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What Are Your Writing Priorities?

New Year’s is just around the corner and for many of us, one of our resolutions will be to write more. But what are we actually seeking to achieve or experience in 2017? Better quality, or just more quantity? A paycheck or becoming part of a community?

You might say ‘All of the above.’ But Jim Collins said, ‘If you have more than three priorities, then you don’t have any.’ With that profound thought in mind, let’s explore some options so you can pick the most important places to put your time and attention in the new year.

from Bloglovin'

from Bloglovin’

WRITING PRIORITIES

  1. Devote more hours to writing-related activities. For a lot of writers our ‘day jobs’, family, and other commitments push our hobby, our passion, out past the margins of our lives. We can even feel guilty calling ourselves writers when days, weeks (or even months) slip by without us producing anything new. Be assured you are writers but you also have to prioritize your life to allow more time for classes, writing groups, and especially the butt-in-chair work.
  2. Finish ‘The Thing’. For some writers next year (and almost all of us at one time), the most important goal is to cross over to the other side of a big project and declare it ‘done’. This could be a final draft, a first draft, or self publishing a piece. Whatever it is, if your project has started to take on epic proportions in your writing life, please consider making 2017 the year you complete it. You’ll feel empowered and amazing on the other side, I promise.
  3. Make money at writing. This one is tricky because most of us would love to ‘go pro’ or see our efforts pay off. That said, if you really want to make a meaningful amount of cash from writing in the next 365 days, be aware that you’re probably talking about a lot of job hunting, networking, resume polishing, and submitting offers online. Most of us hope to make it one day when the writing’s good enough, the wind’s at our back, and luck at our side — but if you want money now, then you have to realize that next year’s writing time may look more like an office job than creative bliss. Nothing wrong with that — just be ready to get to work.
  4. Start the scary thing. For a portion of us, our priority is doing what’s never been done — by us, at least. If you are starting a blog (email me!), beginning a novel, or teaching your first class, just be aware that perfection, accolades, and cash aren’t your goals. You are doing something incredibly brave, and you should just have as much fun as you can while patting yourself on the back for attempting something new. Perfection will come in time; you are here now for the experience.
  5. Get freakin’ amazing —quality-wise. Maybe you have come a long way in terms of your writing but you’re not quite there yet. Whether you want to improve enough to get published, get a job offer, or just create work you’re really proud of, 2017 is a great time to ‘take it up a notch’. But be aware that it’s work. The same as with a fitness program, becoming a better writer is a long journey with few shortcuts. That said, if you are already producing good work, you may just need to hone that last 5% of your process — polish more, take a class, improve your weak spots, and let your true passions come out more often.

    from Thoughtjoy

    from Thoughtjoy

  6. Be part of a community. For a lot of writers, joining a group is an important way to feel encouraged, inspired, and even ‘real’. You can engage in a critique group to improve your writing, read your work out loud on stage or at a table to experience being a true storyteller, ask questions about everything from plot to formatting, and meet others who are also on this crazy journey. You may even find yourself teaching a class, organizing meetings, or putting on an event.
  7. Get your dream job. If you know exactly what you want to be doing as a writer, then learn everything you can about the people who are already there. Meet these people, ask questions online, read blogs, follow them on Twitter. It also helps to imagine your success story: you’re being interviewed about how you ‘made it’ and you talk about the insane work ethic and bold choices that launched you into the life of your dreams. And if you need to go write 20 scripts, then go write 20 scripts.
  8. Find your joy, your voice, and your passion. On the flip side of money and job offers, there’s using 2017 as a way to discover who you as a person and who you are as a writer. Learn about yourself — who are you since the divorce? Since turning sixty? Since graduating college? And what is your passion and potential as a writer? Could you write a blog post that would save a life? Is it time to return to the poetry of your youth? Could you write the funniest graphic novel ever? This can be the year you can find out.
  9. Get serious. For some, the writing’s easy, but the rest of it is hard. Are your files straight, your work submitted on time, your office at least clean enough to find something when you need it? And especially, can you tell people you’re a writer when they ask what you do? This is real, this is happening. Own your talent, respect it, and don’t get in your own way.

    from Bloglovin'

    from Bloglovin’

  10. Learn how to write. I’m a big believer in learning to write by writing but there are also many wonderful books and teachers out there. It’s very true that we don’t know what we don’t know. If you really want to become a great writer, then invest in yourself and buy some books or take a class. There’s also a ton of free blogs, youtube videos, and groups online that can help you for free. And don’t forget to read a lot too!
  11. Find your fans. Austin Kleon’s great book ‘Show Your Work!’ says ‘Do good work and put it where people can see it.’ Maybe you want 200 people following your blog, or 15 Amazon reviews, or just to get a letter from someone who ‘absolutely adored’ your novel (I got one of those this year!). Maybe the writing’s going well and you’re ready to find your tribe. It will take time and dedication but if you love your work, others will too.
  12. Put your work out in the world. One of the tremendous things about being a writer is the giving and receiving of inspiration. You learn and are inspired by great writing of the past and you write the next chapter in our ongoing, collective, creative story. You spend time alone — months or years — crafting a book and then you let it out into the world. To me, releasing is important. Whether you self publish, traditionally publish, blog, or submit to contests, magazines, and websites, it’s a good feeling to let your work go and see what happens. The point isn’t to make it big, but it make it small — find one fan here and there, a kind word, a touched heart. Your writing can make another person say ‘Oh wow, I thought I was the only one who felt that way.’
from movenourishbelieve.com

from movenourishbelieve.com

So which three of these twelve are your priorities? Or are yours not even of this list? For myself, devoting more hours, improving myself quality-wise, and finding my voice and joy are my resolutions. That last one I didn’t even know was a priority until I starting writing this piece.

And in the end that’s what I hope for you all in 2017 — may your writing lead you to revelations you never expected and to the wonderful destinations you’ve always dreamed about.

from advancehappynewyear2017.com

from
advancehappynewyear2017.com

Know Your Local Writer: Jill Hartmann

Welcome to the second in a series of interviews with Athens-area writers.  The hope is to inform you about new techniques you might want to try, increase your knowledge of the individuals in your community, and inspire you on your path.  Please contact me if you’re interested in answering our writing questionnaire and being featured here as a future ‘local writer’.

NOTE: Special thanks to AWA co-founder Jill Hartmann for originally supplying us with these wonderful questions for the series.

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Question: At what point in your life did you become a writer and how did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Answer: When I was in first grade, my elementary school held a writing contest for Grades K-2.  All of the classes were asked to respond to the following writing prompt: “What will you ask Santa Clause to bring you for Christmas this year?”  (Nowadays this subject would be taboo for a public school wide writing contest, but it was the 1970’s and it was a private school.  None of the parents complained, as far as I knew).  There were several winners chosen, enough to fill two pages in the school’s quarterly magazine.  My response was one of the winning entries.  I wrote a short paragraph asking Santa for peace and happiness for all of my friends and for my family, and for everyone in the world – and for a special best friend.  (Although I’m Jewish, we celebrated Christmas when I was very little, and I loved Santa Clause.  I think I believed he was real until I was eight or nine years old).

Artist: Elizabeth Goodrick (?)

Artist: Elizabeth Goodrick (?)

I’d have to pinpoint this accomplishment as the moment when I had the epiphany that I was a real writer and that I wanted to keep writing. I received a lot of praise for being among the published winners for that holiday writing contest.  I was six years old, and it didn’t take long for my love of writing to grow exponentially.  When I wasn’t writing stories for school, I would carry my mother’s electric typewriter into the hallway and start writing stories off the top of my head, while sitting right in the middle of the floor.  (I have no idea why I didn’t just carry the thing over to the kitchen table and sit in a chair like a regular kid, but then again, I was not a regular kid).  When I wrote in my diary every night, I usually sat on the floor, also.  What can I say, we had very soft carpet in our house when I was a child!

Q: What books have you read that shaped you as a writer? Which authors’ work do you admire and why?

A: As a child, the books that fired up my imagination were: the Little House books, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Oz books, written by L. Frank Baum, all of the books written by Judy Blume, Island of the Blue Dolphins, written by Scott O’ Dell, To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee, and all of the stories from Greek and Roman mythology.  My favorite authors in my adult years, whom I’d like to emulate, are: John Steinbeck and Jane Austen. Steinbeck’s novels resonate with me because of the way he seamlessly weaves his profound messages into stories about real, everyday people.  I gravitate toward character-centered writing, which I think is Steinbeck’s signature, as well as his talent for painting vivid pictures of the places where his characters are battling inner, and outer, conflicts.  When it comes to Jane Austen’s books, I can’t say enough about how beautifully she writes: her characters, her dialogue, her descriptions, are exquisitely crafted. She has created a portrait of an English society long gone that to this day, is not only remade into films over and over again, but also has been taken on by modern day authors with sequels and other stories that recreate that status driven society of early 19th century England.  Both authors have inspired story ideas of mine, and I wish they had written and published many more books than they lived to write in their respective lifetimes.

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Q: Which piece that you have written are you most proud of and why?

A: My short story, “To Ride the Wind.”  I wrote it in 7th grade for an English class assignment (It was inspired by John Steinbeck’s novel, The Pearl, incidentally).  My English teacher encouraged me to enter my story into the middle school’s first annual creative writing contest.  My story won first place, which was one of the greatest moments of my life.  “To Ride the Wind” was published in the school newspaper that summer, which I consider to be my first real publication.  Although we all have to work hard, as writers, to develop our talent and to hone our craft, that story is a symbol of what I’m capable of, and a reminder to never give up on my writing, no matter what.

Q: Do you gravitate toward a particular genre(s) and/or format when you write?   Tell us more about which genres and/or formats are your “passion?”

A: In the past seven years, my focus has been on writing memoirs.  I also continue to write poetry, which I have always gravitated toward as a means of expressing my personal thoughts and emotions about life.  Writing memoirs is challenging in that it requires a high degree of vulnerability and also enough emotional distance to imagine what audiences will be able to identify with when reading about my life story.  I’ve spent a lot of time editing and revising my memoirs, as well as reading others’ published memoirs, to guide me in creating books that read like a fictional character-driven novel, even though the stories are non-fiction.

jane-austen-about-girls

Q: Have you studied writing and/or attended writing seminars, workshops or conferences?  Where and what did you learn from your classes/sessions and other writing teachers?  Did any of them stand out to you and why?

A: I attended the USC Film School Graduate Screenwriting Program in the 1990’s, which was eye opening as far as how the television and film industry works.  Before then, I took playwriting classes in college.  I have not attended formal writing conferences, yet.  I have taken advantage of as many of the Athens Writers Association’s workshops as I’ve been able to attend in the past 3+ years, and the members of my critique group have made the most significant difference in my becoming a better writer.  They have been my best writing teachers these past 3 years, hands down.  I have learned so much from everything they’ve taught me.

Q: Have you had any formal writing jobs and/or published any of your work?  If so, tell us about your jobs and/or your publications.

A: Currently, I work as a freelance copyeditor – I proofread, copy edit and revise both non-fiction and fiction manuscripts, and in some cases, Power Point and website copy.  I’ve written articles for publication in the Congregation Children of Israel Temple Times monthly newsletter.  I continue to apply for other freelance writing jobs.  In addition to articles I’ve published in the Temple Times, my work has appeared in three publications in the past three years: Writers After Dark, The Journey Home and Slackpole (the annual holiday issue of Flagpole Magazine).

 

Q: What is unique about your writing process?  What works for you, and what doesn’t work?

A: I’m not sure if this is unique, but I work on writing multiple pieces simultaneously and divide my writing time among those projects.  It is harder for me to write at home than in a coffee house, but I’m working on spending more time writing at my house (while my dogs lay peacefully at my feet).  I work best with a “soundtrack,” which varies, depending on my mood. I tend to listen to a bundle of albums I associate with a particular writing or editing project.  It doesn’t work for me to write in a doctor’s waiting room, or on an airplane, though I have managed to write at a table at the car dealership for several hours, so I’m getting better at writing in less-than-ideal surroundings.  I keep a notebook in my purse at all times so that I can write ideas as they come to me throughout the day.  I used to always write by hand, and nowadays, I usually write on my laptop.  I’ve been thinking of writing shorter pieces by hand in the future because I had a great experience recently when I did that – it was like finding a long lost old friend.

john-steinbeck-quote

Q: What is the most challenging area of writing for you?

A: Not editing as I go while I’m writing my first draft.  I still have trouble just free flow writing without going back and rereading and rewriting as I go along.  It slows me down, a lot.  Breaking this habit is a work in progress.

Q: What are you currently writing?

A: My primary current writing project is a memoir about a tragic life-changing event that occurred in 1992, which resulted in a complex life-changing endeavor of mine over the next three months. Events that occurred during that time in my life substantially shaped the rest of my adult life, for the better, in my opinion. My hope is that this story of my journey from heartbreak and grief to activism and healing will inspire others to triumph in the wake of their own tragedies.

Q: What advice do you have for someone who is just beginning to write?

A: I meet people all the time who tell me about how they are “just dabbling” in writing, whether it be a short story or poetry or a novel, and I always encourage them to not sell themselves short as writers.  Everyone has to start at the beginning and many people who are prolific writers start late in life, not realizing how much talent they’ve always had.  It’s never too late so I say, don’t underestimate yourself and just be willing to learn and get feedback from other writers whom you trust.  Keep writing, don’t give up and join our group. We’re a great source of peer support and encouragement – I know for a fact that it has made a significant difference for many of our members.

Q: How has being a writer changed your life?

A: The real question is how has being a writer not changed my life!  I have believed for a long time, since I won that first contest in 7th grade, that writing is what I was born to do.  I gave it up for 15 years and took the safe route in life, becoming a teacher and then working in administration at a major university.  My dog, Toby Hartmann, inadvertently led me back to writing, and moving to Athens gave me the opportunity to spend the time writing Toby’s story that I used to spend at my brick and mortar job in San Diego, California.  It’s hard to explain how being a writer has changed me except to say that now I remember who I am – not to use a cliché, but it’s true that, “I once was lost, and now I’m found.” I know that this is my purpose in life.  I cannot feel fulfilled if I cannot write – it is what I need to do for myself.  I can no longer imagine not being a writer.  It is scary to open myself up to my readers, but it’s worth it to me to share my voice with the rest of the world.

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AWA at ‘Lickskillet’!

We had a great time, met friends old and new, and sold a few books.  Check out the pics below!

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Katherine Cerulean’s ‘dream board’, our drawing for a gift certificate, a red dalek in the donation box, a Philips ‘Hue’ light, and — of course — chocolate.

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So many beautiful books!

Dac Crossley at his booth.

Dac Crossley at his booth.

The Tuesday Writing / Critique Group debuting their newest book 'Tuesday's Tales'

The Tuesday Writing / Critique Group debuting their newest book ‘Tuesday’s Tales’.

Daniel Galt at his booth

Daniel Galt at his booth.

Sara Winick Herrington at her BEE-you-ti-ful table

Sara Winick Herrington at her BEE-you-ti-ful table.

Sara Winick Herrington at her table with Phyl Campbell, Katherine Cerulean, and Amanda McMurtrey.

Sara Winick Herrington at her table with Phyl Campbell, Katherine Cerulean, and Amanda McMurtrey.

Come See Us at Lickskillet 2016!

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Baby table! Our first little setup at Lickskillet 2013 — this year it will be much bigger.

The Athens Writers Association hasn’t done many public events this year (we’ve all been busy writing!) but even introverts like a moment or two in the spotlight so…  We will have an official table at the Lickskillet festival at Lyndon House in downtown Athens, GA.  This event is FREE.  We will have books for sell by Katherine Cerulean, Jennifer Innes, Elsa Russo, Rob White, Phyl Campbell, AWA collections, and more!

There will also be several OTHER booths run by AWA members —

  • Par Ramsey will be debuting the newest book from the AWA offshoot, the Tuesday Writing / Critique Group, at the festival
  • Daniel Galt has a Halloween-themed, spook-tac-u-lar new kids book as well as his earlier books and beautiful photography prints for sale
  • New member Sara Winick Herrington is selling her just released book Bee Happy 
  • And others!

Our table will also offer free handouts about both writing and living your dreams that have been gathered from the best of our classes.  AWA founding members will be staffing the booth all day and will be happy to answer any questions they can about the AWA, self-publishing, and writing in general.  Katherine Cerulean will be giving free life-coaching sessions at the booth, and we’ll be having a free drawing for 15 pages of professional editing from Jonni Anderson.  PLUS chocolate!

Come join in the fun!  It’s also not too late to get your book added to our booth — contact Katherinecerulean@gmail.com if you’re interested.

October 22, 2016 

10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 Rain or Shine; Free Admission

Lyndon House Arts Center, 293 Hoyt Street, Athens

About Lickskillet

The Lickskillet Artists Market and Festival is a FREE Community Event hosted by the Lyndon House Arts Foundation. Currently in its seventh year, Lickskillet has become one of Athens’ most unique and exciting events, drawing over 1200 attendees from a ten county region. The Lickskillet Artists Market and Festival showcases the talents of over 100 local artists and musicians and offers a full range of activities for everyone.

Event Highlights

  • Athens area artists displaying and selling paintings, photos, prints, jewelry, clothing, ceramics, glasswork, woodwork and sculpture
  • Musical performances by well-known local talent including The Heap, Monsoon, The Lucky Jones, Norma Rae, Clay Leverett, Dixieland 5, Qamar Tribal Odyssey dancers, Larry Forte, and David Court
  • Self-guided tours of the historic Lyndon-Ware House
  • Children’s activities, including:  chalk art, giant bubbles, face painting, portrait gallery, cardboard village, building and design projects with Home Depot volunteers
  • Local food trucks and vendors: Taza Mediterranean, The Savory Spoon, DaMunchiezz, Nedza’s Waffles

About the Lyndon House Arts Foundation

The Lyndon House Arts Foundation, Inc (LHAF) was created to advance the arts and support the development and operation of the Lyndon House Arts Center. This is accomplished through a coalition of artists, businesses, local schools, government and the community at-large.

In addition to sponsorship of special events such as Lickskillet, LHAF offers several membership levels and the opportunity to contribute to an endowment fund named after co-founder Ronnie Lukasiewicz. LHAF is a 501 (c)(3) organization and contributions are tax deductible.  More information can be found on the Foundation website: LyndonHouseArtsFoundation.com.

Lyndon House

Lyndon House

About the Lyndon House Arts Center

The Lyndon House Arts Center (LHAC) is a community visual arts complex serving Athens-Clarke County and neighboring areas. The two-story late Greek revival structure incorporates the Ware-Lyndon House (c. 1856), gallery spaces, art studios, meeting rooms, a research library, event spaces, and festival grounds. Activities of the LHAC are designed to encourage creativity and provide area citizens with a positive experience in the visual arts.

Formatting a Book Manuscript with MS Word

This piece comes to us from local author and teacher Phyl Campbell.  Discover more about Phyl and her work at her website www.phylcampbell.com.  Also, formatting can be stressful, so please enjoy a few pictures of beaches while you work. — Katherine Cerulean, Founder

from wonderfulengineering.com "Formatting is stressful; please enjoy these pictures of beaches." -- KC

from wonderfulengineering.com

If using a POD service like CreateSpace, there are things a writer needs to do to prepare a manuscript for upload.  While each step is not difficult, there are a lot of moving parts or things that change when a writer may not want them to.  For example, increasing the font size will add pages. So will adding headers. All these moving parts can make a writer-turned- formatter into an angry heap of wet noodles, which is why a lot of people are willing to pay vanity presses thousands of dollars to prepare manuscripts for them. However, with a good guide, and a better chunk of TIME (two weeks or more is optimal), any willing writer may format his or her own material for POD.

from d-beach.com

from d-beach.com

Some things should be done during the writing process. Inserting page breaks (not the same as hitting ENTER/RETURN until hitting the next page) between chapters, applying styles to chapter headers and body text, and setting page size. A typical mass market book size is 5×8, so a proper page layout would be 5 wide and 8 tall.
Yes, writers can take the above steps after manuscripts are complete. It is my personal preference to have as many steps already done as possible.

from play.google.com

from play.google.com

Another step I’m always meaning to do as I go, but don’t because I’m frequently adding, removing, and re-arranging chapters, is to create each chapter as a separate section (LAYOUT > BREAKS > SECTION BREAKS > NEXT PAGE). Writers that have 10 or fewer long-ish chapters probably aren’t as bothered by this as writers who have many chapters that are only a few pages long. I fit the latter category.
Insert Page Numbers (I insert page numbers as footers because it is less complicated than adjusting the spacing to include my name, book title, and page numbers at the top)
Create mirror margins (LAYOUT > MARGINS > MIRROR MARGINS).
Create headers.

Writers should pick up a mass market paperback from their genre or that they enjoy and plan their headers to match. This is where sections come in handy. Writers will notice that popular mass market industry standard does not have headers on the same page as a new chapter. Formatters achieve this by clicking a few boxes in the Header Design tab. Add a header. Go to that header. The MSWord command ribbon will change to show options for the DESIGN of the Header. Find and check the boxes for different first page and different even and odd pages. As the writer-
turned-formatter gets used to the bugs of MSWord, they may have to click these boxes for each section several times as they move about pages and chapters.

Check progress by saving often, then selecting FILE > PRINT > Print to PDF. A separate dialog box will come up for the writer to name the PDF being saved. I name my files with the Book title, date, and time – no punctuation.
This allows me to see my most recent save most easily. Then I open CreateSpace, go to Interior Files, and upload the latest PDF. I have to wait a few (up to 10) minutes for processing, but then CreateSpace will tell me about any errors or inconsistencies.

from 7-themes.com

from 7-themes.com

Create front and back matter. Interior title pages, previous works by page, copyright page, about the author/artist page, upcoming book page, dedication page – looking at other mass market books will help writers determine where all these pages should go. Using the CreateSpace check as a guide, writers can choose where to insert pages, including blank pages, into their manuscript (back in MSWord) to preserve page placement.
Because headers and page numbers are not supposed to be seen on front and back matter, I create each page of front and back matter as a separate section and click the header box “different first page.”

from beaches.com.au

from beaches.com.au

This guide comes as a result of publishing more than 10 books using MSWord. I know more after the tenth book than I did after my first. I will know more after publishing book number 15 or 20, undoubtedly. Any writers who are aware of mistakes I am making or other shortcuts, easier or better ways to achieve the same results, feel free to educate me. I’m as happy to learn as I am to share what I know.

Know Your Local Writer: Katherine Cerulean

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Welcome to the first in a series of interviews with Athens-area writers.  The hope is to inform you about new techniques you might want to try, increase your knowledge of the individuals in your community, inspire you on your path — or at least tickle your funny bone when you learn your AWA founder was a fan of both ‘SeaQuest DSV’ and shōjo manga.  I started with the easiest writer to corral (myself), but I’m super-excited to learn about a wide range of Athens writers.  Please contact me if you’re interested in answering our writing questionnaire and being featured here as a future ‘local writer’.  Now, I apologize for the length of this post (‘she’ was a talker!).

NOTE: Special thanks to AWA co-founder Jill Hartmann-Roberts for supplying us with these wonderful questions.

Q: At what point in your life did you become a writer and how you first know you wanted to be a writer?

A: I have been making up stories all my life and never really ‘grew up’ in that regard.  Stories with He-Man and My Little Ponies became running through the fields near our home pretending to be a wild horse surviving in a vast wilderness then became making up stories about humans (!) based on the TV shows ‘Sisters’, ‘Earth 2’, and ‘SeaQuest DSV’.

But I believe I became a writer at about age 16 when I started an unfinished novel inspired by ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.

As for how I knew I wanted to be a writer — I knew I never want to stop telling stories, never wanted to pack away my playmates, my inspirations, and my heroes and become a normal adult.  Stories to me bring out the best, most thoughtful, most beautiful parts of ourselves and our world.  I have always wanted to be a writer.  Or a horse trainer.  Something dealing with unruly mammals.

Q: What books have you read that shaped you as a writer?  Which authors’ work do you admire and why? 

A: That’s an all-day-to-answer question.  I’ll give a few examples.  My mother read ‘The Secret Garden’ to me as a child.  I loved other stories but there was a wonderful plot and sense of character progression to that book, as well as a feeling that magic exists hidden in the everyday and that we transform our lives for the better if we have the courage and dedication to seek it.

‘Misery’ by Stephen King was another important book that shaped my progression as a writer.  A fantastic book that I appreciated even more when I reread it years later.  It was plot AS character, character AS plot.  I loved how Paul and Annie’s conflict felt natural, evolutionary, and destined toward doom.  Annie is one of the clearest, most memorable characters I have ever read.

Lastly, ‘Maurice’ by E.M. Forster came quite along far into my education but pretty much blew the doors off everything.  Perfect love story.  Great character study.  Bold, accessible writing.  Fearlessness.  It comforted me by helping me believe my stories and viewpoints were not too small or simple to be meaningful.  And it challenged me to write outside my comfort zone and use every bit of my intelligence and love in each word and line.

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Other authors include —

  • Dennis Lehane for the absolute beauty and economy of his sentences
  • Nick Hornby for the most relatable, flawed human characters
  • Jane Austen for defining (and redefining) perfect love stories amid human fallibility
  • J.R.R. Tolkien for writing the perfect adventure and then upping the game by adding a spirituality that breaks my heart and encourages me forward
  • Natsuki Takaya for her take on humor, romance, courage and forgiveness. And for writing an incredible novel with over 20 main characters that just happens to also have in it drawings of hot boys (manga comic ‘Fruits Basket’)
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald for creating the perfect literary novel (my favorite kind of novel) and putting the words together in such a way that I’m in awe. Every.  Damn.  Time.

Q: Which piece that you have written are you most proud of and why?

A: My latest novel ‘Society & Civility’.  Honestly, I’ve become a better writer than I ever thought I’d be — and it’s only taken eighteen years!  ‘Society & Civility’ started out as a lark, my own take on the regency world of Jane Austen.  Through a LOT of hard work though, it became my most coherent piece — one filled with characters I love and scenes that speak to the challenges of being human — whatever your century or class.  And I’m not gonna lie — the love story gets me every time.  Actually, one line is my favorite and gives me hope as a writer for the future.  Our heroine to a suitor —‘Perhaps my happiness is a great mystery to you, Mr. Barnes, but I could give you a few pointers as to how to obtain it.’  So proud!

Q: Do you gravitate toward a particular genre (s) and/or format when you write?  Tell us more about which genres and/or formats are your “passion”?

A: Honestly, I gravitate toward good writing.  What I mean by this snotty-sounding answer is that I’m drawn to interesting setups with great characters but HOW the story is told, and how the lines are written, is really what draws me in when I’m reading — and writing.  You can call it literary fiction, though I recently learned about a new publishing term ‘upmarket’.  It’s kind of like adding literary to your favorite genre.  ‘Upmarket fantasy.’  Upmarket women’s fiction.’  Maybe that’s my ‘passion’.

My novel and screenwriting history goes mystery, fantasy, fantasy, love story, coming-of-age, love story, ghost story.  I am drawn to fantasy because I feel there is more to life than the obvious.  Also, I’m probably secretly a TV writer because I love characters, dialogue, and scenes SO MUCH.

Q: Have you studied writing and/or attended writing seminars, workshops or conferences?  Where and what did you learn from your classes/sessions and other writing teachers?  Did any of them stand out to you and why?

A: I’m pretty self-taught.  As someone home schooled, I didn’t have a lot of connection to the idea of advanced education — but I had a lot of passion to learn on my own.  The sum of my experiences in that realm is —

  • A two-day screenwriting class — I learned a LOT about format and plotting. As a youngin’ I gained a lot of confidence and I still use things I learned from Michael Hauge today — like that you should make your hero funny, great at what they do, or a good person.
  • Conferences — I went to about three of the Harriett Austin conferences in Athens. Great experience but one with diminishing returns.  I learned to be more outgoing, that agents and editors are real, normal human beings, and I learned more about the publishing industry.
  • A novel critique group — this is where the majority of my education took place. We were together only a few years but I wouldn’t be here without them.  Highly recommended, but you have to keep looking to find the right fit, and nowadays I’ve reached the point where I’m happier to experiment and grow without constant feedback.  But I learned so much from them.
  • Patrick LoBrutto — if you guys ever want to build a shrine to this man, I’ll be first in line to help. I took one day-long class he and Michael Seidman taught about character and at a conference I paid for a fifteen minute critique of my first novel.  Love, love, LOVE him.  He was the perfect mentor, a little challenging, encouraging (there was a scene he called quite good — still proud!), and mostly, he was super-enthused about storytelling and it was palatable and transferable.  I owe him a lot.

newpic2

Other than that, everything has come from books and articles.

Q: Have you had any formal writing jobs and/or published any of your work?  If so, tell us about your jobs and/or publications.

A: I’ve always been happy that, while learning my craft, I had a ‘day job’ that was the opposite of writing — lots of walking, up and about, physical (stocking/merchandising at a Best Buy).  That way I always came to writing fresh instead exhausted.  And it’s taken a while to achieve my goal of being able to write at a professional level.

I’ve just written a couple of pieces for BE.magizine, which is a good challenge.

I’ve self published two books —

  • ‘A Caged Heart Still Beats’ — a novel about a young estate owner imprisoned by his servant in 1800s England. I tried to entice agents by calling it ‘a love story about a man trapped in a cage.’  For some reason, they weren’t biting.
  • ‘How To Come Alive: A Guidebook to Living Your Dreams’ — a self improvement book based on my 35+ years of living and constantly seeking to improve myself.

Q: What is unique about your writing process?  What works for you, and what doesn’t work? 

A: I don’t know if it’s unique, but my process is (in general) to think about a story idea for a looooong time before I actually start writing.  I find the more pre-work I do — ‘hearing’ conversations between characters, building playlists of songs that inspire me, even wearing jewelry that the hero might wear — all that really helps me know who these characters are what I actually start writing.  Mostly, I don’t do a lot of pre-writing though.  Character profiles and anything longer than a couple-of-page outline can stifle the movement of actually writing the novel.  I want a general idea of events and then I want to discover and experience the book as I write it.

Once I’m writing, I actually purposefully don’t think about where the plot is going.  I have my two page outline, but I want to keep as much spontaneity and freshness as possible while writing.  I want the characters to lead me to new discoveries.

As long as I make sure every scene and line is interesting to me, I find I don’t have to go back and cut a lot later.

But I do have to edit a lot.  I do at least five drafts.  It’s just a lot of work and I don’t know any way to make something great without pouring over every word, line, and comma (shout-out to other Oxford Comma fans!).

What doesn’t work is writing anything I don’t care about.  It’s been pointed out that pretty much every idea I’ve ever had is ‘un-commercial’.  When I write to the best of my abilities, I think I can make fascinating worlds, great characters, and unforgettable dialogue — all things I think can be commercial.  But I do have very little interest in playing it safe and doing what’s been done to death before.  I’m invigorated by possibility and discovery and showing the audience something they didn’t know they needed.

from 'A Caged Heart Still Beats'

from ‘A Caged Heart Still Beats’

Q: What is the most challenging area of writing for you?

A: Self-doubt.  I sometimes hesitate to write for fear I can’t do my ideas justice.  That leads to long breaks between stories (ironically, I’m much more confident when in the middle of writing).  I also don’t know when something needs more editing and when I’ve done all I can.  Lastly, this self-doubt sometimes leads me to not ‘hearing’ positive feedback and instead only focusing on minor criticisms.  I’m working on these issues, but it’s the work of a lifetime.

On a more practical level, plotting has been something that’s taken time to hone (characters come much more naturally to me).

The other big challenge is figuring out how to combine the touch-the-stars-magic of writing with the idea of making money from it and transforming it into my full-time job.

Q: What are you currently writing?

A: After a break of 18 years, I’ve returned to my first love — screenwriting!  I’m currently working on ‘Beaumont Lake’, a ghost story about a teenage girl forming a friendship with two ghosts while trying to avoid becoming their murderer’s next victim.  It’s a big challenge but finishing this story has been a dream of mine for a long time.  An inspiring song that sums up the mood of the piece — ‘Once Upon a Dream’ by Lana Del Rey.

Later this year, I also hope to finish the first draft of my in-progress novel TRIad, a young adult story about three brothers with superpowers.

Q: What advice do you have for someone who is just beginning to write?

A: Trust yourself.  Read Brenda Ueland’s ‘If You Want to Write’.  The craft side will come along naturally as you read a lot and write a lot.  Remember that ‘Talent’ is a myth — there is only love and hard work — that’s what makes great writing.

Remember that you have amazing potential and you can do it — you just have to believe and fight and work hard and never stop following your own crazy star.  No one deserves to be here more than you.

Also, read classics, read other genres and types of entertainment.  Graphic novels, non-fiction, web cartoons — you can learn so much about dialogue from the masters of the comics page (Bill Watterson, Charles Schulz, Berkeley Breathed).

Write what you like, not what others tell you to like.  There something the world has never seen before — alive and dwelling within you — and it is something the world desperately needs.  Share your vision with us.    And remember this quote by Ira Glass —

KMBA-Ira Glass Quote

Q: How has being a writer changed your life?  

A: In every conceivable way possible.  It’s made me more curious, kinder; it has brought me friends and confidence.  It has filled my days with the most wonderful discoveries and triumphs.

Mostly though, it has allowed me to continue playtime far beyond when most people settle down and ‘become adults’.  I get to travel everywhere, meet the most amazing people, see fearsome and amazing sights, and watch the human spirit overcome every attempt to thwart it.  And then I get to transcribe those experiences and hopefully bring to readers a fraction of the joy that other peoples’ books have brought me over the years.

Another thing writing has given me is the feeling that I’m only getting started.  At 36, I’m beginning to feel like I’m getting the hang of this — let’s go knock the world off its axis!

by October Jones

by October Jones

 

Quick and Dirty Book Publishing Guide

Today’s post comes to us from member Phyl Campbell, who recently moved here from Arkansas.  She’s published several books and teaches writing.  Please check out her AWA page as well as her website to learn more.  — Katherine Cerulean, founder

 

My way is not the only way to publish an Indie book. These steps are my best advice for creating a print book (paperback) that can be made available on Amazon or purchased wholesale by the author for resale at book buying events.

  1. Create a manuscript using a word processor.
  • Use sections (Page Break, Section Break) for each chapter or section
  • Use Headers and Footers to create page numbers and to write your book title and author name on each page (I keep another published book in front of me as a guide)
  • Create the front matter (title, copyright page, dedication). Again, use a previously published book to see the industry standard.
  • Create the back matter (acknowledgments, author note, about the author, preview of next book)
  • Front matter and back matter should not have page numbers, headers, or footers. I use section breaks to do this, but my brother recommends applying white text boxes where text should be hidden.
  • Use Styles to establish one font and font size for chapter headers and a different font and font size for basic text. You can also use it to select indents, spacing between lines and other text features. It’s tricky to learn, but will save any many steps.
  • In my word processing tool bar, there is a paragraph mark symbol. Select it to see all hidden formatting symbols like spaces and hard/soft returns.
  • Learn how to use Find and Replace. Especially MORE/FORMAT
  • Save document (OFTEN!)
  1. Create an account for or log into CreateSpace (www.CreateSpace.com)
  • Under the My Account tab, select Add New Title
  • Follow the instructions to select book size, paper, and other attributes
  • Skip the step of adding an interior file
  • Create a Cover (Create and upload the PDF, or use their template and images – I do a combination)
  1. Go back to your word processor document.
  • Adjust paper size or margins to fit the selected book size.
  • Add the CreateSpace assigned ISBNs to the copyright page
  • Export to PDF (sometimes this is “print to PDF” or “save to PDF”)
  • Open the PDF file to check for correct placement of headers, footers, and page numbers. Select “view two page” with “separate title page” (2 boxes to check)
  • Without a PDF editor, make changes to the PDF by making the changes in Word and repeating the Export to PDF/Print to PDF/Save as PDF option.
  1. Go back to CreateSpace
  • Go to the Title created in Step 2.
  • Go to the step of uploading an Interior File.
  • It is possible to upload files from a word processor without the PDF step. I don’t think the files come across as cleanly — some formatting is lost (fonts, margins, page breaks). This has been my experience.
  • Choose sales channels and set book price(s)
  • Submit files for review
  1. The file review check takes 24-48 hours. It will determine whether all the content from the submitted file fits within the margins of the selected layout.
  • Make changes to the review file until CreateSpace (and you) are satisfied, either by making changes to the CreateSpace review file (when applicable), changing book attributes in CreateSpace, or making changes to the PDF/ word document.
  • Repeat the file review steps each time changes are made.
  • When the review comes back without errors, and the book is acceptable to you, select Publish.

Published titles are available immediately on CreateSpace, and within 1-5 days on Amazon (if Amazon was selected) or other channels.

  1. My way is not the only way to publish an Indie book. Some people buy their own ISBNs (See LightningSource instead of CreateSpace), hire out cover artists and layout designers, formatters, editors, etc. Some people only publish to Kindle. These steps are my best advice for creating a print book that can be made available on Amazon or purchased wholesale by the author for resale at book buying events.
  1. Timeline. On average, creating the manuscript takes me a year. Preparing a cover takes me two weeks (over a month with reader input). Formatting the interior (for me) is a two-week job minimum. I try to format as I go, but best laid plans sometimes go awry, and I have to undo formatting to add pages, delete pages, or fiddle with margins. Can someone else do it faster and better? Undoubtedly. I encourage people with tips or tricks to share their knowledge.