Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Know thyself...

I spent the last few weeks doing a lot of 'soul searching'. As angsty as that sounds, its accurate.
And there's been a lot of conversation, on various lists I'm on, about knowing yourself - about being sure of who you are - and Carolyn's post about freelancing got me thinking some more.
As I said in the comments on Carolyn's wonderful post, I got into freelancing - especially ghostwriting - for the wrong reason. Well - the right reason for my family - but the wrong one for me.
Getting into ghostwriting for money - short term - isn't actually a bad thing. I only - ever - meant it (and coding) as a short term stopgap till I started making more money from writing. But, because I've spent the last three years ghostwriting, coding...I've had very little time for fiction writing.
And then I started at Uni!
So this week, I took on two new members of staff (both students) and am going to slowly pull back from working on non fiction, unless they are my own books. Hopefully, I'll be able to support both of my 'staff members' by offering work that's more in line with what they'd like to do with thier degrees, and later careers.
But, in four weeks, I'm hoping that my life will go back to coding - which, again I'm planning on training my two VA's - and fiction writing. I can work when I'm needed, without destroying my new routine - I can ghostwrite the stuff I'm best at, and pass over stuff that my team is better at - and still support everything I need to do in the next few years.
This works - and it's the right reason for me to freelance. I'm a facilitator - hence, my new blog - 10 freelance fingers - I'm going to talk blogging, freelancing, writing, jobs, legalities - everything. I got into freelancing for money - I should have gotten into it to support others - and that's why I'm working on changing that now.
I know, deep down, that though we sometimes 'need' money - it's more important to support others in thier time of need. And that's what I'm going to do - once I get the staff I'm letting take over from me trained :).

Monday, October 20, 2008

I Am A Lost Writer, You Want To Know Why?

I am a lost writer right now. I feel a part of me is missing. Today (actually last night DH informed me), my electrical cord for the laptop decided to stop working. I could not believe it. As I plugged in my laptop, I noticed the battery wasn't charging. At first, I thought it was nothing because I thought it would take a minute or so. It didn't, the battery kept losing life until the laptop died.

I played with the cord. I wiggled it. I even put tape around certain parts thinking if it had stronger support, the currents would reach the laptop. Nothing worked, so when DH called me today, I told him about my laptop. He told me it actually happened last night after I went to bed. Then why didn't he tell me that today??
Instead, I had packed my laptop with me to my parents' house, instead of having a productive afternoon on the laptop, I had a dead laptop. Oh the irony of all this. Um, I am not exactly what the irony is but I felt like putting that in this post.

So DH says that he will get me a new laptop cord. I know he will, but it totally feels weird without my laptop.

You know how some writers love pens? I do, but I also love my laptop.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Freelance Writing Workshop, Direction and Goals

Today I'll be speaking to a local writer's group about freelance writing. I'm jazzed about the prospect of helping would-be freelancers get started, hopefully help them avoid pitfalls, and basically pay forward all that I've freely received from fellow freelance writers over the years. (I'm thinking of many, many Writing Mothers here!)

One of the points I want to make at the workshop today is to know why you want to freelance. There are many possible (and acceptable) answers. Whatever your answer, it should be YOUR reason.

Knowing what you want to get out of freelance writing helps you make decisions and direct your time and energy. If, for instance, your goal is to change the world with your words, spending hours perusing Craigslist in search of SEO gigs might not get you there. On the other hand, if your primary purpose is to earn an income from writing, that may be time well spent.

There's a poem I love by Ella Wheeler Wilcox that shows how a person's intent can drive his life regardless of circumstances. I have a sneaking suspicion that I've posted this before, but with uncertainty being the word of the day economically, politically and a zillion other ways, this poem offers a little bit of solid comfort.

The Winds

One ship drives east and another drives west
With the selfsame winds that blow.
'Tis the set of the sails,
And Not the gales,
That tell us the way to go.
Like the winds of the sea are the ways of men;
As they voyage along through life,
'Tis the set of a soul
That decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Is Being A "Muslim" or "Arab" an Insult in U.S. politics?

This year we have seen some of the most interesting political campaigns in the U.S. Many are cautiously watch this election, wondering exactly who should we vote for, and what happens if you don't want to vote either of them.

I am not gonna tell you who you should vote for and why. What I want to tell you is that I am kind of disturbed how many see being a "Muslim" or being an "Arab" is a bad thing. Why should that be? Don't you see that this is a form of racism? With this type of mentality, you are oppressing Arabs and Muslims, when in fact you and they can benefit or learn from each other.

About one week ago, a lady tells John McCain that she didn't want Barack Obama to be president of the U.S. because he is an Arab. Ummm...what is that supposed to mean? We are living in 2008, not 1868 or even 1968. I thought we have come a long way from that kind of thinking.

Many people will say, yeah but Faten, look what happened in 9/11, etc. I say ok, but you can't hold every single person from that same ethnic group responsible. It is not fair or realistic. Then every human on this planet would be just as guilty. Now tell me what a child had to do with a tragedy? That is what I thought.

A fantastic article I think every person should read is Commentary: So what if Obama were a Muslim or an Arab?. I give Campbell Brown kudos for this awesome piece that she wrote. I appreciate her attempts on educating the public on deconstructing the myth of equalizing Arab and Muslims with insults and "bad". Good job Campbell--you just gained a faithful reader.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The *facepalm* week

It's been a *facepalm* week. (swiped from the vernacular of my nine year old who idolises Homer Simpson. Everything is 'doh' or *facepalm*!)
I planned everything out meticulously - even worked out that if I break my tasks into blocks of half an hour, or an hour, I cope better than four hours of working on one project. I actually get MORE done mixing up my day a bit, instead of blitzing through everything in massive chunks.
So there I was, calendar ready. Everything fit. I mean - I even managed to plan stuff around my odd uni hours (my university insists on having classes at 15 minutes past the hour, instead of on the hour).

And then - facepalm moment. I'd done a bragging twitter about it (which I have since removed) and another freind responded in IM - so you even fit your non fiction and fiction writing in? WOW! go you.

No, no I hadn't. Queue lots of desperate scrambling. I think, by getting up two hours earlier a day, I can be a zombie, and at least be too tired to care that I'm not working on my books, and own projects this week - after all the rearranging I did, other stuff just seems to have seeped into my gaps.

Another facepalm moment - I'm giving a presentation, on a wonderful book, called Beloved, by Toni Morrison, at my uni...wait for it...on my birthday! And not just any birthday, oh no. It's my 30th, and mom is coming down especially. Woooooo.

Anyone else had any facepalm moments this week?
Anyone else wanna share thier twitter id?

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

the things they forget to tell you

I quite enjoyed this video:

It's about that dreamy view we have of what life will be like as a writer.

For a quick smack upside the head of reality, I bring you: MY LIFE.

I really hesitated in showing that to you. Afterall, who wants to admit that their house is truly a disaster and that they child is running around naked, watching Dora and generally fending for herself while you type on a computer and wrestle with edits.

It's truly a disaster zone, I know. Five days until house possession. Five days until edits are due. Seven days until moving. Husband is working shift work and is currently asleep.

It's all fun and games until someone loses their kid in the laundry pile.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The 10,000 rule theory

There's a suggestion circulating, that's been repeated in several formats, but that summarises down to 10,000 hours of writing before we become 'expert'.
So, at 24 hours a day, it takes just over a year and three months to master parenthood after our first child (discounting instinct and natural ability). I would say most parents agree with that idea - I know I still have my doubts about the 'newer' parts of parenting, and my kids are 9 and 7. At eight hours a day, every day, it would take almost three and a half years to become an expert writer. Longer if we're not writing for the eight hours a day.

Focusing onto writers specifically though, Hemingway/Bradbury it takes "1,000,000 words of crap" (Neil Gaiman said once, in a speech in 2005, that Bradbury said it - others have accredited it to Hemingway). If we're writing 10,000 hours to get to our 'expert' status, then we 'only' need to write 100 words an hour for eight hours. 100 words an hour is fairly low, so it got me to thinking about what else we'd need to master as a writer.
This is what I suggest, but I'm interested in hearing what people think on the theory.

  • Writing - should take up the lions share of it, but believe it or not, it doesn't. 1000 words a day would burn through 1000 hours. That leaves 9000 hours.
  • Before that, plotting, research - I'd say two hours per 1000 words is a generous allowance - and we're up to 3,000 hours.
  • Afterwards - editing - another three hours per 1000 words. You can include the redrafting in there, and use some of your 1000 words a day, which would cut it by an hour a day. So that's 2,000 hours, taking us up to 5,000 hours.

That leaves 5,000 hours to master the other stuff writers need to learn. Promotion, networking, querying, effective critical analysis of our writing. Plus we can and SHOULD add reading into there, both fiction, and non fiction. And when you look at it that way, 10,000 hours isn't really all that much.

How about you? Do you agree with the breakdown? Even the most generous estimates on research/plotting is more than I currently undertake, but less than some writers that I know.

The result of all of this - no matter what way you look at it, is that writers have to buckle down and write. We have to continue to work hard at our craft - probably past the 10,000 hours that takes us to our goal.
I'll be doing articles on this over at Dynamic-author, but for the moment, I'm keen to hear what everyone thinks ;) More hours on writing, editing? Less on research and plotting? What's your take?

(x-posted to Mamaneedsabookcontract, Spirit-tome and my personal blog)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Conversations with the cat

We adopted a bengal cat about three months ago - with health problems that include sneezing goo worse than a toddler that has a cold and no hanky handy.
Having sat and listened to her though, I've been fairly amused to work out she has her own language - one 'meow' for I'm hungry, usually accompanied by licking, desperate snuggling up, headbutting and begging shamelessly. Unfortunatly, her old owner gave into this, where we're trying to train her that she eats at various times (and she's on a diet) so though I 'understand' that one, I try to ignore it. Mainly because feeding her at 4am is a bad plan.
The other is 'Ouwww' 'Ouwww'. She's insistent and firm when saying this - usually standing by one of the doors, or batting the glass of the back door and stretching up to nearly hip height, claws extended (she's a fairly petite bengal, but really long). We translated this to 'out please!'
And she gets out - she defends her territory, and comes in either looking a bit shame faced, or proud, depending on what happened and how dark it was.
You might wonder what this has to do with writing.
If you've got a muse like mine, you get the 'I'm hungry' behaviour (translated to 'write this piece now/pay attention to me!) - usually at 4am in the morning. 'Ouwww' 'Ouwww' or 'Out please!' for muses is usually just another 'pay attention' though, some people feel that thier muses/characters also encourage them to submit. Again, I know mine does. And just as Kushie refuses to go into the garden when it's raining, ten to one, your muse won't be at her 'best' when conditions aren't right. That said, and also like Kushie, 'muses' also need to be trained into behaving appropriately. If that means training yourself to sit down and just get on and write, then that's a good thing too.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

An Open Letter to Ann Brashares

It's almost 2 AM here, but I sit in my recliner, listening to the crickets and a million frogs sing. The night is filled with them. This is the second night this week that Ann Brashares has kept me awake. I refer, of course, to the famous author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and sequels. It is the second book The Second Summer of the Sisterhood which kept me awake this night. I went looking for an email address, a web site--can you believe she doesn't HAVE one, except the publisher's site--to write a fan letter. Even my famous Google skillz came up short. I am reduced to writing this open letter, which I am assured she will never see, but feel compelled to write anyway. So I will begin it like I begin so many fan letters:

Dear Ms Brashares,

I'm one one of those odd fish, a grown woman who reads YA. Maybe this is because I write YA. Please don't stop reading. I don't want anything from you. I just want to say how much I have been enjoying your Traveling Pants series. I'm sure you hear that a lot. Or, perhaps you don't, as you don't have so much as an email form for fan mail, you don't. I suppose when one becomes a big and popular author, it becomes a burden.

I've stayed up two nights this week, reading the first and second Traveling Pants books. The end of the second book leaves me unable to sleep, mourning and angry over Lena and Kostos. Young girls heart heal quickly at a 4-top at the grill, but not so us older hearts who still remember that first insane love of our 15th year. Perhaps such a love lurks in your heart as it slumbers in mine--lulled through the years by a truer, deeper, more satisfying, less impossible love, not the love of a foolish girl's heart, but the abiding love of a sadder but wiser woman. And yet...

I don't know if Kostos was honorable or a coward, or both. I'm not sure that you know either. I think my anger might be yours... about how messy and impossible life can be. And how 15 year old girls fall in love and 16 year old girls get their hearts broken when the seemingly impossible becomes truly impossible. I have no regrets, but I still remember his kiss and the soft caress of his hands, and the yearning for... something I didn't begin to understand.

But what struck me as I read on, into the reader's group Q&A and the author's interview, was the impossible similarity between us. We write the same way, you and I: all at once, or nothing at all. It comforts me to know that someone else shares that agony and ecstasy. I'm in a dry spell right now, pondering the revisions for my sixth as-yet-unpublished novel. There was a time when I had such a long drought, I didn't think I would ever write again. I railed against it, cried, and finally accepted that I was a dead woman waiting to die. But like broken hearts mend at Dizzy's Grill, the muse returns (mine lives in Tahiti and visits in February--go figure)... eventually. Until she returns with that low slung Uzi and says "write," I wait.

We're also both tech book authors... strangely though, my tech books have sold better than yours. Nyah. Nyah! I suppose that's not the least distressing for you. Makes me chuckle out loud thinking about it though. Yes, it's a bitter, noir sort of chuckle. Anything brighter and more sprightly wouldn't be appropriate.

I finish the author's note and find "I knew better than to form any hopes for Lena and Kostos--not in this book anyway." That lands me square on the border between hope and cold rage. We both know there are some characters who are not meant to be happy. They are not meant to have their heart's desire. We torture them--and our readers who love them. We do it to make them grow, to make them real, to further the plot, to sell books. We do it because this is what we do. That's the last way in which we are alike.

I should go to bed. It's difficult to get the kids up and out to school when I've been up half the night. This is not really a fan letter. it's become an essay, I guess, and not a terribly coherent one. So perhaps I won't post the URL to your agent who I found on FaceBook. But maybe I will. I don't expect a response, particularly if it would be a burden. But my email is in the copyright notice at the bottom of my personal blog, linked to my name at the right.


If she answers, I'll let you know (at least by announcement). Now, I REALLY must go to bed.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Critical Thinking versus Just Plain Critical

There's a difference.

God Bless America. :)