Tag Archives: writing

What the Imagination Movers Taught Me About Self-Publishing

I have two little kids. This means I end up watching a lot of children’s television and listening to a lot of cds that include multiple versions of The Wheels on the Bus. This is generally painful. However, there is one children’s show I can be found watching even when my kids are off doing other things – The Imagination Movers.

Movers

They’re basically the most awesome thing ever: four guys from New Orleans who decided to put their musical skills to use as an “alt rock band for kids and their rockin’ families.” They don’t write “kiddie music,” they write damn good music that just happens to be for kids. And I buy their albums for me and just happen to let my kids listen to them, cause I’m cool like that.

One of my favorite things about the Imagination Movers is their motto: Reach high, think big, work hard, have fun. This motto makes an appearance in several of their songs including the song Brainstorming that appears in every episode and this classic:

So what does this have to do with publishing? I’ve been blessed to be on the self-publishing journey for several years now and I have adopted the Mover’s motto as my own because it encompasses everything I believe about being a self-publisher.

Reach High.

As a self-publisher I have the amazing opportunity to be in control of every single creative process that is a part of producing my book. This means everything from the writing to the editing to the cover design and interior formatting. Now this much responsibility scares and overwhelms some people. I love it. I realize it can be daunting – and I’m not saying you have to excel at each of these fields. A self-publisher is a PUBLISHER and part of that is researching and knowing what you want and then hiring competent people. I firmly believe that the product self-publishers put out can and should be as good or better than that of traditional publishing houses. Sometimes I get raised eyebrows when I say we can be better – “as good” is a high enough goal, I guess.  But why shouldn’t it be better? Why shouldn’t we be innovative and fresh and doing what the traditional houses are too stodgy to do? The internet has not only leveled these playing fields, it’s created a platform where indie artists can meet and work with other indie artists in a way that has never before been seen. As good or better is the goal. I now judge the cover design and formatting of traditionally published books by the standard of my own book. Reach high.

Think Big.

The internet. It’s amazing. I said before that it has leveled the playing field and it has in more ways than I can even count. The biggest way for indie publishers is in ebooks. We can put our books on virtual shelves all over the internet alongside books from those big traditional houses. That’s awesome. More importantly, we can reach readers. Lots and lots of readers. Or maybe only a few readers now…but there’s always the potential to reach more. Because unlike a traditionally published paperback that gets a few months (if its lucky) of promo from its publisher, ebooks are forever. They’re always there on the shelf waiting for readers to download and read them. I want to get my books into the hands of as many readers as possible. Am I expecting to make the NY Times Bestseller list next week? No. Do I think that’s an impossible dream for a self-publisher? Heck no! Countless of self-publishers have proven that it’s not. Is it the only measure of “big” success? No. Every self-publisher has their own idea of “making it” and they are as varied and unique as the authors behind those ideas. Whatever my goal as a publisher – I am not going to think small and I’m not going to allow others who think small to influence how I view my work. Think big.

Work Hard.

This is the big one, the one that make the first two a reality. I am not going to sugar coat this: Being a writer is hard. Being a publisher is hard. Being both is a crap ton of work. If you’re scared of hard work, if the thought of banging your head against your Kindle at three in the morning wondering why in the hell something won’t format correctly scares you…find another line of work (or pay someone to format your .mobi files for you, ta-da!). It’s not always formatting though, there will always, always be something new you have to learn. And there will always, always be more you could be doing. I’m not saying you have to do everything.  There are some things that you will find are just not worth your time and effort. The way you find that out? Effort. Tons of effort. To be great at writing and publishing takes a lot of really hard work. It might be easier if you decided to aim low and think small, but the Movers and I would be disappointed in you. Work hard.

Have Fun.

This, you guys. This. Yes, it’s hard, and yes, it’s a lot of work. I can yammer on about quality and art and striving for excellence all day long. Self-publishing should be about all of that. But it’s also about having fun. It’s about taking your words – your stories – and sharing them with readers. It is mind-blowingly awesome when something you’ve written connects with a reader. There’s no rush like it. And it is FUN when a cover designer can connect with your story and produce a work of art that conveys the tone and feeling of your story. If you can’t look at the process of writing and publishing your books and say “that was a ton of work but I wouldn’t trade it for the world” then you shouldn’t be doing it. It’s okay to have fun. In fact, it’s more than okay, it should be a requirement. Have fun.

Of course this motto doesn’t just apply to self-publishers. If you’re a writer of any kind you can identify with it. In fact, it can be applied to specific professions or to life in general. It’s never not true. No matter who we are, we should always reach high, think big, work hard, and have fun. I’m glad the Imagination Movers have summed it up so succinctly for my kids and I’m glad that I get to sing along with them.

Movers Logo

New Year – New Goals

All right, it’s that time again. Setting goals for the New Year.  You can check out my post about being kind to yourself and setting realistic goals over on Indie Jane.  This is something I need to seriously remind myself of not just when I make my goals list, but also throughout the year as I start adding things onto the list.  I always, always add on.  It’s a sickness.

Here are my writing/publishing specific goals for the new year.  Hopefully you’ll help keep me accountable! That whole “putting it out there so someone else knows your goals” is always a good idea.

1.  Finish Sun, Moon, Stars.

I’m making a big push this month to finish the rough draft of this fairy tale adaptation.

2.  Publish Sun, Moon, Stars. 

I’m hoping to get this novel out to you guys by May! (Notice I didn’t give a specific date in May, lol).

3.  Finish Aspire.

This book – it lives in my head but it’s having a hard time coming out through my fingers.  This could be because it’s currently in “chose your own adventure” mode in my brain, there are three possible paths and I need to PICK ONE!

4. Publish Aspire

Look for it in September-ish of this year!

5.  Write the Rough Draft of Red. 

This is going to be my October – December project. I’m kind of giving up on the whole NaNoWriMo idea because November is literally the worst month of the year for me to try it.  But my “end of the year” writing will be on Red.

6. Publish the Fairytale Trilogy Omnibus.

Once Aspire is out I can publish an ebook with all three novels. This excites me!

7. Work on Austen Co-Authoring Project with Melissa Buell.

This is a really exciting project idea and now that we are past the holidays, I’m hoping we can carve out more time!

That’s it for my 2014 writing/publishing goals.  I do have blogging goals (I hope to be more consistent here, and I have another potential project in the works).  I always start out saying I’m going to be kind to myself and then the list looks way intimidating!  Scarily, this is my pared down goals list!

What are your goals (writing or otherwise) this year?

 

In Review

It’s that time of year – the time for top ten lists, and “year in review” posts, and the dreaded New Year’s resolutions…

On the resolution front, I keep promising myself to be kind to myself and to not “over-resolve.”  I make this promise every year, and every year I still put way too many expectations on myself.  This year, though, I’m hoping everyone holds me to my plan to be kind to myself – so much so that I’ve posted over on Indie Jane about the dangers of “over-resolving.”

I also tend to feel really unaccomplished at the end of the year.  There’s something about realizing an entire twelve months has flown by that makes you panic and think “I’m not doing enough!”  So I think it is important to take a breather and recognize the good things that have been accomplished this year.  Here’s some of mine.

2013 Books Image

1.  I published two novels and a short story collection this year.  That’s pretty awesome.

2.  I wrote aforementioned short story collection.  It was a really hard, long, and personal process for me to write those four stories.

3.  I was able to get all three of my novels converted to audiobook.

4.  I took a trip by myself!  My first time spending the night away from my kids. And we all survived.

5.  I took a trip with kids by myself!  Traveling with two kids isn’t always easy, but we had a fabulous time driving to CO to visit my parents for a week.

6.  I was able to beta read for several author friends.

7.  I’ve completely changed my work out habits – from never working out to working out several times a week and doing things I never thought I’d be able to accomplish.  As a result my body has really changed and gotten a lot stronger.

I’m not going to lie, 2013 was a really hard year for me personally.  It feels good to be able to list these off and see tangible proof that things were accomplished and improved.

What are some of your accomplishments this year?

 

 

 

Why and What If? The Art of Writing an Adaptation

It’s no secret that I love fairy tales, both in their “original” form and adaptations. Whether it’s a modern adaptation that takes place in a big city like Los Angeles, or a more traditional retelling, I love reading – and writing – them all. One of the main reasons is that it’s both fun and challenging to really delve into a story and ask two super important and magical questions: Why? and What if?

Why?

The great thing about so many of the earliest versions of these tales is that there is hardly ever a character motivation stated for anything. Every now and again a villain hates a heroine because of their great beauty, but usually the reader is just left wondering why in the heck someone did what they did. That is, if the reader takes the time to wonder…we accept most of these stories at face value because we’ve heard them so often.

An example of this is the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. I recently decided to do a short story adaptation of it and went back and read the original convinced those princesses were dancing because they were enchanted. I finished re-reading and thought “What in the holy hell is wrong with these chicks? They enslave these poor princes and keep them underground just because they like to rave all night?”

Creating a motivation, delving into the characters and trying to figure out why they tick they way they do, is such a fun challenge. And it’s more challenging, I think, than creating character motivation for characters you’ve created out of whole cloth because when it’s a character of your own making you can change their actions. With adaptations you have a certain set of actions and you have to tailor the motivation to meet the preexisting criteria…

Unless you then also ask…

What if?

What if you took these same characters and put them in different situations, time periods, or settings? Does it change their motivation, does it change their actions? What will make this plot work with a new twist? What if, for example, Sleeping Beauty had never woken up? What if characters from two different stories met? What if all the fairy tales were actually historical fact and not just stories we were told at bedtime?

Here again the challenge is to work within the existing framework, to analyze the story and decide what core elements make it “it.” If you stripped everything else away would the story still be recognizable?

Really digging in and finding the whys and what ifs can change the way you think about a story. It’s thought provoking to see different authors take completely different paths to the same story. Adaptation is a great writing exercise, whether it’s of fairy tales, classic novels, or a piece of fan fiction, because of the way it stretches your brain, the way it forces creativity within parameters. So if you ever find yourself in a writing funk or in need of strengthening those characterization muscles try putting your own twist on a tale!

The Curse of Avoidance Perfectionism

In writing and in life I cope with what I call “avoidance perfectionism.”  The basic concept is that I’m a perfectionist but not the kind that manages to produce.  I avoid trying new things until I know I will do them perfectly the first time.  This doesn’t work out well in many, many areas.  In writing it sets me up for spectacular levels of fail.  If I just “think” about a project it can remain perfect in my head.  But if I start actually working on said project it will immediately become less than perfect.

Of course the main problem is that you can’t do anything perfectly the first time, especially writing.  You have to embrace the suck of a first draft.  My avoidance perfectionism gets even worse when I’m trying a new style or genre.  I completely freak out.  The problem is made worse by the fact that I like new things and I get bored easily…I know, I’m a mass of contradictions.  Let’s just say I like the idea of trying a new style or genre more than I like the work of actually doing it.

But trying new things helps us grow! And it helps us get better at the old things!  I know both of these statements to be true, which is why I do, eventually, force my way through the paralyzing fear before the start (and in the middle, and at the end) of a new project.

I wish the rest of this post was really super helpful and practical tips for letting go of the fear and trying new things or ways to turn off the internal editor.  I feel extremely under-qualified to give such advice because right now my internal editor is pitching a full on hissy fit.  I’m at a total loss on how to shut her up and how to let go of that little voice that says “you’re not good enough, everything you’re working on sucks.”

So what are your tips for getting past that voice?  What do you do if it rears its ugly head in the middle of a project and you can’t figure out which way to proceed?

Sun, Moon, Stars

I’ve wanted to write a version of Allerleirauh (All-Kinds-of-Fur or Thousand Furs) ever since I was a teenager.  If you’ve never read it, I suggest you check out it out here (there’s also an annotated version of the variant Donkeyskin at Sur la Lune)  It’s a complex tale; it starts off incredibly dark and deals with some pretty heavy topics (like threatened incest) and yet as far as fairy tale heroines goes, Allerleirauh is one of the most self-determining.  I love that she doesn’t just wait around for bad things to happen to her but makes a plan and escapes.

 All Kinds of Fur

When people ask me what the fairy tale is about I tend to compare it to Cinderella, because of the dresses and balls,  but I think Allerleirauh is definitely a more kick ass heroine.  But the original definitely leaves some room for interpretation.  Why does she choose dresses like the sun, the moon, and the stars?  What’s up with the charms?  Did the king in the new kingdom really not realize the mysterious princess was Allerleirauh?  It’s so fun to get into the details and figure out why the characters act the way they do?

Also, I’ve full on fallen in love with the hero of this novel.  I won’t tell you much other than that his name is Frederick and he’s flat out awesome.

Princess Furball

What say you?  Have you ever read a version of Allerleirauh?  I highly recommend the picture book Princess Furball by Charlotte Huck as it got me hooked on this tale (and cause it’s for kids there’s no “marriage to her father,” it’s marriage to an ogre instead).  If you’ve read it, why do you think she picked those dresses?  Why do you think she slipped charms into the soup, and what on earth was their purpose?  (Note: I do have answers for these, but I don’t want to spoil you yet!)

And if you’ve got time on your hands check out my pinterest inspiration board for Sun, Moon, Stars.  It’s still a work in progress.

Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo

November is National Novel Writing Month! Crazy people all over the globe will be attempting to write 50 thousand words in a single month.  It’s a crazy, stressful, inspirational time.  I don’t get to participate in National Novel Writing Month every year, sometimes my writing schedule is just totally out of sync with it.  Last year, for example, I was editing Attempting Elizabeth and Atone so there wasn’t a lot of time for starting a new project.  It’s working out this year that I’ll be able to participate and I’m super excited.

2013-Participant-Facebook-Cover

And…(drum roll, please)…this year’s NaNo project is Aspire! It was on my schedule to start this summer but life has a way of getting away from us sometimes.  It might work out for the best because NaNo is such a great kick start to any novel.

If you want to join me as a buddy over on NaNoWriMo here’s the link to my profile.  Are you guys up for 50k in a month?!