Writing is Personal? Since when? (Writing Tip No. 7)

“Curiouser and curiouser.”

Writing is Personal? Since when? (Writing Tip No. 7)

The Writing Part

Any writer throughout history will tell you this (yes, I’ve met and asked them all): writing is you and your soul on paper. Once you release your words, they are for public fare. Can you live with what you’ve written with no “take backsies” or rewrites? If you answered yes, then maybe your manuscript is ready to get out there. Maybe that is the key to knowing when you are finished with anything. When you can see your words there, as they stand; they represent you in many meaningful ways. No matter if you’re writing an autobiography or a brilliant fantasy of a world where ordinary people never have to choose between being Team Edward or Team Jacob—if you are writing that book, please let me be your story’s first eyes!—the quest is always the same. Love your words and your words will love you back. It’s a symbiotic relationship we often take for granted. But then again… they are only words.

But you own them! Make them go! Get your crazy eyes on and write how you feel and how it matters. Then throw out that scorned teen’s diary nonsense and start over. Extreme? I’m just guessing. Cuz that’s where I go at some beginnings. But your own bad or cliche* writing can give you perspective and help you move forward with your craft. Take a step back and ask, “What’s wrong with this picture?” Overall and in pieces. If it’s yours and perfect and you approve, set it free.

Or just keep a stack of thought and story-filled notebooks under your mattress and enjoy them all for you only. May whatever goal you seek for your work come true. And while we’re askin’ for stuff… may God bless ponies and bunny rabbits.

The Reading Part

I am reading Watership Down as an audible.com book. And please don’t tell me that listening to a book can not be claimed as reading a book. I won’t have that argument because it is silly. I’m still getting the story. At any rate, please, no spoilers either. I have never read it and so far as I can see early on, it is quite magnificent. If you are familiar, I am so rooting for Fiver. I mean, why wouldn’t you be? Wait, don’t answer that. We’ll talk again in a few weeks. But the main plot of the story is that a group of bunnies leave the comfort of their home in the meadow because of an unfounded prediction that the entire herd <?what’s a giant group of bunnies that live together called? a common probably.> common would perish. That’s abouts alls I knows and I don’ts know no mores. I said there’d be unecessary plurals at some point earlier today.

But I do need to pick up my kindle again. I tried a few books recently but they all sort of petered my interest quickly out. In fact, the last good novel I read was (semi-ironically) The Reader. It’s a brutally honest look into the heart and mind of a former female Nazi guard and her torrent love affair with a 15 year old. Unbelievable that I had never heard of this book before but it was an excellent read to say least and it would be a wonder if it is not banned. Though I do believe there is a large gap between banning a book and quietly accepting one. I have a feeling that the educational community does the latter and doesn’t really draw attention to the book by teaching it. Though if a student found it on his own, he’d probably be encouraged by the school system. I would hope, anyway. Clearly these are only speculations on a much broader subject. It’s also one I didn’t mean to stumble into. So, with that…

The Part That Talks More About The Picture

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The Part Where It Ends For Now

Today, a friend of mine sent me a literary quote and it speaks for itself:

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on. — Robert Frost

Setting up an LLC: Fun for you and fun for me!

The first L stands for Literary.

The second L stands for Love.

The C stands for Congratulate me! I’m an LLC! Congrats, says you, so what exactly does that mean? Well, in a nutshell it means that “Literary Wonderland” is now a legally recognized company in the state of <fill in where I am located here>. Literary Wonderland specializes in freelance writing and editorial services. The state recognizes this and any future company that tries to take the name “Literary Wonderland” for similar services is SOL. Sorry Charlie, you snooze you lose. But don’t give up just because I have the ultimate company name. Here are some FAQ’s for going forward with your own righteous entity!

WHY DO I NEED AN LLC?
Good question. If you are planning on branching out on your own and doing a lot of freelancing now or in the future, and if you want to register an original company name with the powers that be, AND if you want to be write off certain purchases that are necessities in your trade, an LLC is the way to go. Sure you can freelance on your own without the added worry of a fancy shmancy company name, but if you want to go the extra mile and make yourself more than just the average Joe looking for work, a company name, web presence, and LLC says to the world: Look at me! I’m serious and I’ve got skills! Holla! And then hire!

HOW DO I GET AN LLC?
It is actually very simple to set up an LLC online. In fact, all I did was to google “setting up an LLC” and a plethora of articles pop up. Duh. Anyone can figure that part out. Then, after you’ve read up on different avenues you can take—you can hire an attorney to set one up for you but why throw your money away?—you can easily find your Secretary of State’s Office website and follow some relatively moron-proof step-by-step instructions to form your limited liability corporation.

DOES IT COST AN ARM AND A LEG TO GET AN LLC?
Easy answer: no.
More detailed answer: Registering your company with the state is not going to bankrupt you by any means. However, if you are currently in a tough situation, it may mean cutting back on something else this month. Do you really need those $6 Starbuck coffees every morning?
My answer: In my situation, it cost $125 to register “Literary Wonderland” as an LLC. I thought that was fair. Then, I tacked on another $50 to get an official sealed certificate so I can frame it and smile at it when I’m feeling low. But you certainly don’t need to do that if you’d rather not. Once you pay the initial fee (which varies from state to state, but not by much), you receive PDFs that include your official company identification number for tax purposes.

IS THAT ALL?
Yup. On the state level, that’ll do ya. Keep in mind though that after you register your LLC with the state, you will then have to also register on the federal level. This is also extraordinarily easy to do and it is FREE. Praise the Lord!

DO I ABSOLUTELY NEED TO REGISTER WITH THE FEDS?
Yes. Like I said though, it’s easy and free. What’s your damage? Are you living off the grid somewhere, holed up in a bomb shelter with a cult and an arsenal just waiting for doomsday? Well if that’s the case brother, you’re biggest concern probably isn’t going to be starting your own freelance writing company. Please, rethink your life. Let the women and children go.

YOU’RE RIGHT, I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WAS THINKING! THANK YOU, LITERARY WONDERLAND! I’M GOING TO START MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE!
Well now that’s just super. Glad to hear it. But don’t thank me. Thank the LLC.

-LW

Great books come from okay first drafts (Writing Tip No. 4)

I haven’t read a good book in awhile. I’m listening to Stephen King’s latest “11/22/63″ on my long commute to work every day. Does that count? I’ve just been so busy setting up my web site for my freelance writing/editorial business that may or may not be taking off soon. I’m also running like a madman (I’m training for a marathon), and most importantly, I’m writing my YA book. I gave myself a deadline to have the rough draft finished by March 10 in order to apply for a Work-In-Progress Grant from the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) before the deadline. My current writing goal for this is to put down 2,000 words a day. I’m about 8,000 words behind since I set my goal a couple weeks ago. The words keep piling up day after day! It’s an insane amount of work to slam out in a very short amount of time that rivals the 1,666 words a day challenge of NaNoWriMo each November. I tried NaNoWriMo twice before. I got close both times. About halfway. That’s close, right?

I’m not too worried about the daily writing goal. I wish that my only job was writing. I’ll bet Stephen King laughs in the face of 2,000 words/day. Have you seen the hardcover version of “11/22/63″? You could kill a brontosaurus with it! That is, if you found some kind of rabbit hole in the back of a small town diner, stepped into it, went back in time carrying King’s latest novel, blew past the assassination of JFK all the way to the mesozoic, met a brontosaurs, raised the book and… oh my God, how could you do that? They’re so cute! What’s wrong with you? Gosh.

You may be wondering: how much of my new YA novel is actually good? Well… I’d say about half of it. That’s pretty good! When you’re writing a rough draft, I don’t think you should necessarily put too much emphasis on quality. Did he really just say that? Listen, if your first draft makes you want to puke and die, you might want to reconsider a few plot points. I’m not saying you should strive toward mediocrity (although look at how successful Stephenie Meyer is – oh snap!), but don’t dwell on making it perfect the first time out of the gates either. For me, a first draft is just about getting it down, pouring it out, and moving through the story. Occasionally, I do find myself editing a certain paragraph over and over again. When that happens I try my best to pull away from it, maybe highlight it first, save some notes on it for later. But move along, son. Nothing to see here.

It’s a good philosophy. Works for me, anyway. I once read an interview Tom Robbins (one of my favorite writers, but he hasn’t written anything in awhile has he? What’s up with that?). In the interview, Robbins said that when he writes, he has a general idea of where his story is going to go but he perfects every single sentence in the novel one by one. He writes the opening line, stares at it, re-writes it, re-writes-it, tweaks it, re-writes it again, makes it amazing, then moves on to his second sentence. He works this way through his entire book! I could never do that. I gotta just write, man. Robbins’ way seems like it would give me an ulcer by Chapter Two. But then again, read his opening line to Another Roadside Attraction: The magician’s underwear has just been found in a cardboard suitcase floating in a stagnant pond on the outskirts of Miami.

The man may be on to something.

Get It Down, No Matter What (Writing Tip No. 3)

I tweeted last night: “What to do when you want to blog but are too far from your computer and too tired to move. Tomorrow at www.literarywonderland.wordpress.com.” At the time, it seemed like a perfectly good idea. I could go to sleep and dream of peaceful things, wake up, have a day, and then write something brilliant that would rock the blogosphere! Guess how that worked out?

Man, I must have been half asleep when I sent that! What was I going for?? See this is a perfect example of why I should just curl up every night with my laptop. It doesn’t make a very comfortable pillow but I suppose I could rest it on my nightstand and bust it out when inspiration strikes.

So what should you do when you have a creative notion but are too exhausted to do something about it? If your answer is “I do anything I possibly can to preserve it” then you’re on the right track! Some writers keep a notepad by their bed, others whip out their smart phone or iPad and jot it down before it slips away. However you can do it—talk into a tape recorder, wake up your very understanding wife and ask her to remember it, write it on the inside of your eyelids with mascara—I don’t care, just save it somehow! Our brains aren’t equipped to handle brilliance during slumber! Or at least I know mine isn’t.

There have been too many times in my life that I have jolted awake in the wee small hours of the morning, fallen crazy in love for some damn good writing idea, and, confident that it was simply too good to forget, I would fall right back to sleep, safe with the knowledge that, of course I’ll remember it tomorrow. Of course I will. This is the big one! But then, lo and behold, when the crow crows, all that remains on the tip of my tongue is one great and sour DAMNIT!

Write it down, folks. Our subconscious is too precious to ignore, too slippery to contain, and too merciless to give us a break. Let’s start losing some sleep for our good ideas before we lose more of our good ideas to sleep.

Good night.

At Any Rate – A Freshman Freelancer’s Opening Numbers

I played around with a freelance calculator today. It popped out the results I suppose I expected. It’s not easy bein’ green. You gotta work in order to be.

In Lynn Wasnak‘s helpful piece, How Much Should I Charge, she states “smart full-time freelance writers and editors annually gross $35,000 and up—sometimes up into the $150,000-200,000 range.” Granted, the article and pay chart that followed were based on the cost of living in 2005-2006*. Has that much changed in six years? I don’t suppose here in 2012, many freelancer writers are making over two-hundred grand. If you are, God bless you and keep up the good work! For the rest of us though, what are we looking at? What is a number that we are comfortable with, a number that will represent for us, not just a means of paying the mortgage, electricity, hot water and food but also with the all too vital feeling of self worth and satisfaction that we, as a species, so desperately need. How could you ever put a price on that?

I’m speaking rhetorically quite a bit here, of course. We each have our individual lifestyles to maintain. To each his own (and hers). Coming from a newbie’s perspective, I can tell you that I’d be happy with no less than a cool thirty million a year.

And the crowd goes wild with laughter!

Did you like that one? Ppbbtthh.

At any rate… <interjection: I just found this entry’s title> I am sure that learning about your billable hours and hourly rates is a learning process just as everything else. One thing’s for certain though: this new gig’s got class.

LW

*I am now realizing that there is a 2011 pay rate calculator on Waznak’s site. D’oh!

Chapter 1 or 7: Moving In Stereo (Writing Tip No. 1)

I am well and deep into the finishing recesses of my book. It’s been two long years of fighting certain aspects of it, not least withstanding periods of sluggishness, but now I am nearing the end. Or perhaps the beginning? Alas (or ha!), I am seriously considering switching the two. I’m currently re-writing the first draft of my epilogue and thinking, well damn if that couldn’t be the Prologue, instead! It’s an interesting thought, I wonder if my story will have the gumption to do it.

Have you ever moved chapters in haphazard or organized ways to see if your story could work differently? You might have to change tenses or turn some chapters into flashback scenes or go completely Boznai bananas and do a killer Pulp Fictiony kind of thing to make the full work make sense as a whole. (Whew.) However you may have done it in the past, I applaud you. It’d be cool to hear your story. Did shifting the timeline of your story improve it? Did your tale reach new heights?

If you haven’t done this, and you don’t think it’s an off-its-nut idea, you should try it. Or, if you don’t have a book to experiment on, if you’re a poet say, I’m sure this idea is not new to you. I’ve dabbled in poetry a great deal in the past and come off with an approximately 20% personal satisfaction rate overall—the rest is 70% drivel (do that math, it’s different than you’d think)—and having dabbled, I do know the great and untarnished joy of taking poetic license (pardon the pun) and dancing your many lines and stanzas from top to bottom to sideways to shelf and back again! It can be, at its finest, a wildly creative ride. Practice it more if it works.

LW

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6Ksrmbwr1s&w=420&h=215]

Breaking the Inundation of Inertia

Some things in life are unnecessary distractions. Come to think of it… most are. Do you really need to check Facebook every ten minutes? Ok, sure, your friends’ kids are pretty damn adorable but those pics will still be there tomorrow. And then on Twitter, there’s no less than ninety-two new articles being retweeted in your feed about Jay Z and Beyonce taking over the hospital (interspersed with endless dull jokes concerning Tebow’s 316 yards for Jesus). Steer clear of the nonsense. Close all tabs and get going! Stop reading blogs (as soon as you have finished reading this one) and go warm up your fingers by writing your own words, whatever they may be. Any writing (blog or otherwise) is therapeutic for the lazy writer. In a sense, there is a bit of the lazy writer in all of us. And I am by and large your sluggish king.

A writer writes. How many times have we heard this? But doesn’t a writer also procrastinate, stew in his own uncreative juices, moan, mourn the writing that’s not being done, work a day job, eat, sleep, exercise, make love, shovel snow, love a family, drink, watch television, take vacation, clean the gutters, pay the taxman, be a conscientious consumer and a faithful, dutiful patriot while still questioning your government’s decisions (as is your right) and on and on and on. Yes, this is just an infinitesimal sprinkling of what people do. Everybody has their own stuff, be it normal or weird. I have mine as you have yours as she has hers and we are all together. See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly. I’m crying. Wait. Don’t listen to The Beatles. Not now. As great as they are, they will distract you. You’ll listen to the lyrics and you’ll think, “How brilliant, how simple, how true. Why can’t I write like that?” Why indeed? But listen to the band on your own time. No outside influences here tonight. Just you and your pen. Now is not your time. Now is your Muse’s time. Give in to her and her alone.

I watch too much TV. There, I said it. It’s awful. It’s something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. My grandfather used to call television “the boob tube.” I always found that amusing as a child. Even though I was too young to fully understand women’s bodies (still am and probably always will be), I did know that the word “boob” was pretty funny. Didn’t know why. Still don’t. But in this sense, the boob, as it were, is the fool watching the tube—the fool who is distracted from his work. I won’t bore you with the sob story of my particular distraction any more than I would with the channel guide or what’s saved in the DVR. We all have some reason or other why we aren’t producing. The question is: are we content? Are we sufficiently and ultimately satisfied with the amount, and more importantly the quality of the work we put out there? If the answer is no, we should turn off our numerous distractions—or at the very least postpone them indefinitely—and get down to the nitty-gritty of the business… as I am sure many of our grandfathers have once quipped.

Get down with it now and get down with it. Be something more important than the non-writer you have been pretending to be. Write what you have always wanted to write. And if it doesn’t come out of you immediately, let it grow. Keep it going for as long as it takes. Til you find something special. And then, you will most definitely be hooked on the high of that feeling. So hang on to it.

I wrote today.

Are there three words in the English language that, when placed side by side by side, are more attractive, alluring, and meaningful than these three words?

I wrote today.

Can you write those words right now and mean it? If you consider yourself a writer, I wish their bliss upon you. My writing, as of late, has largely consisted of editing. The short of it is that I conceived an idea for a novel not quite two years ago (I know the exact date because Google Calendar rules my life). Two years is a long time to be stewing in something. Have you ever done that? Have you ever had a genius of an idea but just sat on it, writing bits and pieces as you go, but never really fully committing to what it could be? Well I’m here to tell you that whatever your idea is, it could be great, if only you would let it. You’re writing for some reason and I assume that reason is because you believe in your story. So why not set it free? What do you have to lose?

I’m actually nearing the end of this particular work and this is how I did it. I dilly-dallied for a long long time. Skip that step if you haven’t already. Take this that I have learned from that wasteful period to heart: write it down. I’ll say it again. Write it down. I’ll expand on that thought. Write it all down. Write it down write it down write it down. And then, when you stop, it’s ok. Take a break. Take a day or a week or a month at most but then come back, and write it down again. Just keep going. Writing is easy. It’s editing that’s hard.

So here I am and I’m editing. The way I do it is I started at the beginning. Chapter One. I went through it and I worked it. I worked the living hell out of it. I rewrote it and I studied it and I rewrote it again. And then I moved on to the flaming heap of crap that was Chapter Two and I did the same meticulous work with that. And so on and so on.

Today, I very proudly finished editing/re-writing Chapter Nine. During my day’s painstaking highs and lows, I have discovered that it is a short chapter and tomorrow, I will fuse it to Chapter Ten making one great big wonderful, polished and supercharged breaker breaker one Niner (did I hear a Niner in there?). I’m so excited I almost don’t want to sleep through the night. But I have to. If, for no other reason than the gross fact that I scratched my cornea with my contact last night and my eyeball is still healing. Eww! Did you just read that right? Why did I write that? I guess because it’s true. And it’s painful. And I wrote like a fucking madman today anyway. I wrote through the pain and I feel all the prouder for it.

I’m going to celebrate by cooking up some beef stir fry, drinking scotch, and donning a homemade eye patch made out of dryer sheets and duct tape.

Yar, matey. (I was kidding about the last part.)