Jennifer Neri's Blog

Back of every creation, supporting it like an arch, is faith. Enthusiasm is nothing: it comes and goes. But if one believes, then miracles occur. Henry Miller


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Hey, that’s mine! Oh, no it’s yours

What’s mine is yours, what’s yours is mine. Is this true of writers and readers?

My writing is moving along at the pace of snail, or maybe of a turtle, I’m not sure which is slower. I’m at the stage where everything is being dissected, and re-written, and taken apart, and put together, and then I begin it all over again. I was wondering if I would be writing this novel for the rest of my life, that’s how slow it’s moving, when I saw Isabel Huggan’s on Book Television.

She was talking about how she gets her mentees to get the most into their work. Writing is re-writing, she said, and then she made the audience repeat it. Writing is re-writing.

Your stories will be released without you. You will not be able to clarify for your readers, you will not be able to tell them keep reading it will get better. In the end, your readers are more important than you the writer, because it will ultimately belong to them and not you.

How to get there? Question everything you write, every word, every space. Dig deep, she says. Go so deep that you know the feeling, sight, smell, and taste of everything. Ten drafts, twelve drafts, and then maybe you’ll find the right way your story needs to be told.

Sounds difficult? Well it is. And it isn’t, because once it all becomes that clear there’s nothing else required. Am I there? No, but I’m on my way.

“The world does not need any more mediocre books,” Isabel Huggins says here.

How about you? Do you spend more time on your first draft, or on subsequent drafts?


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Linda Cassidy Lewis talks

Today, I have the pleasure of hosting guest blogger, Linda Cassidy Lewis. Linda’s one of my first (if not my very first!) blogger friend, and through her blog I’ve shared in her process of editing and self-publishing her wonderful book, The Brevity of Roses, which is for sale in e-format and hard copy. If you haven’t read it, you should: it’s a wonderful tale that takes us into three lives. We live with them as they explore themselves, and the people around them, coming to terms with their own demons, and finding peace.

Linda Cassidy Lewis was born and raised in Indiana and now lives with her husband in California where she writes versions of the stories she only held in her head during the years their four sons were growing up. She blogs about her writing experience—typos and all. The Brevity of Roses is her debut novel.

Welcome, Linda!

Once self-published, always self-published?

When Jennifer invited me to write this guest post, I asked her if she had any topic suggestions. She did, but at the end, she also posed a question: Would I ever query agents again? This is my response.

I did not plan to self-publish The Brevity of Roses. I made a serious effort to obtain a traditional publishing contract. Over a period of thirteen months, I queried eighty agents. Unfortunately, I was offering literary women’s fiction when YA was the genre du jour. I heard the death knell for my dream of seeing Brevity published by a major NY house.

My querying experience chipped away at my confidence in The Brevity of Roses, but in my heart, I believed it was a good book. My beta readers confirmed that opinion, but I needed to know what the reading public would think. I published it in April this year. At the time of this writing, my novel has received twenty-one reviews and ratings online with an average of 4.9 stars. I feel validated.

Now that I know there are readers for my work, I’m not satisfied with reaching only a small part of them. This is where promotion and marketing comes into play. My book is one of millions sold at Amazon. Consider those odds!

Though it’s true that all authors are required to do some promotion, and debut authors like me would do it mostly on their own, I still believe your book gets a boost from being traditionally published. There are some avenues of promotion simply not open to self-published authors.

I love to write. WRITE. I don’t love publishing or marketing. Would I consider letting someone else do the publishing and help with the marketing of my next novel? I have to say yes. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I need an agent. I’m not part of the segment of indie authors who vilify agents across the board.  I very well might query agents again. Or I might self-publish with a larger marketing budget. Another option for me is to query a small press.

It’s too soon to for me to say I’ll definitely self-publish my next novel. I can say that I’ll consider all my options. And I’ll do the same for the novel after that because once self-published doesn’t have to mean always self-published.

Thanks, Linda, for sharing with us today!! 

You can visit Linda at her blog, Out of my Mind, and on her Facebook page.


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finding my voice

In my last post I talked about how I’d lost my way with my wip.

I’ve spent the last week finding my way back. It’s the first time since I began writing that this has happened to me, so it was a good thing to experience.

There were many factors that led to this disconnection with my wip, but the main one was that I was trying to force it be something it was not. Ever try to be something you’re not? I guess it was sort of like that. I was trying to make it more commercial, more blingy and flashy. With that came changes in my MC, causing her to do things and say things that were not her. All because I was trying to force the situation.

Finally, the strain began showing in my prose. That’s what forced me to realize all of this! I’m so happy it happened here, when I’m working on the opening pages, rather than if I’d edited the next 300 odd pages! Phew. :)

How did I get back?

Well, the first thing I did was spend two days sleep walking in my novel. Capturing the mood and atmosphere. Listening to it, listening to MC. That was great, and I really saw how far I strayed.

Step 2: I asked myself what’s my story. What needs to be portrayed in my opening scenes, to set the course for all future events and turning points. I made a list of the information that I think the reader needs in the first few pages, and then a list of stuff that come out over the next 10 or 20 pages.

So, I’ve begun re-writing. Again. In my voice. And it feels good :)

Next week Linda Cassidy Lewis, author of Brevity of Roses, will be guest blogging here!


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stop shouting

There are voices in my head. They won’t stop talking. Not good voices, not my characters, and certainly not my own.

I’m lost in my writing.

I can’t find my intention anymore with my wip. I feel like I’m writing for a thousand people and not myself. Everyone’s shouting at me, telling me how my novel should be, what they want from it.

ok, this is not really happening. It’s only happening in my head, I admit, but it certainly feels real.

I’ve changed so many things in the first 70 pages that I feel I don’t recognize my story anymore. I’m forgetting how it was born, what it was meant to be. Change is good, change is great, but it’s supposed to bring my story more to itself, and I don’t know what that is anymore.

Feedback is invaluable, and I’ve learned so much from my group. I’ve always thought that writer’s need feedback, and I think they still do, however, I’m seeing that feedback needs to be received at the right moment. I feel like I’m at a stage where I need to withdraw, pull away from my critique group, and from all feedback, and just listen to myself. Or is it that what I really need to do is  change the way I’m listening to the feedback?

We all need help, an outsiders eye. The thought of taking a hiatus from feedback is scary, and I wonder if it would be disadvantageous to do so.

Any thoughts?


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do you ever self-sabotage?

I do. Sometimes. There are days when I wonder why I struggle so much to gain writing time, when it’s so difficult? When I’m exhausted and nothing is going my way, I make excuses of why I should just give up. And some of these excuses are even valid, and need to be worked through, but on certain days, I want to give in to them.

On one such day not so long ago, I was ranting and raving: How can expect to learn my craft when I’m constantly interrupted? It’s like athletics, it requires practice, and more practice! Since I can’t have this steadiness why should I bother at all? That’s it, I’m not writing anymore!

On that day, this appeared in my inbox. And my cheeks flamed up, as I flushed in shame!

The
Difference
Between a good artist
And a great one
Is:
The novice
Will often lay down his tool
Or brush
Then pick up an invisible club
On the mind’s table
And helplessly smash the easels and
Jade.
Whereas the vintage man
No longer hurts himself or anyone
And keeps on
Sculpting
Light.
~ Hafiz ~


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the monster under the bed

Editing. Editing. Editing. Editing.

There I said it. It’s not such an evil word. The demons we don’t face are always scarier in our imagination than in reality. (Monsters Inc. does a good job teaching that lesson.)

I’ve been editing for what seems like an eternity.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it. Writing is not something one does for anything other than love. Or if they do, I’m quite certain they quickly stop once they realize that it’s not as glamorous as it’s made out.

But, it does scare me. It scares me because I wonder if I can make it shine, can I make it sparkle, can I do it justice? I’m not one to wallow in self-doubt, but editing does bring out the occasional anxiety in me. I suppose it’s because that every time I bring the piece (section) to a new level, I see that it can, and needs to go to another, even higher level.

A little while back I mentioned that my violin teacher told me that playing the violin is harder than writing. Well, I’m not certain I agree, but I’ve begun approaching my writing as I am my musical study. Phrase by phrase. Dissecting each note. The similarities are huge, but I won’t go into that analogy today.

I am currently breaking each paragraph down, and then each line. I ask myself the purpose of it, then I determine what I’m actually showing, and do my best to make them equal each other.

Purpose = composition.

I can do this only once I’m certain each piece has a place. Back-story must be weaved in without jarring the reader out of the story, characters must be stable, description has to be in the right quantity and location. Oh the list goes on. But even that is not enough.

Purpose = composition.

That’s where I’m at.

What about you?


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Confession

This morning I had the opportunity to write again. It was the first time in four weeks. Four weeks of sick kids, being sick myself, my husband getting it too (a rare occurrence), of sleepless nights and days, of doctors, and clinics, and antibiotics.

When I was a kid I remember being sick for 2, maybe 3 days. A really bad one was a full week. When did they become month-long events??

(Luckily, I had downloaded Linda Cassidy Lewis’s debut novel, The Brevity of Roses to my iPhone to read during all this. I encourage you to read it. She has delivered engrossing characters that struggle with life, love, and acceptance of self and circumstance. Although the characters are all adults, I almost feel it’s a coming of age story, because the MC struggles so much to come to his own. Plus, Linda’s prose is beautiful and elegant. I’m almost at the end of the novel, and although I’ve read it scattered in time due to my own circumstance, the characters remain in my thoughts.)

When my mom (aka, my knight in shining armor) this morning told me I could go write, I stopped still. I didn’t know what to do. I had buried the writing so deep inside me I wasn’t certain I wanted to pull it out again.

I analyzed: baby woke me about 12 times last night. We both are still drippy, but oh so much better. Yet, we have swimming lessons, one hour diving lesson, both kids have piano practice. I have violin practice. Dinner. Math and reading with the eldest. And the baby to appease during all of it. Write?? She must be nuts! How will I write and have energy to do everything else?

So, I sat down and watched a few minutes of a PVRd sitcom (happy endings), baby clambering all over me, and decided, yes I must go write, whether I want to or not. And, really truly, I did not want to.

I had decided I was a writer. So, that means pushing through moments when I don’t want to write.  Because, nothing is eternally blissful, right? Sometimes it sucks and is difficult.

I had no idea how to come back. I ordered my latte and chocolatine, took out my journal, wrote exactly that: How to come back?

Well, to my surprise and delight, deciding to do it was enough. (This time.)  I came back right away. I refreshed myself in my journal, reminded myself where I was by jotting down a few phrases, read without interruption the scene I was at, and dug in.

It was great!! Wonderful! Energizing!

So, I’m back. I have no idea what’s coming, but today I wrote and I feel restored.

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