Friday, November 22, 2013

Day 28 of Being a Full-Time Writer

Exactly four weeks ago, I started my sabbatical. For 100 days, I'm a full-time writer.

It's thought of as being "the dream," right? Spending your days writing. Following nobody's schedule except your own. Sitting around in your pajamas while playing with plotting and prose.

But I'm finding it's not that easy.

Writing full time really means writing full time. Instead, I find myself spending a lot of time "doing research" (often a euphemism for "playing on the internet") or doing completely unrelated tasks when I should be writing.

The problem, I'm finding, is that there's a big difference in kick-starting productivity when you know you have to be at work in a few hours (my usual schedule) and when you know you don't have to be back in the office for three months (I go back in February, after turning in a book).

Four weeks in, I'm still finding my groove. So far, to stay productive I'm making writing dates and joining other writers at work spaces such as cafes where students and freelancers hang out. When someone else is expecting me, I have no excuses. The laundry can wait. I'm heading out the door to a few minutes of conversation and a few hours of writing.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013 that Captain Kirk?

Not long ago, I was invited to be Guest of Honor at the TusCon Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror convention.

Um, okay. Gulp.

*Guest of Honor*.  At a science fiction convention.

First off, I don't write science fiction.  However, although I came to this whole writing gig from the mystery genre, apparently my Witchcraft Mysteries and Haunted Home Renovation series are paranormal enough to have garnered a certain amount of fantasy cred.

Either that, or they were desperate for someone who happened to be free that weekend.

But seriously, the TusCon gang treated me like royalty.  I was wined and dined and provided with a big suite with a jacuzzi in the bedroom and a big pool right outside the door.  I held forth on topics like: "Sympathize with the creature: what makes good monsters"; "21st Century Witches: Never trust a Blonde Named Galinda"; and "Asimov, Heinlein, and Bradbury: what is their legacy?"

As usual, when I don't know what I'm talking about I try my best to fake it.  But the folks in the TusCon audience -- often dressed up as various Star Trek, Dr. Who, and Anime characters -- usually knew much more than I did about any given subject, and our panels quickly transformed into group discussions with the well-read and knowledgable audiences.  I learned much more than they did from our interactions, I'm sure.

I mingled with monsters and aliens and cyborgs and drew on pathetically outdated references to shows like Night Gallery and Star Trek, which --to my delight-- are now considered "classics" in the field. In preparation for the literature panel, I revisited the amazing Fahrenheit 451and A Stranger in a Strange Land, two novels that blew my mind when I was fourteen, and were well worth rereading.  I also took another look a Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which I firmly believe is worth reading at least once a decade.

Also, while there I jotted down titles of a dozen or so influential films that have come out since the original Star Wars Trilogy, which was about the last time I spent much time watching science fiction movies -- though, as I learned at TusCon, there is some debate as to whether Star Wars actually qualifies as science fiction or if it's simply a story set in space.

Big difference.  I could try to explain why, but I would be faking it. Instead, consider attending next year's TusCon, and find out from the experts.  It's a blast.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Landing in the Pens Pot

Since this is my first post as a member of the PensFatales, I thought I would share a little bit about what it means to me to have writing friends. It’s not just the opportunity to take part in projects like LOVE ON MAIN STREET: A SNOW CREEK CHRISTMAS - although it was a blast to create characters who interact with the fictional world we all created, like a virtual playgroup.

For a long time I wrote in a vacuum. I attended meetings of a writers’ organization, but I was too unsure of myself to get to know anyone well. I would pretend to take notes in my notebook rather than push myself to join in conversations, and while I learned a lot from the speakers who visited our group, I wasn’t really building a community.

Then I moved from the Midwest to California, rolled up my sleeves, and got a little braver. Now, I enjoy the friendship of other writers for so many reasons:

1. Someone to tell you that you don’t suck - I’ll never forget the first time I heard a friend say that it’s okay if my first draft isn’t any good. “None of them are,” she said casually. “You’re breaking a rule if it is good.”

This isn’t the same thing as propping each other up. In the end, confidence has to come from within. But it sure is nice to have those occasional reminders that just because I had a bad sentence or scene or day, it’s not the end of the world and all I have to do is keep trying.

2. Someone to brainstorm with - I used to think that I didn’t have anything to offer writers who weren’t working in exactly the same genre as me. Imagine my surprise when an author of BDSM romance identified exactly the change I needed to make to my sweet romantic hero to make the story arc work.

I love brainstorming. I often don’t have the answer for someone else’s story quandary - but I might have a part of the answer. It’s wonderful when we get a group together, and there’s talking and laughing and lots of coffee, and suddenly a light bulb goes off over our heads.

3. Someone to celebrate with - One of the Pens just got a new-to-her car. I was quick to ooh and ah over the pictures, since I got a new car a year ago and I still remember how thrilling it was to drive it for the first time. A fun night out? A child’s accomplishment? A tax refund? No matter what, it’s more fun when there are lots of us to cheer.

Of course we celebrate publishing successes as well. First manuscript completed? Check. First novel available to purchase? Yes! The Pens have so many flavors of success between them: everything from trying new genres to figuring out how to e-publish to hitting bestseller lists. A book signing? We’re there to support each other. A good review? We’re there to praise the good taste of the reviewer!

4. Someone who “gets it” - You know that little melancholy feeling you get, about a day after you celebrate typing “the end”? Because the story is over, and the characters you love are going back to the shelf, and you have to say goodbye?

If you’re a writer, you totally know what I’m talking about! I cherish my non-writing friends, but there is something lovely about someone completely understanding when your friend misses her dentist appointment because she’s too wrapped up in her story and lost track of time, or spent more on research books than groceries in a week.

I could go on, but you get the picture: it was a lucky day indeed when I got rolled up in the awesome that is the PensFatales and sprinkled with their can-do magic. So happy to be here!