Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas comes early this year?

Well, I've made my decision. And so here's a little present for you, dear reader: The Book Trailer.

Monday, December 16, 2013

An update - What to do next?

Well, Christmas break is almost here. In seven days we'll be heading east for some fam jams and I'll be internet AWOL. AND shopping delinquent that I've become, I haven't even bought any presents yet. But I'm not worried about that.

What I am worried about is disappearing for a couple weeks without any word to my blog readers. I just wanted to round out this year of blog posts with a follow-up to the question I asked a little while ago: now that NANOWRIMO and my writing course are over, what should I do with myself next?

I found an answer: Scribophile. I wrote in that past post that I wanted to find a way to have some continuing writing critique in my life. If I were not about to move, I'd probably organize a writing group and host it in my own home. I'd hand pick the participants and then simultaneously indulge my love for writing and my love for hosting social events. But that's not exactly realistic -- at least not until March or April. And so in the meantime I've been on the hunt for online critique groups that could travel with me. And it didn't take me long until I read about one on the Nanowrimo "now what?" blog posts.

This next bit is going to read like a plug. The website, Scribophile, is actually perfect for me. It's just what I need. I've only just started using it, but I think it's great. They have this points system which they call "Karma", for which you have to actually post helpful critiques of other people's writing before you can actually post your own writing. This means that I can't just sign up and post, then abuse the system by being a wimp about offering critiques of other folks' writing. It is daunting for me to get into critiquing. I've never been very good at putting myself out there. It's hard enough to share my writing, even harder for me to assume the role of expert and critique someone else's writing without hurting their feelings. But Scribophile takes away all those misgivings.

And just like Nanowrimo, the points system can be a little bit video-game addicting. All they need now is to add 'achievement badges' and I'll probably be hooked for life. :P

Monday, December 9, 2013

Self-Published versus Traditional Publishing: The Debate Reaches a Fever Pitch

Personal Journey

Of course, it won't come as a surprise to regular readers of this blog that I am referring to my own internal debate. I've done lots of research on the topic. I've read the blogs and the articles. Basically, for me the main crux of the debate boils down to the following: On the one hand, I could self-publish. I could take my little nest egg and invest it up front. It is a high risk venture, with a possible high rate of return. Higher, possibly, than traditional publishing. However, I would have to work a lot on marketing and invest a lot -- in terms of time -- in networking, in publicity, et cetera. I would have a lot of control over what I publish and when. I would have a feeling of accomplishment that would surpass what I would get from handing my hard work over to a faceless, soulless corporation. And releasing ebooks and limited amounts of physical copies on demand is not extremely expensive, in the end.

Or indie?
On the other hand, I could put minimal money into the work and go the traditional publishing route. I would have no control over the timeline. I would have to wait for the slow grinding wheels of  the publishing industry to turn. I may not have the public see my work for upwards of two years. I would also have changes made to my work by agency and editors all on the basis of market demands. And at every stage of the process, my returns would be diminished by the myriad corporate employees who need to take their cut. However, I would be freed from many of the less appealing publishing tasks and could focus solely on writing. I mean, sure, nowadays even the biggest publishing companies with the most massive marketing budgets offload much of the marketing work to their authors, but at least I wouldn't have to worry about book design, would I? Of course traditional publishers release ebooks as well as physical ones. And then there is always the fact that, like it or not, traditional publishing is still more "legitimized" than self-publishing. At least at this moment in time.

So what's a budding (not exactly) young author to do? I thought I had put the debate to bed. I thought I had decided on traditional publishing since I do not exactly have financial largess and I yearn to see a book with my name on it sitting on the shelves of the local bookstore. Never mind that it is a saturated market. Never mind that it is very possible that a large publishing house might decide not to put much money into marketing my book. That's what I wanted, that's what I was going to go for. Find an agent and let the process begin.

But then this happened:

The wave that I spotted far out on the ocean back in April 2011, when the idea for this manuscript first came to me, is cresting. Or perhaps, if it is not yet cresting, it's grown into a Tidal Wave. When I first had that idea and began to write sketches and scenes for the novel, I set up some Google Alerts. Robots, artificial intelligence, automation. Every day for almost three years I have scanned those alerts. And in three years, they have changed a lot. What was once the dominion of  engineering websites and robot nerd blogs is now in local daily papers and on national news networks. And then Amazon released this video.

Whether or not it is a publicity stunt is not relevant for this discussion. What is relevant is the reaction to it. People started to take note. People started to talk about this form of automation as if it were possible, as if it were imminent, as if it were real. The number of "what if robots take all our jobs?" articles multiple and even my love and his friends discuss the potential scenarios this innovation suggests.

This is when my novel should be released. This is when the world should have my story. At this moment in history, my manuscript, RoboNomics, is smack dab in the middle of the zeitgeist. Am I afraid of missing that opportunity? Yes. Am I afraid that the world will catch up to the fictional near future I have constructed? You betcha. I don't want to miss this opportunity. I am afraid that if I don't tell this story now, it will expire.

Hybrid Author

I think I have a solution, however. Lately I have been reading about a new phenomenon, wherein an author is a little bit indie, a little bit corporate: The hybrid author. There is nothing stopping me from publishing RoboNomics by myself while sending off another manuscript -- that thing I call "Otherworldly" which is not time sensitive at all -- to literary agents, is there? Agents want new, fresh material that has not been published elsewhere. They want marketable authors who have show that they have readership. So much the better.

Of course, there is always the problem of editing. I am in the throes of my last manuscript edit of RoboNomics. But that could take an untold amount of time. Two months? Three? I have no idea. It is best if I get the thing out now.

Luckily, there is a solution to that problem as well: Wattpad. I heard about Wattpad ages ago, but I didn't give it much serious thought. It had to do with serialization, and seemed to be filled with teen series written by teens. But lately I have been looking at it again, since I do have a teen series up my sleeve. But it struck me the other day as the perfect solution: I can release RoboNomics chapter by chapter. I can build a readership, work out the kinks in the chapters as I go along, and at the same time save up money for editors and book cover designers, et cetera, in anticipation of binding the whole thing together as a self-published novel. But the real upshot is that this story about automation and its possible effects on the world can be in the public eye. Sure, it will be for free. But at some point the story takes on a life of its own. It becomes more important that it exist in the world than my making money off of it.

So what do you think? Self-publishing or traditional? Which is best? Should self-publishing be legitimized already or is it just a bunch of amateurs fooling around? And what do you think about my serialization scheme?

It's actually helped me a lot to think this out by writing it out. But I am asking because I do indeed need a little input. I keep going back and forth, doubting myself. What would you do in my situation?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Endings and Beginnings

As of November 30th, my writing course is at an end. As of November 30th, NaNoWriMo for 2013 is also at an end. So what's next?

I guess a lot of folks ask themselves this question at the end of November's writing marathon, if the blogosphere is to be relied on. In years past, when I finished up a draft of a novel on November 30th, I would already know the answer: I would put the draft away for the month of December, tending to pre-Christmas ridiculousness and then enjoying the holidays before coming back to it in January with fresh eyes and a willingness to edit and revise.

But this year, things are a little different. I am not giving myself a month off. Because besides drafting a novel, I spent the month of November in editing and revising a completely separate project. But I didn't finish it. So here's my next steps:

1. Making a study of setting and character description. I need to learn how to enrich a story with specific, concrete detail without sacrificing pace. As I've mentioned before, this seems to be my biggest current hurdle in writing. And while I am getting better at chiseling out specific details in terms of setting and character, I do not yet have the instinct for when it is not enough and when it is enough. I am trying to learn, right now, how to strike that precious balance. My earlier drafts have an exciting, quick pace that is becoming lost in my POV character looking around scenes and describing them at length. Yeesh.

2. Finding a Mentor. Now, at the end of the course, I am feeling a little lost. I'm not afraid to admit it. The massive benefit of the course was having an experienced, professional, published author off of whom to bounce ideas and get some great advice and sometimes tough love when it came to the work. But the time is up and now I am going to be without that voice of experience. When I think about the revision work that I did before I took this course, I can't help but think that I was floundering. Major big time.

So what to do to ensure that I continue in a progression towards better writing? Here I am a tad bit stumped. An unpublished author like me can't exactly just approach an established, popular author of my genre and ask for mentorship, can she? No matter how much promise I might have or how amazing my work ethic, writers always have their own work to think of. Plus, I'm positive some of the more prolific and popular writers of my genre get such amateurish requests daily. I imagine they have an email folder filled with such silly requests. And so...

3. Finding a Community. This is more like it. What I could do, online or in 'real' life, is to seek out a writing group that I trust. This is a difficult prospect in either sphere. Finding a group of strangers with whom to share a safe space in which constructive criticism is separated from bitterness, professional jealousy and rank amateurish writing is a daunting task. In 'real life' it is made a little more difficult by the fact that my love and I will be moving again before the snow melts and I currently have no idea where we'll end up next. (Did I mention my life is an ever-changing adventure?) So it seems that online is key. Like most things in my life, it has to be portable. It has to be in the cloud. "Life in the Cloud". That sounds like a great title for a memoir, doesn't it?

I suppose I'll have to take this advice to figure out where to start! No matter what I decide, I do think that other writers are required in order for the work to move forward in a productive manner.

4. Reading, reading, reading. I have tons of reading to do, as always. Not only of novels that are in my genre and those whose style I can learn from, but of instructables and how-to books on the craft. Reading is key to becoming a better writing and I intend to do a lot of it.

All right, now that I've come up with some next steps, I feel a little better. I don't feel like I'm panicking at the shear amount of work to be done and the various myriad ways in which it can get done. These endings mean, at least, that the work is progressing and that I am one step closer to a career!

photo credits: Raphael Pinto, Justyna Furmanczyk