Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Big Bad Block

Curses upon ye, writer's block!

This is the problem with a long hiatus from creative writing. I feel like I've forgotten how to write anything fun. Give me a work report or some painful professional navel-gazing and I'm your girl. I can analyze my teaching six ways to Sunday and throw in the words "intentional" and "differentiated" every other sentence.

But writing a scene full of witty banter? Re-plotting my novel to fix the dragging middle? Suddenly, I'm paralyzed. I'm worried that I won't do it well, or that I won't be able to sustain any sort of creative effort. I tell myself that I'm too busy or too exhausted. If I'm going to fail anyway, I might as well go clean the kitchen or write some curriculum because that's what's really important... and that's the only place I can actually succeed.

Obviously this is not a healthy attitude. I've had writer's block before, and I've tried a number of methods to deal with it. Though I've always managed to get back to work, I haven't sustained a healthy routine. These methods have always been about perpetuating self-loathing (as opposed to self-care). For instance, I tell myself I'll sit at the computer for an hour. And when I do, I'm humming "you can't do this" in my head. Yes, there's a winning mental refrain! Alternatively, I tell myself "the creative well has run temporarily dry. You need to abandon your project entirely." Then I set aside my writing routines so that I can eat fried food, read other people's romance novels, and worry that I'll never finish my own.

Shockingly enough, neither of those strategies really works.

I knew I was in deep trouble when it took me all week to write this post. (Yes, I actually started on Monday and now it's Saturday... sad, huh?) I think it's time to dust off my copy of The Artist's Way and put myself through a 12-week writers' recovery program.

Anyone else have any other ideas? Do share: how do you bust your block?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sassy Gay Vikings?

Wherefore art thou, my immortal Viking hero? Hast thou received a make-over from the Sassy Gay Friend? "Friday Videos" at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books turned me on to this set of Othello, Hamlet, and Romeo and Juliet alternate endings.

Last week I struggled to edit the scene where my hero and heroine visit a museum to "borrow" a valuable relic. If he appeared as a Special Forces dude, I doubted the museum director would help, so I originally disguised Wulf as a documentary film maker in black glasses and a New York accent. Result: a scene no better than packing peanuts. Then I met the Sassy Gay Friend, and voila:

"An appointment would permit me to prepare." The white-haired gentleman who met them in the Danish National Museum's Great Hall stared over his reading glasses. "The snow delayed my staff. I am alone today."
"We are so so sorry. Our funding came through forty-eight hours ago and we had scads to pack." Wulf tilted his head as he held out his hand. "To save money, the donor used frequent flier miles, can you believe?"
"I see." The Director of Danish Prehistory nodded his understanding of donor peccadilloes. "Do you have a camera person?"
"His flight was delayed in Paris, so completely unfair." Wulf pressed one hand to his cheek and pulled his shoulders forward. "I looove Par-ee."
"We plan our shots in advance." Theresa stepped between him and the director. "For this segment we're interested in sword hilts of approximately 500 A.D." Behind her back she wiggled her fingers at Wulf.
Tone it down? She glared over her shoulder and Wulf blew a kiss. Not a chance, baby. I want to see you laugh.

Sassy Gay Friend, meet Wulf, the immortal Viking warrior. Readers, go forth and flip your glitter scarves. I'm spending the week finding every tiny mistake, every "just" and "still" and "stood up" and "sat down" that sneaked through previous edits of The Soldier. [Yes, I know the right side of the video is chopped off. Lots of things get chopped off in my book, so I'm not going to deal with this. Click through to youtube or SmartBitchesTrashyBooks if you need the whole thing.]

Monday, April 05, 2010

Writer, Promote Thyself!

I hate trying to sell people things. Especially when the things I'm trying to sell are me and my books. I am not a natural born salesman. Asking people to buy things gives me hives. Why can't people just magically find out about me and my awesomeness? Why do I feel like a little beggar girl or a door-to-door missionary? Am I doing this whole promotion thing wrong?

I heard some Big Deal Authors lately talking about book signings and the way people tend to shy away from the person behind the table, refusing to meet your eyes. The theory (quite a good one, I think) was that they don't want to have to reject you in front of you. In a bookstore, they can wander through the aisles picking up and putting down dozens of books before they find one that interests them, but they never feel guilty for putting one down. With you sitting there, the author adds the guilt factor.

I get that, but how do you counter it? With chocolate? (Bribes!) With excerpts? That way, you can hand them a chapter, they can wander over to grab a latte and a scone, read your chapter in line, decide they love you, and come back to get a signed copy to take the register. I like that approach.

But what about online promo? Why are people skittish to participate there? I'm having a blog party all this month with daily prizes. ( Looking at my website tracking info, I'm getting a lot more hits than I am comments - but only the commenters can win. So are my lurkers shy? Are they not interested in the prizes? (A free book? Who turns down a free book?!) They are under no obligation to buy my books or the books of my guest bloggers. All they have to do is comment, possibly win, possibly discover a new author they love or win a book they can give to a reader-friend who loves that genre if they don't.

I feel weird because I'm running around trying to drum up traffic for this blog party and I feel like it should be easier than this. These are awesome prizes! There is virtually no effort involved in winning them! The big prize this month is a brand new ereader! All you have to do to enter is sleuth around my website to answer five questions (one about each of my books) and send me an email with your answers. Is an ereader not worth a few clicks?

I'm puzzled. And I feel like a realtor. See, I went to the parade of homes with my family a few weeks ago. There were a lot of realtors with a lot of different styles. Some gave away goodie bags or cookies or donuts. One actually followed us through every room of the house commenting on our comments to one another (so irritating!). But the one thing they had in common was that they were representing gorgeous homes. These houses were gems, that's why they were included in the parade of homes. But there were still gimmicks and raffles and staging to make them attractive to buyers.

So even if you write a great book (see, I really was going somewhere with the metaphor!), you still have to make it attractive to readers. (Without stalking them through every room telling them why they should buy it.)

And that is the part where I feel completely out of my depth. Oh, to be famous and rich and hire someone to be my book realtor!

Am I looking at this the wrong way? What makes you buy a book? Word of mouth? An ad you saw? A review?

Tomorrow at my blog I'm giving away a signed copy of my new book Shifting Dreams. All this month I'm giving away an ereader. No purchase necessary. Just a little fun. Come on by and play... or come on by and lurk if you want to feed my neurosis. ;)