Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Showing Support

Indie writers need support. Doing this whole self-publishing thing is a long and lonely road without support. You need to establish fans, friends, and network your ass off. Seriously. This isn’t a road for the lazy to travel and unfortunately for me I do tend to have a huge lazy bone.

We can make all the excuses we like (and I do!) but the bottom line is when deadlines are looming sometimes life gets in the way and other times we just forget. Today is one of my (many) “forgetful” days. Between life being chaotic and looming self-imposed deadlines stressing me out I have once again forgotten my SPE post. Luckily for me I had already figured out what I wanted to write about, which was supporting those who support you. Isn’t it advantageous that my forgetfulness works into a post about support? Why yes, yes it is.

Anyways, so here I was lying in bed nursing one of my killer headaches that usually lays me out for at least a full day when I get an inbox from Alex gently reminding me that today was my SPE posting day. Alas, when it needs to be done you drag yourself out of bed, pull up your boot straps and get to work. That is what I am doing now.

Now Alex didn’t send me a bitchy email saying “Hey lazy, get off your ass and post! You are messing up my blog!” No, instead she was supportive, knowing what a busy morning I’ve had, she knew that I had just finished eating and was dealing with a headache, it was a gentle nudge, a reminder not a demand. If my headache was already to the point of no return then I wouldn’t have been able to get up and start typing but it is at a moderate pain level that I can deal with for the time being, so I let her know I’d be getting to it. Communication. It is key in every type of relationship, professional or personal, you will ever have. Alexandra and I communicate, if I’m feeling under the weather I let her know, if I forget something she lets me know.

On the Twisted Tales blog we are on there are seven different writers all with different schedules, family lives, spouses, significant others, children, no children, pets, jobs, obligations. We can’t always get our posts out on time, but we try and when we can’t we let the rest of the writers know. Not because we are obligated to, but to communicate so that everyone knows what is going on.  And when we post we do our best to promote everyone’s writing, not just our own. We tag, we share links, and we spread the word for all of us.

Support. It’s a huge thing, sometimes it is the only thing that keeps you going.

Support from colleagues is the same as it is from fans and friends who support your writing. When a friend of mine posts a link to one of my projects, or my author page, or recommends that people follow one of my blogs I always do my best to acknowledge them. These people who recommend my page, or share a link to our blogs, they are doing so because they like what they read and want to share it with others. They aren’t asking for a kickback, they do it because they are great people, great friends and as such I am always extremely grateful.
I’ve seen other people who do not acknowledge when a fan shares a link and tags them in a post praising their books, but that is not my style, I can’t be like that. I’ve seen some people flat out ignore fans comments or questions in a thread because they are too busy sharing inside jokes with their close friends. I always think to myself, “I never want to exclude anyone.”

This is all just my own, personal little musing on how I want to conduct myself as a professional. I want to cultivate relationships (friendly relationships, get your minds out of the gutter) with the people who support me. I never want people to see my every post on social networking as “Oh poor me, come listen to me have a pity party for myself. Nobody likes me. I’m getting rid of all my friends. If you don’t talk to me then why are you on my friends list?” kind of thing. Everyone has their moments (and my personal page is different from my author page. On my personal page you will probably see the random bitching about my husband who just did some really dumb thing that made me mad, or you might see me posting about my kids… And honestly a whole lot of food pics but my author page has none of that). We all have our sour moments in life, but we should never be sour when it comes to people showing us love and support.

I got my start writing again in the role playing world, because of that I always try to show mad love to the RPers on Facebook, I promote them on The Indie Writers’ Collective and on my personal page. I show love to other authors that I enjoy reading, the authors I write with at Twisted Tales, and to my friends. My friends, most of whom I’ve met through social media and Facebook Role-Playing, they keep me going. They encourage me and pick me up when I’m feeling down. But even the people who are on my friends list that I am not close with (yet) I still show as much support as possible. Even if it is somebody I don’t talk to, I still enjoy seeing their posts in my newsfeed and “like” their posts.

I hope that one day when I’m an attending author at a convention and someone from FB comes up that they are actually excited to meet me because I’ve been accessible online to them. And yes, I realize that being a featured (or attending) author at a convention is a huge pipe-dream, but you just never know, it might happen for me one day.

And so in this crazy, lonely, scary world of Self-Publishing relationships and support are key.

That is my goal, no matter what happens in my writing career. I will support others and be kind. You never know what someone else might be going through or dealing with, a “like” or a nice comment can sometimes turn someone’s day around and that makes taking a second to show some appreciation, a like-back, or posting a random *hug* to someone who has supported me is totally worth it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A look into my revision process

Originally I was going to do a post on self-editing, but I decided to give you guys a look into my SPE project by how I revise. In Black and White is 73k words, give or take. I've sent most of it out to betas for first round, this is what I look for from them first round:

Plot holes
Constancy in characters/actions/events
Anything that sticks out at them

Now, I do go through it before I send it out. As an author though some things escape me because I see it different in my head. This is why you should always pass your work to a beta at least once. So when I get it back from them, I compile the notes. I see what is most common, then second most common, and then each nitty gritty detail each of them picked up. I combine all these in one document using track changes. It can get confusing this way, but 1) I can see all the changes and 2) I can see a little more clearly where the most work is needed.  Next I go through it again and make the changes that I think are needed. This time hoping that I fix all the big stuff (plot holes, flow you know the stuff that makes for super bad writing and I asked my betas to point out.) Then I send it out again if there were some major things, In Black and White will be going out for a second time because there are a few things that must be changed up to flow a little more.  So the second time around I will be asking for:

Flow (in the places that I'm fixing)
Sentence structure that is awkward that I didn't catch
Any last minute thoughts over all

So right now you're asking me, what about grammar, I don't see that on your list. Well I save that for last, because I don't like to waist people's time. How would you like to spend a couple hours going through something and checking every comma, every period, every nitty gritty grammatical thing just for me to completely rewrite the section and you having to go through it again for those items? I also have a special person who will get Black and White a third time, she will go through it in hard copy and fix the grammar, a week to two weeks before the release she'll hand it back to me, I'll finish it up and send it to everyone to reread through for typos.

So that's how I tackle a project. With Black and White I send a few chapters at a time to the betas so they don't get overwhelmed. I also only do a few chapters at a time to keep me from being burnt out. I hope you guys appreciate all the hard work my betas and I do to polish up this project for you!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cultivating My Brand & Progress

This is an exciting and frightening time for me.

When +Alexandra Webb  first asked me if I wanted to be part of this experiment I instantly said yes and as the months have passed I have come to realize the importance and the seriousness of that answer. Who would have thought that one simple word—just three little letters would alter my life so dramatically. But it has and it will continue to do so. Every move I make on social media, every blog post, every Tweet, every Facebook status on my author page, every comment has to be carefully weighed against my brand as an author. And yes, authors are brands in and of themselves.  Granted I am a small name, practically unheard of brand, but it is my brand I am trying to cultivate.

At the beginning we each knew we were going to need a “SPE Project” the one work we were going to use to break into the Self-Publishing business to try to make names for ourselves, to see how hard this industry really is to become successful, and to catalog our ups, our downs, our hits and all of our misses. My project for SPE is “Waking Up In Bedlam” and as for my downs, here they are: I’ve been stuck on Chapter 12 for over a month now. I am procrastinating, sometimes not even consciously, sometimes I think the fear of reaching for my dreams triggers something in my brain that says “Let’s take a break even though you’ve only written 12 words and play “Where’s My Perry” for a little bit.” And off I go. Because it is frightening when you are reaching for your dreams. And as the famous quote goes:

 If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.

I’ve seen this attributed to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Albert Einstein, Eminem, Winston Churchill, and Dr. Seuss. I don’t really care who said it (although it is quoted in Madam President Sirleaf’s book, so let’s just go with that), it is the truth. Your dreams should scare the ever-loving-crap out of you. End of Story. And every move you make should be pushing you towards that goal. So yes, I procrastinate. I play “Where’s My Perry” when I should be concentrating, I slack and get distracted by Facebook posts and even worst Facebook drama. But I always manage to pull myself back and remind myself that just because I’m scared of what it will mean for my life when I finish this project that I am only ever a failure, a true failure if I do not try.

So I am still trying. And for the record, Chapter 12 is the last chapter in Waking Up In Bedlam, so far it stands at 52k+ and I’ve already sent Chapters 1-9 out to some of my beta readers, I’ve already gotten feedback and things are looking good. Even while procrastinating my efforts are still going towards my dream and my goal. While I’m playing my stupid Perry game on my iPad I am usually combing through the previous chapters, fixing little things here and there. Even when I’m not posting about my progress I am still focused while goofing off.

I read my manuscript from Prologue to Chapter 12 at least once a week, to alter, edit and make sure I’m not overlooking stuff.  Self-Publishing gets a bad rap for having spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, looking unprofessional, with shoddy editing, and plot holes.  I am striving to make sure that I can polish this baby as best as I can, that I take all of my beta readers advice and suggestions and that I do all that I can so that I do not fall into that stereotype.

I have this reoccurring nightmare that when my book is released it is so bad that I become the most hated person on the internet, the people in my small town all revolt against me and drag me out to the center of town and burn me at the stake with the ONE copy of my book that sold. I wake up in a cold sweat, panting and breathless, usually in tears or screaming. My poor dog and husband probably think I’ve gone insane. I am a writer, I think it is safe to say that my sanity-boat sailed a long time ago.

I don’t want to be burned at the stake, I don’t want to be roasted on the proverbial pyres of the internet either. I am my brand, my brand is me and I want to succeed, even if it means taking longer than I had hoped for the final product.

So where does Waking Up In Bedlam stand as of now? We are at 52k, one chapter left to write. Three chapters left to send out to my beta readers, then it is time to start the editing process. After a couple of rounds of that and final edits it will be good to go. I am aiming for mid-July.

I am also taking an online course for self-editing called “BeforeYou Hit Send” by Angela James. I’m hoping that will help me because I know grammar isn’t my strong suit and because I know I have a lot to learn.

One thing I can say is this: I am proud of myself. I’m proud that I am sticking with this even if it is slow going. I am proud that I am taking steps to get my name out there, to have my name in constant publication, I do that with the Twisted Tales blog. It is a project that is far more than just writing a fun little fairytale, it is more ways of cultivating my brand, my name and having a body of work that others can enjoy on a reoccurring schedule. I am proud that I am stepping outside of my comfort zone to do things like take the “Before You Hit Send” course and setting up my “Smashwords” acct in anticipation of publishing Waking Up In Bedlam. I am proud that my beta readers and friends like my story. I love when they email me that a piece of dialog made them laugh or that they want more. Those things make me feel incredibly good.  It lets me know that I am on the right track.

As for my reoccurring nightmare, I think in time it will pass. I know there will always be haters. People will hate on me and my books without even reading them. I know this, it is the nature of the internet.  I know I will get drive-by 1 star ratings from people who dislike me personally, or don’t like paranormal romance, or who think using the word “cock” means I should burn in hell. These are bound to happen, that I am prepared for. What I fear is letting myself and the people that believe in me down. That would be the worst.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

You cannot please everyone

First off, lets hear it for the writers of the Twisted Fairy Tale blog! They are doing a great job and it was wonderful to get to know them all a little bit through their interviews.

Now on to my late post. (Sorry life distracted me a little.) Today I want to cover the importance of feedback and reviews. They kind of go hand in hand, but we're going to separate them. So when I say feedback, what I'm talking about is the beta readers. I love my beta readers, I appreciate every one of them, but you have to remember that you can't make everyone happy. So how do you approach it when they all have different opinions on a certain spot? Well, here's what I do.
Too cute not to post. 

I keep in mind that they all have different area of expertise or a strong point. I discover this as we go along with editing. I have one beta reader who excels with little details and another who has a better eye for timing. There is one who lives the lifestyle and can tell me where I need to tighten up my accuracy on those details. (Note: Even though I live the lifestyle it is always nice to have extra eyes on that.) I have one who is fantastic at sex and one who is great with grammar. Many of these have multiple skills that over lap which help me out. So with all this feed back, what I do is I go over it all, see if there is common ground on complaints (This scene is too short, this is confusing, it moved to fast) and then I work on fixing those. Once the common ground things are taken care of I look closer at what each beta had to say in different spots. I take the good with the bad. Some of it is just person specific and some of the feedback has valid points. This is where you have to remember, you cannot please everyone.

You are the author, you know your characters best and the storyline. It's great when beta readers catch discrepancies and they are able to help you strength your writing. They help with flow and content and they push you to make it the best you can, but you have to be true to you and the story. If beta reader A wants more sex, but beta reader B thinks there's too much, you have to make that call. If beta reader C and D didn't say anything about it, then again, you have to make the call. Do you leave it be? Do you shorten the sex scenes, take one out? Put one in?

On another project I had beta reader A say, "If it wasn't your writing, I wouldn't be able to get past the first page. The start didn't suck me in." But Beta reader B and C said, "It's fine, there was no problem getting past the start." or when another reader says, "The ending feels rushed." but no one else felt that way. I just had to take a chance and go with my gut feeling. With In Black and White, I've already gotten back conflicting feedback. Some of the calls are tough to make, but feed back is important. especially honest feed back.

So that brings me back to reviews. Reviews kind of drive me nuts, because you have the people who write obviously forced five star reviews, and then you have the drive by one star reviews. It happens to everyone, go read some reviews on goodreads, amazon, shelfari anywhere. You will see the ones that you know are forced (say the same thing over and over again) a lot of time you have friends of the authors that'll just repeat what the last friend said.

Then you have the drive by reviews. The people who leave a low rating without actually leaving a review. Some of them come from accounts that have just recently been activated, and sometimes not. The important thing as an author is not to respond to the negativity of these. Do not try to call the people out, just ignore it. People who read reviews normally take everything with a grain of salt, because they understand that these things happen. Those same people will take five star reviews with a grain of salt as well. (It depends on the review)

Reviews are helpful though, it does let the readers know who enjoyed it, who didn't and the reasons why. Occasionally, you'll get a review that makes you want to bang your head against the desk. I think my favorite review that I saw (when looking at reviews) was, "It was too short, I didn't realize it was a novella when I bought it." The book was marked as a novella, so clearly that wasn't the author's fault. Or, "I didn't like the way the storyline revolved around the romance of the characters. I wanted more focus on the events surrounding them. Too much fleshy action." That was on a romance novella.

My final thoughts on this are: Readers: leave honest reviews, Beta-readers: give the best and most honest feedback you can, and Authors: You are nothing without your readers and the help you get behind the scenes. Remember that. Also remember, you get nothing but drama when you react to negative reviews. Let it roll off your shoulders, laugh about it and then move on.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Author Interview: Kandi McGilton

Today is the last day of our author interviews with our co-authors at Twisted Tales. So without further ado, here is our interview with Kandi McGilton, author of Snow White.

(From the Snow White page at Twisted Tales, click here to read more)

Blurb: Snow White

She’d been the cause of all of their families problems and who knew looking like her mother would be the death of her? “Snow White” they’d called her the day she came into this world, and that name had haunted her every day since. With an evil step mother out to get her at every turn, Snow will do what has to be done. Survive. At the mercy of the queen, at the blade of the huntsman or the hands of the seven dwarfs; Snow’s daunting journey to happiness has only just begun and waiting for her prince to come along is the last thing on her mind.

1) What got you started on writing?
This is going to sound cliché and make a few eyes roll, but it was Shakespeare. I fell in love with his writing at a young age and believe it or not, I had a rather fond gift for writing my own naughty sonnets. I came to understand long ago that nothing I wrote would be lacking in the naughty section. From there I learned of the role playing world where I met people who completely challenged, changed and inspired my writing style today.

2) Are your non-writing friends and family supportive?  Or do you get the "author/writer...yea... okay..." response?  
There are a few who aren't keen on the style and topic of my writing, but most of my family and friends are extremely supportive. It still takes me by surprise at how many of them still pull me aside and say, “Hey, I read so and so and it was amazing! I had no idea you liked to write that kind of stuff!” It definitely helps keep the words flowing.

3) Why did you choose your particular story for the Fairy Tale Blog?
I had originally planned on writing about Sleeping Beauty since that her tale is one of my favorites. But as I thought about all the other fairy tales, Snow White seemed to stick out. Why? Well, one woman living in the same house as seven men? The wheels began to turn and I slowly began to smirk at the thought, the first scene I had imagined for Snow White as clear as day in my mind. The idea of writing that much sex for one little princess sounded like a huge challenge to me and begrudgingly I admit, I LOVE a challenge. So I immediately gave up my chance for Sleeping Beauty to write Snow White.

4) Why you took it in the direction you did? 
I’m taking Snow White in this direction because I spent hours researching her before the blog launched. She may be one of the few who has an amazingly real past in my opinion. And although I lack in the magic and mystical creatures department, I do hope it will be unique and much darker than any version of Snow White you’ve ever read.

5) What elements are you going to keep the same as the classic version and why?
Let’s just say the main characters will stay the same but they are in no way going to be the Disney or Grimm versions that are commonly known. For example, Snow White and the dwarfs have a real name in my version. The names we've all come to know today are simply nicknames in this story. For now, I think I'll be keeping all of the original characters and adding quite a few more names to my cast to give the plot more depth and a few more twists than you might have anticipated from Snow White.

6) Do you prefer to write in silence or with the TV going or with music?
I love silence. I might be that 1 in 10 that loves to write in silence, but it lets me think, lets the ideas flow and the words feel like they magically appear on the pages. If there’s too much going on around me I can’t concentrate on the task at hand and get so frustrated I have to walk away from my work.

7) What is your dream writing space?
It has always been a dream of mine to have a bookshelf that spun into a secret room and it would look like that scene from Beauty and the Beast. I’m in the mindset that the more you read, the better your own writing, so it would only make sense to write in my very own personal hidden library.

8) What do you do to put yourself in the mood for writing graphic scenes like sex, violence or debauchery?
It’s not so much what I do to put myself in the mood for a scene than it is how I’m feeling at the time. If I’m in the mood for a sex scene, I will pump out some wild fantasy playing in my head until every last detail is written down. If I happen to be having a horrible day where everything and everyone is pissing me off, there’s a high chance that someone is about to get their ass kicked verbally or physically; or possibly die in the story line that day. So I suppose I channel my energy and emotions into my writing more than I prepare myself for a particular scene. I guess that also means more people in my everyday life stay alive that way.

9) If your life was a novel, what would the title be and who would write it?
I honestly have no idea, but I keep dreaming that Morgan Freeman reads it to me someday... hint hint Morgan Freeman.

10) Who helps you through this crazy journey of writing?
Two of the best friends a girl could ask for and even though we’ve never met in person, I’m truly happy and honored to call them friends. I met the two of them through role play and they also happen to be on the Twisted Fairy Tale blog with me. They’ve been absolutely amazing at getting my ass in gear when I just don’t have the motivation and desire to write. I have to go back to question No. 2 and say that without all of my friends and family supporting me, even if they do it secretly because of the content of my writing; their love, support and understanding really pushes me to strive for greatness. And of course I have to give a special thanks to the people who take the time to edit my work when I ask them to because come on, what author honestly likes editing?

Click the links to follow Kandi McGilton: Twisted Tales  and at her personal writing blog Kandi's Naughty Time