Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Getting Back to the Business of Writing

Yes, I view my writing a passion, a gift, a calling, if you will, but it is also a business. I discovered that side of things when I received my first book contract. My initial and quite simple business plan (read “write, find a publisher, and get published”) morphed into a plan to include what might be called research and development, production, marketing, and networking. Within this business vernacular I could easily define my “what if” sessions as my “think tank” and the rough drafts I create as “prototypes.” 

The Work Day
Writing is a business…my chosen line of part-time work. I set my hours and goals. I determine how much time and energy I will invest each day. Since I am most productive in morning, I like to schedule my working hours from 6:00am to 9:00am. That isn’t particularly difficult for me. I am generally up by five every morning. 

I like to write a minimum of a thousand words a day, though I rarely track the exact number. I know I usually exceed 1000 words. But if I meet the thousand-word goal for a novel, I can lay down a decent draft for a short novel in three or four months. That’s assuming I take weekends off. 

So it is entirely feasible to create a draft in a few months of part-time writing. Draft. Remember prototype? And the draft only comes after the “think tank” session followed by the research and development stint. The draft or “prototype” as I’m calling it here is the earliest stage of production.

With my extra morning hours I work on my blog, research topics I need to know more about for the novel, study my craft, diagram my next project (I’m big into poster board diagrams for my stories), reread, edit, and revise sections of the work in progress, work on marketing materials, and essentially, wear all the other hats writers must wear in this business.

Do it all in just three hours a day...If only it worked that way.

I may sit at my computer three hours a day engaged in my writing business, but my mind works overtime. So do I. sometimes I get so excited about the direction a story is heading, I can’t help but write until my tummy growls. 

Editing and revising takes a lot of time. I throw editing and revising to the head of my Quality Control department. Me. 

Then there is the marketing and networking side of the business. Keeping up with my readers via Twitter and Facebook as well as emails eats into my day in other ways. Social media is not a 6-9am proposition. 

Nothing is Linear
I write. I revise. I edit. I submit. I get a contract. I sit back and wait for the reviews to roll in. NOT.

It's more like this: I write project A. I revise. I edit. I write some more. I edit some more. I write and revise a whole lot more. I submit. I wait. 

I start project B. I get rejected for project A. I revise A some more. I submit. Maybe I get a contract. Maybe not. I work on project B. 

I hear from my publisher. I edit and revise more. I re-submit. I’m working on project B while making decisions about the cover and dedication, and continually making revisions for project A. 

A release date for project A is announced. I ramp up my publicity for project A. I get excited and take lots of “selfies” of me holding my book. The book is released and I ramp up my marketing even more. 

Eventually I get back to project B, but I spend three days re-reading the manuscript because I forget what I wrote or where I was heading. As I’m reading, project C pops in my brain like a cute kitten on the doorstep just begging for a chance to live. I diagram project C while I’m working on project B and marketing project A.

Real-Life Example
I continue to market Breathing on Her Own, my first novel while promoting the three books in the Writing to Publish series and completing my first romantic suspense novel. I have a novella being released this fall as part of an anthology of Ohio writers. The anthology is called From the Lake to the River and my story is called Courtesy Turn, based on a square dance move. 

In addition, I have a novel being released in March of 2019 called Libby’s Cuppa Joe. The editor from my publishing house sent me her suggestions yesterday so I need to wade through the manuscript again and make those changes. I’ll send it back to her and she’ll likely send it back to me again. We’ll do this dance off and on until the book is ready for publication. Plus…that story takes place in Door County, Wisconsin so I hope to do a girls trip with my daughters up there before too long for some photo shoots. 

And I blog. That’s not the only writing I do. More about that next week as I take you on a tour of my Writing Gym.

I think you get the idea. Writing to publish has a business side. Writers don’t make widgets. It is never a one and done experience. And even if we write in a “one-widget” genre, every story is unique. Every work requires something new from its creator. 

If we write solely out of passion, that’s one thing… But if we publish, it’s a business.

Curiously, the day after I drafted this blog post, one of my publishers sent out a list of articles authors might find helpful. Here is one of them. It is a post by Elizabeth S. Craig called Balancing Writing and BusinessHow’s that for timing? Click on the title to read the article. 


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Wednesday, July 18, 2018


Last week I wrote about reverse culture shock. I think it may be my last entry regarding my adventure in Kosovo, though the people and experiences there will always be a part of me. I’m sure references to Kosovo will resurface from time-to-time.

My oldest daughter, Allison, and I talked about the blog on a recent trip to the beach. I started “A Novel Creation” to take people interested in writing on a journey with me as I crafted a novel. I shared what I learned about writing with my readers. And I sustained that work from January 2013 until I left for Kosovo in August of 2017. Yep, I posted a blog about writing every Wednesday for over four years. Of course I had a few guest posts along the way.

If you’ve been following me for this past year, you know my full attention has been given to sharing the experience of living abroad. As Allison and I talked, I realized the blog has morphed into sharing me as a “novel creation.” I’m not alone. We all are novel creations. All created in the image of God, yet all unique. 

And just as the blog has changed over time, I’ve changed as well. Allison suggested that maybe the blog now is about transitions. I’ve certainly made a few since Tom died. Selling my house and moving into another. Living there for two months before moving to Kosovo. Teaching children again. Then moving back to America and adjusting to life here once more. Transitions. But there have been other transitions. And though they may seem less significant to most people, they were major hurdles for me. 

Paying bills. Tom always took care of that task.
Building a fire in the fireplace. He showed me how to do it.
Learning to mow my own lawn. This was tough. I didn’t eve know how to start the mower!
Negotiating the purchase of my car. Tom actually walked me through that one.

Eating alone. I’ve adjusted at home, but in a restaurant? No.

In fact, making decisions without Tom, no matter how small, often prove to be moments marked by a bit of fear and a dose of uncertainty. Ultimately however, I know each time I make a move, it is a small step forward. A step marked with growth and independence.

I don’t know what God has in store for me. I do know I have a story being published in an anthology the fall. The book is a collection of works from Ohio writers. I have a contract to publish my second novel, Libby’s Cuppa Joein 2019 and I’m working on my first romantic suspense novel. I’ll be at the 10 Minute Novelist writing Conference in August. Yes, writing is part of me. 

But where that takes me?…only God knows. He’s always been good to me. I TRUST HIM COMPLETELY. Why? Because He is the God of transitions. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Reverse Culture Shock: My Take

When I left for Kosovo, I expected to be met with what is generally termed “culture shock.” I knew the rhythm of my everyday life would change. I would be eating new foods, learning a new language, and interacting with people who viewed life differently than I did. I understood the challenges. Though I understood the challenges, I harbored some fear. Fear of the unknown.

I lived and worked in Kosovo for ten months. My fears were quickly set aside and I enjoyed what I can only refer to as something akin to a celebrity status. Kosovars LOVE Americans. In a restaurant or even on the street, if someone realized I was an American, they would offer the biggest smile and tell me how grateful they are to Americans. I attended an Albanian wedding. It was beautiful and yes the bride and groom were the focus of our attention. But in the middle of the reception, my colleague and I were asked to stand. Everyone applauded as we were recognized. Because we are Americans. (To visit that wedding experience, CLICK HERE.)

The food in Kosovo was great. The coffee was incredible. I made friends from all communities and many nationalities. I learned how to call for a taxi…in Albanian. I attended parties, threw parties, and went shopping. I may not have been able to read all the labels, but I managed. Life in Kosovo was good.

As I said, I was only there for ten months. When people talked of reverse culture shock, I set their comments aside. I knew some of what they described. My middle daughter lived in Baku, Azerbaijan for a time. She had a meltdown the first time I took her with me to one of America’s super sized food stores. She was overwhelmed by the selection and abundance of food available. I understood what she experienced as reverse culture shock. Food was plentiful in Kosovo so I didn’t expect any stressors to hit me. 

I was wrong.

I miss the tight-knit community I had with people in Kosovo. I miss the interactions with the nationals there and my church friends. I miss the pace of life that seems less busy and more intentional. And the very thing that made me more comfortable in Kosovo? That almost celebrity status of being an American? I miss that, too. I can’t help it. It was fun.

Don’t misunderstand. I love being near my family. I love having dinner with my mother, hanging out with my daughters, and hugging my grandchildren. I love getting together with friends and hosting people in my home. And if ever you’ve traveled, you know there is an easiness about hearing nearly everyone around speaking your own language.

I am three weeks home now. Settling back into the routines and rhythms of my life. Mostly. I drink more mineral water and watch less television. I’m trying my hand at recreating some of the Albanian foods I love. I find myself asking people over for coffee. 

Maybe living abroad and moving back isn’t culture shock at all. Maybe it is a realignment of sorts. A recalibrating what is of value. It may be a strengthening of the core. A clearer understanding of who you are and who others are in this world. A true sense that Americans are great. And so are Albanians…and Serbians…and Mexicans…and Canadians…and…well, you get the picture. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Rebecca Waters on Freedom

Like most Americans, I have taken freedom for granted for most of my life. Don’t get me wrong…I wave my flag proudly. My heart swells when I hear the national anthem. There is something moving about standing in a crowd reciting the pledge of allegiance as one unified voice. I read news stories of people held captive abroad because of their beliefs and I revel in the freedom we experience in the USA.

But I never fully captured how incredible and far reaching this freedom is until I lived for an extended time in Kosovo. Sometimes when Americans move to a foreign country they come to that understanding rapidly because they live under the severe laws and tight restrictions of their host nation. That wasn’t my experience. My awareness came through teaching fourth graders.

The school where I taught, Prishtina High School, is an American school. All students study Albanian, their own language but all core classes are taught in English. The school implements the Ohio curriculum. This certainly makes it easy for American teachers to transition into the classroom there. However, I ran into one tiny glitch. If you know anything about American school curriculum, you know that in fourth grade all across the fifty states, social studies is centered on state history. My class consisting primarily of Albanian students did not need to study Ohio history. 

To make the lessons on history, geography, government, and economics relevant to my fourth grade class, I set out to teach these themes using Kosovo as the vehicle. There was a lot of research to do but I was not alone. I had fourteen eager research buddies working with me.

I learned everything I could about the history and geography of Kosovo first. I searched the internet, studied maps and began reading historical accounts of this area of the Balkans. My students were doing the same. Kosovo’s regional history is extensive and dates back thousands of years. We learned of the Romans and the Turks and the Albanians. We studied the region as part of Yugoslavia, learned of the Serbian influence, and examined the ever-changing borders of this small country. I won’t go into detail here about everything we learned over the course of a year…only about what it means to be free.

While I read published accounts of Kosovo from just prior to the documented war (1998-1999) to the present, my students conducted interviews with people who lived in the area before the war, during the war, and within five years after the war.

Actually, the war may never had happened if the Albanian Kosovars had experienced

·      Fair representation for the taxes they paid (Sound familiar?) and 
·      Freedom of speech (Yep, we’ve heard that one before.) and 
·      Freedom of religion (Wow, I’ve read this long before I came to Kosovo…nearly every Thanksgiving!) and 
·      If they had not been harassed in an attempt to drive them from their homeland.

Instead, Slobodan Milosevic, (a Serbian who rose to power in the 1990’s) tried to force Albanians who had lived for centuries in the province of Kosovo to leave the area. He heavily taxed the Albanian residents while limiting their work opportunities. He made it illegal to speak or teach the Albanian language. 

Kosovo is Now 10 Years Old
Milosevic instituted what he called a parallel society. Children attended "parallel schools."For example, at first, Albanian children were schooled on the lower level of the school building while Serbian children were schooled on the floor above.  The Albanians were not allowed to speak or teach the Albanian language. Everyone had to learn Serbian, even though by this time Serbians made up only around nine percent of the region’s population. The Albanian students had no books or resources. They were lucky to have a single piece of chalk for the blackboard. Teachers taught as best as they could and students memorized everything. 

Milosevic’s parallel society permitted the children to play... on separate playgrounds. However, the Serbian students had playground equipment and were allowed to engage in organized sports while the Albanian Kosovars were denied any equipment and were not allowed to play any sort of organized sport. I talked with young adults who, as children during this time period would bunch socks together to create their own soccer ball. One young man told me how he and his friends were caught playing soccer and sniper bullets rained down on the grassy area where they were playing.  He was six-years-old at the time.  

In Their Declaration of Freedom
From the Soviet Union,,
Hungarians Cut The Soviet Symbol
 From the Center of Their Flag

Who are these children now? They are the parents of students in my class. They are young teachers and administrators in my school. They are the entrepreneurs shaping the economy of the country. They are the members of parliament and government officials. They are the future of Kosovo. To their credit, few harbor ill feelings toward the Serbian population. They blame the politics and government of that era for creating an atmosphere leading to fighting.

I can’t go back in time and interview people in colonial America. I know they felt disenfranchised. I know they were taxed without having a voice in how that money was spent...and it wasn't being spent on them. I know many of them suffered religious discrimination. I know those we now call Native Americans were mistreated and forced from their land. I know our country has suffered many hardships throughout our short history as a nation. I can only imagine the early members of our society's strong desire for independence. 

But now, I can hear their many languages.  It is the voice of freedom. 

If you missed these posts, click on them to better understand Kosovo's pursuit of freedom.

Four Pieces of Wood: A Story of Two Neighbors in Kosovo 

Thank You, Mr. President: Students Learning About the War and President Clinton's Response

Happy Birthday, Kosovo: The Ten Year Celebration for This Tiny Country