As many of you know since I’ve been talking about this on twitter I recently started using Dragon Dictate version 4 on my Mac. I wrote a lot of books last year and in February of this year I hit send out my latest single title and promptly wanted to cut my hands off.
I took a couple weeks off because fortunately this coincided with my trip to England, but when I got back the pain started right back up again. Everything was starting to feel like a burden, from blog posts to deadlines.
I had a lot of anxiety over this because I had tried speech recognition software before and felt like it was impossible. I have said more than once that my words come out of my fingers, and there’s no way I could say them because that just isn’t the way the process works.
But, dealing with pain and staring down multiple deadlines meant I didn’t have the luxury of being stubborn. Not anymore. The pain wasn’t excruciating, but persistent and present even when I wasn’t working. So the idea of turning around another book quickly was just not at all appealing. I love to write, and my body was making me love it less.
So, I took the plunge and bought the latest version of Dragon when it came out. (Note: as mentioned above I am using Dragon on the Mac and there are some uniquely buggy things that happen on the Mac version, I’m okay with it but there are definitely issues. More on that later)
I want to impress upon you just how much I didn’t want to use speech recognition software. I want to impress upon you just how skeptical I was. But, when I saw that Vivian Arend was experimenting with Dragon and upon interrogating her on twitter got some information about how it was going for her, I knew I had to try it.
My first experience with Dragon was using it for twitter, email, and a set of fairly heavy revisions that required certain scenes to be rewritten. This was a good way to start, because I didn’t expect speed. The revisions were tricky, and I had a lot to wrap my head around. That helped make me less conscious of the learning curve. I didn’t expect these particular revisions to be fast, so I didn’t feel quite as interrupted by the whole process.
One thing I think it’s very important to be aware of is that there is a learning curve. the first time I tried speech recognition software I expected it to feel somewhat intuitive. It wasn’t. Forcing my mouth to say the words didn’t feel natural. And because I spent a couple of hours struggling with it I assumed it simply wasn’t for me. This was a couple of years ago. I kind of fiddled with it, then never went back.
But this time I went into it feeling like I had to make it work. Pain is a really great motivator. The prospect of not having pain is an even better one.
I’ve been using Dragon for about three weeks now and I feel like it’s really working for me. I would absolutely recommend it, even though it’s imperfect. Frankly, I’m an imperfect typist, and the issues with Dragon outweigh chronic pain.
So here is my quick Dragon question-and-answer list. If there are questions I don’t answer that you would like answered, feel free to ask me in the comments.
Do you have to speak punctuation? Yes, you do have to speak punctuation. This was one of the things that daunted me about starting the program. I couldn’t imagine getting to a point where that would feel remotely intuitive. Honestly? I don’t even notice it now. It’s much easier to pick up than you might think. You just have to persist. (Though, I occasionally find myself tempted to start inserting punctuation into daily conversation.)
Is listening to the sound of your own voice terrible? At first, yes it was. So, I employed a little trick that was inspired by the movie the King’s Speech. I put in ear beds, and listened to music. This helped on a couple of levels. I always listen to music when I write and I have established playlists for my books. So this helped me feel like there was an element of the familiar because I had my music. And the bonus was I couldn’t hear myself talking. This made me less self-conscious. After just a few weeks I don’t need the music. I feel much more comfortable with the process, and am no longer cringing over the fact that I’m saying all these words out loud.
Did the words flow at first? No, not really. But it was amazing how quickly they began to. I would say that within a couple of days of using Dragon for almost everything I found my flow. Now, having done an entire manuscript I find that I get in the flow of speaking much the same way I do with typing. I barely stop for a breath. And if I’m in the zone enough that I don’t really have to think.
Is it accurate? Yes, I think it’s impressively accurate. But, when it gets things wrong it gets things really wrong, and I have had some pretty hysterical typos. Part of the reason it can go so badly is the Dragon tries to guess the context of your words. So if one word is wrong, the surrounding words might end up wrong too. Yes, this is annoying. But, I’m a fast but sloppy typist so I’m basically trading a set of common mistakes for another set of mistakes. I have to remind myself that I don’t type every sentence perfectly.
Some of using Dragon effectively has to do with the change of mindset. Certain things take longer with dictation than typing, and I find other things are much faster. I need to proofread a bit more carefully with Dragon, but it gets words down faster. it’s basically a system of trade-offs.
Is it easy to train in new vocabulary words? Yes, it is easy. The book that I just wrote was a sheikh book, complete with made-up country. That meant I had to teach Dragon a lot of names, and place names that don’t really exist. It was a pretty simple process.
Another thing that helps is to run your existing documents through Dragon. It will pick up words you use, and the frequency with which you use them. And if it doesn’t recognize words it puts them on a list and you can go through and train Dragon to understand them.
Would you use it for revisions? I probably wouldn’t use it for revisions that required tweaks. You can edit with Dragon but that is kind of a slow process. First things that needed to be rewritten, yes, I would use it. But not for tweaking a specific thread or making minor changes.
Were you worried it would change your voice? Do you think it did? I was paralyzed with fear about this. I dictated a bit and sent it on to my critique partner with much worry over it not sounding right. She assured me it was fine, so I pressed on.
It was an interesting experience reading over the manuscript I just finished. I was very pleasantly surprised with how ME it sounded. And I’m feeling much more confident in the fact that my voice is my voice, and I’m not going to upset the apple cart that easily.
How about those errors? Well, I’m still working in Pages on the Mac. There are a few funny things Dragon does. One of the errors I’ve had is that it will occasionally generate a random letter, and put it at the end of a sentence. This one letter will stay behind the cursor, and will largely not interfere with what you’re doing. And when I’m done I just delete it. Restarting the program will solve the issue. It’s annoying, but not detrimental.
Another issue I have, in Pages only, is the Dragon occasionally doesn’t automatically capitalize the word the beginning of a sentence. This is also just a minor annoyance in an easy fix.
Dragon also crashes occasionally. But it is never caused my word processor to crash and restarting it only takes a couple of seconds. I’ve never lost work as a result of a crash, just faced a little bit of interruption time. This is also something I can live with.
Most of these errors, as I understand it, are not present on the PC’s version. Now, the PC might have its own errors, but I’m not sure what they are.
What about microphones? I’m still on the hunt for a permanent microphone. I prefer a headset because it allows me to be hands-free and it keeps the microphone at the proper distance from my mouth. It also allows me to stand up and stretch while continuing to work. Right now I’m borrowing my dads microphone and eventually I will have to get my own. I can’t mooch forever. But I’m being indecisive.
The microphone you use does matter though, as it affects your accuracy. And strong accuracy is certainly key to feeling satisfied with Dragon. What you want is a noise canceling microphone, and these come in a variety of price ranges. Honestly, in my experience there isn’t a major difference in the accuracy of a cheap headset mic and an expensive one.
Yeah, but how fast is it? Okay, this is where I have to confess I was extremely skeptical of Dragon being faster than typing. As I mentioned above I’m a very fast typist. And when I started, I simply didn’t have the same flow. My brain had to process the words before my mouth could speak them, so there was a bit of a delay in getting it down, whereas when I type I don’t have the same issue.
But, I was wrong. It is faster. For a variety of reasons, on this particular draft I just finished Dragon far surpassed what I could’ve done typing.
First of all, I’m not experiencing the same brain delay that I was dealing with for the first couple of weeks. Now, speaking is almost as instantaneous as typing was. It’s something that requires patience, but it did come.
The other thing is that with Dragon I am not limited by physical pain. In the past I’ve often had very high word count days, but over the past few months that’s been impossible because of wrist pain. My brain is willing but my flesh is weak. With Dragon I’m back at the top of my game. I’m able to write the amount that I used to in a sitting, and not suffer for it after. Moreover, I find I’m able to repeat it the next day because I’m not sore.
That alone is going to make a draft go faster. To be able to put in a heavy word count and not be forced to take the next day off, or not be forced to take it easy is a pretty powerful thing.
And I will confess, I even used it in the car the other day. I opened up Dragon’s word processor and put it out of my view, committing to correcting the errors later, and dictated the final scene of my book during my commute to a writer’s meeting. That’s something that obviously is impossible when you’re typing.
These things contribute to the speed Dragon afforded me. I wrote my latest Presents in about half the time it would normally take me. I even took the weekend off. No one is more shocked than I am.
What are some of the differences? Anything challenging? Do you miss typing? Sometimes I find I have a hard time remembering details in a book. But because I have to read it back over so carefully for the typos that kind of helps compensate for that.
One of my favorite things about dictating (something I hadn’t even considered!) is that I can stand, put my feet up, pace, lay on the bed… this actually helps with a lot of things I didn’t even think about. Back pain, sore muscles, sore knees. I love the freedom that it provides.
Yes, sometimes I miss the typing. It’s quiet and it’s its own kind of therapy. But, when I do it a little twinge of pain reminds me why I can’t do it very often. And that, yet again, offsets the learning curve and issues of Dragon. At least for me.
Did you end up dictating the love scenes? Yes, yes I did. And by the time I got to them, it didn’t even bother me.
As a recap, learning to use Dragon is a process. It’s something that might feel frustrating at first, and probably won’t seem intuitive right out of the gate. But that’s okay. The only way you can get past that point is by doing it. Because of the place I was at with my pain it was an easy concession to make, whereas in the past I think I would’ve been frustrated with it.
It’s imperfect, but I found my previous system was imperfect.
One thing I’ve learned over and over in this business is that being flexible, and changeable, is important. Over the years I’ve had to train myself to be able to write in the morning when I used to feel most creative at night. I’ve had to learn to type with things going on around me when I would’ve preferred quiet.
And now, I’m learning to dictate when I didn’t think I could.
I think it’s an empowering thing to understand that processes can be changed, and we can learn to do old things in a new way. My own stubbornness and fear of failure almost prevented me from trying this, and if I hadn’t I would still be wearing wrist braces, using ice packs, and I would probably still be working on the book I turned in last night.
So, would I recommend Dragon? Absolutely. You definitely need privacy and as much quiet as you can get (though, often my children are in the house when I write. But I have an office that has a door. And it stays firmly closed and locked.) And that’s going to be more difficult for some than others. But, the car does work. And since you don’t have to sit in any one position a bedroom without a desk works as well, as long as you have a laptop.
Edit: Yesterday, I forgot to include this great bit of advice from Vivian Arend. ( I’m paraphrasing, she probably worded it better.) “No one sits down at a computer and immediately knows how to type perfectly. We had to learn how to type. Using Dragon isn’t just talking, it’s learning to dictate. You aren’t going to sit down and do it perfectly right away.”
If you have any more questions, feel free to ask them in the comments, and I will answer them as soon as possible.
As you can see my website is rocking a brand-new look! I’m very excited about the new design. I think it says Oregon, and goes nicely with both my Silver Creek books and the upcoming Copper Ridge series. And, since I am an Oregon girl, it reflects me nicely too. (I especially like the coffee cup at the bottom of the page)
it’s been a while since I blogged, (obviously) due in part to the fact that I have been having a lot of tendon issues. That makes it difficult to think of doing too much extra typing that isn’t strictly book related. But, I just started using Dragon Dictate and it’s making a world of difference for me, and my poor wrists. So hopefully updates will be less sporadic for me in the future.
On to the next bit of exciting news… Yesterday, I found out that my novella Imagine Me and You which was in the Animal Attraction anthology, is a finalist in the the RITA® awards! For those of you who don’t know, the RITAs are sort of the romance community’s Oscars. I’m thrilled to have Jace and Sam’s book in the finals. It was a story I really love writing, about friendship, love, and a big hairy dog. And of course, Jace, the superhot cowboy.
Other exciting thing, Harlequin is doing a giveaway for my May release Avenge Me. Fifty people have a chance to win a copy! So you should totally enter. More details about Avenge Me, will be forthcoming, around the beginning of April. Let’s just say, I’m very excited for this book and the series.
Hopefully, some time next week I’ll have digital files of my April 15 digital first releases. At that time I hope to run a giveaway here on the blog. Stay tuned In the meantime, feel free to poke around the website. Because I think it’s pretty awesome!
My website is somewhat behind the times right now. I’m waiting on a redesign that I hope will be complete in 2-4 weeks. (I’m so TIRED of how hard it is to update! This is going to fix all the horrible coding…the horrible coding that is my fault)
In the mean time…You guys, there are so many books. And this is the post of ALL the books. With my release dates, blurbs, and MAISEY BLURBS for your enjoyment.
February is an array of ME and I want you to be able to choose which ME you want. (Or all of me…*shimmies shoulders*)
I’ll also add links to excerpts because this is sort of an ‘assorted’ box of chocolates and reading the excerpt is like cutting said chocolates in half. Make sure one isn’t coconut to you and all that.
Backtracking…Untouched is OUT!
Official Blurb:In the Silver Creek romance Unexpected, Cole Mitchell found love in the last place he ever thought to look. Now, in USA Today bestselling author Maisey Yates’ newest novel, Cole’s little sister Lark is determined to have her turn…
Having never left the family ranch, Lark Mitchell needs a little adventure—or at least a romance that isn’t confined to the internet. Her older brothers Cole and Cade have always been too good at protecting her innocence, but even they can’t stop her from taking a second job—where her boss just so happens to be the kind of bad boy she craves. Too bad he’s also the one guy in Silver Creek she should never touch…
When Quinn Parker introduces himself, Lark tries to quit on the spot. Everyone knows Quinn was behind the accident that ended Cade’s rodeo career. But when he holds her to her contract, she can’t help wanting to get even closer. As she begins to see the man behind the gossip, she sees that not all of the things people say about him are true…even if there’s plenty about this bad boy she has yet to discover.
Maisey Blurb: Badass cowboy meets Geek girl. Forbidden desire, conversations about honey badgers and phone sex ensues.
Then on February 3rd I have TWO backlist Presents never before released in the states, coming to feed your digital reader! (And the redesigned covers are GORGEOUS, aren’t they??)
He must speak now…
Eduardo Vega once had the world at his feet, with trophy wife to match! Then a cruel accident left him with only fragments of memory—costing him everything. Now the time has come to track down his runaway wife and finally put the missing pieces of his puzzle back together…
Or for ever hold his peace!
Having tried her best to patch up the wounds of her first marriage, a couture-clad Hannah Weston is about to marry a much safer option. But moments before she says I doshe’s confronted by a perilously tempting memory from her past…
Maisey Blurb: Bad girl heroine who changed her name, falsified school records, married a man for money and is about to marry another one for the same reason. Hero with a traumatic brain injury and hecka bad migraines. Also he kinda kidnaps her a little. (she’s not that nice. I don’t feel sorry for her)
DANTE ROMANI’S SHOCK ENGAGEMENT TO EMPLOYEE!
Paige Harper can’t believe her little white lie has made the headlines. The only way to secure the adoption of her best-friend’s daughter was to fake an engagement with her boss. Now she can hear him marching down the corridor to fire her!
The press have spent years cultivating Dante’s devilish persona, but now he wonders if this ‘engagement’ could be an opportunity to change that. Paige will wish he had fired her when she hears his terms: if she wants his ring she’ll have to play the part of devoted wife in public and in private…
Maisey Blurb: Flailbag self-harming hero with a dark and tortured past and the glitter fairy heroine who gets all up in his space, messes up his house and ruining his life and making his peen hard. (He really would rather if she didn’t. Thanks)
How to Land the Hot Guy 1.0
A multimillionaire by the age of 27, app developer Evie James is clueless when it comes to hooking up. So she does what any self-respecting geek-girl looking to get laid would do: she programs her own app for landing a hot guy. After a few failed attempts at making contact, beta testing leads her to Caleb Anderson.
Caleb is used to female attention, but finds himself attracted to Evie because of her unique brand of awkward. A master of one-night stands, he’s more than happy to show her what she’s been missing in the bedroom. But he quickly discovers that one night with a woman like Evie will never be enough for him…
Also REMEMBER dear readers, Xander (Pretender to the Throne) returns to Kyonos in just a few weeks. By that I mean he’ll be in stores. He’s available on Harlequin or M&B’s websites NOW and will be on general readers March 1st. (He’s practically a birthday gift for me!)
AND ALSO *tease tease tease* some very exciting things are in the offing. (I’ve been teasing forever, I know, but things are getting closer) so watch this space!
As 2013 draws to a close I’ve been reflecting as one is wont to do. Personally, we’ve had an intense year with parental health issues, but fortunately, right now everyone is sitting in great health and things are going out much better than they came in.
Professionally? I think I’ve had the most incredible, new, exciting year I’ve had since that first book sold back in 2009. I’m going to throw in the more reader pertinent things here at the beginning, the writer stuff is on the end. And if you’re interested in both yay *confetti*
As many (most…all) of you know I started out writing Harlequin Presents which are still my first love. Because sheikhs, dude. And emotional angst and sexy alpha heroes and as you all know, I’m contracted to keep writing Presents for…*counts on fingers* a lot more books. So while things are changing, and growing, I’m still sticking to my roots.
In the New Year I have a sheikh and his kidnapped, forbidden American heiress (Forged in the Desert Heat, January) we have Xander…(Pretender to the Throne, March) Alexios and Rachel (One Night to Risk it All, May) and there will probably be another sheikh thrown into the mix. Watch this space.
But in diversifying news…I also have two Cosmo Red Hot Reads coming this year! Crazy, Stupid Sex and one with the working title Urban Cowboy. They’re funny and sexy and very different to my single titles and my series books. And I’ve had a blast working on them!
I’m also wrapping up a series (for now, you never know what will happen in the future!) my last Silver Creek books are coming out this year. Two novellas, and two single titles, the last of which will be in print this summer. And I’m starting a NEW series (which won’t release in 2014, but I’ll be working on it through the year!) Pine Ridge Falls, which is releasing in print and e with HQN.
And then I have that Secret Project which is slowly leaking onto the interwebs. (don’t look on Amazon. You might SEE things.) It’s also quite different to my other stuff. Very dark. Very twisted and very fun.
It’s a LOT of things. And to be honest, while some of it I was working toward, some of it came out of the blue. Or rather, it seemed like it did. But looking back it’s amazing how things all worked together.
I yammer on a LOT about the importance of keeping your eyes on your own path, because no two writer’s paths are the same. And there have been a lot of opportunities that came up last year, or in previous years that I know were the seeds for the wonderful things to come this year.
There were a lot opportunities that seemed small, that became the first step into some of the things I’m most excited about.
I think it’s easy to look at other people (especially on the internet!) and think that things simple COME to them. That their success is instant, or easy. And sometimes…for some people…that is true. But usually there are a lot of other things going on behind the scenes that we never see. And whether or not you’re on a slow crawl to ‘success’ (in quotes because success can be defined in many different ways) or you shoot there on the tail of a comet, hard work is always the bottom line.
I also think it’s easy to become so consumed with what OTHER people are doing, or what THEY might do in a certain situation, that you miss the unique opportunities that are in front of you.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a contract that isn’t your ‘dream’ contract. It’s not a failure. Sometimes it’s a step.
Someone asked on twitter a while ago: Is it better to have bad tomatoes, or no tomatoes. And most people said no tomatoes. But someone said: Bad tomatoes. Because you can grow good tomatoes from the seeds. And I absolutely see the merit in that. Sometimes, from situations that don’t seem ideal, you can grow the most amazing things. But I think you have to do it intentionally. I think you have to be watching for those new sprouts so you can cultivate them.
I’ll be honest and say that digital first wasn’t what I had in mind ideally for Silver Creek, but Berkley and my editor there, really believed in the books. And when we went back to contract the second time, it was for print, which was what I had wanted for the series in the first place. So while it wasn’t a bad tomato per se, it was something that I felt initially closed off to, but something I’m VERY glad I pursued in the end because A) it allowed me to bring these books, books I’m very proud of, to my readers, and B) DID eventually lead to a single title mass market deal.
Sometimes immediate gratification (monetary particularly!) isn’t the name of the game.
Watch for your own opportunities, don’t watch for the opportunities being given to other people. That’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year.
When Cosmo Red Hot Reads became A Thing I didn’t even think about submitting to it because it just didn’t seem like I would be a fit. And then my editor asked if I would be open to writing and submitting a partial for consideration. I thought…why not? I honestly didn’t think they would buy it, but I wrote the partial with abandon and I had so much fun with it. I had no expectation for it. And after a bit of a wait, I found out they wanted it, and that they wanted TWO from me! So exciting, and not something I was looking for. But something I’m SO glad I pursued now.
I also had the chance to work on a novella for a charity anthology, and through that met the editor who helped inspire/develop the Pine Ridge Falls series, which is probably the thing I’m most excited to be working on in the coming year.
I guess the bottom line is this: know your goals, keep your eyes open, and keep writing.
Okay, this started on Twitter when author Nicole Helm said we should be able to write synopses using only GIFs. As I’m currently in synopsis hell, I agreed. And I created this. So here it is, on my blog…the synopsis of GIFs. Think my editor will approve?
And so the heroine is like:
And they have awesome but wholly ill-advised sex.
But then all these feels get in the way!
And the heroine goes Meredith Grey on him.
But he doesn’t.
But then he comes back. And he grovels!
And they’re like HEA!
And they kiss romantically. The End.
I’ve been sitting on this news for far longer than can possibly be healthy. Really, I have a low secret tolerance and this business is always testing it. Hives, I tell you! Hives!
But the deal has been posted to Publishers Marketplace, and the contracts are inked, so it’s official! *drum roll*
That’s my little welcome sign for you.
And here is the PM announcement:
USA Today Bestselling author Maisey Yates’ CATCH ME, in which a former bad girl who’s spent years running from her past decides return to her rural Oregon hometown to open a B&B, all while avoiding the uptight, sexy deputy Sheriff who arrested her back when she was a troubled teen and he was a rookie officer, and two additional books in a new series, to Margo Lipschultz at HQN, with Kate Dresser editing, for publication in 2015, by Helen Breitwieser at Cornerstone Literary.
*does a dance*
My new series will be very much in the same vein of Silver Creek. Fun, sexy, and filled with cowboys.
The focus of the first three books is on the Garrett family, and their ranch. There’s a lot of emphasis on home and family, and of course lots of things I love. Uptight heroes, free-spirit heroines, a grumpy widower, a romance with an older brother’s best friend…well, you get the idea. Small towns always have a lot going on!
I’m loving writing the longer books, and loving the small town settings. Of course, as ever, I’m still writing my Presents, and now there are the Cosmo Red Hots to keep things spicy. I also have something dark and sexy on the horizon. Watch this space for details!
But this post is all about the cowboys. Raise your red Solo cup in celebration with me! Save a horse, ride a cowboy! Fall for the boys ’round here (chew tobacco, chew tobacco, chew tobacco, spit.)
Taking a small break from writing about my Aussie workshop (heh, I’ve taken a large break from that…writing stuff in the way!!) to write about bumps in the road on your path to publication…or on your path post-publication.
I’m specifically writing this in response to So You Think You Can Write. Because so many of my twitter friends entered and because…I’ve been there. Oh, not to the heady final rounds of a writing competition…I’ve been the entrant who got the form email. Twice.
“Thanks but no thanks. Not enough conflict to sustain. Not right for us at this time…or ever.” (or something like that)
Rejections, whether they be from a contest, an editor or an agent, suck. But the amount of rejections don’t really matter. It’s what you continue to do after that matters.
I’m going to write up a handy list for Handling Bumps. Here we go.
1. Learn from the rejection – you’ll always have to take criticism concerning your work. Always. From editors, from readers, from agents. I get revisions on every manuscript I send, with very few exceptions. I’ve had to learn to take constructive feedback – or no feedback in some cases – and figure out what to do with it and how to apply it. Don’t feel like it’s meant to discourage you, rather figure out how you can use it to make your MS better.
2. Step on Rejection’s head – and keep submitting. As I mentioned, I didn’t make it past the first round of two M&B contests (rightly so in my opinion…) but by the time announcements were made I was writing another MS, and I felt too committed to it not to submit. So I did. And I got revisions. And a full request. And more revisions. And ultimately, I sold that MS I submitted via slush. Because…
3. There are different paths to success – In any stage of this business, you will see people getting things in a different manner than you do. More money, faster response times, better sales, whatever. Some people will sell via contest and have amazing careers (Lynn Raye Harris, Leah Ashton, Jennifer Hayward) and some…don’t. I myself didn’t have contest love and have now sold some 35 books. Some people final in contests, then have to continue to work after that because it doesn’t quite come through for them (Dani Collins, who now writes for Harlequin Presents and Jackie Ashenden who recently signed a major deal with St. Martin’s Press.) Some people sell their first book. Some people sell their 50th. Just because things don’t come together here and now, or just because your path isn’t lining up with someone else’s, doesn’t mean it won’t happen for you.
4. Complain in private to friends – disappointment is normal. Sadness is one thing, saying someone else doesn’t deserve what they got is another. Just don’t do that in public. Feel free to say it to your friends. We’ve all had to do that. Just keep it in the proper place. Disappointment is fine, anger is fine. I recommend not airing it in public where editors, agents, other writers, etc can see.
5. Be willing to change what you’re doing – It’s easy to get so focused on a set goal that you can’t see you should be aiming for another one. Sometimes it doesn’t work out with a specific publisher, agent, sub-genre….but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be writing, or that you’ll never be published. You have to find the right house, the right editor, the right MS for you. If you’ve been submitting the same book forever and getting no love, and you’re consistently hearing your voice isn’t right for a line, then maybe you need to rethink your strategy. Because you should….
6. Play to your strengths – don’t fight your voice. I personally LOVE Historical romance. LOVE. And because I know you should write what you love to read I used to think I might write historical. And may other people have asked me if I will one day! I’ll never say never, BUT I have no plans to do that at this point. Because feedback from editors concerning my voice is consistent. That my voice is modern is a common word used, in feedback I get. It’s a strong point, and contemporary helps me play up the natural strengths in my voice. It’s easier and more fun for me to write, even though conventional wisdom might say I should write historical. Do you follow me? Your strengths. Don’t fight em. Play with em.
So that’s some advice to you SYTYCWers who didn’t make it in. Or to anyone, really. Because even on this side of the publishing wall we have disappointments. We get rejections. We get bad reviews and sometimes our editor hates our book. It’s a constant learning experience, a constant readjusting of expectations, a constant battle to improve and to do better. And none of that is bad. If you’re struggling with disappointment, readjust your sails, and power on.
It’s a skill that will serve you well in this business, no matter where you’re at.
This is part two in my Going With Your Flow series, where I break down and expand upon the workshop I did for RWAus in August.
Today I’m talking about protecting your joy.
I think joy is not only important, it’s essential to the sustainability of your career and your life.
I personally find that when I’m unhappy, my productivity suffers. Massively. When my joy is threatened, when I’m not LOVING what I’m doing, things feel so much harder than they should.
One of the biggest keys to protecting your joy is knowing yourself, finding what it is you LOVE, and being willing to say EFF YOU to the ‘you shoulds’.
Here’s what I mean by that….
Other people’s drama bothers me. A lot. Like…a lot a lot. I’m sensitive (overly so) and I’m a fixer. When people are upset, I want everyone to hug it out and be happy. When people are upset…I start wondering why I’m not. And I get upset by extension even if it’s not something I should be upset about!!
As a result, I’ve learned that author loops are not MY friend. I felt like, when I started, I needed to be a part of ALL THE LOOPS. Because I was published and it was an honor, etc. And the information! Everyone told me I NEEDED to be a part of them for information!
Those things are good, and loops are not inherently bad. But they were bad for me. Whatever they offered did not surpass in value what they took from me.
What do you LOVE about being a writer? Personally, I love the writing part. So anything that makes me feel MEH about that, be they bad reviews, loop stress, or filling my time with too many extras…well, they have to go.
Does blogging make being a writer feel like a drag? Don’t blog. Do you hate Facebook? Don’t be on it. Does Suzy Author’s new book deal make you feel bad about yourself? Unfollow her. Or get off twitter. Are you overcommitted to GOOD things? Chapter meetings, speaking engagements, critiques…so much so that you feel drained? That you lose the love for the part that used to make you happy? Un-commit. Because your joy, your love for what you’re doing is paramount.
And speaking of Suzy Author and her book deal…I know you’ve heard this before: Comparison is the thief of joy.
This is so true. Never forget that your journey is your own. It belongs to you and no one else, the same as someone else’s journey is THEIRS. What happens to them isn’t to hurt you and it doesn’t detract from you…unless you LET IT. And you shouldn’t, because you’re guarding your joy.
The other part of protecting what you love is protecting your family. When you guard your joy, when you build tall walls around it and decide that no one from outside that wall is allowed to breach it, everything is better. EVERYTHING.
Save your love, your energy, your joy for the important things. And don’t give anyone or anything else a foothold.
It’s actually a pretty simply sorting process. What makes me unhappy? *kills with a stick* What makes me happy? *embraces*
At the end of the day, advice on what you should or shouldn’t do is fine, but it’s not one size fits all. And trying to do ALL THE THINGS or just things you don’t like could do much more harm then good. Okay, list time.
Bullet points, playah.
* Is the gain worth the loss? – something isn’t really valuable if it doesn’t add more than it takes!
* Stay away from things that are toxic to you.
* Stay away from toxic people. - I’m just going to throw in here that I once had to block an email address of an author who was sending me UNKIND things. Other people could have dealt in another way, I had to ensure it stopped happening, because it affected my ability to work.
* Don’t overbook yourself. Tired = cranky. Which is not joy.
* Let yourself love what you do. – I said this in a previous post, but seriously…let yourself love what you do. Glory in your achievements. Be proud of a sentence you wrote. Or of a scene that turned out well. REWARD your hard work. Without reward, you’re just putting out without ever filling back up.
* Cover your ears and hum. – some days, too many opinions, too many blog posts, too many PEOPLE TALKING can just…stir you up. Well, it does me. And again…unhappy…no writing. So some days you have to pull your head back in your shell and work like you’re the only person on the planet.
* Identify the things you love and protect them at the expense of everything else.
So, many of you know I gave a workshop in Australia in August and the FAB RWAus in Fremantle! It was great, and I really enjoyed my time in Aus, and with all the lovely conference people!
I decided to do a series of posts where I expand on some of the specific points I hit upon in the workshop. The overall theme was increasing your productivity while improving your writing, and your frame of mind. A tall order, sure. But why not try to have it all!? (If you’re entering So You Think You Can Write this year, hopefully you’ll find some of this helpful!)
I’ll give you the same intro I gave in my workshop to set up a little background on Why I Am Qualified (heh) To Speak On This Subject.
I sold in 2009 to Harlequin Mills & Boon, the Modern Presents line. I’ve since written 25 books for that line. I’ve also gone on to sell a 3 book single title series to Berkley and I’ve also written five novellas.
I’m going to start with this basic post, that’s something of an overview, then get deeper into some of the points later on.
I’m a fairly fast writer. This comes as a surprise to none of you, but there it is. I’m a big believer in maximizing your productivity. Success isn’t measured by whether or not you’re writing as fast as x person. Just because one person does a certain amount of words in a day, doesn’t mean you have to. That’s not really what I’m talking about when I say ‘maximize your productivity’. That means YOUR productivity, not anyone else’s.
What are some inhibitors to our productivity? The big ones for me are: Doubt, the feeling that things are disorganized, fear (Which I am arbitrarily assigning a different function than doubt. Go with it) and perfectionism.
So how do we deal with these things? I have TIPS. Handy tips!
Doubt: That’s the sinking feeling you get when you’re writing. The thing that says you aren’t good enough, you’re in impostor, this book is a terrible idea. (I’m struggling with this right now…)
* Go for a walk. Sometimes getting up and walking away is the only way to get your head on straight, and get back to business.
* Write through it. Contrary to the first bit of advice, sometimes you need to press on. Even if you feel weird, and doubty. Sometimes to ONLY WAY to deal with that stuck feeling is to write PAST the place you’re stuck in. You can back and fix later.
* Read positive feedback you’ve received in the past.
* Read something you’ve written to completion to remind yourself that you DO know how to do this.
* Stay away from the Internet. The Internet can be the perfect place for doubt, professional envy, insecurity, etc to get a hold of you. If you’re in a vulnerable mood, and you know that oftentimes things online affect you negatively…stay away for the day.
Magic Time: This falls under the organization thing. I get it in my head that one day I will achieve optimum organization and then everything will be easy from there on out. Uh…no. Life is fluid. Things change. What worked schedule wise one week, will not always work.
Don’t wait for a magic, mythical clock to reset. “Once I achieve this, I’ll start writing seriously again.” If you’re always waiting for the magic moment, it may never come.
I’ve learned to write wherever and whenever in order to get things done. The fabulous Emily McKay said this: Learn how long it takes you to write one page. If you realize it only takes you fifteen minutes to write a page, then you might take better advantage of the free minutes you have throughout the day.
Every minute can count. And it all adds up.
You see, fear isn’t always bad. Fear can simply be a sign that you’re about to break through and into the unknown. Fear can be your ally if you learn to recognize it as a sign of great things.
A brave choice in a MS might be terrifying, but for good reason. Because it’s growing you as a writer.
Fear of submitting a manuscript, because it might bring rejection, or acceptance. And it might push you into a new stage.
Fear is the sign of great things, and as long as you use it to push you on, not hold you back, it doesn’t have to be bad.
Ride the dragon, man.
Perfectionism: Looking for perfection is like looking for a unicorn in a dark cave. You won’t find it. Because it’s dark. And because unicorns aren’t real.
Likewise, perfection isn’t a real thing. At best, it’s a moving target. Because what feels perfect to you today likely won’t next week.
What perfectionism often does is enable procrastination and prevent us from admitting we’re proud of something we’ve done.
I think it’s a perfectly empowering realization that perfection doesn’t exist, and that’s okay. Write a book you love, write one you’re passionate about. That’s all you can really ask of yourself. Once you’re fiddling around with minutia endlessly, you’ve just fallen into the perfectionism trap.
And my advice for busting all these things?
Trust your voice: Don’t be afraid to let it shine. Your voice makes you unique as a writer. It’s your greatest weapon. Wield it. (Possibly while riding a fear dragon!)
Let yourself love what you write: I promise you, it’s a wonderful thing. You have to let yourself enjoy your achievements. You have to let yourself feel accomplished. Writing a book is hard work, and there has to be emotional payoff. I think often women particularly are taught not to take too much pride in what we do. But this is a self-defeating attitude. Plus, it’s exhausting! To work and work and not allow yourself any pride.
Don’t be afraid to delete: Love your book enough to put in the work on the tail end. To make it the best it can be. I was talking to Historical Romance author Lisa Hendrix last night and she said this: If you don’t have time to do revisions, you don’t have time to write a book.
I thought that was pretty brilliant because…the thing is, the refining of the book isn’t extra work. It’s all part of the work. Some books need less, some need more. But it’s not a negative. It’s all a part of the same process.
This mindset, that revision and even rewriting, isn’t a failure, has helped me write with more bravery, and more speed. (I think this is due a whole post as well)
So those are some quick productivity butt kickers for you, stay tuned for more!
My next post is going to be about protecting your joy.
If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments!
Hi everyone, I’m a bad blogger. I know. I’m sorry. I used to do so much better. But that was before. Before Twitter and Facebook…and writing All The Books.
Even so, I like to try and do a little better than I have been. So I will try.
Okay, now onto the news.
I was just at RWA in Atlanta and I had a fabulous time! I roomed with my critique partner and good friend Jackie Ashenden (who writes for Entangled, Samhain and now St. Martin’s Press) and we had SO MUCH fun, and very little sleep.
The Harlequin Party was fabulous, as always, and we got this wonderful bright pink socks in honor of the new line that Harlequin and Cosmo magazine are partnering for, Cosmo Red Hot Reads!!
Why yes, there I am wearing the socks. As a reminder to get a move on and finish my own Cosmo Red Hot Read…Crazy Stupid Sex, which comes out early 2014!
Yep, that’s right! I’ve sold two books to the Red Hot Reads imprint and I’m absolutely thrilled! These are fun, sexy books with lots of banter and humor. I think they’re a nice bridge between my Presents and my Single Title Contemporaries. More urban set, like my Presents, but with a heavy dose of funny, like my STs.
Combined with an extra short story I’m writing for Harlequin (more info on that as I can share…that’s tied to some VERY EXCITING NEWS!) and my upcoming trip to Australia, where I will be speaking at RWAus, I am a busy little bee.
But as I was telling my editor over dinner in Atlanta (oh, she so wonderful!), it’s like getting paid to go to Disneyland every day. Or, as she put in, being married to Henry Cavill.
Those are both very good things.
So even though I’m busy, I certainly can’t complain!
Also, thank you all who bought Unbuttoned, the reception to it has really been wonderful and I’m looking forward to the release of Unexpected in August.
Hopefully I’ll be a better blogger between now and then. If not, you know where to find me! Facebook or Twitter.