Monday, June 29, 2009

Feeling Like an Author

What I'm reading: Tailspin, by Catherine Coulter

Saturday's presentation at the Maitland Library was a panel discussion of how the five authors on the panel got started in writing, and whether they would do it again, or will keep doing it.

Three of the other authors had one book published. I sat there with my four books and felt like a "real" author.

The last panelist had been writing from age thirteen, but was still looking to break into print. Everyone agreed that persistence was vital. One addressed the fear of being able to 'do it again' in another book, although he had at least four more in his head, waiting to be written. I was extremely gratified when one of the members of the audience came up and told me how I'd given her hope when I said I didn't start writing until much later in life, and that there was no reason to think it was ever too late.

An aside – what I'm taking away from the panel was the fact that the other woman there writes standing up! She has her computer on her dresser, atop a stack of books so it's at the right height. There's character fodder everywhere.

Keep Reading...

Next: Yesterday morning, my Cerridwen editor sent me the final copy of my short story, The Other Side of the Page, that's going to be released in the near future (no official date yet) as a free read (they call them "Scintillating Samples") from Cerridwen Press. It's a total departure in that it's not really a story at all, but rather a tongue in cheek look at a writer's life.

This is the 'official' blurb:

Finding the perfect hero and heroine for a romance novel can turn a writer’s hair gray—that’s why I advertise for them. Interviewing characters can be exhausting, and getting them to stick to the plot? Well, it doesn’t always work that way. And then you find out they’re talking about you behind your back…

Meet Randy and Sarah, the hero and heroine of Finding Sarah and Hidden Fire, in a funny and illuminating look at what goes on behind the scenes of the romance writing process.

I'll be sure to shout out when it's available for download.

Another project has put my novel-writing on temporary hold. I have a chance to participate in a mystery anthology. Only trouble is, the story I submitted was only half as long as what they were looking for. Since the story doesn't lend itself to expansion, I offered to write another, related story. Which means I have to write it! This is as close to working under deadline on something other than edits as I've come yet in my writing career, and although I don't have a hard and fast date, ASAP is the working goal.

Short stories are entirely different from novels. You don't have room for much character development, sub-plots or a large supporting cast. I've got my protagonist—a Homicide Detective, already established in the first story. I've also got a secondary character, also introduced in that story.

Confession: The germ for this story showed up over drinks with Homicide Detective Mark Hussey. He mentioned things that set off red flags for homicide detectives, and one of them seemed a perfect starting point for a story.

So, Gordon, Megan and Justin, are patiently waiting in the wings – actually, Megan and Justin are in a posh hotel in Denver, and Gordon's still back in my fictional town of Mapleton, Colorado. Yesterday, I actually managed to write something for both projects, but I'm not sure I can sustain that. They're both mysteries, and I fear getting them mixed up, as I'm still learning who Gordon, Megan, and Justin are.

I admire those who can work effectively on more than one project. Robert B. Parker said he normally worked on one book in the morning, took a break, and worked on another in the afternoon. However, he's got to know his characters backward, forward, and inside out by now. (Not that I'm comparing my work to his!)

So, challenges for this new story:

Am I writing for word count, or am I writing the best, tightest possible story? Since I tend to write "long", it's important that I keep an eye on the temptation to use three words (or ten) when one will do, simply because I can watch the countdown on my spreadsheet approach my goal.

Should I write straight through, and then go back and cut? Or should I look at each day's production the next morning, and tighten as I go? Will I have the inner strength to cut, knowing it's pulling me farther from my goal?

Given that my name will be on the piece, I'm thinking I'll find that strength.

Tomorrow, my guest is Jacqueline Seewald, who's sharing her thoughts on how to get your work published. See you then.


Lisa Logan said...

I do sometimes find that just how "real" an author I feel like can depend greatly on who I've surrounded myself with. Out in the real world, I'm viewed as quite real, but when I get in the ring with those who don't count epub or POD, or who don't count it unless you're with a big NY house, or unless you've got five or more books out or a bestseller...well, then there's a temptation to rethink my definition of "real." But I've learned not to let outside factors inform my self satisfaction as a writer, or it can be discouraging at times.


Terry Odell said...

So true, Lisa. On those discouraging days, it's nice to remember the little things that validate what we've chosen to pursue. (And it helps counteract those folks who, when you say you're a writer say, "OH. Have I heard of you?")

Destiny Blaine said...

I can relate to this post. Even though I'm a 'real author' today, I still remember the good old days when I had the opportunity to meet 'real authors' in elementary school. Talented writers like William O'Steele (now deceased), Ellen Raskin, and many others who took the time to talk about their writing careers. Now, when I'm asked what it's like to be an author, I pinch myself. It's the greatest career in the world.

Thanks so much for posting on this topic, Terry.

Destiny Blaine

Marianne Evans said...

Writes standing up?? Holy cow!!! :-) I could never endure!! LOL! Great blog.

M.Flagg said...

She really writes standing up? Without my comfy chair, a cup of coffee and chocolate, I'd be brain dead! With one book out and another contracted, I feel like a real author...sometimes. Thanks for sharing, Terry.

Terry Odell said...

Destiny, glad you stopped by. I just got my RITA scores and I finished in the top quarter, so one more thing to make me feel "real."

Marianne, M. -- Yes, she even demonstrated how she stands with one leg propped up as well. Standing up, and on one foot, apparently.

If I try to type standing up, my fingers don't find the right keys. Forget the getting tired of standing -- I just plain can't type!

Sheila Deeth said...

I had a friend did her college finals standing up because she had trouble with her back. She did most of her homework lying on the floor with a book held in the air.

Oh, but I wish I could feel like a real author one day. Nice post. Thanks.

Terry Odell said...

Sheila - just keep writing.

Maryannwrites said...

Good post as usual, Terry. The author event sounds like it was fun. One nice thing about those is they usually stimulate creativity. At least they do for me.

As for the lady writing standing up. Whew. Couldn't do that.

jenny milchman said...

What a range on that panel, Terry--sounds like a lot of fun to be the Big Cheese!

Good luck with the short. I have the same use ten when one would be enough issue, so I feel for how much of a departure this must be!

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Jenny - I think I'm making headway. We'll see what happens when I look at what I wrote today in the light of day tomorrow morning.

Maryannwrites said...

Terry, just wanted to let you know I tagged you with the I cannot Tell a Lie meme. Check my blog tomorrow (Tuesday) for the details. Kind of a fun little game.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I wish I could write standing up.
So much easier on the back!

The panel discussion sounds like a good idea for writers. We're often so isolated in our chosen profession.

Jacqueline Seewald

Terry Odell said...

Jacqueline - I had a chiropractor tell me to use one of those big body balls instead of a desk chair. I didn't do it -- I'd just found a reasonably priced ergonomic chair that works very well.