Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why I Love Starbucks

I love Starbucks. Not for their coffee or yummy, overpriced sandwiches, but because they have given me a place to write and the chance to meet some really cool people.

I am a work-at-home mom of two kids. Finding the time to write and run my business can be challenging. And when I do have the time to work, I don't really want to spend it at home by myself. I'm a social person, and I like to have music, noise and people around me--even if I'm not actively interacting with them. So, Starbucks, with its free WIFI, little wooden tables, work spaces and top 40 hits piped in the background has become my office away from home.

And when I work there, I truly feel like a writer. The dream I'd had for so many years of sitting in a cafe, sipping my coffee and tapping away on my keyboard has come true. I'm a coffee shop writer, and I love it.

But the awesome staff at my local Starbucks has become more than servers and friendly faces: they have become friends. Now don't misunderstand that I am desperate for friendship, seeking out strangers and regaling them with my dramas. No, the Starbucks staff are simply happy to chat and help me out when I need it.

Having trouble sending a file? Carlo can help. Need to promote a little bit? I talk to Cheryl and Natasha. Want to know the latest music? Zane knows all about it. In fact, Carlo, a professional photographer and computer whiz, helped convert my file for Finding Lucas for Amazon and took my headshots for me. He has also talked me down from the proverbial ledge when editing Finding Lucas went awry.

And as I look around me (because, of course, I am right now at Starbucks), I wonder how many other writers are here, tweaking novels and articles and developing their characters. Probably a lot.

So, thank you Starbucks for your awesome staff, endless flow of caffeine and for giving me a home away from home so I don't end up talking to myself and living in pajamas.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Writing Process

I'm always curious how other writers write. Do they plan a meticulous outline? Start writing and see where the story takes them? How do they decide which POV to use and which names to give to their characters?

My writing process starts fairly simply. I usually get an idea late at night,  desperately hope I remember it in the morning and promise myself I'll keep a notepad beside the bed. That promise tends to be forgotten in the chaos of the kids' bedtimes and my nighttime work schedule.

Once an idea is formed, I come up with the first line. I know if I have a great first line, the book is going to flow from there. The first line of Finding Lucas shocks some people, makes others laugh and definitely urges people to read more. When I thought of that line, I wrote it down and could not stop writing the story.

From there, I just write. I have a general mental outline of what the plot and who the characters will be. I have always written in first person, but I am itching to try the third. As a professional editor, it is extremely difficult not to edit my mistakes as I go. But, I hold myself back from making any changes until I have gotten at least a few chapters in so I can get a feel for the story and the characters' voices.

The names for my characters fit the physical descriptions I have given them. But, the names are also what I would name my children if I decided to have more than two. I won't. Instead, I get to give some of my favourite names to characters I love and names I abhor to characters I don't like.

It usually takes me a year to complete a novel because while taking care of my two little ones, I also run a freelance writing/editing business, Perfect Pen Communications, and have to remember to eat and sleep. Oh, and hang out with my awesome husband, too.

In that year, I write the story and then start chopping. I chop chapters and story lines, words and pages. I have at least three people read it; then, I cut some more. I read it again and send it to a professional editor for a thorough polish.

The novel I'm working on now is actually one I've already written, and the process is a bit different. The story and characters are there, but now I'm developing it, fleshing it out and changing anything that makes me cringe.

I would love to know what your writing process is!

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Wonderful Writing Community

Until very recently, I had always lurked in writing forums and on networking sites. Community posts and comments were immensely helpful, but I never participated. To me, it always felt like I was at a party where I didn't know anybody, and I preferred to hang back and watch. But ever since I published Finding Lucas, I have decided to stop being a wallflower and join in the fun. And I'm so glad I have.

I have found an incredible group of writers who want to support each other. Whether by liking each other's Facebook pages, following on Twitter or sharing links and ideas, these writers have made me feel welcomed. And for someone who writes and edits fulltime, it is nice to have colleagues again.

The writing that I have done for websites has also brought me some lovely friends who feel like they've been in my life forever. For months, all of our communication was by email, but when we finally met up in person one night, it was as if we all just got it. We're all writers and moms and balancing that can be a struggle.

Writing can be a lonely endeavour, and because so many of us live in our heads much of the time, being able to trade ideas, edit each other's work or guide each other to jobs in our niche market has been incredible.

Promoting Finding Lucas has taught me so much about social media and how to use it. I am still learning, but every day, I find out about a new blog or read an interesting article that I have found on a forum. So, if you're a writer who wants to promote your work, but doesn't know how, check out any forums, communities and networking sites that you can. There is a wealth of information and a lot of kind, helpful writers who are more than happy to promote your work along with theirs. Publishing is a crazy business, and we need to support each other to make it a success.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A New Plot

In between running Perfect Pen Communications, promoting Finding Lucas and taking care of my kids, I haven't had a lot of time to work on my next novel. But, I'm always thinking about it because I'm never happier than when I'm hunkered down with a new plot. But I can't decide if I want to revise an earlier novel or start fresh.

I always get my plot ideas in the strangest ways: overhearing a conversation on the street, a dream, a thought right before I go to to sleep. A plot that is now marinating came to me in a discussion with my next door neighbour over our shared fence.

I had been having trouble lately thinking of a new idea. Partly because I'm so busy with other things and partly because a lot of what's going on in my life is related to my kids. And though I do want to focus on a character who is a mom, I knew that she couldn't be me. My me novel, generally the first novel us writers create, has already been done and is languishing on a shelf somewhere. Finding Lucas is the first novel I've published but far from being the first novel I've written.

Now that I'm a published author, the desire to write has only grown, and I am excited to sit down and meet my new characters. And that is exactly what I'm going to do now.

Where do you get your plot ideas?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

I think it was Woody Allen who said that he never watches his movies after they premiere. And as a writer, I totally understand why he feels that way. Since I published Finding Lucas, I must have read it over 100 times. And every time I read it again, I promised myself that it would be the last. But, I'm like an addict in need of a constant fix. I try to figure out what people are thinking as they read what I'm reading, and then, I make the biggest mistake an author can make--I looked for errors.

So, when I noticed a single word repeated twice, I tried to let it go. I put my Kindle to the side and got back to writing and editing for my business, Perfect Pen Communications. But that single word was following me around. It was stalking me. So, I decided it was time to edit it.

Back into my published Kindle file I went and changed that one word. Now, in a perfect world, everything would have been fine. In a perfect world, the file would have been re-uploaded, and I could sleep easily at night knowing that the error had been fixed. Sadly, it is not a perfect world.

I checked my file the next day and discovered that the wrong file had been uploaded. I use the passive voice here because I'd like to take no responsibility. I know I uploaded the right file because I checked. But, somehow, the gods of technology thought it would be amusing to play with me so play with me they did.

A few frantic phone calls and some serious hand wringing, and I finally managed to upload the right file. And after a quick check to see if Finding Lucas looked as it should, I haven't read it since. I am sure there are errors, and I'm sure it is not perfect. As a professional editor, I know that no one is infallible. But it's so hard to remember that when it is your dream out there.

So, now I forget that minor blip on this publishing journey and forge on. Next up--increasing my sales!