A Most Lovely Chaos

With eighteen days until A Shine That Defies the Dark releases I’ve found myself living in chaos. Granted, most is self-made, but I looked around the other day and realized that I may have finally gotten in over my head. Following is a list of the things I’ve been juggling for the past few weeks:

  • Work. In a typical work week I log 50-65 hours. I know those are a lot of hours to work, but I’m lucky in that I have some flexibility. Many of those hours I do early in the mornings and late at night. The past two weeks have been exceptionally busy, so I’m at the high end of my hours.
  • Family. While my family was prepared for me to be distracted we do have things that keep us busy as a family. We’ve got kids basketball games, drive time (so close to having an extra driver in the family!), and planning for the holidays.
  • Learning to be a debut author. I wrote the book, but that’s not where my job ends. I’ve been busy learning about marketing myself and my book as well. Trust me when I say, “There is a LOT” to learn and do when promoting a book. While some is easy, there are also a number of things that are time consuming (both in figuring out how to do it and the actual getting it done). I’ve written blog posts, prepared images and banners. Much of it has been fun and worked out different creative muscles.
  •  Preparing for the release. I’ve designed and ordered promotional items. I’ve dealt with misprinted items. I planned a launch party. I’ve signed on taking part in three different holiday or pre-release blog hop/social media events.
  • Exercise…okay that didn’t happen
  • Acquisitions & Social Media for Lakewater Press. I’ve closed to submissions for the rest of the year. I’ve read and responded to all of the submissions in my box. I’m currently working on a holiday project for our staff and authors and am most excited for that.
  • National Novel Writing Month. Every year this has turned out to be my most productive writing time. I wrote A Shine That Defies the Dark during NaNoWriMo. I had big plans for a sequel to Shine. I’ve had a good start, but…I’m honestly not sure that I’ll make it at this point.
  • Sleep

So, that’s what my weeks, and even each day, has been like for the past several weeks. Please understand, I’m not complaining. I am so grateful for the opportunities I have. And I know I’ll be able to look back on this time with fondness, gratitude, and pride–once the dizziness wears off 🙂

 

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Do you NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is just days away.

What is NaNoWriMo, you ask? NaNoWriMo is a yearly event in which writer’s set a goal to write an entire novel (or 50,000 words) in thirty days. I know, it seems insane. I think that every time I make the commitment to do it. But I keep signing up.

If you’re wondering if NaNoWriMo is for you–if you can really do it–the answer is yes.

There are still a few days left to prepare. I’ve found my best NaNoWriMo time is when I think about my novel beforehand. I do some research, plan my characters, locations and the general direction I want my novel to travel. I usually start with a loose outline that includes plot points and twists I want to follow. Depending on the amount of preparation time I have, my outline may be far more detailed, but all I need is a “roadmap” to keep me on track.

Some people prefer to use the “pantser” method (ie- fly by the seat of your pants, no outline, make it up as you go, write with the wind). I have “Pantsed” in the past, and while there is something exciting about working like that, I find it easier to keep track and progress in a linear fashion when I have an outline. I’ve also discovered it’s easier for me to revise (and there is a lot of revision to come after November!) when my initial writing had structure.

If you want to try NaNoWriMo the main things to keep in mind are:

  • Nobody judges. Its fun, its a challenge, its a supportive community of writers with a shared goal.
  • Don’t–I repeat, do not–edit your writing as you go. The goal is to get 50,000 words down. They don’t have to be pretty. They don’t even have to be spelled correctly. You’ll come back and make corrections later. You may spend months–or longer–revising this novel. Some people call this their “first draft”, some call it the “zero draft”. I prefer to use the Anne Lamott term “shitty first draft”. I even save my file as “.SFD”. To me, it’s the most basic way of owning and being okay with the horrible quality of this draft.
  • What’s most important is that at the end of the month you’ll have a completed (or nearly complete) first draft of a novel. Even if you don’t quite make it to 50,000 you’ll have a good start on a novel.
  • Save research for the revision phase. As soon as you go online to research something you’re going to get sucked into a vortex of lost time. Enter a place mark/reminder within the text, for example “Moss draped from the [find out what kind of] trees…”. (as a bonus…all those place mark words help reach the goal!).
  • Enlist your family to help you meet your goal. It’s one month. Meals can be easy, the house can be cluttered, the kids can watch movies or play video games and your spouse can freely watch whatever they want (for my husband it’s a month of all the sports he can watch!).

Most important is to keep in mind that this goal can be reached. On December 1 you’ll look back and realize what an amazing thing it is to have written an entire book in one month. And you never know where that book will take you. There are a number of best-selling novels that started as a NaNoWriMo project. My own 2015 NaNoWriMo project was A Shine That Defies the Dark, which is being released on 12/5/17.

For more information on National Novel Writing Month check out the NaNoWriMo website and, if you want to “buddy” up, look for me there.

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When Life Interrupts the Creative Process

The thing about writing is that there’s a delicate, gossamer thread that’s ever so lightly attached between your creative mind and the ear-shattering, turbulent chaos of your everyday life. And sometimes it snaps.

Too dramatic? Maybe. 

I’ve spent the last few weeks being consumed by the demands of my “real” life (aka- my nonwriting world). My job typically requires 50-60 hours per week. I enjoy spending some time with my husband & kids. We’ve had two wonderful weddings in our families this month. I had a four day business trip out of state. Each day I thought I was just about caught up and I earmarked specific days (or even hours) to work on my revisions. And each day the “needs” prevented me from doing the “wants” (aka- the “yearnings” or “desires”). None of these interruptions in my plans were things that could be rescheduled or reallocated. They were great big, mind-blowing things where you stand back, scratching your head and wondering, “how the hell did that happen?” Or, more accurately, “What the hell just happened?”

For example: 27 hours before I was due to board a plane for Albuquerque, I was alerted that there was an accident on the interstate that the rear of my property overlooks. The accident sparked a fire, which was moving up the hill to our neighborhood. We were lucky in that we lost nothing more than a fence, several trees and some sprinklers, but once again, my entire schedule was thrown out to deal with this new issue. When I finally carved out time (two days later) to work on my revisions I found that I’d lost every bit of momentum I’d gained. I stared at the screen and couldn’t make a single word of progress.

So, what do you do when those real life stressors impact your ability to put words to paper–or even move words about on the paper? Sometimes, no matter what you try you just can’t force it. It could be that you need to step back and give yourself permission to deal with the things that are causing you stress–and causing the block in your creative flow. Do things that will help you relax–not those that cause additional stress. Reading, warm baths, going for walks, long drives are all activities that can help you expel some of the tension that’s invaded your body and mind. I actually find it completely relaxing to binge on mindless television viewing when I get severely overwhelmed. After several hours of not having to think, I find I’m completely recharged and my mind has shifted to another–more productive–gear. 

No matter what is happening in your personal life, don’t let your writing become another stressor. It isn’t something you have to do every day. Give yourself a few days–or weeks–to sort out the things that are impeding your creative flow. But you do have to make the vow to get back to your writing at some point. Set a limit for yourself. Revisit your writing every few days, maybe the words won’t come, but by reading it you’ll stay involved with your project. Even if you can’t write, allow yourself to think about your characters and storyline. Listen to the conversations they have with each other while you’re gone, imagine what they’ve been up to. You might just find yourself more deeply aware of the subtleties of your novel even though you’re not writing it.

As a matter of full disclosure: I started this post 2 weeks ago and then…well, life. Again! 

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Aspiring Writers: Throwing in the Towel…Or Not

You’re having a great day, and then ding, your email alerts you to a new message. Another rejection!

You’re enthusiastic about a new contest. You’ve gotten a partial request followed by a full and have had some delightful email exchanges with one or more mentors. You can feel in your soul that you’ll be chosen; this was meant to be. You scan the list and…your name isn’t there.

The life of an aspiring writer is one that runs deep with disappointment and rejection. We go into it knowing this to be true. At some point we’ve decided that the risk of rejection is worth the joy of being able to pursue our passion. But some days the disappointment starts to sting. Some days the rejection hurts so deep that you might actually consider giving up writing all together.

It isn’t easy to get through the disappointing days–the truly painful days. But don’t be so quick to throw in the towel. Take a few days to deal with the emotions that you’re experiencing. You’re sad, or mad, and those feelings are completely valid. Let yourself feel them. Refocus your energies for a few days: read, binge on Netflix, eat unbearable amounts of ice cream.

Once the initial feelings have dulled take some time to really think about what your next step will be. After an honest evaluation of your manuscript, does it need more work? It’s important that you are sending out the best manuscript possible. If you haven’t already, send your manuscript out to some beta readers–not just friends and family, but other writers who will give you an honest assessment.

In some cases–especially with your first or second novel–a manuscript just isn’t ready, or right, for publication. Consider putting that novel away and starting a new project. With each novel you become more skilled and can incorporate new things that you’ve learned about the art of writing, story structure, plot and dialogue. Each successive novel will be stronger than your previous. Starting a new project can also kickstart your creative juices and reignite your passion for the craft.

Once the disappointment and doubt have faded you may find that you’re eager to get back into the trenches and start submitting again–maybe after another round of revisions. You may decide that submitting isn’t for you. Some people write simply for the joy that it brings them and never submit their work for publication. Whatever you decide remember that there is a passion inside you that drives you to write. Don’t let that passion be extinguished.

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NaNoWriMo Day 17: Survival Tip of the Day

Like many of my friends and acquaintances, you might be in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

Todays tip is dedicated toward getting the most words possible in the shortest amount of time: join in some word sprints/challenges. It’s easy to find challenges & sprints online. Check the NaNoWriMo forums, follow @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter, check your local NaNoWriMo group or organize your own among groups of friends who are participating. The idea and rules are simple: Someone declares a word sprint of a certain length to begin at a certain time (ie “15 minute challenge beginning at :15). You simply join in, begin typing like crazy at the designated start time, then count & post the number of words you wrote during that time. A 15-minute challenge is a great way to knock out 400-600 words (depending on how fast you type). If you’re very competitive by nature, you can join in three of the 15-minute challenges & have met your minimum daily word count in 45 minutes!

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GILDED CAGE by Sherry Ficklin: Cover Reveal

The Gilded Cage: A Canary Club Novelette

Release Date: December 1st 2016

YA/Historical

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Pre-Order Now

About the book:

Masie, the flaxen-haired daughter of notorious boot-legger Dutch Schultz, returns home from boarding school to find her family in crisis. Her mother is dangerously unstable, her father’s empire is on the brink of ruin, and the boy she once loved has become a ruthless killer for hire. To keep her family’s dangerous secrets Masie is forced into a lie that will change the course of her future—and leave her trapped in a gilded cage of her own making. As she watches her world fall apart, Masie must decide whether to take her place in the hierarchy, or spread her wings, leaving the people she loves, and the life she despises, far behind her.

About the series:

Two worlds collide in Gatsby era New York, in a time of dazzling speakeasies and vicious shoot-outs, of gritty gangsters and iridescent ingénues, where not everything that sparkles is gold.

The Gilded Cage is the first of three novelettes which together create a stunning prequel to The Canary Club novel. They are being released as a mini-series leading up to the release of the novel.

Visit The Official Website

About the author:

Sherry is a full-time writer from Colorado and the author of over a dozen novels for teens and young adults including the best-selling Stolen Empire series. She can often be found browsing her local bookstore with a large white hot chocolate in one hand and a towering stack of books in the other. That is, unless she’s on deadline at which time she, like the Loch Ness monster, is only seen in blurry photographs.
You can find Sherry at her official website, www.sherryficklin.com, or stalk her on her Facebook page www.facebook.com/sherry.ficklin. She is represented by Nadia Cornier of Firebrand Literary.

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NaNoWriMo Day 3: Survival Tip of the Day

Many of my friends and acquaintances are currently in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

As you can imagine, when writing an entire novel in 30 days, a lot of things will fall by the wayside. A person is forced to give up many things, including sanity, to make time for writing. One thing that causes a lot of stress is meals. You can give up many things for 30 days, but eating isn’t one of them. Some of you have families to cook for, some are only looking after yourselves. Whichever the case your NaNoWriMo meals should be stress free. And so, I give you my NaNoWriMo tip of the day (part tip, part recipe):

Slow cooker cooking: Easy Slow Cooker Korean Beef For those in the know, cooking in a slow cooker can’t be beat. With the easiest of recipes, sometimes it’s a dump & run preparation. Now, if you’re the kind of parent who serves only natural, organic, non-GMO meals, well…I can’t help you. I’m the kind of parent who admires my effort and dedication if I offer a meal that hasn’t been purchased as a value meal combo.

So, for a really tasty, seems-like-someone-made-an-effort meal, that won’t get in the way of your NaNoWriMo progress I recommend this recipe. To save steps I bought pre-cut steak and served with fast cooking rice.

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