Tag Archives: publishing

Writing Between Once Upon a Time & The End

After I finished writing the first draft of my latest novel, I thought I had succeeded in crafting a new genre.

How unaware I was of the dangerous second draft.

Upon rereading the manuscript, I noticed the story fell apart in the middle, although the ending was exceedingly strong. My intention was only to fix the glue between “Once upon a Time” and “The End.”

After editing the first 100 pages, I hit the middle. The sludge depressed me. How was I going to make sense of the mess? The characters had evolved, but not consistently. The conflict had escalated, but unrealistically. The complications were more complicated, but required charts, graphs, and a Power Point presentation to understand it.

Luckily, my daughter came to the rescue. She sat down with me one evening and asked me why my mood reflected the rain clouds in the overcast sky. I confided how I was mired in the middle of my story.

“What should I do?” I asked.

My daughter thought it over. “If I was the main character, I would go to my best friend.”

It seemed like such a simple action, but it cut through the dense confusion that I almost cried from relief.

Immediately, 50 pages disappeared from the manuscript. I started writing where my daughter suggested and a whole new middle unfolded effortlessly.

By the time I reached the third act, the characters had evolved and the conflict needed a new resolution. What was I going to do? I loved the original ending. It was strong. It was unconventional. But it no longer worked.

I had to write a new ending.

Is the second draft perfect? Hardly. But it is one step closer on the road toward publication.

Wish for The End

Make a Wish
Ideals, dreams, and wishes are not just for children

It’s been almost four months since I started writing my next novel, an anti-romance.

During this time, I’ve spent almost a month in the middle slogging through the difficult challenges and complications that culminate in the story’s climax.

I’m moving through the last 100 pages, eager to reach the denouncement, yet intuitively knowing there must be one last plot twist before the story wraps up and everyone lives unhappily ever after (since it’s an anti-romance).

What I’ve discovered so far is that dreams and wishes plague our psyche, both individually and as a culture. Those dreams and wishes, once thwarted, lead us to make decisions out of desperation to save what we cannot bear to lose — our illusions of whatever it is that will make us happy and fulfilled human beings.

Writing an anti-romance, while wonderfully pragmatic, challenges me to uncover the ways in which we unconsciously live out our desires to the detriment of ourselves and the ones we love the most.

I’m looking forward to that final plot twist and that unhappy ending, which may not be as unhappy as I originally envisioned. Only 25,000 more words will tell.

Muddle

Frustrated Woman Using Laptop

I’m in the middle of the first draft of my anti-romance novel and have hit the wall. I know how the story begins and how the story ends, but the middle is where I am fumbling.

Much like life imitating art, I often know what I want but do not know how to go about getting it.

And I know from experience the only thing I have going for me is the combination of patience and time and writing my way through it.

Many authors feel the same way about the muddling middle. Forty-thousand words into the story and the complications get so intense and the stakes get so high no one in their right mind would ever want to live through it if it was real life. So why do I willing sit and stare through tears at the screen as each painful letter is pounded out?

Because I want to get to the end where the conflict is resolved and everyone lives somewhat better even if it is an anti-romance. Maybe there is a funeral or a wedding or a showdown in the back alley of a bar where both parties realize they’ve drawn blanks, but whichever way the story ends, the puzzling middle is long gone.

In the midst of sleepless nights, I struggle to write through those 40,000 words to crest the summit and head toward those last 40,000 words to finish.

But until I start coasting toward THE END, I’m a miserable person to work with, live with, and love….

Nuggets of Time

After publishing five books, no one asks, “When do you find time to write?” Instead, I am asked, “When is the next book coming out?”

No one wonders about the process, just the end product. No one assumes I work a day job, raise a family, or have other responsibilities. After all, most successful authors devote their working hours to writing and promoting their books.

But my story is a little different.

When a family is divided, the responsibilities multiply. I went from supporting one household to supporting two households. I went from caring for two children to five children. Everything in my life seemed to increase instead of decrease, except for time.

I’m learning to sacrifice things I have never sacrificed before so I have nuggets of time to write.

And still, the muse is not satisfied.

But I cannot quit my job, abandon my families, and run away to a writer’s retreat for 12 weeks to pound out a first draft. I must stick to these small wedges of time—five minutes here, two minutes there—to develop my next story even if it takes months to get the job done.

Starting a New Chapter

?

I have started writing my next novel.

An idea surfaced during a conversation with my boyfriend and his mother. I jotted it down in the memo pad on my cell phone and continued chopping vegetables.

The next day I woke up and heard the main character’s voice. I grabbed my notebook and began taking dictation.

The following day I wrote down other tidbits as they surfaced: memories and character sketches, scenes and dialogue, timelines and deadlines.

By the fourth day, I had enough to start my next book.

I wrote the first scene of chapter one today, and I’m thrilled.

It’s good to be writing professionally again.

Intensely Personal

I’ve spent the first half of my life as a confessional writer, beginning with the poetry I wrote in high school and ending with the memoir that was published last year.

Now I don’t feel like sharing my intimate writing with the world anymore.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, but that everything I want to express is too close to the bone, too personal, without that professional distance even a confessional writer needs.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not writing. I’m writing a lot, every other day, even though I feel like I could write all the time, only my schedule does not allow it, at least for now while I’m preoccupied with other things that are temporarily more important.

Does that mean my professional writing is postponed a little while longer? I don’t know. I’ve spent the last week reaching out to old contacts who had requested articles and essays and short stories from me. I’ve let people know I’m back, but I’m not anxious. I’ve already begun to write that slow, painful dance of trying to contain the emotions that are spilling onto the paper and rein them in as words. Most days I spend crying when I’m not writing. After all, I have 20 pounds of emotions to purge from the previous year. It’s not going to happen overnight.

From experience, I know when I’m done I’ll be a better person and a better writer, deeper, clearer, more empathetic than I already am. And, hopefully, the words will become less personal and more professional, and I’ll be ready to publish again.

The Next Project

During my book tour, people asked, “What’s your next project?” I was honest, bouncing around some ideas I had and my conflicted feelings about committing to a larger work before I was ready.

Now that the tour has ended, I’ve painted a few paintings and written a few poems but again I wake up in the middle of the night and ask myself, “What’s your next project?”

I’ve thought about the thriller I need to rewrite, the one that was a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, the one in which I didn’t know how to proceed but now have the knowledge to continue. I’ve also thought about the romance I need to edit, the one that every editor and agent said was a solid idea, poorly executed. Could I work on that?

And then there is the exhaustion that comes after one projected has ended. How much time do you allow yourself before apathy creeps in and takes hold? Is one week enough? One month? Or do I need more time to recover?

I don’t have any answers to any of these questions, only more questions upon questions. That’s why I wake up every night and wonder how I will begin. That’s why I try to go back to sleep, to dream and rest and find that sense of sanity I lost when I was writing, promoting, and traveling.

And that’s how stories always begin. When I am not looking for that next project, the project seems to find me. It starts as one word, then another, until I have another manuscript unfolding in my hands. That’s when I’ll look up and say, “I know what my next project is.”

Sacrifice for Success

Sacrifice

The other day, my husband asked, “What more do I have to sacrifice for your success?”

I had just announced I would be missing another family function in order to audition for a radio spot that would air in October to promote my memoir, Red Eggs and Good Luck. Since January, I had been pitching articles, essays, videos, appearances, and speaking engagements in anticipation of snagging prime spots to showcase the book in the hopes of increasing the number of pre-orders and garnering more sales.

Of course, my husband didn’t understand. I hadn’t publicized my other books outside of social media and local appearances. But after discussing my goals with my publisher, I decided to hire a publicist and expand my marketing efforts beyond anything I had ever anticipated doing. My family cringed when I announced how much time and money I planned to devote to this book. My husband said, “We need a new car!” My daughter asked, “How am I going to afford college?” My son, who can’t talk, didn’t say anything. But if he could, I’m sure he would have protested too.

No one knows the magic formula that causes one book to rise to the best seller list and another book to remain unknown. Publishing experts offer advice, but the truth remains a mystery. Otherwise, the formula would be replicated without fail.

My family knew I was gambling, placing a bet on something that may or may not pay off. But a lot of the risks we take in life are gambles, including the biggest risk of all: falling in love. Exposing yourself to another human being with the chance of being hurt and disappointed doesn’t stop most people from taking the first step to connect.

So when my husband asked, “What more do I have to sacrifice for your success?” I responded, “Whatever it takes for however long it takes.”

Success doesn’t have a deadline. Neither does love. Or anything else that’s worth the sacrifice.

Believe and Achieve

2015 Believe

Sometimes when we are stuck in our careers or our life, we need help.

Last year, after a frustrating summer, I fell into a slump. I wasn’t where I wanted to be in my life. At this late stage of the game, I had thought I would be a stay-at-home wife and mother who wrote and published books to supplement my husband’s income. My life was very different. I was a full-time professional with a husband who primarily took care of the children while managing his computer business. I had little time to be a wife and a mother. I had even less time for writing and painting. Often I had no time at all.

In October, I sought the help of a local psychic, Jan Kucker. She read my energy and said, “Your guides are turning away from the past and facing the future. Your life is going to dramatically change.”

My life didn’t change instantaneously. Jan had given me homework to do. I was to start believing I was worthy of receiving all the good things I was so willing to give to others. I had to start accepting the gifts the universe wanted to give me. The first step was to believe I deserved to receive!

Believing was something I reserved for others. I believed in God, my husband, my children, even my staff members. But I never stopped to consider whether or not I believed in myself.

I had been in a habit of doing: writing, rewriting, querying, and submitting story after story. Doing is one thing. Believing is another. I had to create a habit of believing.

Like a good student, I started on my homework. Jan was right. Once I started believing, I started achieving. Two weeks later, my manuscript won the 2014 Memoir Discovery Contest!

You can spend your entire life focused on the work you have to do. But if you do not believe you are worth the fruits of your labor, your efforts will be lost.

You have to believe to achieve. Yes, doing the work is half the journey but you won’t finish the journey if you don’t believe you can.

Look in the mirror and say, “I am worthy of receiving,” then go out into the world with your arms wide open and let good things come to you.

After Signing the Contract

JourneySince I’ve signed with She Writes Press as part of winning the 2014 Memoir Discovery Contest, I’ve been busy with the next steps in anticipation of a fall 2015 publication date.

I’ve sent a cover memo to the publisher for the graphic artist to start working on the cover. Although I might not have a cover to release to the public until March 2015, I’m excited to be working with a top industry professional to craft a cover-grabbing image that will cause more readers to pick up the book!

I’ve sent out queries for endorsements. Although Amy Tan is busy with a tight writing schedule, other authors are considering a back cover copy blurb including Maxine Hong Kingston. Keep your fingers crossed!

I’ve sent out requests for permissions. Whenever you quote another copyrighted poem, lyric, or book, you need permission. In my memoir, my mothers, sisters, and I sing a portion of “American Pie” by Don McLean. I’m waiting to hear if Universal Songs will grant permissions. Keep your fingers crossed again!

Although I have in-house publicity, I’ve contacted publicists for additional support for my book. Although the interview process has been grueling, I’m learning what it feels like to be an employer searching for the perfect employee. I haven’t found the perfect fit yet, but I’m still looking. If you know someone who specializes in promoting non-fiction books in Northern California, please let me know. Referrals are always appreciated.

I’m working with Nat Mundel in getting my memoir turning into a
screenplay for Hollywood.

If that wasn’t enough, I’ve been busy sending out press releases to notify the media of my contest win.

Deep breath…release… Yes, yoga has been helping me keep my balance, as well as my immediate family.


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