Category Archives: Writing

So, what the hell happened?

I have this vision of myself, sashaying back into this space as if no time had passed and nothing ever happened. As if I hadn’t ignored this blog, my writer friends, my readers and my craft. But I don’t think it would feel right to come back without at least an explanation. It won’t just be a pity party, I promise.

 

The truth is, though, that my most productive writing time was the absolute lowest point of my life. I loved writing, but it was almost literally the only thing I had left that gave any confidence, any feelings of accomplishment or joy at all. And when I go back and read some of my earlier work, that still resonates off every page for me. I was isolated, suffering from deep depression, social anxiety that made it hard for me to leave my house. I was afraid of my therapist, afraid of opening the mail. I was scared of people and being seen and most of all, I was afraid that I simply wasn’t built to function in a normal life.

 

Throughout 2015, I was working hard to change all that. I got a part-time job – translating and writing for a media analysis company – and although I sat in a corner hardly speaking a word to anyone the first few weeks, it really turned out to be much less scary than I thought it would be. I was – and am – good at my job and was quickly promoted to a full-time position. I’m deputy head of the editorial department now and while I still recognize and remember the person I was a few years ago, it’s also hard to imagine letting it get this bad. Letting me be so unhappy for so long.

 

I didn’t mean to stop writing. But there came a point, where other things became more important to fight for. And writing is a struggle – a wonderful one, but it takes commitment and showing up every day even when it hurts. Even when you hate every word you’re putting on the page, even when someone writes a terrible (or even just a “meh!”) review and makes you feel like you’ve been so right about hating yourself all along!

 

So when I started working full time, but hadn’t worked on any of my other problems, I usually came home exhausted. I sat in front of my screen and the word processor would blur in front of my eyes and I’d go have a nap instead. Or I’d go eat something. Which is the next problem I had to tackle.

I went to see my doctor in 2016, and he basically referred me to a specialist for gastric bypass surgery. Now, I shouldn’t have needed that wake-up call. But apparently, I did. Like I said, I was busy getting my life together and actively ignoring all the other construction sites… like my weight, which had skyrocketed all through my depression.

 

So that became my next project. I did not get surgery – because I was terrified and also, I didn’t feel like I had actually tried all that hard. And at least I wanted to do that. I wanted to try and fix this without carving up my body.

And so I did.

I went from this… (and you can only imagine how much I cringe showing you this. Myself, at my heaviest)

New haircut, sleepy at the office.

Ein Beitrag geteilt von Laila Balke (@lailajblake) am

To this…

20171013_162701 (2)

I spent the last 18 months losing about 140 lbs. And although I made a few attempts in that time to get back into writing, I quickly realized that I couldn’t do both yet. I couldn’t stay as focused on my weight loss journey as I needed to be when I split my focus. I’m still on that journey and far from skinny. But I’m not in any immediate health danger, I feel great. I have a lot energy and I realized if it was between being actually skinny or being a writer… I want to be a writer.

I’m still working to lose weight and build and strengthen those healthier habits.  But I’m also writing again and have been for a while. Even if I had (and still have) a lot of anxiety about sharing that with you in case I’d just go and disappoint again.

 

For those who are still interested – and believe me, I’d understand if there aren’t many people left – I’m currently working on finally finishing the third and last installment in the Lakeside Series. And the end feels almost tangible. Maybe three more chapters to go (and then a lot of editing). It feels good – in many ways because this series has been weighing on me for a long time. I don’t like unfinished things and I am super excited about sharing with you where my mind has been at throughout this time, and what Moira and Owain’s happy ending will look like.

 

And before I finally wrap this up (because it’s getting wooordy), thank you so much for sticking around and reading this. For your empathy and patience for something that really scared me to put into words.

The post So, what the hell happened? appeared first on Laila Blake.

Don’t quit your day job

It’s one of the most common phrases a writer hears (possibly just after “have I read anything of yours” or “it must be fun to just get to write all the time): something about that day job of yours. Whether you flip burgers or are a neurosurgeon, everyone seems to think they have an opinion on how you earn a living, and that you need to hear it.

Of course, here I am with an opinion, and think you need to hear it. I’m cool with hypocrisy.

Don’t quit your day job. No, really, don’t.

I, like most other writers with middling to piddling success, require a day job. I’ve been lucky that my husband works in an industry that is ever-expanding, allowing me to stay home with our kids when they were young, and then work on my writing career as they’ve moved onto full-time school, and maintaining a Lord of the Flies-like rulings in their kingdom of two.

I also work, part-time. I understand that this might make my point a bit more moot, as I work mornings and have afternoons and evenings more or less free to write, or dick around as much as I want. However, I’ve also held a full-time job, a rather grueling one, requiring fourteen hour days and lunches eaten hunched over my computer in a closed-off office. It was when I was at this job that I started my first manuscript; it was after I was laid off that I finished it.

Writing is an extremely insular art form. Most writers work in solitude, and books are read far from the reach of the writer. While an artist may not be able to stand right next to you and explain their intention in color selection, a painting can be seen by more person than one, at the same time, can be shared by an entire group at once, and discussed in real time. Books require a dedication to read, to consider, and to reach out about. Being a writer is pretty lonely.

I write in the morning, when I first get up, before my brain is awake enough to let the inner critic carry on at me, telling me everything I do is pointless and stupid. I write in the afternoon when she’s in full-force, too, but, in between, I go to work. I do administrative stuff in health care, for a doctor’s practice, inside of a hospital (how’s that for vague?). This means that I interact with, on average, at least 50 people a day, in an important and direct manner.

Every writer has the ambition to be able to live off their writing. I know few who have expressed blockbuster dreams, or millionaire fantasies– most writers just want to be able to call writing their actual job, with a decent paycheck, just like their day job.

At this point in my life, I don’t know that I would want to quit to solely write. I’ve mentioned before that I hate the romanticizing of the artist life, like writers (and painters, weavers, photographers, actors, et al) are doing something deeply enlightened. It’s still a job, it’s still work. And it’s a lonely, drudging job at that. When a chapter is going poorly, and I’m tired and crabby and nothing seems to be going right, there are few people to turn to in my misery. Writer’s groups, in theory, are the outlet for this– but, I feel, everyone is suffering in their own bubble, and they’re just amassing the bubbles in one place.

At a workplace, there’s a shared feeling that is impossible to get solo. It’s that “we’re all in this together” feeling that makes any terrible day feel a bit more manageable.

I have no desire to quit my day job. Writing will always be my chosen career, but, in lieu of some kind of overwhelming (and, honestly, unwanted) celebrity, I can’t see myself wanting it to be the whole focus of my days. I love writing. I also like my sanity.


New Release: Polar Shift (a lesbian novellette)

Polarshift

After a series of collaborative anthologies (like Anything She Wants, Sweat, A Christmas to Remember, Cougars, Bossy, Forbidden Fruit and Opposites Attract), my latest work for the wonderful ladies at Ladylit Publishing is all my own. A 15.000 word/ 50 page novellette about a woman who discovers her attraction to a very unlikely partner.

Polar Shift is about overcoming prejudice and finding unexpected treasures, it’s about tenderness and gender identity, orientation and all that goodness. And yes, it’s a little bit about bdsm, too.

Blurb:

Kaylah Shaw is everything Megan never wanted: impatient and abrasive, too tall and groomed to an unnatural perfection. One encounter is enough to last the failed photographer a lifetime. When she moves into Megan’s apartment building, however, Kaylah shows up at her door, with her smooth, long legs and a compelling smile, and surprises her with the request for a photoshoot. Finding some undeniable quality at the bottom of her dark eyes, Megan agrees, never expecting that Kaylah would take control of the shoot, with gentle but unerring dominance, and open her up to a world never explored before.

 

Polarshiftsmaller

 

Price: $2.99

Available from
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Amazon DE
Amazon AUS

[More to come]

Add it to your Goodreads shelf >>

The post New Release: Polar Shift (a lesbian novellette) appeared first on Laila Blake.

New Release: After Life Lessons – Book Two

What does it mean to live, to hope, to love in a dying world?

That’s what the characters in our latest release – After Life Lessons: Book Two – are trying to find out once more. After Life Lessons takes you on the road with straggling survivors of a zombie apocalypse, as they try to heal first each other and then what is left of their society.

ALL-Box300-450

 

.

.

The Complete After Life Lessons Collection

 

After Life Lessons is a Survival/Post-Apocalypse series with a Women’s Fiction bent. 

In the wake of a devastating epidemic, Emily finds herself alone, grieving and struggling to survive with her young son, Song. They encounter Aaron, an Army medic on a mission of his own.
After Life Lessons: Book One follows their journey from mere struggle to survive, into a life they slowly begin to recognize as worth living again. Once settled and fortified, they take to road once more in Book Two in order to find Aaron’s family. Instead they find new enemies and new allies and a dangerous mission for the future of the region.

The Complete After Life Lessons Collection  $5.99

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks

.

.

After Life Lessons: Book Two

After Life Lessons: Book Two

Years after the end of the world, the scattered survivors have begun to reconcile with their fate and are starting to build communities from the rubble. Life has been kind to Aaron and Emily, and maybe it is that infusion of hope that leads them on a winter trip to search for Aaron’s family. But the world outside their little haven has grown harsher, the conditions rough and dangerous.

Not everybody they meet on their journey allowed the grim realities to harden their hearts, however. Malachi and Kenzie – a easy-going drifter with a bum leg and amnesia, and a teenage girl who has lost everyone and everything – are on an ill-conceived mission to Mexico, while Iago and his band of nomads work to forge trading connections between the small settlements of the south. All of them will discover new nightmares on the road, far surpassing the threat of the last rotting zombies still roaming the countryside. And now they must come together to fight for peace and justice in the world they trying to rebuild.

 

After Life Lessons: Book Two — $3.99

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | AllRomance

The post New Release: After Life Lessons – Book Two appeared first on Laila Blake.

New Release: After Life Lessons, Book Two

Laila Blake and I are excited to be releasing the second, and last, book in our After Life Lessons collection today! Available now in ereader formats, you can follow Aaron and Emily, as well as new characters, in a brand new journey in the life After the apocalypse.

girl goes on rails

Years after the end of the world, the scattered survivors have begun to reconcile with their fate and are starting to build communities from the rubble. Life has been kind to Aaron and Emily, and maybe it is that infusion of hope that leads them on a winter trip to search for Aaron’s family. But the world outside their little haven has grown harsher, the conditions rough and dangerous.

Not everybody they meet on their journey allowed the grim realities to harden their hearts, however. Malachi and Kenzie – an easy-going drifter with a bum leg and amnesia, and a teenage girl who has lost everyone and everything – are on an ill-conceived mission to Mexico, while Iago and his band of nomads work to forge trading connections between the small settlements of the south. All of them will discover new nightmares on the road, far surpassing the threat of the last rotting zombies still roaming the countryside. And now they must come together to fight for peace and justice in the world they trying to rebuild.

This novel contains language some might find offensive, some gore and situations of a sexual nature. Reader’s discretion is advised.

Available at the following online retailers:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | Ibooks | AllRomance


Questions No One Asked Me: Part One

Sometimes, you see, I do this thing. It’s usually in the shower but, from time to time, I do it in the car, or even while walking the dog. I don’t usually talk about it, but I don’t think I’m the only person who does it.

I interview myself.

What, you were expecting something else?

It comes from watching the early days of Oprah, maybe, or too many awards shows. I was an avid reader of Seventeen and YM in my youth, and my favorite parts of the magazines (besides the “horrible things happen to me too!” fake write-in columns) were always the interviews where the questions were bolded and the star replied. I like a good list, after all, and I even more like hearing people talk about themselves. Maybe it’s a character study, or I’m really into self-absorbed people, who knows? But I do love a good interview, even when I’m the one who has to interview myself.

Thus, today, I intro “Questions No One Asked Me.”

Today’s question: “Lorrie, we all already know your stance on writing, and writing schedules, and taking responsibility for your writing output. But, really, what if you force yourself to write, and it sucks?”

Thanks for asking!

It’s a very real fear, that you commit yourself to writing, want to be writing, even, and find out that the words you put on the page are, for a lack of a better descriptor, utter crap. It would come as quite a shock, wouldn’t it, to find that even though you’re willing to make the effort, it’s in vain because your skills are on par with a donkey who backed into a typewriter while drunk. After all, you make the effort, you put in the time, shouldn’t that account for something?

If only!

The truth of the matter is: you will write crap. You will write crap more often than you write anything good, or worthwhile, even. You will write pages and pages of crap, sometimes for an entire day, sometimes every time you sit down at the computer, sometimes for weeks. You’ll have your brighter days, of course, where everything you type is golden and beautiful, but these days don’t last long, and almost never come consecutively.

Sitting down and writing is quite obviously made that much more difficult when you introduce the threat of shit writing. Staring down a computer screen with that devil on your shoulder, telling you you’re going to fail can cause even the most determined, and even skilled, writer to balk at bothering at all. After all, if you don’t write, you can’t suck, right?

Every day, I write. I know many people with other methods, but the most popular way to get through the process of writing, even the bad days, is, simply, write. Write when you don’t feel like it, write when you’re tired, write when you’re stressed, write when you feel like you have nothing to say. The truth of the matter is: most of those times, that is when you will write your worst. It’s a ridiculous cliche that you must be having some intense emotion or life experience for your writing to read truthfully, or have any depth. The majority of writing comes from people who are, for the most part, pretty okay with themselves, and their lives. After all, if they weren’t, they probably wouldn’t get much out, if just because they might not make it that long.

How, then, do you survive writing all that crap? How can you still be happy when you have pages of prose you can never use, passages that couldn’t fit into your story if you took a blowtorch to them?

To begin with: bad writing does not make you a bad writer, just as one burned meal doesn’t make you a terrible cook. No one is “on” every last day of their lives. Even a genius wakes up with a case of the Mondays.

Second: writing, any writing, is good, even the bad stuff. Why? Well, of course, you’re writing, but, even more importantly– this can, and often does, lead to the good stuff! Sitting down and rambling out six pages of characters wandering aimlessly, conversations that go nowhere, action that falls flat, can not only clear out the muck that’s weighing you down, but can also jog your brain, and help you work your way through troublesome scenes, plot holes, and questions about motivations. Right now, you may be writing a too-long description about the horrible meal a character’s aunt has cooked, simply because you can’t think of anything else to write, but suddenly you know why he wants to go to Cambodia, or how to bring in that phone call that will tie Character X into Character A’s story.

The most important thing to remember, though, is: bad writing days will not last forever. The more you fear them, and let them control you, the longer and harder they stick. Making the effort to power through them, to refuse to let them control you, can only bring you out the other side, where you’ll be a better writer for them.

And then you’ll get to do that imaginary red carpet interview while you shave your armpits, too!

Stay tuned for more Questions No One Asked Me!


On Inspiration

It’s one of the questions that writers hear most, and one of those that makes most writers shrug their shoulders, shake their heads, or just plain want to tear their hair out.

Where do you get inspiration to write?

It’s as ridiculous a question as asking how one gets inspired to drive to work, but I’m willing to give a little on it. For so long, we (both writers and the general public– I’ll let us all shoulder the blame for this) have mystified the whole process of writing. It’s something that requires a special set of skills, a special mindset, a way of thinking and relating, and, so, of course, one who does not write can’t really help but wonder how one who does gets to that writing.

What inspires you? they ask.

Let me tell you.

1) The shower. You think I’m kidding but I’m not. I remember hearing something once (and, admittedly, it might have been on 30 Rock) that when you’re distracted by something as base and simple as showering, your brain has access to more of your thoughts– or, rather, gets more space to do it’s thinking. You’re busy trying to keep shampoo out of your eyes, and so your brain can tool along its happy path, wondering what would happen if someone were to jump from the top of a three story building into a pool, and then, lo and behold, you’ve figured out the escape route for your character who is cornered on the roof of his apartment building.

2) The car. Similar to the shower, but not quite. I mean, at this point, you’re attempting not to kill other people, but what, pray tell, are you supposed to do while waiting in gridlock or idling at a light? The radio, after all, only plays the same five songs on repeat all day, so it’s not like you’re going to find yourself introduced to something new and startling in the music world. Sure, you could listen to NPR, but you also are a person who spends 90% of their day already fretting about the state of the world, so you don’t really need the help (I may be speaking from experience).

3) Observation. This should be a no-brainer. Who hasn’t come up with entire histories for strangers in a coffee shop, stories for lip-read conversations, what-if scenarios for if the guy had stepped off the curb a second later? It’s like scripting your own TV show without having to pay anyone.

4) Interaction. Sorry to say, the old adage is true: anything you say and do can, and probably will, end up in a writer’s work, in some form. Conversations spark ideas, that come to rest in a story. That lame chat you had about what season mangoes are harvested while you each poured a cup of coffee in the break room? That’s now in a manuscript about a dystopian future when fruit is a novelty. We find novelty in things that may happen, day to day, hour to hour, without thought, because they fit neatly in a space we’ve been trying to fill in a story. A story about your childhood dance class, or the way you adjusted your skirt are now part of the repertoire.

5) Reading. “Good writers borrow, great writers steal outright.” (attributed to either T.S. Eliot, or Aaron Sorkin, depending on what part of the internet you land on) I wouldn’t say that’s totally true, but, certainly, reading influences writing. I’ve always been baffled by so-called writers who don’t care for reading. It’s as suspicious as chefs who don’t look like they eat (I’m looking at you, Giada De Laurentiis). But, moreover, reading is, in a way, similar to sitting around, talking about ideas and art with people you enjoy and respect. You probably shouldn’t write a thinly-veiled imitation of something like, say, 1984, but certainly your dystopian future can (and probably should) be influenced by George Orwell.

6) Writing. You knew it was coming, right? If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I’m a drill sergeant for consistency in a writing regimen, and insistent that the only way to get better as a writer is to write. The truth is, though, you also are most likely to find your inspiration in the actual act of writing. Sitting down and writing, no matter what it is, stimulates the brain, and the imagination. Maybe you have no clue what you’re starting with, and maybe it sucks for a hundred, or a thousand, words, but the more you do it, the easier it is, and the more ideas come.

I cringe at the idea that one must have a grand inspiration in order to motivate their writing. The truth is: few of us have all that exciting lives. If we sit around and wait for inspiration to strike, we’re more likely to be hit by a bolt of lightening out of the sky (according to really cursory Googling, I’m finding you have a 1 in 1,200 chance of that which is, suffice to say, pretty unlikely, and a really good simile for my point).

Inspiration is made. The longer you sit around and wait for it, the longer you’ll sit around and write nothing.

And that’s just sad.


On being social

I’m not afraid to admit it, nowadays: I’m an only child. Back when I was a child, in the 80s, it was a sort of novelty, us singular children– most of my friends had at least one sibling, and some had two or three more. It wasn’t until I was 10 that I even met another only child.

I didn’t mind being an only child, and it was only romanticized notions of siblinghood I longed for– the fantasies I had of a sister always revolved around the idea that she was close in age to me, and had my exact interests, and also thought I was super cool. I could have dug a sister like that.

As it was, I was one of those people who learned, early on, how to entertain myself. The kids on my block, my easy-access friends, had to go home for dinner just as I did, they went out of town, and church and the like, and so I was alone often. I like to differentiate between “alone” and “lonely.” Certainly I was the latter from time to time, but, truly, it was a rare occurrence. I was a voracious reader, and my parents were happy to indulge the obsession. I had bookshelves full to bursting, and was taken on frequent trips to the local library. I wrote, even from a young age, making friends of characters, and creating worlds and experiences for them.

I am an incredibly shy person. I’m not sure if it’s due to this alone-ness, or if I would have been naturally disposed to this personality even with a passel of siblings. At any rate, it is far easier to be shy when you’re okay with being alone– I can’t imagine being an extrovert who is painfully shy, the agony of wanting and needing social contact to feed your energy, yet being terrified of talking to others. That I garner my energy from quiet and solitude makes my shyness mostly inconsequential: it’s easy to never learn to swim when you live in a desert.

I have to say, though: all of this makes it hard to be sociable. I’m good with a person or two– I have a small group of good friends, people I feel know me well and I know them. I’ve met them through various channels– online, in class, at work, and living above me in an apartment. The thing is: it took awhile, and I am very poor at it.

Oddly enough, those who meet me tell me I’m outgoing and bubbly, talkative, and can’t believe that I’m painfully shy. I have been told pointblank that I’m not an introvert, that it’s not possible, because of how I react to people (which leads me to wonder: what is the appropriate behavior for an introvert in a social setting? To scream and duck? To sweat profusely and refuse to speak? I’m fairly certain, as an attribute, introversion would have fazed out of our DNA if it was truly that difficult to endure, but that’s a different topic). I’m a good actor, I suppose, or my anxiety drives me into some kind of stand-up comedy. I give a killer punchline while convincing myself that you hate me.

The internet is a blessing for people like me: you can meet people on your own turf and have time to figure out what to say and how to say it! No one can see you! You’re a genius with spellcheck! In the early days (back when we paid for AOL by the minute), I hopped into chatrooms and bulletin boards, and was quickly treated to my earliest dose of internet attacks. I was young, though, innocent still, so that I plugged along.

There was Diaryland, and Blogspot, when I got older, and then Livejournal. I participated on a couple boards for young and radical mothers, joined up on forums for writers and role players. I was, dare I say, POPULAR.

However, in the past few years, things have shifted. Perhaps it’s my age, and my inborn tendency to be stubborn, slowing me down. I feel like the crotchety old lady waving at the kids on her lawn. I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE NEW SOCIAL MEDIA. I can roll with Facebook, but apparently that’s for grandmas anyway. I’m okay with Twitter (and have some absurdly low join number, making me either elite or pathetic), and I’m moderately capable at Tumblr. Past that, I suck.

Social media is all about conversation, but, it feels to me, like walking into a room of strangers and having everyone stop and turn to look at you and wait for your introduction. “Hi, I’m Lorrie! My favorite book is… uh… I have one, I’m sure. Favorite movie? Um, that one, with the blonde…?”

My husband hangs out on Reddit, which appears a little like a crowded bar where the drink names are in a different language, and I can’t find the bathrooms. Goodreads groups confuse the hell out of me, with huge threads where the replies overlap and I’m genuinely afraid of making a fool of myself with my poor memory for what I’ve read in the past year, let alone my life (intellectual cred is much more difficult to fake).

I’m making an effort. I’m seeking out blogs now, something I’ve avoided over the years as the internet seemed overrun with them. It seems less threatening: even on blogs that garner a lot of comments, it’s as though I met up with the writer in the corner of a party and we’re sharing a laugh. It’s calming.

Being social on the internet is apparently one of my jobs now, in this writing and publishing gig. I feel a bit like I did when I changed schools at ten: nervous, and kind of nauseous. I’m myself, but also a brand, and I really REALLY want people to like me.

Hey, how about you leave some links for blogs you like in the comments? I’ll bring you a glass of wine and we’ll hide out by the garage door for a bit, take a breather from that party. I hope you like my jokes.


A year in review

It’s that time of year, where a frantic scramble to get things done is not only predicted, it’s somewhat expected. In my life, we have not only the holidays, but also both of my children’s birthdays flanking Christmas, and my visions of my own personal deadlines so I can look over my year of work and be pleased with myself.

I frequently make myself sick this time of year.

Three days before Christmas, and I still must venture out for a few small presents for dear friends, but this writing business stops for no one.

The year has been a modest one in terms of word count. I started, and then stopped around 50k, a tightly-wound story about a family in the throes of crisis, having written myself into a corner. I hope to go back and figure out how to unravel this, because I think, at the heart of it, the story is a sound one, and interesting. With Laila Blake, I completed a collection of short stories centered around our characters from After Life Lessons (you can find it here), as well as the first draft for the second, and final, book featuring those characters and their post-apocalyptic world. I completed the first in a trilogy about a dystopian world with a mysterious narrator, and rewrote 3/4 of a novel I originally completed last December, giving this year a sort of fun, cyclical sort of ending. Several pieces of erotica were also accepted this year, and a few have come out in print already, with more planned in anthologies next year.

This year, on a lot of fronts, was more dedicated to the publishing side of writing, which is a much newer experience for yours truly. Editing is one of my favorite activities, and one of my greater skills, and I found myself doing a lot more of that this year, with several rewrites and edits on After Life Lessons before it went to print in April, as well as several edits on At the Edge of the World, which came out in August. I also have picked over and helped groom Laila’s first two installments of the Lakeside Series, and the last in her Breaking in Waves trilogy.

From there, I am still a little floundering, still learning to swim, in a way. Lilt Literary is slowly gaining steam, and with it, we are working on aspects of publishing that are mostly new and foreign to us. I used to work in marketing, in advertising, but on the production end: I wrote and composed ads, I did not sell them. I am innately shy, a little terrified of talking to just about anyone– I had a friend once comment that I never looked in anyone’s eyes, something I’d never really noticed, but find myself doing kind of constantly unless I know a person well.

Marketing yourself is hard. It is even harder when you, as a person, don’t do well talking yourself up, not to mention live in a society where women are, for the most part, conditioned to shy away from self-congratulation, from believing they’re worth listening to, or caring about. Selling a book is a little like selling yourself– I’m not one to compare a book to a baby, but, certainly, it represents a large amount of time, and effort, and skills, and, so, it’s a product of you, of your abilities. Telling someone how great it is, and that they should care about it, read it, is like telling them why they should be your friend. It’s uncomfortable at best, horrifying at the worst.

Independant and self-publishing means you’re doing a majority of the work of a book on your own. You write it, you proof it, you edit and re-edit, you design and format and convert files, get it to distributors, advertise. At Lilt Literary, we’re lucky to both be trained as editors, and proof-readers, and pride ourselves on tightly-written and edited work. Laila is a wizard with graphic design, and has produced jaw-dropping covers for all of our books.  We’ve become well-versed with computer formatting for different output (both physical and digital), and in many avenues of distribution.

My confidence wavers at advertising. As a small-time publishing house, we are shut out of many traditional channels: obviously we’re not going to be able to put an ad in a widely-read magazine, or get ourselves on a talk show. Our budget is smaller than a traditional publishing house, and so getting our books on the shelves of local and national bookstores isn’t within our ability at this moment.

There is a stigma attached to independent and self-publishing, too, one that is, and isn’t, accurate. With the ease of Amazon uploading, for instance, a person can take a poorly-written fanfic and have it for sale in 5 minutes flat. What is a beautiful invention– the ability to reach masses with a click of a mouse– can be burdened by lack of quality control. While this is a topic for another time (and I do love talking about it), the point is more: it’s hard to get noticed, harder to get people to read, and believe, in your ability when you are not coming out of a big-name publisher.

It’s definitely been a learning process, but one that is slowly becoming easier, clearer, and showing results. Over the last year alone I, and we, have learned so much about getting our books to readers, and making a successful profit, that I’m actually excited about doing more in the new year, where, even a few months ago, I even loathed writing an email to a potential reviewer.

It turns out writing is an ever-evolving practice. Who knew?

Here’s wishing you the happiest of holidays, and bountiful new year.


Wordcount-Binging and the Quest for Flow

It is a truth almost universally acknowledged in writer circles anymore – see what I did there? – that bringing as many words as possible onto the page in each sitting is the key to writerly success. Espoused everywhere you look, from the ever-popular Nanowrimo to blogs, podcasts and self-help books for writers, the basic idea seems to be that finishing a book is hard, and the easiest way to get through it, is to do it as fast and painlessly as possible. Get the words out there, vomit them onto your text processor, and most importantly: don’t think about it at all. That’s the way to Flow. Flow, that magical word that has been making the rounds for a while, state of infinite creative potential when the mind is linked-up, perfectly aligned to spill out your inner genius.

I don’t know how ADD we have become as a culture that we think it necessary to explain and mystify the benefits inherent in a state of enduring and enjoyable concentration, but that’s all it seems to be. Despite being often compared to a runner’s high, that feeling athletes seem to get when the rush of endorphins from physical exertion overpowers pain and exhaustion, there isn’t actually any link between the two. I shouldn’t have to point out that one includes the exercise induced rush of hormones and the other, well, doesn’t.

Now, I am the last person to diss Flow. Flow is amazing. I just seriously question whether Flow really has anything to do with the word-vomit we are often called upon to expel into our manuscripts. To clarify: we are supposed to just write down whatever comes to mind without caring about spelling, phrasing, the beauty of words, sentence and melody or even the appropriate wording of dialogue. Least of all should we think about theme or repeating topics, motifs and metaphors. The resulting text might require more editing (according to some sources up to several times the amount it took to write), but that’s supposedly worth it, because the important thing is to get it out of your head as soon as possible.

Now, I am the last one to complain about our generation’s obsession with speed, but… really? I am not in the position to judge other writers and what they enjoy about writing – but while I agree wholeheartedly that prolonged periods of concentration and the efforts to increase your writing output in an effort to keep the story alive and active in your head – I can’t abide by the dogmatic nature of the rest of it.

First of all: As a translator, I achieve Flow all the time.
This is relevant here, because you cannot stop thinking, evaluating and constantly assessing the whole picture while you translate. Now, according to Flow-espousers, this should prevent Flow. My inner critic is on 100% of the time, I constantly check terminology, look up words, compare them to earlier usage within the text, make sure this is the best way I could possibly express any given sentiment etc. And still I achieve Flow.

In fact, I achieve Flow faster and easier than I do in writing. That’s not because I enjoy translating more. I don’t. But I believe simply because translating is a more immersive activity, just BECAUSE you have to concentrate so hard on so many things at once. You can’t help it. In writing, it’s easier to waver a bit, not to be fully invested in the task at hand.

Secondly: I simply cannot enjoy shoddy worksmanship, no matter how many times I tell myself that I will edit it later. For me, writing is primarily a set of skills, not some magical spring inside of me that produces the clearest water if I just let it run free. I enjoy finding just the right words to unlock just the right feeling while I write. That’s what makes it fun for me. Finding out just how a character would say something is so integral to the character development, I can’t imagine leaving that until the very end. And yes, I love theme. Sure, some emerge later on, but I start every book with certain themes and motifs, and yeah, I do keep them in mind while I write.

After all: Finishing a book isn’t actually that difficult.
It is when you do it for the first time, because if you’re like me and most other people, you are constantly plagued by worrying if you can actually do it, if it’s worth all this misery when it sucks so much anyway, and why in the world you would do this to yourself to begin with. But once you have finished that first book, it’s just as difficult as any long-term task you choose to engage in and that has to compete for your attention with your Netflix account, with sleep and friends, and the normal fluctuations in creative self-confidence.

It’s definitely not difficult enough to warrant this desperate close-your-eyes-and-think-of-England approach. Besides, if you’re anything like me, this is exactly the approach that will mess most with your self-confidence.

I’m the kind of person who has to read back a few paragraphs in the morning when I start writing. And there is NOTHING that will kill my motivation faster than seeing how bad my own writing was the day before. I need to see something that at least resembles the standard I want to see in novels or else I’m hanging in my chair, close to tears about my lack of talent, faster than you can say Flow. And bam, the creative confidence cycle has hit rock bottom again.

Instead, I could write a just a little bit more slowly (I still tend to reach at least 1000k in an hour), but write deliberately, thoughtfully and with intention. That way I actually enjoy what I’m doing while I do it, and when I reach back the next morning, I am full of motivation for the next stretch.

And yes, I see no reason whatsoever why writing the book faster only then to take longer on editing is in any way a win for me at the bottom line. I enjoy writing a lot more than editing. So how stupid would I have to be to rush through the thing I enjoy only to pile up more work for me in the area I enjoy less? Not to mention that editing gets exponentially more painful the messier the first draft is to begin with.

The only thing that matters in the end is that we, each of us, finds the writing process that we find enjoyable.  But concentration and thoughtful writing doesn’t have to be anathema to Flow and good, speedy writing.