cathschaffstump: (Default)
1. Just be yourself. Don't schmooze, don't obssess, don't get weird, don't get all theater. It's served you well, being yourself all this time. Stick with it.

2. Just write. Keep at it steadily, keep at it carefully. Do it conscientiously, do it to the best of your ability.

3. See number one again, especially when you feel insecure about number 2.

4. Believe you have a story to tell. Then don't put it off. Tell it.

5. Accept that some people will like your work, some people will not like your work, and that's okay. You write because you have a story to tell. It's nice if someone will read your story, but if they don't, well, not everyone in the world or even the Western hemisphere is going to read your story. And that is okay.

6. Writing can change the world, but is not the most important job anyone will ever have on the planet. You are not telling deep truths about the universe. You are telling a story. Get over yourself.

7. See number one and number three again, just in case you need a reality check. Never believe your own press.

8. Keep doing something you enjoy that keeps you in touch with people and makes you feel that you are making a contribution to the world, because you can turn into a mushroom if you're writing only. A strange, weird, psychologically fungal mushroom, I might add. And then you might drink.

9. Do not pass judgment on the writing of others. Do not compare your writing to the writing of others. You can have opinions about things you read, but unless you are asked, you might want to keep them to yourself, especially where other writers are concerned. Play nice.

10. Expect others to play nice with you. Avoid pseudo intellectuals and non constructive critics. Hell, you don't need them. You have your worst critic, yourself, to contend with already.

11. The industry is not the measure of your success. Attention is not the measure of your success. Of course you want to send your work out, make smart marketing decisions, and try to share. The measure of your success is stories written and sent. You can't convince the world it wants your work, but you certainly can't do anything at all unless you're telling stories.

12. Realize that success in writing, like success in anything, is really more about persistance than anything else. Write, learn to market selectively and well, and then market selectively and well. There will be a learning curve. You will battle obscurity. You will make mistakes and get rejections. BUT eventually you'll have enough circulating and people will know who you are, and you'll learn the tricks, and your writing will line up with someone's taste, and more and more things will be accepted.

13. See 1, 3, and 7 again, especially in moments of personal angst.

14. See 2 and 4 again, especially in moments of procrastination.

15. See 4, 5, 9, and 11 again, especially in moments where you lack faith.

16. See 5, 9, and 10 to remind yourself of grace.

17. See 6, 7 and 10 to remind yourself that you're not curing cancer.

18. See 8 to maintain your balance.

19. See 12 when you feel like giving it up.

20. If you're not satisified anymore, if it's causing you consternation, cease. Walk away. Writing is important. A happy life is much more important than that. Anything must give you joy for you to continue it. Don't settle.
cathschaffstump: (gossamer)
If you go visit [ profile] matociquala, you'll see an interesting discussion about how freelance writers spend their day. I started thinking, how do we day job writers spend our day? I was thinking about doing some work with schedules anyway, so I thought I would talk about what writing is like for one of us who have to/choose to work other jobs. Maybe so I can finish this rewrite before the year is out...

Here we go!

5 am: Pry self out of bed. Feed cats, eat breakfast, put on workout clothes.

6:10 am: Hit the exercise bike at the gym. Wear weights. This is my fiction reading time. Shower, make self glamorous, drop The Man off at his place of employment.

7:30 am: Coffee! He doesn't drink it, so I outsource. Morning stop now at superlative small shop called Coffee Talk not far from campus.

A Day in the Life of an English Language Acquisition Coordinator )

After Work )

Aren't Weekends Great for Writing? )

Wow! It looks like I am a machine! But I have to be. Because I have to/want to work, and I have to/want to write. That's a fragile place to be.

Sometimes it's hard to sympathize with folks who don't work, and complain about deadlines or not getting things done. Just writing seems like such a luxury to me! And I know it's also work, yet, I too must generate proposals, promote myself, and do it all in a significantly smaller window.

I know it's my greed and my debt-to-bone ratio that keeps me working, and they probably envy me my steady income, insurance, that sort of thing. That's okay. I envy them their time. On the other hand, I need to do something that makes me feel like I'm contributing. For me, working with students is that.

No solution is perfect for a writing career, but it is interesting that whatever circumstances we have in our lives, we manage to find time to do it somehow.

I'm very lucky because I get the added insight of what freelance life is like occasionally on extended Christmas and summer breaks. I work this summer for six weeks, but there's a lot of time in there where I'm not working. An academic is a little amphibious and I'm grateful for that. If I were just teaching, instead of teaching and administrating, I might have the best of both worlds. So I have sympathy for both free lancers and people who are more full time than me. Don't kid yourself. Managing your own time can be both awesome and terrible!

And yes, this exercise was very helpful to me, as I can see now that I am using my time pretty well overall. What I need rather than tighter scheduling, is goal setting, so I can get to a certain point with my writing each day. I'll think about that.

I'd be really interested to hear from others of you who write and work about how you manage your time. Unless you're supposed to be working, of course... :)

cathschaffstump: (gossamer)
I'm writing brand new scenes for Chapter Two that introduce characters while moving the plot. I'll show you something when it's a little more polished. I also have to add in some stuff about Elaine and make Borgia more intriguing here. So, yeah, some stuff to do without overplaying my hand.

Gods, but I'm a wordy writer! I wish I'd bought stock in the word "just."


Meanwhile, I've inadvertantly discovered what fan fiction really is: fan fiction is a response to the void left in the cosmos when all that stuff authors want in their stories, is cut out because it affects the plot movement and marketability of their book. You know the stuff I'm talking about, and yes, it should be cut, but it doesn't change the idea that you know it and you want it in there, and it's not there, and fans want stuff like that, if you have fans.

No one cares about the void with a lesser known author, but should your characters gain a life of their own, other people want to fill in the details they are sure you haven't thought about. Nature, even fictional nature, abhors a vacuum.

You have, of course, written material to plug the vacuum nicely, but your editor/publisher/agent won't let you keep all that hubris in, in spite of the wishes of your loyal readership to know whether Errol Klarion, say, prefers sugar or plain. (sugar, by the way) The reason? Only the most fanatical of fans want to know the answer to sugar versus plain. You of course, want to know too, and you want to share it with the world, but no, clearly that path belongs to another. Even if they get it wrong.

(At this point Catherine wonders if authors go on line with pseudonyms and already written hubris about their own characters. You know, Elvis did enter an Elvis impersonation contest in his later years. He came in fourth. I wonder how plausible your backgrounds about your own characters are. Will anyone ever believe your own "fan fiction" about your characters? Hmmm....)

Back to writing about shadows.

cathschaffstump: (isis)
Cool interview alert: [ profile] jimhines interviews his agent, and they are funny. Together. Not serious. Here's the link:

I love stuff like this.


Today is actually delirium day in the journal. I'm at work, on Benadryl (TM). Yes, the germs found me again, although I diligently tried to hide from them. I don't understand how this works at all. At any rate, sicker than um..(lessee...writing journal...can't say dog) a paranormal romance heroine falling for something half dead (actually I think that's twisted, but we're working under pressing circumstances.)

I have made the (not unlikely) discovery that revising Substance of Shadows again is a lot like writing your dissertation. Oh, I don't hate the book with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns or anything, as was the case with the dissertation, but it's slogging.

It's also more about patience and persistence. I remember getting the degree after working on the dissertation for three and a half years (see what full time jobs do for you.) It wasn't ready, it wasn't ready, suddenly, magically, it was ready. The planets aligned, the profs got drunk, I got lucky, whatever. I think selling books is pretty much persistence. Other things too, but persistence. And alignment of the planets. And connecting with people.

Writing is pretty much slogging. At first, it can be fun and inventive. I think it'll also be like my 20 year marriage in the end. Early spark, lots of fun, but in the final analysis, hard work and deeply satisfying. Working on craft, getting the best story out for the audience who's reading.

BTW, here's a gem from that interview I mentioned above which applies:

Publishing is not a right. It is a reward for mastering the craft and doing homework and having something salable at the right place at the right time.

Whether we publish or not, we master the story. If publishing were all there were, I'd just as soon do something else.

Hrm. Ready for my nap now. Let's see what kind of registration and orientation letters I write now, eh?

Squirrelly yours,

cathschaffstump: (substance)
I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving break.

In general, as this is my writing journal, I keep most of the personal details of life out of these entries, but I wanted to thank all my fellow writers, editors, and readers for their support during this time. It's been good meeting all of you.

Also, to my long time friends who are reading here, thank you for coming on this journey with me. Your presence, your hand holding, is much appreciated.

I feel very fortunate and lucky with my whole life--always grateful for my husband and my chosen family, happy with a day job that allows me growth and intellectual stimulation, pleased that I am finally chasing down a life long dream of writing. It's been a good year on the whole, and I am grateful. I have almost signed my first book contract, and I have an open invitation to resubmit Substance. Grateful indeed.

I hope your all have wonderful breaks with your family and friends. We're scheduled for two dinners. Some winterizing and Christmas decorating will occur. I will begin Substance for the time conscious.

Take care and enjoy the love and closeness of this time of year.

And yes, I do get sappy like this from time to time. There you have it.

cathschaffstump: (isis)
Here's some place I'll be going a ambitious writer who centralizes all those industry/agent blog commentaries for you, again so you don't have to do it yourself. Courtesy of Patrick, over at Querytracker. The writer is Deborah White.

So now I can go to one spot and see who has some hot, new advice for me from out there in the blogosphere.


Reading the entries on numbers really makes me think. I've compared the process of trying to publish to a job search before, so of course professionalism is a must, but the window of opportunity is more like the eye of a needle, if you buy these stats.

NO WONDER so many good writers have a hard time breaking in! If you make it to partial status or request for full status, and you don't quite grab the prize, you're still like 95 percent ahead of others, but wow.

I guess if I wanted a sure thing, I wouldn't be trying to publish. :) I'll keep at it, even if only you, my legions of internet friends, are reading. :)


So last night, after a mango margarita and some fun with fellow profs, I went home to play with my new toy, the updated querytracker. It's nice. I can prioritize agents in the order I want to send to them, I can put in notes that only I can see, I can see stats about their acceptances and rejections all on the same screen! I can also do a genre specific search to get their stats in my genre. And of course, there are all the lovely search engines and ways to check up on your favorite agents, to see if they are legit, big money makers, and so forth.

I wonder if agents ever feel stalked. I wonder if, as old Chinese folktales have it, they sneeze a lot because they are talked about. I wonder if a percentage of them become agents, because among geeky, isolated, repressed writers, they represent a sort of celebrity.

I wonder if I've had enough coffee this morning.

Anyway, there are several features I haven't tried out at Querytracker yet, but I will get to them in good time. There's a place to build a showcase of your writing that you can point agents towards. Less useful to those of us with websites, but pretty useful if you're looking for another place to put your stuff.

My advice? Try out, and if you like it, send the man $25. :)

I really need to get up to speed on Publishers Marketplace as well. I will. It's another thing to add to the list. I could see how this could become a full time job. If only it paid something like a living wage!


So, as soon as I get the agent sort done, it'll be time to do some website modifications. I also intend to send out more queries this week. Almost got that new spiffy conflict oriented query letter ready to rock. Stay tuned!

Hope your imaginations are fertile and the words are flowing.

cathschaffstump: (substance)
My blog is an upbeat blog that doesn't like to dish dirt. So, I'm going to approach this from a different angle. Let me do a little linking first.

Apparently, you can read about a plagiarism scandal that has occurred here:

If you dig around in the comments and links, you can see that a writer, desparate for attention, plagiarized a famous author. Later, the plagiarist will tell you that she received this from a ghost writer, so she was screwed, because the writer she was trying to pass off as writing her own work actually fooled her by passing off a famous writer as his work. Regardless of whether you buy that or not, here's some information about said ghost writer:

So, I pose the musical questions:

1. What about personal integrity?
2. Why would people be so foolish as to try this scam?
3. Why would other people want to prey upon others in this way?
4. Why do you believe that you are the victim when you are caught in wrong doing?

These aren't naive questions. I know the answers. Catherine, the truth of the matter is that not every one is nice-ums. Got it. Understand perfectly.

But look at all the mess! There will be lawsuits, character defamation, and much neener-neenering. Someone's career will be ruined and tainted. If you're willing to be dishonest for attention, attention comes with a price. Karma has dealt relentless justice. As you reap, so shall you sew. Insert your favorite cliche here.

Remember this, fledling writers. I often tell students, "If you plagiarize, I will unleash the college's hounds of hell on you. If you think academic dishonesty is bad, wait until you get sued in the real world for doing it." Et voila. Prophetic words, down the pike in this case, I think.

More adages from academia apply )


Why am I even writing about this? Well, it's an issue dear to me. I quit a job once because of censorship, and I have to say that it was one of the best things I ever did. It netted me a nice letter from Robert Cormier, and a lot of self knowledge. I don't think it's cool to compromise principles. People who do give the rest of us a bad name.

Hints, then. If you are a writer who has to hire a ghost writer, consider another career. If the reason you write is for attention, consider another career. If you can't admit you've done something wrong when you clearly have, both by law and by conventional wisdom, consider counselling.

And that's pretty much all I have to say about that.
cathschaffstump: (substance)
The more I write seriously (now, for example) I realize that it will, in fact, be very demanding to work, for all intentional purposes, two full time jobs. Sadly, we have to work one full-time job and not be paid for it for a long, long time.

You guys all know this. Writing takes a lot of hard work. It takes a very thick skin. It takes revising in ways you don't like. Sure, the rough draft is like crack, and there are magical and fun moments. Every job has these, it does.

I am learning more that there's a lot of sacrifice, a lot of self-analysis, a lot of hard knocks, and even a whole lot more rejection. There's a lot in there not to like, if you have a romanticized view of writers and what they do. This is probably the year where I'm peeling off my last romanticized layers, like a sunburn that's peeling after Labor Day.

I'm good. Deep inside every writer is someone who wants to get patted on the head, and it isn't all criticism and rejection. I'm just taking a page out of my friend [ profile] komainu's book. Expect the worst. That way, when more than the worst happens, well, it'll delight you more. Unusual optimism in it's own way, I think.

Really, what I signed on to say was that I'm still editing. I thought that a treatise on hard work might be more interesting than just saying I'm working hard. :)

cathschaffstump: (isis)
This is going to feel like an AA meeting, I think.

How many of you, like me, when your work is undergoing the intense scrutiny of editing or proofreading, wriggle?

I swear to God, when I finished editing the first three chapters of Substance, I was feeling pretty good about the book as a whole. Hear me roar, Writerverse! People love my story! I love my story! My fortune is assured! It's a Gene Kelly tapdancing kind of good!!! RAWR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


...since sending out my finished novel to Team Proofread, I have descended into the depths of moronity. Oh, my God, the things I've written down and pretended pass for English! The horror! The horror!

Now, of course, given my inexplicable inability to edit my own work, in spite of the fact that essentially checking and editing student work is what I do for a living, you might say, very wise, oh Catherine, that you have asked Team Proofread to step in and accomodate your weakness, your lack of proofreading skill. You think a story is done, but you know you need Team Proofread. Every writer needs Team Proofread. When you wrote your dissertation, you needed Team Proofread.

Sure. But I swear, I didn't know I was sending them pig latin!

And what do I think of the novel now? You know, I still think it's a Good Novel (TM), very viable and worth selling. It's fresh and the concept is both original and in style (Freedom is slavery there? What?). If an editor takes the novel in hand and makes me work to really buff it up, it could be a Very Good Novel (TM). I'd do it too. I've written a thesis, so I know how all that works. I know writing is a collaborative process, an unending cycle. Yeah, I've studied that stuff in college too, so I'm still positive and upbeat. Buff, buff, buff.


...when a book you've written is under intense scrutiny, and all you're hearing about are the foolish mistakes you've made, it's hard not to feel foolish. The whole process is a little like self-flagellation, or better yet, much like when your parents showed pictures of you as a naked baby in the baby tub to your first high school boyfriend. Awkward. Embarrassing. Those were the days! Write a book and you can live them again!

We all have moments when we, as writers, figure we shouldn't be let near the English language.

If you're lucky, in the end, without a lot of therapy, you figure this is a lot like what having an editor will be like. You detach from the work, you work hard to make the suggested changes, and you roll with it. Writing a book is a journey. And it's not about you, exactly. It starts and ends with you, but there's more.

You correct the pig latin, realize your work is more than the sum of its faults, and try to recapture some of that confident feeling of worth that made you send it off in the first place. You slog it out. Others help you slog it out.

So, I guess I should do some editing, in the event that someone wants more of this book. Remember, Catherine, recently you made the first cut. That's something, even if this particular submission goes no further. You keep writing, because you love it, you crazy, zany masochist!!! Keep the faith, and realize that pig latin isn't forever.


ps Why are you wasting your time writing semi-humorous blog articles, when you should be editing? I'm just saying.
cathschaffstump: (substance)
Yet again discovering that my life as a writer and my life as a professor do not always compliment each other.

I haven't been able to write for two days, because of teaching and a board meeting tonight, and I'm beginning to feel aggravated. Restless. Full of rue.

Kanga and little Rue? Big Rue. Really big Rue.

This afternoon of strange word play bought to you by not getting to chapter 5, and by Compass/ESL documents.

How do the rest of you balance writing life and that thing wot you've got to do to make money come in?

cathschaffstump: (isis)
How do you revise, oh fellow writers? I find when I work on a long term project, I draft and then go back to the beginning and add things in, and then draft some more, and then return to the beginning and add things in, and so on, until eventually I reach the end of the novel. It's sort of like combing the beach and looking for shells, and then revisiting what you've combed to see if other shells are left.

That said, I hit my 81,000 word mark, and now I've returned to the beginning. I've sharpened up the first 3 chapters. Chapter 4 will need some major tunage, because there are several brand new bits in 4. We'll progress right back up to where I stopped in chapter 7, and then begin again. I can say, with confidence now, that the first 3 chapters of Substance cohere well, and are in the shape I want them to be in.

Word count?

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
82,130 / 100,000

And now, something narcissistic. Do you read your stuff again, and find it evokes you emotionally? One of the reasons I'm so hooked on writing is that I live my scenes. As I was working through the prologue, chapter one, and chapter two, I found a lot to like: fresh language, good story telling, and interesting characters. What I didn't expect was to be so moved during chapter one, which is a hard chapter to take, emotionally. My heart goes out to Stephan especially as I write about what's happening to him. I truly hope my readers have the same reaction, and they can forgive me for what I do to the poor boy in the book. I hope he can forgive me too.

I wonder how you feel about your characters. I hear some authors see their characters more like chess pieces. I think I'm too much of a method actress to be able to.

Honestly, if I get to work, and have a spare moment, I will post some snippets. Those of you who want snippets will have to resort to writing my boss and asking the college to back off. Whoops! Other life leakage! Nipping that in the bud...

See you tomorrow night.



Aug. 19th, 2007 06:38 pm
cathschaffstump: (isis) makes me want to get back to writing. A good story really makes you fall in, and I did.

They took liberties, but it was well rendered, and I felt There, in the film. I've had a diffucult summer with Neil Gaiman, what with reading American Gods and not falling in, but in Stardust the it factor is there, and I remember why I fell in love with Sandman and Stardust and Books of Magic.

Kudos also to the film makers who really captured Vess like cinematography in some parts with breathtaking success. Vess is my absolute favorite artist. We can talk about drawing Gossamer and Viridian when I finally catch up with him. :)

Being inside Stardust is how I feel when my own writing is working. I guess I work so that I can be as free as magic or spirit or the cosmos makes you. I've never been able to relate to artists who see their characters as those that they manipulate. You can produce being attached to your characters. Granted, it's the editing that's a bit tricky, but you must not lose the spark. It's the difference between a grand affair versus a modest marriage, or a commercial success versus a book that lasts.

Just so you know, I also read some of the latest issue of Publisher's Weekly and Writer's Digest as well, so I'm back on my hour a day of writing business.



Aug. 18th, 2007 04:41 pm
cathschaffstump: (gossamer)
As I mentioned, I've been ill, but after a week, I am beginning to feel human. I spent today in a surprise morning of relaxing. A church obligation I had was cancelled after we'd gone to it, so at the last minute, I found myself in a heart-to-heart tete-a-tete with my sweetie of 20 years.

We spent some time reflecting on the quality of our lives, our happiness with each other, and the fact that our day jobs as educators give a lot back to the world. We also spent time talking about our future. We're at that tipping point between career swing and the beginnings of looking at retirement, so it was an appropriate topic for us.

We discovered, as with all things we approach, we will try to approach our future with grace and joy. We discussed what we'd like to do with our future. He knows that writing and publishing is the next mountain for me to climb. I have achieved what I've wanted in my education, in giving to the world, in love, and in my artistic endeavors of sewing. I want to get that far in writing, and it's my next thing. His? Well, that's his to hold to his heart and talk about.

I believe I am a good writer. I know that most people who read me believe I am a better writer than I think I am. I think that regardless of what happens with publishing, that I will be satisfied with what happens as long as I am writing steadily and trying. Regardless of outcome, I will make a steady effort. Happy to share my stories with those who want to read, ready to tell them, ready to share them with an audience.

Hard work has its place, but Americans sometimes believe that's all there is. I'd like to think that there's also the kiss of satisfaction in doing something you love. I'm tired of our cultural idea that the only kind of work is the slog. I bite my thumb at you, puritans! I'm going to endulge in some dreaming and satisfaction. Balance, rather than success, is more a component of 40 than 20 or 30. Sometimes I love being 40.

Today I am off the quasi narcotic cough syrup. I have started sleeping all night through. I will be telling my stories again soon enough. Meanwhile, I'm thinking, living, dreaming, and planning. Just being alive and singing our song is why we right. Not money, recognition, any of that. Sure. Today's blog is full of rainbows.



Jul. 11th, 2007 02:14 pm
cathschaffstump: (gossamer)
Especially on those days when you feel like a new kid on the playground, you gotta remind yourself:

I'm doing this for me. I like story telling.

And that's it today. Short and sweet.


ps Thank, [ profile] bucketgirl, for enjoying the scene. Lemonade indeed.


cathschaffstump: (Default)

March 2017

5678 91011
2627 28293031 


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags