Saturday, July 02, 2011

Conflict

On Fourth of July weekend, you might think this blog was going to be about the many wars we're involved with. Or possibly Minnesota as they were unable to resolve their budget issues. Maybe you're a sports fan and immediately thought of the NFL or the NBA.

This is about none of the above. This is about my personal conflict over priorities. I'm not talking about overall priorities in my life, but those in a very small, albeit important, part of my life: writing.

There just aren't enough hours in the day to do everything. And I'm having a lot of trouble deciding what "everything" should encompass.



As I wrote earlier this year, I put aside my latest mystery novel after receiving disappointing contest scores. I decided that the rest of the year would be a craft year, working through Holly Lisle's How to Think Sideways class with a totally new book outside my usual genre. After NaNoWriMo I would decide whether to continue working on this new fantasy novel or go back to my traditional mystery.

But I keep being pulled back to that mystery. Just this morning I reread the first chapter, tweaking it some more, trying to figure out if my "brilliant" idea of a week or so ago really worked. I want to finish that book, polish it, and give it a chance to find an audience. But I've lost perspective. I'm not sure whether I should go one way or another with it.

I've been thinking about joining a critique group to work with, getting other opinions as to which direction I could go. But critique groups are a huge investment of time. Not only do you have to submit on a regular schedule, you also have to make the time to read and comment on other people's writing. When I was part of the ACFW critique loop, I found myself spending weekday evenings critiquing rather than writing. I couldn't keep up with the rate people posted and didn't have enough time for my own writing.

On the other hand, my fantasy novel intrigues me. I can easily see its parts falling neatly into the Hero's Journey model. But I'm at the beginning stages of plotting that novel and beginnings always go slowly for me. It takes my muse time to come up with characters and scenes and plot points.

The fantasy novel also requires research reading. Since it's historical, I need to research the time period. I need to know the culture and beliefs and clothing and geography and all kinds of things to write about the time convincingly. I've been through one book and am reading another, but I have to force myself to read non-fiction. It feels too much like homework.

Since I don't usually write fantasy, I'm also trying to read books in that genre to understand the expectations of those readers. As I've discovered, they're a lot different than mystery readers. Most recently I've begun reading "A Clash of Kings", the second in the series "A Song of Ice and Fire." As I said when I was reading "A Game of Thrones", these books are not lightweight. They go for over 800 pages and take me about a month to read.

Then there's reading I just want to do. I put four books on reserve at the library. Three of them came in within the past ten days. Because they have due dates, they move to the top of my To Be Read pile. One I'll probably return unread, the second I'm enjoying immensely, and I'm trying to figure out when to squeeze in the third before its due date.

Meanwhile, the debate over traditional versus self publishing rages on. John Locke released his first non-fiction book, "How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months", recently. Since week six of How to Think Sideways focuses on finding your market niche and writing to it, this dovetails perfectly with the current lesson. Holly recommended purchasing it as part of her current Walkthrough lesson. It's not an expensive book and it certainly has a catchy title if you're an author.

On the other side of the argument, several agents have been blogging about the advantages of being traditionally published. Of course they have a vested interest in the status quo, but they also make some valid points. And wouldn't you, as an author, really like to see your paper book on the shelves of an actual bookstore?

Regardless of whether you choose to ePub or try for a traditional publisher, a lot of the marketing is left up to the author. That's one of the reasons I started this blog. Blogging, despite being old school to some, is still one of the ways of contacting your reading audience. But you have to do it consistently. A post every month or so just doesn't cut it. My goal for this year was for at least one post per week, published on Sunday, with an additional mid-week book review twice a month. I had to prove to myself that I could do this. And I've been fairly successful at keeping to that schedule.

Another part of an author's publicity is a web site. At the advice of my Guppy sisters, I purchased my own domain name several years ago. But I still don't have a web site. Oh, the URL will take you to my site, but all that's there is some funky test sentence I put up a few months ago to make sure I could upload a page. On my to-do list since then has been to develop an actual web page.

Now, this shouldn't be too hard for me. After all, I was a programmer for over thirty years. But I'm not a graphic designer and it takes time to put together a web site that looks professional. I did it for my local Sisters in Crime chapter a few years back. I hand-coded that site and it took several weeks to get something I was happy with.

The Mac comes with iWeb, a program that supposedly makes creating web sites simpler. I still haven't tried it yet. When an issue of Mac Format had a tutorial on using iWeb, I bought it. It's still sitting on my desk. One of the things on my agenda for this three-day weekend was to go through that tutorial.

Then I listened to the HTTS Walkthrough for Lesson 6, in which Holly goes through using Wordpress as the basis for your web site. I've got a Wordpress blog for that class (only readable by other students), but I prefer Blogger. Maybe it's just because I learned to use Blogger first. Or maybe Blogger really is easier to use. I don't know. All I know is that I now don't know which way to go with that web site. Use my existing site or start over again with a new domain name (for reasons I won't go into here) and new software?

Instead of making progress with the extra day off, I find myself vacillating between my options:
  • Should I work on the mystery or the fantasy?
  • Should I read the research for the fantasy or John Locke's book on marketing?
  • Do I develop a web site using iWeb on my old domain or get a new one and use WordPress?
  • Do I join a critique group or try to figure out the revisions myself?
Whoever said it was easy to write a book?
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