Getting inside a Writer’s Head–Part 2

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Here is part 2 of my interview from Pamela Cook’s,  Flying Pony Blog

Can you describe for us your writing process, from getting the original idea to completed manuscript?

Disappearing in Plain Sight came out of me in a rush. It was like having some kind of virus. I couldn’t stop until it had run its course. The first draft was a bare bones thing. I shelved fiction writing for a time – too long, but life does intervene. When I came back to my tattered draft, I found parts that didn’t make as much sense as they could have and themes that screamed to be tweaked and expanded. The second draft added one hundred pages. With a trembling hand, I sent my baby to a few beta readers, and the response was positive. That’s when the idea, that this book could be more than a mere indulgence, began to take root. Serious rewriting followed.

Then came that magic moment when I thought the book was finished. Like many such moments, it was fleeting. Lucky me (and I mean that, hands down), I was told in no uncertain terms that I needed an editor. The story was good, the characters were gripping, but the mechanical aspects of my writing needed work and the ordering of events throughout the book was clunky.

I was able to work with a fantastic copy editor as well as a proof reader all rolled into one sensitive package. (Check out the difference between these two types of editing on Change it Up Editing – a great site.)

I put the manuscript through a major revamp. Like many novice writers, I had crammed the first few chapters with far too much backstory. Correcting this was painful. I felt as though I had torn the book to pieces and was on the floor, crawling around, desperate to glue it back together. Like so many difficult processes in life, the hard work paid off.

Then there were point of view issues to address. Parts of the book contained messy head-jumping from character to character. For every scene, I had to ask myself, who has the most at stake here?

Endless rounds of chapter by chapter, line by line editing followed to correct the messy mechanical errors. The process wrapped up with final proof reading.

My current novel, The Light Never Lies, (the sequel to Disappearing in Plain Sight) is clearly benefiting from what I learned the first time around. I’ve worked from a detailed outline with a clear sense of beginning, middle and end. I’ve addressed some of my more obvious grammatical errors, though that is a constant and painful learning process. I won’t be adding material in subsequent drafts; more likely I’ll find myself in a slashing process. What is it Stephen King says? First draft – 10% = Second Draft

Describe your path to publication.

I decided to pursue self-publishing without first going through, what many report to be, a painful and time-consuming process of finding an agent or submitting one’s manuscript to traditional publishers. The gatekeeping function of many publishing houses struck me as a significant stumbling block for a new author. I researched what other self-published authors were saying about their experiences and decided it was the right path for me.

I went the route of assisted self-publishing. (See my previous post on Reassessment Time )

Which aspects do you least love (or detest!) about the process to date?

I have now had a taste of the promotion and marketing aspects of self-publishing. It is exciting and chalk full of unique experiences. And it is terrifying and time-consuming and draining.

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I am an introvert and I’ve never been a fan of blowing my own horn.

When the dust settles, I imagine that my promotion and marketing will end up being what most of my life has been – a collaborative process. I’ve already enlisted the help of a flaming extroverted friend or two to help me navigate the social aspects of book promotion.

What advice would you give to writers who are working towards publication?

DSC_0837Don’t give up. From initial idea to publication, Disappearing in Plain Sight took four years of my life. I went through periods of despair along the way. The journey was long and difficult. When I held my book in my hands and saw it up on Amazon, all the effort was worthwhile.

Give yourself permission to accept that what you’re doing is serious. When I supervised graduate student researchers, I would advise those who struggled with doubts about their writing, that the only critic they needed to satisfy was the one in their own mind. I think this speaks to an important truth; we worry a lot about how others will judge our ideas and work. When it came to being a writer, the only person I had to convince was me.

P1000925When Disappearing in Plain Sight was published, my son told me, “Mom, many people say they have a book in them, but how many of them do the work to make it happen? You actually did it.”

Naturally we had to celebrate – tower of onion rings and a beer Open-mouthed smile

Yay me, and yay you for not giving up!

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Reassessment Time

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If you’re over the age of two, I’m guessing the essential process of reassessment rolls around periodically. I admit to never enjoying this turn at the wheel of life. Think about it. The root word here is assessment . . . not such a terrific start. Add the revisiting prefix and you see what I mean . . . like it wasn’t bad enough the first time around. Just saying . . . .

This blog started out with the purpose of sharing my self-publishing journey. Was the intention to inspire and inform? I’m not sure. I’m a bit too ego conscious to make such claims. I wanted to write the kind of blog that I might want to read.

With that in mind, I’ve had a few struggles since Disappearing in Plain Sight was published, and these relate to the self-publishing route I chose. I’m not going to go on a rant. I will provide two enlightening links to material that I wished I had read before skipping, gleefully down my chosen path.

A discussion forum related to the various claims made by Friesen Press

Alliance of Independent Authors – and informative post on Agent Assisted Publishing

Suffice to say that I am now saddled with just about every negative part of the assisted publishing process they describe. I’ll let you, my astute readers, connect the dots.

One should always strive for balance when in the process of reassessment. My book is available through a number of distributor channels, the trade paperback and hardcover books are of good quality for the price point, the book is selling, the marketing guy I worked with was very friendly (well, to be honest, almost everything he gave me I could have gotten from the internet, but still – friendly does count for something), I may have spent a lot of money in my opinion of things, but it was only a fraction of how bad it could have been.

Have you ever had the experience where your priorities for choosing something were the entirely inappropriate things to be focusing on? (i.e. I grew up in the era of Trudeau mania and so I’m all gaga for Justin Trudeau, or Christy Clarke is a woman, and we should have more women as Premiers in Canada, so I’ll vote for her. Hmmm . . . maybe not the best logic.)

Setting out on the self-publishing journey, I was nervous. I wanted someone to hold my hand and lead me through the process. As it turns out, there was a high price tag for that service (upfront and ongoing) and the hand holding didn’t turn out to be all it was cracked up to be – like many such promises in life.

Here’s the crux of my reassessment: I didn’t know what I didn’t know, so I didn’t know what questions to ask when I went out Googling for information. I’m not sure what the answer to that dilemma might be. I’m sure blog posts like the one I’m writing now were out there.  

One kind person told me that every self-published writer has gone down a road or two they wished they hadn’t. It’s comforting to be in such good company.

Writing update: I wrote close to 5000 words yesterday and the first draft of The Light Never Lies is almost ready to be printed out in hard copy. When that happens, I’ll let it rest a bit before plunging through the pages on the lookout for glaring inconsistencies, parts that stretch the believability quotient, redundancies, and the vital emergence of themes that I didn’t even realize were there. I find it hard to believe that I can write something and actually miss what it is I’m writing – but it happens.

Epilogue – I am actively seeking a new road for the publication of The Light Never Lies. Insights welcome.

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