Posts tagged author
Posts tagged author
So, a million years ago when I lived in Japan, there was a group of us gaijin who were aspiring writers. We banded together to for the Fukuoka Writer’s Circle, which was a crit-group, shoulder-to-cry-on, idea-bouncing-board, drinking buddies, and cheerleaders all rolled into one. I was VERY PLEASED to be contacted by Wendy Clark a little while ago, what of my fellow FWCs. She told me that she too had continued to pursue the writing dream and had some books out. So, naturally, I asked if I could introduce Wendy to you! She said yes, so enjoy the below interview. Wendy’s got a great turn of phrase.
1. The worst question to ask and have to answer, but the most satisfying to read is, as always: Why Write? Why be a writer?
I have an insatiable sweet tooth.
Yet, the world seems to be set on feeding me a fat-free diet of extremely bad news. From a young age, I escaped into science fiction (Anne McCaffrey, Keith Laumer) and, later, romance (Nalini Singh, Jennifer Crusie). This was entirely self-preservation. My parents love NPR, and I can only take so many hours of disaster/injustice/genocide before I find myself anorexic for a different kind of content.
For every sugar-free hard fact, I have to take in two scoops of homemade blackberry gelato in happy endings. For every fiber-filled historical tragedy, I need at least one lavender cream cheese cupcake where good triumphs, worthy people succeed, and the best ideas are always awesome.
At some point, consuming wasn’t enough for me and I had to get in the kitchen.
2. What was the instigating moment for you being a writer? What was it that made you think, “Yeah, I want to do that!”
My fourth grade teacher noticed that I was writing pages and pages during free time and suggested, “Maybe you should be a writer.” I still have those 100-ct spiral-bound notebooks. My cursive was way better back then.
3. So far, what’s the been the awesomest thing about being a writer?
Giving the best friend a happy ending! Seriously, how often do you watch a movie and think to yourself, “Hey, that not-main-character is pretty funny. He’s obviously going to die tragically and soon.” Thanks to imagination, I can spend an entire sleepy Sunday rewriting the story, whether it’s introducing a new super weapon to save Bill Paxton (Aliens, Predator 2) or a new super power to save Colin Farrell (Minority Report). I feel like, “Ahh. The people I care about live. The world is at peace.”
Then I import my new super weapon/power into one of my stories—which are not linked to any major franchises—and get two benefits out of one enjoyable brainstorm.
4. What’s been the least awesome thing, and what have you learned or taken away from it? Do you have a teachable you can share with us?
Being self-employed in the United States is like ice fishing during a global heat wave. You pray for good health and/or tie yourself to a day job with benefits, just in case.
Another risk in digital publishing is pirates. I love pirates myself, and I’ve got nothing against sharing a favorite book with loved ones, but here’s how to report to Amazon that someone jacked your book and is pocketing your profits.
As far as personal teachables, I haven’t been in this business long enough to screw up too badly yet. *Grin* Unless the mistake was waiting too long for someone else’s permission to publish, and honestly, I think I needed that extra time to become a better writer.
5. What’s the next big goal for you, and how are you working towards it?
Publishing a full-length book! I am playing with two big ideas right now:
1) A Romeo & Juliet “magnetpunk” set on a desert planet; or
2) A reverse Cinderella romance where a high-class gallery assistant has to get a backwoods artist over his creative block.
I’m story-boarding both right now to see which one I’m most excited about.
In the farther-out future, I’m also looking at enhanced ebooks for bringing a Cyrano de Bergerac/World of Warcraft story to life. It could be a Kickstarter project once I have a cool proof of concept.
The world of publishing is so exciting right now. I’m thrilled to be writing in it.
6. What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever found yourself researching, or the weirdest fact?
I recently had to look up the statistic of hot tub owners in America. Did you know there’s an International Hot Tub Association that keeps track?
I also really needed to know the symptoms of mercury poisoning at 3am, and the most useful description came from a handbook distributed by terrorist organization HAMAS. I’m probably on a CIA watchlist. And I’m not even writing thrillers. My stories are sweet romances!
7. You and I know each other from the long-lost Fukuoka Writer’s Circle (A group of English-speakers who lived in Fukuoka-ken while on the JET Programme); I know I learned a lot not only about writing and storytelling, but also about critiquing and beta reading and taking notes. What do you think the most important part of belonging to a writing community is, and why should people be part of critique groups? What have you learned?
First of all, a writer always needs an editor. You can’t see your own blind spots. If you are in the unfortunate position of having an editor who does not actually edit (a common state these days in publishing) then I hope you are blessed with a great beta reader who can articulate the missing pieces.
I came to the Fukuoka Writer’s Circle at a time when I needed help with the fundamentals of story. Transmitting images from my head to another person’s via the written page is one of most intimate acts of our modern society, and although I’d been writing carelessly since about fourth grade, I needed guidance to tame my wild ramblings into a story someone else actually wanted to cozy up to at night.
Having said that, I’ve only been a member of one writing group since ours, and it scarred me for life. I need kudos and bonbons to keep me focused on improving, but one member of the group was Edward Scissorhands bent on carving up every piece I offered to her. It got to the point where my stomach churned whenever I saw her name attached to an email. I made excuses not to open them for weeks. What’s the point of having a critique group if you can’t open their emails? Even though she made excellent points and I loved everyone else, I felt a thousand times better the day I gave myself permission to leave the group. Claudia Dain once wrote to be careful not to kill your inner writer-girl. I was definitely running out of bandages!
Now I have an editor, a copyeditor, and a super-supportive fan base to give me kudos and help me write the best possible story. And every one of them is fearless — but gentle—about pointing out my blind spots!
8. Being both a debut and a self-publishing author, there’s a lot of work that goes into building your platform and your personal brand. Can you tell us a bit about what you do to self-market?
The first thing I did was actually announce the publication to my friends and family. I have been published before by an established print publisher (Adams Media) and I even co-hosted a well-attended book signing, but my own fears and the imposter syndrome held me back. So literally just announcing that I AM AN AUTHOR has been a huge step forward for me.
Making a sweetly satisfying story that nibbles at your heartstrings and yet leaves you with a delicious happy feeling afterwards is my number one priority. I ensure this happens by vetting my stories through my award-winning editor Christina (Berry) Tarabochia and my detail-oriented copyeditor before they are meticulously formatted for ebook and print. Being a bit of a tech and graphics geek, I do my own covers and uploading.
Since I am just starting out, I take opportunities for guest-blogging, interviewing, article-writing, and networking as they come. I send out a monthly newsletter to my website subscribers with exclusive freebies and behind-the-scenes. In October, I’ll be signing the print anthology at the Emerald City Writers Conference in Bellevue, Washington (just east of Seattle). You can follow the news and appearances on my website too.
Some experts say that there’s no better advertisement than the next excellent book. With that in mind, I am always writing!
9. Tell us about your upcoming stories and books, please!
“Fatty Patty”, which released on July 15, is the first in a series of sweet romantic short stories set around a five-year high school reunion in the San Juan Islands. Here is the tasty blurb:
“Fatty Patty” is the cruel nickname that followed Pepper to high school graduation. Five years later, she’s back at her reunion to prove it hasn’t defined her. In her slim Kate Spades, she’ll show them all — her underachieving classmates and especially the boy who broke her heart.
But Pepper’s not the only one who’s changed in five years. She’s not the only one who has regrets about the things that were, and especially weren’t, said.
And she’s not the only one who plans to use this chance to rewrite history…
The second story, “Chance of Happiness,” releases on August 15, and the third story, “Artful Dodger,” releases on September 15. Those plus two more stories will be gathered into a print anthology available just in time for the holidays.
The San Juan Island Stories are short stories designed to be enjoyed over a lunch break. They capture the essence that every journey — no matter how far — is about discovering yourself and finding your way back home.
10. Where can we buy your books?
11. Where can we follow you on social networks?
BIO: Wendy Lynn Clark is an award-winning author of romance, young adult, and science fiction. Find out the latest at wendylynnclark.com.
Thanks, Wendy! (So, that book I read half of in 2005… you done that yet? I’ve only been wondering how it ends for eight years.)
Okay. So here’s the thing.
I love fandom. Love it. Love fan art. Love the interactivity, the filling out of narratives, love it for all the reasons Jenkins talks about, for the squeals and hugs in convention hallways, for the feeling of connectedness, for the community, for the way said community creates a safe place to love unabashedly as well as a safe space think critically and speak passionately about a media text, for all those reasons.
I especially love fandom because creation breeds creation. (I mean, wow, just look at the amount of spectacular cosplay, fan art, fan fiction, videos, etc. that have come from Reapersun’s Red Pants.)
And I am still a complicated, nervous, fan-girl at heart. Even though I have pro-books out there, I still love and reread my fanfics. I still read and reread other people’s fanfics. I still get that nervous thrill, that flutter that you get when you put up a new chapter and hope, hope, hope that someone will love it, except that I get it when I release a new book.
And I love fan art, I mean, I adore it. I love seeing how people see. I love seeing new interpretations, AUs, everything.
So here’s my dilemma:
I see all these AMAZING fan artists on Tumblr posting information about commissions. And they’re very reasonable prices. And I get excited. Because I want to commission art! I am an artist in my own way, I love paying other artists to art! I love buying albums, I love buying encaustics, I love buying original clothing or crafts, I love buying books, and I love to buy art prints.
I want to commission art!
And I want to commission fan artists to draw my own characters. I have a gallery wall of My Babies As Drawn By People Who Are Not Me and I love adding to it. I love this wall because it is inspiring, it makes me want to Write More. It fuels me as a creator, and I want to add more to it.
And what’s more, because I know my books aren’t widely available IRL/in libraries, if I commission a fan artist, I’m likely to gift them with a free digital version of the book to read, too. Hey, I’m still a fangirl at heart – I love sharing stories.
So here’s where I get all morally wibbly: I fear that fan artists I comission will think that I’m taking advantage of them as cheap marketing. “Oh, so-and-so fan artist is popular, so I will commission said artist to make me arts and then when they put it on their blog it will be like getting cheap/free advertising space on their Tumblr for my books! Bwa ha ha!”
And that’s not what I’m thinking AT ALL. What I’m thinking is: “I want pictures of my characters beautifully drawn by talented people AND I want to also support said talented people’s careers because they are awesome and talented and work very hard to share their passion with other fans and I want to give them money.”
Okay, I mean, it would be super cool if said art got people interested in the books, I’m not gonna lie. But I don’t at all intend to “use” fan artists as “cheap publicity”.
Anyway, do you see my dilemma?
What do you say Tumblr? Do I commission fan art of my own books or not? Am I creep for wanting to? What do I doooooooooooooo?
I think my fave Words for Writers are the ones where I get to answer specific questions. I got this great question and with the asker’s permission, I’m posting my response to him, with personal details omitted.
My question isn’t so much about writing as it is about self-confidence. I have a background in non-fiction writing, as well as broadcast which I think gives me a bit of a leg up in terms of honing my craft. But at the same time almost every interview I read with an author or filmmaker says “well, I’ve been doing this since I was 10” followed by “it will take you at least 10 years to get anywhere.”
All of which would be great if I was in my early 20s, but I’m 42. I know I can write….but at my age I find the “10 years of struggle” thing really, really daunting. I’ve done a fair bit of non-fiction stuff over the last 20 years and learned quite a bit about filmmaking….but I feel like somewhere I missed the window of opportunity that I needed (that might just be an irrational feeling on my part.) I will likely write anyway (because really, what choice do I have, it’s either that or endless regrets) but I was wondering if you could recommend any coping mechanisms that you used along the way, or groups you joined to keep you from giving up.
Also, you’ve mentioned your love of fan fiction. Where would be a good place to start posting fanfic?
Anyway, thanks for reading this. Hope everything is going well for you!
Wow, complicated question.
You’re right, motivation is difficult. I was lucky that I started in fanfic young, so there was always a built-in critique and support group when I started to think about being a writer. People had offered praise, comments, critiques, and I learned how to work with an editor/beta.
If you do want to post fanfic, I suggest Archive of Our Own; I really respect this site as its run by the absolutely splendid Organization of Transformative Works. Fanfiction.net and Livejournal host fanfic too, but from what I understand, a lot of those people are migrating to Archive of Our Own. I think a great place to start posting your fanfic is Tumblr, actually. There’s a growing fanfic base there. Just tag the crap out of your posts, and break up the chapters to serialize the story.
The nice thing about fanfiction is that there’s different ways to engage with the community. Some is on mailing lists, some in community journals, some in personal journals, and some on online libraries and archives. There are even still some hardcopy newsletters.
As for the “fanfic” experience without actually writing fanfic itself, there is Wattpad,and Fictionpress. Those are fanfiction-like communities (readers searching for new fic to follow, writers who post a chapter a at time/ post serialized stories, and feedback/commenters) for original fiction.
Just be aware that there may be flammers and trolls. No matter where you share your fiction (original or fanfiction), you’ll get asshats, so don’t let them get to you. I’m professionally published and I still get asshats. It’s part of being a person who shares your creative works with others, unfortunately. Luckily, you can block people on websites and in social media!
I would also carefully read the Terms of Service for any site you post your original fiction on if you plan on later pulling down the stories and sending them out to agents/publishers. I don’t say this to be paranoid, but just because I don’t personal know what’s in the TOS, which is why I’m cautioning you to read them. I don’t use either site.
For other places to put up full books and receive critique and possibly agent/publisher notice, check out Figment, Authonomy, and the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest. How useful each may be to you depends on how you engage with the community, and how much you are willing to do so. The first two are very community driven and people do read and comment on one another’s books.
I also recommend Miss Snark’s First Victim; Authoress has great contests that help you hone your craft, your pitch, and your writing. As of two days ago, nearly fifty people have either sold a book or signed with an agent through this site.
So there are some ways to find a critique group, and/or fast track the process beyond my other suggestions on my FAQs post.
But the thing is, there really is no way to fast track anything. By the same token, there is no guarantee that there will be a “10 years of struggle” either. A lot of that “10 years of struggle” that people are talking about is a) maturing as a person and a storyteller, b) writing shitty books that will never see the light of day in order to learn HOW to write and what kind of stories they want to tell, and to find their voice, c) learning about the industry.
And the thing is… you’ve already done some of that “10 years of struggle”. You said you’re a non-ficiton writer and a screenwriter both. So, you know how to write - you know how to construct a sentence, edit punctuation, the mechanics of writing which, believe me, is a big part of a beginning writer’s learning curve. And you know how to tell a story, because you’ve screenwritten.
Think of writing fiction like taking a university course - you’re switching majors from NonFic with a minor in Screenwriting to a major in Fiction. You have course credits that you can transfer.
So really, you’re way ahead of the game.
All you need to do now is write the novel.
Well, how to be motivated about that? I have already written a Words for Writers post about that, but if you have any more questions, feel free to ask them.
Lastly, you said that “almost every interview I read with an author or filmmaker says well, I’ve been doing this since I was 10 followed by it will take you at least 10 years to get anywhere.”
This is not always true. What they’re really talking about is putting in the work.
I know some twenty year olds who sold the very first book they wrote. I know some fifty-five year olds who sold the very first book they wrote. I know some sixty year olds who have agents and haven’t sold a thing in twenty years. I know some people who sold a book they wrote, edited and polished in a year, and I know some people who sold a book they wrote, edited, and polished over ten years. I know some people who signed an agent with their first book, and never sold that book, but sold the next six.
This has nothing to do with your age or where you are in life, and everything to do with whether you’ve written the best book you can write. If you write a damn good book, and you hone it, and craft it and polish it, what does it matter if you get it done in one year or ten?
For comparison - Triptych was about 8 months of writing, and about a year and a half of editing because I’d never done it before, and then another four months of editing with the publisher. The draft that you can buy in the store is #64.
One of my new books is over two years old. I wrote it in three months and have been editing it ever since. We’re on draft #74 and my agent hasn’t signed off on it. We haven’t submitted it together anywhere. There will probably be a few more drafts, in fact, before it is submitted anywhere. And I haven’t started writing the sequel book, save for a few scenes here and there that I didn’t want to forget. That’s okay with me. The book isn’t ready yet.
And yet again, I started another book last August, finished it in November, edited it over the holidays, and my agent is shopping it right now. The draft editors are reading is #4. It all depends on the book, and how it comes together, and not your age.
One more thing: Publishing is very hurry-up-and-wait. Even if you wrote a whole book and got it perfect tomorrow, signed with an agent the next day, and sold it to a publishing company the day after, it still wouldn’t come out until mid-2014. There’s too much marketing to plan, a cover to design, edits to do… it’s a slow process which involves a lot of people who have many different projects they have to turn their attention to. So there’s really no rush. And it’s not like you have to retire from writing when you retire from your job at sixty-five, right? You can keep writing, welp, right up to the coffin.
As for things I did to keep from giving up…
Well, I cry sometimes. I throw books at the wall and walk away. I start novels and never finish them. I won’t deny it. Some days it gets overwhelming and I want to give up.
But then I think about the thrill of seeing my book in my hands, on shelves, in other people’s hands on the subway. I think about the way I’m opening people’s minds with my stories, the new thoughts and ideas I might give them, the stories mine might germinate in them. I think of the pride in my grandmother’s eyes. And yes, to be crass and honest, I think about the royalty cheques.
I still have a day job, I don’t make ends meet with writing, but I also write in the hopes that one day I will make enough on my myriad of novels that I will be able to quit the day job and spend my days being an actor, being a writer, and touring to give talks.
I also made a point of making authorly friends (met them at local book launches, meet ups, by answering ads in local bookstores, etc.) who have all felt what I feel when they’ve been low. They get it. I can go out with them for coffee or beer or goddamned vodka and talk it out with them. It also helps, I find, to make yourself accountable to friends and family.
I tell people about my books as I write them, and their enthusiasm (“When can I read it!?”) helps me get energized and positive about the story. I give them chapters to critique as I finish them, or bounce ideas off them. I let some of my friends name a lot of my characters.
My Mom is also really, really good at scolding me if I miss self-imposed deadlines, and once when I was like, 10k behind on NaNoWriMo, she made me sit at the kitchen table and gave me that patented Mom-Glare every time I got up to pee. She made me dinner and tea and let me talk through issues with her. It was the exact kind of tough-love I needed.
I impose deadlines on myself and try to stick to them. I do NaNoWriMo. I got Scrivener and it made the whole process much quicker and more streamlined for me (because I construct novels like a jenga tower).
Anyway, I think I’ve run out of advice to give….
I think you’re right, it’s irrational to feel that you’ve missed a window of opportunity. And yet I’m not dismissing that fear, because I feel that way sometimes, too. I wonder if I went with the right agent, the right publisher, if I shot myself in the foot by publishing like this instead of like that, for taking that deal and not the other one, for talking to this person at the party when I should have been talking to someone else instead… maybe it’s not a comfort to know that the second guessing and the self-doubt don’t ever really go away. You just get better at telling it to eff off; especially when you surround yourself with people who help you to remember that you want to do this for a reason, people who support you.
The thing with writing is… you can start whenever because there’s no special course you need to take, or age you need to be. All you have to do is write.
I wish you all the luck.
More WORDS FOR WRITERS Posts
First Drafts: My Advice for NaNoWriMo: Be A Bit Crap
Hard vs. Soft SF: The Balance Between Science-Telling and Story-Telling
Genre: Why Do I Write Sci Fi?
Format: How To Structure A Story
World-Building: Culture-Building, Character-Building, and Finding The Story
Abandoning A Manuscript: Bidding Farewell
Copyright: Protecting Your Work
Have a question you want me to answer?
Authors need fans, right? Sure we do – we need people who like our books, our writing, who recommend them to other people, who spread buzz and vote for them, who defend them and squee over them, who recommend them to their librarian and give them as gifts. We need fans, at the most basic, to buy and read our books or we couldn’t afford (financially or emotionally) to write more.
But what about fans? I’m talking the come-to-every-event-you-do, attend-every-signing, write-fanfic, build cosplay, analyze-the-crap-out-of-your-work kind of fans. Do we need those?
Yes. YES WE DO.
And I love you, too. I love you guys a lot.
Let me tell you why I love you – and why many authors love you too.
Xed talks with SF/F author, fanthropologist, pop culture scholar, and voice actor J.M. Frey!
Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season filled with laughter (the above photo should help*), light, and love. I wish all the best for all of you in 2013, and I hope all your ambitions come to fruition, and all your dreams come true.
Thank you for the support, the advice, the wine, the tea, the fun, and the giggles you gifted me with in 2012. I can’t wait for more!
*Yup, that’s me dressed as the Ghost of Christmas Present in the musical “Scrooge!”. Ha ha ha.
Katie Uhlman of KATIE CHATS interviewed me at GenreCon this month. Here’s the interview! We talk The Dark Side of the Glass, When The Hero Comes Home, When the Villain Comes Home, my childhood crush on Wil Weaton, the cleverness of John Green, and fanthropology.
Dude. I love fandom. I really, really love fandom.
Eric Allen Montgomery’s TRIPTYCH Memory Box:
At nearly every event I attend, someone asks me “How Do I Become A Writer?”
I wax poetic about “Doctor Who” on the SPACE Channel in June 2010.
Usually in reply, I ask: “Do you want to be a writer? Or do you want to be a professional who gets paid to write? Because those are two different things and it will make my answers different.”
If it is the former, my answer is this: “Write. And share it. And write more.”
If it is the latter, my answer is this: “Hoo-boy, do you have a few hours? And Google?”
I was considering a blog series that gives people a detailed run-down of how to navigate becoming a professional writer, but realized it’s been done before, and done well, by other authors, agents, and editors.
However, I still get asked, so there must be questions that aren’t getting answered elsewhere, or not in enough detail.
So, I wanted to open the floor here.
What questions, specifically, do you have for a published, professional author about becoming a published, professional author? Is there anything you’ve been dying to know, and can’t find in your research? Is there a question that you can’t seem to get a straight answer on?
Ask me, and I will do my best to answer in as much detail and as straightforwardly as I can. It might be in comments, but it will probably be in a blog post. Ask away!
Past Writerly Questions I’ve Answered:
Chosing to be a Writer: Why Write?
Getting Started: The “What If?”
First Drafts: My Advice for NaNoWriMo: Be A Bit Crap
Revisions: Unhooking, Tough Choices, And Raising Your Manuscript Up Right
Hard vs. Soft SF: The Balance Between Science-Telling and Story-Telling
Self-Marketing: What I Do To Self-Market (make sure to read the comments, too) & Book Trailers
Agents: I Have A Publishing Deal But I Still Want An Agent & How Do I Get An Agent? Why Do I Need One?
Genre: Why Do I Write Sci Fi?
Format: How To Structure A Story
Finishing a Manuscript: Keeping Momentum & The Emotionally Blocked Writer &
Queries: You Might Have to Work At It & That Middle Place