Thursday, January 26, 2012

Under somewhat shady circumstances

Let’s open a can of worms.  
Last week on ebay I purchased an ARC (Advanced Review Copy) of a book I’m anxiously awaiting the release of.  I have purchased ARC’s before, since they pop up at used book sales once in while, but this is the first time I intentionally purchased one before the anticipated publication date.  Most people believe that purchasing an ARC at a book sale after the book’s release, and purchasing it before, are two completely different things.  That somehow selling a book that was received for free is okay, as long as it’s already been published for the general public. 
Some people believe that ARC’s shouldn’t be put up for sale at all, ever, because the publisher’s make no money on them, no money goes to the author, and they are only handed out in the understanding that the person who is receiving the ARC has enough klout to hype the release of the book prior to publishing.  
Some might make the argument that it takes bloggers a lot of work and effort to earn the klout needed for receiving ARC’s.  That they had to travel to book signings and conventions, or even win a contest, to “earn the right” to read the book first.  
Being able to purchase the book? Well that’s cheating the system! And some even feel it’s immoral of the person selling them, when it clearly says on the covers “sticker,” that the ARC is not “intended” for resale.  
Clearly those people selling them don’t care about the books!  They’re just trying to make an easy buck!
And after all, receiving ARC’s is a “privilege!”  Not a right!
Well, I’m sorry, but I simply don’t agree with that.  And this is what I think.
There are many of us who participate on goodreads, and in the blogging community that don’t have access to ARC’s.  We can’t travel or don’t live in area’s where they’re available.  Attending author’s signings may be impossible, and winning a contest for one among thousands is slim odds.  The person I purchased the ARC from, received the book unsolicited from the publishing agency.  She read it, didn’t like it, and decided to sell it.  Yes, she received it for free, and she is making money off of this.  But keep in mind the publisher’s took a risk in sending it to her.  She is under no contractual obligation not to sell the book.  I see no difference between selling the book on ebay and donating it to a used bookstore who would sell it anyway.  If she received the book before publication date, I see no reason for her not to be able to sell it to me before the publication date.  She made it very clear that it was an ARC copy that she received for free.  I am receiving the book in complete understanding that it is not a published copy.  Why is this so different from passing it along to someone else in a contest, or giveaway?  Because I have put a monetary value on what the ARC is worth to me?  In fact, by selling it she has almost guaranteed that it will go to someone who really wants to read it, and will definitely review it, and most likely create more hype about it.  Me.  Because I have forked over some hard earned cash for that book and I have more invested in it then someone who just won it in a giveaway, or received it from the publisher.  I will review it for of my friends on goodreads, facebook, tweet, and blog about it.  I am more excited for it’s release than ever.  I will still buy another copy, so I can analyze all the differences between the two versions.  Because I am an uber-fan and an uber-dork like that.  And there’s lot’s of people just like me out there.
I would also like to point out, ARC’s used to be provided mainly to bookstores to encourage them to purchase the book for their shelves.  So by virtue of this relationship as a blogger, by giving away your ARC in a giveaway- you are also being immoral.  The publisher is sending you an ARC so that you will encourage others to purchase the book through a review.  Not so you will receive more traffic to your site through advanced copy giveaways.  Not so you can pass it along to other blogger friends who you feel are deserving to read it first, even though the publisher didn't send them a copy.
Yes.  I went there.  
So don’t sit on your blogging pedestal and tell me it’s immoral to purchase an ARC of a book I know I will love.  Or that the person selling it is immoral because she wants to make some money off of a book she received for free, and doesn’t want sitting on her shelf taking up space.  Would the publishing company prefer her to throw it away?
Let's discuss.
Because we’re all living in glass houses people.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 20: Flirting with Infidelity

You all know what I'm talking about; I can't be the only one who has ever thought about straying.  You've put in the time and really done your best to stay in love with your WIP, but a new idea enters your mind and you can't seem to shake it.  Each day when you're at your computer struggling to pound out the right words your mind wanders a bit until you catch yourself daydreaming about the other one, the beautiful siren of a story that ignites your imagination and has you foaming at the mouth to write down the words which form with ease and eloquence in your mind.  Why can't you feel that way about your WIP?  What happened to all of the fun this novel promised to be?  What about the nights you used to stay up late planning and dreaming of what your characters could become?  Instead you're forcing choppy prose and cliched references onto a computer, hating it all but knowing that for now it is the best you can do.

But what if you gave in to your other one?  You know how much more excited you'd be to write, how invigorating it would all feel.  Could you really abandon a project you've worked on for months, maybe years, in favor of what might only be a mirage?  No.  Definitely not.  Well..... maybe?

Halfway through my 30 day challenge these were the struggles I was facing.  I was tired and bored with my story and characters, and constantly bothered by thoughts of a new story that would be so much easier and so much more fun to write.  I found I had some decisions to make and knowing my options helped me make the best one.  I think you ought to know your options too.

Option 1:  The best option for those of you committed to writing your novel in 30 days as it takes the least amount of time away from your current work.  Don't try to ignore the new ideas, pretending they aren't happening; write them down and get them out of your system (albeit temporarily).  This was the best way for me personally, as it allowed me to take a few minutes to daydream about all the potential my next novel has, but not stray too far from my WIP.

Option 2:  Take some time to indulge your desires.  Maybe your brain is just sick of thinking about the same story over and over again and a little foray into the unexplored ideas will help rejuvenate your enthusiasm for writing.  Your WIP will always be there when you're ready to come back to it.  However, I must add a few words of caution from Donna Cummings's article The WIP on the Side:
"Chasing after the shiny new idea, while blaming the old WIP for your tendency to stray, can leave you with a string of half-finished projects.  Sometimes it's best to remember you and the WIP are in it 'for better or for worse'."
Option 3:  Study your WIP to see if there's a reason you want to stray.  Sometimes staring at a screen, frustrated by writer's block, means our minds have plenty of time to wander.  If that has been your problem consider the idea that there may be trouble with what you've written or planned for your story.  Ann Aguirre of Writer Unboxed says,
"If you’re stuck in a book or story, in my experience, it means your brain is telling you there’s something askew with what you've already written. If you can’t figure out what, then maybe it’s time to step away from this project and let it rest until you do know. Otherwise, you’ll just spend hours banging your head on a wall."
Maybe sometimes infidelity isn't so bad...

For more fantastic articles on the subject see 8 Ways to Stay Focused on Your Novel, and Staying Faithful to Your WIP.

MY DAY 20:  I was on fire, baby!  I wrote about 3,000 words in one day, but also spent time combining and condensing scenes to make each one packed with purpose.  Very excited about the work I did that day.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I'm a Writer and I don't Support PIPA or SOPA

I'll be honest right up front. I don't know all the tiny details surrounding these controversial legislative deals. I do know that the strike in response to it shut down Wikipedia yesterday. I was in the middle of trying to find out some details about San Franciscan history (circa 1903, anyone?) and every link led to Wikipedia. GRRRRR!
What I do know is that at some point--so help me--I'm going to have a book published. Though I have a fond wish for it to be a breakout novel that everyone loves and becomes a bestseller in the blink of an eye, it's unlikely that will happen. Which means my tools for spreading the word about it will rely HEAVILY on social media sites. Sure, there are sites that might pirate my work and make it available online for free. (Um, that might actually be kind of flattering, don't you think?) That's a risk I'll take to get my name out there.
I'm also a stay at home mom with a three year old in tow wherever I go. That means when I'm researching a historical novel, I can't spend hours at the library pouring through books on the shelves. I need internet resources. 
I happen to live in a fairly isolated section of the country. That means there's a good chance my small-town public library won't have what I need anyway.
Surprise, surprise, I'm not rich either. (Yet.) That means I can't hop on a plane to San Francisco (or London or wherever my latest historical takes place) to do research. 
All those tiny bits of information I glean all over the place might disappear if something like SOPA or PIPA goes through. 
And if I have to live in a society that censors my freedom to find information, there's a risk I'll write a novel about it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Another Venue To Write In…

Since I’m primarily an article writer, I thought I would give you my two cents worth about writing articles.  Okay, so you have the greatest American Novel going on in your computer but you need to take a break and do some other writing for some fast cash or recognition or just a break.  They are all wonderful. The best way I know how is to write articles that are about what is near and dear to your heart.

These next Five suggestions came from a writer friend, Carolyn.  Very timely and very helpful.  I have used them myself.

Informational- This article answers a question. If you want to know more about something chances are other people do too. More about the swine flu, the truth about global warming, more about the effects of mold and where it grows... whatever. Do your research and then write your heart away.

How-to- Begin with your own experience but make sure you FIND AN EXPERT for this type of article. An example of this was a story a writer did on "The Healtcare Jungle" that explained her experience trying to find insurance. If you've been given the run-around, write about how-to avoid your mistakes. The writer also spoke about "Take control of the clock" and talked to a number of time management experts. She loved it because it was something she wanted to do better. Nothing like free advice AND getting paid for it.

Profile- If you hear or read about someone who's done something remarkable, call them and ask for an interview. She spoke about a woman who was told she couldn't make a scrapbooking magazine but did anyway and just sold it off for $15 million. That's a story! She heard about another woman that was in counseling that was speaking about her adopted teenager. The counselor explained that she had given a baby up for adoption and they found out it happened to be the same child. Wow! The person doesn't need to be famous to be fascinating.

Personal Experience- If you have started a business, lost your wallet, entered a clutter contest, these are great ideas for articles. Do wild (not too wild) things so you can write about them.  Think travel magazines. Personal stories are always a good bet on an interesting story.

Inspirational- As the economy gets tougher, inspirational stories will sell well. Look for people that have triumphed and tell their story. Sometimes it’s not any further than your own neighborhood.

You might not get paid for all the article writing you do, (I don’t) but you get your name out there and your foot in the door.   Give article writing a chance.  It is a very satisfying career.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tale of a wimpy woman

This post has nothing to do with writing, but everything to do with being a mother.
Something happens as soon as a woman has a baby.  It doesn’t matter if you’re 14 or 41, as soon as the kid pops out of your engorged belly, every woman immediately becomes an expert on all things related to child birth.  You may not call yourself an expert.  In fact you’re probably laughing to yourself right now, thinking you know exactly what I’m talking about.  But you know in your deepest heart of hearts, if you’ve had a child, you’ve been guilty of stepping on a pedestal and giving another pregnant woman advice based on your own terrible, uplifting, wonderful, exhilarating, heartbreaking, scary, experience of pregnancy and subsequent delivery.  
A good friend of mine is about to have a baby.  It’s number one for her, so of course every day her facebook page is filled with all things pregnancy related.  Because that’s what we do as first time pregnant women, we focus all of our attention and energy on the growing miracle in our body.  Every facebook post is commented on by at least a dozen women with well meaning advice. Occasionally I’ll comment as well with a “congrats!,” or an “almost there,” or “pack some depends in your overnight bag!”  As her due date rapidly approaches, her posts and the subsequent comments, have become even more entertaining.  It may be printed right on the front of every pregnancy girl's guide to “Expect the Unexpected,” but somehow, as a woman, we think this will not happen to us.  We will follow the birth plan!  We are completely prepared!  Or as my friend recently posted, “After a long and careful consideration, weighing all our options, we’ve decided that the right thing for us and our unborn child, will be to have this baby naturally, without any drug intervention.”  
Last week she expressed nervousness for the approaching labor.  She lives far away from most of her friends and family. Not knowing many women around her who have recently had babies, she asked her facebook friends to send in some encouraging words.  It flashed me back to a time when I did the very same thing.  The birth of my very first child.  At the time I realized they called it labor for a reason.  I mean, the Hollywood version of screaming women and painful deliveries, had to have some basis in reality.  But as the time grew closer to have my own baby, I heard too many women say things like, “Oh sweetheart, it didn’t hurt at all,” and “it was over before I knew it, just focus on the baby and you’ll be fine.”  One of my sister’s (I have four) didn’t even have labor pains, she went to the hospital because her water broke, had an epidural before she felt a single contraction, and then popped that baby out before she even realized what hit her.  
True story.  
I naively entered my contractions expecting the same results.
Was I ever wrong.  
So when I saw this post from my friend, and I saw thirteen subsequent women post about how the labor wasn’t that bad, and all she needed was the support of a loving husband, even a “I had all seven of my children naturally and it was the best experience of my life,” I about had it.  I knew I had to intervene.
With my first baby I arrived in the worst pain of my life at 2 in the morning.  I was only dilated to a four.  I wanted to die.  I didn’t think it could get much worse.  This went on for what felt like days, but turned out to be only hours.  I was determined though, because “after a long and careful consideration, weighing all our options, we’ve decided that the right thing for us and our unborn child, will be to have this baby naturally, without any drug intervention.”  Then the real pain hit.  You know exactly what I'm talking about.  I didn’t just ask for the drugs.  No.  I begged for the drugs.  But there is something wrong with this body of mine.  Because the epidural didn’t take on my left side, and when the next contraction hit, I began to hyperventilate.  When I shredded the paper bag they gave me (paper bag?  REALLY?)  I was put on oxygen.  A doctor came and told me to start pushing.  The first push is when I started throwing up the medications they had given me to calm down.  In the middle of the second push, they realized my baby was blue and not breathing. The doctor hooked a finger around the cord and then subsequently yanked her out with forceps.  She started to cry.  That is when I really started to lose it.
I decided to make a comment on my friend's post that labor, for me, was downright awful and all three of my labors would be considered by any doctor as good and normal.  A good and normal hell maybe.  I said she should feel nervous and scared, because it’s not an easy thing to do.  And every woman is different, and every labor is different.  So just because it was easy for one person, doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy for another.  And don’t go in expecting it to be easy, or even enjoyable.  But do expect, no matter how your labor goes, to feel more empowered, and more love, then you ever expected.
The second time around I was determined to do it naturally.  I knew my body didn’t like the drugs, and the epidural wouldn’t take.  So I went all out.  Doula, midwife, breathing techniques, big yoga ball.  Ten hours start to finish, no drugs, no hyperventilating.  Lots of hot showers, and lots of really intense pain.  The first thing my baby heard entering the world was lots of screaming.  From me.  It may have been a perfect delivery, but it was still something I was determined, in that moment, never to do again.
Another woman commented below me, “don’t scare her!  You’re a wimp Laura- Labor is NOT THAT BAD. I had four naturally and it was the most WONDERFUL experience.”
The third time around I remember the exact moment I decided I REALLY didn’t want to have a third baby.  It was immediately after the first big contraction.  Because it all came rushing back in one tidal wave of emotion. I remembered that I had vowed not to do this again.  I began begging my husband not to leave for the hospital.  After all, if we didn’t go to the hospital, I couldn’t have a baby, right?!?!  I told him I was done.  I didn’t want a third child.  It was about that time he realized I was being serious and we probably should get to the hospital sooner, rather than later.  I think he was expecting another anxiety attack.  Instead what we got was my worse labor yet.  Everyone told me the third was going to be the easiest. My body would know what to do since it had done it all before.  That’s a crock of crap. I was so tired 20 hours in.  So very, very tired by that second day of labor pains. I broke down multiple times.  Got an epidural twice to try and sleep.  It didn’t take on the left side.  Either time.  The pitocin started pumping.  There was no sleep for me, just the same numbers over and over again as I counted down to the next contraction.  When it finally came time to push a full thirty some odd hours after I had begun, her head was so big she fractured my pelvis on the way out.  
You want to talk pain.
It’s called Delivery Amnesia.  I’m pretty sure it’s a medical term.  The ability to forget all the pain of labor and delivery once that baby is in your arms.  All those hormones kick in and you float blissfully along, forgetting how difficult all those hours really were.  I can embrace the title of wimp.  If wimpy is telling someone the truth of what they really can expect.  If wimpy is deciding I needed drugs to get through.  If wimpy means I won’t point fingers at the way other’s decide to birth their children.  Every labor is different, every woman is different.  I would never call another woman a wimp for the choices she makes.  If a woman feels that doing labor naturally makes her tougher, or somehow more badass than a woman who chooses the epidural- well I’m here to tell you honey.  It doesn’t.  I don’t think any woman should have to apologize to others, or herself, for decisions made under duress.  The woman that told you how easy it was, the woman who called me a wimp, she’s forgotten.  She has the amnesia.  And when the time comes, and things inevitably don’t go the way you planned them, try and remember a child just came out of your body.  A living, breathing human being.  You are incredible, and powerful, and you make miracles happen.  You don’t need to apologize for anything.
Mothers are made strong.  We have to be, because delivery is only the beginning.  Mother’s can handle knowing the truth of what labor will be.  Please stop with the sugar coating.  
Mizthang247 you can call me a wimp, but you better step off your pedestal.
And my pregger friend, know it’s going to be hard.  Go into labor knowing that things will most likely not go according to any birth plan you may have spent hours working on.  Go in with an open mind, and God bless, everything will be just fine.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day 19: A Study in Subplots

I know, I know.... but YOU try coming up with a good picture to represent subplots.  Can't be done, I tell you.
Subplots: they can be tricky little devils to master, but when given proper time and attention can move your story from merely entertaining to memorable.  In his article Deepen Your Plot, James Scott Bell cites subplots as a way to push the novel's theme without slowing down the action of the main plot.  He says:
"A subplot can be primarily thematic, concerned with what the lead character needs to learn. While the outer action of the main plot is going on, causing all sorts of problems for the lead, the thematic subplot focuses on issues that are personal and interior."
Take, for example, one of the main characters from Kathryn Stockett's wildly popular book The Help.  Minny has a lot to worry about, having crossed the town's socialite Hilly Holbrook, but we also learn that the  sass-mouthin', pie-making lady we love has a husband that beats her and whom she actually fears.  Would the overall story be significantly altered if Minny's husband were kind or even nonexistent?  No, (that's our clue that it's a subplot) but without it we wouldn't have the chance to see the way she finally learns that lines she considered to be etched in stone were merely drawn in sand.  It is watching her ideas shift as she learns to care for Skeeter and Celia Foote that makes Minny's journey through the novel memorable.  After we close the book we keep thinking about what it was that made her realize she didn't need to submit to her husband, and perhaps we even go so far as to consider what roles or relationships we may have falsely relegated ourselves to.

Of course deepening your novel's theme is not the only use for subplots.  Victoria Lynn Schmidt offers six other applications of subplots on page 148 of her book Book In a Month:
  • supporting and advancing the main storyline
  • revealing character
  • mirroring the main storyline in a smaller way
  • creating conflict and complications for the main storyline
  • evoking emotions in readers
  • relieving tension for readers (especially in the horror genre -- readers need a break now and then).
Okay, you all get it, subplots are important.  Worrying about subplots while writing a novel in 30 days?  Not so important.  You should have a general idea of where you want them to go, but don't focus a lot of time or energy writing them because subplots are often the first things to be changed when working on draft two.  That said, it's hard not to think about exciting twists or deepened themes as we're racing along Act II of our novels.  For those of you ahead of schedule you may well want to delve into subplots a bit more, but for the rest of us we'll have to content ourselves with writing our fabulous ideas down and trucking forward.  Those who are still struggling with subplots may want to take a look at the Subplot Brainstorm Worksheet (scroll down to page 271). 

How have your subplot brainstorms been going?  Have you already had to change and rearrange your subplot ideas a few times?

MY DAY 19:  This was one of those days where my subplots began transforming which brought a whole new level of excitement and enthusiasm to my writing.  And as always, when I'm having a good time with my writing I make a lot of progress.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Am I a serious writer?

That was the question posed to me last night by a friend. What does that mean? Am I published? Well, no. Not yet. But I plan to be. Hopefully sooner, rather than later. I'm serious about my writing. Is that the same thing? I feel like I'm miles behind on everything. I took a week and a half off of everything while we went home for Christmas this year. My house is a disaster. I need to pay the bills and do the laundry. And of course, like any writer worth her salt, instead I'm checking my email and working on scheduling blog posts to keep my writer's blog new and entertaining. Does that make me a serious writer? So here is my (perhaps somewhat snarky) idea of a serious writer:
*Avoids any kind of "actual" work in favor of writing
*Avoids any kind of "actual" writing in favor of email, facebook, and blogging
*Manages to politely deflect questions like "Are you published yet?" or as Laura put it for those of you who can delightfully answer yes to the first, "Are you famous?"
*Uses any excuse she can, like "Mommy, I'm hungry," or "Mommy, I don't have any clean underwear," to get away from writing.
*Uses any excuse she can, like "Yes! Writing is work!" to avoid cooking food and doing laundry.

Are you confused yet?

So, of course, my answer was, "Yes. I'm a serious writer." Because I meet all the above criteria. And because I really am.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ideas for Better Writing

A new year has begun and if you are like me, getting a fresh start on story lines and article ideas is a number one priority. From an article on better writing Kathi Cacias wrote:  

The Train-of-Thought Writing Method
Here are a five thoughts from her "train-of-an-idea" article :

1. Find and maintain focus on your story by laying the track.  Writing an outline helps many writers to stay on target.  If you aren't used to writing an outline--try it.  It can help you keep focused.

2. Snagging the reader with a great "cow-catching" idea.  Write your opening scene or story with an idea that just won't quit. It should grab your reader so they won't want to stop.

3. Getting the piece moving in the right direction with the locomotive.  This moving direction helps your story line to stay interesting to the reader.

4. Defining, arranging and organizing our main points through the careful construction of boxcars. Each part of your story is important so pay attention to those details as you edit your piece. It should not be too short to miss information but yet not too long to bore your readers.  Take a pen and bank pages and think through your story/manuscript from start to finish. Arrange your pages with the story line or non-fiction information in logical order and pay attention to the difficult parts.

5. Connect the dots by hooking  these difficult parts together to form a smooth and fluid whole.  You may have several well built boxcars all aligned  in perfect order but if they are disconnected from each other, they will never move your readers along on your journey through your story.   

I hope these ideas help you write a better story where readers will not be able to put it down.