I've finished more than 12 workshops, I've take a full 1 inch binder full of notes - yes, literally full of notes - and I can't tell you how much I've learned. It never ceases to amaze me how some people truly think all a writer does is sit in a chair, bang out a box full of words, then send it off to be published. If only it were that simple!

As a side note to this grand adventure, over the last week, I've received several emails asking me how to become "an author". I don't usually get fan mail, or bundles of emails about my work, so this was surprising to see so many questions of a similar nature come in at the same time. I answered these questions the best I can over on Facebook in my notes section. The response is called How To Become "An Author".

I hope no one takes this the wrong way, but nothing is going to make you an author but a lot of hard work. I do truly mean a LOT of hard work. Blood, sweat, and tears - buckets of them. Particularly if you have a thin skin.

The only way to become an author - unless you plan to publish your own book, hire a ghost writer, or you are some celebrity who can bat your sexy eyelashes at someone and have them write a book for you - is to be a writer first.

Well, that's obvious. Yeah, I know that, but... Those are common responses I get when I say that. But, why must I say it? Because it's what no one wants to hear. Because no one ever asks me about the necessary first half of the publishing equation: how do I become a writer?

Fact: writers write. Writers who sell and become published are authors. I'm not being snarky about this. It's not my goal to hurt anyone's feelings. I'm also definitely not asking anyone to agree or disagree with me, even if someone feels so inclined. (They often do.) It simply is what it is.

People who ask how do I become "an author" are looking at the end result, the prize you get when you cross the finish line. And yes, I do mean you get to call yourself an author as a prize. In fact, it is the prize - aside from having your story published, of course. Why?  Because being published doesn't guarantee you fame or riches. Because sometimes after all that hard work - after all those months of doubt, stress, rewriting, rejections, and hard work - being able to call yourself "an author" is the only prize you get. And let me tell you another little secret. Sometimes even after you get published, even when your tax man says you are published, other authors may not see you as published. It often depends on what side of the publishing fence you sit on - digital, or print. It hurts. It sucks. But once again, it is what it is.

But I digress... So, end of side note. Back to all the workshop and such. I have read literally dozens of articles on writing. I have a new stack of writing books I didn't intend to buy. After all, I thought I had all the writing books I needed! Apparently not.

I got through half those workshops last year, and was told one of my submissions lacked sustainable conflict. Hm... I had to ask myself, what is sustainable conflict?  Honestly, I didn't know. I understood the idea of what it must be, but how to make my own? No clue. So, I set out on a quests to discover this sustainable conflict stuff and learn to build it for myself.

I am just now coming out of the learning tunnel, and we are fast approaching February. My skull is packed with new info that I'm still trying to process. Basically, over the past 13 months, I have put myself through non-accredited writers' college at home.

It has been frustrating, humbling, frightening, nightmare inducing (literally), and absolutely 100% undoubtedly worth every minute of it. Last night, I sat down with my current Werekind manuscript, which is not completed, and went through it element by element. I have no doubt, my new skill set is going to make this my best Werekind book yet. I truly hope my readers like this one. It has definitely been a labor of love. But, I keep very close in mind that I am still learning. Still figuring out how to put these pieces together as I go. Rome - and apparently Silver, Colorado - wasn't built in a day.

After doing all this learning, reading, and research, I wanted to share my favorite writing books so far. The ones I have learned the most from, and that I would repurchase for my writing shelf if I lost them. Here goes:


Also, recently, I was asked about purchasing the yearly Writer's Market Guide. In the early 1990s, I invested in a Writer's Market Guide. Back then, I'd get a new one every three or four years or so because they're expensive, usually about $30 US, unless you are part of a book club where you can buy a certain amount of books and get the yearly Writer's Market for free. 

This was, of course, before the internet was what it is today. You didn't have the kind of network for writers back then that we have now. Nowadays, you can and should be on twitter, following as many editors and agents as you hope to submit to. They are there, and while they may not follow you back, they tweet information that Writer's Market can't give you. For one thing, some publishers and agents do not stay open to submissions year round. They close to submissions while they catch up on their inbox, or because they have a full client roster. 

In short, Writer's Market, as expensive as it is, is not an up to date tool. There isn't much in Writer's Market that you can't glean from Google and Twitter for free. I hope no one from Writer's Market makes a voodoo doll in my image for writing that, but there it is. Get on twitter, follow a bunch of agents to find out who's taking queries, then hit Google and see if they are interested in the kind of books you write. 

Another way to research agents is to do searches at www.agentquery.com . The information there is priceless, and it's free. You can search for agents by name, the genres they represent, and even look at past/present client lists on some of them. 

Anyway, this is already a long post, so I'm going to dog it off before it goes too long to be readable. I hope at least it has made up for my absentee-ism. ;0) That said, I shall take a moment to do the happy dance, because it's Friday:

Whee!
Have a happy weekend, everyone! ^_~

6 comments:

  1. You get all the writerly questions and I get to be Dr. Ruth and explain the various kinds of vibes and oral stimulators! lol.

    One day we should switch email fan letters. I'll answer yours and you can answer mine! rofl. I promise mine won't take long. lol.

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  2. I do tend to get writerly questions, and really I don't mind that at all.

    But flip that same coin, and I also get people who email me not because they need writing advice, but because they think I can get them published - there's a big difference!

    When some people realize they have to actually hone their craft, that they have to actually WRITE a book and put effort into it, they become my worst nightmare. They email to tell me I should write their story because it's a sure fired best seller and they want to get rich.

    Notice - THEY - want to get rich. Off my hard work, no less. *bitch claws of fury* After a while, fielding those kinds of emails (and questions/requests, since I've had some people actually suggest I write their book to my face!!) gets very tiring.

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  3. I've been following your blog for a year or so now. Don't remember how I stumbled upon it. What has kept me coming back is not only do you write about writer stuff but daily day to day stuff. How you manage to juggle kids, husband, and your writing. Secretly, I've wanted to be a writer for a long time. Last summer my husband started on me about going back to school. With the kids getting older he feels that I need to shift my focus to myself more. It brought to mind what I have read on your blog and how you manage with kids and a husband. So,I started taking online courses through The Writer's Village and I bought a plethora of books on the subject. I've been reading until it feels like my eyes are about to pop out and writing my fingers to the bone since October. And through it all you have been in inspiration to me. It's very encouraging to me to know that even though you have been published you are still learning. Maybe I can learn too.
    Sorry. I know it got kind of kiss ass.

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  4. Aw, thanks Sarah!((hugs))I'm glad my day to day stuff hasn't scared you off or bored you silly. ^_^*

    From one mom to another, you already know it's HARD to swing your focus from your kids back to yourself. BUT - I've noticed when I do take time for myself, it gives me more incentive to return that time to my kids when I'm finished. Does that make sense?

    Oh, btw, congrats on taking those classes! Thank goodness for the internet, since I wouldn't be able to do a traditional classroom right now. I'd love to go back to school, but I just can't - financially or time wise at the moment. I've certainly taken advantage of many online writer courses, though. And books. Can't forget those writer books! I scope them out online, read them in the bookstore, and take the good ones home. (Or pick them up online.) *evil hand wringing*

    I'm absolutely still learning. Sometimes it takes me several workshops for a concept to "sink in". Like theme. I thought I would never get theme! And then one day I'm sitting in a workshop suddenly I understand it! *_*

    Speaking of inspiration to keep learning and honing your craft... Back in 2008, I went to a workshop by Patricia Kay (search my blog for Pat Kay/Patricia Kay for pictures). She talked about how writers never learn everything about the craft - there will always be something to learn. Ms. Pat said she went to RWA nationals, and saw a very famous romance writer - NYT best selling author multiple times - taking notes in a workshop. She stopped and talked to the author about that afterward, and the woman told her straight up - writers never stop learning, herself included.

    I found that to be very inspiring. Great motivation for those days when I'm feeling down, like, I will "never get this stuff", or like I should know "everything" by now. :)
    Even those professional wood carvers sometimes have to stop and sharpen their tools. Good to know! *eyebrow wiggle*

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  5. I figured most authors got tons of emails, mail asking how to become an author...How to get published...ect..

    But for someone to ask you to write their book for them...wow...just wow.

    I love reading blogs by authors that I enjoy reading because we get an inside look at what really goes on in your life and not the fantasy we sometimes make up, which is really cool.

    I wanted to write books and quickly learned I was no good at it. So I did what I was good at, writing articles.

    Oh and Cass....that's just funny that you get those kinds of questions...lol

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  6. Mary, Cass gets some doozy emails. LOL! Poor girl. ^_^

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Hi, hi! Comments are appreciated, and I will reciprocate as soon as I can. Friendly conversation is always welcome. Trolls will be set on fire and tossed into the bog of eternal stench. Have a happy day! ~.^