Tuesday, March 15, 2011

F is for FREEDOM! Love what YOU love, No Regrets, No Excuses

It's easy to get discouraged about your writing. Even when you know you're doing everything in your power to get better. Learn from every book you write. Every book you failed to finished. Every book that wasn't "The one." Everyone you've met on this path you chose, writers, family on the sidelines, and not let setback and disappointment be the end of you, because it isn't, but these feelings never go away once you're published.

But I know that's hard to really understand when you collect nothing but form letter rejections year after year, I'm the same as some of you who are reading this now, and you've been struggling to get published as I am, you know as I do that as much as you need and sincerely want to be positive, keeping yourself motivated and finding fun in the process is not always simple, and that's why the first step in my F.U.N. factor method is FREEDOM.

Say it aloud. Freedom!

Keep saying that to your heart, it feeds on this word, you resolve needs to hear it, your thinking must NEVER forget this word, a word we can take for granted, when we lose our way in life.

I'm not talking only about freedom to write what we love, and read what we love, if you follow my blog you believe that on some level already, or at least learning to, I also mean freedom to tell yourself the truth, it will hurt, but lying to yourself hurts even more.

After my last meltdown back in February, I've made a conscious effort to avoid talking too much about myself, I didn't start this blog to bore folks with my problems, or to demonize writers I can't equal, and let my jealousy cloud my thinking more than does now, zero. Okay, 0.5, but I'm not trying to be a saint here, and it's better than when it was 60%.

But this is a story I must share with you, because it's something I wish I'd done years ago, and I hope it will help at least one of you get on the path to healing the true writer within you.


Today, I told a wise writer I know that as hard as I try, my query letters sucked, and nothing I did made them good. No matter how I came at them. She gave me some good advice, which I understood in ways I never would've a year ago, but that didn't make my recent attempts any better, even if they weren't getting worse.

I tried so hard not to tell her off. After all, she's a busy lady who would gave up time from their busy life to givr me insight. Few people would do this if it's not mandatory, especially when times are tough for so many in the world right now, suffering far worse than me, and maybe some of you, for all I know, one of them could be reading this now. It's something I work hard to be mindful of.

But sometimes, despite your intentions, you give into the frustration, and for someone like me, who can not hide their rage and frustration behind  a mask (One of the many reasons I'll never go into politics or law enforcement) you ruffle people's feathers more than gain new skills and insight to improving your craft.

She said what she did for my benefit, not to make me feel worse, and I need to remember that she's been where I am, and she rose above it to achieve her goals, I can do the same.

I need to remind myself that the only way this will end is either figure out my mistakes and plow through them or quit. But I know I'll never quit, so I move forward, not always in graceful silence, but I do, and if a flaky crybaby guy like me can do it for eight years and counting, anyone can. So long as being a better writer day by day is your goal too.

In those eight years, I studied my craft, stayed up late polishing my manuscripts, did things I loathed because I sucked at them, but needed to learn, and while I'm never going to love writing query letters, trying to craft those letters helped me learn things I needed to know, and even if I don't understand them now, someday I will.

There is something I do understand now.

I need to be more patient with myself.

This has always been my greatest weakness next to taking criticism poorly. Whether it's true or not.

It's better than when I was 5, (Thank God! All those writers who tried to help me would seriously hate me) but it's still something I have to watch carefully, and there are times when staying silent doesn't help you learn anything, the trick is knowing what to say, and how to say it approtiately, but everyone slips up sometimes. That's human and normal, just don't let it become a habit, trust me, it'll be a demonic habit to curb the older you get. Not impossible, but hard, even harder than "Mastering" query letters, balancing the business aspects of publishing with what you as a creative person needs and deserves, but if you can do it, or at least not let it stop you, it will only make you stronger, as a writer and a person, for the rest of your life.

I still haven't gotten there. But I know what holds me back. That's really half the battle. A doctor can treat a patient if he doesn't know what's ailing him. A Realtor can't find you a house if they don't know your budget and what you can realistically attain, and maintain.

So it stands to reason a writer can't know where he's going wrong if he doesn't find out, and what he just can't find on his own, know the right people to ask, and leverage that to see where you're at or where you need to be to achieve your goals.

So much about writing is subjective, once you get spelling, grammar, punctuation out of the way. This is both great and grueling. Grueling because it's easier to see what's WRONG in someone's writing than what's RIGHT with it. Yet it's also a good thing, because what some think is meaningless drivel, others can see the merit where others don't, otherwise the only books that would ever get sold would all be somewhat the same, and that's no fun, right?

At the least, remember the following: I have to write what I love, read what I love, and improve what I hate to best champion for what I love, no excuses, no regrets.

Madame Novelist, if you read this, know I heard you loud and clear today.

One day, I will be as strong as you, and when that day comes, I want to share a meal with you, and tell you with my voice, not just my words, "I understand, and I'm a better person for it, thank you for seeing past the pain I harbored, for it was never meant for you, only myself for lacking your patience and even temperament."

Until then, I toast you, and all writers who read this with these words-

To us, the writers,
Who love what we do, no matter how much fail,
How many times we're faced hardship,
For that will make our victory all the sweeter,
Because we earned it, and it's what we love!

Love your overemotional literary rat,
Whose sober in terms of alcohol but hopelessly drunk with passion and persistence,
Taurean

P.S: Check back tomorrow for part two in my F.U.N. factor method. Understanding.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The F.U.N. Factor - How To Make Your Writing and Reading Life Both Productive and Pleasureful!

Symbiosis.

It's one of my favorite words I learned as a kid. It speaks to so many aspects of life. Symbiosis is when two separate entires rely on each others strengths to help compensate the weaknesses of one another.

A more personal way to say "Teamwork."

For example, vegetable gardens not only need water and nutrient rich soil, but sunlight as well. Sunlight, water, and rich soil all play their part in keeping life cycle of plants and trees in balance.

The water cycle is also dependent on the sun. It's the light and heat from the sun that causes water to evaporate, become clouds, which brings rain, snow, or hailstones  rushing to the ground .In addition to sunlight though, wind speed and climate temperature also play key factors in the water cycle.

As we each walk down our own writer's path, we may want to achieve similar goals, like daily sharpening of our craft, writing new material on a reasonably consistent basis, getting an agent. Or make our first sale. We achieve these goals in different ways and at different times, usually (But annoyingly) on a longer time frame.

Regardless of how different your road differs from others, many things are a constant to all writers, whether fiction or nonfiction, short vs. long.

We must write, of course,  but we also must read, which is where our love for language starts after we learn our first words through sound as toddlers. Just like Peanut Butter and Chocolate, Bacon and Eggs, and Fish and Chips, Reading and Writing are of equal importance to writers.

But this is also where new writers especially face one of the first big challenges prior to or shortly after either getting an agent or miraculously sold your book by going direct to a publisher, something that's getting harder to do now versus decades ago.

Sometimes, you may find reading is not the same as it was when you weren't writing, which for the purposes of this topic, writing with publication being your eventual goal.

Before, you read what you loved and didn't have to justify or explain it to yourselves, you just appreciated it when a certain story or writer's style speaks to you and your interests and experiences.

Once we start writing, and want to publish some of that writing, things change a bit. Now you take second looks as books you normally wouldn't because they're causing a serious buzz among readers and fellow writers, and winning an award or two only adds fuel to the fire surronding the accolades of a certain book, series, or author.

Some of these books you may like too, others you simply will not, even if it's in the same genre or type of book you're trying to write. First, know that it's OKAY not to like it, or to simply not be good at a book you like reading, I'm sure many writers like books in certain catagories they don't feel good at or have any interest to write themselves.

Think of how people have gone loony for memoirs this past decade, but that doesn't mean all the writers who loved memoir, should or frankly want to write their own.

Now you'll hear many writers who say they don't have this problem, and I'm seriously glad they don't, I don't wish this kind of pain and frustration on anyone, even my worst enemies.

For those of you T.A.A. readers who know or have once felt this pain, or know someone who has, it is REAL, and thankfully, can be healed. For the next week starting today, I'm going to put into practice, a way of making peace with the rivalry issues writers who want to get published and build a writing career always face and how to rise above them.

Readers, it's time to get the F.U.N. back in READING, not just writing.

I know many published writers, and publishing insiders, tell you not to let the market solely dictate everything you write, or READ for that matter.  At the same time, new writers are also force fed the saying, "Study the market" often more so than, "Show, don't tell."

But this isn't about arguing one over the other, because they are both important, this is really about learning how to write, and read, that doesn't sacrifice the pleasure for the practical. This is about-

The F.U.N. Method for reading and writing-

F for freedom
U for understanding
N for necessity

Over the next week or so, I will explore each aspect of the what the F.U.N. method is all about and how you can tailor it to fit the kind of writer and reader you are.

Snow or no snow, for all you four seasoners, Spring is coming soon, and it's time to take back the fun reading and writing gave us, while still pushing yourself toward excellence in your craft one day at a time.

Check back tomorrow for our first stop-

Freedom!

Until then, may the Fantastic Fauna be with you.
Taurean

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A little behind...

Sorry about not getting my posts up yesterday, I got sidetracked by a new game I bought last week. I will get the posts I'd planned for yesterday up tomorrow along with other things I planned for Sunday I mentioned in Future Headlines.

I'm still working better prioritizing my time. I'm getting there though.

Until tomorrow,
May the fantastic fauna be with you.

Taurean

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Take the "P" out of pain and add "G" for Gain

No Pain, No Gain.


At some point we've all heard or been told this phrase countless times in our lives. Especially in recent years, when our economy, government, and even Mother Nature dealt us pain we often fear they'll be no gain at all.


But this is neither a financial or political blog, this blog is for aspiring and emerging children's book writers, but trust me, I'm going somewhere with this.


Just like the troubling times going on worldwide, and in our respective homelands, every man, woman and child faces their own trials and triumphs. But just as our predecessors survived and thrived despite The Great Depression, and two World Wars almost back to back, we'll survive these tough times too, even though sadly many of us will recover far slower than others.


But while the modern phrasing of this now clich├ęd saying is most well known, it comes from an old proverb coined by one of America's most influential voices, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, who said in his Poor Richard's Almanac: There are no gains without pains.

While this witty pearl of wisdom is mostly used in modern times as a self-motivator to physical fitness, it definitely applies to writers to further understand our craft, and sharpen it, like a hand crafted Chinese meat cleaver.


You'd be surprised at some of the common turns of phrase we still parrot today were first penned or made it wittingly candid by him.


"A penny saved is a penny earned" is another of his most well known quotes.One I've yet to master, but at least I'm not drowning in debt, and that was a ditch I nearly dug myself in, but now I'm in the black and intend to stay that way.


But Time is Money, A place for everything, and everything in it's place, and even, Honesty is the best policy. They all came from the witty Doc Franklin himself, whose words no less true now as they were in colonial America, but despite all the ignorant prejudice and inequivalent among the American colonists faced with England, and even amongst themselves, imagine how scathing it could've been if we had colonial equivalent of television, Facebook, or Twitter? Can you say, "Social Death By Journalism?" 


I'll take Death by Chocolate instead, cake that is.


One of my favorite Franklin phrases is one I first heard in 2002-


"A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one."


Peanuts Charlie Brown I imagine would find much solace in that quote. I sure do.


What I gather this means is that it's never too late to better one's education, or build character, and integrity where previously there was none. Something I think all writers, but especially newcomers to the field like me, need to remind ourselves every day, minute, and hour we live and on the endless journey to improve our writing, for ourselves, and the readers we one day want to have. 


Many wise and more patient writers than I always told me, the journey is more important than the destination. But I believe it's too stark a message. Though I've come to see the truth to it. The destination is still important. 


If it wasn't, many of the truly joyous moments in our lives, both as a country, as well as individuals, would've never occurred. I hope Ben's Words, and mine, bring you the comfort and joy I'm starting to find again.


I'll leave you with my all time favorite quote from Dr. Franklin I sincerely wish all my readers and fellow writers can achieve in some form, for their sake, and for the sake of the future generations of wordsmiths-


"We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."



Until tomorrow,
May the fantastic fauna be with you.
Taurean


P.S: While I applaud Ben for his searing sentences that speak truths we often recoil against, but need to hear anyway, I feel sorry for dogs everywhere when he uses these loyal, brave, and playful companions as metaphors on the sins and frailties of human nature. But I did find one dog quote by Dr. Franklin that shows that loyalty. As an animal lover,  whether the creatures of fact, or fiction, it was a quote I was glad to find.


Many Thanks, Ben. Many Thanks.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

New Poll, Future Headlines Convey the Future Again, But No Regular Post Until Tomorrow

Evening All,

I'm still getting back to my intended routine, and spent much of the day editing my new WIP and sharpening my query writing skills, which have been beyond dull for far too long. So I wasn't able to get a craft post out today, sorry about that. But there are some other big updates I've put off no longer!

I FINALLY updated the Future Headlines section, so check it out to see what's coming up in the coming days.

Also, I at last came up with a new poll, which I plan to do on a weekly basis from now on, so please cast you votes before March 15th, at 7:00 AM sharp.

Here are the final results of January's Poll-


WHICH OF THESE ANIMALS DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST MISUNDERSTOOD?

1st: Crow 42%

2nd: Weasel - 28% (My pick)

3rd: Fox - 14%

Tied at 4th with 0 Votes
Cheetah

Crocodile

Rat

Wolf


There were no polls in February due to bad burnout, but there will be a new poll every week now.
I'll have a regular post tomorrow, promise.

Until then,
May the fantastic fauna be with you.
Taurean

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Contest Update and Special Giveaway

I've got good news and bad news, and relax, the bad news has nothing to do with me. This may be my blog, but I've no intention to make it my self-pity soapbox, but I appreciate those of you who've tried to ground me, be assured your words never fall on death ears, they just are taking longer to live up to than I'd truly like.

First, let me get the other bad news out of the way, which is about the T.A.A. Prose and Poetry Slam.

Normally, this would be the point in the contest when I'd narrow down the entries for the semi final rounds where you readers vote for the winners, but I've only received one entry, and a good one.

This mostly happened because I didn't do enough to promote this contest to better get the word out, and also due to my being discouraged by those who questioned my inability to award the prizes I promised, and despite what these naysayers may think, this is the fairest way I can settle this short of canceling the contest altogether, especially given my own somber mood at present.

I've decided to put my prose and Poetry slam on hold until summer, and I promise to better get the word out this time, and be a better blogger by then. For the sole entrant who did submit a piece, not to worry, I've read it and will still be in the running when the Prose and Poetry Slam  resumes this summer. I'll give specific date and details in the near future.

But here's the good news. I've planned a giveaway that you can take part in right now!

All you have to do is leave a comment in this thread and mention a book that cheers you up when you're blue and why. The first two who comment with their books* each win a $25 Barnes and Noble E-Gift Card.

The winners only need to e-mail me at taaddicts-at-yahoo.com with their contact details and I'll handle the rest.

*Note: This giveaway is only open to US residents, sorry, but one day I hope to have giveaways open worldwide, or at least Australia and the U.K. They'l just take more planning to work out shipping and exchange rates.

The only other catch is that if the winners have blogs, I'd appreciate they spread the word about my blog and that I'll re-launch my Prose and Poetry Slam in the summer for a new chance to win even bigger prizes. Hopefully this giveaway will prove I can deliver on my promise of prizes while I fight through my current frustration.

This is mostly an example of my trying to do too much with my blog too quickly. Please forgive me on that. I have a habit of backing out of things at the last minute and started this blog sooner than I meant to, and the fact that my personal non-blog writing goals are off to a rough start this year, and my recent discouragement and frustration episodes didn't help. I apologize to those I've hurt during this time.

But I assure I'm doing all I can to push ahead.

Until Next Time,
May the fantastical fauna be with you,

Taurean