PostApocalyptic Bellingham

PostApocalyptic Bellingham

This was the story that I helped write with five other local writers. Just click on the picture to go to the story!

Blog-ligation

Being a writer is a lot of work.

It’s not enough to sit over your keyboard and sweat blood onto paper. It’s not enough to pay out for editors, or to get your beta readers to read, or to attend writers’ groups. It’s not enough to go to conferences, and book signings, and meet-and-greets.

No, you have to have a blog, too.

Social media of all stripes, honestly. Twitter, Facebook, WordPress.. it all takes time, and word count to upkeep.

The formula is simple. Social media = exposure = marketing. If you don’t market yourself, no one is going to do it for you.

Oh, and it really doesn’t matter if you’re a self-published author or a big-house backed author, the expectation is there. Publishing houses do marketing for their authors, but they aren’t going to run a blog or a Twitter feed for them. Maybe if you’re Stephen King, but you know. Who is?

The irony of this is that social media is the enemy of any artist. It is easy to look at a FaceBook page, click on an interesting link, and lose two hours. You only have to do this four times to lose a day’s worth of work.

So why do it? For people. It is the best way to meet people, people you may never have been exposed to otherwise. I met a writer on Twitter who was offering to send his work to anyone who would read it and critique it. I have felt the same way, shouting at the universe for someone to look at my story and tell me what they think. So, I responded to him. I learned a lot from the experience, and he did too. He’s sent me follow up chapters with my suggestions incorporated in them. He’s offered to read my work, and critique it too.

Someday, we may buy each other’s books.

I don’t mind having an obligation to my blog – its part of the process. And, it keeps me honest.

Learning

The CEO of my company called a meeting in which I was required to attend. What I learned while I was there had nothing to do with software. It had to do with decision making speeds and failure recovery times.

 My CEO is a charming, intelligent, intense man. He led the meeting, taking control of the whiteboard at once. He started giving us scenario rundowns. As soon as he concluded that the scenario was no longer pertinent, he discarded it, changed gears, and picked up the next case. Not one moment lost to the fact that he worked it out to that point, not even an explanation behind his motivations, just an about face, forward march.

 His decisions were just as lightning fast, and unforgiving. It was quite scientific, for being so ad hoc. He split down ideas to their tiniest parts, unrelenting in his direction.

 I have been agonizing over a manuscript since 2009. I have rewritten it eleven times. I spent money on a professional editor to clean up and improve the quality of my work. And I then last night, I sat down and talked to her about my story.

 Nothing about my stories is particularly well thought out. I’m a pantser – I ride the waves of my imagination and fill in everything as I need it. This doesn’t allow for certain basic tricks – foreshadowing foremost among them.

 I have a good story, I believe that. However, to make it a great story, would require me to bust back down to scraps and rewrite it AGAIN. This time, with a goddamn plan.

 Now, here’s my decision. Go forward and spend around a year once again reworking a story that has eluded my grasp for almost four years? Or abandon a work that I’ve invested a few hundred dollars and a lot of hours into?

 My decision came to this: I’m going to walk away. I have been working on this work for a long time, and it was my practice run. It’s a fun story, I feel it can be something. But, if I choose to put it down today, I can come back to it in a year or two, and look at it with fresh eyes. I can take what I’ve learned and apply it to fresh stories that haven’t worn grooves in my head, and keep it moving.

 My editor gave me something that I never had before – her undivided attention and professional know-how. I have had my work edited before, by friends with talent of their own, but they were doing the work for free, and consequently everything had priority over what I’d written. Working with her went far beyond me handing her money. She gave me feedback, perspective, and an education. A one-on-one teacher just for me.

 Now, though, I feel the pressure to produce; pressure from myself, pressure from my friends, and from my readers. I want to put out a book a year, but I don’t have the skills quite yet to churn out that kind of product. I feel the loss of this work, even though I have a get-out-of-jail free card and can change my mind at any time, and it makes me sad.

 This was a big step for me, deciding to step away from the sheltering arms of my talent and walk into the light of learning a skill. The stories will always be mine, but I’m ready to take them as far as they need to go.

My final thought here is that I am learning from my CEO. Today I’m dropping my manuscript, tomorrow I’m picking up the pen again for a new project.

 

 

Full Circle

Once upon a time, I met a magical girl with a singular talent. My fairy godmother directed her my way, and when she approached me, she said, “I heard you write.”

A beautiful relationship was born. The magical girl was called, HG, and she could draw like no one I’d met before. She followed her talent into the arms of a kingdom known as Disney, but she liked having pet projects, and I was one of those.

Then, alas, like all fairy tales, the challenges mounted, and HG and I both had more and more come between us. Work, family, obligations, there was never enough time for our poor project and it slipped into the slumber of forgotten dreams.

This would normally be where the story ends. I have been a party to many projects that ended in a puff of smoke and a sigh. It’s how we learn. Projects are almost always ill-advised, and we try them anyway, learn what we can from them, and then take it with us.

In this case, that is exactly what happened. HG learned project management while she was drawing, and I learned how to strategize a story before writing it. It is not enough to be a writer or an artist any longer. In order to produce a product, there must be a plan.

Plans scare artists of every stripe. Plans are the bane of the creative mind. If you let them be.

Last night I reconnected with HG. We talked about how we’ve grown as artists in the past year. Almost as if this was part of ‘The Plan,’ we picked up our project where we’d left it, waking it up from its long sleep and getting it ready for the day.

And they all lived happily ever after.