WIP Wednesday: Facing the Publishing Demon

Writers are plagued by hundreds of demons, and I don’t mean the ones I’m featuring in my book. Self-doubt, writer’s block, fear of failure, fear of success and criticism are fingers on one hand of the demons that have us in a stranglehold.

One of my biggest fears is publishing—and I’m not even there yet! I have so much work to do before I have to make a choice between the Big Six and Indie and self-publishing, but I find my thoughts drifting there often, especially as I type the next chapter heading on a blank page.

I am not going to debate the merits of any of these methods over another. I whole-heartedly agree with Kristin Lamb’s post today, and I recommend you check it out if you’re interested in current unstable publishing climate. The only thought I might add to her statements is that if a change in industry is coming (and obviously it is) then we, the writers, should be manning the sails on this ship.

Don’t tell New York what to do; show them by making choices for the publication of your work that cater to the market trends we support.

The more writers stand up for themselves, the more we all benefit. This includes the artists, both Indie and mainstream publishers and most importantly, readers. That’s who we do this for, no? I don’t write because it’s a good mental exercise. I write because I love stories. Whether it’s the biography of Jim Beam or essays by Sloane Crosley or the latest trendy fiction tale about shape-shifting marsupials, good stories are written to be enjoyed by others.

The readers are what keep me focused on my WIP. How I choose to publish when I’m finished will reflect my gratitude for their readership. (Hint: it will not be in a dusty corner of a brick and mortar house and it will not cost more than my cell service.)

That’s really the only conclusion I’ve arrived at so far on this journey. It’s hardly specific, as there are still so many options for me to pursue, but at least I can say with some certainty what I don’t want for my published work. I’ve deduced this because I’m a reader, too. I know what I like and don’t like about the books I buy, and if I don’t want certain things to happen to my book, then I need to take control of those aspects (smutty bookcovers, anyone? the Fabio days are SO over).

The publishing demon will not defeat me.

In a way, I’m glad I am where I am in my life and career as this storm rolls through. It’s a fascinating study, really. Like Jim Cantore standing on a pier shouting through the wind, “This is a Cat-5, folks, we can’t stress this enough, you must evacuate your homes immediately!” and yet in the background a family paints “Go Away, Hurricane X” on their boarded up windows and holds up a beer as they settle in for the show. Hey, traditionalists, consumer forecasts have been warning you for years.

I’m posting this on WIP Wednesday because the imminent crash and burn of traditional publishing affects all of our WIPs, not just mine. I don’t need to beat this to death; there isn’t a writing blog out there that hasn’t addressed these issues. But this is what motivates me to write today, to strike the keys and build my story, because my story deserves to be told and delivered the way I want to deliver it, the way you want to receive it.

Ride out the waves with me, writers and readers. It’s going to get a little crazy around these parts, but just remember the generosity, love and strength of community that develops after the storm has passed.

DH

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WIP Wednesday: The Thing Postulate

I’m about to do something frowned upon…

Nay, inadvisable…

Full truth— foolish and reprehensible…

 

I’m about to edit my entire manuscript from the Prologue to right around Chapter Eighteen, where I’m currently thrashing in a tumultuous sea of bleh.

I know, I know. I’m willingly and deliberately committing a cardinal sin of writing. Against all advice, I’m doing it anyway. (And yes, I acknowledge that this is exactly the sort of behavior that has kept this manuscript from completion for the past year. Ok, two years.)

Here’s the thing: I don’t have a thing.

Not an excuse, I have plenty of those, but a thing. I have a well-rounded cast of characters, intriguing antagonists, a sympathetic villain, and a fantastic myth to flesh it out, but I don’t have the key element that makes the story whole. Without the thing, it doesn’t matter how conflicted my hero is or how charming my neutral antagonist. The thing makes it easy for the reader to accept the world I’ve built; makes the plot points feel natural instead of contrived or too serendipitous.

What should we call this thing? There must be a word for it. Help me out, writers, you know you’ve been where I am.

The ala-kazaam?

The soul of the story?

The heartstring corollary?

It’s the little morsel of information delivered on an unobtrusive cloud of exposition, hidden somewhere in the backstory. When the reader reads it, the seed is absorbed, only to blossom later as they realize—gasp!—all this conflict was inevitable. What a tragic, fated tale (not entirely tragic, per se, but at the very least emotionally variable). The reader has to believe that because of some turning point in the past, the events of the story are beyond the control of the characters to a certain degree, and the decisions they make are catalysts on this predestined journey.

I’ve always known about this element and for a while, thought I had it. Then came the epiphany, and I suddenly knew what I had to do: the dreaded, shameful partial first-draft edit.

I don’t think this most recent stroke of genius is going to strangle the good things I already have in place. I honestly believe this is for the best. I also plan to weave it in gently, like using a crochet hook to pick up a dropped knitting stitch without unraveling the whole scarf. No character will suffer a massive rewrite (though there will be suffering) and no one will be killed off before their time.

If I do this right, I’ll only be improving, not starting over.

Wish me luck.

 DH

Mad Couscous Disease

The holidays are a big, gluttonous, steaming spoonful of welcome distraction.

I’ve been told I procrastinate because I’m a Sagittarius and all Sags do that. I’ve been told that I have a fear of failure/success/effort/ineptitude so I subconsciously put off doing what I know I need to do to reach my goals. I’ve been told my goals are too lofty and I’ll never succeed. That’s the one that hurts the most.

I sometimes agree and other times disagree with those assessments, depending on the day and how much the demon of self-doubt is scratching around the inside of my skull at the moment.

The truth is I piggyback onto procrastination because it’s the easiest excuse. I never want to admit that I have poor time-management or trouble prioritizing or that some days I just plain don’t feel like writing. So instead I allow myself to procrastinate; I know exactly what I’m doing and while I don’t approve of my behavior, I let myself get away with it. I’m a little tiny puppy who’s so excited to get outside I’m pulling on the leash and I’m far too cute to discipline, then one day I’m a 110 lb beast dragging my owner behind me down the sidewalk.

That’s exactly why I need to stop doing things like blaming procrastination or astrology or Freudian plagues of self-defeat for not finishing the current WIP. I don’t want to wake up one day to find that my manuscript is ripped and tattered, crusted with bird shit and grass stains from being neglectfully dragged through the years of my life.

I wipe the slate clean a lot, and I’m going to do it again now. You know how they say if you fall off the dieting bandwagon to just get back on the next day as if that entire pecan pie you ate by yourself didn’t happen? Well, once again (and not for the last time) I’m going to forget that on Saturday I did three loads of laundry instead of writing the next chapter for my book. And I’m going to forgive myself for running to the store on Sunday because I had to have couscous to serve with the fish. My goal isn’t to be one of those people who work 16-hours days; my goal is merely to become more efficient within the hours I have. I could have written a few pages in between folding clothes instead of watching a Julia Roberts movie marathon. I could have made the rice I already had instead of going out.

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” ~van Gogh

While this post is mainly about procrastination, motivation is a frequent bedfellow. Fortunately, I don’t have to go into that today because Jo Eberhardt has written a brilliant guest post that could have been extracted from my own head. Thanks for doing the grunt work for me, Jo! (And laying it out better than I could have.)

I turn the issue of procrastination to you, readers- Do you find creative ways to procrastinate? What are your coping strategies?

DH