Tag Archives: motivation

Waiting For Such a Long Long Time

(World Party reference!)

When I last made a blog entry, I mentioned that I was “embarking on a new journey professionally.” That is true. I am doing something totally new to me, although it still involves helping people find the information they need.

While I learn the job, it is seriously cutting into my writing time. However, this is a sacrifice I believe I need to make right now for myself and my family. Once I know how to do the job right, and to the best of my ability, I will be able to get back to the work I am leaving unfinished for now.

For now.

I will get back to Newtonberg eventually. And as for that vampire book — well, they’re eternal, aren’t they? They’ll still be there when I need them, and vice-versa.

I’ll be back eventually. I promise.


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This Is What We Find

(Ian Dury and the Blockheads reference!)

Wow.  Has it really been three months since I posted?

Well, I haven’t been idle.  I have been challenged — sort of — to step outside my comfort zone and write a different sort of book.  So I am working on my first YA novel. Of course, I had to put my own spin on it. More details once I’m further into it and more sure of where it’s going.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to encourage said friend to get back into writing herself.  I think it’s working a little, since she posted a few questions on Facebook for her “writer friends”, asking about their writing habits, preferences, etc.  I decided I’d post my responses here for anyone interested.

CAVEAT: This is just “what works for me.”  Your mileage may vary. Find what works for you and go with it.


To all my writer friends out there, I’d like to be nosy & ask you all a few questions. Feel free to answer in as much or as little detail as you’d like via comments or even via private message. I’m not picky about what kind of writer you are either. Whether you write screenplays, novels, articles, blogs, or anything in between, I want to know your answers.

1. What tools do you use? Pen & paper. Word processor. Typewriter. Computer. You get the idea.
2. What is your process? Music on or off & if on, what kind of music? Do you outline first or just dive in.
3. Where do you feel the most productive? Home, work, Starbucks, etc.
4. Do you set goals for your writing? Daily, weekly, monthly, etc. And if you do, what is your ideal goal?
5. Do you ever participate in events like NaNoWriMo?
6. Do you belong to any kind of writers group or taking any classes on writing?
1. I will usually brainstorm with pen and paper, but I have a “Notes” file that I put it all into since I often can’t read my own handwriting if I go back to it later. I generally do my actual writing on a computer in Word.
2. Music definitely on. What it is depends on what I’m writing. (Sometimes where and when I’m writing affects this, too — see #4 below for particular writing situations.)
You can get an idea of some music I listen to on my blog under “Playlist”. Right now it’s a lot of 70s and 80s (or 80s-style). Stevie Nicks. Alice Cooper. Fleetwood Mac. Night Terrors of 1927.
Outlining doesn’t work for me. That “Notes” file I mentioned in #1 — I keep track of certain scenes I want to include and a general overall story arc, but outlining doesn’t allow your characters to take off and do what they want.
3. Anywhere I can put on my headphones and zone out. Honestly, I had one of my most productive nights this week in the lobby of the local Agricultural Extension Office while my sister was in a meeting.
4. No goals other than to write. The only time I keep a word count is if I have a preset word limit (like a magazine article). Failing to hit a word limit is still failure, and writing should be fun, not a guilt trip.
While I don’t put a goal, sometimes due to where and when I’m writing I have to put a time limit in place. When I write on my lunch hour at work I will sometimes listen to a particular CD because I know when it ends, I have to stop. Forever Changes by Love is just about 40 minutes long, so it was a good one for that situation.
5. Never done NaNoWriMo. It’s still a “word count” issue, you just have longer to do it.
6. I don’t belong to a writer’s group, although I know of a few local groups. I tend to write on my own, then get feedback from a few selected friends and family members.
“I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel.”
Well, that’s it for this time. I promise it won’t take as long for the next update!

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The Best of You

…Or, “Self-publishing, Mariachi-style”

I’ve been (re-)reading Robert Rodriguez’s books Rebel Without a Crew and RoadRacers: the Making of a Degenerate Hot Rod Flick. This must be my third or fourth time through Rebel and my second through RoadRacers, and it finally struck me: self-publishing is actually doing what Robert Rodriguez did, but with the printed format instead of films.

Let me explain: Robert Rodriguez made his first movie, El Mariachi, for $7,000. He was the entire crew. He conceived it, wrote it, shot it, edited it, and managed to get one of the most powerful agents in Hollywood to sell it to Columbia Pictures — even though that was not his original plan.

Well, the concept, writing, shooting and editing were, but he never planned on the movie being released theatrically. His original plan was to shoot three movies directly for the Mexican home video market, make all his mistakes there, and then show up in Hollywood ready to take on a “real” movie.

Self-publishing is doing the same thing. We are conceiving, writing, editing, formatting, and submitting our works to be published; either in eBook or print form, or possibly both. We ARE the crew. We’re learning as we go, and we’re saving a ton of money. And then, maybe… MAYBE… an agent or publisher will notice us and give us our big break.

Or not. Either way, the stories get out there for people to read, right?

In his books, Rodriguez talks about shooting “Mariachi-style.” This means taking inventory of your assets and working from there. When he wrote El Mariachi, he knew he had access to certain places for filming, specific guns, which type of camera. He knew his limitations and worked within them. Anything else would have cost more money.

With self-publishing, you do the same thing. If you have access to a computer with Microsoft Word, that’s great. You don’t have to pay extra. If not, use one of the free programs that are compatible with Word.

Need help formatting? Decide on your book’s size before you start, then download the free template for it from CreateSpace or Lulu or wherever you choose to publish.

If you’re designing your own cover, this means either utilizing your own artistic talent or that of someone you know who will work with you at a substantial discount — or better yet, free. In my case, it means going out with my sister and nephew to take pictures, then deciding which one fits my idea for the book cover.

One of the things I’ve talked about on this blog is free software, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. My first two books were written using Microsoft Office. For my third, I’ve swapped over to Atlantis, which is portable and free so I can use it on any Windows-based computer with a USB port that I have access to. I will still do my final layout in Word — but that will also be free, because I already have it. If my computer isn’t working, I can do it at the public library.

The photo editing software I use is free (and a lot of it is also portable). Between FotoSketcher, PhotoScape, and GIMP, I’ve got it covered. I use doPDF to create the final cover art and book file for CreateSpace.

The one place I fall down in Mariachi-style publishing is in self-publicity. While Robert Rodriguez is a master of putting himself out there, I’m still not at that point. I know that if I want to be more successful I’ll have to get over it. Or get over myself. Whichever it takes.

All I know is that I’m having fun. And if writing isn’t fun, you’re not doing it for the right reasons.

(Oh, by the way — that’s a Foo Fighters reference in the title.)

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Paperback Writer

Once the eBook was officially available, I took a week or so to let my friends and family know about it.  I was proud of the book and I was glad it was out there.  But as a life-long book lover and a library employee, I longed to hold the book in my hand.  A real, physical book that could sit on a shelf, gather dust, and live on long after I was gone.  A book that might somehow find its way into a used book store one day, where other people who never even met me might stumble across it.

I knew I couldn’t afford the actual self-publishing route, where you have to buy a certain number of copies.  For another thing, even if I could afford to do that, I have nowhere to store 100 or more copies of my book and no idea of how to distribute them.  But I could offer publish-on-demand.  Since the main purpose was to get the book out there, royalties weren’t a concern for me.

For various reasons (not the least of which was a built-in distribution through Amazon), I settled on CreateSpace. Since I already had the book formatted, all I would have to do would be to upload that and expand the cover a bit, right?  I mean, I had the front cover all ready to go.  I just needed to add a spine and the information for the back.




In a word — no.

First of all, CreateSpace has its own specifications for text formatting.  First you have to decide on which size you want for your final book. I decided on 5.5″ x 8.5″ (this is a standard trade paperback size).  Then you have to use one of their templates to format/re-format your book to that size.

This actually didn’t turn out to be that bad.  In fact, I think the formatting that I ended up with at the end of it was laid out much better than my original eBook.  I was able to add special dividing pages for each story and section.  I was able to utilize an actual Table of Contents. The pages had actual page numbers.  My title page looked like a real title page. My copyright page looked like a real copyright page.  Instead of just a Word document, it started to look like a real book to me.

But as for the cover? Well, they have an online cover creator, but it did not lend itself well to the way I wanted my cover to look.  I liked my cover.  Their online cover creator insists on adding the text for you; since the title and author were already part of my artwork, I couldn’t use it.

Luckily, they did offer templates for book covers, as well. You could download the template, layer your cover elements over it, and then save the whole thing as a PDF. The only thing was, I’d have to take the time to actually learn to use GIMP.

This wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought…

Next: Creating the book cover, part deux…


Filed under Notes from the Author, Welcome to Newtonberg

A brief interruption…

So, I’m having a conversation with my best friend, trying to encourage her to publish some of her poetry. She’s a wonderful writer and a great poet. So I think she should publish some of it.

“If,” I said, “you are ready and willing to share them.”

She responded, “I shared them on my blog. Sharing isn’t the issue.  I just don’t think anyone would ever pay to read them.”

Okay, I’m going to get deep for a second here.

It’s more than the money.  I honestly don’t expect to make much off of Welcome to Newtonberg. The money would be nice, but it’s secondary.  If money is your sole purpose for writing, you’re doing it for the wrong reason.  There are more than enough of those types of authors (and publishers) these days.

The fact that the book is there for anyone to read and not rotting inside my old briefcase — that means that there is concrete evidence that the stories existed.  Other people can read them and later on, I won’t be the only person in the world that remembers them.

I guess in a way, I’m letting Newtonberg become real.  Well, as real as Lake Wobegon or Lake Eden, or any of the other towns that exist only in fiction.  But the more people that read the stories, then the more real the town becomes.  And I think I was doing the town a great disservice by keeping it to myself.

It deserves better.

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