All posts by Vivienne Lynge

A Writing Career is a Lot Like Farm Frenzy

Hey ~ V here.  I was wasting time on the computer, thinking about what topic I wanted to blog about when it hit me: Building a Successful Writing Career as an Indie Pub’d Author is a Lot Like Level 60 in Farm Frenzy 3.  (Yes, I was playing Farm Frenzy when this “eureka!” happened). 

“How?” you might ask.  Or, “V, have you gone completely off your rocker?!”  Either way, let me explain.

For those who’ve never donated hours of their valuable time to the writing-time-sucker that is Farm Frenzy (1, 2 or 3) this is a fun little time management game where you have small goals like buy a turkey and collect 3 eggs and a short amount of time for each level, 3 – 6 minutes depending on how hard the level is.  Then you get to the last level (or in FF3, level 60) where you have 45 minutes to buy a robot ($50,000).  You start off with nothing and $0.

The first 10 minutes are painfully slow going.  You have to wait for bears to arrive, catch them and then sell them at the market in your tiny, wicked slow truck that only carries two at a time.  Eventually, you can buy one $100 turkey and begin to collect eggs, but you have to buy all the different processing plants to make cakes from your eggs.  Cakes sell for $200. 

After a while, you can afford to buy some sheep and make jackets that sell for $1300 and maybe dress some of the bears in those jackets and sell ’em for big bucks ($7000 – do you get the sense that I’ve played this game a lot?)  Now you’re starting to have some money and you can upgrade your wicked slow truck to a much faster 18-wheeler.

Then suddenly you can get a cow and make cheese which sells for a pretty penny.  Next thing you know, you’ve got $50,000 and are your way to buying that robot!

I think this is the perfect allegory for creating a writing career as an Indie Published writer.   You’ve got this insane goal of building a big audience and you are starting with nothing and $0.  The beginning is slow going.  You’ve got a product but the distribution vehicle is wicked slow.  You’ve got to get in front of people, get the word out.  Again and again and again.  You’ve got to find reviewers, speaking engagements, sales opportunities.  Every time you earn a little money, you’ve got something new to upgrade.  A new trailer for your book, marketing material to buy, pay a lawyer or accountant or illustrator.  You might need office supplies, copies of your books to sell or gas to get to your speaking engagement. 

And you know they say time is money.  Well, it’s certainly true that like money, I don’t have enough time!  Time to write, research marketing techniques, reviewers, sales opportunities.  (Yes, perhaps if I spent less time playing games…)

But, in Farm Frenzy, things start slow and then begin to build until they finally take off.  My writing career might be going slow now, but what about when I have several books out there and people start hearing about me?  A new customer who likes one book is apt to buy the whole lot if they are priced correctly.  And I have time on my side.  Maybe it’ll be ten years before I get that robot, that huge readership, but then I’ll have 15-20 books out and movie deals and maybe even a theme park!  OK, that might be a bit much, but who’s to say?

Here’s today’s secret: It’s OK for your career to take time to build.  We aren’t all JK Rowling or Stephenie Meyer who became insanely popular writers right away.  Julia Quinn and Lynn Kurland have been in the game for 15 years or more to get where they are.  It takes time and that’s OK. 

What are your writing career goals and how are you working to get there?  Are they short term or long term goals?

Good Writing

Hey V here.  Like most writers, I read.  A lot.  Really a big lot.  Even with twin preschoolers, I read for fun everyday.  I’ve studied Literature; I’ve read a huge variety of things.  I’m confident that I can identify an author I like, one I consider to be a Good Writer.  Of course, Good Writing is a subjective thing.  Someone I think is a Good Writer might be considered absolute rubbish by another person.

But I like to find Good Writers for another reason, too, beyond enjoying the fruits of their labor.  Here’s today’s secret right up front: I like to figure out what it is about the writing that I think  is good, and hopefully emulate it.   To that end, I have hit a career goal this week. 

I made myself cry over a passage I wrote.

Now, many people who know me will think, duh, she cries at Hallmark commercials!  And those coffee commercials around the holidays where the college son comes home unexpectedly…I cry every time I watch Gone With The Wind, read Knuffle Bunny Free to my kids or hear a certain Christmas Carole about a cat who freezes to death warming a mouse on Christmas Eve.  Seriously, I have to skip it on the CD, can’t handle it at all.

My husband will attest that I cry at the most ridiculous movies, Wall-E, GI Jane, Return of the Jedi.  He actually keeps a box of tissues in the man-cave in case I need one watching something on the fancy TV.  And I cry reading books ALL THE TIME, usually late at night while lying in bed so that my nose stuffs up and dribbles attractively.  I often determine how much I like a book by its effect on me.  If I laugh out loud or cry, then it’s a good book.  If I do both, it’s a great book.

But I’d never made myself cry over something I wrote before.  I even went back and re-read the passage a few paragraphs later to see if it was a fluke and I squeaked out another tear.   I was so proud. 

How do you know that your writing is good stuff?

Just Write – Goal Setting

Hey – V here.  I want to talk about an important part of writing – or really achieving anything.  Goal Setting.  Now, now, don’t whine.  I know a lot of people think about goal setting as that ridiculous thing you do in the corporate world where you have to think about new, measurable ways to get through a year that is likely to be just like the last several years (if you’re lucky!)  And it’s got to sound fancy – ugh!  Nobody likes writing those goals.

That’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about real goals, both short-term goals and long-term goals to help keep you motivated and positive.   Anybody who writes knows that it’s a lonely job.  It’s just you and your imagination, after all.  You start talking about your stories to family and friends and more times than not their eyes glaze over.

Not only is writing lonely, but it’s hard to stay focused.  There are so many other demands on your time and it can feel like an indulgence to just sit and create.  And it’s hard!  So we find 1 billion reasons to procrastinate.  I’m as guilty as the next writer.  Can you say email, Facebook, computer games, reading?

Goal Setting can help you stay on track.  Especially if you write realistic goals.  Unrealistic goals can derail you wicked fast!  How demotivating would it be for me to have the goal of being a NY Times Bestselling Author by the end of the summer?  Vivienne doesn’t even have a book out yet!  I would fail and then feel bad about it, eat an unhealthy amount of ice cream and play Hotel Dash for six hours.  Bad goal, BAD.

But a good goal is a measurable, achievable goal that you have written down somewhere.  Writing it down is a very important part of goal setting.  It’s so rewarding to cross things off your list!  Also, I find that when I feel successful, I’m motivated to be more successful. 

Secret Unlocked: Decide what you want to accomplish.  Set a reasonable, measurable goal.  Word toward achieving that goal.  I want to finish my Work In Progress.  My goal is to write 1000 words today.  I know that I can do that.  I know that I will be successful.

Just Write: Grammar Time!

Hey, V here.  First of all, when you look at the subtitle of this post: Grammar Time! I want you to hear MC Hammer in your head.  Can you hear it?  Grammar Time (da na na nut, na nut, na nut).  I just spent the morning helping my way-past-elementary-school sister with her Business English homework.   Today’s topic was Possessive Nouns.  Cue Beethoven’s 5th (Da na na na…..) 

English is hard!  Even for a native English speaker. Wanna know why?  Here’s a brief history of the English Language. 

When Rome fell to Alaric and the Visigoths in 410, the Romans could no longer defend the empire.  Outlying areas like Britannia were among the first to be overrun by other tribes.   There’s lots of dispute among historians about why the Angles, Saxons and Jutes (among other tribes) pushed off their homelands in what is now Germany and moved into England, but they did and brought with them, their Germanic language.  This became known as Anglo-Saxon or Old English. 

Let me dispel a little myth here: Shakespeare is not Old English.  It’s a somewhat archaic, poetic, modern English.   If you don’t read German, then this Old English will look like Greek to you:

Hwæt! We Gardena     in geardagum,
þeodcyninga,     þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas     ellen fremedon.
Oft Scyld Scefing     sceaþena þreatum

Hey, I was an English Literature major in college with a minor in German.  I studied Anglo-Saxon for a semester and I still can’t make heads or tails out of that passage!   It’s the opening of Beowulf.  So our language started out as Old English, then in 1066 William the Conqueror conquered.   He was from Normandy, France and brought with him, Norman French.  French, of course, is a Latin language.  It became the official language of the ruling class and as centuries passed, the Old English of the peasantry merged with Norman French to become Middle English

Middle English was the language of Chaucer.  Here’s the opening of the Canterbury Tales in Middle English:

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote, The droghte of march hath perced to the roote, And bathed every veyne in swich licour, Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

OK, Middle English is still pretty hard to read but at least it looks like words.  And if you read it out loud, phonetically you hear words:

When that april with his showers sweet, the draft of march hath pierced to the root, and bathed every vein in such liquor of which virtue engendered is the flower. 

Then there was one more big thing to bring us to Modern English (I’ll stop the world and melt with you…no, no. Not that Modern English).  The Great Vowel Shift. 

The Great Vowel Shift was a change in pronunciation that happened between the years 1350 and 1500.  At the same time, spelling was becoming standardized in English and that’s why we have such unruly spelling!  But the long and short of it is, vowel sounds shifted.  Short ‘a’ might have sounded like short ‘e’ before the switch.  ‘Whan’ at the beginning of the ME Canterbury Tales is now ‘When’.

Then, of course, we reach the Bard and his version of Modern English.  Here’s my favorite sonnet, #130:

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red ;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Today’s Secret: English is hard because instead of being one language, it’s really two from opposing root languages, Germanic and Latin.  But that history gives us great variety in our words.  I heard once that there are some languages with only one word for all shades of red.  English has hundreds of words for red.  And that is what makes writing in English so fun.  Shakespeare’s mistress’ breath might reek, and your mistress’ breath might be foul, and mine might just be funky. 

When you write, just write the way you speak (yet another type of English – vernacular!).  You can go back and fix the Grammar Time! (You’re hearing MC Hammer aren’t you?) later.  There are lots of wonderful sites to answer your grammar questions. 

Grammar Divas

Grammar Girl

Ask Grammar

And of course, every writer should have a grammar reference guide on her desk.  Strunk & White’s Elements of Style is the gold standard, but I LOVE Eats, Shoots & Leaves, by Lynne Truss for punctuation guidelines.  And it’s funny too!  The important thing is this: Don’t let grammar get in the way of just writing.

Apparently Possessive Nouns is my sisters English troublespot.  So what’s your favorite English pitfall?

Just Write – Writus Interuptus

Hey, V here.  I announced last week that I’ve accepted Susannah Hardy’s Double Dog Dare to finish my Work In Progress and crank out the first draft of my next project by August 12th.  I present to you a sketch of Day One.

Monday, (day one), I committed to writing just over 2,000 words.  For me, that’s an aggressive-but-doable goal.  Like Katy Lee (and most women, probably) I wear a lot of hats.  During our D3 days, I’m going to try to put my writing hat close to the top of the heap, a far cry from its regular location.  I imagine my writing hat sometimes feels like a tiny little skullcap completely hidden under the ginormous sombrero that is responsible for holding up the rest of my hats.

But for the next 46 days (thanks for the countdown, Susannah!) I want my writing hat to be second from the top – and occasionally, right there, up high, waving a flag for the whole world to see.  (My ‘MOM’ hat is, of course, usually the top hat – as it should be.  I have a 6-year-old niecey-poo whom I adore, and 3-year-old twin sons…ditto the adoration.)

Yesterday, the top two hats battled it out, but good.  Here’s what happened.  After breakfast, I sent the kids out to play in our nice, safe, fenced-in backyard.   Then I sat down at my laptop and mentally cracked my knuckles in anticipation of blasting out 500 words before lunch. 

I wrote one sentence before there was a crash at the back door followed by, “Jack broke the sand box!”  I rescued the sandbox, admonished the children to play nicely and returned to my computer. 

I wrote one more sentence and heard a different sort of crash, followed by, “Nate broke the screen door!”  I fixed the screen door, chided the children to play nicely and returned to my computer. 

I wrote just one more sentence before a 3-year-old banged on the tin door as only a 3-year-old can, yelling “Maverick hit me!”  I mediated the complaint, told the kids in no uncertain terms to stop breaking things and play, and returned to the peace of my library.  

I wrote (wait for it…) one sentence and heard a troop of children stomping through the kitchen complaining, “It’s too hot to play outside!”

Seriously?!  You’ve been outside for less than 5 minutes.  Five Minutes!!!  Do you kids have any idea how long I played outside when I was a kid?  HOURS!  For the love of all that’s holy – go do something and let me write!!!  OK – I didn’t actually say that, but I wanted to.

I went outside and squirted them with the hose, instead. 

It turned out that the new sprinkler I bought back when we were buried in snow was just the thing needed to get half an hour of writing done. 

Then, of course, they broke it.

Today’s secret: Sometimes Just Writing is a one-sentence-at-a-time kind of thing.  But I stuck with it and hit my goal for the day.  How are you doing on your goals?