Friday, February 10, 2012

Knowing When to Get Help

There was no help for it.

It has been nearly a year since I published Among Women and the sequel needs to be told. First, it has to be written. Ideas have been plaguing me for days -- since I realize how much time I had left if I was to publish the sequel a year from the first novel -- and I couldn't resist any longer.

I do have two other books to finish, but this seems more important, more time sensitive, and so it goes. I began writing the sequel this morning -- a few moment ago, actually. The bet part is that it feels good and the writing is going moderately well. I should have a chapter or two done today before I have to start my day job. That has to be counted as a plus.

That's the thing about writing. Time lines and such are for people who work best under those kinds of guidelines. I'm not one of them. I write what speaks to me at the time, putting aside other works to get the words down on paper while they're still burning their way through my dreams and waking thoughts. I know I'll work on the other books, too, but this one seems more important, has first priority right now. After all the time it has taken me to get as far as I have on the other projects, a few weeks won't make a difference.

It's not exactly what I should do, but writing isn't always about what you should do -- outside of proper grammar, good sentence structure, 3-dimensional characters, and a solid plot. Those are essential no matter what else goes into the mix. I just don't have the knack -- or the desire -- to hamper the work. I write and devil take the hindmost.

Outlines don't work for me. I begin with good intentions, but along the way the muse, or creativity, or some perversity inside me takes the outline for a ride, usually into the bush or some other wild territory and ending up somewhere near the proposed ending, but often somewhere completely different.

Preplanned and written chapter-by-chapter synopses make me feel constrained and strangled. I throw them out, keeping a copy in case I want to refer back to something that I think might work.

And don't get me started on schedules. The only schedules I've been able to keep are the ones they set for me at work. The threat of poverty and homelessness keep me toeing that line no matter what, thrashing, kicking, and struggling until I'm back in the saddle, pull up the reins, and get it done so I can get back to my less structured life where things happen more organically -- meaning when the mood strikes me.

The mood strikes me often to read, eat, and write, and I write quite a bit, most of which does not end up online or in a book. I enjoy writing . . . letters, journal posts, blogging, and books. Without those, even when the going is hard, I would shrivel up and be a shell of a person tramping through the rut of life never seeing the sun or being able to breathe deeply and dream. Without dreams, I wouldn't want to think.

And so I began a new book with two books already more than halfway finished, because it's time to get the rest of Pearl Caldwell's story out. Maybe it was getting a perfectly formatted for Kindle copy of Among Women and realizing that I can delegate a bit more of the self-publishing task to someone who knows more than I do. Don't get me wrong, lots of people know more than I do, but I know when to delegate and when to keep the tasks for myself.

For instance, I am a fairly good artist, but I'd be an idiot if I didn't recognize the talent that Michael Reighn exhibited when he designed the covers for Among Women, Whitechapel Hearts, and the 3 short stories I published. He did -- and does -- a much better job than I.

I'm also smart enough to know that no matter how good an editor I am, I am not a good editor when it comes to my own work. Myopia is the problem. In laymen's terms, I'm too close to the project to be objective or see what a neutral eye could easily pick out. For that, I have an excellent editor in Mary Ann Peden-Coviello. She is ruthless with the virtual red pencil and points out tics that I have missed or cannot see. I do the same for her.

Now, there's Rik Hall, who formatted Among Women for me, and gave me a template so I can make it easier on him the next time around. Yes, I'll hire him again. His prices are reasonable and the turnaround time is very fast. He even throws in fixing typos if they're found.

All of this means, I now have staff. I even have an extra artist's hand in Aubrey Ayala Boneau, another really wonderful artist, who helped with a couple of the covers for Among Women, and designed 2 beautiful covers that I've used on other versions of the novel. I think I have it covered, at least until I can afford someone to do the PR, something else at which I know my considerable limitations.

Although I prefer to go with the flow when the muse is leading the way, I have enough common and business sense to get help when I need it. I've sent the first few pages to Mary Ann and have alerted Michael that a new cover will be needed by May 2012. In the meantime, now that the business end is in place and working -- or ready to be put to work -- I can concentrate on what I do best -- write -- knowing that I can write without the usual hassles and problems that crop up along the way. All of that kind of planning makes what I do so much easier since I'm not gnawing myself out of the mood and into some serious writer's block. After all, if I've nothing written, there's no need to have staff, and I like having staff. It feels almost like I've arrived.

Oh, and the title of the sequel? Among Men.

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