Well. Here we are again! I’ve been busy and productive, but not here. Which would normally lead me directly into the next topic that challenges a writer: time and project management.
Yet I haven’t shared my San Diego Con experience! So I will do that first, reserving t&p management for next time.
In case you’ve never attended or read about the San Diego Comic Convention, let me explain it. The largest on the West Coast, it is a yearly gathering of those who participate in the comic book industry. However, now the convention has grown to include the movie, TV and video gaming industries. It has increased massively in size and morphed into a Pop-culture mecca. The good is that the large fantasy publishing houses continue to attend. The bad is that the number of specialty booksellers has plummeted in numbers, as well as the size of their booths.
The first booth I located and approached was the Simon & Schuster booth. As a child, when my mother could not determine if a book was suitable for my consumption, she would look to see who had published the book. If it was a reputable publisher, the book was allowed. It’s the only way I managed to score “The Vampire Tapestry” by Suzy McKee Charnas. So I was in for a bit of a shock when they informed me that S&S does not publish Fantasy. They use Pocket Stars and Gallery Books to publish Fantasy. Color me crushed. I never introduced myself as an up and coming writer; my mind was stunned and my feet were on “leave now”.
So I learned about imprints the hard way. The on-line Oxford defines it as:
A printer’s or publisher’s name, address, and other details in a book or other publication.
- a brand name under which books are published, typically the name of a former publishing house that is now part of a larger group:the group will continue to market its products through its established imprints
Alack-a-day. I’ve never heard of Pocket Stars or Gallery Books. A rude awakening, that, like every other industry on the planet, publishing is slowly consuming itself too.
Next I found myself in front of the Del Ray booth. At least I knew they published Fantasy, and I wasn’t merely being drawn in by a remote overlord stalking goat. Dramatic, I know, but I was still feeling betrayed and crestfallen. I did introduce myself as a writer-in-progress; they were very nice about it, when you think about how many times they must hear that throughout the duration of the convention. Since Del Ray is very established, I wanted to ask them about e-book technology. Specifically, page embellishments. They brought their a-game to the Con. The man I was speaking to did not know, but he knew who to bring over. The result of the conversation was enlightening. A big publisher is only going to create one e-book. That e-book has to run on the majority of readers out there. In other words: lowest common denominator.
The industry standard for electronic publication is the EPUB format. The older EPUB 2.2 is what current books are being sent out in. Available is EPUB 3.0, with many more features. Bottom line? No, I may not have page embellishments yet. Good news? If you are currently working on a book project, by the time that project is coming to press, you most likely will get your embellishments. I was very pleased since I’m looking at a year to year and a half time-line before my book is finished, let alone picked up for publication. Smiles all around as I left the booth and wishes of luck.
The last publisher I visited was a favorite stop of mine ever since I got into online gaming. McFarland & Company, Inc, Publishers. They always brought with them their latest in emergent behavior of online gaming communities. This year was no exception. I browsed; then when asked if I needed any assistance, introduced myself as a writer working on her first novel and did they publish Fantasy? That was easy: no. No? No. Trying to eke out a bit of writer goodness at a pop-culture convention was turning out to be rough.
I thanked them and wandered off. Two aisles down I realized, as a blogger on writing, who cares if they are not a candidate for my work? Perhaps my reader is writing non-fiction! Back I went. I explained to them the situation and in return learned about a totally different channel for non-fiction publications: the educational circuit. Ingram is their main distributor, but you can find their titles on Amazon; local libraries as well. Where you won’t find them is in a traditional brick and mortar store. They have quite a catalog, well suited to finding reference for your novel. You can find them here: McFarland.
That was it for the publishers, the only time I had to spend for myself was up. I learned a wide range of things and got some time in the saddle presenting myself in my current profession. I confide, it has whet my appetite for a convention that is geared to writers.
Falling down, getting back up.
So. Eventually, in all this, you stop writing again. You will know the reason best. For me, it was the San Diego Comic Con. Took up a total of two weeks. Then another week of recovery, and then yet one more week for.. something. Which is just another way of phrasing: “you know you should be writing, but you’re doing anything to avoid it”.
The problem is that the when you stop, there’s always a good reason. It’s not like I woke up every day for a month and just said: “Naww. I’m gonna eat bon-bons.” I have a perfect storm of things that need my attention. Dire. Each and every one of them. Easy to loose myself in the stream of continual overload and demand, and I did. That’s a month of not writing. Time was, that a break like that would put me off for a half year. Look! I’m back.
In part, what will help in getting back up is to never truly leave in the first place. Writing is the end result, make no mistake. For those who cry: “To be published is the end result”, we will agree to disagree. Publication is something that occurs while you’re buried in the next project. So what can you do when you are sidetracked and don’t have the time or will to write?
- If you know you will need to take a break, finish a short something before you stop. Something that you can look at when you are returning that indicates that it hasn’t been all that long and you are, indeed, a writer.
- Fit in reading about writing. Most of you writers will be rabid readers, we can always fit a small slice of time in for a page or two.
- See if you can learn something about the writing craft from where you are. For me, I visited the publisher’s booths at the ‘Con and asked questions. For you, perhaps you can snag a laptop and browse sites that you normally have no time or inclination for that concern your craft.
- If you’re meeting new people, and you are not on the clock, introduce yourself as a writer. I know, you’re not published yet, that’s not the point. You don’t want to feel awkward at your first book signings do you? Get used to telling people that you’re a writer. Get a card. It gets easier over time. Commit.
- Mull over your story arcs. I’m doing quite a bit of research for my novel. This information needs percolation! Can’t sit down to write? Now’s the time to percolate!
- Be kind to yourself if you lack boundless energy to throw at the keyboard upon your return. Expect a week to pass. You wouldn’t go jogging with a pulled muscle now, would you?
Now it took me another week. I was not idle, but neither was I writing. I fell back into my internal creative process. I saw things with my mind’s eye and did not share them on paper. Alarms started going off. Doubts began to circle overhead like the mangy vultures they are. What to do?
I can only share with you what I did. I made sure in those two weeks to do the basics: exercise. Inactivity will sap the creative spirit, I swear. So out into the world I went. By the second week, with all the tension I was generating by not writing, exercise was critical. I was actually compassionate towards myself. I did not subscribe to calling myself names and signaling to all and sundry that I had failed and was a fake. Understand that for me, this is a major step forward. Not in the typical way, being supportive, but rather by not allowing the polarization of single event in time. Looking at things maturely means that not writing, even for a month, does not doom me to eternal failure. It does not mean that I missed the best writing I could have done in my career. It just means I didn’t write for a month. Lo and behold: I produced this. I’m very pleased.
I will speak of the ‘Con. I did find out some things of interest there; but I felt it was equally important to share tales of failure and struggle. We are but a reflection of each other in the circle. We can all get back up once more.
Writing it down
Previously, my epiphanies have been the type that you grin like a madman at and marvel at it’s simplicity and connectivity. My “Rose to Ash” moment was my first “call to action” epiphany.
The next day, I was noodling over some drabble in my head and I realized: “I need to write this down!” So I headed to the computer and pounded away. It sure took much longer that way; and the results were not particularly noteworthy. I pushed that thought out of the way and focused on the point – I had written down what had previously, in many incarnations, been in my head. I saved it and went on about my day.
The day after that I continued the work on my office, reducing it a tad further. I did very little writing in my head, and none outside of it. I pushed that thought away when it visited me at the end of the day while I settled in to sleep and focused on the work I had accomplished to further prepare my space.
I rose to go biking. On the trail, fueled by oxygen and music, I wrote in my head. After the ride I repaired to my favorite refueling station where the most excellent Tea can be acquired. This time however, in that space between placing your order and the arrival of the food, I pulled out a notebook. There in the Cafe, before patrons and staff, I wrote down what I had been thinking about on the trail. When the food arrived, I put the notebook away and pulled out one of my books on how Writers organize their life and got to reading. At home, I looked over the fruits of my labor. One small group of notes and lines on a page. More page than pen. I pushed that thought away and focused on how to maximize my Cafe time.
I could go on, but by now I’m sure you see where I’m headed. This is the work. It doesn’t happen overnight. I wanted to belittle my efforts and mock my goals. Now that I saw myself as a writer, I’d be damned if I thought of a single thing that, once out of my head and on paper, didn’t appear to be the most indulgent garbage ever. I refused to care. “Monkeys at typewriters”, I’d say to myself. Keep hammering the keys, or clutching the pen; just don’t stop and don’t measure yourself against others. Instead think about what you’ve done today that you didn’t do yesterday and plan ahead to match or exceed it the next day.
This is the work: writing it down. It’s not easy. It’s messy. Embarrassing. Time consuming. I think of something to write at the oddest times. After the third time I had to heave myself out of bed at night because I’d gotten to the point that I couldn’t avoid writing it down, even if I knew it was pointless, I went to bed with the notebook on my table and moved a pen there just for that purpose. The pages began to be more pen then page.
You’ve done your prep work. You’ve gotten your game face on. You eat, drink and breath the writing craft. If you have pages in your head, this is where it starts.
In your head
One of the seven books was Heather Sellers’ “Page after Page”. It had attracted me by it’s subtitle: “Discover the confidence & passion you need to start writing & keep writing”. I browsed the table of contents. She had divided the book into three parts: ..”Creating a new writing self”, “How to maintain your commitment to writing” and “Finding your place in the world of writing”. The book seemed tailor made for my journey.
It opened me up to the idea that how I approached writing mattered. How I attended my aspirations mattered. I found her second book, “Chapter after Chapter” the next month. I picked it up too. What I read in it created the second flashpoint to my transformation. It wasn’t even in a chapter, it was in the introduction.
Space. Not in the “Final Frontier” way, but in the “where you put it all together” intention.
I do not know about you, but I can write almost anywhere when the mood takes me. Coordinating different portions of the book – organizing all my notes – data entry from notebooks to the computer – updating this blog – the myriad of internet tasks surrounding my writing; these things must take place in my office. Read the rest of this entry
Now I must dive deeper. I’m a reader. I’m also lucky enough to be able to learn from books. So, whenever I’m attempting something, I go find a book. Yes, even rollerblading. I bought a book. Two.
So when I say that I ignored my a calling to write, I do not mean to imply I didn’t write. Read the rest of this entry
Nothing like a fresh, blank, glaring page. Your first is always important. Now I’ve typed quite a bit on the web, but in a conversational way, not an informative way; so this is new. Did I mention daunting? Never-the-less, if I don’t get past it, well, I’ll never arrive!
So I’ll start by talking about the energy it takes to change your ways. It takes a lot. More than I had. So I started there. Small. With a bike and a gorgeous, welcoming, upbeat, redhead that I got to call a friend. If you can’t pick up one of the latter, your mileage may vary. Read the rest of this entry