The Writing Bug

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By now you may have figured out by reading my previous blogs that I’m crazy shy but can be a talker once you get to know me. This particular time I wanted to talk about writing and writing with my friend Shalimar A. Orion. Honestly, I’ve been messing around with words since I was a kid. You know how you sometimes got the assignment to do a short story or poem in grade school? Yah. I wrote a story once in sixth grade once that was so sad it made my teacher worry about me. It was about a little girl who was alone and she played instead with her invisible friends. They went on a mission to rescue one. I mean, every kid has had invisible friends at one time or another right? Just maybe writing about them wasn’t such a good idea. Haha. I also wrote a poem that made it to second place at a poetry contest once. Nothing to make my head big or anything I swear. Haha.

I think when I first really got the writing bug was my senior year in high school. I had waited so long to take this creative writing class. It was only available senior year. Then I guess it wasn’t considered a college course anymore so they changed it to English Lit. I was devastated! I could have gotten a free period but no, I wanted all my classes. I didn’t want more long winded books with some obscure “moral to the story.” Ugh. So our teacher said if we finish the required books quickly, that we could squeeze some writing in. Horray! I think I fell asleep during the movies about one of the books we read, but we got them all done. First he started us out on some writing prompts, learned about building a character, and then we got to do our first short story.

Let me tell you I had no idea what I was doing. I just was determined to do something. So I had my characters doing this crazy like Romancing the Stone (It’s a movie, Google it. It was one of my Grandmother’s favorites) deal with some adventure/romance thing going on. I think I wrote at least two more pages than the minimum required. When I spoke to the teacher I told him, “I think I could continue this story.” He replied, “Don’t tell me that! It’s supposed to have a solid ending!” “It does! I just feel that I could write more.” I believe I got an A or A minus on it. I was thrilled. Problem is sometimes you can continue a story, but when you don’t quite have a foundation and kind of start in the middle, you can get stuck. So over the years I picked it up once in a while, but twenty years later I’m thinking I may never finish it. But now that I brought it up…I want to reread it. Haha.

I do that still. I see scenes in my head and I’ll jot it down and sometimes that’s all there is. Sometimes I piece a few together if I think they fit well. But I had to sit myself down and look up some things. The internet back then wasn’t even close to how it is now. I did manage to find Ken Follett’s Masterclass. Which was really you sitting and reading some tips he had on writing, not an actual class. But it did give me a better idea about the way he writes and edits. And I love Follett. He usually has a great mix of action and romance in the books I’ve read. The masterclass said Follett usually had people look over his rough drafts. So when the novel was still pretty tiny, I would email it to some trusted friends and ask their opinion. It’s a good way to get honest feedback about how well a story flows and if it’s well interesting. I wish I still had people like that in my life. Hard to get friends/family to look at my art/photography let alone read something. So I kind of decided that it would be just me and Shalimar working on things.

Back then was around the time I’d broken off my engagement and I needed an outlet. I’ve written some poems now and then, but I felt the need to do something a bit different. Okay maybe a lot different. Some say, “Write what you know”. But at that time I didn’t really know much of anything. Writing about my ex or my family was definitely not something I was going to do. Heck, this blog is probably the most I’ve ever talked about either to just you know the “internet”. I can be a pretty private person when I need to be. I did however have an interesting trip up to see one of my favorite indie bands that got me out into the world again, Ghost of the Robot. Fronted by James Marsters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They were the first band I went to see alone after the breakup. I drove up to Sacramento all by myself to see them, and then blew a tire on the way home. Haha. I’m not sure if I would have come out of my shell if not for those guys and the friend I met at one of the shows. It opened up a whole new world to me. I’d never really been to a concert before. I still have been to mostly indie band shows more than any big band. They’re still around too and I just got caught up CD wise this year, though they have a new album coming out soon. I realized it was fun to write about what I liked, what I wished would happen. That opened up some new possibilities like that high school story. Pure fiction. People ask us, “What do you write?” “Fiction.” “What kind?” “Fiction.” I know if I peg it and say “Romance”—most people will turn up their noses at it. And I don’t write about vampires or space ships so isn’t just fiction? Cue the silent screaming in my brain.

Shalimar and I were actually thinking of putting up the novel chapter by chapter on her Wattpad. We may do that in the next few days. We’d put a short novella, In Between, up on Amazon about two years ago. But to be honest to really be successful in the book selling business you need a strong fan base. But at the time we figured what have we got to lose? It’s there and it’s finished & copyrighted and just laying around. The big novel is too and we did try some publishers back in the day, but it is tough to get noticed as a new writer, and we don’t have the money to pay for anything like an editor or literary agent. One thing my writer friend says about publisher’s asking for money up front–don’t do it! So the few we did get replies for, we said no to. He also says self-publishing is a no-no, but in this day and age some people can still get picked up by a publisher if they have previously self-published. I think it can be messy when it comes to copyrights is the gist of it.

Our writer friend we met through some of the previously mentioned indie bands. Well I’m not sure I should name drop, especially since no one knows about my blog yet. Oh hell but his WordPress is here: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/1791891. I call him my Yoda or Obi-Wan. Haha. I asked him some questions about writing. I was hesitant. I don’t like taking advantage of friends. But he said I could send him thirty pages of our novel and he’d take a look. Be my editor. Let me tell you editors aren’t cheap. They charge per word, and the better the editor, the more expensive. So he was doing me a huge favor taking a look. He pointed out a few things that really helped. I despise editing. I don’t think I’m good at it. But I went through it about three times with him, formatting and all. Then I had to drop it for a while because I got sick of looking at it. That’s how I think Shalimar and I finished the shorter novella because we needed a break. Though we tried to lengthen the story, it just felt done where it was. That happens sometimes.

The writer friend doesn’t think poetry sells. But I think it can. I think if someone becomes a well-known writer that pretty much anything they do you want to read. I feel that way about Follett, King, Cassandra Claire and more. I’m just too broke to buy new books right now. I’ve also read some of my friend’s writing of course; two of his novels and a few short stories. One day I hope to have money to collect his works as well. He’s a lot like King in his writing–which is funny to me because my friend is so mellow in real life. I was very surprised. Haha. You should totally check him out if you love horror books. He’s also done some cool indie movies, does interviews of other writers, and well he’s a man of many skills!

When he first read my story, he said I should do be a romance novelist. Now, I’d sent him something that had a love scene in it. I realized afterwards sending him that was like sending a dirty meme to my uncle. I was so embarrassed! I went and scaled that scene way back to more of a soap opera “pan to the candles and fade out” kind of deal. I don’t want to be pegged as a romance writer, not that there aren’t a few good ones out there! But now, if you’re reading how I’m writing right now, wouldn’t you think that I’d be more of a RomCom writer at least? I’m funny! Well I try to be. No, not try. It comes naturally. Shalimar did try submitting the novel to a Romance publisher once, but even they gave us the brush off.

I felt Shalimar needed to work on the whole fan base thing, so we put her on Twitter, WattPad, DeviantArt & got her a FaceBook Like page. You may think that’s a lot, but I’ve noticed you get different sets of people on different social media sites. Sure some may be like me and have a dozen or so pages and is actually active on all of them. Those people may like/follow you on all your sites. That’s great. That’s nice that they like you so much! But let’s say you have the same 300 people on all your sites interacting with each other. I don’t think it’s possible they could go and read/like/repost on all your sites for every post. That’s a lot of time to take on their part. Doesn’t mean they’ll buy/read all your work either. I think a mix of loyal fans and bringing in the new ones regularly is ideal. Shalimar and I are not the kind to beg or harass people to follow all of our social media accounts—but the links are on this page if you’re interested.

Our writer friend asked us once to step out of the box and try writing a little scary short story about the Day of the Dead. I was nervous. I mean we’re not sure what genre our writing fits into, but horror isn’t it. Though I really wish I could write like that! Fun genre! Also, we were nervous to have him read it. Eek! He was trying to put a collection of works together which he has done before. The project fell through as far as I know and after it sitting around for two years Shalimar and I decided to post it up on her Wattpad here if you would like to read it: https://www.wattpad.com/story/113839741-dia-de-los-muertos

Mostly in the past two or three years we’ve been about the poems. We could of course keep promoting the book, but that can get stale to your fans. This way we had something new more often. At first we started on DeviantArt, a site where we knew no one. I wasn’t sure about getting any feedback from people because when you’re on a site that is nothing but artists and writers—are they going to read other people’s works? Are they going to dismiss or leave rude comments about your work because they can? I still don’t quite get how that works when one of the suggestions for everything is to like/follow others who do what you do. Me, I’m broke and I’m involved with so many things, even when I’m not employed at the moment. The last two books I was reading before a bomb got dropped on my life are still in boxes. I also started an ebook but we won’t go there. When I was a kid I usually had two or three books on me so I’m just weird like that. As an artist/photographer I didn’t expect other artists to pay attention to my work let alone buy it. I still don’t. I haven’t sold one thing on DA. The community is nice enough though so I stayed.

I flit around from site to site to do one thing or another. I really have to make myself sit and read an article that looks interesting. I mean another writing tip is usually to read, read and read some more. I do love to read too. But when my life is a wreck like now, I feel I need to spend my time job hunting, working on my shops and promoting them, making new things, and writing with Shalimar. So lately I’ve been reading articles to help or inspire me in those areas of my life and ones about things like anxiety because you know I have it. If I get sucked into something else I could be there for hours. Kind of like my mom and cat memes. Haha. I also love interacting with people and like/repost/follow stuff. I like seeing what’s going on with friends on FaceBook. But sometimes I have to literally close the tab and move on down the list. It really is like having a job. And I love doing it. I really do. I love just posting some clothes and stuff on like Polyvore and Pinterest so people can just play with them and make sets out of my stuff and stuff I liked. It’s a fun kind of work. I love the interaction and if it leads to sales—awesome!

Shalimar has gotten maybe two or three comments on her DA in about three years where people were just apparently in a bad mood or wanted an explanation for something. It’s poetry! What is there to explain? Haha! But other people have left the sweetest comments. Seriously when someone “gets” exactly what you’re trying to say and leaves something profound or emotional or just a little heart emoji on your page it gets us teary. Like heart-eyes & hug emojis all over the place. We’re mushy like that. At first, most of the poems themselves were on the mushy side. But as I pointed out to someone, it’s mostly unrequited love poems. There’s also at least two about the death of a loved one. Not sure I’ve ever posted a real love poem. Think I tried to write one once, yah I just scribbled it out. We did decide it was time to reveal some of the darker ones and we did start posting them. People have responded so beautifully to them. I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s hard to be so vulnerable. Even with these blogs, seeing the likes makes me all squishy. Haha. I’m a sap sometimes. I do appreciate it immensely when people take the time to read anything we do.

Another thing the writer friend said is it takes a lot just to write something. That’s an accomplishment right there! Not everyone can do that! And it gets the emotions and feelings out onto paper and sometimes that’s all you need. Some of the things Shalimar and I write can be too long or too emotional or just not so good and will never see the light of a screen. Haha. To put oneself out into the world is like being a baby bird in the nest. You can just sit there in the nest, all warm and comfortable, but it’s not going to get you anywhere. To be honest as old as I am and hard up to boot, I really don’t have anything to lose. I don’t have any formal training, and I feel sometimes I have no clue what I’m doing or where to go from here. I may fall on my face. I may fly in circles and not get anywhere. Been there, done all that. But I’m trying. I don’t want to give up, though lately it’s been hard not to. Because who knows, maybe one day I’ll take off and soar…and who doesn’t want that?

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