Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A happy place

Something happened to me recently that has left me very troubled. It happened on Monday morning. First day of the week, with all this stuff I have to do. Articles and chapters to write. Research to get done for my proposal. Deadlines to meet.

And after it happened...I was frightened and morally torn. It's just a big bizarre thing. I cannot talk about it, though. It's really hard to talk about it. I did talk to someone about it and she told me what to do. I did as she suggested but I'm still feeling really broken about it. I mean, certain boundaries were overstepped. Something that SHOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED ending up happening. My trust was broken. And I'm still freaked out over all of it. It was just so...bizarre and unreal. It was actually surreal. And the fact that I now join others who have had this happen to them is not exactly a perk, either. I just can't accept that something like this happened to me. Even though it did.

I just can't think about it...

So, I try not to think about it. But at the same time, I can't focus on much else. It's hard to focus on the other stuff. The important stuff. The writing.

But when I get into the writing, I am able to focus on it. Maybe having a deadline is what helps me to focus on it. Or the job at hand. But I do end up focusing on the writing, once I get into it.

And after I finish writing, it's right back to being troubled again and angry again and just...confused. But I will get through this, eventually. I hope.


Monday, January 19, 2009

The 6-word story challenge

On a friend's blog, I came across this link: The Hemingway Challenge Reading some of those stories really do tickle the imagination! And not just as a story, but it gives me ideas for stories to write, too. Stories independent of those 6 words.

I have debated taking a word-count story challenge for some time. There's the 100-word story challenge and the 50-word story challenge. But this was the first I've learned of a 6-word story challenge.

It's a challenge I decided to take on. Here is my 6-word story:

Dear God: Mission aborted. Returning home.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Going on a killing spree

Don't worry: I'm not actually turning into a homicidal maniac and killing people, or anything. Actually, the only thing I have been "killing" lately are words. I have been "killing my darlings" with the editing I've been doing on a manuscript.

A lot of writers have bemoaned the task of editing and chopping away at their work. "But it's TOO GOOD!" they cry. They just don't feel comfortable snipping away at parts of their work that could really use some fixing up.

But the truth is, if the writing really needs to be changed, change it. Trust me on this. It's for the greater good. You don't have to really "throw away" the good stuff you labored over. You can save it, for your own enjoyment. Or post it on your blog, if you want to share and/or get comments on it. But the best thing to do is to fix the writing in a way that'll make it shine. By doing so, you'll increase your chances of selling the piece and it'll be in the best possible shape ever. All with your name on it! (And as a little side note, editors usually know better, so trust them when they ask you to change something.)

I know it's hard trimming away at the writing you labored over. I have been trying to get through that difficulty, as well. All I can say is, it gets better with time. I keep telling myself that it will be better if I edit it the best that I can. I'd rather have my name on something that's been edited to perfection than on something poorly written and unedited.

The more often you edit, snip and trim away at your writing, the easier it will be. You'll develop a keen eye to watch out for those trouble spots in your writing. Instead of wanting to keep EVERYTHING, you'll be able to think of a better way to say something, catch sentences that are too wordy and get a better idea of how to structure everything.

It takes good editing to make good writing. Writers all know the pain that comes with "killing your darlings" but, really, it's worth it to get through that pain. Just keep at it and sooner or later that pain will disappear and the editing will be a lot easier to get through.

What kind of "growing pains" do you eventually get over the more often you edit your writing?

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New book and new hours

Yesterday, I wrote up the first draft of an article I need to turn in by the 25th. But two things happened after I finished that first draft.

The first thing to happen was, I didn't think the title was right. Actually, it seemed misleading. So I tried to come up with a more accurate title. I thought the new one was okay but still had something wrong with it, but I couldn't put my finger on it. So I asked an editor her opinion and she said it was too long. Ah-ha! That's it! It was definitely too long. So I tried to think on that some more. I wanted the title to reflect my angle but, at the same time, let readers know it wasn't what it seemed to be. But I couldn't lead them like that! Readers put a lot of faith in writers not to pull one over on them and trying to get away with a "got you!" kind of article title will turn them off reading instead of getting a good laugh out of them.

Also, I was being stubborn. I wanted the title to SAY a particular thing, but not in a way that was misleading.

Last night, I was chatting with my husband while he was at work. I threw one title idea out to him and he said it sounded okay. It wasn't the "right" title but I decided to just keep it for now.

I had 12 days to come up with a better one!

But it didn't take me 12 days. Actually, all I had to do to get a better title was just sleep on it. This morning, after I did the usual writing stuff on the computer, I went to take a shower. And it was in the shower I came up with the perfect title for that article. Yay! Actually, I had two perfect titles, but because I didn't want to invite some kind of lawsuit if I did a play on a popular TV series, I went with the other one. I like both of them. They both fit the article perfectly. Woo-hoo!

Now, as to the second thing that happened: When I was writing this article, I saw that the topic is BIGGER than I thought it was. I got the idea for this article while doing research for the haunted houses book (yes, it's a paranormal-themed article), but I was so deep in working on the book, I wasn't able to write the article yet. Time passed. We finished the book. Got it accepted. Went through the editing rounds, etc. And I'm able to breathe again. (LOL) So I decided this was as good a time as any to get that article written up. Especially since I've been asked to submit one!

But as I did this article research...I just saw how it could be MORE than just an article.

Actually...it could be a book. I am serious. There's enough material on this topic to make it a book.

But before I allowed myself to get excited about another ghosty book, I first did some research on the 'Net. Just to see if this kind of book has been done yet.

And, fortunately, it hasn't! Woo-hoo! There are books reflecting this topic and that have something to do with it in some way, but not a full-fledged book on this topic alone. There are also some web sites, but they are not as detailed or lengthy.

Which is what I'm going to be with it!

So it looks like I'm writing another book this year after all. Yay! And it came at a perfect time, too: I got an email from an editor inviting me to submit a ghosty book. I'm going to run this one by her to see if it's something she would like.

On top of the editing work I'm doing, editing my books, hunting for an agent and fixing up book proposals, I'll be working on this book as well. But I won't be spending HOURS at it as I have been before. My daughter and I struck a deal today: Mommy only works on her books when the kids are sleeping or at school. (Or otherwise preoccupied, in the youngest's case.) That means any time up until 2 p.m. from the morning hours and any time after 9 p.m. in evenings. Sounds good to me. At least the time away from the book work will allow opportunities for more ideas to simmer.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Web site for the Totally Scared book

As many of you know, the book I have co-authored with Martha Jette, Totally Scared: The Complete Book on Haunted Houses, is set to be published this summer. The publisher, Cacoethes Publishing House, has created two different pages for the book, a print page and Ebook page:



Martha generously took the time out of her busy schedule to create a site for the book. You can find it here:


Please note that this site is under construction and more stuff will be added later on. Check it out and please let me know what you think. I'd love to receive some feedback!

Thanks for all of the support and encouragement. This book is very important to both of us and we're very excited about its pending publication. If you would like to get in on the first run of copies, please let me know and I will forward the information to the publisher.


Friday, January 09, 2009

Self-publishing and fiction

Today I was reading the book The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists by Andrew McAleer. It's a good book and I have enjoyed reading it. But when I got to the section about self-publishing, I paused. I read it, but I was wary.

in this part of the book, McAleer notes that some writers complain that a writer who self-publishes their novel is "taking the easy way out." I would have to disagree that this is "the easy way." Mainly, as far as novels go. Just because someone self-publishes their novel, or even any other book, it's not exactly the "easy way" to get published. You know why? There's a lot of work involved (not to mention a lot of money!). Self-publishing your novel makes YOU responsible for its success -- and failure. YOU have to do ALL of the production and promotion of the book. All of the marketing. Seriously, it's a lot of work involved, and only if you want the book to succeed.

But that's only part of it. There are also roadblocks in getting the book reviewed AND getting it into bookstores. Some reviewers can tell if a book is self-published just by looking at it. Trust me, these people have grown so weary of reading so many God-awful self-published books, they refuse to give any other self-published book another chance. Add to this that a lot of industry professionals look down on self-published books.

But there was something about McAleer's writing that worried me. Something that raised a red flag. The fact that he didn't warn how hard it would be to succeed with a self-published novel. If you have a nonfiction niche book, or a platform at the ready to promote your book, then you've got a really good chance to make your book a success. But with novels, that's where things get a little tricky. Self-published novels are hard to sell. Yes, I know all about The Christmas Box and The Shack. I am aware that these novels sold millions of copies and got picked up by big-name publishers. But it's cases like that which are rare. That just doesn't happen for every single self-published novel.

If, however, a writer is determined to self-publish their novel, then definitely do your homework. Read EVERYTHING you can get your hands on about self-publishing. Seriously, educate yourself on what it takes to self-publish a book. Learn the ropes and network with other self-published writers, so you can learn from them. Don't jump into self-publishing right away. Take the time to get a handle on it first.

Also, two rules to follow:

*Get a crit on your manuscript before you publish it. This will help immensely.

*Have the manuscript PROFESSIONALLY edited. By "professionally," I mean by someone who has worked as an editor. And not just your local English 101 prof.

You want to give your novel every chance you can to be a success. This is your baby we are talking about. Something you labored over and put your soul into for months, maybe years. Don't make the mistake of publishing a poorly-written, unedited story. If you DO publish it.

As far as novels go, I would strongly suggest trying the traditional route first. Like I said, it's hard to find success with a self-published novel. Try the traditional publishers first. The independent presses and small presses. Try to get a literary agent. I know it's hard and I know rejection stings. I know. But it's worth it if the end result is a professional, mind-blowing novel that YOU wrote and didn't have to pay a dime to see in print. As one writer is quoted in this book, "Keep trying for several years before taking the hardest path."


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Stories and character names

Normally, I will allow a story to simmer in my mind before I start writing it. I want to give the characters "space" to grow and fully develop. I want to get a "feel" for the story before I'll start turning it into an ACTUAL story.

Recently, though, that was a pretty tough thing for me to do.

I had this story dream that I totally wanted to write down. I woke up from the dream thinking, 'Wow, that was awesome! I wanna write it!' But I was also scared because the story was...scary. LOL EEK! Especially since it had zombies in it. And one of them was coming after me! Yikes!

I don't really like reading zombie stories. I'm really not into them. My husband, however, goes nuts over zombie movies and zombie stuff. (Oh, no. He's starting to influence me!) But all the same, I liked the story and I wanted to start writing it.

I REALLY wanted to start writing it!

But the problem was, I couldn't just yet. I knew what characters were going to be in the story and I had pieces of information about them. But I didn't have any names. And that was holding things up.

Sure I could've taken the easy way out. Just give 'em the first name I see and change it later! But I wasn't willing to do that. When I don't have the character's name, I don't have a "grasp" of them. I don't know who they are, what they look like, where they come from. A name says a lot about people, and a lot about characters. If I don't have the name of my characters, then they might as well be in the shadows. Unreachable, unknowable.

I don't just give a character any old name. Most of the time, they "come" to the story with their names. They appear with a name, a face, a history. This is the way I prefer it. I prefer my characters to "tell" me their names. Just let me know what they are called. And if I give it some time, just "shut down" in order to receive that information, it will be there.

Today was a perfect example of this. Today, I was fed up with not getting any character names for this story, because I REALLY wanted to start writing it. The story was "alive" and burning within me. Just yearning to get out onto paper. I was mad because I couldn't get it written. I wanted some character names, darn it! That was the only thing holding me back.

I had some free time today, right before my oldest got out of school. My husband practically "threw" me out of the house earlier than I usually leave because he was convinced I wasn't going to find something I was looking for and only wasting my time TRYING to find it, so I was at my daughter's school, in the parking lot, with a notebook and 20 minutes to kill.


I grabbed that opportunity and tried to "tune in" to my story. Just try to connect with the characters. There was one main character I really wanted to know, because it IS his story. So I tried to focus on him. Just try to know this teenager and what his name was. I know his name started with a "G" and it had an "oh" sound. And there was an "r" in there somewhere. But I didn't get the name just yet. As I tried out every name I could think of, I tried to get a better idea of my character. What he looked like, what his room looked like, what his voice "sounded" like.

Finally, the name came to me. Grogan. His name is Grogan.

I know, weird name!

But with this information, it's like his world opened up to me. I started to see where he lived, what his father looked like, what kind of clothes he wore. Everything just came together and I started writing it all down.

I couldn't write the whole story, though. Sometimes, it'll take me hours to write a short story. (One short story took me 9 hours to write! With pen and paper.) And some of my handwriting was a little...hard to read. LOL But I at least got the first scene of this story out of my head and onto paper.

I'm looking forward to writing the rest of the story. Now that I have all of the information, including character names, it'll be easier to get the story written.