Haircuts and the Writing Cycle

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I hate my hair the first week after getting a haircut. It is shorter than I like and it doesn’t style easily. Each hair wants to do its own thing. 

The next two weeks, my hair seems to go into place without a problem. I love my hair during this period.

Weeks four and five are a gradual downhill decline. My hair grows longer and is “top-heavy.” I have to put more and more effort into styling to get it to look halfway decent.

Then, there’s the day of my next haircut appointment. All of a sudden my hair does me proud and I question whether I should keep the date with my stylist.

This morning as I glared at my recently-cut locks in the mirror, I thought about the writing cycle and its similarities to hair growth/cuts.

Even though I am excited when I begin a new book, the process isn’t without its problems. The first chapter is the hardest because it sets the story up and builds the momentum. Characters need to be developed and “gel” with each other. I inevitably spend time taming them all down and helping them find their “place” and “purpose.”

The following chapters are pure fun. As one officer on the television show SVU says, “I love it when a plan comes together.” It is so rewarding when those puzzle pieces fit together and become a beautiful picture of life as I imagine it.

Nearing the end of the book, I get a bit testy. Writing the conclusion, weaving in the lesson learned by the characters and preparing to write a satisfying epilogue are more difficult—and although I enjoy editing someone else’s work—the editing process is slow and laborious when it comes to my own. 

As I wait for comments to come back from my Beta Readers, I reflect on the multiple edits and rewrites I have done myself. I think about how much time and money I could save if I would skip the formal edit and go directly to PUBLISH.

But, just like the times I’m facing the haircut/no-haircut dilemma, I know I will contact my editor and set the appointment. 

After all, I want to like what I see in the mirror.

  

 

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Reach for the Moon

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From the dreaming to the writing to the publishing and marketing, there is far more to getting your book ready for the consumer than you probably ever imagined.

Think back to the day when the desire to write was born within you.

Now, remember the books you’ve read, the conferences you’ve attended, the podcasts you have watched, the associations you have joined.

Consider the people you have met along the way and their influence on you, the bookstores and libraries you have visited as your dream took shape.

The average reader probably has no idea how many hours you have spent writing, how many nights you stayed up late, how many early mornings you drug yourself out of bed to write while your family remained snug in their beds.

Someone once said that the harder you work for something, the sweeter the reward. 

That person must have been a writer.

The reward isn’t always monetary. Sometimes it is simply in a job well done… a knowing that you persevered… that you saw the task through to THE END.

Sometimes it’s a particularly meaningful review. Perhaps it’s a note of thanks from someone letting you know how your words impacted their life.

Don’t give up.

Keep on Truckin’.

Hang in There.

Because one day you’ll be doing that Happy Dance.

It will have all been worth it.

Are You a Dream Chaser?

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I remember a few years back there were a handful of movies about storm chasers. They are guys who want to experience, write about, and take pictures of major storms around the world.

It is about the thrill of the hunt…the flow of adrenalin…the brush with danger.

There are a lot of chasers in life. And they don’t all realize their dreams.

Are you a dream chaser?

You’d be surprised how many people want to write a book. They often go to conferences and classes, but never seem to commit anything to paper.

Others actually do get their books written, but spend endless hours writing query letters and pursuing agents and publishers. Only a handful of these ever get “accepted.”

We authors and “would be” authors live in such an exciting time. We don’t have to succumb to being dream chasers.

In the era of self-publishing, we don’t have to wait to be discovered or be awarded a publishing contract. 

We can take control of our dreams and get our words—our message- out there in ways that weren’t possible even a decade ago.

Self-publishing isn’t easy. It isn’t cheap. I’m not suggesting that it is.

However, if you are persistent, you can learn the ropes. You can surround yourself with Beta Readers, editors, cover artists, and so on. You can learn to market your book (bearing in mind the limitations of your pocket book).

Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, intend to write that one stand alone book or a series, there’s no time like the present to achieve your goal and turn your big dream into reality.

I know it is popular to say, “It’s the journey that’s important; not so much the destination.” But, I believe both have value.

The whole writing process can be invigorating and give writers the opportunity to learn a lot about themselves and the writing craft. It can be enjoyable and even addictive.

But in the end, the quality of the finished product is also important. So doing a professional job is essential.

Self- publishing gives writers the opportunity to reach their target audience with their message. The written word gives writers the the opportunity to change opinions, present ideas, entertain, encourage, and influence the lives of readers.

As characters evolve, face life’s situations, and reach their potential,  writers themselves share in their joy and triumphs and are forever changed, too.

Dream chaser, or dream maker?

Unlike any other time in history, the choice is yours.

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Domain Names

 

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I’m always one to pass along what I’ve learned, so here is a little tidbit from a guest speaker (Liz Johnson) I heard, yesterday. It is one I am going to try out this week.

Liz stressed the importance of having a website domain name that ends with author, writer, books, or something else that is related to writing.

I had thought about doing this before, but I wasn’t wanting to go through the hassle of having to notify everyone of the change, reprinting my business cards, etc.

However, she said you buy the “new” domain name and then it is linked to your previous domain name so that no matter which one is clicked on, it gets to the right place.

So, my website address is: www.brendapoulos.org. When I purchase  www.brendapoulosbooks.org, or www.brendapoulosauthor.org,  none of my followers will notice the difference. New friends, however, will have an easier time finding me. 

So, if your website address doesn’t end this way, or if you don’t have a domain name, yet, consider a simple addition to make yourself more accessible.

Read Your Reviews

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Do you ever feel like quitting?

Quitting writing, that is.

Do you ever say to yourself, “Who am I kidding? My readers wouldn’t miss me.”

Do you ever play the mind game in which you list all the things you could be doing, if you didn’t write?

Sports, movies, television, exercise, shopping, art, camping, travel, crafts, learning a second language, volunteering …

Last week, I had a few moments where I thought about the “what-ifs” in my own life.

That’s when I read my book reviews on Amazon. An hour later, in tears, I thanked God for my readers. What beautiful and encouraging things they had shared about how my books had touched their hearts … changed their lives.

I was overwhelmed as I read their comments, recalling that the very reason I write was summed up in their remarks.

I felt humbled, energized, and encouraged.

I am thankful and grateful for the opportunity to do what I love to do and have such a profound effect on lives.

How could I possibly quit when I have so much more to say? So many more readers to challenge, comfort, offer hope … 

So, when the days of doubt come, give yourself a shot in the arm. 

Jump on Amazon and read your book reviews.

 

Drafting Can Be Rough

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Drafting is the next step in the writing process. Whether you use a computer or a steno pad, whether you write with a pencil or pen, call it a “sloppy copy” or use another form of reference, you cannot escape this step in the writing process.

Using what you’ve accomplished so far in the prewriting process, drafting is the actual writing, chapter by chapter, of your book.

With a few tweaks here and there, all writers vary this stage of writing to end up with what works for them. Whether it is a program, such as Scrivener, or your own version of something else you’ve seen out there, now’s the time to get the old creative juices going. You can use a combination of approaches. After five books, I am still changing mine. 

What I am going to share, now, is how I approach the drafting stage of writing. If it is helpful as a whole, or only in part, use what makes sense according to your writing style, your organizational methods, and so on.

I use my computer at home almost 100% of the time. I found, early on, that using Mac’s “Pages” wasn’t the universally accepted format. You’ll need WORD. You can purchase WORD for Mac from the internet or Apple store, if you, too, own a MAC.

After closing my office door to insure quiet, I consult what I accomplished in my prewriting. I used to use giant Post-it’s of about 18” by 30” or so to keep my timeline,  characters and their descriptions straight. I have recently found it just as effective to use a spiral notebook and list these important details chapter by chapter. Clutter on my walls tended to make me nervous, whereas a simple notebook can be closed and stored in the closet for the next writing day.

Next I write … and write … and write …

I may finish and entire chapter or not, depending on the amount of time I have allotted. But, here is where I differ from most writers. After taking a short break for lunch or even overnight, I re-read my chapter, doing a quick edit of anything that stands out to me. These may be typos, mistakes in point-of-view, changes in scene order, or even sometimes deleting entire sections. These pre-edits serve two purposes: 1) Reading through the chapter gets my head back into the story so that I can continue my writing and 2) Just like the Post-its that previously cluttered my walls, it is a way of reducing what isn’t needed and getting down to story basics. 

(Most writers will tell you to keep writing all the way to the end of the book before going back to tackle any kind of editing. That would be ideal, if I could do it, but I just cannot…sorry, my mind just won’t get going unless everything else is cleared up, first).

Although I might do a little revising in the drafting stage, I find that it is wise to wait to do anything major until I have finished the entire book. Too many things can happen in the course of writing that might seem wise to revise early on; however, lots of difficulties will work themselves out in the course of writing. Save yourself a lot to time and work by sticking to your outline closely. Let your story “simmer” for awhile.

Before closing, I want to mention that I give my book, chapter by chapter, to my critique group. I rely on their comments heavily when editing. If there is something that these other writers do not understand (or like), then I am certain that my readers will not, either.

Next week- revising.

Love Me, Love Me Not

 

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I remember as a child, plucking petals from daisies and saying, “He loves me. He loves me not” until the stem was bare.

Today, I plucked petals from a sunflower. I repeated,  “Shopping. Writing. Shopping. Writing.” 

Do you sometimes need motivation to get down to work?

Even if writing is your passion, like it is mine, do you still find there are times we need to give ourselves a little nudge?

For instance, “If I write for two hours, I can watch my favorite television show, or if I write today, I will let myself go out for coffee with a friend this evening.” And so on.

Are we losing our interest in—or desire to—write? Are we abandoning our dream…our goal?

The holidays are busy with decorating, shopping and celebrating. It’s only natural that there is less time for writing, laundry, and cleaning. 

This season, I’m giving myself permission to spend time with family and friends. I may even go to a holiday movie.

 I’m not going to make myself feel guilty if I don’t get much writing accomplished. 

The computer will still be there when the holidays are over. And, who knows? When I reread what I last wrote, I may see it with a fresh set of eyes. My edits may come faster and easier.

I may end up with a better finished product.

I remember that when I was a teacher, I did my best teaching after Christmas break. I was refreshed and ready to tackle the second semester.

What will you do? Motivate yourself by plucking petals off a rose? Or call a friend and suggest you meet at the mall?