When Writing Dreams Become Reality

One of the most rewarding aspects of the writing life is celebrating successes. If you’re a writer, you understand this all too well. We toil on through the valleys and live for the peaks.

The-Girl-Who-Ignored-Ghosts11Today I want to celebrate the success of my author friend, K.C. Tansley, and the upcoming release of her YA time-travel murder mystery, The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts.

Tansley’s journey to publication was no smooth ride. It was years in the making, marked by hundreds of rejections, not to mention some incredible bad luck. Yet somehow, she found the will to persevere. The story of her success is an inspiration to any writer who dreams of landing a traditional publishing contract, and she’s here to share the details with a little Q&A.

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No two writers follow the same rituals and methods, but we can still learn so much from each other. Could you summarize your personal writing process?

For the first book in a series, I usually spend three months story-storming. This is where I build the story world in my head, figuring out the rules of my world, delving into who the main characters are and discovering their personal histories, and playing with the plot. I imagine how the story could go and follow a plot thread to its end. Many times, I don’t like where everything ends up, so I go back and see what happens if my characters make other choices. It’s kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure book inside my head. And I keep changing things up until I get the satisfying ending that I need.

As I story-storm, I takes notes. Usually my notes evolve into a synopsis or an outline that’s three to five pages. Once I have the general concept nailed down and I know the main character’s emotional arc and the plot arc, I start drafting. I aim for 1500 words a day, 5 days a week.

Usually around 25k, I pause and do some editing and make sure I’m on track. That’s a week of going back over things. Sometimes two weeks. Then I draft another 25k. I do some editing. Then another 25-30k. Most of my books come in at 75-85k in their first draft.

Once I’ve got the rough draft down, I make one pass through it for clarity and general edits. Then I put it aside for two to three months and work on another project. After a breather, I come back and do a serious revision before I send it to beta readers for their input.

 

The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts endured some deep potholes on its road to publication. Can you give readers a feel for the journey that led to this traditional publishing deal?

I spent years cold querying, pitching at conferences, getting manuscript critiques from agents and editors, and entering it in contests. You name it, I tried it.

It took me six years to finally sell the book to an editor at Harlequin. Soon after, I signed with an agent at ICM Partners. I was finally on my way!

My agent negotiated a great contract. But then she left agenting. I was assigned to an interim agent, who took good care of me. I thought we’d recover from that hiccup. My publisher assigned the editor and we got to work on editorial revisions. I was waiting for line edits from my editor when my agent told me that the publisher was shutting down the imprint that was publishing my book.

My book wasn’t going to be published, and the rights were reverting back to me. Everything evaporated. Gone. And then my agency and I parted. It was a time of utter uncertainty. I really questioned why I was doing this.

At my lowest moment, a couple friends passed my manuscript along to a few people they knew in publishing and I got lucky. A small press, Beckett Publishing Group, really liked my story and offered to publish it.

 

As a hybrid author, what are some key differences you’ve experienced between traditional and self-publishing?

In self-publishing, everything is on the author. You have to be the writer, the promoter, the publisher, etc. You have the final say in every aspect of book publication and marketing. It’s a tremendous amount of pressure. You live and die by your vision.

With traditional publishing, you don’t have the same level of responsibility. You also don’t have that kind of control. The publisher has the final say over the vision for the book. They can change the title, they can alter the plot, and they decide on the cover art. They also determine where the book will be shelved and how it will be marketed.

 

Would you share some words of encouragement for writers feeling disheartened by the process?

I’ve been rejected hundreds of times. It only takes one yes to change your entire life.

There is one way to win and that is to stay in the game. When you give up, you lose. Permanently. When you persevere and stick with it, there’s a chance you can still win. Any day, a win can come your way.

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The-Girl-Who-Ignored-Ghosts11The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts is available for Pre-Order on Amazon May 2!

Summary: Prep school junior Kat Preston accidentally time travels to 1886 Connecticut, where she must share a body with a rebellious Victorian lady, prevent a gruesome wedding night murder, disprove a deadly family curse, and find a way back to her own time.

Want a chance to win a FREE copy? Enter here!

Add The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts to your Goodreads here!

 

kctansleyauthorpic(1)K.C Tansley lives with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, and three quirky golden retrievers on a hill somewhere in Connecticut. She tends to believe in the unbelievables—spells, ghosts, time travel—and writes about them. The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts is her debut YA time-travel murder mystery novel.

As Kourtney Heintz, she writes award winning cross-genre fiction for adults. You can find out more here: Website; Facebook; Twitter .

Categories: Reading, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Opportunities, Reflection, and Deciding What’s Next

And suddenly, it’s 2015. The year of the distant future, to which Marty McFly traveled in Back to the Future. Seems like just yesterday I was a big-haired, gum-snapping teenager, watching this film at the movie theater, trying to imagine life in that science fiction-like setting. Yet here we are, having survived the ominous Y2K, but still waiting on the world that “doesn’t need roads.”

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Image credit: Amazon.com

One week into the new year, the sky is a cloudless blue and snow covers the frozen landscape, conjuring images of a Norman Rockwell Christmas card. But looks can be deceiving, and Mother Nature loves to remind us that she’s in charge. The temperature today, factoring in wind chill, is a frigid -20F (-29C), forcing school cancellations, which gives me an unanticipated day off. Even we weather-hardened Chicagoans have our breaking point.

The last time I logged into WordPress was so long ago that it took me a minute to remember my password. I’ve been grievously absent from the blogosphere for nearly two months, but not without good reason.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you probably know that by profession I’m an elementary school teacher. You probably also know that a few years ago, I resigned from my job to take a part-time position in the same school, in order to be at home more for my family.

Then last spring, when a good friend and former teaching colleague shared the news that she was expecting her first child, and she wanted me to cover her maternity leave, I immediately agreed to do it. Although I substitute now and then, I’d been away from full-time classroom teaching for three years, and this would be a great opportunity to refresh my professional skills.

The call to start the maternity leave came unexpectedly in mid-November, a full three weeks before my friend’s due date. Even though I’d told myself–and her–that I was prepared to jump in any time as her due date approached, I was still taken completely off guard that morning (as was she, naturally)! I skipped the shower and raced to the classroom to orient myself, knowing I’d have to wing it for much of that first day.

In the weeks since, the class and I have fallen into a comfortable routine; dare I say we’ve become a well-oiled machine. The riding-a-bike analogy is aptly applied in this scenario — you really never forget how to do it — but nonetheless the learning curve has been steep, as so much has changed in the profession in the last three years.

I’ve become reacquainted with everything that goes into being a good teacher: the over-scheduled, exhausting days; the sleepless nights spent worrying about struggling students; the stacks of papers waiting to be graded; the to-do list that never gets any shorter. But there are also the priceless rewards, namely, the simple acknowledgement of a job well-done from students, colleagues, administrators, and parents.

These weeks back in the classroom have been rife with reflection, and it’s help me come to three irrevocable conclusions.

First, despite the day-to-day stress and the ugly politics in which my profession is mired, I come alive when I step into the classroom. Somehow the long list of negatives falls away, and I’m reminded it’s all about the kids. This is what I’m meant to do.

Second, this is the one thing in life I at which I truly excel. I’m a decent wife and mother, an okay writer, a mediocre cook, and a so-so runner, but I’m a good teacher. I can say this with confidence.

Third, as much as I love to write, I will likely never pursue it as a career as I’d once dreamed. I’m not even sure I’ll make the jump from writer to author, and I’m no longer convinced I want to. Writing will always be something I love and look forward to in my spare time, and deep down I think I want to keep it that way.

So where does that leave this blog?

The short answer: I don’t know. Having a web presence doesn’t seem as urgent as it once did, and if I have no intention of pursuing a career in writing, what purpose does a writing blog serve? As many times as I’ve considered disappearing into complete obscurity, I’m reminded of all the wonderful people I’ve connected with over blogging, and how much I’d miss those connections and camaraderie if I never blogged again.

Perhaps a reinvented blogging identity is the answer, but right now I have no idea what that would be.

Finally, as much as I’d love to jump back into the teaching profession, now is not the right time. Doing the job well is all-consuming, and it’s the main reason I resigned in the first place. As a teacher-and-mother, I struggled to find the balance, and too often my job took priority over family life. That’s not the kind of mother I want to be.

So for now the plan is to enjoy the remaining weeks of being at the helm of a classroom, and then return to my part-time job in February. It will be hard to let go of the class, as I’ve come to think of these students as “mine.”

I’ll continue to pop into the many blogs I follow from time to time, but I’ll be pretty scarce until mid-February.

My thanks to Phillip McCollum and JM McDowell, whose recent posts reflect a similar theme to this one. You guys gave me the spark I needed to write this. :)

Categories: General, Writing | Tags: , , | 41 Comments

Plurals: A New Generation

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I’ve always been interested in the concept of generations. Loosely defined by an age range with a distinct set of attitudes and values, each generation is given a name. My parents are among the oldest of the Baby Boomers. I’m a member of Generation X, and some of my younger siblings are considered Millennials.

The age range is meant to be a general guideline. For example, my husband is technically a Baby Boomer based on his birth year, but he identifies with the mindset of Generation X.

Baby Boomers are broadly defined as those born 1946-64.

The Generation X’ers are those born roughly 1965-76.

Millennials are individuals born 1977-96.

And now, the first generation of the 21st century has been named: The Pluralist Generation.

In a fascinating study released by Magid Generational Strategies, the initial characteristics of the Plurals have been outlined:

  • Birth years approximately 1997 – Present
  • The most ethnically diverse generation to date
  • The last generation with a Caucasian majority
  • Plurals exist in the most diverse social circles
  • The attitudes of Plurals are beginning to reflect Generation X parenting styles
  • They are least likely to believe in the American Dream

(source: The First Generation of the Twenty-First Century: An Introduction to the Pluralist Generation)

Maybe I found this report so intriguing because I’m the parent of two Plurals. It’s interesting to see the parameters taking shape while discovering the impact of my generation’s rather pragmatic parenting style.

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Key Gen-X parenting characteristics (p.12 of the study):

  • Teaching children how to be successful, rather than giving them what they need to be successful
  • Protecting through surveillance, rather than involvement
  • Doing what’s best for my child, rather than what’s best for the group
  • Realistic: do what you’re good at, rather than aspiring to do anything
  • Only the best wins, rather than “everybody wins”

What struck me about this study was the positive spin on the Plurals’ outlook, since their general mindset seems so accepting and open-minded. Perhaps it’s an inevitable outcome as the population diversifies and societal attitudes shift.

The future of this newly named generation remains to be seen, but I’m looking forward to following their journey.

What do you think of Generational studies? Are you a Gen-Xer raising a Plural?

Categories: General, Parenting | Tags: , , , , , , | 27 Comments

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