I Go All Advicey

 

I still feel so new at this being an author thing. I know I’ve been writing for quite some time, have labored over my novel, have worked hard to learn the craft, and have managed to land myself a two-book publishing deal for my debut young adult novel, but I still feel a bit like an imposter. That’s why I’ve hesitated to offer any sort of writing advice, because who am I to tell people…well, anything?

 

But there is one thing I know plenty about, and today I’ve decided to boot myself off the cliff, Thelma and Louise style, as I lay some advice on you.

 

Distraction and procrastination are, of course, two of the greatest enemies of creativity. The reality of the technological age is our medium (writing) coexists on a machine rife with distraction (hello, interwebs). As authors, there is now an expectation that we create and maintain a web presence, and when we are already predisposed to distra—ooh! Shiny!

 

Sorry, what was I saying?

 

Right. Distractions and procrastination feed off one another, playing into our natural tendencies to doubt our abilities. We’re a neurotic bunch (see agent Rachelle Gardener’s spot-on description:http://www.rachellegardner.com/2012/05/bad-habits-of-authors/ ), easily falling prey to self-doubt, which only fuels the procrastination monster. And the aforementioned web presence we must develop can lead to further procrastiona—excuse me for a sec. I need to go check Facebook. Oh, and somebody mentioned me on Twitter. Plus, I haven’t checked my Klout score in like three days. How many hits have I had on my blog today?

 

Sorry.

 

The distraction monster may still get the best of me at times, but I have one such monster I’ve recently figured out how to defeat. The research monster.

 

Research is an important part of storytelling, and no place for shortcuts. If you are not accurate in the realistic/verifiable details in your world-building, you lose the trust of your reader and cast doubt over the entire world you’ve painstakingly created. As a reader, I hate to find glaring errors in the logic or details of a story. To me, it shows the author didn’t care enough to do the extra work, and when you don’t do your research, it shows. Publishing is a competitive world, so why give your potential audience a reason to put your book down and grab something else on the shelf (virtual or brick and mortar). There are, literally, millions of choices.

 

It’s a delicate balance, the writing game. Most writers have day jobs (or happen to be stay at home parents, like yours truly), families, social lives, and this passion for writing that we cram in wherever and whenever we can. When you throw the necessary research into the mix, it makes the task of getting the words out of your head and onto the paper seem daunting.

 

And we’re perfectionists. We want the words we put to page to be perfect, living in a constant state of disappointment (and occasional elation, when we hit the sweet spot and manage to impress ourselves with our storytelling). This constant struggle for perfection feeds the monster, and she’s always hungry.

 

Research can derail writing momentum, so what do you do? Because if you’re anything like me, you can’t just give yourself permission to skip over the research bit and ride the writing momentum. But if you let the momentum slip away, you face the very real danger of getting stuck in research mode. Forever.

 

It becomes the perfect excuse to unchain the distraction monster. Well, I need to interview a physics professor about this next chapter, so I guess I’ll stop writing for the day—oh, look! A new cute baby video!

 

It really is as simple (and as hard) as just giving yourself permission to not have every detail just so in your first draft.

 

Crazy, I know, but it works.

 

For example, in my current WIP, I have the following sentence written:

 

Blah, blah, blah, medical stuff and lingo and so on. Interview a medical professional so you don’t sound like Dr. Drake Ramore.

I stared at the page for a moment, horrified, and then, guess what? I got a lot done. It was empowering to realize that first drafts are just that. Imperfect. Sometimes terrible. First drafts are not finished products, and if you allow yourself to get stymied by research at that stage, you will never get to a final draft.

 

Allow yourself to write it wrong. Just get the sentiment on paper. Keep going. The details of what a patient would see upon awaking in an intensive care unit just don’t matter in your first draft. It’s okay to get it wrong, so long as you make sure, later on, to get it right.

 

So stop what you’re doing—right now—and insert some senseless drivel into your WIP. And get on with the writing! I promise, your manuscript will survive.*

 

 

 

*But save a backup file, just to be sure. And if something horrible happens, it’s TOTALLY not my fault.

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Interview Mondays!

I have had the recent great fortune to sign a two-book publishing deal with Georgia McBride’s new imprint, Month9Books, and today I’m rolling out the very first installment of my weekly series, in which I will be interviewing my fabulous fellow Month9 authors. Let me brush off the cobwebs and spiff up the place a bit so we can all give a warm welcome to my first victim—erm, guest—Lisa M. Basso!

From Goodreads.com:

Lisa M. Basso was born and raised in San Francisco, California. She is a lover of books, video games, animals, and baking (not baking with animals though). As a child she would crawl into worlds of her own creation and get lost for hours. Her love for YA fiction started with a simple school reading assignment: S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. When not reading or writing she can usually be found at home with The Best Boyfriend that Ever Lived ™ and her two darling (and sometimes evil) cats, Kitties A and B.

A compelling and spirited debut from Lisa M. Basso in which sixteen-year-old Rayna Evans has spent the last three years locked away in a mental institution for seeing angels. Intent on remaining free, she ignores signs that she may be slipping into the world she has tried so hard to climb out of. But when her hallucinations begin showing up at school, can Rayna keep her job, her sanity and keep students from dying at the hand of angels she can’t admit to seeing?

Psychiatry, fantasy and real life come together in A Shimmer of Angels, as a young girl struggles with identity, secrets and confronting her greatest fears. A Shimmer of Angels is a wonderful read for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider, or perhaps has felt like giving up entirely. It touches on themes of suicide, ostracism and emotional pain. The author, personally exposed to suicide through the death of her beloved brother, will donate a percentage of sales of this novel to a local suicide prevention and outreach program in San Francisco, California.

A Shimmer of Angels is slated for release on November 12, 2012.

Thank you for joining us, today, Lisa! How long have you been writing?

I’ve written on an off for most of my life, but decided I wanted to become a writer almost five years ago. And I never looked back.

Tell us a little about your book, A Shimmer of Angels.

A SHIMMER OF ANGELS is about a sixteen-year-old girl, Rayna, who was sent to a mental health facility for seeing angels. After three years of in-and-out treatment, she is released. She believes her angel sightings are in remission, until she starts to slip, seeing things that can’t possibly be real. I don’t want to give too much away, so that’ll have to be the teaser.

How does your writing process work? Do you outline, take notes, or just sit down and write?

For every book I write, the process is different. Sometimes I outline then write, sometimes I write then outline. Most of the time I begin with an idea. I start by making as many notes as I can. From there I decided whether if this is what I really want to write, is the idea substantial enough to encompass an entire book or is this more short story material? Once I’ve decided this is it, I ask myself if I want to outline or just write. If I outline, will it be super detailed or just the main plot points and character arcs? If I write, how far will I get before I realize I need to know the ending? I try to outline, but a lot of times the characters take over and things change. That’s one of my favorite parts about writing, realizing the ten pages you just wrote were nothing like the outline, but they work better!

What was your inspiration for A Shimmer of Angels? How did the idea come to you?

I started with the idea of angels (obviously, right?). I knew it would be YA. It had to be YA. The book had to have wings in it. The more I thought about it, the idea of colors came to me. Not just wings, white wings and black wings. Which led me to good versus evil. Sort of. I let it simmer and the idea continued to grow. I didn’t want just good and evil, I wanted gray. So I wrote in a lot of gray areas, morally and mentally, infusing a lot of “in between” with the characters and the plot.

How did you come to Month9Books? Tell us a little about the process of scoring your publishing deal.

I submitted to YALitChat’s Submission Mailbox. Not much later Month9Books requested a partial, the first 25 pages. A few days later, they asked to see the full. About two weeks after that, I had an offer for a three book deal in my inbox!

What made you choose to write young adult novels? Or did YA choose you?

The  first two books I wrote were straight up adult urban fantasy. After completing both books, I started reading more YA. A lot more. After I’d      absorbed somewhere between twenty and thirty, the idea just came to me. YA. You need to be writing this amazing genre. My first idea, a teeny tiny plot thread for A SHIMMER OF ANGELS. The rest is history.

One of the great things about Month9 is the input we authors get to have. Can you tell us about the cover design process?

The cover process was surprising. The original cover was very similar to the final product. We went through a few rounds, tweaking minor things until we were all happy. I love that Month9Books gave me the opportunity to voice my opinions. They may have regretted it in the beginning, though. After the first cover option, I sent off a long email, super detailed explaining what I liked and what I hoped we could work on. And instantly regretted it. I mean, what had I done? They couldn’t really want my feedback, they probably just wanted me to approve or deny it. I freaked, until I got a reply. Not only did they take my feedback seriously, but they thanked me for my candor. This was when I knew there was something very different about what Month9Books is doing. When the final product arrived, I felt like I had a little something to do with it, rather than just having it handed to me.

It must have been exciting to see your finished cover for the first time. What was that like?

 The finished cover blew me away. I stopped, stared, then stared some more. It’s colorful, shimmery (teehee), and so different from anything else out there. I still stare at it (when I have the time).

Try not to stare. I dare you.

What is next for you? Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?

Books two and three of the A SHIMMER OF ANGELS trilogy are slated for release in November of 2013 and 2014.

What has been the most surprising thing about becoming a (soon to be) published author? Is the reality different from your expectations?

After having this dream for many, many years, I knew it would take time and a lot of hard work. The really surprising part about this whole journey so far is the timing. I’ve heard that publishing moves at a snail’s pace. I signed with Month9Books in February and my book is releasing less than a year later.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Read as much as you can and write even more. Work hard, don’t give up, and dream big.

 

You can find Lisa online: goodreads.com/LisaMBasso

twitter: @LisaMBasso

Lisa-Basso.blogspot.com

And be sure to mark your calendars for November!

You can check out our fabulous publisher, here: month9books.com and on twitter: @Month9Books.