Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Paper in the revision process

I just submitted the final version of my non-fiction to Who Dares Wins Publishing. These past few months I’ve been buried in revision mode. First, with my non-fiction, ‘How to Care for a Special Needs Dog’ and also with my YA fantasy. There are many tools for writers. I wrote both of these manuscripts in Scrivener. Although I was very pleased with the usefulness of Scrivener, in my opinion nothing will replace the power of pen and paper.

During my writing process I read through my non-fiction countless times. I wanted to check for the obvious errors. I also wanted to verify that the right tone was getting across. However, I was amazed at the little things that I found after I printed it out and went through my final read through. Nothing specific, but I was able to see things that I didn’t before.

By having those pages physically in my hands I felt slightly disconnected from the manuscript. I became the reader, not the writer that I always was sitting in front of my computer screen. I read it from the reader’s perspective and because of this I don’t think the pen and paper will ever be absent from my revision process, no matter how many nifty gadgets are developed for writers.

As a soon-to-be author, it also gave me a boost. After putting so much thought, research and work into the manuscript it now felt like a book. Being a writer is hard. That is why you have to love the craft. So take the little “happy dance” moments when you can. I’m on deadline for some other projects but I have promised my husband that I will celebrate after release week.

How do you revise? Do you also print out that final read through?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Knowing when to take a break

My husband will probably laugh when he sees my topic for today, I tend to be a work-a-holic. This is a popular trait among writers. We work long hours often with little reward. This is why you MUST love this craft in order to live this life. But it is important to take breaks and know how to use these breaks to improve your writing.

Yesterday I finished my non-fiction book, ‘How to Care for Special Needs Dogs.’ As I recommend to everyone, I’ve printed out the book and will do a final read through before sending it to my publisher, Who Dares Wins Publishing, next week. But I’ve stared at these words on my MAC Book Pro for so long. In order to really make the most of my final read through I need a break.

Tonight I’ve scheduled the babysitter and my husband and I are actually going on a date, this is rare for us ever since our daughter was born. Not only will this be fun and good for us, it will also help my book. Sometimes taking a step away from your writing is the best thing you can do. It refreshes your mind and gives you greater focus when you return to your work.

I view switching genres as another good way to refocus on a topic. As I wrote my non-fiction, it helped me to be able to put it down and work on my YA for a while. I found that I was more productive on the non-fiction when I returned to it. However, it is important to get away from all writing for a little while. My usual writing schedule will resume tomorrow but for this Friday I owe my husband a movie. We’re seeing ‘Sucker Punch.’

I’m looking forward to the publication process on my first published novel, ‘How to Care for Special Needs Dogs.’ I will keep this blog updated when I get the official release date.

When do you take breaks? What do you do on a break?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Becoming a career writer step 1: Routine

So you love to write, you think you have a talent and you want to make this craft your career. Now what? Making writing a career takes a lot of discipline and focus. For six years writing was my part-time career. I thought it would be easy to make that switch to full-time writer but it wasn’t. I learned quickly the importance and value of a routine.

Being a writer comes with many challenges. First, you’re your own boss. Now this may sound wonderful but it means that no one is there to make you do your work. Even when you have an agent and/or publisher, you are still the person you face each day that needs motivation and drive to meet deadlines. Procrastination via reading, watching television or giving into any other fun activities are temptations constantly present. So how can you tackle procrastination and other negative factors to become a serious career writer? You must have a strict routine. Here are some tips to get you on a successful routine.

Get to “work” early and at a consistent time. You may not have a traditional job but you still must wake up early and go to work. I believe having a set workspace is crucial to becoming a career writer. I turned my third bedroom into an office. Do not sleep late and get to your “office” when you feel like it. In a traditional job that would get you fired, in a writing career that behavior will keep you from being successful.

Create a weekly schedule for work goals. For example, I have a blog and freelance columns. I have set days and times that I devote to these scheduled activities. I publish this blog every Wednesday and Friday. I publish my Special Needs Dog Care Examiner column every Tuesday and Thursday. In keeping this schedule I can help manage my time with these projects to make sure they get done without taking too much time away from my “big picture” goals, my books. I typically write all my blogs and columns on Sunday evening so that all I’ll need to do on the day of is revise and publish.

Prioritize your writing goals. As a freelance writer, it’s easy to get wrapped up in freelance projects that are bringing in money, and lose sight of main goals. To keep my priorities in check, I schedule freelance writing time and book writing time.

Take yourself seriously. You are the only person that can keep you from meeting your goals as a career writer. You also know yourself better than anyone. Set a routine that will work for you and STICK WITH IT!!!!!

What routines work for you? How did you create your routine?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Overcoming the revision blues

I love being a writer. I love the creativity; the ability to create new things. Currently though I’m in revision mode on two projects. I’m revising my non-fiction, that will come out this summer and my YA fantasy. I really don’t care for revising. Sometimes I get tired of rereading my own work. I feel like I’ve lost that joy of the craft. Is this sounding familiar? Many writers fall into the revision blues. Through the last several months I’ve learned a few tricks that have helped me.

1. Don’t be afraid to outline a new project. It never fails. When I’m in intense revision mode I get the best ideas. These ideas may tempt me to abandon my revisions and start a new project. I do not do that knowing that it would not help my overall goals but I’m not afraid to still embrace the new idea. I think that by outlining new ideas it gets me excited to continue on the revisions. I know that the sooner I get done with revisions, the sooner I jump into the new project.

2. Take time to read. Get back to one of the reasons that you love to write. By reading I keep the joy in he craft. It may be tedious going through revisions but by reading some great books it reminds me that I’m not alone. All great authors must revise. They got through it, so will I. Plus I find that reading just relaxes me.

3. Take breaks. Yes, sometimes I feel that I just need to stay in front of the computer all day in order to get the work done but I know that not taking a break will result in poor work quality. At least for me. I need time to unwind. When I’m deep in revision mode I make a point to record shows to watch. I break to watch something or read every few hours. This helps me to stay focused. It is possible to overwork yourself and if I do that then my revisions will not be of the work that I want them to be.

4. Switch projects. As a writer of multiple genres, I switch up my projects. By doing this I never get bored or tired of any one project. Ideally I’d like to be revising a project while writing another project. However, this time that didn’t work out as I’m revising my two major projects. But I remain fresh by having the two to switch back and fourth from.

5. Exercise. Yes, I’ve found that exercise helps me to stay focused. I also feel better when I make time to workout. Now sometimes when I’m in deep revision mode I skimp on the full workout. That’s fine as long as I make time for something. I do crunches during commercials when watching TV. I always watch the news every morning so this allows me to do that and still fit in some exercise.

6. Listen to music. I have found that working to music really helps me. I've become a fan of soundtracks and trailer music. I try to listen to music that matches the scenes that I'm revising. When listening to something from 'Two Steps From Hell' I can't stop working! I feel like I have to finish revising the chapter and I'll save the world by doing so! Yes, maybe I'm a little dramatic but it's great to find a great music to keep you going.

What do you do to combat the revision blues? When revising its challenging to remain fresh and alert. At least it is that way for me. But from these tips I’ve found that I’ve become a better reviser. My work is better and I’m on my way to meeting my deadlines while look forward to tackling a new project soon. For Friday I posted below one of the 'Two Steps From Hell' songs that I love to work to. I find it inspiring. I hope you enjoy it and Happy Friday!

Share your advice for revising in a comment below. How do you stay focused while revising?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How effective are book trailers?

One of my freelance roles is being The Mortal Instruments Examiner for Examiner.com. I follow and report on the Internationally popular series’ by young adult author Cassandra Clare. Last week the first of three ‘City of Fallen Angels’ book trailers hit the web. This trailer has already created buzz before it’s release by becoming a trending Twitter topic during the filming. Book trailers have become a topic of discussion and fascination among avid readers and writers alike.

Now, I do think that genre must be considered when answering or attempting to answer the title question. Book trailers are not for every book. I have a non-fiction coming out this summer and it would not be a candidate for such a marketing strategy. However, in YA where the demo is very tech savvy and hungry for social media, there is a great venue for book trailers. I think that the recent ‘City of Fallen Angels’ book trailer is a great example of where effective book trailers are going in the YA genre.
This is just the first trailer and it recaps crucial events from the last three books in ‘The Mortal Instruments’ series. I think that this is a style of trailer that many series’ will start to take on if their budget allows. Also, this trailer had more actors in it than any book trailer that I’ve ever seen (feel free to inform me of any others like it in a comment below.) I discussed this very thing in my interview with VLC Productions founder, Vania Stoyanova. “Fans love to see their characters come to life.” Explained Stoyanova.

Vania Stoyanova directed the award-winning ‘Clockwork Angel’ trailer as well as the ‘City of Fallen Angels’ trailer. I asked her how effective she felt book trailers were in the YA genre. “YA readers are starving for info. Information goes viral so quickly and it’s fun to see the stories translated.” Said Stoyanova.
I had the opportunity to interview Elke Villa, Senior Marketing Manager at Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, the publisher for Cassandra Clare’s ‘The Mortal Instruments’ and ‘The Infernal Devices’ series.’ Below is my interview.

Natalie: Overall, how effective do you feel book trailers are?
Elke: I think they can be very effective as long as you have a way to get the trailer distributed beyond the publisher's site, through an online promotional campaign, an author platform, advertising, etc.

Natalie: What genres do you feel most benefit from them.
Elke: In terms of children's publishing, YA definitely is a genre that benefits the most from them, mainly because teens are online and adept at seeking out and sharing their interests in that space.

Natalie: Can you talk about the evolution of the book trailer? How have they evolved at S&S?
Elke: We have become much more selective in the titles that we produce book trailers for, since it takes a lot of time and resources to create a trailer with impact. We also tend to minimize text as much as possible and use voiceovers, if it's appropriate. We've also come to realize how important it is to find the right music.

Natalie: What percentage of S&S's authors use book trailers? Percentage of S&S YA authors?
Elke: It's a small percentage, and the majority are for YA titles, although we have done beautiful trailers for picture books and some fun (and funny) trailers for middle grade titles. A book trailer is really only worthwhile if people watch it, which is why a strategy to get the trailer promoted is necessary.

Natalie: How did the idea come up to make one of the 'City of Fallen Angels' trailers a "previously in" spot?
Elke: To clarify, the Previously In The Mortal Instruments video covered the highlights of the first 3 books in The Mortal Instruments series. The goal of that trailer was to generate buzz for the fourth book, City of Fallen Angels. We will be releasing a City of Fallen Angels trailer when the book publishes on April 5. In terms of the Previously In The Mortal Instruments trailer, our Online Marketing Manager suggested the idea during a brainstorming meeting. He is a huge fan of the TV series Lost and like many fans of the show, dissected the recap that happened before each episode. We anticipated that Cassandra Clare's dedicated fans would react similarly to the Previously In The Mortal Instruments trailer and have not been disappointed.

Natalie: Do you feel that more series will start using a "previously in" style trailer?
Elke: We will use this idea again at some point, for the right series.

Natalie: What are the benefits of an author doing a book trailer?
Elke: For the right book/series/author, a trailer can be great way to build buzz.

Do you think people buy based on seeing the trailer or does the trailer serve more as a reminder, marketing tool?
Elke: I wish I knew the answer to that question, since the reasons people buy books are so complex! I do believe that trailers are definitely one of several ways to pique people's interest in a book or series.

So now I ask you? How do you feel about book trailers? Have you ever bought a book based on a book trailer? Personally, I feel that the YA market is the best and most effective market for this kind of marketing. Good content and a good book trailer can go viral very quickly, creating a lot of buzz. I feel that this is a marketing tool that we will continue to see in the YA genre. But how effective is a book trailer? Only you can answer that question but from looking at the viewing numbers for the first ‘City of Fallen Angels’ trailer, I’d say it’s proving effective in this case.
You can find more coverage about the upcoming ‘City of Fallen Angels,’ it’s trailer and all things related to ‘The Mortal Instruments’ at my Examiner column, The Mortal Instruments Examiner.
Be sure to leave your comments on book trailers below.

Watch the first 'City of Fallen Angels' trailer. It was created by VLC Productions.

Also, watch Cassandra Clare's 'Clockwork Angel' trailer. This is a prequel series to 'The Mortal Instruments.' It's trailer also by VLC Productions won an award last year. It was the only trailer for this book.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Harvesting your dreams

Earlier this week I discussed finding writing inspiration through the ‘what if ‘ theory. Basically, ask yourself questions that start with, ‘what it.’ From there sometimes you can find an idea worth exploring with more questions. Before you know it you may have an idea for your next novel. Another way to find inspiration is in your dreams.
Dreams are many times a writers’ most powerful tool. Dreams can help you solve problems. Dreams can give you amazing ideas. Many months ago I had a dream of a short story that I had won an award with back in high school. I had completely forgotten the story until it took over my dream. It was then, when I woke up that I knew that the story could easily be a great Middle Grade novel series. I spent the next day outlining it and jotting down character sketches. When I’m done rewriting my YA that will be my next project.
But just like it is best to outline your ideas, you have to prepare to make the most of your dreams. If you’ve ever woken up from an amazing dream you know that you don’t have long until the thought is gone, maybe forever. I keep a notepad and pen on my nightstand every night. That way if I wake up with a great idea I can start writing it down immediately. I believe that we dream our dreams for a reason. I don’t want to lose any great story ideas.
However, don’t let your dream ideas take over your current work. That is why I always write my ideas down. If I feel an idea I had from dream really has potential I may even spend a day outlining it but that is the most time I will give it. It’s great to explore new ideas but writers still need to stay focused on the task at hand. For me, I’m focused on finishing the revisions to my non-fiction book. I will send it to the publisher the end of this month. I also am finishing my YA with hopes of seeking representation by mid-April. And then I have my freelance contracts. For me those are my priorities but I always take advantage of a dream, I’m just saying to not let the dream idea take over your current goals.
Harvest your dreams. Talk about them in the morning. Write them down. Whatever method works best for you. Has a dream given you a great story idea? Is your current WIP based off of a dream?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Seeking Inspiration: The 'What If' Theory

There are countless ways for writers to find inspiration for a new story. My usual problem is fighting such distractions! It never fails; I get a great idea that gets me all excited while I’m deep in my current project. When this happens, I always write down the idea and sometimes a quick outline. You never want to lose an idea but you don’t want to get bogged down by them either. But what if you’re looking for inspiration? I always use the ‘what if’ theory.
The ‘what if’ theory is just what it implies.

What if vampires were real?
What if the people next door were werewolves?
What if aliens were already on Earth?
What if that civilization never died out?

And we could play this game all day. This is how I came up with the idea for my current project. And yes I’m going to continue to mysterious and vague in regards to it! After you have your ‘what if’ phrase then start asking other questions. Soon you’ll have a story premise and the plot will start to take shape.
Does anyone else use the ‘what if’ theory when seeking story inspiration? Is that how you came up with your current WIP? This always works for me. Now if I could just stop thinking of all the intriguing what if scenarios and finish my current projects!

Happy Writing Y’all!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How Spring Cleaning Can Help Your Writing

OK, we’re writers. If you’re anything like me then you despise cleaning. I’d much rather escape into my self-created fictional world or one of my many non-fiction/freelance topics.
Currently I’m hoping to promote my new blog entry while still working on meeting non-fiction deadline and YA deadline. Many of you will understand this challenge. However, I have found it important to take breaks and enjoy some Spring Cleaning while working on such projects.
Today, I worked on laundry, dishes and files in my office. Yes, it doesn’t sound like fun but look to the benefits. You can see that everything begins with Oscar, my dog. How can I do anything without his help from under my desk. But look closely to the before and after on my desk.Baby rattles included. See the difference? I sure did!
Now that I’ve taken some time to clean my house, my office included I feel so rejuvenated and accomplished. Having a clean workspace is vital. I don’t know about you but I require space to lay out my notes, critiques, etc. Clearing off your desk for some Spring Cleaning is not fun. However, it can greatly attribute to your writing.
Since I write in multiple genres I require organization. Spring Cleaning may not be welcomed but I do welcome the professional benefits.
What do you do during Spring Cleaning that contributes to your writing? Share your thought in a comment below to join the discussion by following Pen to Publish.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Using a break to fuel productivity

Overwhelmed with deadlines? Got writers block? Sometimes, even though we may not think we have the time, a break can help increase your productivity. I learned this this week.

I thought I'd be able to get a lot of writing done when visiting family. The plan was that my baby would be able to have grandparent and aunt/uncle time and I would have writing time. This proved to not be the case as the family wanted time with me as well. No writing goals were met over the last six days.

Even though I am behind on meeting some goals I feel rejuvenated and believe that my work now will hold a high quality. My productivity is up and I feel more confident on my purpose as a writer. Sometimes we all need a break no matter how it may not seem to fit in our plan.

Have you experienced something like this? How do you fuel your productivity?