Write Now Prompt for May 30, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

One of the potato skins fell on the floor and they made sure to give it to Kelly.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Goals, Realities, and a Coffee Comfort Contradiction

January passed a mere 5 months and eons of seconds ago. Somehow it’s the sensation of eons that stick. Way back in January your dedicated contributors posted some thoughts about goals. February passed. March. April. May remains, for a bare week more. This is my first post in eons.

I enter every school semester intending to write at least once a month. It feels like a realistic goal. One piece of something—probably a Today’s Author post—once a month. As I end every school semester I realize I wrote less than the semester before and I acknowledge to myself that I defined my goals before I understood the realities of my schedule.

A friend recently commented that my creative self must be screaming. Yes. Oh, yes. And at times—not too often, but occasionally—it screams itself into an outright tantrum that would make a 2 year old take notes. It’s oddly self-defeating, as the internal monologue of “when do I get time for MEEEE” steals the very time and energy so necessary to the creative process.

During this school year I ran into this. I found myself thinking, in the stuttering fashion of the often-interrupted, something along the lines of “I’ll have some coffee while I grade this, then when I get to the end I’ll still have energy to write!” Or, even less realistic during a grading and planning intensive semester, “Coffee now will be smart, then I’ll still be alert enough to write while the kid is falling asleep.” Then I’d drink more coffee, grade furiously, get within one or two assignments, and have to pick the boy up from school or go in and assure him there were no monsters, no real monsters, and wait in his room, twitching—not to get back to writing the monsters away, but to the grading so there was space in my head for monsters to even lurk.

It finally struck me one day, reaching for the dregs from the coffee pot after a short bout of yard work, what a contradiction a strong relationship to coffee can be.

When my son was little, and a determined non-sleeper, coffee was the fake energy I pulled from throughout the morning. He sleeps now, mostly. Yet still I look forward to that first cup, and still I pull the dregs from the pot hours later. And still I expect that humble little cup of darkness to produce miracles.

Here’s the contradiction: it’s a stimulant. It keeps the brain awake even when the brain would like to saunter off into deconstruction mode. Yet drink too much of it and I become grumpy, jumpy, and fidgety – all behaviors that doom me creatively. Then I become tired, yet unable to sleep.

Miracles do occur, by the way. I wrote a poem during the semester. It remains handwritten; I think I know which notebook I jotted it in. Still, I wrote a poem, in the early evening, while my husband read books to our son in the other room, on a day I left the coffee pot behind at 7 am, and taught and graded, and ran errands, and generally juggled the dishes of daily life. The secret to miracles, it turns out, is a peaceful interlude.

Sitting in my son’s room waiting for him to fall asleep doesn’t appear to count, by the way. My creative side flatly refuses to see it as time to myself.

Sometimes I find my goals lay themselves out before me, stepping stones through the chaotic garden of thought. The first stepping stone is to rid myself of my delusions – such as coffee’s usefulness in creating interludes. The next is to find, within the realities of my life, the consistent moments where I am my own person, one where the monikers of “mother”, “wife”, “instructor” or even “woman” do not exist, or at least do not take precedence. In other words, I intend to find and to create peaceful interludes. To do so requires I change, not my space, not the realities of my daily life, but my expectations of my space.

A friend once told me—a writer and instructor like me but with far more experience in both—that summer was his time to reflect and regenerate. Summer has begun for me and so has creative regeneration. I’ll share my writing reflections here this summer.

Letting Go

You learn, as a young writer, that when authoring a scene and the larger collective story, the hope is to transport the reader into the world that you are creating, to show the wet streets of Asheville, the squash soup on the kitchen vinyl floor, the raise of a chest when the person’s whose chest it is just received news about a car accident that his daughter may have been part of.  You want to plant the reader, you want to carry them, you want to shift the structure of the current place in their own present so they can leave for awhile, to go into what you’ve written.

And where do you carry them?  What do you bring them to see?  We can’t often say, because when we we set off down the river we don’t always know where the river ends.  In life, the living is in the movement–so, too, in writing.  Donald Barthelme said, “The not-knowing is crucial to art, is what permits art to be made.”  Our not-knowing is what allows us to be on the journey that our reader will eventually route on.  The discovery, as it unfolds while we write, keeps us honest and patient, keeps our breathing metered.

So how do we do this?  It isn’t so much of a technique as it is an approach.  We of course know something of our story, our characters.  We know something takes place in Moline, we know John is recently unemployed, we know he loses his wallet in a park.  We know the weather, the types of trees around, but we don’t know all of what’s going to happen.  That’s up to what occurs in the process of our writing, that’s why we write–to know.  The knowing comes during, the knowing comes then.  The knowing doesn’t come before because then the fish is already on the hook and you’ve already cast with it on the end of your line and you’re just waiting to reel it in. What’s important is for us to permit the attributes we do know, the elements, to do their work and for us to then observe that.  Write one good sentence ,and then another, always allowing ample room for development.  Cast with an empty hook.  Then there’s that chance for innovation, then there’s raw creativity, and that’s where the art blooms from.

Take fifteen slips of paper.  On five write jobs: elephant trainer for the circus, captain of a dive boat charter, mail room clerk, etc.  Fill them as you please.  On another five write down characters: a blind 19-year-old mother, a former body builder, and so forth.  And on the last five write motivations: wants to be rich, running from the law, blah, blah.  Blind draw one from each pile and write.  Put something together in short, complete form or start something longer.  And don’t decide where you’re going before you begin to type.  You have interesting elements. Let the story go where it needs to go. You, then, report it.

Write Now Prompt for May 27, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

With everyone watching her intently, she selected a vial and quickly drank it before she could second guess herself.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Memorial Day

imageWishing everyone a happy, safe and healthy Memorial Day. Wherever you are, wherever you go, think about those who have sacrificed to help you be able to get where you are.

Have you written any stories about sacrifice you wish to share in the comments?  Or, perhaps, you might choose to use this as an extra, bonus, writing prompt: write about a character who makes a personal sacrifice for the benefit of many.

Write Now Prompt for May 23, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

They argued with such vitriol that they didn’t notice the child standing between them, until the unforeseen happened.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

After the Writing: Producing a Novel for Publication

Inquisitor - RJ Blain - Small CoverI’ve been shamefully quiet on Today’s Author lately, although there has been a pretty good reason for it: I released my third novel on May 16, an urban fantasy thriller titled InquisitorMay 16 also happened to be my birthday. I’ll just say I was really busy. There’s a lot that goes into the production and finalization of a novel, and I’m going to give you the ins and outs of it. When you release your first book, I hope you have smooth sailing!

We all have different opinions on lists. Put aside yours for a moment. If you’re a fan of lists, rejoice. If not… you’ll need one. There is a lot that goes into producing a novel, and unless you’re a super genius who never forgets a single detail, you’ll want a list. More importantly, you’ll want to stick to the list. It really will help you release the best novel possible. To simplify things, I’m going to give you a very basic list of things needing to be done to prepare a book for e-book and createspace print editions. My personal list was about four times this long…

Initial Preparation

  1. Edit: Copy Edit – Proof Edit – Homonym List Check
  2. Cover Art: Acquire Image – Typography/Layout – Back of Book Blurb
  3. Format: Print Version – E-Book Version
  4. Promote: Paid Options – Free Options
  5. Edit: Homonym List Check Round Two
  6. Copyrights: To Purchase or Not to Purchase?
  7. ISBN: Amazon or Purchase?
  8. Distribution: Decide on Amazon, Draft2Digital, Createspace, Lightning Source, Lulu, KoboSmashwords, etc…

Editorial

Final rounds of editorial, even if you have hired a proofing editor, is never unwise. Editors are humans, and they make mistakes. However, once you have proofed your novel, you shouldn’t change anything unless it is a confirmed error and you triple check that you have not introduced a new error. Proceed with caution.

Do your homonym checks twice. There are many lists on the internet with the most common homonyms. Yank one, then confirm the usage of each one in your novel. You’ll probably still miss something, but at least you’ll clean up a lot of them. Homonym errors (they’re versus there) are among one of the most common types of mistakes found in ‘final’ versions of a novel.

P.S.: My complete check of homonym errors took me approximately 6 hours… but was so worth it.

Formatting, Cover Art, Copyrights, and the Nitty Gritty

If you’re self-publishing your novel, these are decisions you’ll have to make on your own. Do you create your own cover art? If so, make the cover look professional. Ask for help. If possible, license artwork. There are many cover art solutions you can acquire for $50 or less. Cover art can really increase your visibility–or damage the book’s chances for success. Covers do matter. As for Copyright and ISBNs, these are personal choices. But, I’ll tell you a very quick story…

I had a very bad incident with one of the self-publishing firms. They violated my copyright, and didn’t honor a request for removal. Without ownership of the legitimate copyright, I probably would have had a lot harder time getting them to adhere to my request for removal. Because I did own the copyright, I was able to send a letter stating as much. The company decided it was in their better interest to uphold their contractual obligations. I didn’t have to take it to court. That copyright paper is worth a lot, because when you have it, you have full control and power over your novel. I needed it, and was glad I had it.

Not everyone needs to own the full copyright. The book is still yours, and it is still copyrighted, even if you don’t pay up to have the official documentation. The documentation just makes it easier if something goes wrong.

Promotion

Paid promotion isn’t for everyone. It’s high risk, and it may not pay off at all. Free promotion, however, only costs you time. Simple ways you can promote for free include finding sites to write guest posts for, contacting book bloggers to get reviews written for your book, and making yourself visible on social networks.

Distribution

It’s ultimately up to you how you distribute your novel–take a look at all of your options. Then decide which choice is best for you and your book. Exclusive on amazon can be a great boost with the free book, countdown deals, and lending library promotion options. Smashwords and Draft2Digital can get you into a lot of venues with great ease.

Formats needed for Launch

  1. PDF: Print Version – Consumer Version
  2. Doc: e-book source version (amazon), e-book source version (smashwords)
  3. MOBI: Consumer Version
  4. ePub: Consumer Version
  5. ARC Versions of all types, excluding .doc
  6. Cover Art: Print version – Front Cover only

And finally… patience.

Releasing a quality novel isn’t easy. You want it now. You’re excited. But have patience. Take your time. It’s better to delay the book than it is to release something lackluster.

Take it from me–I learned this lesson on my first book, and it really isn’t worth walking in those shoes just for the sake of walking in them. If you can’t afford proofing editors, call in a lot of favors from your friends. If you can’t afford cover art, barter for some, twist arms, or ask for help on making a good one on your own.

There are always options, and many of them are free.

Good luck, writer.

May the odds be in your favor.

Write Now Prompt for May 20, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

The DJ tried one last time to make the party enjoyable.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Uncovering Shakespeare

I love musical covers—where one artist performs, and often changes, another artist’s song.  I’ve taken a lot of gentle teasing over the years because of this, because many people see covers as a form of copying someone else, rather than an original work.  But for me, it’s always been about interpretation—it’s fascinating for me to see how someone can hear a song, internalize it, and fundamentally change it while still leaving it enough like the original that it’s recognizable.  For someone who’s always been fascinated by the creative process, the act of interpretation and working within the boundaries that entails is just as interesting as the act of creation.

My love of cover versions isn’t limited to music.  I find literary covers to be endlessly amusing.  Unlike musical covers, their literary equivalents are very often humorous—or downright farcical.  Though it’s also a common trope to retell a famous story from a new perspective, or create an unofficial prequel or sequel.

Of late, I’ve become enamored of several rather interesting covers of stories by William Shakespeare.  Shakespeare is a prime target for these literary interpretations.  I’m sure this stems from Shakespeare’s centuries-old theater tradition—a medium which practically revolves around interpretation.  My reading list, over the past months has a generous dose of the bard, done with irreverent tribute.  I thought I’d share a few fun ones with you.

The first entry in this list is rather traditional in its inspiration.  William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher, was born when the author attended a modern interpretation of The Merry Wives of Windsor the same weekend he watched the Star Wars Trilogy for the umpteenth time.  There are actually three books, Star Wars, The Empire Striketh Back and The Jedi Doth Return (this last one has yet to be released), and each of the three translates the movie not only into Shakespearean language, but also into a staged play format.  Perhaps these books are nothing more than a mash-up, but there’s something delightfully silly about hearing sci-fi speak retrograded to the times of Romeo and Juliet.  Literature it’s not, but for those steeped in Star Wars mythology it’s a delightful way to waste time.

Next on the list is a pair of books by perennial farcissist, Christopher Moore. Fool is the play King Lear retold from the point of view of the last character listed in the dramatis personae, the fool.  Moore takes this minor character from the original play, and creates, not a power behind the throne, but a character so grounded in absurdity that he is able to remain sane while those around him dissolve into madness.  It’s not Moore’s best book, by any stretch of imagination, but for someone whose list of works includes A Dirty Job, and Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, saying this one isn’t the best is not a knock.  The sequel, The Serpent of Venice (which I have only just begun to read) is a little more ambitious in its interpretation.  Not only does it use the same fool from King Lear, but amalgamates plot elements from Othello, The Merchant of Venice and Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado.

The last entry is perhaps the one that takes the most liberties with Shakespeare, but also in an odd way stays the most true to the source material. To Be or Not To Be by Ryan North is a choose-your-own-adventure version of Hamlet, that started life as a Kickstarter project. The ambitious, 700+ page paperback, lets you make the decisions as to how Hamlet turns out. North makes little to no effort to stay true to the language of Shakespeare, but does a whimsical and wonderful job of providing a new voice through which he narrates the farcical plot twists that litter the book. To be sure, with the correct choices, you can read the book with the same plot and timeline as Shakespeare’s text—although to do so you’ll have to put up with a little goading and mocking by the narrator. But it’s so much more fun to read the story as another character—hint: if you choose to play the king the book is very funny, but only 3-6 pages long. The magic of this book is uncovered if you are adventurous enough to play Ophelia. With Ophelia you have a bevy of increasingly non-traditional storyline—including spurning Hamlet, and pursuing a science-post-doc.

I know there are those of you who are horrified by all these recommendations that take extreme license with the immortal words of the bard, but for me who can’t seem to get enough cover versions, this variety is just the right spice for my summer reading.