Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

poem- the end November 28, 2020

Filed under: poem,Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 5:18 pm
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such a long time

in the making.

planned so long ago.

waiting.

injury

healing

tiny steps

tiny steps

tiny steps

make the journey

so

long

but here we are at

the

end.

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August 2018 Nikolette Jones and I bantered out the plans for 3 Nikki Knox stories that I would write by August 2019. Unfortunately, August 28 I suffered a brain injury that meant time off work, therapy, and a long road of recovery. I have been dabbling for 2 years with the 4th book, and it is FINALLY finished! It is two years late, but it’s here at last! Nikolette is busy with the art and there will be a new, lovely Nikki Knox 4 book compilation out in the next few months! Yay! It’s so good to have a brain that’s working again.

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writing-NaNoWriMo October 18, 2020

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 1:29 pm
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November swiftly approaches, and for writers around the world that means the question hovers, “Should I participate in National Novel Writing Month?”

In case you’ve not heard of this event, it’s promoted on NaNoWriMo.org as a way to encourage folks to accomplish their dream to write a novel. The challenge is to complete 50,000 words in the month.

That’s 11, 669 words a week.

That’s 1667 words a day.

For 30 days.

Those who complete a 50,000 word manuscript ‘win’ and are eligible for assorted prizes from writing related businesses. (Those who participate but don’t ‘win’ are also entitled to some prizes)

It’s good to be able to plot your progress on the graph and see your project grow.

It’s empowering to be productive.

But…

It’s also a slog. My non-writing friends don’t like my social media feed during NaNo because it’s all about word-count, recalcitrant characters, exhaustion, and frustration.

Because it’s all about word-count, I’ve noticed my writing quality suffers. I have four NaNo ‘winning’ books in my computer that my editors and I have not been able to make publishable yet. There is something fundamentally off about them. I blame the pressure of NaNo. They’re not ‘winners’ to me, because they’re still sitting there in the computer years later.

When I was writing my first novel, within 3 weeks I realized I had settled into a pace, so I made that pace my quota. 1200 words per day Monday to Friday. 6000 words a week. On the weekend, I could catch up, or get ahead as I liked, but I didn’t have to write if I didn’t want to. I had days off if I’d earned them by keeping to my quota. This system worked brilliantly, and the 155,000 word novel was finished in 6 months. (It was 23 weeks, specifically, that averages 6740 words a week).

It was good. I pitched it successfully to a publisher six months after I finished it. It’s an example of ‘slow and steady wins the race.’

I have 13 books in the world, and none of them were NaNo projects. My NaNo projects remain problematic.

So be careful.

If you’re going to embrace NaNo, here are some suggestions:

  1. have your project planned so you have a general (or very specific!) direction in mind and you’re writing with a purpose rather than wandering around the page for the sole purpose of getting words out.
  2. give yourself a schedule that allows you to get some guilt-free breaks. Self-care is important! 12,000 words a week could be 5 X 2400 words, for example
  3. consider a re-frame. You might enter the month with “I will do this or die trying!” That was my general attitude, but the resulting books were a waste of my time. Had I considered ‘anything is better than no words written’ and just focused on writing something everyday, the quality may have been better!
  4. Everything writing counts. If you don’t start your planning until Nov 1- all those planning words are legitimately part of the project. 🙂
  5. Try new ways to write. Some people find they can increase their word count by dictating instead of typing.
  6. People write novels in a month all the time. Some writers write 10,000 words a day routinely (I’ve done it Nov 28 a time or two… ). You won’t discover your abilities until you’ve tried, so try, and if ‘winning’ is important, push through to achieve the goal.
  7. When you’re done, and a few weeks after the thrill and exhaustion of the success has worn off, look with objective eyes at your project. What have you learned? Is that fast-paced sprint good for your writing process? If so, make it part of your practice. If it’s not good for you, try something else to see what is the best way for you to produce projects of the quality you demand.

I have learned that NaNo is not good for my writing practice. I happily participate in the April and June Camp NaNo events when one can set personal goals, and the projects I’ve done then have been completed and published.

These days I don’t feel guilty for letting November go by as I wave at my frantic colleagues. I’ll plug away on my projects without stressing over word-count, and know I’m producing something better than I could do at NaNo pace. I wouldn’t have learned this if I hadn’t tried so many times, though, and seen the unfortunate pattern. It’s worth doing to discover whether it’s a pace that works for you.

Do or do not, it’s up to you!

How about you? Have you done NaNo? What was your experience?

 

Writing- the pause September 22, 2020

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 2:29 pm
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For some, the pandemic has offered a blessing of time to write that they’ve longed for, and they have taken advantage, holing up at home and writing that novel that’s always been at the back of their minds.

For some, the stress of managing new complications and layers of deadly danger in their workplace or among their family members has shut down all notions of creative expression. They’re in survival mode, and all the stories that were in process have sputtered to a stop.

I’m in both camps. I’ve managed to keep writing poetry, but larger projects eluded me. Added to the pandemic stress, my 90 year old mom broke her hip in April, went through rehab and was released back home, but then she passed away in June. I am executor of her estate, and the magnitude of work required to clean up a life-time of possessions from her house was dramatic.

So here I am, looking at the last four months of 2020. I had a goal to submit 20 times in 2020, and so far, I’ve sent out 9 submissions. The first 8 submissions were in Jan/Feb, to give you an idea of how completely the pandemic froze my world!

The pause.

I just submitted the 9th thing a few days ago. It’s a promise to myself that it’s time to dig out from the pressure. I am pondering ways I can salvage my goal. I aim to spend some time with my unpublished projects and look for potential homes for them. Is it time to try a mass submission drive? Shall I find 11 completed pieces in my computer and send each somewhere? Contests? Journals? Magazines?

Yes.

There are 15 weeks left in 2020. It’s time to find my lists of ‘where to publish’ (Writers Market, here I come!). If I take a week to find projects in the computer, I can submit one thing a week and maybe even beat my goal!

How about you? Have you been struggling to meet your writing goals amid all the stresses of 2020? Will you be making any changes in the final months of the year to achieve your goals?

Do you have any recommendations of good places to submit?

 

Writing- Hybrid Publishing August 18, 2020

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 4:23 pm
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When most people think of publishing they think of two options:
1. traditional publication by either a large publishing house or a small press. In this method a publisher purchases publication rights, edits, designs a cover, and markets the book. Large houses offer advances. Small presses rarely do.
2. self-publishing . The author pays for editing, covers, and marketing themselves. Usually they contract individuals for each of these tasks. (There are self-publishing companies like Lulu or Bookbaby that you can pay to do everything in a package deal, but I’ve yet to meet any successful professional who has used them more than once. They tend to be expensive for what they offer. They’re fine if you are only going to write one family history book to sell to your relatives. Otherwise, there are better options).

What is hybrid publishing?
Hybrid authors are BOTH traditionally published AND self-published.

Why would you do it?
Traditional publishers offer a sense of legitimacy, and in theory, a marketing machine. However, with millions of books submitted to publishers each year, only a handful are going to meet the specific niches a publishing house feels are viable investments. Your traditional publisher may not be interested in all the books you’ve written. Rather than sitting on those works, you can release them yourself. Because you don’t have the tight margins those publishing houses have, you don’t have to sell as many books to make it worthwhile.

Self-publishers earn significantly more per book (30-70% retail) that those who are traditionally published (10-15%). Those who master marketing can do very well.

Authors own their name and their brand. They don’t have to be stuck in only one model to sell their books.

Examples of hybrid publishing:

Contract jurisdiction:
Your publisher may be contracted to release your book in the US. You retain rights for the rest of the world. You will have to get a different cover and a new ISBN, but then you can release your book everywhere outside your traditional publisher’s jurisdiction. Robert Sawyer and C. C. Humphreys are authors I know who do this.

Genre:
You may be well known for one genre and traditionally publish in that genre, but if you’d like to branch out and try something different, your publisher may not be interested. Eileen Cook is a traditionally published YA author, but she writes non-fiction writing guides which she self-publishes. Craig di Louie is a traditionally published horror writer who self-publishes his World War II historical fiction.

Backlist:
Publication contracts are dated. A publisher has publication rights for a certain amount of time. When the contract runs out, the rights revert to the author. The author can then self-publish these pieces from their backlist (i.e. previously published works). For example, Diana Gabaldon writes short pieces for anthologies or magazines. When the rights revert, she self-publishes them as ebooks.

Format:
You may choose in your contract not to give all rights to the publisher. For example, Jonas Saul’s Sarah Roberts print books (paper back or hard cover) are traditionally published; however, Jonas retained the ebook rights and self-publishes the ebooks.

Flexibility is the key to success. Today’s writers are learning that it is unwise to put all their eggs in one basket. Hybrid publishing gives them the opportunity to have a variety of income streams.

All the authors I know who are hybrid publishing tell me they’re delighted to have more control over their income.







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poem-the hair dresser was gossiping February 11, 2020

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 9:28 am
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Are you related to? she asked

naming names.

Not those.

These, I reply.

Ah! Her!

Yes! So, you’re the writer!

I am.

and she’s a?

Yes.

She said that…

It was actually like this…

Oh!

I am a writer, too

but I’m not published yet.

I can help.

Small town networking.

 

 

writing- 5 escapes from Writers’ Block November 18, 2019

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 1:15 pm
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Diana Gabaldon once told us that she doesn’t believe in Writer’s Block; she thinks it’s more about Writer’s Inertia.

i.e.

An object (writer) at rest remains at rest.

An object (writer) in motion (writing) remains moving (writing).

So what is the solution when you are writing and come up against a brick wall?  Just because it feels like a block, doesn’t mean it is.  You may need to give that project a rest from your conscious mind and let your subconscious work things out.  To do that, you may need to distract your conscious mind a bit.  You may not need to keep moving forward, so long as you keep moving.

Don’t fret about it or dig yourself into a quicksand state of mind when you’re really just walking on the beach.  Yeah, it may be a bit of a workout, but it’s not killing you.

Here are 5 suggestions to deal with Writers’ Block:

1. Write something else.

Stuck with your novel?  Write a short story, maybe in your novel world, maybe something completely different.  Write a poem.  Write an article.  Writing is writing.  You’re still making progress even if it’s not on your main project.  If you step away, eventually you’ll see something from a distance that you missed while you were too close.

2. Put the problem that’s stymied you into your subconscious.

Before you go to bed, think about the issue you’re struggling to resolve.  Consider each character and what the problem is, and often in the morning you will wake up with a solution.

3. Just write ANYTHING about those characters.

Ignore the main project and just play with your characters.  Conduct an interview with your protagonist, your antagonist, a minor character or two.  Write a letter to their grandmother, their fourth grade teacher, the kindergarten best friend, etc as a way into their psyche.  Bonus!  These sorts of things are awesome bonus material for your newsletter subscribers!

4. Pick up a Writing Thesaurus

These amazing resources by Angela Ackerman and Rebecca Puglisi are fantastic.  Everything is at your fingertips!  Go through the thesaurus, noting character traits that are relevant to the character you’re dealing with and consider how the traits could impact characters’ choices. (I use Emotional Wound Thesaurus. Emotion Thesaurus 2nd edition. Negative Trait Thesaurus. Positive Trait Thesaurus) These seem to always give me lots of ideas to resolve whatever stalls me.

5. Timed write

Set the timer, start writing and don’t pause or overthink.  Put words down for 10 minutes on anything relating to the characters, their living situation, their past choices, their wishes, their families, etc.  Write out possible endings.  Imagine a character telling their therapist about what’s frozen them and why they (their story) aren’t going forward.  Free write in stream of consciousness.  Usually something shakes loose and you’ll get some direction for your project. Oh- and if something comes to mind that you instantly think “NO! You can’t write THAT down!” that is ABSOLUTELY something you NEED to write down!  THAT thing is probably the plug causing all your trouble.  PULL THAT PLUG!!  Write it down!

I think a sense that you’re ‘blocked’ is often your brain falling for the ‘this isn’t good enough’ lie and getting all caught up in getting something ‘right’ on the page.  A first draft is about finishing, not about perfection, so tell that inner critic to shut up while you power through your crappy first draft, and promise to let the critic work out all the issues in the second draft, when you need a critical eye to get things cleaned up.  You can’t edit a blank page.  Even the worst writing can be fixed.  Get writing!

Sometimes it’s okay to realize you don’t know where the story goes next.  This is a common pantser problem! We write ourselves into corners and need some ingenuity to work our way out.  Sometimes we need to erase the trail and go back a scene or two to change direction.  Sometimes we just have to wait in our painted corner until the resolution appears (or the paint dries!).  In the meantime, keep writing.  When you’ve forgotten that troublesome piece, when you return to it, often the solution pops up as you re-read it!  Time is a cure.  Just work on something else while you let that project simmer.  Simmering isn’t a block.  Things taste better if they’ve simmered a while.

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Enough clichés for you in this?  🙂

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Go forth and write.  You’ve got this.

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PS. I’m an Amazon affiliate.

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.Ignore any ads added by WordPress. They’re not endorsed by me.

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SiWC workshop notes- Diana’s Managing a Mob October 28, 2019

Here are my notes from Diana Gabaldon’s Managing a Mob workshop:

Diana- Managing a mob

20191027_124025[1]

Diana Gabaldon SiWC 2019

 

 

Tangled April 2, 2019

Filed under: Poetry,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:09 am
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Be tangled in the words.

Weave yourself ability.

Knit a world.

Unravel negativity.

Crochet characters uncurled

Stitch together possibilities.

Wind yourself in words.

 

 

quote-write for kids March 13, 2019

Filed under: Quotations,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 10:09 pm
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“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

~Madeleine L’Engle

How profound is this?  And what a truth!  Some of the most powerful literature is written for kids. It challenges thinking and shines a light on what the world is like, encouraging them to question the status quo and make changes to improve society.

 

writing-conference power February 19, 2019

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 8:49 pm
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I’m a huge advocate of the writing conference as a crucial key to a writer’s development.  For many years, I thought they were silly and over-priced.  I figured I could learn anything I needed to know by reading books about the writing craft and business.

What I didn’t understand was the importance of connection.  Writers tend to be solitary creatures. Their creativity happens when they’re alone.  Often our friends and family members don’t understand the stress of having to kill off a character we love, or the trauma of maintaining our words per day quota, or the soul-destroying nature of the twelfth (or hundred and twelfth) rejection letter for a project we adore.

Other writers do.

When you sit in a room with other writers, hear their stories, and realize they have the same kind of feelings and experiences you do, you realize you aren’t the only one. You’re not weird! (Well, maybe you are, but it’s probably a good weird, and you realize there are a lot of weirder people and you thoroughly enjoy being in their weird company!).  You feel like you belong.  You listen, you learn, you laugh, and you long for it to last.

Next March I am going to a new conference for me: Creative Ink in Burnaby, BC.  I see that some of my friends from other conferences (Surrey International, When Words Collide in Calgary, Word on the Lake in Salmon Arm) will be there. How great!

If you’re in BC and you’ve never been to a conference, this one is a good price ($80 for the weekend) and has some phenomenal people presenting and attending, so I already know it’s going to be great.  Learn about the craft and business of the writing life.  Share some weird.  Enjoy some fun.  Buy some books.

If you decide to go, tell them I sent you!

Creative Ink is at the Delta Marriott Burnaby, BC  March 29-31, 2019.

 

 
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