Punch-Drunk Indie: A Gratitude Party

“If serotonin is the Zen-master among neurotransmitters, dopamine is Pollyanna, responsible for the highs of infatuation, new love, joy, self-confidence, and motivation.” — Deborah Bloom, Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer

I’d have to add publishing decisions to Bloom’s list. As if I wasn’t stoked enough about Girl Boners! 😉 Sadly, they aren’t on today’s menu. Welcome to #ThrillerThursday, the day I feature whatever else I find thrilling.

Those of you who read my post on self-publishing with an agent know that I’ve been deciding whether to do just that.

The moment I spotted “consider self-publishing” in my agent’s email a few weeks ago, giddiness filled my belly. I felt as though I’d been clocked on the head by the love monster—woozy, butterfly-filled and punch-drunk in LOVE. My inner Pollyanna took over, proving the Zen-master obsolete. I’ve learned to listen to my gut, and it was screaming.

I knew I shouldn’t make such a huge decision on the spot, so I researched like crazy, thought and dreamed about it (when sleep was possible), until I had all of the answers and affirmations I needed. Soon, my brain had caught up with my gut and I braced myself to run around yelping officialize my decision.

Then…Sandy struck. The largest Atlantic hurricane on record blasted the Northeast with 85 miles per hour winds and torrential rain, flooding streets and buildings, cutting power and taking lives. That morning, I sat huddled on the sofa, watching the news with suffering from what felt like a nation-wide emotional flu, making my indie decision seem trivial. But I was also inspired.

Atrocities like Sandy show us how connected we all are. They also bring out incredible strength, resilience and compassion. While I’m still head over heels with with my  choice, Storm Sandy brought me back down to Earth and enlarged my gratitude in one gargantuan, if pain-staking, fell swoop. I suppose that’s positive on another level; I can share my decision without screaming so loud your ears hurt. (You’re welcome. ;)) So without further ado…

To say I’m stoked is a major understatement. More will follow on the specifics, but for now, I’d like to invite you all to party with me “pimp and promote” style, a term coined by the fabulous Chuck Wendig, with a slant toward gratitude.

In the comments below, post two links you’re GRATEFUL for:

1) Pimp out one of your own links, such as your Amazon author page, Facebook fan page or a blog post.

2) Promote someone else’s book, blog, author or fan page.

This is a fun way to gain and give exposure, particularly if you take the courteous route by checking out others’ links. (No one wants to party or promote solo. Ask any indie. ;)) Post now and pop by later, or check out others’ links before posting your own.

I’ll start by pimping my interview with David Freed, author of the Cordell Logan mystery series. David is a spectacular writer and person I’m grateful to call friend. He’s also an award-winning journalist, dog lover and pilot with a wicked sense of humor and a passion for Mexican food. (What’s not to love???) For more fun, connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

I’m honored to promote one of my favorite indie-divas, Steena Holmes. Author of the award-winning best-seller, Finding Emma, Steena is as sweet as the chocolate she adores, and as supportive and driven as Megan, the indomitable mother in her novels. She’s also a mother of three, wife to one and a talented graphic and book cover designer who’s doing a brilliant job on mine. (Yeah-hoo!) To learn more, check out her wonderful website.

Your turn! Share, share away. I can’t wait to explore your links, and hope you have as much fun as I plan to. Thanks in advance for brightening my day, and as always for your support. *raises glass*

Too Many “Cooks” In Our Fiction: The Biggest Lesson I Learned From Book One

Ever try to cook with a group? As you chit chat away, it’s easy to get sidetracked. And dang it, salt looks a lot like sugar…

As some of you know, I’m working on my second novel while my agent markets my first. It’s an interesting position to be in. I’m no longer in agent-seek mode, don’t yet have a publishing editor to bounce ideas around with and have no deadlines looming. (I’m doing my best to savor that fact. From what I’ve heard, this can change quickly.) Gone is the blissful ignorance of writing book-one, when I had little clue as to what I was writing, much less how much improvement I lacked. But of the many lessons I learned from writing book one, this trumps all:

Trusting our instincts is as important as the writing itself.

Here’s an example.

As I finished my first-ever draft, I sought feedback from others—not just anyone, but reputable industry folk. And wouldn’t you know, I gained a slew of diverse opinions. I absorbed the information and did my best to stay true to my story while incorporating insight from trusted pros. One suggested I add a work crisis, another a bit of humor. Several suggested I switch to past tense. They’re experienced, I figured. Best I listen.

What I didn’t recognize then was that even brand-spanking new rookie authors know more about their stories than seasoned professionals. How can we write authentically if we’re peering through another’s lenses?

“Too many cooks in the kitchen” isn’t the pathway to success, but to a chaotic, if flavorful, mess.

Fast forward to last year. After signing with my agent, we discussed my draft in depth. He asked many questions, pointed out aspects he felt were strong or needed work, and which characters and plot points were necessary. The ending, he felt, was too abrupt. In order to flesh it out more (there’s a pun there you may get someday… ;)) I’d have to make some significant cuts.

Once back at my drawing board, I was struck by the fact that nearly every change I made brought my novel closer to my original story. Scenes and characters I’d added based on others’ feedback were cut. My original ending had been longer. Even my original tense returned. This isn’t to say that my first draft was awesome and publisher ready; it was far from it. But the story born of my initial thoughts materialized, making for a stronger, more confident work. Finally I felt I was finding my voice.

Going forward, I’m committed to listening to and honoring my instincts. Only once I have a full draft I’m confident about will I consider seeking input. Even then, I won’t trust others more than myself. It’s not always an easy task, particularly when we’re newish to the game. But take it from one who learned the tough way: Your instincts are probably wiser than your realize.

There can be great value in beta-readers and feedback from trusted friends and colleagues. But the moment we put decisions in someone else’s court or go against our intuition, we run the risk of telling a weaker story. And it’s not the critic’s fault if we abide by his or her feedback and it doesn’t work out, but ours. The best beta-readers and editors will tell us this. Then it’s up to us to listen. As gifted editor and author Mike Sirota once told me, “You are the goddess (or god) of your book.” 😉

Do you rely on others’ feedback during the writing process? Have you learned to trust your instincts? What did writing your first book teach you?