Friday, March 20, 2015

Mike and Molly - What It's Really Like To Be A Writer

To be honest, I watch a lot of television. I get bored when I am doing chores around my house, so I turn on the television a lot or open hulu/netflix/amazon instant video to entertain me while I clean or cook. I watch a variety of different shows, but one of my favorite types of shows are sitcoms. It's hard not to like them. They are light-hearted. The problems the characters face are always resolved within thirty minutes. Also, I don't have to watch the screen usually to know what's going on, unlike other shows I like (for instance, Doctor Who and The Walking Dead.)

One of the sitcoms I happen to love is Mike and Molly. In the show, Molly has a mental breakdown. She's an elementary school teacher and suddenly she can't stand it anymore. She quits her job in the middle of class, she jumps out the window to get away from the students. She wants to become a writer. Although it was a big moment in the life of the character, I thought it would be over and resolved by the end of the episode. I wasn't expecting the show to spend more than a season showing a mostly realistic portrayal of what it's like to become a novelist.

She has breaks and opportunities that many writers either do not get or take a decade to receive (like she gets a book deal within a year of starting to write.) Yet her family thinks she's wasting her life and that she did the wrong thing. (Even though it all happened very quickly for her.) But besides that, the things she goes through are things we all go through. Instead of writing the book in a couple of days, the show has her sitting down, struggling with the novel over a long period of time and many episodes. It shows how awkward it can be when people you know find out you are writing dirty sex scenes in your books and how harsh writers are with themselves about writing something perfect. Once she's done and gives the book to her publisher, after she's wrestled with every word for a long time, they force her to rewrite....completely.

It shows how publishers are usually focused on the business side of things. They want her to change the book to a time travel erotica when it was supposed to be an erotica about a woman discovering herself. They think that is cool and will sell, but she's a visionary who doesn't want to do that. (It sounds like a struggle a lot of authors go through.) It also shows her working to promote her book after she finishes writing it and how frustrated she gets when her sales aren't effected by her efforts.

Her first book reading/signing has pretty much only her family members and friends there, cheering her on in one of the latest episodes. It also has her writing a second book. Because she's not a bestselling big hit on her first book, like most of us aren't. As soon as she's done writing, she has to start writing the next book and this one, too, just like the last one, she is already struggling through again. She's started the process over.

I just love that this show didn't romanticize writing. It didn't make it something that it's not. It shows that it's hard work and something you have to sit down and dedicate lots of time to without as much appreciation for hard work as many people think. I recommend any author watching at least the last two seasons of Mike and Molly. Tell me what you think.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Networking Online And Off

A few years ago, I joined a web-site that allows me to meet friends through clubs I am interested online. I've met groups of authors this way on several occasions and also cultivated random friendships with other women.

A lot of people who are on the site find it intimidating because it involves meeting a bunch of strangers all at once. A lot of the groups meet in restaurants, so there's also the problem of figuring out where you are supposed to go when you've never met any of these people before. Many people sign up and get too scared to go.

I don't have that much of a problem with it. Maybe I am weird, especially for an introvert, but I find it more comfortable, when I am around new people, to be around a whole group of new people rather than just one person. I think the reason I feel this way is that as an introvert, I am often quiet or do not know what to say. When I am around a group of people, there is guaranteed going to be at least one person who knows what to say and can fill the silence.

The really hard part for me is when I get one-on-one. I don't know where to look. I don't want to look at the other persons eyes too much, but I also don't want to look away too much or I'll seem nervous. I get scared we'll run out of things to talk about and try to run through a list of questions in my head to ask (unsuccessfully.)

I relate to social media in a very similar way. I find it easy to write blog posts or post things on twitter than to interact one-on-one. When people e-mail me or message me, I find myself at a loss of what to say. I also often struggle to know how to respond to my comments. I like facebook because it lets me press "like" when I read a comment. I am good at reading comments and when I press "like", the person knows I read it and am listening, but when I am on a blog or in my e-mail, I can't press "like." I thought what they said was interesting and good, but sometimes I don't have anything to add to it.

It has made some networking with authors awkward for me, I think. I only know how to talk to them through their statuses and don't know how to ask them questions privately or even ask for other things.

Lately, I've really wanted to get together with other authors and exchange sample pages that we can post in each others books or organize a giant contest where we all pitch in a little or write an anthology.

Most authors are introverts, but sometimes you just can't be. You have to reach out and try. You have to go outside your comfort zone. I hope to do this more and more in the future. That's why I am glad I recognized this aspect of myself. I want to make it better.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fan-Fiction, Fifty Shades of Grey, and Stealing Ideas

The Fifty Shades of Grey movie is coming out this week and I'm planning on seeing it. I read the first book, it wasn't my favorite book, but I think this might be one time when the movie is better than the book.

A lot of people on social media refuse to see it though. They are angry because they view E.L. James as a thief. They think she stole Stephenie Meyer's characters and is using them to make millions of dollars. The books started out as Twilight fan-fiction. They've changed the names of E.L. James' original work, but little else.

I agree that it's wrong to steal from other authors, but I don't believe E.L. James stole from Stephenie Meyer. If she had, Stephenie Meyer would sue her. Don't think it's some kind of benevolence on Stephenie Meyer's part that has caused her to never take E.L. James to court. They are both business savvy people or they wouldn't be as rich as they are. Neither of them would hesitate to sue someone they felt stole from them.

When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with fan-fiction. I didn't have any money at that age, so I'd go on fanfiction.net and read a bunch of fan fiction stories about my favorite television or movie characters because I couldn't afford the amount of books I wanted to read. I loved to read and express my opinion, so I'd comment on every story. This is how I learned about the different types of fan-fiction out there.

Here are the four types I've noticed (there may be more):

1.) Rewrites

Where the fan-fiction author takes a story, rewrites it completely and maybe changes a few tiny details so the story is more to their liking or who writes the story from a brand new perspective to explore a certain character and their viewpoints on things.

2.) Sequels

They take the story that's already there and try to continue it.

3.) What If's

Where the fan-fiction author takes a story and writes about something they wished would happen. Like, with the Harry Potter series: What if Harry and Hermione had fallen in love? Things like that.

4.) Alternate Universes - This is where you take a few characters from the book and throw them into your own universe and probably change aspects of their personality and appearance to fit this universe. All you really keep are the names and maybe a few references to the original story.

For instance, I once read an "Alternate Universe" version of Pride and Prejudice. It was supposed to be the same story if it took place in the 1970's. Most of the details of the story changed. There was a few similarities in the progression of the plot, sort of, (just that Elizabeth was disgusted with Darcy really) and the characters kept the same names, but they had to be completely different people. For instance, Elizabeth Bennet was a hippie. And they had completely different experiences, like going on shopping trips and things.

So essentially, it's a whole new story even though it's a fan-fiction.

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The first three stories are completely dependent on the original work. The fourth one is not and could exist even if the original work disappeared from our existence. The first three would violate copyright laws if they were published, but I believe that the fourth would not as long as you changed the names and any other relevant details.

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The thing about E.L. James' books is that she wrote Alternate Universe fan-fiction. Christian Grey is NOT a vampire. He has a different back story. He's a different age than Edward. Same with Anastasia Steele, she isn't a high school teenage girl with an overprotective father like Bella was. The storylines have nothing in common, I had to search really hard for the similarities in the two book series and there were only traces of this here and there. I'm pretty sure that Stephenie Meyer would be appalled at the morality of E.L. James' books. Meyer's characters do not believe in abortion and try to follow God. E.L. James...well...her characters just do whatever they want and love sex before marriage.

They are far from the same book.

I just find it really strange how confrontational people get about this. I technically am writing and selling fan-fiction right now. It's not only E.L. James who tried to do this. I write retellings of Greek Mythology. My fan-fiction is more like the rewrites-the Greek myths you know and love rewritten from a new perspective where I try to change your view of the original stories. Many other authors have stolen from Greek Mythology as well, including Rick Riordan and C.S. Lewis. In fact, most fantasy authors take elements from pasts myths in some way, that's what makes our books fantasy novels.

I just think there needs to come a point when people stop hearing the word "fan-fiction" and automatically think "stolen." Some of it is stolen work, yes, and would be illegal to publish. You can't publish a sequel to someone else's book, for instance, without their permission. And you can't steal people's books and sell them without their permission either.

But this is not what E.L. James did. This is why I am not at all offended by publishers publishing fan-fiction.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Self-Publishing And Fake Statistics

I haven't had the opportunity to address this before, but it's a statistic thrown around by people in the publishing industry constantly.

"The average self-published book sells only one hundred copies in its entire lifetime. All those copies are sold to friends and family."

This is a lie and it's bothered me for awhile now. This is about self-publishing e-books. People have only been able to do this for the last few years. That isn't even enough time for any books to be much older than baby books, let alone have full, long lifetimes where they sold only one hundred copies.

Also, most people I meet and befriend will never even see my book covers, let alone read them, but I still find ways to sell people books every month.

If you are thinking about going into self-publishing or you just self-published, ignore this statistic. I've sold many more copies than this and I think anyone can do what I've done. This statistic is always quoted in articles where someone is talking about how you can't make a living self-publishing and it's used to discourage people.

I panicked when I first saw it before I published my first book. I thought that my book would sell five copies the first month to five people that I beg in person to buy the book and no one else would buy it ever again.

I'm not saying the average self-published novel sells thousands of copies in the first year. They do not. But self-publishing is about the long term. It's about years of writing, marketing, and self-publishing books. It doesn't matter if your book sells only five copies a month. (Which might total only $10 in royalties a month.) That might be five copies every month for the rest of your life, which in total if your book is around for fifty years could be over ten thousand dollars.

Keep writing more and that number will increase every month. I've been told by some authors that the number increases exponentially. I'll let you know as I publish more books.

Even if you've only sold one hundred copies and your sales have died, try marketing a new way. A self-published book only dies if you give up on it. I had a month when Kindle Unlimited made my sales basically zero, I worked at marketing and now my book sales have stabilized and last month was my highest sales number ever.

Don't give up.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How A Small Writing Goal Is Changing Everything

The past year and a half has been crazy for me. I found out I had diabetes and I got married. I've struggled with pain from migraines and my teeth. I've had mild surgery and almost had to have a second mild surgery because of a weird cyst thing that I had in my mouth. (Most of my health problems, I haven't shared on social media.) My rottweilers have been sick a lot. Izzy had pancreatitis and I was taking Mika to the vet every week because it turns out that he has Inflammatory Bowel Disorder, which is a dog's version of Crohn's Disease.

I've honestly been overwhelmed with all the changes and struggles in my life lately. I've had a lot to adjust to and work past and my writing hasn't been as quick as I would have liked.

I used to spend all day writing. I remember once writing seventy thousand words in a week. They all had to be edited, but I was happy with it.

But lately, I've sat down, been trying to force myself to write at least ten thousand words because I've been writing infrequently and wanting to catch up. Instead, I've been staring at my novels and getting overwhelmed and my mind has been going blank on a lot of days. Even when it doesn't and I write two thousand words, instead of feeling proud of it, I've felt disgusted with myself, saying things in my head like,"This isn't the way to write three or four books a year and you can't be a successful writer unless you write three or four books a year!"

Then my friend on facebook suggested making a New Years Resolution of writing only one hundred words every day. I liked this idea. It was very doable, even on days where my life was insane. I was tired of going days or sometimes weeks without progress when things got to hectic.

And because of it, I've been writing every day! Not only that, but I feel really good about myself and my novels. It's so easy to meet the goal of one hundred words every day and now I say,"As long as I write one hundred, I wasn't a failure today" even if all I write is one hundred. I've found myself writing much more than one hundred words a day and enjoying every bit of it. Where before I was criticizing myself because I still hadn't met my goal, now I am congratulating myself daily for the progress.

I think it's hard for writers not to get into this psychological head trip where we are critizing ourselves and what we write and how fast constantly. It's a muse killer. I was writing still, but it felt mechanical rather than inspired. This has breathed life back into the whole thing. Because I'm writing those extra words because I want to, not because I feel like I need to meet some impossible goal.

I'm so happy.

So if you're a writer like me and you're frustrated with yourself, cut yourself some slack and you might be surprised by how much you can achieve. I'm achieving more now without the pressure than I was before.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Writing Goals

This month, I decided to participate in a challenge that my friend gave everyone, to write at least a hundred words every day. It's not that I wasn't writing already, but I was doing it in infrequent sprints, so I wanted to get back in the habit of making sure I write every single day, so I took on the challenge.

At first, I panicked because I got a horrible migraine on the first of this month and couldn't write a word for two days (or even have the light on without wincing), but then after I recovered, I've successfully written at least a hundred words every day. (So if you already messed up your New Years goals like I did immediately that doesn't mean you can't start again now! Go for it!) Most days I write much more than one hundred, about a thousand words or so, but its good for the spirit. The goal I have to meet every day is so small that I feel accomplished pretty quickly and don't feel as much pressure. Any words I write beyond the first one hundred are basically bonus words that I wrote that day. It's a psychological trip, where instead of beating yourself up because you wanted to write five thousand words and failed to do so, you are patting yourself on the back and getting more excited about writing.

I think my writing spirit was a bit crushed lately.

Although I am not writing at super speed with a super high word count right now, I am writing more quickly than I was writing before (and with more excitement about the whole thing!)

Also, I've been working on finishing two books at once. Yes, that is twice the work, but I feel like somehow it is actually ten times the work. I think in the future, I should work on publishing just one book at a time. It's just that I wanted to make the first book free and the second book concludes the first book, so I thought it would be better to publish them both at once. But then my books come out so slowly and I'd rather get more of my books out quickly.

I say this now, but I actually have a trilogy (that I've already written the first draft of the first book for) that I don't feel comfortable publishing until I am done with all three. So we will see what I actually wind up doing in the future.

I've also been spending more time away from social media. I'd still like to keep logging onto it. I learn a lot from talking to other authors from it. But I've also been getting more writing done without it, so I'm kind of conflicted there.

Anyway, how are all of you? What are your writing goals for this upcoming year?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I'm Back

So I accidentally took a month long break (I'm not sure of the exact amount of time, but it was about the much) without telling anyone from social media, but I am back now, although I hope to be on social media less than I was before (although still present on all the different sites on occasion!) So if I owe you an e-mail or a follow back or anything like that, don't worry, I am trying to get around to finishing all of that right now. And I apologized for that.

I got caught up in the holidays and also my mother and dog who are both sick right now with chronic stuff. My Mom is getting some surgeries in the upcoming months, so I might accidentally disappear again during that time.

I didn't mean to be gone that long or I would have told someone.

I don't know if people noticed I was gone and it's fine if you didn't, I'm just letting you know what happened in December if you happened to have noticed that I wasn't around much.