Anti-Social Media

It’s come to my attention that I don’t like social media.

It didn’t help when I recently took a course on writing your memoir, and it was suggested that if you want to get it published, you need to have, at minimum, 100,000 followers. That’s never going to happen. I freak out when I have 200 followers.

I’ll admit, that in early stages of entering a social media platform, there’s a rush of excitement. I’m connecting. It’s fun. Whee!

But then you have to keep it up. I see people posting on Twitter 10 times a day. I barely think to look at it once a day. It is a great resource of connecting with other writers, agents, and publishers, but I simply don’t have the time and energy to make it place for real interaction.

Then there’s Facebook. When considering a post, I always ask myself why I want to post it. Who would be interested in what I have to say? Will they be entertained? Am I informing? Am I just trying to create an image of myself? Generally, after thinking all that through, I tend not to post. Sometimes I still post when I shouldn’t. Some of my reluctance to post has to do with a theory I have on intimacy. I was contemplating what intimacy is, and realized it’s the special moments we share when no-one else is around. When we broadcast everything we do, we cheapen those intimate moments. I would much rather submerse myself in that moment with a good friend than stop to take a picture and post it to show everybody I have a friend and we do stuff together. I used to feel obligated to skim through FB posts several times a day because of FOMO, but I’ve learned I don’t miss out on the people around me when I’m not glued to my phone, and that’s more important.

And then there’s this blog. I should really post more often. I should really try to get it out there, but once again I’m faced with a time and energy problem. My work requires a lot of me, and my savings are running out. I can’t afford time-wasters. I need to focus on writing, editing, and querying.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that when it comes to social media, I have to accept I’m old. And that’s going to be a huge battle in the new publishing world, but I’m just going to have to let me words speak for themselves. Either my work is good, and someone sees that, or I will spend the rest of my life continuing to tell stories just for me.

I have two books sitting in my files, needing to be edited. One is a children’s book, and the other is the memoir of my adventures in Hollywood. I’m eager to get to both, and yet last weekend I got body slammed by the best story I’ve had in a very long time. A book for adults this time, though I think teens would like it too. There’s depth, sub plots, fully developed characters, and intricate themes. I spent the day handwriting 12 pages of rough story outline. It was amazing to see it flow through me. Those are the moments every writer lives for. I think I have to write this before I edit the other ones. I just have to. I don’t know how it will resolve, and I’m trying to figure out if I can just go ahead and write what has been laid out so far in hopes the ending will present itself.

My posts will probably continue to be sporadic, because as it turns out, I’m designed more for anti-social media. So you can be ironic, and drop me a line, telling me how much you dislike social media too.

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The Prodigal Blogger

I have returned.

The last few months have been a stressful blur. I’d never been through the process of moving a business. It was almost as much work as moving myself across the country, even though we moved less than a mile. But it’s finally done, and the new space is amazing.

The little girl I take care of in addition to my job, reached the terrible twos at about 20 months. Now don’t get me wrong, she is a sweet girl who is better behaved than most children her age, and I love her dearly. She’s incredibly bright, already counting to 10 in both English and Spanish, can sing her ABCs, and loves belting out Tomorrow from Annie, though she often stops midway through the chorus to explain very seriously, “I like Annie.” But despite how darling and wonderful she is, she’s still 2, and there’s nothing quite like having a 2 year old crying and pulling on your leg, while you’re trying to be a professional and deal with clients waiting to pay or get information, while the phone is ringing. You want to see BP rise in real time, strap a monitor on me at work. When I got home at night I would be happy doing nothing but stare blankly at the wall. Writing? Ha! I have no idea how people with children write.

Then there was PitchWars and the disappointment of not getting a single nibble. That led to a questioning of my writing ability. Winning a writing contest helped that a little. I can write. I can.

But through it all, I somehow kept putting words on the page. I’m about 1/2 way through writing my memories of my first five years in Hollywood. It’s been a really fun project. I knew I had some incredible experiences, but putting them down, one after another has reminded me how truly extraordinary my life has been. When you can research your work by looking up historic events online, you know you’ve done some stuff. I’ve begun to weave in the narrative of my own life adventures, not just what was happening on set. It was an historic time to be in LA: the riots, the Northridge earthquake. It’s beginning to feel like there could be an audience for this outside of friends and family. Eventually I’m going to have to figure out just how honest I can be about some celebrities. Right now, I’m letting it all out – the good, the bad, and the very, very, very ugly. When you combine fame, money, and entitlement, there’s a lot of ugly.

And yesterday I finally began querying my first manuscript again. Just a couple. We’ll see how that goes.

Lately I’ve found even more time for writing due to an accident. Thankfully it was a good accident and I’m not laid up injured or anything. I accidentally acquired a Roomba and it has changed my life. It was purchased as a Christmas gift for the boss, and then she bought one for herself before it could be given. The problem was, it had been on such a steep discount that I had a hard time returning it. It would have been like giving money away. And since I had a cat that gets so upset by the vacuum cleaner that she either a) pees the bed or b) runs into the farthest corner of the yard and buries her head in the grass until it is over, I often let the vacuuming go so as not to traumatize her, which means living in a filthy house. Gross!

So even though I really can’t afford it, I kept it and decided to apply my recent writing contest winnings toward the purchase. There’s been a learning curve. It first ran around like a drunk, bumping into everything, getting stuck in weird places, sending me texts saying it was stuck on a cliff and needed help. It’s starting to settle in and do a good job, but as my boss pointed out, robots are not going to be taking over the world anytime soon.

Because the Roomba requires the floor to be tidy – no discarded socks, books thrown on the floor, etc, I have to keep things picked up. And because the floor looks so clean I began to notice other places where there was clutter and began to pick them up. And then I began to be bothered by the kitchen looking messy when the rest of the house was so nice, so I began to keep that clean. And all of a sudden, my house is clean 24/7. I don’t stumble through the week, letting things pile up, then find myself spending the weekend cleaning the house. Once the weekend hits I do laundry. I cook. But mostly I WRITE! I love my Roomba so much! And while my cats don’t love it, they are a little fascinated by it, and they certainly don’t pee my bed in fear anymore.

So that’s my writer tip for the week. Get a Roomba.

And just keep writing.

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Dipping a Toe in Social Media

For years I’ve avoided most social media, because, well, it is the devil.

The most engaged I’ve been with it is Facebook, and that is just for friends and family I know. Even that has its myriad of downsides, and the more engaged I am in the real world, the less I’m interested in Facebook.

I have a Twitter account, but for years I mainly followed breaking news, celebrities, and friends. It was also an excellent place to vent my anger or frustration at a variety of companies that failed in putting the customer first. I never cared about gaining followers, and in fact, was more comfortable having few people listening to what I said.

I have an Instagram account. Can’t tell you the last time I posted.

However, all that is changing. It has to. There is a wonderful podcast called Write or Die, and many of the guests talk about the supportive writing community they discovered online. Twitter seems to be the hangout for the literary set – agents, editors, writers, publishers, all hanging out around the #writingcommunity water cooler.

I started following a few writers and agents, attempting to jump into conversations here or there, but never really connecting. I continued as a Twitter wallflower.

Last year, I discovered a mentoring contest called PitchWars, just before it began. There was time to enter, but I missed out on the socializing that went on beforehand. This year I’m using PitchWars as an excuse to finally dip my toe in the social media pool.

Downside: It is a time sucker, and I hate that I’m spending more time in front of a screen.

Upsides: I am connecting with other authors pursuing publication, as well as published authors, editors, and agents. In the last month I’ve gained 30 followers, which I know isn’t many, but for me it’s a lot. Quality over quantity. Not only am I following authors and agents, a few are following me. I’ve met a new CP (critique partner). It’s starting to feel like I’m finding my community.

Writers have vibrant worlds and stories in their heads, but we alone can see them. Then we spend years alone, putting them on paper not knowing if anyone will join us and fall in love with them too. Writing is a very lonely and often disheartening endeavor. Social media can help. Struggling with writer’s block? Tweet your frustration and you’ll have a chorus of suggestions and encouragement. Confused about the query process? Ask the #writingcommunity and get advice from industry professionals. Search #MSWL to see which agents would love to see a book just like yours. Social media can bring you inside the #writingcommunity and out of the wannabe cold.

Even if it’s not your thing, make it your thing. At least try it.

You can follow me at @LynnieDN I’ll give you a follow back.

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Content

So, you ask, does the title refer to the content of a book, or being content in life?

It is both. You see, I’ve discovered some things about my writerly self. It is easiest for me to write when I am happy. It is harder for me to write when I am unhappy. But, it is hardest to write when I am content. In other words, being content means I produce little content. See? Both.

I began the new year with the determination to turn off the screens and read more. I have done that. I set a goal of 50 books this year and I’m almost to 40. The free time also set my mind to niggling at problem areas of my book, which along with feedback from critique partners, helped me delve back into a rewrite. Success on that front.

Already feeling a slower pace of life from reading more, I then discovered a meditation/breathing technique that calms anxiety and finally allowed me to sleep well after over 20 years of interrupted sleep and constant weariness. It’s amazing how much more manageable problems seem when you’ve had a good night’s sleep.

The biggest problem I have to manage is my finances, and I can’t say all the worry from that is gone. I’m slowly depleting what’s left of my savings, but all the things that truly matter in life are in place. My work is fulfilling, I’ve found my tribe, and I’m strong and healthy. And with better sleep and less anxiety I can appreciate all that even more. Thus, I am content.

Yes, being a published author is an unfulfilled goal, but since I’m content, I’m happy to keep journeying. If the road leads to a career in writing and I don’t live my senior years trying to figure out how to keep a roof over my head, that’s a bonus.

The down side to all this contentment… it’s hard to find the motivation to spend hours a day carefully reading each sentence of my manuscript, making sure it says exactly what I want it to say. There’s just no rush.

Pitchwars is coming up, so I have that as a deadline, but it’s still far enough away that I don’t feel the pressure. And I wonder, should I just start querying again and skip the mentor contest? That would give me a more immediate goal and keep me rewriting. After all, I now have a killer query letter and I think the first 10 pages will grab the reader. Do I just go for it? However, I see so many Pitchwars mentees get book deals after having a mentor help them.

I think I will wait and submit again, because if I submit and get no requests, I will know I still have work to do, and won’t have burned through any agents. Sadly, that decision won’t speed up my editing process, and it will be even longer before I start querying again.

That’s okay. What’s a few more months when you’re content and enjoying the scenery.

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Once More Unto the Breach

Four years ago today I arrived in Springfield, MO – my spirit nearly broken, exhausted, and clinging to a small bit of hope that my life wasn’t irreparable. It wasn’t, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not grateful for the leap I took.

Looking back, I have to laugh at my naivety. I had done the math, knew the cost of living in Springfield, knew the profit I made from the sale of my house, and figured I had 3-4 years to get a book published before it all fell apart.

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know that the journey to publication can be a very, very long one. Many authors don’t get published until they’ve written 9-10-20 books. Each of those books might go through 6-16 rewrites. 3-4 years! HA!

Of course there are always the wunderkinds – the ones who get published right out of the gate. There are the self-published who can claim the title of published author, but can’t claim to have many readers or earn a living. But the vast majority of authors who want to publish traditionally, toil away in the trenches for years, learning to write, learning to tell stories, and learning to deal with rejection.

This is what I’ve gathered the path to publication is: write – celebrate – edit and polish – celebrate again, imagining agents thronging to your brilliant book – rejection – rewrite – test the waters – rejection – rewrite – rewrite – rejection – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – agent – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – publisher – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite. Publication!

I’ve been stuck in the rewrite process, floundering. Not sure what direction to go. Since form letter rejections leave the author blind, and my writer’s group has disbanded for the time being, I needed to get some pertinent critiques from authors who write and read similar books to what I’m writing. I got a couple of critique partners online and we are in the process of reading each other’s manuscripts and giving feedback. I’ve gotten one back already and it has given me so much to think about. Many areas that I had problems with, but my early readers assured me were fine, gave them problems too. I wish I could learn to listen to my own instincts more.

I am heading back into the rewrite breach. What will follow is analyzing the already written story for structure. Breaking each chapter down. Examining plot. And most daunting… possibly rewriting the entire novel from a different POV. Right now each chapter is told from each of the main characters point of view – rotating through to tell the story. I am considering switching to third person omniscient. It seems overwhelming to even attempt it, but I may give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, I still have my original.

So for those who ask where I am with my writing… that is where I am. Once more unto the breach.

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Boredom Update

By this time each year, most people have let their new year’s resolutions slide into oblivion. So, it made sense to wait six weeks before reporting on how my boredom experiment is going.

It’s been an abject failure.

Let me explain.

My life has improved dramatically in just a few weeks. Last year I read 16 books over the year. More than one a month. I considered it acceptable, though for a writer, less than stellar. This year, on Goodreads Reading Challenge, I committed to reading at least 50 books. With largely TV free evenings and weekends, I read 9 books in January. (So far, Beneath a Scarlet Sky – a true story of a 17 year old Italian boy during WWII, is my favorite.)

With more free time away from screens, I began meditating regularly again. I decided on the schedule of 20 minutes, twice daily. Yes, it meant getting up earlier, which I am loathe to do. There have been many mornings when I thought about going to just 1 evening session a day, but I wanted to stick with it until it was a habit — give it a fair shot. I’ve reached that point. I look forward to the time on the cushion, and am reaping the benefits of a regular practice, though some mornings, I would still rather sleep another 20 minutes.

It’s great I’m reading so much more, after all, I recently heard that every hour of reading is like an hour of studying writing. But, I also have a shelf full of writing books, many of which I’ve never read. It made sense to add more academic endeavors to my reading regimen.

After looking over the titles, I picked The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass, of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. In just the first chapter I saw things I could do to improve both books I’ve been working on. It felt like my opening chapter of Fear Unleashed didn’t grab the reader like I wanted it to. My intention was to create a slow build of getting to know the main character, but I don’t think that helped sell the story. It has inspired me to rethink much of my first novel, and since I have a lot of passion for those changes, I think I’m jumping tracks and letting my current work in progress go for a moment while I rewrite Fear Unleashed.

The truth of my boredom update is this… I have failed miserably at being bored in 2019. I now see that I already was bored and screen time was just a lazy way to fill the boredom. So I guess I am sort of breaking my resolution. I no longer resolve that 2019 is the year of boredom. Instead I resolve it is the year I switch boredom off and reengage with the things that give life meaning. It’s an easy resolution to keep.

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? Have you also tried less screen time? How is that working for you?

Read any good books lately? Please tell me about them, as I’m constantly looking for my next book.

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I’m bored.

I remember whining “I’m bored” from time to time when I was a kid. Most of us over the age of 30 did. Apparently kids today are saying it less and less often, because they’re never bored. They pick up their phone, their tablet, their game controller, or the remote control.

Back in the olden days, you know, the 70s, do you remember what happened shortly after uttering those words? Our parents would either suggest something to do, which sounded good, and we did it. Or, they would threaten us with chores if we continued to complain about boredom. And with that, we would evaporate from their presence before chores could be unleashed. Out on a farm, 12 miles from a town of 400 people, there didn’t seem to be a lot of choices, but the sheer weight of boredom would force out some creativity. I would go work on my fort in the trees, maybe build something, or pretend I was on some adventure in the barn or pastures. Much of my love of writing comes from being bored and losing myself in a book, or being bored and playing out some story I’d invented in my head. Obviously, being bored isn’t fun, but it makes me sad that today’s kids aren’t enjoying the adventures that come out of boredom.

The problem is, I now feel sad for myself, as well, and doubly so, because I’m trying to launch a creative career. You see, I, too, have ceased being bored. There’s always something to watch on Netflix, or Amazon, or Hulu, or Sling. And if that’s not enough to entertain me, I’ll play a game on my phone while watching. Then there’s Flipboard, which lets me read all the news from so many sources and viewpoints, that it’s a black hole that can suck me in, leading me from one story to the next. I might sit down to write, but then YouTube seems infinitely more interesting than pounding out the next chapter. I mean, you can tour abandoned sites, learn about cults from those who’ve left, hear inspirational Ted Talks, watch a video on history, telling yourself it’s research for future ideas, watch music videos… again, a black hole that can suck one in for hours.

And then I complain that I just don’t have time to read. I just don’t have time to write. LIAR! I do have the time for both those things, and if I were bored, I would be clamoring to do them. My mind would be filling the boredom with ideas, just like it did when I was a kid.

So, I am doing something I don’t know that I’ve ever done before. I am making a New Year’s Resolution.

I do hereby resolve to be bored in 2019.

Often and frequently.

I will be getting rid of several of my streaming services. Not all of them. I am not a troglodyte, after all. I will be removing the games from my phone. The iPhone OS now lets you monitor your screen time, and I will keep an eye on that, perhaps creating time limits if I feel that’s necessary. Anybody have any other suggestions?

How often are you bored? What distracts you from boredom? Want to join me in my New Year’s Resolution and get your boredom on in 2019?

Let’s get bored!

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Weaning Myself off Amazon

Before I get to the main topic, I want to speak to any writers who read my blog. There is a terrific podcast out there called Write or Die. Authors are interviewed about the road to publication and it is eye opening. I knew it was a long process, but until I listened to these authors, I had no idea how long. A part of me thinks it would have been good to know it can take 8 or 9 years to get a book from written to published before I took my leap. My 3 year financial cushion wasn’t nearly enough. On the other hand, it’s a good thing I didn’t know, or I never would have taken the leap. Give it a listen. It’s great information about getting published.

Now to the title – I’ve made the decision to end my Prime Membership and wean myself off Amazon. It’s something more Americans might want to consider. Let me lay out the reasons.

  1. Brick and mortar stores have long warned that Amazon hurts local businesses. Local businesses employ local people, giving them money to spend, and building thriving local economies. I’ll admit there have been many times I have ordered products through Amazon that I know I could get locally, but it seemed so much easier to have it show up on my doorstep, rather than drive to get it. There was a good chance the price was better too.
  2. Amazon’s policies are impossible for smaller businesses to compete with, and are creating entitled customers who expect the same service. No shipping expense, and if you don’t like it, you don’t pay to ship it back. Package stolen – Amazon refunds it fully or sends another, without many questions asked. When a business isn’t doing the volume Amazon does, they lose all profit with those policies. But if they don’t provide them, they lose all customers.
  3. Amazon is the poster child for corporate greed – Recently, on the same day they announced huge profits, blasting through all expectations, they also raised the fee for Prime Membership citing rising costs. Riiiiiiiight. Jeff Bezos has so much money he’s using it to go to space, but he can’t pay his workers a living wage, and provides horrible working conditions. When Seattle tried to tax Amazon to help the homeless population, which has grown due to the high cost of living in the area, partially due to tech companies, Amazon fought back and killed the tax.
  4. And for me, there’s a final kicker. They broadcast extremist views that are contributing to the deaths of Americans – NRA-TV.

I’ve got until December before my Prime membership renews, but I’ve already begun the process. I can’t get my cat food anywhere in town, but I can get it through PetCo. I’m searching out item after item and am finding it locally, ordering it directly from the manufacturer, or at the very least, another distributor. That doesn’t mean I won’t use Amazon from time to time. In fact, if I’m trying a new product, that’s exactly who I’ll go to, precisely for the free shipping and easy returns. But once I know I like something, I’ll buy it elsewhere.

Greed is not good, and right now neither is Amazon.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

#authorstats

If your’e an aspiring author, search Twitter for #authorstats. This hashtag was started to give us encouragement. They asked published authors to list their stats… how long to get an agent. How long to sell their first book. How many revisions.

This is the first one I saw:

Author after author had a similar story. It took years to get an agent, and it took revision after revision after revision.

The hashtag succeeded. I feel encouraged. I’ve only been trying to get an agent for a little over a year. I haven’t even completed ten revisions. My lack of success at this early stage is entirely normal.

Whew!

My only concern now is managing to pay the bills until I land an agent, sell the book, and earn a little income from my hours and hours and hours of up-to-this-point free labor. Because I now have a firm belief that it is not if I sell, but when.

The latest round of major revisions is complete. My next task is to sit down and read it from cover to cover to make sure the new additions flow. Then it will be off to the editor for another quick go-over, and then it’s back to querying.

I’m excited for the next rejection that might give some feedback and lead me to another revision. Of course I’m even more excited for the possibility that they might request my manuscript. Or beyond that, that they might request their own set of revisions (meaning they’re interested enough to see if you can do the work.)

Of course, in quiet moments I doubt myself. I’m sure I’m a talentless hack who has deluded herself into thinking she has something to say. Criticisms and slights ping pong around my head. However, now there’s one thing I can counter with. I’m not an idiot. And even if the doubters are right, right now – I can learn. I can improve. I can revise. I can do this, just like those other authors did.

What goal are you trying to achieve that seems out of reach? Are you frustrated that others make it look so easy? Does that make you doubt yourself more? Rather than stewing about it, try asking them about their journey. Find out their stats. You may just find your doubts are unfounded, and you’re right on track for success.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Yippee! Another rejection!

After my recent rewrite, and having found Diana Urban’s blog post about querying, this time around things are going much better. If you are querying, check out the blog post for some great information. I won’t write about all her suggestions, but I’m going to share the two I wasn’t doing that are really making a difference for me.

From day one, the entire querying process has been daunting. You only have a few paragraphs in the query letter to get them to read a sample, which is what will hopefully lead them to ask for the manuscript. I’d done some reading online and gotten some advice from an editor, but each time I sent a letter out, it felt like an experiment. The problem was, if the experiment didn’t work, you couldn’t just try again with the same agent. Most were then off limits unless you did a major rewrite.

To solve this problem, new author Diana Urban urges querying authors to hire a professional, such as an editor or junior agent. From my understanding, junior agents assist agents. One way they assist is by screening queries. If you want your manuscript to make it to an agent, you first have to get past the junior agent. (And if I’m wrong about that, they at least likely know what agents want.) By hiring a Jr. agent to edit your query package, you can be sure it includes all the elements an agent would want to see. Ms. Urban recommended two people, and I chose K. Johnson Editorial. She provided great feedback that allowed me to improve my query letter, synopsis, and submission pages. It seems I’m already seeing results and will hire her again for my other synopses.

The other suggestion that has been so helpful is to use QueryTracker. Part of the pain of my previous querying attempt was the silence, and slow, erratic drip of rejections. Now I can see what other QueryTracker users have submitted to the agents. I can see which of those submissions has been rejected or had a full manuscript request. Because of that, I can see where my query is in the process and the rejections don’t come completely out of the blue. Are there still 10 manuscripts between mine and the ones rejected? I know I have a while to wait. Or, like recently, I could see that manuscripts before mine, and after mine had been rejected, leading me to believe it had made it past the junior agent, and was waiting to be reviewed by the agent. While it was still eventually rejected, that information from QueryTracker gave me so much hope.

And my most recent rejection gave me my best hope yet. Literary agencies receive hundreds of queries each week. We authors are dying to know why we were rejected, but they don’t have time to tell us. It’s frustrating, but totally understandable. This week’s rejection came with really useful feedback. If they didn’t see potential, they wouldn’t have bothered with feedback, and I now know if I can introduce my character in the way they’re looking for, I can sell this book. The story, query, and synopsis are where they should be. The first chapter is not.

I have a long weekend of work ahead of me, but I’m very excited to get to it. I believe the first full manuscript request is just around the corner. That doesn’t mean an agent, but it means another step forward, and right now, that’s all I need.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

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