The World As I See It

How do I write thee? Let me count the ways……

It occurred to me yesterday, in a conversation with another writer, that (despite what they told us in english class) we all have different ways to write, to create the story, and to get everything put on paper.  My new friend, a sci-fi writer, was explaining how she carefully worked out her entire story plot, all the characters, all the events, into a detailed outline before she started writing her story, and then, in her words, it was easy to write the book, it practically wrote itself for her.

I smiled and nodded and personally thought how that much organization would basically be my own personal hell — when it comes to fiction writing.  As you have guessed at this point, I flung everything my english teachers ever tried to teach me about outlines, form, and organization out the window with how I write.

There is an outline to my stories — but it’s very basic, doesn’t include many details, and rarely stays the same for more than a few days.  Writing for me is an incredibly fluid process, and I find that tying too much of the story down on paper instead of actually writing it binds me up and gives me a horrible headache.  Occasionally hives.

Generally, the way it works is….. I get an idea.  It may not be for an entire story — it may only be for a character, it might even only be a line of dialogue.  But its something that plants the seed.  The seed germinates in my head (which is easy, because it is full of B.S., LOL).  Other ideas come to me.  I do tend to write them down, but I don’t try to force them into an outline format, or even to play well with each other.  I do some research on things that interest me that might be tied in to this seed of an idea.  This process can go on in the background for months.

Eventually, one of the characters will come to me and ask me to let them tell their story, and this is when the real writing starts.  The story begins to flow from me as they tell it to me.  We have some false starts. The book I’m working on now, the first 20k words have been re-written 3 times to get them right, and the concepts in the storyline changed multiple times.  Characters add themselves into the story at will, when they introduce themselves to me.  Sometimes that changes the storyline, sometimes it simply affirms it.

Writing to me is not ME telling a story.  It is, instead, me passing on the story of another.  My characters live and breath in my mind (along with all my personalities — some days its a little crowded up there, I’m surprised the police aren’t called more often).  They decide how their stories go, not me.  And its like the interviewing process…. sometimes you have to go over something multiple times and from multiple characters points of view, before you understand where they are trying to take you with it.

At the moment, I’m 40k into the story, and feeling very very good about how it has shaped up recently.  Totally different direction than where I originally tried to force the story to go, but that’s okay.  Now, all those nagging little ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions that I attached to the original idea are gone.  It feels right.  It flows.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to work some of those other ideas back in later.  Depending on the agreeability of my characters of course.  I’m excited to see how the next 40k words flow, and what new characters appear and what new things I learn about the lives in my story.

So, how do YOU write?  Plan it all out?  Stream of consciousness writing?  Plan a little, write a little?  I know there are as many ways to approach a story, to tell a story, as there are storytellers.  I’d love to hear yours.

Don’t be hating on self publishing

Do you frown, wrinkle your nose or sneer at the concept of authors who self publish?  Why?  Is it because you think that this is a path for anyone to become an author — not just those of us who have the talent?

Traditional publishing takes a long time.  You have to fight and beg for even the opportunity to have your manuscript read.  If you are lucky enough to have a book accepted (and that can easily take years of effort) then you are stuck living by the rules of your publishing house.  You do what they want you to do, accept what they want to pay you, charge what they want to charge for your books, and go where they send you for marketing.  While I realize that for some writers, the be-all-and-end-all of existence, the holy grail itself, is to be an author at a large traditional publishing house.

If that is what your dream is, then I say let no one take it from you.  Be diligent in working toward it.  Just don’t hate on those of us who choose not to go that route.

I am not only willing to put my fingers into every step of the publishing and marketing process, but I prefer it that way (yes, I have control issues, but really good ones!).  I run my own company, I have been in graphic design and marketing for pushing three decades now.  I know what I’m doing and I’m very comfortable doing it myself.  For someone like me, traditional publishing is not a viable pathway.  I would be so frustrated with the repeated efforts, the delays, the rules, I would feel like an employee all over again.  So not interested in going there.  Not for me.

With self publishing, I have control over the whole process and how fast it moves.  I can have access to everything that I would have at a publishing house.  Yes, I do have to pay for their services.  But you pay for them at a traditional publishing house too, after they ‘accept’ you.  You just don’t realize it.  Royalties in traditional publishing are normally a very low percentage.  That’s because all the things I pay for individually (editing, marketing, public relations, isbns, etc) are all tallied up under the expenses of the publishing house and you the author only make money after they start clearing their expenses.

I would rather pick who my editor, marketer, cover designer, etc are personally, without having to think about their company affiliation or place of employment.  All I have to be concerned with is that our personalities match, we have the same goals for my book, and I can afford them.  And when you can pull down 70-80% of the book price in author royalties, I have a lot more leeway in what I can afford.

For me, it’s all about the choices I can make and having the freedom to make them.  I’m sure there are some writers who are now authors who don’t really have the talent or ability to write a good book.  The most wonderful thing about a book is that if you don’t like it, you don’t have to buy it.  And with billions of people on the planet, there’s a market for just about everything.  One man’s trash, another man’s treasure.

So don’t hate on self publishing because its different.  Our standards aren’t lower.  In fact, in lots of cases, they are higher, because there is no big publishing house to hide behind if we screw it up.  🙂

With All The People In My Head, How Do I Know Who My Muse Is?

A friend of mine made a comment the other day about how much she talks to me in her head (and assumably, my head).  I laughed and said something about ‘background chatter’.  Later, she wanted to make sure that she was not the reason for all the ‘boxes piled up in my head.’ And I had to tell her that the boxes were always there, only the names on them changed.

That got me to thinking.  There’s a lot that goes on in my head, as I am sure goes on in every other creative person’s mind (and probably other people too).  I’ve even named some of them, as they are strong enough to have personalities of their own (No, no, not Eve — we’re not talking true MPD here).  Some of those become characters in my stories, and some of them simply give birth to characters in my stories.  Of course, then I have all the characters up there as well, at least as long as I am writing about them — sometimes longer if I happen to decide I’m done before they are.  If only I could find a way to charge them all rent….. I’d have millions, I think.

An artist is supposed to have a Muse, that soul spark of creativity that whispers dreams in our ear, that years to be brought to life through whatever medium we’ve chosen — writing, music, sculpture, dance.  How do you find your muse when you have a crowd like that to look through everyday?

The answer, at least for me, is I don’t.  While my muse occasionally hunts me down and explains to me what she wants me to do, more often than not, she is content giving me little slivers of information and then letting me mull over them until the idea sneaks up and pounces on me.  I understand she does a better job of staying in communication with my characters and many semi-personalities (I think grown ups call them imaginary friends now days).  My characters are all too willing to tell me what I should do.  Which is why sometimes I ignore them and then go through several frustrating days of writer’s block until they decide to start speaking to me again.

My muse is like the girl you see in the bar or club.  She looks perfectly normal and average and she’s not doing or wearing anything that would make her stand out.  She’s a quiet presence in the room who spends most of her time watching and cataloging others.  You didn’t see her come in, and you may not notice when she leaves, but as long as she’s there, you’ll feel sort of a quiet comfort that all is right with the world, and when she moves on, you may wonder what it is you suddenly feel like you’re missing — but without quite being able to call it loneliness.

A Perfectly Lovely Afternoon… In A Graveyard

I love cemeteries. They are beautiful, quiet and peaceful, with divine architecture, and an incredible array of “look at” and “read”. When I was a young child (yes, young, like 3rd grade), I used to do gravestone rubbings as a hobby. I was always this odd … it isn’t anything that started recently.

Today’s trip to the cemetery, while pleasant, was business. I spent an afternoon working with Sherri Moore of Sherri Lightfoot Photography doing author shots. I have smiled so much my jaws are sore.

The photos are going to be available to me next week, which means they will be posted on my facebook and facebook fan page as well as on pinterest (iamlisabeavers) and here on the site (if I can figure out how to do it). Soon you’ll get your first look at yours truly, in one of the rare moments they’ve drug me away from the computer to have something they call ‘fun’.

For a little historical background, my photos were taken in the Old Grey Cemetery in Knoxville, TN. It was founded in 1850 and covers 13 beautiful acres. There is a road so you can either drive or walk through it. Its name is meant to honor Thomas Grey, the English poet and writer, and it is part of the Civil War Heritage Trail. It is the resting place of Tennessee Governor William Brownlow, and too many other Senators, Congressmen, local mayors, ambassadors, judges, artists, authors, physicians, industrialists, editors, and soldiers to list here… and YES, they do say it’s haunted. You can learn more about it at http://www.theoldgreycemetery.com.