“Rule number one in the music business: never start a band with any members of your family.
Sure, it’ll start off just fine, everyone having fun, with big dreams of success and gold records, but then you realize you’re stuck in a stinking, too-small tour bus with your siblings for the fifth year running, and your brother hates you. Next thing you know, the band implodes just as it’s reaching its highest success, your family won’t talk to you anymore, the press is having a field day ripping you to shreds, and you’ll need to start your career all over again as a solo act. If you dare to at that point.
Rule number two in the music business: rules were made to be broken.” — Thomas Lidwell
Meet the Lidwells! is the story of four siblings and two cousins who start a band as teenagers and achieve success beyond their wildest dreams. But while they consistently top the charts with their irresistibly catchy tunes, they’re also fighting their own demons: perfectionism, disenchantment, addiction, exhaustion, sexism…and figuring out how to become an adult in front of millions of fans.
One of the biggest changes to my writing schedule that I’d been looking forward to once I signed off on the trilogy was being able to multi-task. I love working on a main project, but working on the same one for a long time (especially as long as that one) can definitely be detrimental. I often find myself itching to work on something different now and again, and that certainly comes to the fore when I’m doing major revision work.
When I decided to write outtakes for Meet the Lidwells while working on the trilogy revision, it gave me a much-needed creative outlet to keep my Writer Brain going in a way that my blog entries and other outlets couldn’t. If I hadn’t done that, it would have taken a lot longer for me to start a new project. I’d have had to spend some time thinking about what to write, how to write it, and not really know if I have a viable story or a trunkable one until I’ve invested a lot of time on it. Multi-tasking projects lets me cut out a lot of that possible wasted time. The daily-words outtakes put the story idea to the test to see if I can graduate it to Main Project status.
This process worked so well for me that I’ve kept it going with the newer projects, and I’ll keep it going until it doesn’t work for me anymore.
Granted, it is a process that’s kind of tough to maintain if you’re juggling all this with a Day Job. There are days when I’m amazed I can get anything done when the DJ kicks my ass. The trick is to make it happen. Find slow moments where you can write a few hundred quick words. Use your work breaks and lunch if you can. Worst case scenario, schedule out your writing days; one day for revision, another for new words, and so on.
It’s not a process you need to take if you don’t want to, but it works well if you have a lot of projects you’d like to work on, and you’d like a quick turnaround. YMMV, of course!
I’ve got a busy 2018 ahead of me, that’s for sure.
A good busy, though. I’ve given myself a lot of goals to hit, and I’m sure I can hit most if not all of them. A few will be harder than others. Some will most likely roll into 2019. A majority of them will take most of the year. And I’ll be juggling it all with the Day Job, of course. But I think I can pull it off.
The trick here is to have a long-term schedule going, which I’ve been playing around with over the last few days. It’s a little like how I write novels: multiple threads going at the same time, fully aware of how to orchestrate them, put them in order, and make them flow. It’s only taken me how long to figure out that I can (and should) do this with the non-writing part of my writing career? Sheesh.
Anyway…I’ve got a novel to prep for self-publishing (Meet the Lidwells!), a new novel to start writing (untitled Apartment Complex story) and one, maybe two others to outline when I have the time. I’ll be going to three conventions, with the plan of being on a few panels and possibly a few readings. I’ll be resuming my photography for book cover and image library purposes. I desperately need to do restart the document scanning (it’s something I’ve put off for far too long). I’d like to record some more mp3 demos, maybe pull them together into full completed tracks. And most importantly, I need to move forward with the Mendaihu Press entity, using it as an umbrella for both my self-published novels and cover artwork.
This is going to be a very complex symphony to orchestrate, and I’m quite sure I’ll hit all the typical obstacles along the way, but I’m in it for the long haul and I’m too stubborn to quit easily.
This coming year is going to be one hell of a challenge for me, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless.
It’s been an interesting year, I’ll say that much. Personally we’ve all had one hell of a bumpy ride. I’ve certainly had my highs and lows. And somehow I persevered.
Anyway, looking back over the past twelve months, I’m proud to say I went a hell of a lot further in my writing career than I ever thought I would. A project that I started in all seriousness twenty years ago was finally signed off as complete. I started not one but two completely new projects and sowed the seed for even more ideas. I kept a solid blogging schedule. I took part in panels on two different local science fiction conventions. All while still holding a Day Job.
—The Balance of Light e-book and trade release, and completing a long-term project. That was the toughest of the three to revise, so it took me most of 2016 and early 2017 to finish. Even the cover was a bear to get right. But at the same time, overcoming the hurdles I faced on this one made me an even better writer; it taught me to take all the time I needed to get it right before I released it upon the world. It was worth the wait, as that book went from the Troublemaker for a good few years to a novel I’m proud of. And added to that, it truly did feel like a weight lifted off my shoulders when I realized I did not need to work on that project any longer. I still miss it, of course, but I’m definitely glad it’s done. Most importantly, I saw a very long-standing goal to its conclusion and I couldn’t be happier.
–Daily words at 750words.com. I’ve been quite consistent with this as well, much more so than previous years. I trained myself to use this site as a place for playing around with ideas instead of trying to force myself to use prompts (suggested or otherwise). I just went with whatever popped into mind. In 2015 and 2016 I used it to write an extremely rough and incomplete draft of Meet the Lidwells, and in 2017 I used it to plot out most of the project after that. I’ve taken this month off from it for various reasons, but I’ll be picking it up again come January.
—Meet the Lidwells! This one surpassed all of my expectations, to be honest…so much so that I spent the first half of the project questioning whether or not I was doing it right! This project hit a lot of goals: writing a complete outline ahead of time, writing a shorter novel, writing a story that had a personal connection (music), and writing in a minimal amount of time. Because of this I have a minimal amount of post-writing work to do: some minor revision, shooting the cover picture, and prepping it for self-publication. Quite possibly the shortest novel project I’ve had to date.
–Untitled ‘Apartment Complex’ story. Having written out a few key scenes and plot ideas for this story using 750Words, I’m now working on the outline in the same manner that I did MtL. That way when MtL drops, I can immediately focus on writing this one. This too has goals: to see if I can pull off ‘writing econo’ again. I’m using the same process as the previous project, to the extent that I’ll play around with ideas on the project after this one for my daily words.
–Consistent blogging. I wrote two different blogs twice a week for nearly the whole year, with very few lapses. There were moments when it was tough, given that I always wanted to write something of interest and/or purpose, and did my best to avoid the fly-by entries as much as I could. I also wanted to avoid repeating myself whenever possible; I’ll totally cop to writing the same damn nostalgia piece over and over, and I’m doing my best to break out of that rut. And in the process, I’m learning how to expand my palette by expanding my interests.
–Participating in Convention Panels. This was another big one for me. I’ve gone to a number of cons over the years but always as an audience member, but never as a participant. After releasing my books I knew that this would be a great way for me to get connected to the non-writing part of the business. [Mind you, my very first panel was a reading, which went over well but I think could have been better. Once I got past that first one, the jitters were no longer there.] In 2018 I’ll be attending three more cons, and I’ve signed up as a participant at all three.
All told, I’m ecstatic with what I achieved as a writer in 2017. It was an extremely productive and fruitful beginning to my career as a professional self-publisher. There are some goals I wish I’d have hit, but I’m not going to let that bother me. I’m definitely looking forward to reaching those plus many new ones.
As much as I would LOVE to release Meet the Lidwells! right now at this very moment, I’m still not entirely happy with a few things related to it.
The cover, for instance. I’m still not happy with it. I’ve thought through a few layouts, played with a few in Photoshop, and I’m still not happy with it. To be brutally honest, at the moment it looks like the original cover of Jonathan Franzen’s Purity, which I so mercilessly tore apart upon its release. And the last thing I want to do is make it look like I’m saying …but hey, if *I* make a cover like that, it’s art! Come on, Jonc. Face the facts. That ain’t how it’ll work out.
Thankfully, during one of those nights where I’m lying in bed after lights out, thinking about my writing when I really should be trying to get to sleep, I realized where I was going wrong, and came up with an excellent alternative that I’m quite certain I can pull off. Which means that sometime within the next week or so, I can start working on the improvements.
As you can see in this outtake I did a few months ago, my original idea had some merit, but it also looked like I threw it together in about five minutes. It looked too sparse, too unfinished. I need to do more with it, but I wasn’t sure what. The piece that needed to stay was the image of the six silhouettes; it’s an important plot point in the first third of the book, as it’s the cover of their debut album.
The error I made was that someone looking at the cover without looking at the book wouldn’t know that. I realized this was the same exact issue the original Purity cover had — I learned much later that the woman’s image is in reference to a passport photo. Having never read the book, I would not have known that if someone hadn’t told me.
This meant that I had to figure out how to get the point across that these silhouettes are something important. And that late evening, I realized that it didn’t have to be an album cover, per se. In the book, that ‘iconic’ image of the Lidwell kids didn’t originate as their album cover, but as a flyer for their first shows.
Which gave me an altogether different canvas to work with.
SO! This means that I have some more work to do in creating this cover, but I know exactly what I can do with it, and how. And even better, I can once again pull it off on my own! Self-publishing FTW!
I’m telling you all this, because this is how a writer, especially a self-publishing one, should think about their product. There will definitely be times where you get stuck on certain parts of your project, where you can’t quite figure out how to fix it. You’ll waste time trying all sorts of things that won’t work. The temptation to say ‘screw it’ and call it done can be quite high sometimes. Or worse, you’ll talk yourself into believing that your half-assed attempt will be understood by everyone else as a brilliant move. You’ll be getting close to your self-imposed deadline, or even fly past it, and want to kludge something just to get it out there. I’ve hit these roadblocks plenty of times.
Thankfully, my stubborn will kept me from taking that route. As long as I kept telling myself there was a better way to do this and that I just had to figure it out, I was fine with releasing it a little later than usual. All I had to do was work through this roadblock. And I’m happy I finally did!
D’OH! I seem to have completely forgotten to write and schedule a post for today. It’s been such a weird week that it completely slipped my mind. And being that it’s (hopefully) going to be a quiet day here at the Day Job, hopefully I can take care of other things that slipped my mind and/or didn’t have time for.
Such as making some headway on the Apartment Complex story outline. I finished the initial revision run-through for Meet the Lidwells just the other day, and I’m letting it simmer for a few days before I go through it one more time…so this is the perfect time to kickstart that next project. [I do need to futz with the MtL cover some more, but I think I’ll do that on the weekend when I have more time and space to breathe. I know what I want, I’m just having a hell of a time trying not to make it look like it’s a craptacular botch job finished in five minutes on Photoshop.]
I’m hoping things quiet down on the Day Job from here on in so I can a) relax a bit, and b) sneak in some writing work if needed. Things usually do start winding down post-Thanksgiving (with one last short burst in late December), so this is when I get to unwind and not have to stress out about all that much. And I am so looking forward to that!
The beginnings of my novels and stories usually get the most revision, mainly due to the fact that there’s a bit of flailing involved. I’m still trying to figure out the voice and the focus of the story, so there’s going to be a lot of dead-ends and extraneous filler that gets cut out, once I find my footing.
The endings, on the other hand, can go either way. Usually I know exactly where I want to stop; it’s just a matter of laying out how I’m going to get there. It’s a balancing game at that point…I don’t want to rush it, nor do I want to pad it out with unnecessary rambling.
I’ve made all kinds of errors in my years of learning how to write stories. I’ve written corny cliffhangers, implausible wrap-ups, unimportant ‘where are they now’ passages, and everything in between. [I can proudly say I have yet to write an ‘…and then he woke up, and it was all a dream” ending. Even I have my standards!] I usually spend as much time focusing on nailing the end as I do nailing the most important climactic scenes that come before it. I want to do it just right. Or right enough, where it can be fine-tuned in revision.
With Meet the Lidwells — I’m currently writing the last chapter at this time, and I should be done most likely this week or next — the ending has definitely been a tough one. As this is a story written in the format of a music biography, I can’t give it a nice poetic ending, or a roll-credits ending. Those books tend to resolve themselves in a slightly different way. The focus characters go on with their lives and careers, so this ending has to be more of an emotional closure. That part of their lives is over now, and they’ve moved on. And that’s been a hell of a tough one to capture just right.
I’m not looking to nail the ending perfectly, at least not right now. But when revision comes along, hopefully I’ll be able to do it justice.
The great 80s punk band Minutemen from San Pedro, CA had a wonderful motto: “we jam econo.” Tight playing, minimalist lyrics, dispensing with frivolous musical wankery. Economical writing, playing and touring, in other words. Their songs rarely hit the two minute mark; many were even under the one minute mark. [Despite the brevity of their songs, they state their name was actually making fun of the 60s rightwing fringe group of the same name.]
I wrote Meet the Lidwells with the same idea in mind; after the sprawl of the trilogy, I wanted to ‘write econo’ — dispense with as much subplotting as I could, tighter writing, constantly pushing the story along. As of this post, I’m writing the last chapter of the first draft. It looks like I may even complete the novel within the next week or so.
I started it on 28 April (not including a few weeks’ worth of outlining on index cards, as well as outtakes on 750 Words), and if I end it by the end of October, that’ll be exactly six months. Its word count is around 75k, and by the time I revise it, it’ll probably be just a little higher. If I play my cards right I might even be able to have it up on Smashwords and Amazon by the end of the year.
Those are new records for me, I think.
As I’ve said before, one of the reasons I wanted to try writing econo is to see if I could do it. And if that worked out, then maybe I could continue with it. I love writing sprawling genre fiction, don’t get me wrong…just that sprawl doesn’t always work with some of my ideas. [Another reason of course was that after working on the trilogy for so damn long, I wanted to work on shorter, quicker projects where I could turn it around in a year or less.] Sure, I did waste some time in between with distraction and procrastination, but still…six months ain’t bad at all.
I still have to revise Meet the Lidwells once I’m done with it, but at this point I’m thrilled that I was able to pull this off as quickly and as smoothly as I have.
Best Laid Plans were once again thwarted, and I’m pretty sure it was because they weren’t Best Laid after all. I seem to have forgotten to take into account vacation days off, busy Day Job days, and other events. But that’s okay! I’m back, we have nothing of import on the schedule for the next few weeks — in fact, I have today off and other than going around the corner to go see Napping Princess at the 4-Star, I have the entire day to get caught up on things. Sounds good to me!
[Update: My movie plan was not so much thwarted but delayed today. As you may have heard, there are currently some nasty wildfires burning north of us, and late last night much smoke drifted our way. This caused me to barely get any sleep, so I wasn’t really up to seeing a film today. Perhaps next weekend if it’s still there!]
One good thing that’s come out of this sort of thing is that I no longer feel like a failure. Sure, the frustration of going past deadline and not hitting my goals as quickly as I’d like is still there, but Everything Is Not Ruined Forever. Just gotta get up, brush myself off, and start again.
I’m nearing the end of the first draft of Meet the Lidwells and I hope to get it done by the end of this month, at which time I’ll start revisions. I’m not sure how long that’ll be, but hopefully I can give it a quick turnaround (there won’t be nearly as much triage as I had with the trilogy) and get it out by the end of the year. Here’s to hoping!