Separate Being from Doing

Separate “Being” from “Doing”

There is so much chaos and violence in the world today. I’m with you on how perplexing it is to see good-hearted people turning on neighbors, to see normally kind children suddenly killing peers, or older adults planning to bomb buildings because a spouse was unfaithful. The world seems quite mad sometimes. And when you add politics into the mix, well, frankly, I am either speechless or soapboxing. There seems little room for anything “in between” these days.

As a result of this madness that makes us feel like we are drowning in sorrow and hatred, there is the added reality of jobs, taxes, entitements, rights, freedoms, all being beaten, bruised or completely extinguished. At every turn we feel frustrated, horrified, confused, tormented, violated, and downtrodden. We must react!

I get it.

Writers find a way to release those emotions, to vent the chaos, to highlight the issues, and lift their pens and pencils in the various causes which call each writer to action. For some, the challenge is an editorial or commentary. For others, they invoke social media and an uprising of action. For still others, there are petitions and bills and amendments, protests and town halls.

Writers are rarely silent on the world around them. We are often the avatars of information.

But I want to highlight one time when it may behoove the writer/author to be still. A long time ago, a very wise older gentleman put a hand on my shoulder and reminded me of something which I carry in my heart today. Over 40 years ago, I was sternly chastised with this warning:

You can’t confuse who you are with what you do.

Okay so some of you are saying, ah that’s not how I heard that saying. There are so many quotes out there about not confusing attitude with personality, desire with destiny and the list goes on. No, this is not that quote.

What this fine gentleman (a military man, a father, a visionary, and a jack-of-all trades) reminded me simply was this: You are a person of particular likes and dislikes. Your job/your work is not to be confused or combined with who you are as an individual. The two are separate and distinct. You do not marry your work, no matter whether it is hobby or profession. At the end of the day you don’t sleep with it or make babies with it, even if the work is something you do 24 hours a day (as in being in the military, being a doctor or a police officer.) Even a mother understands that who she is as a mother and parent is not who she is as a person. And many mothers will tell you they struggled to regain their private self from their mother self! That is the separation I speak about here.

The two entities are entirely separate and should stay that way. (And that is what people forget and one contributing factor why there is added chaos and discord, in my opinion.)

But that isn’t the extent of my warning. As you learn to know yourself and learn to live your life and keep your work from being who you are, you as a writer must learn a greater lesson:

Do not confuse who your characters are with who you are.

This is VERY important. Sometimes we get so caught up in the real chaos that we, as writers and authors forget and let our true feelings bleed over into our characters. If you are writing a memoir about yourself then that may be useful. However, 99% of the time, the vampire, shapeshifter, elf, robot, sweet librarian, or punk rocker won’t have (and can’t begin to fathom) your feelings or your attitudes. And you do your readers a disservice when you lose sight of the warning and forget the lesson. Your stories become preachy, muddied, and confusing. They start being about you and not your characters.

The warning holds true for any profession where you perform a service. Remember that who you are and what you do (writer who writes), are two entirely different and distinct things. Keep them separate. Learn to take yourself out of your reality and put yourself into your character’s reality. If you can’t keep them apart, then you are doing it wrong. No reader wants you to preach or soapbox to them through your characters and use your writing as an excuse to do it. Be mindful of your story and keep to the boundries that you designed. Reality and fiction sometimes meet but never with the heavy-handed chaos that is the full truth.

And how do you insure the separation? You step back and become the character and the reader of your story. You forget you and become them, the people who now live and breath the magic you create. Let them have their life and not yours. Be aware and trust your ability. It doesn’t matter what the reader thinks of you (though we want to be liked). What matters is what the reader thinks of the characters you create. Let the reader love them. And you can be you later.

And that’s my advice for this week. 

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*** Just two weeks to go til Christmas! Take advantage of the sale I have going on for Breaking the Glass Slipper, The Gypsy Thorn and Time and Blood. Check out my Amazon page (and follow me for whenever changes happen). Prices will change in the new year. Also, look for something special coming for Christmas concerning Midnight Assassin!

*** It’s not too late to sign up for the newsletter. Only those who receive the newsletter will receive first dibs on new things, free stories or free books and insights into the next new book coming Summer of 2018.

*** Finally, Drahomira’s birthday is Dec 21, the Winter Solstice. If you don’t know who Drahomira is then you need to catch up with my fiction!). She’s planning a party so watch my Facebook author page for more details.

Until next time, I remain,
Yours Between the Lines,
Sherry

P.S. Don’t forget, every Monday on Instagram is #pinyourpen day! You can follow me and see what pen I put up today (and see past offerings too!) I’m doing this for one year, so catch up!

Rowing Thru the NaNo Swamp

 

If you are participating in National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, then as of yesterday you should have broken the 20K mark. That is, provided you’ve met or exceeded your word goals ever day. I had to skip Veterans’ Day on Saturday but by last night I stopped with 25,838 words. I’m ahead of the program thanks to working hard early on to be sure I had a buffer. And I learned there is a very good reason for doing so and it has nothing to do with being able to skip a day (because I don’t usually skip). The reason is because by mid month you have entered into what author Jim Butcher calls. . . . 

THE GREAT SWAMPY MIDDLE.

You can read Jim Butcher’s take on the Swampy Middle but let me paraphrase. It is the moment in the book when you’ve charged along and suddenly you’ve met your goals and you are in the middle, rambling along, maybe worry-free and suddenly it dawns on you that you really are working in circles, that you lost the goal somewhere and now, You. Are. Lost. The page is blank. The ideas are floating away and you are afraid to admit to anyone that YOU HAVE NO CLUE WHAT TO DO.

It’s okay. I’ve been there. I took a big swim in the Swamp once and I lost my entire month because I couldn’t save myself. Since that time I’ve given myself an outline with several out clauses. That’s right, I built in escape holes so I could go play (if I got lost or bored) and still be able to get back to the main story. Clever, right?

Jim Butcher says you get yourself out of being lost by planning for a HUGE event in the middle of the book! That’s right, do something big and give yourself time to plan for it and then when the swampy middle arrives you have a way to get through it by blowing it up with something wild or wowie or amazing. And then you get back on track and you’ve never really left the main story.

He’s so clever. I bow to the master.

I do something like that but not as great or dramatic. I get my characters to stop and tell a story. I get them to recount something that happened before or after the book, as if to explain something to one of the other characters. It works well because it allows me to explore a new idea, keep working with the characters I already have in play and I challenge my muse to find the way back with the same characters.

Works every time. I also plan for this by leaving myself a side outline of possible tales to recount. These are the fun or funny things that I may not use in the book but will keep my heart delighted (and you never know, you might use these stories for freebies later – I intend to do just that!).

 

So now it’s time to push forward with that oar in your boat of uncertainty and guide yourself through that swampy bog middle of your story. It may take you another 15K or so (which is about right) and you’ll be sitting around Nov 20, but that gives you plenty of time to finish the last 15K with the best climax and ending you’ve ever done. 

Meanwhile, get some snacks, your music, your candle or your favorite blanket. Reconnect with your inner self and then wade confidently into the darkness. You are about to enter the dank, the most terrifyingly best, creepiest, coolest, part of your NaNo. And the next week will be very challenging.

From here on out, never fear the Great Swampy Middle, the Foggy Bog. Look forward to it. It will always come and you can prepare and even be excited at the challenge. After that, NaNo is always a breeze. People will wonder how you managed. Just tell them, you have a secret path through the bayou.

You can do it. I can’t wait to hear your stories. Just don’t look back. You don’t want to know what’s chasing you.

I’ll be back before Thanksgiving and we’ll talk about gratitude. Until then, keep writing. Stay focused and get some sleep.

OH! And remember, DURING NaNo – THERE IS NO DELETE BUTTON! (we need words!)

I remain, Yours Between the Lines,
Sherry

How do you measure success?

This last week has been extremely stressful and busy. With the launch of my new book, Time and Blood, I’ve been caught up in marketing, promotions and sales. Over the last month, I participated in three Facebook events, spent Halloween doing a series of Facebook live events, worked ad designs for four books into a Holiday sales catalog, appeared on Yvonne Mason’s blogtalk radio show Off The Chain and topped everything off with beginning National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). WHEW. To say I was tired over the weekend would be an understatement. 

I had good news. Saturday I discovered that my new book Time and Blood hit the Amazon Hot New Release list. Yes, the list is updated hourly and I didn’t stay there, but I did show at #3. 

Every author I know dreams of hitting the bestseller list. I didn’t hit #1 but just knowing you’ve breached the top 10 is incredible. Here’s how I found out that I managed to crack into the Bestseller lists in my categories:

The actual statistics are located on the book details about your categories:

I admit that I am humble bragging. I’ve never had any success like this and so it is both humbling and amazing enough that if I don’t tell someone, it might seem as though it didn’t happen. The ranking success is so fluid and changes so often (so much), that when a moment like this happens, you capture it and move on — but you have to say, “Look, for just a moment, I shone.”

Anyone who wants to be published needs to realize how much time and money goes into marketing and promoting your work. You cannot sit on your hands and expect the world to discover you, not if you are an Indie author. Unless you have a PR firm to do the work for you, you – the author – must seek out promoters and venues where you get maximum visibility. And in a world where self-publishing is beginning to proliferate the market, rising to the top is unbelieveably challenging. If you have a large following of friends and family who can help, that is a boon. I don’t have a large cadre of either so that hurts me. 

 

And unfortunately there are many authors who won’t buy your work and support you unless you are in their inner circle. I’ve noticed that once you achieve a Bestseller ranking (Amazon, NYT or USA Today), that you move into “inner circles” where those authors and their readers continue to promote and purchase you. You stay hot as long as you keep publishing. Until then it’s promote, sell, promote, push, advertise, promote. Endlessly.

But for the rest of us who are lucky to sell maybe 50-100 books, we’re doomed to sit on the outside and wonder how we get noticed. That’s where the marketing and publicity comes back — as you work to find reviewers and venues to be seen and heard.  You might say authors are a bunch of ouroboros. What I mean is that we must live, eat our own tails to be reborn and live again. We eat our sales in marketing and publicity, in order to make more sales and eat our tales again. It is the endless circle of renewal, the infinity sign. Unfortunately most Indie authors find publicity and marketing costs more than the resulting profits. So how do you measure success?

 

It’s a tough road and why anyone who thinks they will start off making a living as an author is crazy. But if you work hard, then you may have a moment like me, and know someone has noticed you. It is humbling and exciting.

I measure success not just in these statistics. My successes come in much smaller doses: the sale of a book to a new friend, an old friend anxiously waiting to purchase your new book, a dividend payment that is only $3 which means, “hey, you sold a print book!” Success is not in large dollars but in the moments that validate what you do. Oh yes, statistics and “bestseller” titles are coveted and precious, but the real success comes when you know realize that you have stories to tell and someone, somewhere, is reading them.

Then you begin again, because writing is like breathing, you simply must. And hope lives.

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Which brings me to my next subject, NaNoWriMo. Five days in and I’m on track, even a little ahead of schedule. If you’re like me, you are discovering that you must schedule work time and balance your seclusions with the requirements of life. If you live alone, bless you. You have the right-of-way of the rest of us who are juggling children, spouses, boy/girl friends, laundry, furry families, jobs, meals, shopping, bills, and sleep. 

I am happily married to a newly retired husband. The silent time I used to enjoy is now filled with another body. Fortunately he understands my need for quiet space to write. And I take that space. Not all are as fortunate, especially with demanding jobs or young children. Family cooperation can be a premium achievement. I get it.

What do you do? You have to stand up and demand the time for your. Your writing is important. Whether you take 30 minutes or three hours, what you need should be recognized even compromised for your health and happiness. Perhaps you can take the time at lunch, before bed, after supper. (I do some best work in the shower or in the tub. haha)

Whatever you do, do it because you want it and help your significant others (family and bosses) to  understand your needs. Then discard the guilt and work your muse. Let the words flow. It may take some extra effort but isn’t the joy worth it?

My NaNo count for the last five days is: 12,173. When the minimum is 1667 a day, that puts me 3,838 words ahead, and that’s more than a two day cushion. Cushions are good, like emergency funds in the bank. In the event of unforeseen circumstances (family emergency, sickness- me or others) I have some extra to help tide me over. And if nothing extraordinary happens, then I will finish early.

Confession. I’ve veered off outline. Yes, I’m a plotter. This is meant to be the bones of my sequel to Time and Blood, so I’m trying to get all my ideas down on paper. It will be an editing monster later but the important ideas will be on paper. Still, twice I’ve drifted away from my outline and had fun doing it. I’m just letting myself go where the characters want to go. Swallow your editor and give yourself permission to have fun. Word count is the goal. Content will be massaged later.

How do you measure success during NaNo? For me, success is butt-in-chair everyday with writing. Success is meeting your word goal but success is also not measured by numbers but in personal growth. Are you doing more than you used to do? Did you do more than yesterday? Are you more focused? Success may be in the self-discovery. Allow yourself to realize personal success not just a happy word goal.

Tell me how you are doing and how you are managing your time. I’d love to hear from you. I’d like to know, How Do YOU Measure Success (and when)?

Next week, let’s talk about getting tired and frustrated and how you can push through it.

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What’s next? I’m appearing at Authors Invade Columbia this Saturday Nov 11, in Columbia, SC, 10 am – 3pm. Come out to see us if you are close. It would be delightful to meet you.

Until we meet again,
I remain, Yours Between the Lines,
Sherry