In Michigan, spring is like a reawakening. Winter is beautiful, but long, and by the end of it, people around here walk with a dreariness in their eyes for no other reason than a lack of sun for too many days. So, spring here is special. You notice it, you long for it, you welcome it with open arms. When it comes, there is an observable change in people. They walk with an extra bounce in their step, smile at strangers, and there is a significant decrease in road rage.
It makes me think of my characters. How are they renewed? I enjoy putting characters in real-life situations which test their psychological make-up and see how they come out the other side. How are characters changed by going through darkness and difficulty? Do they come out better or bitter?
I think it can be either way, but the transformation of a character or the resistance to change makes interesting fiction (to me anyway). I find people fascinating–hence the writing obsession–and this particular aspect of writing creates rich character.
Have characters ever surprised you in their metamorphosis? What role does transformation take in your characters? What part of character development do you enjoy the most?
This day took a mountain of other days to reach, but finally, publishing day has arrived! Am I nervous? Yes! But I’m ready to offer Anna’s story to others and hope that they find the experience worthwhile.
Read it for free! It’s available on Kindle for free starting tomorrow. Read the blurb below, if it’s not your genre of choice, no problem, but please pass it along if you know of someone who might enjoy it.
Darkness is growing within Anna Montagna and she can’t control it. She’s hurt someone that she loves. She fears that mental illness is descending upon her, like it did her mother, except her mother never hurt anyone. Scared and alone, Anna flees to small-town Mikamaw in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to save her family from the monster that she has become.
Anna hopes to find anonymity and solitude in Mikamaw, but instead finds a slightly-psychic friend, nosy locals, and the healing nature of the landscape. Despite the hundreds of miles Anna travels to escape her past, it continues to haunt her. She tries to drown her life’s regrets in alcohol and deep water, but they always resurface. When her husband and best friend find her in Mikamaw, she must decide whether to confront the past or turn and keep running.
Trying new things often means riding the roller coaster of the learning curve. I’ve recently experienced the dips and climbs in self-publishing. At first, I thought the technology part of it shouldn’t be too difficult, I am a relatively tech-savvy girl, but Murphy’s Law came into play at every step of the journey. If you know what Create Space formatting gibberish, right-justified super-stretched sentences, or Kindle nonsensical formatting aberrations are, then you’ve likely felt my pain. If you haven’t, never fear, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
The good news for me is that my self-publishing journey is nearly done. I feel like I’ve been trapped in a cave without light for weeks. I’m not sure if I’ve talked to people or had a proper meal in some time. Now I’m ready to step out, blink against the light, and stretch out my hand to shake the hand of an old friend or wrap it around my long-lost family.
You may wonder, what is the point of sharing my struggles and humiliation? (You know there are those people out there who will claim that the process was a cake walk and make you feel like a moron!) It’s so other people who go through it know that they are not alone and they will survive. Self-publishing is a process, like writing. Also, like writing, when you think you’re almost done, you realize you’re not! Eventually, you will get there, just maybe not on the timeline you thought.
Soon it will be on to the next step… encouraging people to buy it!
When you hang out with writers, you recognize the signs of a writer going through the “marketing” experience of self-publishing. They talk incessantly about social media, blogging, Amazon sales, and finding high-quality reviews. Yep, you’ve got it; they are in the marketing phase.
For most writers, this experience means lost sleep, gray hair, and various signs of outward stress. Sure, there are writers out there that love selling their wares, but you and I aren’t one of them! For us, it can feel a little like selling your soul. We’re writers, not sales people.
The truth is that if you want to sell your books, you will have to be part of that process (unless you are an all-star author). That means putting in the time to build a platform, finding internet spaces to shout about your book, and handing out the occasional “bookcard” or bookmark.
I know, you’d rather be writing. I feel your pain! For me, balancing between a writing project and the marketing side is what keeps me sane. If I had to do all marketing at one time, it would dry out my passion for writing.
So, if you see the signs, help a fellow author out. Take them to coffee, listen to them rant, then brainstorm the next book idea.
A few weeks ago, my family and I went to one of those splash places. I don’t need to name names, but the kind with slides, a lazy river, and other indoor water activities. After my energy wore away, I sat down and watched my children romp around and eventually I watched other people. This is what people in the Midwest call people watching. Now let me make sure we are clear what I mean here. I don’t mean being the fashion police or passing judgement in any way. I mean observing. Carefully.
Sometimes people will catch my eye because they remind me of someone in a book that is presently percolating in my brain. Other times, something about how they move makes me think of specific emotions and I contemplate how I would show that emotion or movement with words. Maybe they have an interesting physical feature that I wonder how I would describe. Then my mind starts to bounce around in a land of imagined characters. I have to be careful, I can get lost there!
If you haven’t already, try it sometime! While you watch, think of words that describe the way a person looks and how they move. What words would paint a picture for the reader of his/her lips, face, neck, or eyes to give people a strong visual of what you see? Are their movements graceful, quick, or laborious? Go one step further and imagine a life for them. What character traits do you imagine for them? Maybe you notice a person who reminds you of one of the characters in your next novel. Think about how the visual that you offer adds to the character that you’re creating.
The same can be done with settings. Take some time soaking up different settings that you have visited. What words would be best to give someone a sense of the place? What did it look, smell, and sound like?
The next time you’re sitting somewhere public with a free moment, put the phone down, and take a look around. Let your imagination wander with your eyes. Now, don’t get caught staring too long at people or someone will sound the stalker alert, but at times it’s important for a writer to spend some time engaged in observation. Just be careful not to get caught!
How do you explore character or setting and ways of describing them? What helps feed your creativity?
If you are reading this, you probably have some interest in writing. Have you written poetry, essays, novels, or all of the above? Do you call yourself a writer?
When is it okay to label ourselves as such? For me, this was tough. I am not the type to talk much about myself, much less advertise that I write novels. I know, we have to promote ourselves and such, but like many “writers” it’s just not my thing.
I have spent years writing, editing, and working to grow as a writer, but I still find it difficult to label myself as much. We had a similar conversation a long while back in my writing group and someone simply said to me, “you are a writer” and hearing it come from someone else’s lips helped quite a bit.
Now when the what-do-you-do conversation comes up, I list my other occupations and include that I write novels. It’s hard for me not to cast my eyes down when I say this part but I resist because if I can’t call myself a writer, why would anyone else?
So, when should we call ourselves writers? When the big publishing house calls? After our self-published books sales reach some magic number? Or after we’ve invested years of time and energy in developing the craft even if the masses yet haven’t consumed it?
I’m not blogging this because I have the answer, clearly I don’t!!! But I’m curious on your thoughts out there. So, I put it to you… When did you start calling yourself a writer? Or when will you?
Writing need not be a lonely endeavor. The experiences that have nudged me along to become a better writer have been the ones where I talked with other writers about (you guessed it) writing. Writing is not a finite craft. There are so many subtle, and not so subtle, variations of it. Once we think we’ve got it and are finally the writer we’re meant to be–no extra work needed– it’s time to put down the keyboard because we are done (and not in the good way).
The purpose of this blog is to talk about writing. Sometimes as writers we are so engrossed in our stories that we forget to look up and around (or is it only me?), but exploring the craft is a way to further develop our skills. So, let’s talk. Look around my blog, add your comments or questions, and let’s see what we can learn from each other, or at the very least find a useful mind-break from writing for a few moments.