Saturday, August 2, 2014

I Hear You and Understand, writers write for different reasons


Yesterday, I was a little bit rash. I posted a gut-response to a blog post over on The Passive Voice about why I write, just before I dashed out to lunch. I worried about my post as I ate lunch would people take it the wrong way? Fortunately, people were pretty much fine with what I wrote. But I worried nonetheless. My comment could be construed in lots of different ways, many of them bad. My fingers itched to type a response, I refrained.

This morning as I was reading the comment thread once more, I found myself again wanting to clarify my thoughts, so I sat down and started to type up a paragraph or two. Unfortunately, I was posting directly on the blog, and because of the way comment boxes scroll, it’s easy to miss how much you’re writing. Especially when the words just begin to flow.

By the end, I had a nice hefty blog post so I’m re-posting here.

Here are some of the reasons I write:

While in high school, a good friend of mine was ALWAYS writing down stories, she couldn't not do it. She gave me a couple of ARCs for stories that she'd written. To my shame, I never read them.  But she was like many of you, the words  came and she HAD to write them down.

She's a playwrite now, and is enjoying modest success.  :)

I'm saying that I'm different. Not in a monetary, mercenary way--which has been implied, [writing like a shill, chasing the latest fad/$$]--but I'm different in that I'm fine keeping my stories in my head. I do not feel the compulsion to write them down.

Perhaps if I shared where my journey as a writer began, you might understand. It was one year after my little sister died from cancer, I found myself at the B&N on 86th & Broadway, looking for a book. I was depressed from my sister's passing, I was tired--working a mind-numbing job that I really didn't like--and I'd just realized that I was never going to get ahead. That for the rest of my life, I would be on this rat-race treadmill. Always scurrying to catch up, but never getting ahead. I'd work until the day I died, more than likely living paycheck to paycheck. It was more than depressing. 

But hey, I was in NYC.  So I walked the streets taking photos, going to movies and free events in the parks, and then spending all of my disposable income on books. (I'm an escapist reader, a Fantasy & Romance junkie.) I walked out of bookstores--the B&N down at Lincoln Square and the Borders at Columbus Circle that are no longer there, and the B&N on the UWS next to Zabar's--with stacks of books on a regular basis.

So there I was at B&N, depressed, walking up and down the racks on the second floor, looking for the next book to read when I thought of one of my favorite authors. Mercedes Lackey, she's always coming out with something new. At the time, she had several rows of books on the shelves. So I meandered over to browse titles to see if there was anything I'd missed.

I don't remember how this realization hit me, but it did. Suddenly, instead of seeing titles and book series, I saw dollar signs.  Compounding, residual income. Each of those titles, labored over for a time and then set aside. Over the years making a tidy little income stream that would add up to make a nice living. Dean Wesley Smith would call it his magic bakery.

Things clicked together in my head, and I thought to myself, "I can do this."

Right away, I turned and walked over to the how-to section and pulled about eight writing books off the shelf and bought them.  A week later, I bought myself a thesaurus and a rhyming dictionary. A short while after that I started writing. My first draft of my first book was done in a month. The first draft to the sequel (due to release this coming week or the next) was finished two months after that.

I scoured writing blogs, learning craft and style. I listened to Writing Excuses religiously for what became years. I wrote and re-wrote, and re-wrote, polishing what I knew in my heart was not a pile of crap--despite writing advice you find online about polishing crap and first books--but a great story.

I have to say that I've been surprised. My stories are better written down than they are in my head. It's been a delightful discovery. And I can say that I've begun to have that compulsion for writing stories down. But it is driven by realizing that I have a voice, a message, and a slant that I want to share with others and is coupled with the fact that as I write those stories and publish them that my audience will build and we'll have a mutually beneficial relationship. I'll write stories that we both like and in turn I am compensated financially when my readers buy those stories. My readers (the few that have sent me messages or posted reviews online) like my work, they want more. I'm happy to write more.

So yes, I write for the money. I'm busy, time is fleeting, I have many other things I could be doing. Like sleeping, or going out to dinner with friends, or going to the movies, or curling up with a good book, watching favorite tv shows, etc.  But instead I've chosen to sacrifice that time to write, and I've only done so because I'm looking at it as a career with a payoff somewhere in the distant future. Like saving money in a bank for retirement.

When I write, am I thinking about what will sell best? To be honest, sometimes I am. But only in the vein that I'm a romance junkie, I know the genre, I love the genre, and I have dozens of story ideas in that genre.

But I also love fantasy. And even though I have many other stories/trilogies partially written, I still come back to those first two books that I wrote when I was living in NYC. They're my darlings. (I know, I know, I'm supposed to kill them.)  But deep down, I know they are beautifully constructed, neatly ordered stacks of polished un-crap. So I'm leading with them, publishing them first, even though they won't sell as well as the contemporary or historical romances that I have dancing through my head.

So there you are. I hope you understand. I write for the money; it's the only reason I write. But it doesn't exclude me from finding joy, surprise, and delight in crafting a story. In fact, I find putting stories on paper to be extremely satisfying in a way different from other artistic endeavors I have tried. And believe me, I've tried quite a few.

I hope you understand now and won't judge me too harshly. But if not, that's okay. I'm content and happy with my plans for writing. And as Indies so often say, the only thing that matters is if your readers like what you're writing. So far, my readers do.

-Melissa


Which Way To Go? it’s a dilemma


For a long time now, I’ve struggled with where to go with my blog.  When I started to work for the Foreign Service, I pretty much stopped blogging altogether. In my line of work, you’re constantly reminded about cyber security and personally identifiable information online.

It pretty much puts a damper on posting things publicly.

Then there are all of the branding blogs that talk about having a focused blog with content that doesn’t wander.  And so came the dilemma. Do I post or do I not post? Which way to go? How to share without over-sharing in a world where everything posted is basically permanent and should be treated as public despite any layers of security you have (hello Russian & Chinese hackers, nothing to see here…move along).

Should I post about writing and what I’ve learned as an Indie Publisher? No, there are others out there who do that so much better than I.  Should I write about life? No, my life’s pretty boring. I wake up, go to work, come home, write, fix my website, design book covers, process photos I’ve taken, and then go to sleep.  Wash, rinse, repeat. Not so fascinating.

I do have things I’d like to say. But the posts I want to write are not focused, like people say they should be. I jot them down on paper, but never post.  Am I blogging to my readers?  Or am I blogging to other writers?  I don’t know, maybe a little of both.  Last night I decided that I should just go ahead and write to both, but I think I’ll focus mostly on other writers, because well. “I had two Costco Italian Sweet sausages for breakfast today. They were yummy. I ate them in the car as I was driving to work,” would get old, really quickly. And there are only a few acceptable times to shout out and say, “Hey, my next book is out.”

So writers it is.  :)

Last night I couldn’t sleep, I woke up at 2:12 when my neighbor downstairs started his/her nightly ritual of blasting club/rock/punk/electronica/I can’t think of the exact name here/music. All I know is that the rhythmic baseline vibrates right through the concrete separating us. It only lasts for 15 minutes. I usually roll right over and go back to sleep.  Last night sleep didn’t come, then at 4:00ish woke up for real. So I sat in bed and started going through facebook and my feeds.

I found myself going over to The Passive Voice, one of my favorite Indie Publishing Industry blogs, and reviewing the comment threads.  And then I found myself wanting to reply, and so I got up, turned on my writing computer, and all of a sudden I’d completely stepped over the bounds and posted a thousand word comment on Passive Guy’s blog.  How embarrassing. But I went ahead and posted my response anyway because I didn’t want people to misunderstand, and I thought it added to the discussion.

And so now I’m here, with yet another blog post about how I think I’ll start blogging again, perhaps more frequently than I have over the past few years.  At present I’m not afraid of revealing to the Chinese government that I like the Italian Sweet Sausages that can be found at East-Coast Costcos (the ones on the West-Coast aren’t so great…). 

I’ll post here on the blog, what I wrote over on The Passive Voice. But before I do, I felt the need to write a preface.  A hello of sorts, I’m headed in this direction type of post.  So here it is:

I’m back, again. Maybe I’ll blog a little more often, mostly to other writers. I hope you like the redesign of the site.

-Melissa

Friday, May 2, 2014

Hello Florida, guess what? I moved.

Hello humidity and balmy air at night.
Hello ocean breezes from just out of sight.
Hello crazy, ugly bugs that make me want to scream (I refrain).
Hello transplant New Yorkers and great slices of cheese! (I can't complain.)

Farewell kimchi and my favorite Korean place.
Farewell peachy California sunsets that used to caress my face.
Farewell the good friends I found while I was there.
Farewell, Adieu, I hope you know I care.

A new chapter quickly opens,
good things come; life beacons.
Fond memories tucked away,
I hold them close, and live life today.

-Melissa

p.s. When I set the release date for Ancestor's Call (the 2nd book in The Chronicles of Loresse) I hadn't planned to move to Florida this Spring, so unfortunately, the book release for Ancestor's Call has been shifted to sometime this Summer, 2014.  So sorry to make you wait!

copyright - Melissa Bitter, All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Discovery Writing and Outlining

I’m a discovery writer, of sorts.  Actually, I suppose I’m more of a hybrid writer.  A writer who has ideas of what needs to happen, and then discovery writes to get there.  I wasn't always this way, for the most part, I used to be a pure discovery writer.  However, when you're working with an epically long book series, you just can't write fast enough.  I have plot points coming out of my ears for books I haven't even started to pull together.  But I know what's going to happen, and it's exciting.

So I guess this makes me an outliner.  But I don't want to be an outliner.  I like to discovery write, so I think I'll call myself hybrid discovery writer.  Now, that sounds nice.

But I digress, let me back up.  When I first wrote Book II (it’s now at around 90k words), I was firmly in the discovery writing phase.  Oh, I had ideas of where the book needed to go, but I had no idea how I was going to get there.  Anyway, because of this, Book II is full of holes.  When you're writing a series in discovery writing mode, it's incredibly difficult to just write and get it down in the first pass.  As a matter of fact, it's downright impossible.

There are subplots and themes that need to be fully supported, ideas that you come up with later but need to go back and put in earlier.  And so I make an outline after the first draft is written.  This way I can find the holes, places that need to be fleshed out, and plot points that need to be built up to better.  It's kind of fun, but it also can be a painfully long process.

Doing this for Analindë (Book I), was tedious.  I'm hoping the process for Book II will go a lot more smoothly. 

Almost one year ago I was in Beijing, visiting a friend.  While she was at work, I stayed in her apartment and outlined Analindë, then at night we went out and explored the city together.  I also did a rough outline of Book II in the series, but my focus at the time was to get Book I going again.

Analindë will soon go to print, and just last night I finished redoing the outline for Book II. It's exciting, I'm looking forward to reworking the story, but I'm a little discouraged at the same time.  It's almost been a year since I last worked on Book II, and I realize yet again how fleeting time really is.

Thankfully I'm still on leave at the moment, and have time to charge forward with my revisions.  The goal is to work quickly and then move on to Book III.  We'll see how I fare.

In other news, I've almost finished tweaking the design of my website.  I hope you like the changes.  The cover art for Analindë is coming along nicely. My illustrator (Bryan Beus) and I have just reviewed the photos from the shoot held last Saturday and he’s moving forward to start the final sketches for the cover.  I'm really pleased with the model that we used, she makes a great Analindë.

- Melissa

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Please Excuse the Mess

I'm updating the blog/website again, so please excuse the mess.

I find that I'm enjoying using Adobe Muse.  I also find that it's difficult to hack my way around the CSS on the blog template I'm using.  Sigh.

At least I'm almost done. 

-M