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Links and Interviews

So I’ve been thinking of ways to make sure I keep this blog updated and maybe actually interesting from time to time.  One idea I had was to maybe do interviews of my fellow neo-pro writers.  I know that I’m always curious about other people’s goals and paths.  So if anyone wants to get interviewed, let me know.

Likewise, I should really do some blog updating and get my links section in full working order.  So if you want to exchange links with me (either directly here or www.anniebellet.com) and I’m not linked to you, please let me know. (This is also my nefarious plan to find more blogs to read, clearly).

So… are you a writer? Want to be interviewed?  my email is izanobu  AT  gmail  DOT  com.  Put either “writer link” or “writer interview” in the subject so hopefully you won’t get spam-foldered.

So yeah, that’s it.  If anyone takes me up on the interviews I’ll probably do them with questions via email and then do a monthly or bi-monthly post or something (depending on how many peeps take me up on this).

Failure, Rejection, Depression, and Sundry

This post will likely be rambling and a little ranty.  (And apparently sappy at the end)  You have been warned.

As of Saturday to be on target for my goals this month I needed 21,000 words done.  As of Saturday, I had just shy of 9,000.  Writing for the last few months has been very difficult for me, like pulling teeth to get any words out at all (which is why that last novel took four months when it should have taken two at most).  I’ve engaged a friend in a challenge (with whole dinners on the line!) for monthly word count goals in the hopes that I can shove past whatever is blocking me.  Last week, not so much with the shoving, obviously.

Alas, what’s blocking me is… me.  Or more specifically my brain chemicals.  Lots of quote “creative types” deal with depression and other issues, and I’m no exception unfortunately.  I struggle with life-long insomnia issues among other things (which is how I read so damn much, it’s easy to find time to read when you only sleep 2-5 hours a day).  Sometimes the writing process just stutters and stops.  I think this is one reason I’ve always been a “binge” writer.  When I’m running well I have to do as much as I can as fast as I can because I don’t know when suddenly the images will stop forming up right in my head and the mental white noise will start to take over.

The other thing blocking me is my old friend self-doubt.  Writing is easy.  Writing for a living, not so easy.  Especially in the stage I’m in, where I’m starting to break out a bit and hopefully learning my to cross my Ps and dot my Is.  Sales are wonderful motivators, but fear of success can be just as deadly as fear of failure.  Things are tight right now in my home life because of the sacrifices we’ve made so I can pursue my dream and my goals and now, a year and a half into the ten year plan, the reality of the situation has definitely sunk in.  We’re fine, we’re making it work, but as always I can’t help but put pressure on myself to write, do more, learn more, be more. Thinking long-term is good, but it doesn’t necessarily help the short-term panic attacks.

I almost broke my number of rejections in one week record this week, which of course doesn’t help either.  I don’t even know what my rejection total is up to, though if I had to guess I’d say over 200 easily.  In less than two years.  What that number should (and does, when I’m thinking rationally) say to me is that hey, I’m producing and sending out lots of work.  But sometimes I stare at yet another “this was well-written but no thanks” or “this was fun, but ultimately we decided not to publish it” etc and think “so they don’t like fun, well-written work.  What the hell should I be writing?”.  It’s a war inside between the rational/business brain telling me that it isn’t personal (because it really, really isn’t) and that I just need to take a deep breath and put the story back in the mail, and the irrational side of my brain “zomg u suckzorz and r gettin wurse.  stUpid RITUR.”

What does this all really mean? Basically…nothing.  So I’m 12,000 words behind where I needed to be.  Over the next few weeks I can easily find another 12-15 hours somewhere in there to catch myself up.  It’s adding an hour a day to a couple weeks of work.  Rationally not a big deal.  What does the rejection mean? Again, not much (beyond the fact that hey, apparently I write fun, well-written stories and stuff).  But the depression, the sleeplessness, the slog, it all combines to make my life not peachy at the moment.  I’ll catch up though (so stop planning your sushi outing, Amanda…) because I hate to lose a bet for one, and because any job has bad days, and any job I have is one that gets affected by my depression/insomnia issues, and in the end, I get to sit on my ass and make shit up and people have paid me (and will pay me in the future damnit!) to do this.  Which is still awesome, any way you look at it.

So for anyone who is struggling this month (and let’s face it, November ain’t a great month.  I didn’t like it before my brother died during it and I sure don’t care for it afterward either), you’re okay.  Everything will work out.  If you are doing NaNoWriMo and you fail one day, or one week, no need to stress.  It’s cool.  Think about it this way: if you fall short by 10 or 20 or even 30k words, you’ve still written 40 or 30 or 20k words more than you would have if you hadn’t even tried at all.  And for all the writers in my shoes, us neo-pros who see more no than yes still, it’ll get better.  We’re just getting started.  Sure, we take a few on the chin during the opening round, but really, we’re just lulling our opponents into a false sense of superiority.  The next story we write? It’s going to KO some editor, somewhere, sometime.  As long as we don’t throw in the towel, as long as we keep sitting on our asses and making shit up and sticking it in the mail.  Because that’s what counts and that’s the only score worth keeping.

It never ends.

Link SMASH!

I have website!

My official Annie Bellet website is now live.  There are still some tweaks happening, and content will be added, but the basics are in place (including an awesome header image by my friend Greg).  Go HERE to visit.

The official Pyrrh Project website (my soon to be here e-pub series put out through Doomed Muse press) is also live.  There isn’t much content yet, but it’s being tweaked and produced and there will be more stuff added to that site as well over the coming months.  But the publication schedule is up, at least.  Go HERE and bookmark it so you don’t miss any announcements/freebies etc.

That’s that for now.

Writing Goals: Things I Like

As I gear up for my next big project (ie, novel), I’ve been thinking a lot about what kinds of stories I like to read and how that impacts the sort of stories I want to tell.  I figured it might be interesting to have the list (so far) posted on my blog.  Maybe some of you reading will post your own lists (hint, hint).

Things I like to read about/want to write about in fiction:

Fighting. Crimes. Sex. Serial Killers. Details about day to day activities I’m not familiar with.  Training montages.  Bad-ass people doing clever, bad-ass things (note, these characters don’t have to be the protagonists, I like bad-ass antagonists as well).  Love stories.  Space stations.  Starships or outposts in space in isolation type setting.  Post-apocalyptic.  Kick-ass, detailed magic.  Anything that reminds me of a table-top RPG (ie I could envision giving the characters stats and seeing how the world would be laid out etc).  Happily ever after enough endings.  Series.  Epic world-building.  Secondary characters strong enough to merit their own books/stories.

That’s my list so far.  I’m sure it’ll expand as I think of things or find things and go “hey! THAT! I love THAT!”

The next project I’m working on is the first book in my e-pub novel series.  The website for the series will be up shortly and then I’ll make it its own post.  What excites me about this project the most is that I think I can cover a lot of the above list in just one series.  (Not the space-station stuff, alas).  I’m going to be writing something that I fully love, with nothing in it I don’t.  Sounds like fun to me.

I’ve got a lot lined up, actually.  We’ll see how much I get to by the end of the year.  And I’ve got a pile of short stories waiting on final consideration at various markets with “we’ll tell you by X date-ish” dates coming up in the next few months.  Lots to be excited about and lots of work to do.

So, fellow writers (and readers…):  what are your favorite things in fiction? What are your reader cookies?

Appropriating and Updating the Race

In this crazy new world of e-publishing, the rules of getting published and making a living at writing are shifting.  As anyone reading this blog at all will know, I’m a huge follower of Heinlein’s Rules for Writers.  But where does putting my own stuff up without going to an editor who can pay me fall in the mix of those five rules?  I’m not sure.

But e-stuff sells.  I’m selling handfuls of copies of two literary short stories a month, stories I’ve done basically no marketing for at all.  How much better will novels sell? Novels I intend to push in front of people and do as much marketing for as I can handle?  Does that count as “keeping it in the mail until it sells”?  Maybe.

Dean Wesley Smith came up with a points system called the Race back in the years when I was a wee little girl.  The gist is that you get one point for each story in the mail, three points for each novel proposal (only for each novel, not for each editor you send it to), and eight points for each full novel out (again, only counts once per book).  Dean explains in his blog here and here much better than I can.

But if I put a story up on Kindle… I lose the point in the Race.  I’m sure that Dean will come up with a new Race point system to account for that, but in the meantime, fellow writer Amanda McCarter and I decided on a rough new plan, which we’re calling the E-pub Race (different from the Trad-pub Race).  It works like this:  (and this is probably way more complicated than it needs to be, but hey… games are fun!)

1 point for each short story.  If you bundle shorts, this counts as 1 point up to 4 shorts bundled.

3 points for each short story collection (5+ shorts minimum, repeats allowed with shorts on their own).

5 points for each novel. (Novels bundled in Omnibus form count separately unless they are repeated, in which case you only get the points once).

No points count until you’ve sold at least five copies (the original race has you losing points after getting paid, so we figured the E-pub race should have something opposite of that).  Copies you buy yourself don’t count of course.  Editions don’t count as separate (so if you do a POD version, you still only get points for that novel once).

Ok. Hopefully that isn’t too complicated.  Suggestions and comments are welcome, of course.

Library Study Project

As I move beyond the writing level where advice like “use proper manuscript format” and “don’t insult editors” no longer suffices, I’ve been looking for more ways to expand my writing skills and new things to learn.  In the pursuit of more advanced learning, I’ve come across a lot of advice from other writers, some of which I think is awesome, and some of which just makes me scratch my head (because either I’m clueless or I just don’t learn that way).

One of the bits of advice that I found valuable was to read the bestsellers and study people further ahead down the road I want to walk.  I decided to take that advice.  I’m not even close to rich, so alas, I can’t just go buy a million books like I’d want to.  But on the other hand, that forced me to do something I haven’t done in a while.  I went to my local library, and by local, I mean within a five minute walk from my home.  Can’t really beat that.  I do love owning books, but, from an economic standpoint, the mission I was about to embark on wasn’t feasible.

So in May I decided to suck it up and go to the library.  After paying 13.47 in library fines from 1998, I got my information updated (the library never forgets!) and was on my way.  I was just about to start writing a mystery/thriller/suspense novel (I thought it was a thriller, I’m told it’s actually a mystery, so what do I know? From here on out, I’m abbreviating those genres M/T/S and lumping them together, damnit).  So I decided to start with that section, which I quickly learned is shelved together with general fiction anyway. Sci/fi and Fantasy has its own section, as does YA, and chapter books.

The plan? Read at least five books by any author on the shelf with at least ten books who has been published in the last five years.  That’s a heck of a lot of authors, across a lot of genres.  I started with names I recognized, like Roberts and Patterson.  So far I’ve read over 100 books since May.  I make myself give each book 100 pages to lose or keep my interest and I think only two or three have failed past that point.  I’ve started reading authors I haven’t heard of as well, as long as they fit the 10+ books rule and are still publishing (or have been in the last few years).  The librarians have even commented on how much I read. Crazy.

But I’m not just reading for reading sake (or to impress librarians).  Every book I read I make mental (and sometimes physical) notes on what that author does that I think works, and why I like it, and how I might be able to emulate it.  Some books I’ve read twice.  I’ve even, as much as I detest outlining other’s works, have reversed outlined a few books to see how the plots work and where the emotional and storyline beats are.  I don’t love every part of every book I read, but I’m starting to see patterns and similarities of what these authors are doing with their writing that keeps them selling books.  And this process is starting to show me what I really like in what I read, and thus also what I might want to work on incorporating into my stories.

I’m only a few months into the library project.  I don’t know if I’ll keep it up quite as hard core, since I’m missing reading stuff that doesn’t fit into my qualifications, so I’ve started taking side forays into books that are coming out now or have come out that I want to read.  But I’m going to stay on top of the bestsellers, for sure, and keep seeing what’s working for the long-time professionals out there.  Because they are stomping down a path I want to be on, and while I might make my own sideways journey to the same destinations, I figure I can only learn something from those who’ve carved the paths ahead.

So that’s the library project.  Look at the shelves and see which authors (or pen names, however you slice it) have more than ten books on the shelves.  Check to make sure the author has published at least one book in the last five years (or ten or whatever you want to go with).  Then read at least five books by that author and pay attention to what you like, what you don’t like, what works, what doesn’t, and similarities between that work and others that have sold a lot.

Step three: profit.

Ok, still working on that one *grin*

Now that *that’s* over…

Home from the Dean Wesley Smith novel workshop.  Two query packages are in the mail, three more will follow those as soon as I unpack and transfer the right files to the right computer and update all my folders.

Once again, learned so much at the workshop that I can’t even begin to sum it up.  Re-affirmed that ebooks are a good idea (balancing with NY publishing), and learned great things about POD stuff that I hadn’t even started to investigate on my own yet.  Having a professional, proofed query package is a great benefit of the novel workshops, but the real meat of learning at these things is in all the side information, the stories, the questions that others ask and answer, and so many other little details (not to mention the cool people I meet and the books I get to read…).

But now, it means I’m done with that novel until I get a full request.  So what’s next?  Well, here’s the rough plan for the rest of this year:

Plan for rest of October:  write a handful of short stories and mail them.  Get the world-bible nailed down for my ebook project.  Keep things in the mail.

Plan for November: Write the ebook project book 1 as a nanowrimo (hey, why not, right?) and start back in on TVMoSS as soon as that’s done.  Also write another handful of short stories and mail them.

Plan for December:  Get ebook novel ready for launch in Jan.  Finish TVMoSS (or as near as I can given I’m going to lose a lot of time due to holiday stuff).  Write another handful of short stories and mail them.

It looks like a lot, but Oct/Nov are usually fairly productive times for me, so I’m not too worried.  I just need TVMoSS done by Feb 1st, and the ebook book 1 done by December-ish (to get time to edit, clean it up, and format before Jan.).

So yeah, that’s about it.  I’m planning a post on my library project, so hopefully now I’m done with that mind-eating novel I’ll get something up on this blog that’s at least nominally interesting on a more regular basis.  Thanks to everyone who encouraged and supported me while I struggled through finishing this last month or so, you guys are awesome!

By the Way

My story “Insect Effect” is up in the Autumn issue of Contrary magazine, you can read it here.

I’m nearly done with my thriller novel, so things will be quiet for the next few days while I make a final push on it and hopefully find time to edit for my dyslexia before sending it out to first readers and for the workshop.

I’ll be back with a post or two whenever I finish.  Until then… so long, Internets 🙂

So… The Eeeevolution

No, this post isn’t about evolution.  It doesn’t matter what I think about evolution anyway because I choose to believe in the Flat Earth theory, which has hot light and cold light and an anti-moon and… (I’m kidding here. Seriously. But google Flat Earth Society if you really really really have to).

This post is about the e-book revolution or whatever you want to call it and some of my history/thoughts at the moment on the whole thing.

About a year and a half ago I decided that this writing thing was for me and that I should give it a real go.  I found a blog called A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing by an author named JA Konrath.  It kind of blew my mind in many ways for many reasons.  Relevant to this particular topic is that Konrath is currently making a very cushy living doing e-books (he’s also traditionally published) and is very candid about his path and where he’s at.

Back then I figured that self publishing was still pretty much the same as vanity publishing and not really an option for what I wanted.  That’s changed, clearly.  I decided to keep reading everything I could find about ebooks and to follow Konrath’s posts and the comments (more and more e-authors post good comments on his posts, and comments online can be gold.  Except on you-tube, and sometimes even then).

Konrath posits that all you need for success as an ebook author are four basic things (and I’m way paraphrasing from memory, so forgive any inaccuracies, they are mine and not Konrath’s):  1) a good book 2) a good cover 3) a good blurb 4)  a low price point (he recommends, I believe, under 5 dollars).  I don’t think being traditionally published hurts, but he does have an interesting point.

About six months ago, I decided that I would get my feet wet with ebooks in a big way as soon as I fulfilled a couple of conditions.  The first was to sell at least two short stories and be getting more personal than form rejections.  The second was to have a couple more novels for traditional publishing written and submitted.

I set the first condition because that is where I felt my writing would need to be, ie at a level that has proven it can sell, before I would be comfortable with trying to achieve tenant one of the checklist (write a good book).  I set the second condition because a) writing is practice and having a few books written before I write more books is always good and b) I wanted to make sure I wasn’t taking away too much time from other parts of my business plan.

I have fulfilled condition one and will have soon fulfilled condition two.  Which means that starting early next year, I’ll be going ahead with operation e-book experiment in which I plan to put Konrath’s theory to the test.  The publishing world is changing, there’s no doubt about that.   This might be paper book nostalgia talking, but I lean toward trad publishing doing all right in the end and sticking around.  I don’t think the big publishers are going anywhere anytime soon.  But e-books aren’t going to either, and I see really no way the author who stays on top of this stuff can lose.

Look at the porn industry (stay with me now…).  The internet caused a huge shake-up in porn. Huge.  The giant piles of money turned into more disparate piles of money because suddenly everyone with a camera could produce and distribute porn.  Sound familiar? But there is still porn. And still money to be made in porn, lots of money.  Even for amateurs.   I look at publishing the same way*.  Things are going to change, but books won’t go away.  The author provides the product and as long as people want to read, there will be demand for what I do for a living.

So basically, conditions fulfilled, I’m jumping on the e-train.  Stay tuned for a post about the specifics in another month or two (as soon as I have some cover art for a preview, perhaps?).  I think the future for authors lies somewhere in the happy middle between trad and indy.  They are both ways to make money, to find readers and connect with an audience.  Each has advantages and disadvantages, and I think there is, in the end, a way to get a bit of the best of both worlds.

*I just know that somehow I’m going to get flack about this porn/publishing analogy. Sigh.

Novel Writing Overdrive!

I’ve just been reminded that I need to have my novel for the Novel Workshop in October done by September 10th.  Glancing at the calendar, that’s really not very far away at all. Meep.

This wouldn’t be nearly as much of an issue as it seems like if I’d finished the novel I am currently working on (which is very nearly done, I’m over the middle hump but desperately trying to figure out how to make it long enough).  See, I don’t want to workshop *this* novel in October.  I want to workshop the one I intend to write after the current novel.

You know, that novel that I haven’t even started yet.  Oh, I have characters outlined, and a rough idea of what happens. And sort of the setting.  And I did some research, if you can call reading a few westerns and watching Deadwood and Silverado again “research”.  But hey! Who doesn’t love a challenge, right?

So it is time to go into novel writing OVERDRIVE!  You know, that magical “extra” gear that really tough people are supposed to have. Or race cars, or something.  Counting prior social obligations and leaving Saturdays free for “hi, still married” time, I have exactly twenty one writing days until September 10th.  21. Days. That’s like three weeks. Awesome.

Not a problem. Right?  So my goal will be five thousand 6250 words a day on each of those twenty one days.  This pace should give me two finished novels.  At least if I totally fail it I have the first finished novel as my back-up for the workshop.  But I’m not going to fail.  Even with a pinched nerve in my shoulder, I can probably find 4-5 6-7 hours a day for twenty one days to you know, do my job.  (I was almost at this pace before Starcraft 2 pwned my life).

And the plus side is that will leave me with the 10th through the 30th to actually write something for WotF fourth quarter.

Well, time to put the writing into overdrive.  Just think of it as my writer-fu leveling up. A lot.