Well. That Told Me.

I’ve always been in the Facebook-is-social-fun-only camp. I know people use it to effectively market, but most of the time, I see people using it ineffectively to market. (At which point they’re quickly blocked.)

But apparently Facebook is way more than I was giving it credit for. This video, produced by RC Productions (Melanie’s company! She proofed it. *grins*), told me:

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Pop Culture,Writing Biz | Tags:

It Costs Nothing

A friend I know and like tends to see every other business in her field as the enemy. If you even mention another business’s name, she’ll get livid; she’ll tell you that you cannot even mention their name in her presence.

This perplexes me on so many levels.

I was first a musician. As a musician, it is your civic duty to get friends gigs and pass their names along. Colleagues are not your enemies: they’re an inter-dependent network. The better you’re doing, the more gigs you have to turn down, the more gigs you find your friends, the more they turn down, the more they give you, and the better everyone does.

The same went with teaching. When you have to turn a student away, you send them to your colleagues. In fact, I used to give every student a list of three of my colleagues right off the bat, so they could compare and choose rather than blindly commit to the first teacher they found.

In the book world, it’s the same way. Friends recommend friends’ books because it’s not a zero-sum game: one person’s gain is not another person’s loss. A reader will buy books from more than one author or magazine or publisher.

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.

I just discovered that quote two days ago, and I love it. It’s one to live by. Besides, when one candle lights another and two wicks join, the flame burns larger and brighter.

Don’t you love the writing community?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writing Biz |

It’s Not Yours Anymore

When you publish a piece of writing, whether it be a novel or story or blog post, it goes off into the world and lives its own little life. Sometimes you watch with a sort of pride, like you would a student, and sometimes you want to remove your name from the cover.

Art is in the eye of the beholder. Once your writing goes out there, it becomes what your readers make of it.

And readers bring a lot to the table.

And sometimes I’m uncomfortable with how they change it.

As you know, I consider myself of the “kitchen sink compassionate” religion, to quote my Facebook profile. Mostly Wiccan with a little bit of most everything else thrown in. I really have respect for all religions, though I do get a little put off when people force theirs on me.

When Pseudie wrote a series set in a religious community, I treated the Christian element with respect and understanding, of course. But for me, it was simply setting, simply world-building, simply craft.

Not so for my readers.

I appear to have a number of readers who are the conservative Christian right. And this appears to be Pseudie’s best-selling series by FAR. That they may be drawing religious messages out of my stories totally freaks me out.

Not to mention that we’re talking about me, a bleeding heart liberal who’s mostly Wiccan, and my writing apparently resonates most with the conservative Christian right.

This is funny, right? Ironic?

Also disconcerting. I keep wanting people to buy my other series, the one that’s more me. My pub wanted to tag the series as “Christian” and I basically had a week-long panic attack. This was two or three years ago and I’m still not over it. Now that Kindle sales seem to be picking up, and this series is outselling everything else I write, I’m feeling the same discomfort.

I’m grateful, I am, really. I am glad it speaks to readers. And I’m so, so, so grateful that they’re buying my words and supporting me. It’s only that I feel it’s not me they’re liking.

I feel the opposite of Sally Field: “But I wanted you to like me!”

Ever have that experience? Of sending something out into the world, and people pulling something out of it that is pretty much the opposite of who you are?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writing Biz |

All Over the Place

I am working on seven projects right now, with three simmering in the background. All novel-length. This is insane.

I don’t normally work like this. I’ve never worked like this, and it’s driving me a bit batty, but I find that when I expect myself to write a minimum of 3K-5K a day, I get stuck if I can’t switch to another project.

My word count, at least, has improved. I generally feel guilty and lazy and beat myself up for anything under 3K. This is stupid and irrational because most writers hover in the 1K-2K range, but it is what it is. I have a strong and healthy guilt complex.

And I guess I’ve always felt I need to triple the work of everyone else, just in case I have no talent. Having a lot out there does make a big difference.

Two of my projects will hopefully be an experiment in self-publishing (finally!). Three of my projects are for my current publishers. Two could go either way. And three are targeted for New York.

I’ve learned two things, so far.

First, I seem to need a more exciting idea and bigger challenge with my stories than I have in years past. In the first few years, I’d shrug and make any idea work. I still can do that, but I don’t like it anymore. I need to really LOVE it, in order to write it without much wailing and gnashing of the teeth.

Second, with a lot of things in the pot, it’s interesting to see how much some stories stand out… and others don’t. At some point, I’ll have to start abandoning stories, and I think that’s a good idea. I’ve never done that before. I usually make everything work.

Multiple projects give me a perspective that working on a single project doesn’t.

But I think I still need to write faster. Maybe I should up it to 5K-7K. This is an important year, and I need to “grow” a lot of stuff that I can get money from later.

I feel a lot of pressure to pay bills, to make this career work. I took away my safety nets, which was a good thing for me, but I keep looking at the calendar and watching time pass and getting nervous.

My friend can write 12K-15K of brilliance every day, I kid you not. She does take days off sometimes, so maybe that’s a requisite, but I always feel the pressure to write faster.

How do you handle the pressure? How do you get yourself to write faster? Have you ever tried working on multiple projects? Do you feel pressured to write faster?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Full-Time Writing,Writing Biz | Tags:

Amateur is NOT a dirty word.

This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. I’ve blogged about it at least four times. In fact, I’ll start my rant with a quote of my post, Celebrating Words & Passing It On:

Amateurs are the best gift an art has. They are the biggest supporters, the most enthusiastic in the world of their art. They buy the most, they thank the artist, they encourage the artist.

They make the community. They are the foot soldiers. We would be NOWHERE without amateurs.

Back in the day, amateur was a noble word. Professionals were not regarded quite as nobly, because they took money for their art, while amateurs pursued their passions out of love. Remember when the Olympics were strictly amateur-only?

Remember how strict the Olympics used to be about an athlete accepting any money? The Olympics used to glorify amateurs, because being an amateur IS a noble thing to be glorified!

What has happened to the word, “amateur?”

The third definition is: a person inexperienced or unskilled in a particular activity.

I find that sad. It didn’t used to be that way.

I know and embrace that words evolve, but until we get another word that honors and respects the amateur as a noble thing again, let’s not lose the best of this word—or group.

image Amateurs are the best of the best, the backbone and foundation of any art. They are the most enthusiastic, the best word-of-mouth-ers, and the greatest consumers.

Derogatory remarks about amateurs is biting the hand that feeds you. I mean, it’s like someone offers you CHOCOLATE for FREE, and you not only turn it down, but insult the gift-giver!

It’s also a back-handed put-down. We don’t need to boost ourselves up by proclaiming that X is the difference between amateurs and professionals, and thus prove that we are better than “them.”

Why is it that humans are always trying to find a “them” they are “better than,” as if that proves they are “in the right?”

Can we please evolve a little? Yes, I’ve been guilty of this, too. *hangs head in shame*

The next time we use the word “amateur,” let’s please consider whether we’re respecting someone or dissing someone.

What think you?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writing Biz | Tags:

Must Not Be Missed

A bunch of writers riffed off of Elmore Leonard’s ten rules, including Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Ian Rankin, Philip Pullman, Zadie Smith, and many more. Great reading.

Well, I’ve only read a bit of it, but I’m keeping it open today and reading a little at a time.

Ten Rules for Writing Fiction Part 1
     Ten Rules for Writing Fiction Part 2

And finally, Seth Godin talks about the Lizard Brain, which tends to keep us creative folk from getting things done when and how we want them done. And other things about creative work.

Seth Godin: Quieting the Lizard Brain from 99% on Vimeo.

If you had to come up with ten (or one, or three, or whatever) rules for the writing life or craft, what would yours be?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writing Biz,Writing Craft | Tags:

This Is What I’m Thinking III

I’m thinking about a lot today. I’m thinking this post is like a whole week’s worth of blogs. So if you’d rather, you can just read one part a day. Or skim fast. Or skip it altogether. I don’t know why I was so talkative.

Sunday is play day for me. I have a character I can’t find a story for. I’ve put her in three or four different worlds, but she doesn’t fit. For some odd reason, I MUST write a story about this character.

So today I searched for inspiration: I read Tales of the Golden Corpse—a book of Tibetan folk tales—the Idiot’s Guide to Astrology, the Dummies Guide to Mythology, thumbed through Jacqueline Carey’s Santa Olivia and cried because I wanted to take it home, and also through Isabel Allende’s Eva Luna for the same reason.

I also started reading Neil Gaiman’s Journal from the very first post: American Gods Blog, Post 1. At one time, I thought I’d read and finished American Gods, but it appears as if I haven’t. I’m a little confuzzled on how that happened, but am extraordinarily happy that I have a Neil Gaiman book to read. On my Kindle, of course.

the safety manager on Glenn’s boat wouldn’t let him off to go to the doctor in Seattle before they left, which meant his 2cm x 2cm spider bite (or whatever it was) grew while they were traveling at sea for two weeks, to fevers and fainting and extremely low blood pressure and nerve damage to his arm and a whopping 10cm x 7cm wound with 12cm x 17cm swelling that’s going to take two months to heal. The doctor sent him to the ER yesterday and freaked us out, telling us a week in the hospital and surgery and ambulance and don’t stop at go, but second opinion says we’re on track.

He’s got morphine and vicodin to get him through the pain. I’m a little curious as to what morphine (or vicodin) is like, but not that curious.

image So I spent my play day at Borders. The funny thing is, I can tell how old a book is by how many times I sneeze when I open it. Brand-new books are generally fine, no problems. Whole sections are better than others: I rarely sneeze in the YA section, but in the Mythology section, I had to use my inhaler. In the Literary section, I’m a goner.

Borders is better than Books A Million, and Barnes and Noble has the worst record: twelve sneezes in a row within one minute. If I walk into a library, my lungs just die upon first breath.

My love affair with the book smell, the feel of paper? So over. But I still dream of working in a book store.

So this anti-ebook/anti-reasonably-priced-ebook thing publishers seem to have going on? Freaks me out. And the only thing I have to say about this pricing brouhaha between Amazon and Macmillan is that I’ll be very sad if publishers insist upon charging more then ten dollars for an ebook. Someday, if I win the lottery, I will spend thousands and buy every book on the planet and from every single author on the planet. I’ll have a huge, wonderful, beautiful library with a state-of-the-art air system so I can breathe and read and spend all day in there.

In the meantime, I can only read on my Kindle or at Borders, and price matters to my pocketbook.

I think price matters to readers, too. If my last royalty statements are any indication, my lowest-priced stories are selling the most. Which is BIZARRE, if you take into account hook, story, subject matter, quality, quality, and quality, but… it seems price point is what sells. I mean honestly, my lowest-priced ebook is just STUPID. It’s plain. Cliché. A story told a million times. (At least as I recall it: it was written in one month, six or seven or eight years ago.) It probably ranks as my second worst story.

As an author, all my Amazon royalties should double next year, which rocks, so I’m thrilled with Amazon’s new deal with at least one of my pubs. (Haven’t asked the other if she qualifies.) One is willing to conduct a lower-price experiment, and I’m going to see if the other one is up for it, since she has my best book. I’m thinking I should actually promote it. What an idea!

It’s been doing well on the piracy sites, which sorta makes me proud, in a backwards sort of way. As long as they don’t get too far up in the Google rankings, I don’t worry too much. (At the moment, they are too far.) I’ll do what it takes to push them down so that honest people don’t “buy” them for free when they don’t know any better, but I don’t believe those that seek out the pirated book would actually PAY for my book if it were unavailable on piracy sites, so I don’t get my panties in a knot.

I do need to do more to get pseudonym higher in the Google rankings; that will also push down the pirates and torrents.

Have I rambled enough? What have you read lately? How are things for you? What do you do on a “play day?” What are you allergic to? :-)

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings,Writing Biz | Tags: , ,

There’s No Magic Indicator

Is it worth it? It’s a question we see over and over in the writing world. And not just introspectively, but, as was discussed in the comments of Nathan Bransford’s blog today, when we should and shouldn’t encourage writing.

To that question, Sex Scenes at Starbucks said it best:

I wholeheartedly agree that no one should discourage a writer to write. Who are we to make that call? But moreover, I liken this very conversation (sorry Nathan) to when my kids tattle.

I always ask them, "Who are you in charge of?"

"Just myself," they say.

Through the comments section, I kept reading the likes of, “But I hope a professional would tell me if I should throw in the towel and stop writing.”

To that I say there’s no magic indicator. No one can know such a thing. And that’s a question typically asked at the beginning of their journey, which makes it one thousand times more difficult to answer.

First, writing is a skill like any other and it takes, at the very, very least, 10,000 hours to get to mastery. There is no telling, by how much your first efforts suck or don’t suck, where you’ll be in twenty years. Even ten years down the road, there is no telling how much you’ll grow in another ten years.

Worse, even when you’re great, you’ll still write a clunker now and then. (Sometimes they’ll even be published!)

There’s no way for someone else to ever say, “You won’t ever make it.” Worst of all, in this business, there’s no way for someone to say, “You rock. There’s no way you won’t be published.” (I’ve thought and said that about so many people who haven’t been, which sucks.)

We are such a success-focused society. It’s crazy. It’s like some people think someone’s choice to write is only wise if they get published one day. Getting published is not a big deal. It’s an ego rush for five minutes (hopefully only five minutes, but sometimes they can get out of hand), you get a check (and getting a check may feel great, but in the long run, doing something for money is far less fun than doing something for fun), and the IRS says you’re a writer and asks you to hand over half your income (which sucks).

Of course, when the going gets tough, we ALL wish a fairy godmother would come from the future and say, “Someday, this will all be worth it.” But we are grown-ups, and we have to make our journey worth it, no matter what the whole world may think or judge, because somedays may or may not come.

What think you?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writing Biz | Tags: , ,

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