The Return of the Writer’s Lift

As some of you know, in 2018 I started my publication journey.  A tool I found useful in this endeavor was Twitter.  On Twitter, there is a hashtag: #WritingCommunity.  I started following folks who posted in this community, and most of the time it was very fruitful.  I made new friends, and it connected me to literally thousands of writers in every stage of development.  There were these things called “Writer’s Lifts” where everyone got to know each other and promoted their work a little.  Thing is, back then, those lifts were about making friends.  Now…it’s all about selling books.

Don’t get me wrong, I participate, particularly on Saturday as that is #ShamelssSelfPromoSaturday on Twitter.  I drop my link into some lifts and hope for a retweet or two.  I can confidently say I have sold a few books this way, but it’s not like it’s breaking the sales records.  It’s just a nice way to get your work to someone who otherwise might not find it.  So yes, I’m cool with promotional lifts.  However…

I’ve lost the connection.

I don’t KNOW my followers like I used to.  Yes, there are a great many more now than I had a couple of years ago, but I don’t feel the camaraderie like I used to.  We don’t chat.  We just hype each other’s stuff.  Again, don’t get me wrong, that’s cool…but I have no real writer friends.  I searched for such on Twitter, and I found some.  Two live in the area; a guy from the city who writes what he refers to as “dude lit,” and a blogger in the southern tier who has a garden I am envious of.  I often contemplate what it would be like to meet these folks, and have some sort of Algonquin roundtable writing discussion, but I’m an anxious human who has trouble stepping outside her comfort zone.  So online friendship it is.

Anyway, I was thinking about how Twitter used to be cool and decided I would see if it still could be.  I posted a Writers Lift, but I made rules.  Number one, you could not drop me a book link.  If you did, I deleted it.  Number two, you had to introduce yourself and tell us what you write or what you’re working on.  Third, you had to make a friend.

I got 188 replies.

188 people introduced themselves and their writing, and conversations broke out all over the place.  I tried to keep up but eventually had to mute the tweet when I got 35 notifications at once.  Many folks thanked me for this “new spin” on a lift, which made me chuckle because really, I’m just bringing back the old-school jams.  One person gave me an idea for another kind of lift, where we praise OTHER author’s work, not our own, which I think I may try out sometime this week.  A woman in Greece emailed me and told me she liked one of my poems, and asked if she could translate it to Greek and publish it in her lit mag.  I agreed, and you can find it HERE.  Someone else emailed me and told me that they read my excerpts on Amazon and immediately bought the book.  Others talked to me about their writing endeavors.  Overall, it was a very productive little tweet for me, and I really hope it was for others too.

A lot of the crap I see on Twitter now is people trying to up their engagement with ads and random questions and the like.  Me, I have always kept my tweets either about writing or observations from life, and I try to keep the selling of myself to a minimum.  Not that I don’t, because I’m an indie author and that’s part of the job description, but I’d rather read “real” stuff, if you know what I mean.  I’d rather you tweet about the sandwich you had for lunch than see another post that starts with “now available on Amazon…”

I mean…yeah, I’m guilty.  But I’m trying to do other things, too.  Got to keep it fresh, y’know?

So my finding in this little experiment is that people actually do want to connect on Twitter still, it just seems to be a little harder somehow than it was 2 years ago.  Perhaps it’s the algorithm, which has totally screwed me more than once, but overall, I think it’s just that we have lost touch with each other.  I don’t like that, and I won’t do that.  I won’t succumb.  My

DMs are always open to fellow creators.  I am always down to chat about the business of words, and all I really want is a few folks who feel the same.

NaNoWriMo, Week 4

After getting over my initial fears of finishing the book, I wrote the last scene for the last chapter on Thursday morning.  Then I started thinking about the epilogue.

This is tricky, because there seems to be, in my experience, two main types of epilogue.  The one where everything gets wrapped up neatly with a bow, and the kind where interpretation is left up to the reader.  I want to walk a fine line between the two.  I want to wrap up certain things, but I don’t want everything perfect.  I want it messy, but with hope.  So, I went to Sahar, who suggested I read the manuscript as a whole and see what needs to be tied up and what can be left to the readers imagination.  Then, I walked away from the computer to think.  With ten days to go before I had to finish, I afforded myself a little time to contemplate.

Or at least that’s what I thought I was doing, but of course the voice in my head demanded I do it immediately.  And so, that afternoon, I wrote the words “The End,” and I won NaNoWriMo 2019.  I was exhilarated, momentarily.  I don’t know what I thought I would feel once the first draft was finished, but the sense of sadness that came over me was definitely not expected.  “What will I do tomorrow?” became the question.

“Edit,” the voice in my head responded.

Here are some things I have edited:  poems, plays, essays, short stories.  I have never in my life edited a novel, and I didn’t even know where to start.  So, off I weren’t to Google University to figure it out, and of course asked Twitter for advice.  Then, on Friday, I edited my first two chapters.  I also started working on a Thanksgiving themed blog, but had to be careful not to disclose my winning because I was waiting to do so here.

On Saturday, for the first time in 23 days, I did not sit down at my computer.  On Sunday, I only sat for a short time.  I couldn’t concentrate.  So, I went to read my new Stephen king book, which was a horrible idea because I found myself in awe of the man yet again and thus believing myself to be a talentless hack. 

Monday, I sat down in earnest, thought I was not really in the mood.  I got myself my coffee and my favorite sweatshirt.  My office was trashed because the kids were camped out playing Burnout Paradise on my computer all weekend, so I tidied up a little.  Then I edited two chapters, discovered one of them is way too short, and tried to come up with a thousand words to describe a Wal-Mart, to no avail.  I pushed on to finish editing most of part 1, then retired for the day because editing makes me frustrated. 

What I hate most is that it’s not easily completed.  Every time I finish a chapter I want to immediately move on to the next while it’s still fresh in my mind.  However, sitting at the desk for five hours is not ideal, so I must force myself to take breaks. 

On Tuesday I edited two more chapters and then got stuck in a spot where I described a scene happening differently than it is portrayed elsewhere in the book.  So, I deleted all of that and tried to replace the words.  Eventually I got frustrated and went to make a pot of coffee and watch 911.

Wednesday morning, I edited part 2.  First round done, I opened a new word file to start round two.   Tomorrow is a reading and notes day, light considering that it’s Thanksgiving.  I write this today because I know I won’t have time tomorrow, what with the Macy’s parade and the pie baking and the dinner at mother’s house.

I plan to send my manuscript to my beta on December 1st, as a sort of early Xmas gift.  I have worked my butt off this November and I hope my fellow NaNoWriMo participants are proud of what they’ve accomplished, whether they won or not.  Even if you only wrote 1000 words, it’s still 1000 words you didn’t have a month ago.  Every little bit counts.  In the end, I am very happy I decided to do NaNo.  It pushed me to complete something that I have wanted to do for a long time, and for that I am grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

NaNoWriMo, Week 3

After I updated last week, I managed to figure out my timeline problems and get back on track.  I dropped about 1500 more words, and was satisfied.  Then, I started tinkering with a side project, because I am a glutton for punishment.

A while back I wrote a little story called Super Joe.  It’s a rhyming tale of a teddy bear who saves his person from the boogie man.  It’s cute, and I want to do something with it, so after I wrote my quota I spent the rest of the day editing and fine-tuning that, and looking into illustrators.  Twitter came through for me with tons of leads, and I am currently talking to one person about a collaboration.

So, Friday morning got me working on that instead of the WIP, which was aggravating, but I find myself stuck at a certain spot.  I’m still discovering this new character that appeared halfway through the book, and I am having trouble getting her “right.”  That morning I did 500 words, not the greatest but I definitely moved along the plot.  Then I went and updated my Pinterest board and read some articles.

On Saturday, I didn’t write in the morning as I usually do.  Instead I waited until afternoon when I was at my friend Sahar’s house.  She is also doing NaNo, so we planned a slumber party/write-in.  To be honest I wasn’t much in the mood to write at first because I just wanted to talk with my friend, but we went to lunch and by the time we got back to her parents’ house we were all caught up.  So, to the laptops we went.  I was able to drop 2000 words but realized the chapter is too short, so back to the drawing board.

Sunday morning was lovely.

I sat on the sofa in Sahar’s living room with the sun streaming in my face and a fresh cup of hazelnut coffee, and immediately dropped 1400 words, pushing me past the 40k mark.  Another cup of coffee and a cigarette break later and out came another 700.  Then another 1000.  By 11am I was at 42,365.  I got home and transferred everything to my desktop.  I considered starting chapter 15, but it wasn’t fully formed in my head yet, so instead I watched the Bills kick the Dolphins asses across the field and spent time with Hubs.

Monday brought roughly 250 words in the morning, mostly just stuff to drive the action along, so not what I enjoy writing.  Still, it flowed pretty smooth, and I was prepared to come back to it in the afternoon, where I finished chapter 16.

Tuesday:  Chapter 17 is a doozy.  I was going to take a day or two to get my thoughts together on it, but then I wrote 1200 words and figured what the heck, might as well.  I’m starting to feel a little sad, though.  I am very close to the end of the story.  I’m on the last chapter now, and I am excited to see where my characters are going to end up, but I’m also sad that I have to say goodbye to them.  I’m not writing a series, there will be no follow-up here.  It’s a stand-alone book.  But…I want to give them a good sendoff.  I want to imagine a world where they are happy now, despite the horrible things I have put them through.  I did another 750 after breakfast, and outlined the remainder of the chapter.

On Wednesday I wasn’t feeling it.  I usually make it to the computer by 8am, but didn’t drag myself into the office until after 10.  I managed a little over 1000, and was satisfied with that.  What I’m not satisfied with is how short this book is going to be.  I assumed I would easily hit 60k, but it looks like it will top out just over 50.  Of course, this is pre-revision, so there will be much I add to the first part to foreshadow the second.  We shall see what the final product is.  Of course, that’s not the point right now.  The point is to get the words out.

Which brings me to this morning, where I am sitting and staring at my last chapter, wondering how to write this bad boy.  Having a very “wat r words?” moment.  It’s the last scene before the epilogue, so it’s vital that I get it right.  Or I could just push though and get to the end and worry about it in edits.  That’s not how I roll, though…I do a lot of editing as I go and I really want to capture the very essence of what I’m trying to say.  So, no writing has been done so far today.  Just thinking.  Lots and lots of thinking.

I ended the week at a little over 47k, and I still have more than a week to go.  I hope my other NaNo buddies are out there killing it-and if you don’t think you will reach your goal, don’t be discouraged.  Whatever you have today is more than you had on the 1st.  Keep pushing.

Write or Die

I’m running low on blog topics. 

I went to one of those sites that give ideas and they suggested lists and tips and such, which I simply do not do.  Unless I’m listing things that piss me off, or giving tips on managing panic attacks.  Right now, it is two in the afternoon and raining, and I don’t feel like doing much of anything, let alone writing, but here I sit racking my brain for ideas because if I don’t write, I’ll die.

That sounds dramatic, but it’s the way I look at things.  Everything inspires me, from some beautiful experience of nature to a song with amazing lyrics.  I watch television and analyze storylines and dialogue.  I read books and wonder how the author managed to get so many words out of them.  Everything pushes me to write, from convos with Hubs to interactions with strangers.  If I were to not write about it, it would all live in my head and weigh on me until I crumble.  So, write or die.  Which is my credo right now.  Why?

During the month of November, I will be doing NaNoWriMo.  I have decided that I will blog about my progress on Thursdays.  I will have to type at least 1,666 words a day for a month to accomplish my goal.  This is both daunting and exciting.  I am currently ready to roll, with an outline, several pages of character development and notes, and an idea of what I want to accomplish.  I am working on little things right now, like preparing my office, making a writing playlist, and working on a storyboard on Pinterest.  I can’t wait to actually start writing, and Friday cannot come soon enough. 

Finishing this novel means a lot to me.  It’s not just some fun little experiment I am trying out, it’s more important than that.  It’s the first steps towards a future doing what I want to do instead of what someone is telling me I should be doing.  I am committed to finishing my novel, editing it, and getting it out there for the world to see.  Yes, that’s some big ambition and lots of pressure to put on myself, but I am doing it because it needs to be done.  I need pressure to work well, and I need to see what I can accomplish with a deadline. 

My dream, perhaps lofty, is to someday publish my book and make money off it.  I suppose this is a dream of many writers.  Yes, my biggest hope is that people will read my work, but I wouldn’t be opposed to them buying it as well.  I have been lost at sea this past year, unable to work due to illness, and I want to be able to do something that brings a paycheck into this house.  Yes, it will take time.  Yes, it will be a lot of work.  But yes, I believe myself capable.

The only thing, besides my brief foray into theater, that I consider myself talented at is writing.  Yes, I generally think everything I write is trash, but there are these moments…I will be rereading something I write, and I will forget that I am the one who wrote it.  I will be transported to this world where I am just the reader, and after I snap out of it, I am amazed with myself.  This happens on occasion and always pushes me a little harder when it does.  I come out of my trance believing that I really can write something good that someone will like, something that may even be ::gasp:: marketable. 

Marketing oneself is my downfall.  For instance, I read somewhere that publishers like to see a high follow count on Twitter.  I don’t know how true this is, but I figured it can’t hurt and went hard in the Twitterverse for the past couple months trying to get my follower count up.  Which worked out really well, because I have met some awesome writing folk this way.  However, I don’t think my number of Twitter followers should have anything to do with whether or not someone publishes my manuscript.  I see a lot of these Twitter authors using the platform for marketing their work and developing a brand, another thing that seems foreign to me.  I am trying to do the same, but as I have said many times, it feels like a combination of begging and bragging, and I’m just no good at either.  I know I’m putting the cart before the horse when I discuss marketing before having a publisher.  Still, these things must be thought about.  It’s the following step, and if I truly want to believe in myself, I must believe that step is coming. 

I must believe it is all coming.

I must believe I can write those 1,666 words a day, because otherwise, I will die inside from lack of trying.  I write because I have to, and now it is my novel’s turn to be written.  I am terrified; I am ecstatic.  I am sure I will have many moments of doubt and frustration.  I am hoping, always, that I will have moments where I read the words I wrote and forget that I penned them.  Either way, I will push myself to make this work, because I don’t have a choice, you see.

Write or die.

Follow Backs; or, Why I Blocked You

Despite being on Twitter for over ten years, I have only really been active on it over the past few months, when I did an experiment to decide which social media platform best fit my personality.  I wrote an article about such things but never finished it, and am working on turning it into a future blog post once I compile enough data.  My end result, however, was that Twitter is my drug. 

This led to me joining the #WritingCommunity on Twitter which is huge and mostly supportive and wonderful.  It gained me over 1500 followers and counting.  Not that this matters to me as I was happy with the 108 that followed me since the old days, but as Kev put it “Now you have fans.”  The way Twitter likes to work is that I tweet something, two or three of my friends like it, and it shows up on their friend’s feeds.  Then their friend might like it, might even follow me because they scrolled though my page and found it amusing.  I now average 3-4 followers a day if I’m inactive, more if ‘m working at it.  The idea that they are “fans,” however, is off-putting.  Although, Kev rationalizes that these are potential readers and future book buyers, so yeah, they could be fans in one way or another.  He says I should enjoy it.  I say I’m not used to people liking me.

I’m really not.  Most people see my face, assume I’m a bitch, and move on.  My memoir will be titled “That’s Just My Face: The Brigid Hannon Story.”  But I digress…

So here I am, active on Twitter, gaining those followers, using hashtags and threads and all that jazz, and I come across several walks of life.  It’s customary to follow back your followers, so that you don’t seem like a total jerk.  The problem is, while I am always respectful, I don’t WANT to follow some of these people.  There are certain subgroups of people that, frankly, bring nothing to my life.  It’s to them I speak today.

A few letters to a few followers that I did not follow back:

Dear Dude With No Bio Who Slid Into My DMs-

Thank you for telling me about your lucrative job as a doctor from California who is currently living in Syria.  (Or Iran.  Usually one or the other.)  That’s not fishy at all.  I certainly don’t automatically assume that you are an election rigging, fake-news spouting, Russian bot.  Your lack of info and tweets only shows me that you are concentrating on the care of the one child you always seem to have from a previous marriage who is in boarding school in Russia.  (It’s always Russia.)  I’m not really looking to chat further but, in the future, may I suggest learning English so that you actually sound like a doctor from California?  It will smooth out your attempt to scam people.

Dear Dude With Bio That Reads “Looking For The One”-

Thank you for the excessive compliments.  I also think my glasses are sexy.  So does my husband.  I’m sorry that you didn’t take my statement about being married appropriately.  I crazily assumed you would tell me to have a nice day and leave it at that.  I didn’t realize that first you would ask me to have an affair with you and then call me a bitch when I refused.  I’m not even refusing because I’m married, buddy.  I would refuse you if I was single.  I may be the caring, beautiful goddess you claim I am, but Twitter is not Tinder and I am not “The One.”

Dear Uber Christian-

Hiya.  I’m a cultural Catholic, having been raised in a deeply religious environment and then giving up the church completely by age 25.  So, if you’re the kind of Christian I’m talking about, you either think I’m a heathen because I left the church or you think I’m a heathen because you think all Catholics are heathens which is a fun little fact about Evangelicals that I learned at too young an age.  Now since I’m a heathen, you may feel the urge to convert me.  Please resist.  Here are some facts about me.  1. I am a contrary person, in general.  I don’t tend to go along with the crowd.  Crowds make me nervous.  And 2.  My God is bigger than yours.  Yours is small and boxed-in, excluding people and pointing fingers and telling you when to jump and how high.  My God loves everyone, created us all with purpose despite our flaws, and makes us WANT to jump higher, without telling us to.  I would ask you to know Him better…but I don’t shove my personal beliefs down other people’s throats like some do.

Dear Company Selling Things-

I live paycheck to paycheck.  I might like what you have to offer, but I can’t BUY what you have to offer.  Your services may be number one, but my follow back is not going to change your profit line.  I get the idea of promoting yourself via Twitter, especially since I will have to do that should someone pick up my chapbook, but just because you show up in my follow list I’m not going to check out your page and think “hell, I really DO need a new porch awning!  I’ll just get it from these guys!”  No, it’s never going to happen.

Dear Trump Fan-

Honey, you’re lost.  I mean, how did you even get here?  What part of my profile made you think “gee, she’s my kind of gal!”  Was it the anti-gun posts, or the feminism blogs?  Was it the rooting for Liz Warren, or the unabashed girl-crush on AOC?  Was it the part where I’m all for abortion rights, or was it my comments on Mitch McConnell’s frog face?  The part where I yelled about kids in cages, or the MeToo hashtag?  WHY ARE YOU HERE?  Are you one of those rare few who love and accept all no matter what their beliefs?  And if so…why are you a Trump fan?

Dear Tweeter Of Their Native Tongue:

I would love to follow you back, really, but I have no idea what you’re saying.  I appreciate that you know more than one language and can understand me, but nothing you post will be relevant to me due to the language barrier.  My deepest regrets.

Oh, and finally:

Dear One Dude From Kenya Who Messaged Me Because He Likes Poems And Didn’t Hit On Me Once:

Thanks, like…so much.  A prince among men, you are.

The Steps on the Ladder

So, I hit a tiny milestone today and just felt like writing about it.

I decided a year ago that I was going to do something with my poetry.  I started sending it out places and got some positive responses.  I’ve had a few pieces published, and it’s made me feel good, like all those words I typed for all those years actually meant something.  Then a few months back I decided to put together a small book of poetry, also called a chapbook.  It’s about living with mental illness, and today I chose the last poem for it.

Now, of course there are a great many more steps.  I have to edit and format and get it ready to be sent out, and then I have to actually start sending it out.  That process concerns me, but only a little as I am very good at dealing with rejection.  To be honest, I think I would be more scared if it got picked up to be published.  Then what?  My thoughts and words out there for the whole world to see?

I have to remind myself that this is the point. 

Anyway, I am proud of myself today for assembling my pieces.  Next I will start the editing process, then I will choose the order of the poems.  I will have to learn to write a cover letter, (which honestly seems like something I should know by now anyway,) but after that I will be ready to send it out. 

One step at a time.  But first, a little celebration.  I’m going to get me a milkshake.

#WritingCommunity

In 2008, I joined Twitter.  I was one of those that came to the party fairly early, signing up when only a handful of friends used it and not really understanding the whole thing at first.  Like Facebook, but short?  Ok, I’m all for the spirit of brevity.  I also was able to do fun things like stalk celebrities and follow the news.  For ten years I had this account, and I kept it fairly small.  Then about two weeks ago, I started reading tweets from the writing community on Twitter, which is huge.  Many people were doing what was called a writer’s lift, and those participating seemed to be plugged into this community that I had been watching for a little bit.  I decided to give it a try, and within a week and a half I more than doubled my following.  Mission accomplished!  Wait…

With this came two dudes.  One was nice enough, though he lives across the world and we probably have nothing in common.  He was respectful enough when I told him I was married.  The other, not so much.  He begged me to meet him, promising that he could make all my dreams come true and insisting that he could make me happier than Mark does.  Sir, you don’t know me.  Even if I was single, a handful of tweets cannot possibly tell you who I am as a person.  And if I say I’m happy in my relationship, that should be the cue to step back and away.  Twitter is not a dating service.  You will not find your true love here.

The weirdo is nothing, however, compared to the enormous self-doubt.  I am now followed by published authors, which in theory should be a boost to my self-esteem but in actuality is sort of crippling.  I see these people write 1000s of words a day and talk about their agents and editing and how they’ve completed another novel and I want to throw up.  I look at my novel, which is pitiful in word count and will likely end up either being YA or a novella, and I feel sick to my stomach.  I thought that connecting with other writers would boost me, but I’m finding it makes me self-conscious instead.

When I finish something, I’m positive about it.  I’ve written stories and poems that have been published, and I have always been proud of my finished projects.  It’s the stuff I’m working on that gives me nightmares.  A novel that I am stuck on, trying to write about bargaining as a stage of grief.  It teases me, saying “Hey look!  Look how much you wrote, and look how far you have to go!  YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO GET THERE.”  I might get there, of course, but at the moment I am stuck.  A poetry chapbook, which needs a handful more poems and then will be completed.  That’s probably the easier of the two projects at the moment, but it feels insurmountable at times because I don’t have those few poems yet, and I don’t know when they will come to me.  I never know when it’s going to come to me, and that is what makes this calling so difficult.

I write in my blog every Monday, even if I don’t have much to write about.  It’s the one scheduled thing that I have, and I try to keep up with it as best as I can.  I love the feeling of my fingers flying over the keyboard, trying to keep up with my racing mind.  I wish I could feel this way all the time, just sitting at my desk and pecking out words and stories and tales of my life.  Alas, I suffer from terrible bouts of writer’s block and self-doubt, the latter being my own personal Achilles’.  I don’t doubt much, but I doubt my works in progress until they are complete.  I doubt people want to read my work until I have proof, like publication.  I assume it’s all garbage, no matter how many times I am told otherwise.

So, on one hand, I am glad that I’m getting so many new followers from the writing community, as it kind of gives me inspiration.  If they can do it, you can do it!  But on the other hand, can I?  Or is that just something I tell myself so I don’t completely lose my mind?

K is here, so I’m going to go do the mom thing for a while.  Hopefully later today I can sit down and get some work done, but truthfully, I’m not feeling it today.  I don’t know if it’s my own self-sabotage or writer’s block or just that the sun is out but I’m not inclined to spend the day at my desk, even though I crave that feeling of productivity.  Some days though, it doesn’t come.  And that’s alright.  I’ll just wait until inspiration strikes, then ride that mofo like the last train out of town.