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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Cathryn Grant talks about going Indie

Today, Cathryn Grant will be talking to us about how going Indie with her debut novel, The Demise of the Soccer Moms, has “changed her life.” Last week, Andre K. Baby spoke about his debut thriller, and next week Teresa Frohock will speak about her upcoming debut novel.

Cathryn Grant’s short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Her short story, “I Was Young Once” received an honorable mention from Joyce Carol Oates in the 2007 Zoetrope All-story Short Fiction contest.

In her first Suburban Noir novel, THE DEMISE OF THE SOCCER MOMS, a provocative single mother permanently alters the lives of four Silicon Valley soccer moms. It’s available now as an eBook and in paperback at Amazon.com and Smashwords. Her second novel, BURIED BY DEBT, will be released in November 2011.

Welcome Cathryn!

49 Days as an Indie Author – how my life has changed.

The title of this post is probably a bit melodramatic and if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a fiction writer, it’s to avoid melodrama. Well, there’s also show-don’t-tell, move the story forward, give your characters back story, interview your characters, read your manuscript aloud, use meaningful dialog, don’t open with the weather unless you’re brilliant, have a firm grasp of POV, ensure you have internal and external conflict, use telling details, linger in the scene. And there are three hundred things missing from that list.

Fiction is a mystical blend of craft elements from which emerges a story that resonates with readers. It feels like magic. It takes a lot of practice, as every writer knows.

Last week I was interviewed on a few blogs, and in my interview with Christi Craig, she asked me how long it took me to write The Demise of the Soccer Moms. I was too embarrassed to tell her, and just said it took a “very long time”. In retrospect, I think I was too coy because as was pointed out in the comments, everyone defines a “very long time” differently.

So how long did it take? I worked on that novel for six years.

In fairness to my part slacker, part stressed-out, part angst-ridden, perfectionist self, I wrote the first draft of two other novels during that time and quite a few short stories. But still, SIX years?

The reason it took so long is simple. I’d written several novels before this one that weren’t ready for prime time. As I started The Demise of the Soccer Moms, I still had a lot to learn (I still do, but the learning curve was steeper). I participated in a writers’ workshop, took classes, read books on craft, did exercises, and as I received feedback, I had to keep rewriting. Then, my ability improved, so of course I wasn’t satisfied and had to go back again. Some would have abandoned the project as yet another “practice” novel, but I loved that story and couldn’t let it go. So yes, six years.

At this point, I’ve learned enough about the craft and found my rhythm and a work style that I think will allow me to publish a novel every 11-12 months. So that six years of effort was worth every minute.

During those six years, the publishing industry went through enormous changes, leading me to decide indie was the best route for me. (I won’t talk about that since I’ve covered it in detail here and here.)

In the comments section of Christi’s blog, one writer said she wanted to focus just on writing rather than publishing and I responded that something strange had happened since I self published – I have more time to write. Another commenter wanted to know how that worked! It’s not that I have more hours in the day, and self-publishing does take a lot of hours, but I think what’s changed is my energy level and my focus.

I’ve always been an early morning writer and a slug in the evenings, but now I have a new-found energy after dinner. I think it comes from having my work out there, and from knowing I’m the only one responsible for my writing career. This energy lasts through the evening, allowing me to be productive during that time.

Even better, I know that I have to keep to a schedule in writing future novels and that’s helped me overcome most (not all) self-sabotage. Although I had a morning schedule for years, I can’t begin to describe how many ways I found to fritter away that time. Yes, step by step I did write stories and novels, but part of that six years was spent wasting precious weekend hours ranting to my husband about my novel, surfing the web during my writing time, doing projects for my day job that did not have to be done at 4:30 in the morning, moaning in my journal, more web surfing, staring at the wall, and checking email.

In addition to the energy that comes from taking control of my writing, there’s a freedom I haven’t felt for years. I never saw this before I self-published, although I should have. There was a subtle, undetected tendency to write for publishers, agents, critics, and the market. Now, I’m writing for readers. If you’d asked me before, I would have said emphatically that I was writing for readers, but there was that underlying awareness of working toward publication that I think restrained my voice.

Now, the words pour out of me with more freedom. I tell my stories with less concern for what others think. Of course it still matters whether readers will enjoy them. And I don’t mean to imply that I’m taking less care with all those details of craft and style. I’m just not trying so hard and that gives incredible energy and feels, strangely, like more time.

My life has changed in a very significant way. In another interview last week, Linda Cassidy Lewis asked when I started calling myself a writer. I said, when I started committing time every day to my writing. But now, I don’t just call myself a writer, I feel like a writer.

Thank you, Cathryn for your wonderful post!

We wish you continued success!! We look forward to future novels!

You can learn more about Cathryn, The Demise of the Soccer Moms, and her fiction at her website, Suburban Noir.

Cathryn loves talking about writing and her experiences, so please leave a comment for her!

Cathryn’s flash fiction has been published at EveryDayFiction.com and at her website under Flash Fiction for your cocktail hour.


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what books mean to me.

My son’s elementary school is holding a bookmark designing contest. One child in each cycle will win a 10$ gift certificate from our local Babar Books.

There are two rules: 1. the design can only be in black and white. 2. That the design be somehow related to books, libraries, reading, etc.

My 7-year-old was lost. Seeing he was just getting frustrated, I decided to draw my own, hoping to inspire. Here’s what came:

An open book, with wiggles that looked like waves across the page for text. Out of the book was a creature jumping. Under the open book was a bed, and under the bed at the very bottom of the page was a setting sun with rays penetrating upwards. On top of the book I drew a heart, a cloud, and some sort of mythical creature. Then I drew a moon and some stars. At the very top corner in the left I drew a swing with a stick child swinging through the cloud and heart and creature. Then I added branches that descended and falling leaves that landed under the bed. The leaves turned into music notes and floated away.

It’s all about the imagination, I told my kids, the imagination books draw out of us. When we read a story, we each see it differently.

What this? I asked pointing to the creature jumping out of the book / water.

A mermaid, said the 4-year-old.

A dolphin, said the 7-year-old.

The baby did not answer :)

That is why I drew things that can look like one thing, or another, depending on who’s looking, I said. And it can change each time we look at it as well.

My 7-year-old drew monsters and people, of all sorts and shapes and sizes. He didn’t use this as his final product, he went with something much more cautious (the word BOOKS, and stick figures around it). My 4 year old drew exactly what I drew.

Books give imagination life, and let it loose. Writing, to me, is just and extension of that. When I am editing, I can get caught up in the logistics of things. I can forget that a line is perfect when it ignites one of our 5 (or 6) senses, not when everything is in it’s place. Sometimes everything has to be out of place to turn an idea into something tangible. Something that we can each hold in our own unique way.

Note: Cathryn Grant, will be visiting this blog Friday January 18th, followed by Teresa Frohock on Friday January 25th.


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Back to the beginning

I have spent the last month re-writing my opening. Openings are the most difficult part of the novel or short story for me to write.

When an inspirations hits me, and an idea begins to form and clarify in my head, it’s as though I’m watching something under water. Before clarity, the words come, and as I write the tale begins to rise to the surface.

The result is that the stories I have written always begin with pretty prose – not a question, idea, situation, or setting, but normally just a person, some feelings, and some words. For a reader, this makes for some pretty boring beginnings.

So, I’ve had to create situations, let the reader get to know the MC through actions rather than introspect (at least in my current wip). At times this comes easy, at others I go through situation after situation, sometimes writing the opening over and over until I find the right one. This time I was pretty lucky, but I also got smarter :) I didn’t let myself re-write the opening until I found it. And find it I did!

Now that I have my opening scenes (because the whole first 50 pages changed along with the very first ones), I’ve been reading it, and re-reading it, and slowly adding on, until I come to the point where I’ll merge into the rest of the draft.

I ask myself questions with each and every scene. Some of them are:

What’s the purpose of the scene?

What’s the motivation (driving force) here?

Does my mc attain her want too quickly?

What do I want to reveal? And is it done through action rather than telling?

Are my characters consistent?

How about you: how do you handle your beginnings?

Announcement: In the coming weeks I will be having three guests! Andre K. Baby, Cathryn Grant, and Teresa Frohock. Each will be talking about their book and the publication process!

Happy writing


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The King!

“…books are a uniquely portable magic.”

This quote from On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King, sums up the whole book for me. I finally read it, and thanks to all you out there who insisted I do!! I loved the book, and now it is my turn to insist that any writer who has not read it – READ IT!

I can’t count how many pages I’ve folded, or how many passages I’ve underlined – there are too many, but I will tell you the two main things I got from the book.

1. “When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

Sounds simple, eh? (notice my Canadian accent coming out!). For me, it is and it isn’t. It’s a concept I hold dearly, but never thought of in those terms, and as we all know, wording is everything.

One of my main struggles with my current wip is pacing – how much to reveal at what moment. I also find it drags at the beginning, and I have wondered how much info is needed. My writing is character driven, and so are my favourite reads (I struggle with plot driven novels of any genre). Since the characters make the novel, this line puts everything into perspective for me, and not just with the opening of my wip. If it’s not story, I don’t need it.

2: “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

I love the magic of the first draft, of not knowing what’s coming. It is probably my favourite part of writing. Re-drafting, is all about transferring that magic into something others can see. But, I had never drawn a clear line like this. It changes a lot in my thought process, it suddenly makes it possible for me know when it’s time to let others in (metaphorically, of course).

I think more than anything this book gave me the desire to write. Sometimes when I read a book on writing I become intimidated or overwhelmed with all the details (I am a writer who relies a lot on instinct), and I hesitate with my next writing session. This book had the complete opposite effect on me – with every section I read I became more enthusiastic about writing.

I’ll leave you with what I think is an appropriate quote for the New Year: “Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”

Happy New Year!

 

Are there any writing books that you recommend?


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Question:

I’m moving things around in my wip. Adding, deleting, you know how it goes…

Is there any software that makes this an easier process? Not only to do, but to see the results.

Or, do you have a method that works?

At the moment I’m copying and pasting, but it gets messy and then I’m left with 100 files!

I know I know, it’s the holidays, just can’t help myself :)

 

Oh, and I’m working on a Mac, in case that makes any difference. Thanks!!

 

 

 


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When the Fog lifts

I’ve been in a baby haze. The world covered in mist of drooling, teething, baby, with drippy nose, and congested chest. I’ve been in a world where my little writing self went to retreat in defeat, awaiting her moment to surface and smile on the earth again.

Well, that moment came last Friday.

So much of this blog is about being a mom and leaving the writing space and coming back. Exiting and re- entering. I was worried this time around, wondering if I would be able to enter into my story, my characters. Before doing so I thought maybe it was time to move on for now, begin a new draft, one where I don’t have to think, just free write.

Yet, I came back and it was as though I’ve never left. I slid right in, remembering what has to go where, who is who and what’s what. If overwhelmed with the amount of work awaiting me, I at least know it is a task that can be accomplished. Next time the fog descends, I hope to feel re-assured that coming back is possible, even if time goes by.

What about you? If you leave your work for a few weeks can get into it again? Do you have tricks, like leaving notes for yourself?

I hope all your writing is going beautifully!! And I hope to be able to catch up with you all!!


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why won’t it sit still?

I had everything mapped out. Laid out. I was done adding scenes, shifting scenes. All was well, and I was going to focus on making everything pretty.

But then, (of course there is a but then), a new scene entered. Not a big one, nothing life altering, not even very time-consuming. But it changed things. No, that’s not right. It emphasized things, made it all more apparent for the reader, and for me.

I wonder how many more times this will happen as I re-draft. I wonder if I will be in a cycle of writing. Sometimes I wonder if I will be able to step outside that cycle and move on, enter a new one. I know I will, this is novel number 2, but at the moment it seems like this novel has me in a death grip.

How about you? Do scenes continually enter, leave, and move around in your drafts, or are they pretty solid?

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