Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Looming Deadlines

Are you ever surprised to find that you’ve forgotten something about yourself that is so integral to your makeup? It happens to me all the time. I’m convinced that my memory field extends exactly two inches beyond my nose and that’s it.

So, I started the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this month like several hundred thousand other writers. For those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s an organization and an event that books itself as “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!” and has run every November for the past dozen years or so. The idea is to just dump your story on the page, no editing. Easy peasy for me, because that’s how I write anyway. It takes 1,667 words a day to get to the goal of 50,000 by the end of the month. Let me just say – I love this thing.

I have done at least 1,667 words a day since November 1, except one day when I fell down to 1,347. I wasn’t feeling well that day, but I still stuck it out at my laptop as long as I could stand it. Why? Because I have always done better with a deadline, the tighter the better.

And this is the secret ingredient I’ve been missing for the past several months, when as an unemployed person, with plenty of time on my hands, I should have been cranking out novels. All the time in the world, is not a good thing for me. I need, even desire, the looming deadline.

When I was the editor of a community newspaper, and frankly the lead reporter (or even only one at times) I would wait nearly every week until the day before I had to put the paper together to begin writing the articles. That meant an average of 8 articles plus an editorial in one day. I’d crank them out one at a time; send them out to the receptionist or another reporter for proofing, while I moved on to the next. More often than not, I’d still be writing at 2 a.m. and leaving the articles behind for the staff to review in the morning. 

I loved that grind. I set myself up for it every time. Occasionally, I would have a couple of stories ready before that last day, but not often. The pressure actually made me write better. I learned that I average 1,000 per hour, so I’d plan out how many words I wanted to produce and how many hours that would take. I wrote an award-winning editorial under that pressure and some of my best investigative pieces as well. 

So, of course, I’m back in the game after six lost months. Thank you, NaNoWriMo! It feels good and I’m trying to figure out a way to create that same deadline for myself and some sort of reporting system. Maybe a Facebook page, where other writers can post their daily word counts, too. I don’t know yet, but I do know that this deadline thing is to my mind like caffeine is to my body – energizing. I must have it!

What’s your take on looming deadlines?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

New Story Tracking Idea

Hi, fellow writers. I’m doing NaNoWriMo this month, so I imagine I’ll not be as prolific on the blogging front. However, I had to share this new system I tripped over while I was getting started on the novel for NaNo (my own abbreviation).

The whole idea of NaNo is to write 50,000 words of a novel without stopping to edit - just dump it on the page. Well, that’s a great idea and very close to my own method anyway, but this time I’m writing a thriller, which takes a lot more research and, frankly, getting it right, than my previous works. So, as I’m writing there are lots of questions that need answering arising.

What to do without breaking the flow? Well, for about ten years I’ve kept an Excel spreadsheet with plot points that need to be inserted or questions that need to be answered with a page number next to the question. Then when editing I’d work off that spreadsheet, making sure to edit or add where needed. One of the problems I’d experienced with this is that the page numbers often changed and then finding the right spot was a bummer.

This time, I’m inserting an asterisk followed by a number that corresponds with the line on Excel. So I match the line number on the spreadsheet where I’ve entered the comment about what I need to do with the number I’ve inserted into the body of my story. Easy peasy. I’ve made the appropriate note. I can take care of it later by simply doing a search of the document for the number (*7 for example) and off I go with writing without getting stuck on some plot point or detail that will take some time to figure out. I’m saving all that for the first edit of the first draft.

I personally love Excel anyway, but it’s one of the most useful things I’ve ever come across for managing my writing…and my life.

I hope this helps someone else out there keep the words flowing.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Update for October’s Wounded Warrior Drive

Just a quick update on this year’s Wounded Warrior fund drive, which I kicked off on October 1. The total amount I will be sending to The Wounded Warrior Project is $50.07, from both book sales and Avon orders.

It was a bit of a disappointment honestly. It’s very hard to actually SELL ebooks now, with all the free books available, even for a good cause. Because the book sale response was so low on October 14th, when drive officially ended, I decided to extend it to all books bought and borrowed throughout October. 

The contribution from three Avon orders actually exceeded the book sales. Thank you, ladies. You know who you are. 

Thanks to all who supported this drive. I really do appreciate you and your efforts. We’ll try again next year. Who knows – by then perhaps I’ll have a really big book to promote this with!

Orders on my Avon site will continue to accumulate for The Wounded Warriors through the end of the year. Here’s the link Kathy Hall Wounded Warrior Drive and please don’t forget to use this promotion code MYWWPROJECT.

Let’s remember to always keep our returning soldiers in our thoughts.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Is There a Social Contract in Social Media?

Okay, I admit it. I’ve been immersed in philosophy for the past two hours in a film called Examined Life. It’s a series of interviews with a variety of thinkers on things like ethics, ecology, interdependence…  And I found it fascinating. It also prompted me to ask this question: Do we owe each other anything as participants in the various activities of social media?

At first blush, I thought “not really.” We enter into online relationship at the flick of a thumb, clicking yes to a request for a like or a follow.  In many cases, even these responses are automated, so how could we possibly claim anything as complex as a social contract being involved in this interaction?

Yet, I pressed on. If nothing else, we all seem to have expectations attached to belonging to a group on Facebook or being the follower of an individual on Twitter. The way in which we anticipate our online compadre will act varies from one member to the next, but we all seem to have some idea of the behavior that is acceptable from the other. 

Some people don’t want to have to put up with solicitations for someone’s product. Others would like to have actual dialog once in a while. There are those whose sole requirement is that the messages or tweets be entertaining.  In my humble opinion, it appears that all of us want someone to pay attention to us and our communications.

Further, I wondered if two of these “contracts” ever conflict with each other. For instance, I’m a member of several tribes on Triberr, a social support groups for bloggers where we have agreed to tweet each others’ blogs links. So, then do we have more of a responsibility to our fellow bloggers to post the links regardless of the content – whether the post is interesting or not, relevant or not, even intelligent or not – or to the people who follow us on Twitter. Are we recommending the post by simply posting a link, and if the post is a snooze have we let our followers down and damaged our credibility?

I would say we’ve probably damaged our credibility, at the least, because I do think those who follow us expect some  level of recommendation in the tweet but, admittedly, I don’t know that to be true.  Perhaps, we as tweeters, have become so accustomed to links being constantly proffered that we can no longer be surprised by a tweeted link that seems completely incongruous with the personality of the tweeter as we’ve come to know he or she? Maybe we simply don’t care.

Do we have a social responsibility to be civil on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. or is it acceptable to rank, rail and degrade someone? This is a serious question. Facebook and My Space, in particular, have been the vehicles for many reported cases of cyber-bullying.  We haven’t really put into place anything to restrict that kind of activity that I know of. I have been called names and stalked on Twitter and while you can block the individual from ever contacting you again, the harm is already done in many cases.  So do we have an obligation to be respectful on social media or not?

In my view, whether we interact in person or online, the same social contract applies.  I think we do owe our followers something and what that is will be similar to what we owe our acquaintances in life. I believe we do need to act with restraint as we express ourselves on Twitter and elsewhere. The lack of another’s presence in our space should not alter our behavior.

In some ways, I think this is analogous to the person who sends a scathing letter to the editor – anonymously.  With certain exceptions, public safety being one of them, negative assertions about someone or something needs to acknowledged by the accuser.  In the same way, we shouldn’t make derogatory remarks about another tweeter or Facebook entity, unless we’d be willing to say the same thing to their face.

That’s my opinion. What’s yours?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Instant Gratification Girl

One of those many characteristics that lives within me, I named Instant Gratification Girl many years ago. Of course, she was around long before she was named, but I hadn’t recognized her presence.

She’s prevalent in everything I do and demands that there are quick returns on any effort I put out. This is a bit tough to square with most fiction writing, so I must offset the long term projects I pursue with blogging occasionally to give IGG (interesting acronym, isn’t it?) the feel-good she needs to keep me going.

The thing about characteristics that are deeply ingrained in us is that they are often both good and bad. This is certainly true about IGG.  She has been firmly behind me when I choose to write Blog & Tweet over a weekend and The Great Twitter Adventure when I had four days off. IGG also made the Fourth of July weekend of 2011 into Twitter Days, during which I delved into Twitter for four straight days, learning how to “do” Twitter and coming away with my first 38 followers (the big payoff!).  She has no problem with stringing long hours together with short breaks and little sleep. She’s a driver, big-time.

On the other hand, IGG is a problem whenever I start a new novel. I have to find a way each time to either suppress her or entertain her. It was only recently that I understood how playing a CD she loves while I write serves to seduce her into compliance. She’s the one singing along (usually out loud) while I type out my story.

This past weekend, I spent two days making eight new items for my Etsy shop. IGG was right there, waiting anxiously for someone to tell her they are pretty! She’s the one who enjoys photographing each item and putting it online.  “Done!” I can almost hear her saying in my head.

I think creative types, especially, really have to find ways to embrace their various characteristics and even honor them, because it is truly the combination of those traits that make us unique in what we do. 

My advice - trot out the good and the bad of each one, and give them a hand as they scroll across your  brain then figure out to put them to good use.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Letting Go of the Indie Author's Expo

This is a tough post to write. I have gone down a fairly significant path towards putting together a three-day event for Indie authors and I’ve had a great response from the writing community on the concept. I have had to admit to myself, and now to all of you, that I just can’t do it at present.

I was feeling pretty powerful a few months ago when the idea struck me. It seemed that I could accomplish anything if I put my mind to it and I still believe that’s probably true, assuming that I could put my mind to it.

The thing is that I’m currently fighting for my own survival. I’m trying to find a new job before my unemployment runs out, having failed to produce enough income streams to support myself without a job.  I’m still working on this, but time is running short.

This fact, along with the passing of my father, has changed my outlook and emphasis on things. It’s also difficult to get very far in the planning process without cash to lay down as deposit.  I had planned an IndieGoGo campaign to raise the funds, but don’t feel I can ask people to support something that I’m not absolutely sure, in my bones, I can do.

So, here’s the deal. Anyone else that wants to pursue this plan – you have my full support and I’ll be there to assist you. I hope someone else will pick up the ball and run with it. An Indie Author’s Expo would be a good thing, and is certainly possible with a totally devoted individual.

Thank you for your support to those who encouraged me and offered to help. I wish my mindset was different and I could follow through. It’s just not the case at present.