New Years Writer’s Resolutions

Welcome 2014!

So, the wheels somewhat came off my little writing wagon over the Christmas season, no writing, no blogging, very little reading.  I had a great few weeks though, visiting family and friends back in Sydney. Now I’m back in Wellington I am faced with a list of questions rattling around in my head.

1) What are my goals for this year in terms of writing?

2) What are my goals for this year in terms of production management – transforming my writing projects into published works?

3) What can I do to better prepare myself for marketing challenges once I am ready to publish?

2014 will be a busy year with sound work, perhaps my busiest year yet. So it will certainly be a challenge to find time for my writing, but I must make time and I must start taking it seriously as a business.

Answering the first point should be relatively straightforward (one would hope!). Writing should be the easy part, but I still need to set myself goals and work towards them…more about that later. Point 2 and 3 however, need a lot more consideration. 2013 was a better year for my blog, simply because I actually posted on it, but I have a long way to go before it is of any significant interest to people.

I need to shift my focus. Instead of thinking that I am simply making art for myself I need to concentrate on investing myself into a community of artists and view my work as something that I want to give to others.

I need to start to be more serious and studious about networking. The writers who I read and follow on the internet are the ones who are giving back. Since we’re talking about building networks with colleagues, it is the positivity and enthusiasm of a writer that I’m looking for, not their genre, style or background. I might love a writers style, but unless they have an engaging and optimistic outlook then I wont necessarily think of them as a valuable contact or source of inspiration. I am drawn to the bloggers who have some insight, who have taken the time to do interviews and reviews on other people, writers who offer experiences both positive and negative that they have had. The success of a writer’s marketing strategy can be pinpointed to something so simple that it really can be seen as the mark of success in every aspect of life.

The strategy is simply – generosity.

It is almost unfair to call it a strategy, it is more like a modus operandi. If you are generous, willing to share and open your heart and mind to others, then they will open their hearts and minds to you. It’s not just about buying other writers books and expecting them to buy yours in return, it is about sharing ideas and broadening your online networks by engaging in insightful and honest conversation.As well as getting your name out there by word of mouth. It might just make you a better writer and person too.

So that is my writing goal for this year, to find ways to engage more, start up conversations, read other peoples books and blogs and write reviews, even do interviews. To find ways to make the most out of the exchange between colleagues both here in New Zealand and abroad.

I am also part of the film community here in Wellington. I sometimes take it for granted the network of people and artists that I know here. Even worse, I completely neglect to interact with them sometimes when they are all right here, living in my neighborhood. So, hopefully I can aim to do better here in my own backyard too.

How about you? What are your new year writers resolutions?

Don’t tell me you don’t have any? Look here, I’m not the only one trying to be proactive…

The Writing Resolution You Can Actually Keep

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The Artistic Journey

I am on a journey. Like my characters who are sailing off into space with a collection of misfit aliens on a dangerous and often mismanaged quest.

I am on a journey of my own. A journey of discovery. I’m learning how to take the reigns of my creative project and slay the dragon of resistance.

Self publishing is all about being the creative director of the book, its not about finding an easy way out of traditional publishing paths, it is about taking control. It’s about having choice.

I have always loved art, and Turner was one of my greatest inspirations. The work above is one of his. A painter, like a writer is subject to the styles and tastes of the period he or she is in. Likewise, the state of the artistic ‘market’ will always determine his or her success. However, when an artist paints a picture, do they then submit the work to a bunch of other people, (some of whom are not even artists themselves), to shape it before it goes into a gallery or is put up for sale. At least I don’t think it usually works this way for Artists. Why should writers have to jump through such hoops in order to see their work on the shelf?

I understand that publishing by traditional methods sometimes works great and can be very rewarding. But I also wonder why has it taken so long to accept that if people want to produce written works by themselves, then they should be given the opportunity to.

If you have put the time and the effort to into your work, you should be allowed to TRY and sell it. It seems that in many ways the notion of self-publishing has only just become a viable option for authors. I knew about self publishing about a decade ago, and like many people, I thought it was just something that people did if they really couldn’t get published NORMALLY…i.e. they weren’t that good. Now though, in the last couple of years, we see evidence on the net and in the media, that the stigma associated with not being traditionally published is slowly becoming alleviated. It seems absurd that publishing has taken so long to catch on to this concept.

However, I think it is critical  to realize how important it is to not do it all yourself. Have your writing properly edited by a professional. Get the cover and formatting done by a professional, and take the time to revise things like structure to ensure that the book is the best it can be before it goes out into the world.

This is where the indie-author is not just the creator, but the director of a creative processes. Getting other people involved in the development of the project, editors, designers and revision peers who can give critical feedback, gives the project more strength. More people become invested in the project and their interest in it’s success will propel it forward.

So, this change in my thinking has somewhat alleviated my fear of – “what if I don’t get published?” because I know, that no matter what, I will start to think of myself as an Author – or else! I will publish my books – or else!

Now that I’m not worried about failing, I can focus on writing and write for myself and what I want to read, not for some pigeon hole in a market.

Regardless of how I choose to do it – self publishing – traditional – eBook – audiobook (heck as a sound designer working on films, you bet I’m going to try this out.) My books will take over my world!

Now, if I could just finish that first pesky manuscript.

Everyone’s journey is unique, on the high seas of artistic adventure. There are currents that flow faster than others and their are courses that are easier follow, so I can choose my own path without having to worry about compromising on what I feel is important about my story. Through the internet, it has become even easier to share our journeys with each other and to see what our options are. We can learn from others mistakes and celebrate in their victories. So tell me your story…fellow adventurers. No matter what your vessel is, painting, music, dancing, Kung Fu…whatever! We all have a tale to tell.

‘Once upon a time…’

Happy writing everyone!

Self Doubt and Emotional Roller-Coaster of the Artist

What if I fail? What if I actually stink at my art?

Anyone who is an artist in any vocation will know what the emotional roller-coaster of the creative person feels like.

We switch from thinking – “Man I love this…this is awesome….I can’t believe I created this, it is amazing!” – to – “How can I be so delusional, how can I think that anyone else would like this? I can even afford to buy the things I need to live, why do I persist in believing I can make a living off this rubbish?”

Sometimes this polarization of mood can happen in the space of a day or even an hour! Sometimes we use devices to try and actively switch the mood; stimulations like coffee or relaxants like alcohol.

There is nothing worse than getting stuck in a cycle where you think; “I write my best stuff at 2am after 5 glasses of wine.”(Believe me!)

Then of course there are those moments when we wonder; “Maybe I’m bipolar or something? Maybe my mood swinging is not healthy?”

I think it is.

To love and doubt oneself is completely normal and actually a healthy step in the artistic process. We are evaluating ourselves. We put ourselves temporarily in the shoes of someone who might hate what we do. This is so we can imagine how we might confront such criticism if someone else throws it at us. An important step in being able to confront doubt and criticism from others, is to first rehearsing it with ourselves.

Sometimes we simply take this rehearsal too far. I myself have been guilty of verbally abusing myself in the kitchen over coffee, or while violently preparing a meal.

When you live with another artist, our fragile nature can become really apparent and you both constantly have to prop the other up when the self loathing sets in.

Or if you have collaborators or peers who can help critique and support you, it makes us feel like we are not alone, spinning around in these mad cycles of ecstasy and despair.

I read this article just now and it made me feel better, as it always does, to see other artists struggle with the same self doubt.

How to Flip Your Self-Doubts as a Writer

The author, Suzannah Windsor Freeman, gives some really good examples of how to turn negative thoughts like

  •  “A little voice in my head would always be saying, “You are not a writer. You are a person who says you’re a writer.”

to positive ones like:

  •  “Writers are people who write. That’s all.”

Harboring negativity is inevitable and important for us artists, so we don’t develop an over-inflated ego. It’s important also to be able to see the positive effects of combating real problems and issues in our craft.

For me the hardest part comes when the writing is done and I don’t know what to do next. Learning about the publishing industry and networking platforms is the hardest part. Admitting to people that I’m not just writing for fun, but that I want to take my work seriously…that is also a difficult step.

Having this blog seems to be helping, as I know with every new post, I take a tiny step forwards in thinking of myself as an active professional writer. I know that if it is like any of the other art-forms I have thrown myself into (music, painting, sound, dancing) it simply takes time before it becomes a component of myself; as clear and definable as a personality trait. Some of my personality traits I can identify within myself very strongly, other traits people think of me, depending on how much time I have spent with them. Some people who know me may think I am kind and decent, while others might think me rude or selfish. I really don’t know how other people perceive my personality, but their regard of me can always be attributed to how much effort I have put into each relationship. Art is just the same I think. The more you invest in a creative aspect of yourself, the more honest and comfortable you will feel about sharing it with yourself and others.

Regardless of how good you are at something, if you do it, you become it. Art should be for everyone.

Happy writing everyone!

 

Indie Publishing Offers Creative Independence

I was wondering today if I have writers block. I have time to write, and yet I don’t. I re-read and re-edit my manuscript over and over again. I do endless research on publishing, agents, ebooks, and other writers blogs etc to try and gauge where I am at. But when I really want to just sit down and get the words flowing again and come up with something new, I struggle. Is it because I feel that if I start on the sequal when I don’t know that the first one is finished will I waste work? I started book number 2 last year and 40,000 words into it, decided I needed to seriously rework book no. 1.

Looking back, even though the first book is better now, I could have easily just abandoned it and started with something new. I see a lot of writers, who seem to strike better luck on book no. 2 or 3. But still I really like the story and I think that I’m not done with it. I think it has potential and this leads me back to my initial question…do I have writers block? Why can’t I move on, start something new?

I have come to the conclusion that no…I don’t have writers block. I am constantly writing in my head. At this stage book number 2 is stewing in my cranium and so is the background stories for all the characters and the worlds in which they come from. I’m constantly writing in my journal and drawing diagrams of what my creatures look like and I would love time to do more of this, but I guess it is just a slow process. The story is extremely complex and needs time to evolve.

Now in my research today I had another revelation.

I have been doing a whole lot of reading about e-books and self publishing. At first I was skeptical of this process, simply because of what we all grow up learning. We are told that only a really special and great quality book that is chosen by publishers will make it to publication. It is very hard to get published and it is an extremely competitive industry. I was not daunted by this, since the publishing industry seems similar to the film industry in this regard and I seemed to have cracked into that reasonably well. So I didn’t think too much more about self publishing and thought I would use it as a last resort.

However, after hearing about different people’s experiences with self publishing on Amazon etc, I have decided that the publishing industry and the protocols associated with getting published is also very similar to the music industry and the challenges associated with getting signed to a record label. Now, back when I was an aspiring muso and guitarist, I came to the conclusion that there is no WAY that people working for the record labels could possibly anticipate what is really going to sell any more than they possibly find everyone who has real talent and deserves a career in music. You just have to listen to the top charting musicians to see this. So often I hear people say stuff like ‘that guy I saw playing at the pub last year was way more talented than (insert random famous musician name here)’ etc.

Public opinion is really hard to predict and at the end of the day, the indie label band sometimes has way more street cred/ artistic integrity and soul than a lot of the music being churned out through traditional paths. Now, this is not to say that I think the literary professionals in publishing are churning anything. I think that the level of quality that is maintained in printed work by writers is an essential part of our human history and culture and I hope it never is abandoned.

The only reason I draw a parallel to the music industry is that I made the same realisation that, just because someone has to do it on their own steam and through an independent pathway, doesn’t mean it is a cop out, a lazy option or a last resort AT ALL. In fact, sometimes it is the best option to reach the audience that is looking for the art that a writer has to release. Some work just can’t fit into a predictable mold, or has to remake/ reshape or reinvent old genres to make them work for new ideas. Now is a very exciting time for humanity, there is so much more opportunity than ever before to let people choose, promote, finance and build their own career than ever before.

People like Joanna Penn  make it easy for us to see proof of how this works. She has so many amazing podcasts and video interviews that provide a wealth of information to anyone interested in hearing other peoples success stories as well as letting us learn from their mistakes.

OK, enough watching other people’s work, time for me to get back to my writing.

 

Finished Draft 5

So, draft 5 of ‘Wandering Stars‘ is complete. Well at least I have had a full pass through with the corrections I made starting back in October. Mostly this was about sharpening my point of view, keeping it more solid and consistent. I also made a few huge plot changes towards the end that came with a plethora of character modifications etc. So, basically I did a whole lot of stuff that I could have avoided if I had done more planing from the outset and less ‘winging it’.

But, that was sort of the whole point, I guess. I started this project as just something fun to do and it has become increasingly more serious and the tone of the book reflects that. At first, it was very light and silly at times, whereas now it is certainly a lot darker and more intense. Though I feel the whole piece still has a positive and uplifting vibe. I know distopia is all the rage at the moment, but by the time my book is really finished and ready to put out into the world, that fad will most likely be over anyway. The bottom line is, no matter what the industry is doing or what trends the world is going through, a good story is always worth telling and finds its way into peoples lives. Whether or not my story is what people would consider to be good or not, is beside the point…at the end of the day, my book won’t make it out into the world until I am completely happy with it.

I know that it still has a long way to go with editing. It stands at about 92000 words now and I know it is probably still 10000 words too flabby. Cutting out the last 6-8000 words was a hell of a mission and took its toll on my story arc, but now I know how much tighter it is.

There are a few more sections that are suspiciously superfluous, I know I have to go back through and floss them out.

I got a lot of tips from this guy, Larry Brooks, and his blog;

http://storyfix.com/

He talks about making sure each scene of the story is mission driven. Trying to make certain that every scene has a goal and drives the story forward, as well as revealing character development. It’s hard to be so ruthless when some of the really fun stuff that you love about your story, suddenly is revealed to be arbitrary, but it definitely makes a difference in the long run to shave it all off. Like a big messy beard that would look much nicer as a little goatee.

Brooks says that if you can’t sum up your story in 9 sentences, each one dealing with one of the major plot points then your structure needs revision.

Hunger Games (9) – The Entire Story in Nine Sentences

When I tried to do this with my book, I came to a grim realisation that my story is suffering from overflow…I needed at least 2 sentences at times to explain what happens and at the end, I kind of had two climax points.

Hmm…well this is what I will be looking at in draft 6. (I call it draft 6, but really it is all one long never ending draft that makes me feel at times that I will never be happy with it.)

My goal is to get it down to 85000 words, and be able to sum it up in 9 sentences with a nice solid plot summary. Then, maybe we will be ready to move forward.

Meanwhile, I’m going to get on with writing the short stories to build the back world and think about publishing them online.

OK, enough for today…I’m going to go eat more Easter eggs. Happy good Friday to all!