Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Author Reflections & Insight



Hello September! When'd you get here?! It's always the tone of surprise with me when seasons change, time sifts by, or it's suddenly a holiday. Events like these shouldn't blindside me—I mean, they're written in months, years, uh, millennia(?) in advance. Still, time has this way of sneaking, and twirling, and speeding along. Which brings me to my recent realization that it's been three months since SUGAR my debut young adult novel was published by Skyscape. Three incredible, challenging, insightful, and gratitude-filled months.

(Also, psst, the Kindle/digital copy is on sale right now!) 

I've written a bit about my road to publication, first as a fledgling hopeful, querying agents who probably have my name—in red ink—on a list somewhere under the heading: persistent, (but polite—I hope! PASS!) Later, as an independently published author with the new adult series, FOLLOW YOUR BLISS, and then in a shocking twist in my personal narrative, an offer for publication from Skyscape. 

Yew!

Now, here I am on the other side, sorta, whirling and wondering really, how I got here. It's true, authors tend to be doubters, though confidence rises and falls much like the hurry up, slow down, slowwww way down, quick, you’re on deadline wacky pace of the publishing world. Some days I'm like who wrote this sh!t and then others, it's like, well, not too shabby there, Hall.

Here I am now, reflecting on the last few months and looking ahead, and ready to reboot with all this new information. After a stream of consciousness kind of flow, I'm going to list out several things I wish I knew before… Or if I could hop in my Tardis (I had one imported) the leaflet I'd print out and give myself to spare any incurring hardship, hair-tugging, and spazz-outs.  

1. Be patient. I know. I say this all the time. We hear it all the time. But it comes up again and again for a reason. Several, actually. For many of us who've latched onto the lightning fast connection of the internet age, we want things now, now, and now. Maybe even yesterday. In fact, as I write this, my internet/wifi is down, and I'm all kinds of flustered. I have things to do, people. To do them I NEED the internet. Ok, not really. Um, maybe that little outburst demonstrates why I might need a tech-detox and a dose of patience.

My word processing program is accommodating me just fine for my present endeavor, but darnit I want to check my Twitter feed and my inbox and… But really, I don't need to. All I have to do right now is write this blog post and the pumpkin on top of my neck provides all the gigabytes required—just like they did it in the "old days." So, in this time of internet-instant-gratification, it's easy to forget or maybe it's just that we expect that everything else moves at the same rate. 

The publishing world, at least in my experience, consists of real humans who do things at the same pace as the rest of us. That means they read, edit, offer feedback in real time, not the pseudo-speed offered by technology. So, self, three, six, twelve months ago…be patient with publishing.

2. Be patient. Yes, I'm repeating myself. How's that saying go, "Rome wasn't built in a day." I think that's what it is. I can't cross-reference because my internet is down. (How did writers fifteen, twenty, a hundred years ago do it?!) This brings me exactly to my point. Rome wasn't built in a day, but it's still standing. Mostly. I've been there and it's pretty phenomenal despite all the influences that, over the years, routinely threaten it. If, as writers, it's our desire to evoke a lasting response, connection, and impression on readers with our body of work, it's essential we give the sauce—our manuscripts—time to develop flavor. That means, the first draft is just that, a first draft. Mine are an embarrassment. I will never, ever, not even for a real chocolate chip cookies show someone my first draft. Actually, it's not because I'm truly embarrassed…I'm a fast drafter and get down the bones of a story quickly, otherwise distractions and my own forgetfulness sieves the story line into some inaccessible part of my brain. I learned this about myself. Thank goodness. If you're a fast drafter, like me, or even if you're somewhere in the middle, or deliberate every word on the first go, the first draft is the layer, or three, just above the gold. By stepping away, we allow the novel to marinate. Then, going back, revising, and editing, we add a little, take away, refine, and perfect our recipe. 

(All this talk about Rome and food is making me hungry. Mmm. Sauce.)

Back to patience. With self-publishing and the accessibility of agents and editors, there's sometimes a sense of urgency, to get it out there before…before what I'm not sure, but it's valuable to let the writing process unfold (marinate) fully, before launching into publishing. (Insert wine or cheese metaphor since we're dabbling in Italian cuisine.) I'm just now settling into this notion, downshifting a little away from frenetic energy, but still maintaining my drive, my desire, and the fire that keeps me stoked to be in this biz.

3. Be flexible. The schedule for my forthcoming novel, PEARL, was derailed over the summer. It was one of those situations that could have been prevented, but my frustration wasn't going to get the manuscript edited and where it needed to be. I had days blocked out far in advance for revisions with my editor and when that didn't go to plan and camps, playdates, childcare was for naught…I sulked, but very quickly, I picked myself up, dusted off, and got back to work.

This tip comes with two caveats: one, guard your writing time. Don't give it up unless you have a really, really good reason. Writers NEED to write. Vitamin W or something. Two, don't let people take advantage of the patience you cultivated (see above). If a request or timeline seems unreasonable, respectfully speak up. The thing was I did my best to maintain a flexible attitude and it all worked out quite nicely.

With flexibility in mind, it's also valuable, especially after what can be hours spent at the keyboard (depending on how your writing time is blocked out) to move the body. I find occasional 5-15 minute yoga breaks throughout the day or one long session early on or in the evening is super useful in rebooting and keeping my body and buns from aching too much. If yoga isn't your thing, recharge with some form of physical movement. The bonus, this stimulates the creative juices! Folding laundry doesn't count, unless it's Thursday.

4. Be connected. I railed above about the hyper-connectivity we experience nowadays, but what I mean is, reach out or maintain connections with real humans (not just the ones we make up.) I tend toward retreating into my writing cave and happily staying there until I'm running on a food and water deficit, not to mention human interaction.

I've found it's vital for writers to get writerly support. The unique thing I wasn't necessarily expecting when I launched into the writing/publishing world, was this amazing collective of friendly and supportive fellow word nerds. Twitter, writing groups, and conferences are all great places to meet like-mindeds along with learn, discuss relevant topics, and geek out about ALL the bookish things.




And last, but not least, celebrate. That doesn't mean book spamming all the feeds from here to the satellites in the outer reaches of space, but it's important to mark small and big victories, a completed chapter, manuscript, publication! I believe the universe appreciates when we recognize our triumphs—and those of other writers. So let's remember to give a little hollah, some emojis, a glass of something bubbly, or a whatever feels festive when we cross the various writerly finish lines. 



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