Monday, December 3, 2012

Critique groups: celebrating achievements and kicking your butt when you need it!

Writing-wise, I had quite an achievement last week. I actually finished re-writing chapter 3..! And, wait for it, I'm now writing chapter 4!

Why, you may ask, is this significant?

The previous incarnations of this WIP didn't have chapters, just scenes which didn't fit the plot outline the way I wanted them to. I would keep re-writing chapters 2 and 3 and never getting past the end of chapter 3 before I'd want to start ALL over again. So this is the first time that I am writing words for the fourth chapter and it feels really good! Especially because I'm actually HAPPY with chapters 1, 2 and 3 now and can leave them alone until it's time to edit the whole book.

For achieving this mini goal, I'm giving myself a little pat on the back with the help of some lovely working dogs - are they cute?

How you celebrate those mini goals in the long road of writing a fiction novel? Do you give yourself permission to take some time to read for enjoyment? Take a day off? Enjoy something decadent to eat?

My critique group recently started a private group on Facebook, so I was able to share my achievement with these four wonderful women who understand what I'm going through. While my husband sort of gets it, it really does help to have other writers with whom you can share the highs, lows and frustrations of creating a story and crafting a book.

My group's now calling to read chapter 4 as soon as it's finished, so the little slogan over on the left feels about right!

But the a**-kicking is a good thing, right?. We all need it and sometimes you just plum run out of gumption to kick your own butt for one more day, one more half hour of writing, one more word to finish that scene perfectly.

Having friends saying they really want to read your story, to find out what happens is the BEST! It's what I'm writing for - readers who enjoy MY story. Brilliant. Best kind of a**-kicking a gal can get.

And on that note, best I get back to writing :)

Until next time, all the best,

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Author platform - what's it all about?

I've been reading about "author platform" a fair bit lately and worrying, as I do, that I don't know what my platform is. A lot of people suggest that by golly, I better have one established before I've written my book because I won't have time to establish it once the book's published.

So what do you reckon about "platform"? Do you have one? Do you even know what it is?

In the interests of finding out whether I'm on the right track, I recently bought Get known before the Book Deal by Christina Katz. Okay, I haven't read it yet, but it's there, ready, when I finish reading Penni Sansevieri's Red Hot Internet Publicity - which I have to say has lots of really excellent ideas for my business website. But I won't start thinking about that now...
I've also done a fair bit of internet browsing and there are plenty of interesting articles like this one from Kristen Lamb about understanding author platform.

So I get that I would do well to have:
  • a Facebook profile (check)
  • a Twitter presence (check, although I don't tweet nor follow many people/organisations yet - it just feels like another time-suck at the moment)
  • a website (check. really does need to get linked to this blog. I'm sure it's a doodle to do if only I could find the time to research how to do it...)
  • a blog (double check)
  • posting on fellow authors' blogs (not yet - what would I say?)
  • Pinterest - looks good, but is it worthwhile?
  • speaking engagements - I think you need an actual book first
  • etc, etc...
Golly, and then there's your author brand, what sort of things you choose to write about/share with readers and potential readers, the imagery you select, the colour and tone of all your online profiles and sites.

I'm beginning to wonder if there's more time involved in establishing the platform than there is in writing. This morning, for example, instead of doing my two hours writing, I played around with themes on Blogger. Hmmm... Not productive! I'm so going to get my hand slapped by my critique group on Sunday... And seeing as I have enough trouble carving time from my day to actually write, well... my brain's in a muddle.

After all that, I think my current position on author platform is - yes, it's something I need to keep learning about. It's something I can jot down notes on when ideas come to me, or are suggested by my writing buddies - that external view is such a help. It's something I can tick away at, but not at the expense of actual writing time.

So what does author platform mean to you? Do you worry about it? Or are you just out there talking about your books, your work in whatever forum - online or in person - you happen to stumble across? I'd love to know.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Overcoming the "life gets in the way of writing" syndrome

Life sure gets in the way sometimes, huh? Especially when fiction writing isn't your main source of income, or, in fact, any form of income at the present time. No matter how much working on my manuscript(s) makes me happy there have been HUGE periods of time this year when I haven't had time to write, have been too stressed to write and just plain haven't wanted to write.

It feels stupid/stink/lame to say life gets in the way. But the reality is that we're all juggling the various components of our lives, deciding our own priorities and even when you want to write, there are times when you need to put that aside and focus on other things.

One of my priorities is sitting at the end of the bed, watching me, waiting for her walk. Her name is Ruby and one of the very good things about owning a dog when you're a writer is the fact that you do need to get off your butt and walk the dog. The getting off your butt bit is critical, I've decided to one's physical and mental health.

At the moment, I'm rehashing the first three chapters of a romantic suspense. It's not the first time I've rehashed this book, but I hope I'm finally on the right track with the plot and can move on to actually finish the whole manuscript.

People say they have trouble getting to through the saggy middle. Gee, I'd actually like to make it to the middle of this story so I can see if it's saggy or not!

Other writers have told me you'll learn aspects of the craft of writing when you're ready. I can relate to this better this year after several light bulb moments when Randy Ingermanson, the 'snowflake guy' from spoke at our RWNZ conference. Basically I figured out that I wasn't being nearly as mean as I needed to be to my characters. You'd think for a romantic suspense, I'd have chucked them in the deep end and made them suffer, sweat and panic. Well, you would think that. Trouble was I had about 15,000 words of them getting to know each other while sort of in a panic about running away from the bad guys. Nup. Re-write! Re-write!

The weird thing was the plot outline was looking promising - lots of action, lots of drama, lots of emotional high and low points. I haven't figured out why I was letting myself write off on these soft, lame tangents in stead of facing what needed to be done - bringing the bad guys in and truly making my characters sink or swim.

So that's where I'm at this week. Re-writing the first 10,000 words. Again.

No matter what my lovely critique group members say, I can't just start from where I was up to, because that was wrong! So wrong I'm not even sure I should call myself an amateur suspense writer. DOH!

Anyway, so, it's all part of the learning process, isn't it? I just hope it doesn't take me another two years to plot the next book and that's before I attempt to write it, then re-write it, etc, etc.

The good thing is I do think I've got the premise and characters pretty much on the right track. And what I've written isn't bad - I even have "oh, that's quite good moments" - but I can do and will do better.

While looking for a couple of progress tracking tools today - all in the interests of trying to finish this book this year - I came across these word tracker spreadsheets among the writing resources available from Svenja Liv. They're pretty full-on spreadsheets and as I've developed excel spreadsheets of my own in the past, I might simply utilise some of the ideas which are really excellent. Clearly a very talented person with the complex Excel formulas and groovy colour layouts. We all appreciate the sharing of this kind of resource :)

So, I better go walk the dog. More writing later... I can't leave my poor characters in the midst of a car crash for much longer...