Yeah, I know – we haven’t gotten past Halloween yet, but we’re close enough to November – and my impending deadlines – to make me start to twitch. Or continue twitching, I guess.
November’s the time of NaNoWriMo – a writing challenge where writers attempt to get to 50K on a brand new book. Since I kind of feel like it’s NaNo every month of the year for me (which is a damned good thing, I need to add) I’ll be working toward my own goals, but figured, if there are writers out there who need some encouragement as the month goes on, maybe I can give back a little. I know it’s a strange, rough time for publishing and the amount of doom and gloom out there is tough to wade through. But I’ve been really blessed with a great start to my career and awesome readers and if I can help someone else on their journey, I’d like to.
I won’t be doing the traditional NaNo – this month, I have to finish a contracted romantic suspense – NIGHT MOVES – which will end up around 100K. I have…um, 10K right now. And I have two other projects I’m really excited about that I’ll be squeezing in because, well, that’s the way I roll.
I need to work on multiple projects because that’s my right way. When I try to tunnel vision, nothing gets done – I stall and I bitch and whine and it’s not pleasant for anyone. I want to write one book at a time, in order, but in the *counts* ten years (OMG!) that I’ve been writing romance, it just hasn’t happened. My process has it’s great points and it’s completely sucky points but hey, I own them all.
So this month, I’ll try to talk about what I’ve learned, what I still struggle with – strengths and weaknesses, writing with children tugging at you, writing with all kinds of real life interruptions. If you’ve got any writing related questions, things you want me to talk about, feel free to mention it in the comments or email me via my contact page.
For now, remember this. I’ve told people that, although I’ve gotten better, it doesn’t get easier. I don’t think it’s supposed to – if it does, maybe it means you’re not trying to outdo your previous work. Because the only person you should be competing with – the only one you can compete with – is you. And that’s the thing to keep in mind. You need to surround yourself with reallyreallyreallygood friends – the kind you can call and whine to, the kind that you’re honestly from the bottom of your heart thrilled for when amazing things happen to them because you know they absolutely deserve every bit of success they get. This is your support system, and it’s completely and utterly necessary in this business. Choose them wisely.
And then, repeat this to yourself – just because other writers get published / hit lists / get other writing related things you covet before you doesn’t take away your ability to do so – those writers did not take your spot. There is plenty to go around.
And then, start writing your book. Honestly, it’s that freakin’ simple. Start. Writing.
I promise that all my blog post titles won’t be song lyrics.
So Zoo’s alarm clock (aka my cube) woke me up to La Isla Bonita. And you know when you’ve got a lyric in your mind wrong and you know it’s wrong but you can’t stop singing it wrong?
Yeah, I keeping hearing, young girls with eyes like potatoes, in my ear. And I know that can’t be right. Who has eyes like potataoes?
It’s like when my friend told me she thought the song, Big Old Jet Airliner was really, big ole chad had a rhino, and ruined the song for me.
There’s also a line in Cinderelmo where I swear the king says, cake and eat it (because, hi, cake – who wouldn’t want to eat cake?) but Zoo’s like, he’s saying, take an edict.
Granted, the edict line makes way more sense, but it’s Elmo. He’s always got too many questions, he’s always scared of something and he’s always screwing up, so common sense isn’t really his friend. So I’m sticking by my cake and eat it line.
Anyway, I have a lot to do – some last minute revisions on Zane and I almost can’t bear to drag myself through the manuscript again. Don’t get me wrong – I love the book – love the way it’s turned out and the edits will only make it stronger but…I don’t want to! (mature, I know) I want to work on shiny new stories, like Mace, where things still make sense and I have a lot to discover.
But I will be good and finish Zane. I’m armed with candy. A large, price club mixed bag of candy that includes Twix. The Twix will inspire me. If I can stop singing about the young girls with eyes like potatoes to myself…
I read a lot of advice floating around the internet and twitterverse and the like, some from awesomely published authors and some from readers and a lot of it makes sense.
But some of it – very specific parts of it – piss me off to no end, especially since they are so absolute about it. And since most of the authors who bust publishing myths don’t worry about the other side of the coin and being politically correct, I won’t either. But please do know that I respect everyone’s method. (couldn’t resist. i’m like that – it’s my Libra rising – fair and balanced)
Myth #1: Butt in chair, hands on the keyboard and forget the muse. There is no muse.
Um, hey, I have one! It’s not someone who flies down in flowy white robes (oh, that would be cool, though) but there is something that separates me from the zillions of people who talk about wanting to write a book and never, ever do. My muse / imagination / mystical thing inside my brain pushes me to sit in the chair and write it all down. I’m not saying it’s easy or that I want to write all the time. But I have to believe that people who write or paint or sculpt or whatever have something that differentiates them from the rest of the population who doesn’t write or paint or who can’t write or paint. I laugh and cry with my characters – I’m way sensitive (probably too much so, some would say) but all of that enables me to write books.
Myth #2: From readers point of view: Authors who ‘see’ their characters and talk about them as such are doing something kooky and weird because they want to draw readers to their kooky weirdness. From writers point of view: Please stop being kooky and weird so I won’t be labeled kooky and werid.
Why do we want to strip away the kooky, weirdness that it artistic creativity? Why is that necessary? Does it really stop your enjoyment of a book if the author claims she channeled the characers? I’m not sure why this annoys some readers so much…the author isn’t asking you to channel them. The author who talks about it is just answering a question asked of her and frankly, the author that first said, I hear voices in my head of my characters, brought me great relief. Because I wasn’t alone anymore, wasn’t the only one seeing movies in my head or hearing the voices whisper to me. Dude, seriously, it happens to me. Can’t explain it, don’t really want to, but I’m not sure how or why this should bother you so damned much. Get over it. My process. And my process is a hell of a lot of fun most of the time.
Myth #3: The book of your heart won’t sell, so get over it.
Really? Because I’ve got the trilogy of my heart coming out. The problem is, I think we need to redefine terms here.
I’m not saying the book of your heart is the only thing you should ever work on. But if you’ve got books / stories / characters that have been with you since you were, oh, let’s say 10 years old (hello!) then why not write them? I chose to wait until I thought I had the experience, the skill and the chops to execute my books of the heart, because otherwise yes, they can turn into self-indulgent messes.
But stop telling unpubs that they can’t write the book of their heart. Instead, let’s tell them they need to be a little smarter about it. I’d much rather tell unpubs to back away from the craft books until they’ve actually written something, to stop relying on contests scores so much, to finish a book and move onto the next instead of polishing one to death. Move on, listen to your muse and let yourself go.
Whew. I feel better now. Hi, I’m Stephanie Tyler, I have a muse and I write much better when I’m inspired. That does not always mean that I wait around for inspiration. But I have to tell you, my writing is thousands of times better when I’m writing from inspiration.
One of the most basic things I didn’t realize when I started writing was how to deal with / convert the word count of my manuscript. In the past week, I’ve gotten a few questions about it (I’m assuming because NaNo is full force) so I figured I’d answer it here.
I understand it can differ for ePubs, because they use actual computer count, so you can check Word or whatever program you use and get your actual word count there. Easy enough. So if the publisher says they want manuscripts of 40K, I’m assuming (I know, I know…) that they’ll get anywhere from 38K to 45K (or maybe a bit more).
But most print publishers – well, at least mine – still use the page count thing and I’ll explain why in a second. On the contracts, publishers expect anywhere from 85K to 100K, although these days going over 100K is slightly more problematic than coming in a bit under. Publishing costs and all, I’m guessing, although I do know that most editors will not trim away an extra 20K if it is fabulous and not simply filler.
So it goes like this – for every 20 pages, it’s assumed that it’s 5K. So 200 pages should equal 50K, half a manuscript for a NY single title.
Here’s the rub – if you write lots of dialogue (like me) you’ll have low word count but a regular page count. For instance, on the current WIP, I have 193 pages and 38K. My manuscripts run anywhere from 400 pages to 424 pages (my highest, I believe) and they all log in around 90k – 93K. For the record, when I hand it in, I use Courier New 12 point, because that’s an equal font and can give the publisher an idea of how long the book will be when printed.
For me, this all works out, because I don’t worry about word count – I know if I get close to 400 pages, I’m good. I’ve told the story. And it seems to take forever – there’s a point when I think, I can take the words Larissa cut from her recent Demonica book and add them in – who will notice?
As always with advice, your milage will vary. And btw, no one in NY will reject your manuscript if you don’t use Courier New 12. Just use a readable font and you will be fine, I promise. Personally, I hate Courier New and I write in TNR 14, but I always convert so I can see the pretty page count.
The things we do to trick ourselves.
With this current WIP (aka PROMISES IN THE DARK aka Zane’s story), I have about 45K more to go (I’ll get the rest through revisions.) I’ve lost ground as I mentioned yesterday, so I need at least 5K per day for the next few days to make up ground. For today so far I’ve got 2K, which is good – I usually can’t get that much done during the day. And I’m trying to work on Sydney book 6 at night, since that goes faster with two people working on the story.
Oh, and another Zoo train story – he IM’d me today to tell me that there were high school kids on the train this morning drinking beer at 7AM headed to the Yankee Parade and those were the days. My response? That was us – a looooong time ago. We’re old.
His response? I know. I almost gave them money to buy more beer.
With NanoWriMo upon us, I always feel the need to explain my process, because it’s pretty different (read: insane) than most of what I’d read about when I first started writing – you know, the, this is how you should do it, posts.
I’ve always been contrary. And maybe my insanity will help comfort a few of you who don’t do things in order when you’re writing.
Anyway, I’m sort of unofficially doing Nano. I say unofficially because this is a contracted project that I started back in August because that’s when the proposal was due. And until now, I’ve been working in my dribs and drabs way and then realized, oh, wow, this book is due like, soon. And Nano rules (hate rules) say you must start a story and have 50K written in the month of November.
Hence, Nano-ish participation. I need 60K. Well, right now it looks like 60K. I’ll know more after today and tomorrow, when I stick my hands into the mess and try to piece it together like Frankenstein did to his monster.
(I can hear my students arguing with me – Mrs. T, you’re wrong – Frankenstein was the monster. Same kids who thought Al Gore’s first name was Algore. And they never worried that he didn’t have a last name because they thought he was cool like Madonna. Teaching can melt your brain, but they never tell you that in the MAT program.)
Back to process. What I end up doing is writing longhand, especially at the start of a book. My synopsis is as vague as my editor will let me get away with – I’ve gotten some great guidance from PBW on quick and painless outlining that helps me do a bare minimum without killing my love for the story – if I know everything, I don’t want to write it.
And I write and I write, out of order (which drives many of my fellowwritersinsane, which is an added bonus!) And then I type it all in, out of order, random scenes and it’s a big old mess.
Since I’m now on a Mac, I use Scrivner software. I was using WriteWayPro on the PC (although most of my books were done in Word before I discovered the beauty of the writing program – I recommend both HIGHLY, especially if you tend to write out of order.)
So today, it’s all about moving the stuff around, seeing what I’ve got. It’s pretty fun because I get to watch my word count burgeon without doing much more than cutting and pasting random scenes together and seeing what works.
This will not be fun later, when I have to mesh said scenes, realizing that this means there are pov jumps every other sentence. But hey, there’s a price for out of order freewriting, but for me, that’s where lots of magic happens. I’m not willing to sacrifice magic, no matter how messy.
(Remind me of this in the coming days when I begin to whine excessively about how much CRAP I have to wade through in order to find the story)
Because here’s the thing – no matter your process, no matter how many books you write, it will never, ever get easier. You will get better, and that’s why it never gets easier. You will be faced with thinking, Holy crap, how did I get from beginning to end of that last book and the book before? Because right now, faced with the mess, it seems impossible and insurmountable and has me glaring at the pretty books on my shelves and hating them.
So don’t worry if your process is in order, out of order, synopsis, no synopsis, not like any of your crit partners or publisher writer advice. If it works for you, that’s all that counts. Because creation is messy – it should be. It needs to be.
So, how are you doing? (Ali?) I believe I got close to 3K of new stuff today in between wading through the mess. More tomorrow. Oh, and a HARD TO HOLD mini-countdown starts in a few days with some behind the scenes stuff!
“Dawn: When men of reason go to bed.” – Ambrose Bierce
SJ Day (aka Sylvia Day) had a great post up on Murder She Writes a couple of weeks ago about how changing routines can sometimes screw up a creative process. I chimed in my agreement, mentioning that for the past year or so, I’d had to change my writing routine. And how that new routine isn’t working nearly as well as I’d like it to.
Instead of writing late at night, like I used to, I was going to sleep earlier and writing all day. Or, trying to write, that is. Because I’ve discovered that I’m not all that great writing in the day, especially during the week. Weekends are a little better because the house is quieter. For me, during the day is good for things like working on revisions, reading galleys, doing copy edits, writing blog posts and generally attending to the business end of writing.
But the night? For me, that’s where the real magic lies. Give me my music and the laptop and something changes. Worlds open up. Words flow. New words. New ideas. New stories.
Worth the lack of sleep? Yeah. Plus, since I’m not trying to force daytime writing, it leaves more time for things like…rest 🙂 So a win/win.
I worked all day on revisions. Got a lot done. Tonight is for working on the proposal. I’ve got some great ideas that began to generate as the 9PM hour hit.
I think there are morning people, afternoon people and night people and when you find a time that works for you, trying to change it can be really detrimental to your creativity. it was to mine and I don’t like to mess around with that stuff. And while I think it’s always good to try out new things / add new things to your process, you’ve also got to be willing to bend to the way your creativity rolls.
What about you? Do you – both writers and non-writers – have a time of day that you just know you’re more ‘on’ than other times?
New York Times Bestselling author Stephanie Tyler writes what she loves to read — romantic suspense novels starring military heroes and paranormal romance novels novels starring warrior heroes, all complete with happy endings. Her alter-ego is SE Jakes and she also co-writes as Sydney Croft. She lives in New York with her husband, her kids and her crazy Weimaraner, Gus.