I knew that publishing would in some way move me from writer to author but I think I underestimated the impact becoming a ‘published author’ would have on my life. Something undefinable changes when you publish. In one way this is good–becoming an author creates new challenges. When you let those words out into the world, they begin to take on a life of their own. But, in another way publishing is painful and frustrating and draws you out of yourself. My current challenge is learning how to deal gracefully with the dreaded typo.
Gracefully? Ha! My family would laugh at the very word. When I am learning a new skill, I am not graceful. A trusted friend found typos in North Watch Keep, and I had a (mostly) private temper tantrum. I had done my level best to make that story perfect and it wasn’t. After I got upset, I struggled with a wave of overwhelming self-doubt. Did I have a gift worth sharing? Was I really an author? What right did I have to call myself an author if there were mistakes in my work? I know. I know. More than a little foolish, right?
The members of the Tower, my fabulous HPKCHC dorm mates, reassured me that mistakes happen all the time, and they happen to big authors with huge editorial teams. I listened to Michael Hyatt explains in Get Published that typos are part of the process. You should expect them. When someone finds them, you deal with them and move on with grace and professionalism. When Terry O’Dell started talking about editing in her blog , I started to take a deep breath. It reassured me to I discovered a writer I admired struggles with the same things I do in the first draft–spelling, name drift, manuscript inconsistencies and wandering Stetsons. No one else talks about name drift when they talk about writing. Everyone talks about typos.
Mistakes happen. Logic errors happen. Typos happen. Even with all the work that goes into a manuscript to make it perfect and the number of people who looked at it before it goes to print, typos and errors hide in plain sight. Then, when you least expect it, they jump out and grab you by the throat in public. Writers and editors work hard to keep them from getting published, but it is usually easier for the reader to find them than for the authorship team to see them. I don’t know why finding errors wasn’t something I expected after publication. I expect it at work. When my students find errors in my writing, I usually tell them there is one of me and fifty of them proofreading and they are good at proofreading. My readers are no different. They are great proofreaders.
I have not yet gotten to graceful so I shall strive to keep my personal challenges hidden in my private pillow fort. I have been stuck in ‘writer’ mode for a long time. I was always afraid I was not perfect enough, that others will look down on me because of mistakes in my writing. The fear didn’t go away because I let a book out into the world. However, I am not going to hide my head in the sand and ignore the errors. The joy of publishing an eBook is that you don’t have to sell a print run of 6000 books before you fix the errors. I have a team of people who are helping, but like the authors I admire, I take full responsibility for the errors. That means, dear reader, if you find an error in one of my books, please tell me and I will do my best to deal with it.
And, if you liked the story, please tell others. You can leave a review on Amazon, join my author’s Facebook page, or leave a note on my blog.
This week I got my first review (five stars! Yay!).
I also got my first critical feedback on North Watch Keep. When I offered to fix the problem in the next edition, my friend’s reaction was classic: “This is published! Leave it alone. This is about your Career, not this piece.”
And then she gave me this book:
If you write you need to read this book. If you are a writer, you need to read this book and then you need to take her advice. Write. Make your writing the best you can, and then let it out into the world because it it your gift to share. And then do it again. And again. And again. It isn’t about one piece; it is about your Career.
Until my friend used the word Career, I hadn’t realized I was stuck in perfect (as Holly Lisle says) even though I have been afraid for years to let my work be read because I believed my manuscripts were not good enough. They had too many typos, too many flaws and imperfections. Even after publishing North Watch, I didn’t realize that I was still afraid my writing wasn’t perfect enough.
In her book, Rusch argues very convincingly that editing work to the point of structural perfection can destroy it. Often it is the imperfections that are the writer’s heart, the voice of the piece, the parts that fuel the imagination of the reader. The ‘workshop model’ is harmful to most writers, she argues, because it is based the pursuit of structural perfection and editing to the point of perfect can take away the soul of the work. There is a a very funny ‘workshop style’ criticism of Shakespeare’s work that made me ask what if she was right? What would we have lost if Shakespeare had simply put his words away in a box, never to see the light of day?
When I started exploring how to become a better writer I went to a one day workshop with a local editor. I thought the workshop would help me figure out where I was stuck, help me somehow become a better writer or find an editor, but when I came home I felt unworthy. The piece I wrote in the workshop was more of a vignette than a story; I got criticisms about structure and style and told that it wasn’t a real story. I know I missed the fact my listeners were stopped dead by the emotion of the piece and made uncomfortable by the mourning. There was that long moment of uncomfortable silence as they processed the feelings of the piece. That night, while I was explaining to my husband that I that I should just give up on this dream of becoming a published author because I obviously wasn’t good enough, Youngest stomped down the stairs with the first draft of North Watch Keep in her hands.
“Mom! Why is the Old Man talking here? He is dead! You killed him at the beginning of the story.” When I explained he was Fey, she snorted. “That is Not Clear. Fix it.” And then she stomped back up the stairs.She made me remember I was a writer because she saw the story in her head and it annoyed her that I had messed something up and taken her out of the movie.
Letting your writing out into the world is a lot like like letting your child go to Kindergarten. You sit at home worrying because your child might not be perfect and the teacher might not like them and think you are a bad parent as a result. Um, reality check. Your child is not perfect. They are not supposed to be perfect; they are supposed to be growing and learning and exploring and becoming. Not everyone will like them and that is OK because they will find their friends. It isn’t as bad the second time around with child number two. I’m hoping the next book will be the same. It won’t be perfect but it will be the best writing I know how to do.
I’ve been pondering why some people say that my writer’s group is ‘hardcore’ and I think it might be this: we tell people what we like about their writing. We aren’t mean. We ask what people are working on and how it is going and for some accountability is intimidating, I guess. I know that having to tell Preston about my progress or lack of it was what got me through the last push of Duodeca. Mostly, though, we listen and tell others when their writing touches us in some way, where it works for us. Rusch points out that the most terrifying moments in her own workshops are when she tells someone that their writing is ‘good enough to share’. Most writers (myself included) panic when they hear that feedback, wondering when the audience is going to realize we are faking it and that we are just making it all up. As Youngest laughingly pointed out to me: you are making it up! You are a writer. That is what writers do–they make up tales.
Before he moved away for school we had a poet who regularly shared his work with the group. His poetry is beautiful– haunting and inspiring–but he had a hard time when we introduced him to new members of the group as an author of beautiful poetry. I was very sad he took down his blog from fear of political reprisals. I wish the world was a place where writing was safe, where he didn’t need to fear governments because he wrote about things that matter to him. I wish he would plant his flag and stand where his writing is taking him because his writing is beautiful. And I understand his feelings, too, because I have struggled with the same thing when someone introduces me as an Author of amazing thrillers.
As I transcribe the writing that will become the next two books of short stories and the next novella (Yes Dear Reader, I finally found the first page tucked inside another story! I have the whole book not just the second half! You have no idea how excited I am about this!) and I write the next novel, I remind myself that I am an Author. I am building a career, one I have always wanted. I have more than ten books in me (many more than ten books lol). There are so many stories I have yet to share with you. The goal is to play and learn and become and be authentic. Authentic, not perfect.
I got the email from KDP that says the book is live in the store, but when I go look at it I get the ‘pricing not available for your country’. It will be there, I am assured, within 24 hours. Nothing is ever smooth, right?
In life news, we have green tomatoes in the garden and youngest got her casts off. The old casts were moving about an inch up and down her arms which kind of defeats the purpose of casts. The doctor took off the too loose casts, looked at the x-rays and then decided she didn’t need them any more. Now we are both Yay! but yesterday we were still in denial. ‘What? Really?! No Way!’ Physiotherapy starts next week.
In writing news, I have added another 2K to the Finder. I discovered that I had two different Scrivener files for the Finder this morning. One has a lot of the early life and excitement, along with the accident that happens the day her first mentor retires. The second had the whole series of scenes two years later when she realizes she is being targeted by a serial killer because she is finding his bodies. They are all part of the same story so I think I need to put them all together.
I am also starting to compile two anthologies of short stories. ‘Life and other strangers’ includes stories that are more modern time frame or science fiction, with a bit of a twist. The Girl who Dropped in for Dinner (a story about an Alien who accidentally arrives the afternoon of Thanksgiving Dinner) will be in this one. My room mate from college made me finish that story by locking me in my room after reading the first three quarters of the story.
The second anthology has the working title “Tea with Dragons.” It has the pieces that are more fantasy and medieval settings, like my short story ‘Outside the Lines’. There is also a short piece called ‘The Bard’ relating to one of my longer novels that should be coming out next year.
In marketing news, I’ve started a Facebook page (Eli Winfield Author). I’m up to 31 likes (yay–they like me!). Come and stop by and chat. I am also gearing myself up for organizing a proper email list with a free short story. One day at a time, right.
I did it! I finally pushed the button. North Watch Keep went live yesterday on Amazon.
North Watch Keep is famous for its orchards and the family connections to the fey. Suspicious when he had not heard from his cousins for months, the king sends his Hound of Justice, Sir Kelvrin, to find out what is going on at North Watch. Posing as a soldier for hire, Kelvrin discovers the family has been murdered and the Keep occupied by Lord Geoffry of Gwen Myer, whose men are hunting the villagers for sport. Only emotionally scarred Lady Beth remains of the family, eking out her existence as the village healer. Then Lord Geoffry’s men try to kill Kelvrin when they realize they cannot buy his loyalty away from the king. (Novella, 16K words)
It isn’t high literature, but it is a fun story and I love it. It is a medieval fantasy romance, just a little light summer reading, perfect for the beach or the cottage.
Pushing that button was harder than I thought it would be, and yet not as hard as I thought it would be. I am excited, terrified and humbled all at the same time. I had the same feeling that you get right before the long drop on the roller coaster, the one when the person beside you is yelling ‘All right! Put your hands in the air!’ and you are holding on to the bar for dear life thinking ‘What have I just done?’ There is that high when you realize that you just might have Readers. When I went to the bank to sort out all the bank information for royalties my banker actually took a screen shot of the page for his wife so she could read my book. And the low while you wait for someone, anyone, to write that first review. A little silly, since Preston has read my novella and told me face to face he likes it.
I don’t think I could have managed to push the button without Cindy from Guelph Write Now who walked me through the process. Or Preston whose absolute faith in my writing had gotten me over more than one hurdle in the last two years. Or my family, particularly my children, who have watched and listened to me agonize through the whole process. Youngest told me on Sunday (coming home from the Publishing on Amazon workshop) that I ‘just had stage fright’ and that I would get over it. Yesterday she was laughing and started quoting ‘Emperor’s New Groove’ when I started hyperventilating after pushing the button. If she could have managed a video with her two casts, she would have taken one of me dancing around the living room like a total fool when I sold my very first book.
There is nothing quite like it.
I’m sure at some point I will look back on this novella and think of all the things I could have done differently. You know: the email list, the funnel, the marketing work, all those things that you are supposed to have in place before you push the button. But, right now? Today I’m grinning like a Cheshire cat because I sold six novellas on the first day!
So, if you are looking for a little light reading, perfect for the beach or cottage, check out ‘North Watch Keep’ by Eli Winfield.
Oh, dear reader. I’m not gone and even though I’ve been absent for a few months, I’m not out. I’m still fighting to get the words down on paper and still struggling to let the stories be given out into the world.
Ad Astra was fantastic. I learned a lot. I met so many excellent caring people who I want to get to know better in the long run, who gave me solid advice and spent time with me to make my stories and my understanding of this business better. I am grateful for those gifts and their advice. I came home ready to write.
Then Life hit with the vengeance of a tsunami and my muse kept her arms crossed and refused to talk to me through the whole experience. I don’t think it was my muse’s fault this time. I think that there is a point when I am so stressed that I can’t listen.
First, our union decided to go on strike after a year of no contract. Teacher strikes are nothing to joke about. As much as I struggle with the concept this time around I agree with the union. It has nothing to do with money and everything to do with the kids. I taught, marked, and wrote report cards and then discovered they were not going to happen. My voice disorder returned.
Eldest called because the man she lives with was admitted to University Hospital ICU with severe dehydration and diabetic complications. He is fine now, but the experience was surreal. I never realized there could be so many IV lines into one human being. I don’t think ICU enjoyed having someone who could argue with them.
Youngest discovered a lump that doubled in size in three months. The surgery was rescheduled five times, and after surgery finally happened, youngest discovered that it is difficult if not impossible to do 16 weeks of learning in 8 weeks. My church choir self destructed. Two weeks before the end of my teaching year, youngest fell and broke both arms. Both big bones in both arms. Two casts.
Our blessings however have been many. Youngest did not break any of the moving parts when she broke her arms, just the big bones. The two interns that were called in to help reduce the break were fantastic; so fantastic, in fact, that she will not need surgery and may only have the casts for six weeks. After school ended, we went back to the surgeon to find out that the lump was benign and youngest was officially cleared of cancer. No cancer. No summer of chemo or radiation. No need for repeated and possibly invasive follow ups. Eldest found a job related to her field and was also promoted to supervisor at her first job.
I think that was the point that my muse decided that maybe, just maybe, she would talk to me again, perhaps because I could finally actually listen to her.
It is remarkably difficult to listen to the muse when life is crashing down around you, to just find ten minutes, to just keep writing. I have the utmost respect for authors like JK Rowling and Holly Lisle who manage to create amazing novels in the middle of life chaos with such stubborn grace and determination. Right now, I am not that author. I am thankful my muse is a stubborn, that she has waited me out over the years. After two weeks of just sleeping, the stories started perking out again. Perhaps perking is too active a description: dripping like water on a stone gradually wearing resistance away is probably more accurate. My writing has more depth and interest than it would have a few months ago. Isabelle, the Finder, is more interesting and opinionated. She has panic attacks, trust issues and serious character flaws.
From this experience, I realized that I need in person accountability to keep writing when life happens. A few of us from writing group are going to start getting together one evening a week and just writing. Even if all we do is sit together with a pot of tea between us, the accountability will help all of us start putting words on paper. We all need that, someone who sits across the table and tells you to start the timer, get out your pencil and start writing.
On the publishing side, I edited a novella, a story that I really love and then with the help of my friends from writers group I pushed through the panic attack and put my novella up on Amazon through KDP. This morning I actually pushed the publish button. I’m sure there is more I can do, more talking, more marketing, more…
Yeah. Always More Stuff. The truth is if the book doesn’t sell well, it will always be because I didn’t do enough marketing stuff. Even if I end up with an agent and a publisher, the reality of the current market is that the buck stops with me, the author. Right now between the deep breathing to keep myself from panicking and the muse poking me to sit down and write, I have to keep reminding myself that when all is said and done, it is about the story. My job is to share the stories that got shared with me.
In the end, good stories will sell.
Oh, dear reader, I am sure that you understand the title muse wars….
My muse is awesome and wonderful and flighty. Unfortunately, she wants me to finish all things I started before I write anything new. I want to write something new while I go through HTTS with the current class (bored? well, maybe…) and she digs in her cute little heels and crosses her arms and pouts. Pouting is bad. The words stop when she pouts. She wants me to finish the last manuscript (or two or three). She wants me to edit ‘Here be Dragons (WT) properly, and she wants me to edit The Duodeca Conspiracy with great enthusiasm and then let it out into the world. While I am at it, she wants me to send out about five short stories including ‘The Girl who Came to Dinner’, ‘Chosen’, ‘Michael’s Baby’, ‘Second Best’ which won a second place prize, and ‘The Bard’. I want to whine that I am not ready; she just crosses her arms, and we are into Muse Wars.
But, since this is a blog to document what I am doing, not a blog to document whining about what I am not doing, I am going to sit here and blog about what I have done in the last month.
I joined the ‘Kindle in 30’ challenge while I was attempting to expand my horizons. If you have not checked out the work by The Book Ninja, you should if you are a writer and want to publish. So far, I have learned lots and lots and I am in week 1 of training. I am not so terrified of publishing as I was. I have a plan for dealing with tax numbers. My only quibble with the course is that it is really focused towards non-fiction, and I write fiction. It is a minor quibble.
I have added 7 thousand words to the Finder, along with a short story that just might end up being my ‘please sign up to my email list’ bonus. The story is very fun! I have signed up for an email list service, and I am starting to figure out the business stuff. I have figured out a publisher name (whohooo!) which was not as easy as it sounds. It took me two hours to find a name I loved that worked that no one else had. I even have an idea for a logo. I have attempted to write more than 500 words every day. As someone wise once said: the reader doesn’t know the difference between 500 easy words and 500 hard words. Once I stopped trying to stuff the finder into a little box, life was much better.
I am off to AdAstra this weekend, which will be amazing, while my hubbie does his family’s taxes. Hopefully I come back from the weekend full of enthusiasm and news. Starting in two weeks, I move up to a twice a month schedule for my blog posts. I am doing stuff for my writing. It is time to document this more frequently.
Until next time, dear reader…
One of my big goals this year is to learn more about the business side of writing–the ‘have a list’, ‘have a presence’, ‘have a back-list’, ‘have a plan’ part of writing. Mostly this has been an overwhelming area for me. There is so much to know and learn! In the spirit of sharing, these are some of the people who have been most helpful to me so far on my journey:
I’ve been investigating email list management services (consistently people suggest AWeber), developing a product launch funnel (that pop up that asks: do you like my writing? do you want to read more? sign up here for more information or another piece of the background story) and creating a bigger following and getting a bigger list. This time around, I’m feeling more emotionally able to handle the process. But if anyone has any good suggestions or experience, I’m open to suggestions. Please leave me a comment!
On the writing side, my muse and I have come to an agreement. I am taking ‘ WT: The Finder’ through HTTS with the new class (can you tell how excited I am?). The new words are flowing and happy and feel right. My character sheets are getting full, and that feeling of anticipation that comes with writing is flowing again. There have been three thousand new words since I last blogged, and I know what comes next.
My inner editor is also happy because the substantial edits of ‘The Duodeca Project’ are finally underway. My inner editor started with a bang. He stomped his sharp boots and suggested strongly I change the title. ‘The Duodeca Conspiracy’ just has a better ring and better fits the plot of the story. I have to agree with him. What do you think dear reader?