Exhaustion and the Writer

You know how it is.

You lost your job. Your job is incredibly stressful. Maybe you’ve got a chronic illness. Perhaps you’ve had extra hours at work, or could it be that you’ve simply spent all night watching K-Drama and can no longer function normally?

You’re exhausted. Whether that exhaustion is physical or mental, it’s something that makes it incredibly difficult to work on your writing. So what do you do?

Well, if you’re anything like me, you sink into a well of despair, self-loathing, and binge-tv-watching, out of which it is incredibly difficult to drag yourself. When it feels like your head is going to explode, or you’re exhausted to the point that you can’t do anything but sit in the recliner without moving, it’s an easy fix.

Easy, yes.

Helpful? Not so much.

Here’s the thing with writers.

We have to write every day. Some of us write more, and some of us write less; and honestly, it doesn’t really matter what your word count is, whether it’s 50 words a day, or 5000. We just have to write every day. And when I say ‘have to’ write every day, I really mean ‘should write’, or ‘need to write’ every day. It’s not all about habit, though habit is a good thing to get into. And it’s not all about word count, though that’s important, too.

So what is the point, Frixos?*

The point of writing every day is to keep your WiP fresh. It doesn’t matter if you only write 50 words per day, and though it’s great if you write 5000 words, it’s not necessarily more meaningful. Because even 50 words per day is going to keep your WiP fresh in your imagination. It will keep your storyline present in your mind, and it will keep your subconscious ruminating on and building on the WiP. You’ll find it easier to slip into your narrative each day, and you’ll notice that the flow of the story is much smoother. In short, it will make you a better writer: it’s a bit like practising your instrument every day.

What does this have to do with exhaustion?

Simple. When you’re exhausted, it’s hard to find the energy to write. There’s always the suffocating feeling that you should be doing more: more words per day, more writing time per day. You get caught up with the idea that you’ll never feel any better. But sometimes it’s simply a matter of writing 50 words. You don’t have to break the bank. You don’t have to write 5000 words, even if that’s your normal words per day count. It’s okay to take it easy when you’re sick or exhausted. Just don’t give up altogether: a tiny word count each day is enough to keep your WiP going, and it’s incredibly important to keep it going.

And, yanno, have a cuppa. Take it from me, a cup of tea is the best remedy for exhaustion that I know of.

I know quite a few of my writerly friends suffer from chronic illnesses/have full-on day jobs/multiple kids/etc: what tips do you have for dealing with exhaustion?

*watch Princess Caraboo if you want to know what I’m referencing. Seriously. Watch it.

Strings, Bows, and New Books

June has been an odd month, so far. I’ve been feeling like I’m drifting aimlessly, which is more or less normal procedure after a book release, but it doesn’t make the feeling any more comfortable. What I’m meant to do during and after a new book release, of course, is write the next book; but I find that I’m rarely in a cohesive enough frame of mind to concentrate properly on the next book while the new book is in the process of being published. That means that I’m usually scattered, undisciplined, and inclined to waffle for both the duration and about a week after launch day.

Today, I’m happy to announce, I seem to be back to form. The last couple days have seen anywhere from 500-1500 words consistently written, which means that the new book is settling in well–or, to be more accurate, the new books.

That’s right. I’m obviously mad. This time, I have two strings to my bow. And by that I mean that I’m writing two books at once.

One of the WiPs is the next book in the Two Monarchies Sequence, BLACKFOOT. Carrying on almost directly after the end of SPINDLEBLACKFOOT concentrates on the adventures of a young girl called Annabel, her friend Peter, and Annabel’s cat Blackfoot–along with a parliament of cats, sneakily growing ruins, and a certain staff that supposedly vanished years ago. Some previously-met characters will be appearing again *coff*PolyandLuck*coff* and many questions will be answered. I don’t want to say too much because spoilers, Sweetie, and I haven’t finalised the blurb, but I’m really looking forward to this one.

The other WiP is a romance. That’s right. An actual romance. Well, it’s in an Edwardian/Korean style setting, with distinct fantasy elements to it, but it’s my first fully romance novel. I usually do Fantasy With A Smidge Of Romance or SciFi With A Smidge Of Romance. With BRIGHT AS THE EYES OF YOU, the focus will be on the romance. I’m planning on publishing a chapter every couple of weeks on Wattpad as soon as I have a cover to upload. I’m hoping to get feedback from native Korean speakers (and romance readers, if it comes to that) since BATEOY is a bit different from my usual kind of book. Below is a rough blurb for your information. I’m having a lot of fun with this one, and since I have THE WHOLE MONTH OF JULY OFF FROM WORK, I’m hoping to finish the first draft of both books reasonably quickly.

BRIGHT AS THE EYES OF YOU: Confined to her couch because of an inability to walk, Clovis Sohn spends her days and nights dreaming, drifting further away from the reality closest to her with each passing day. But Clovis’s dreams are also real, showing her the outside world and people that she otherwise has no access to. As Clovis dreams and watches, she becomes caught up in the complicated love life of publishing assistant Ae-jung, an ordinary young woman who has three very different men in love with her.

There is Clovis’ mischievous half-brother Jessamy, arrogant writer Hyun-jun, and bored, playful composer Yong-hwa. Ae-jung is mistress of many secrets, not the least of which is her love for Hyun-jun, and neither Jessamy, with all his delightful humour, nor Yong-hwa, with his fondness for games and subtlety, can succeed.

Jessamy is young enough to love again, and Hyun-jun is just beginning to learn to love, but it is playful Yong-hwa that Clovis connects with. Ae-jung’s rejection of him has hit as hard as his unexpected love for her did; and Clovis, who has always thrown her bread to the wounded bird over the healthy, decides that Yong-hwa needs another game to bring him back to himself.

And in the end, perhaps it will take Yong-hwa to bring Clovis back to herself.

In addition to all this, I’m learning Korean and Hangul, and enjoying every moment of it! Hangul is like decoding and deciphering all at once, and as someone who practised to be a spy as a kid, I’ve taken to it like a duck to water, proving that some people don’t grow up, they simply grow older.

What are you guys up to? What are you writing? Reading?

Getting the Most Out of Your Royalties: Redux

A little while ago I wrote a blog post about Getting the Most Out of Your Royalties, in which I discussed the Big Thing I had just discovered.

As an Australian author, I had been waiting two months for Amazon to tot up my royalties and send out a cheque for the amount, then taking it to the bank and having to wait another 4-8 weeks for it to drop into my account. Not to mention paying $21 for the privilege–and having to haggle over the exchange rate. What with tot-up time, postage time, and banking time, it was a long and exhausting procedure. I didn’t see the royalties I earned until roughly six months after I earned them.

Then I read about another way that had just opened for Australian authors: the ability to select WIRE instead of CHEQUE in the payment methods for each country.

moneySupposedly, it would cost only $10 for my bank to accept a Wired transfer of funds from Amazon. I said “Heck yes!” and selected it, with the proviso that I’d come back and tell all you other fantastic Aussie authors whether or not there were any hidden charges.

So here I am.

AND THERE AREN’T ANY.

AND I GET THE ACTUAL EXCHANGE RATE WITHOUT HAVING TO HAGGLE.

So instead of paying $21, I’m paying $10. And instead of a haggled exchange rate, I’m getting the actual (very, very sweet) exchange rate. And on top of all that, I’M GETTING THE MONEY STRAIGHT AWAY.

Aussie authors. DO IT. As far as I have seen, there is literally NO downside to this.

(Although do check with your bank to see what they charge for accepting Wired transfers. I’m with Commbank and with them it’s $10, but I don’t know about everyone else’s bank. YMMV.)

Self-Publishing and Early Birthday Presents

How exactly is Self-Publishing related to early birthday presents?

Allow me to explain. I’m sitting here with a 3-cd box set of the Monkees that was a birthday present from my sister. It is not, however, my birthday for another week. So why do I have a birthday present already?

Monkees

Mostly cos I love presents and have a really cute puppy-dog expression going for me. And as I sit here with my fantastic 3-cd box set of the Monkees, it occurs to me that my approach to publishing is much the same as my approach to presents.

I want it all, and I want it now.

(I also really like guessing what wrapped presents are, which isn’t at all helpful to this analogy but I think is telling as to my character.)

Self-Publishing is the instant gratification of the publishing world.

I mean, it isn’t really, but it kinda is. Think about it. If you’re traditionally pubbed, there’s roughly a year spent in finding an agent (if you’re not amazingly talented or amazingly lucky). Then there’s something like a 6 months-1 year while your agent finds an editor who wants to buy your book (again, unless you’re amazingly talented or amazingly lucky). Then there is the year or maybe even two years while your MS is sent to structural-editors, line-editors, proof-readers; put in line for the publication catalog, switched around a bit; has its pretty little cover designed (which you probably won’t get a say in).

Once I know the present is there and wrapped, I WANT IT.

I’m not a patient person. I’ll work until I’ve made things as good as possible, but when I know my books are finished and ready, I want them out yesterday. I don’t want to wait for an agent to give me the ok. I don’t want to wait for an editor to give me the ok. I want to be able to make decisions about what characters are cut (or not cut) and what POV my MS is written in. I want to be the one with last say on what my cover looks like.

And I love being able to set my own publication dates.

I know Self-Publishing isn’t for everyone, but as I sit here with my 3-cd box set of the Monkees, I’m feeling pretty good about it.

monkees 2

Maybe it’s just that I’m in the happy post-MS haze for THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN, but I don’t see myself losing my love for the Indie form of Publishing.

Maybe one day I’ll be a Hybrid author, but for now, I’m happy just sitting here listening to my Monkees box set.

Last Scenes and Chicken Nibbles

As I speak type, I’m consuming chicken nibbles and drinking sars (that’s root beer to all you Americans out there*). This is because I’m worn out from writing Last Scenes. I’M SUFFERING FOR MY ART, OK?

 
FCOAThis blog post is late, and I probably won’t write another one this week, either. Reason being, I’m so, SO close to finishing THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN and have been typing madly to get it finished this week. As stated above, I have actually been writing the Last Scenes, but that means I’ve left some Middle Scenes unwritten while I sort them out.

At this stage it’s looking like I’ll finish the first draft by tomorrow or Thursday, meaning I have a week and a half to tweak things before I send it out to my lovely beta readers.

It’s been a little bit harder to write because the protagonist, Dion, has a lot more of the things I don’t really like about myself in her, and my subconscious has been fighting me the whole way. I am, like Captain Wentworth**, “half agony, half hope” in my imaginings of how my readers are going to take Dion.

Anyway, that’s enough angst for one night, and I’m off to keep writing.

I’d like to thank Abigail Cashen for introducing me to THE MIRACULOUS LADYBUG (via pins on Pinterest), and my little sis for getting me my first OWL CITY album, without which two things I probably wouldn’t have finished this novella in time. Or had as many character breakthroughs.

Good night, friends and readers!

Don’t forget to preorder THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN, the concluding book in the SHARDS OF A BROKEN SWORD trilogy!

*actually, it’s not. Your root beer is SO much better but I can’t get it here in Australia (except at specialty stores), so I have sarasaparilla which is the closest I can get. It’s one of my deepest sorrows.

**Jane Austen’s PERSUASION. Read it. Really.

Isabella Farrah (and other parts of me)

There is a question every author will be asked–oh so many times!–during their career.

That question is: “How do you come up with your characters?”

Its cousin is: “Are you going to put me in one of your books?”

The answer to the second question is: “That depends. Are you an awful person/have you been unspeakably nasty to me/the people I love? Then yes. And the character that is you will probably die alone and miserable, or at once and ‘orribly. Are you a nice/ordinary/pleasant person? Then maybe, but only the parts of you that interest me. Maybe your hair. Perhaps that habit of yours where you silently flick your index and fore fingers when you feel nervous. You will be dismembered in the most painless way, and your foibles and character traits dissected with great interest.”

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia”

-E.L. Doctorow

The answer to the first is slightly more complicated. I don’t really draw characters from real life, wholesale. I take bits and pieces. Sometimes those bits and pieces come from the people around me, but mostly they come from myself.

What is it that E.L. Doctorow says? “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia”. It’s true. I honestly don’t know how many authors work this way, but for me, there is some sense in which every character I write is me. Well, a part of me. Remember what I said about dismemberment earlier? Well, that applies to myself as well. I’m a great proponent of the practise of self-dismemberment. My characters are a kind of Igor: this piece patched onto that piece, a bit of embellishment here, and a bit of fancy stitching there. I don’t just keep the pieces as they are–I idealise them and alter them–but they remain essentially what they are: pieces of me.

My characters are a kind of Igor: this piece patched onto that piece, a bit of embellishment here, and a bit of fancy stitching there.

To put it in practical terms, we’ll take Isabella Farrah, the MC from my Beauty & the Beast rewrite, MASQUE. Lady Isabella Farrah is intelligent, driven, stubborn, resourceful, and incredibly confident. She has a great love for tea, adores her meals, and has a genius for making clothes. She pulls strings, lays plans, and makes the people around her dance to her tune–all for their own good, of course! She is quite certain that she knows best, and–fortunately for her–she is almost always right. (See Jane Austen’s EMMA for what can happen when such a character is not almost always right!)

Now this isn’t a true representation of my own character traits, but it does have its genesis there. I gave Isabella all of my stubbornness (and then some, since in her paradigm she is almost always right, whereas I, alas, am not), my love for tea and good food, and a heightened sense of my own love for making clothes. I also gave her what my mother calls my Pied Piper attribute. For some reason, kids over the age of three seem to love me. They follow me around, grin at me, tell me their made up jokes, and do what I tell them to (and sometimes what I do, which brings its own problems). With very few exceptions, I find it easy to manage a crowd of kids. So I made this attribute bigger and better and less inclined to small failures, and gave it to Isabella, who makes everyone dance to her tune.

She was such a fun and easy character to write because I took of my most confident and comfortable things to make her. Now, when I write characters with less pleasant parts of me–my fear of people yelling at me, for example, or my anxiety with what people think of me–it makes writing that character much harder. I don’t love the parts of me that are afraid of everything. I’d much rather write confident, self-reliant people. But the fact is that there are parts of me that are always afraid, always sick, or always not particularly nice. And if I don’t write character with those traits as well–MCs as well as side characters–let’s face it, I’m not a very good author. I don’t want to write the same character all the time.

So when you see a character of mine that you don’t like as much, whether that’s because s/he’s always afraid, or too anxious to please, or actually quite nasty, just remember–it’s all a part of me. In a way, everything you see in one of my books tells you something about me. You’ll see the nasty pieces of me as well as the pretty pieces.

Resolved…Not To Make New Year Resolutions

List pic

Makin’ a list! Checkin’ it tw- Wait, no, that’s Santa…

Okay. So I broke that resolution already. But it’s not all bad! I’m gonna keep the others on the list!

Er.

Well. I’m going to try.

So what’s going on for me in the new year? So, so much. In terms of resolutions, I’ve made a new daily wordcount goal: 2000 wpd instead of 1000 wpd. If NaNoWriMo showed me anything, it’s that I can write 2000 wpd when I’m not procrastinating.

I’ve also decided that I’m not going to be buying any clothes this year. I have too many already, and if I get the urge for new clothes, I have stacks upon stacks of fabric and patterns, and a perfectly good sewing machine that I actually like using. So if I want new clothes, I’ll make ’em.

In terms of writing, I have a few things that I’m planning to do in the new year.

Firstly, I’m excited to celebrate MASQUE’s 1st birthday for the month of January (it’s actually Feb 1st, which is when the sale/giveaway/celebration will last until). In pursuance of that, MASQUE is on Wattpad, and I’m currently in the exhausting throes of making a Podiobook of it. I’ll attempt to upload a chapter per week, but I’m still scrambling audio equipment together for the attempt and making dreadful, error-laden practise recordings. Still, the first chapter of MASQUE’s Podiobook should go live this month.

Secondly, I have a busy publication schedule for this year. I’m hoping to Keep calm and make a listfinish and publish the third novella in my SHARDS OF A BROKEN SWORD novella. There will also be the second book in my Two Monarchies Sequence, BLACKFOOT; and if I’m very good and very quick, there might even be the third book, THE STAFF AND THE CROWN. In between those two books I’m planning on a shorter companion novella for the SHARDS series, and the second book in my TIME-TRAVELLER’S BEST FRIEND series.

Well, that’s my plan for the new year. What’s yours?

Bring it on, 2016!

(Images from Practical Glamour and Etsy)

What A Glorious Feeling!

There’s a really horrible part of writing. It’s that part, about halfway through–or even 3/4 of the way through, or right at the end–when you’re convinced that everything you write is utter drivel and it feels like there’s no saving it. The plot is hopelessly holey, the dialogue is trite and stiff, and the surrounding prose is as uninspired at a piece of toast.

We all get it. Well. get it, and I’d hate to think I’m alone in my funk, misery–as they say–loving company. For me, this time, it hit like a sledgehammer right at the end of FIRE IN THE BLOOD. I didn’t even want to edit it. TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY was so quick and easy to write, and it felt like FITB was one drag after another–problems with characters, problems with plot-holes, etc. Most of ’em I fixed as I went, but it left me feeling raw and uncertain about the whole novella. Especially since I preset a publication date on FITB before it was finished (December 25th, in case you’re wondering).

That was then.

Now?

This is me now:

giphy

What makes the difference, you ask?

Well, mostly I think it’s mental. As in, I’m mental, inclined to worry, and unnecessarily complicate things by obsessing over them. Also, a little while ago I finished first edits of FITB (with two quicker rounds to go). Not only did I fix the remaining, tiny (much tinier than I remembered) plot-holes, but I found that the whole thing was about twenty times better than I remembered it being. The dialogue was everything I wanted it to be, the story progressed so much more smoothly than I remembered, and it was all in all a much better novella than I thought it was. So I polished it some more and then went and watched The Marriage Of Figaro on Youtube.

All that wasted worry! I could have spent that on something else!