12 Things I Learned While Writing “The Treemakers”

 

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My release date for my upcoming novel, “The Treemakers,” was originally set for this July. As you can see, that date has flown by and here I sit, awaiting still that righteous day when I hit that big, red “PUBLISH” button. (Is it red? I don’t know, I’m new here.)

“The Treemakers” (blurb below) was a project I began during National Novel Writing Month last November. I did, indeed, write the first 50K words of what I believed at the time would be something of a short novel. Being still a new novelist, this was my third novel, but I still had not worked with a professional editor. I was nearsighted in my vision for the future of TTM, thinking it was a quick little project that I could toss to the masses and maybe, snag a few readers for when I put the REAL work out there.

Yeah.

“The Treemakers” had other plans.

After I decided to go Indie (link opens new window), I also decided it was time to get professional feedback on my work.

BEST. DECISION. EVER.

I had just had TTM read by a couple of trusted beta readers, who had great things to say about it, but also pointed out a few of the story’s weak spots. I went back to work and fleshed the entire story, stretched it out and tacked on another 53K words. I thought the project was close to being “perfect” when I sent it over to my editor, Kimberly Grenfell. Um, yeah. Not so much. What I received back from her was 33 pages of content notes.

What happened when I read those content notes was a reverse-alchemy of sorts. The solid gold badass status I had dubbed upon my 3 novel-writing, NaNoWriMo-winning self, became a cackling peanut gallery. Those questions opened a sort of Pandora’s Box, a snowball effect of doubts, fears, and inadequacies dumped upon me like a mighty, putrid ice bucket challenge…

Dramatic, yes. But also, true.

I spent precisely two days regretting the day I picked up a pen when I was 14 and spewed out my first, four page teen-angst poem.

And then.

I pulled myself up by my uncle Allen’s rainbow suspenders… I realized, like he, and so many others have said to me in my life–that I am a storyteller. I was put on this earth to do so, and though I might do it kicking and hurling wet noodles, I shall do this thang, I shall do what I need to do to move forward; I shall do to my stories what they need to thrive and grow wings and fly into the world, as beautifully-winged creatures who can withstand the certain storms of darkness and whirling pools of light ahead.

I didn’t really intend to rewrite the entire 103K word novel, it just happened. The truth is, even when I sat down to tackle my editor’s content notes, there was that little voice telling me things I ignored as I smothered it with a mental pillow. As I fought to rework my manuscript, things began changing. Big things. So many things were changing in fact, that I finally just threw up my hands and never looked at the old manuscript again. I was at 13K words. I had a whole novel ahead of me, and though the bones of the story were very similar, but an ounce of the same flesh remained from the old version to the new. I was terrified. For a moment, I was unsure if I could do it. But do it, I did. I conquered that mountain and buried my flagpole deep in it, claiming it for myself and all writers who have ever accomplished similarly amazing feats, or wanted to, or needed to, but were too afraid. I did it. And boy, did it feel great.

Following are some things I learned during this past year while working on “The Treemakers.”

#12. Characters and worlds are like real life, in the sense that it takes a while to get to know them.

How well do you know a real life person in three months? Do you know them better in six months? How much better do you know them in one year? The same with places. I mean, I’ve lived in Dallas, Texas most of my life and still get lost. (True story) But what if I took a trip to an alternate dimension of time and space to a third-world alien country where up is down and left is right and so on… you know, like opposite world or something. In many ways, this is what my imaginative worlds are like. When I first started writing TTM, their world of Bygonne was a foggy, bare bones rendition of what it is now. It took me writing the story three times to really, I mean really flesh out my world and characters. Not until the third time (and months later) did I finally know my characters as if they were real live persons, and their world as if I lived there myself.

#11. Trusted, honest beta readers are absolutely necessary for the success of the beginning novelist.

It can be scary, handing over your work for critique. In fact, it’s a miracle Logan Keys and I are still friends. Logan and I met on Facebook and before we really knew each other well, we were swapping stories. From that first encounter, where we asserted our mutual knowingnesses of the other’s weak spots and thus shared, I discovered something about myself: I am a total masochist when it comes to writing. I fear the painful results of sharing my work for critique, but there is nothing more fulfilling than feeling the burn of truth when my eyes are opened to my own weaknesses, and facing them with honesty and humility, tenacity and courage, to become a better writer, telling a better story.

#10. A brilliant, encouraging, honest, open-minded, and optimistic editor is absolutely necessary for most writers to reach their full potential.

I say most because I’m sure there are writers out there who would beg to differ. Maybe you need a drill sergeant who sprays you with lemon juice for every comma splice…. But as for me, and many others, we’re squirrely little rascals who have spent too much time doubting our abilities. The slightest bit of harshness or unnecessary pessimism or negativity in regards to our work may send us packing to some far off land where we take up knitting and drinking and sobbing into the wee dreary hours of dawn. As with many people, it takes someone with a positive, encouraging attitude, the know-how, and the optimism to help us cultivate our inner talents and bring them to their highest yeilding states of fruition.

#9.   You don’t need an agent or a publisher to be a happy writer.

For the longest time I really did think I had to be an agented, NY-published writer to be happy. With this belief, I was self-fulfilling my own prophecy. Once I realized I didn’t need these things and really began to focus on why I write, and started doing it for the right reasons, magically things began to fall into place for me. See #8 below:

#8.  When you follow the light, it multiplies.

When you discover that spark in the dark, with it you can build a massive fire, burning up dark worlds and naysaying universes in an instant. All it takes is a spark. Follow that, and things in your life begin to rearrange themselves to bring more light. Sure, this is my personal hypothesis, but it has also been proven in my life in a trillion ways. If you missed it and you want to know more about the darkness I’ve come from, check out a bit of my story >HERE<.

#7.  You can be a single parent and write a novel.

It’s true, anything we are really passionate about in life, we make time for. I once made up tons of excuses for why I didn’t have time to write, but one day I finally said enough is enough. I quit squirting lemon juice in my own eyes and made a commitment to myself to write every day.  Just a year later I was wrangling NaNoWriMo by the horns and “won” with my first draft of “The Treemakers.” Now, with a little help from a good set of headphones, some awesome, mostly-wordless music, a fierce ambition, and stern rules with my children about “mommy’s writing time,” I have been known to write between 1K-4K words a day. It can be done. All we need is a bit of gumption.

#6. I queried for agents too soon.

Not that it makes much difference to me now, but I know there are many of you who still aim to give it a go with traditional publishing. This one’s for you guys. Now I see where I was blind when I queried agents for my first and second novels. Not only was my writing not the best because I wasn’t yet working with an editor, but also, my worlds and characters were way underdeveloped. Not to mention, my query letters and synopses totally sucked dirt balls.  I get all teary-eyed and sneezy when I look back over them now.

#5. I realized I had no idea how strong I really was. 

I love this journey so much. Before I began it, I was a very needy soul who lacked confidence in my work. I was scared of him and her and they and didn’t show my work to many people. I’ve only been blogging for a year, because I believed I wasn’t good enough for any of this. I couldn’t be successful. No one would want to read my words. I could dream of being a published writer all day but that wouldn’t make me a published writer. Those were my debilitating and belittling beliefs. They totally held me back in the cesspool of fear for the longest time. But then, things changed. Once I started conquering my fears within the writing itself–taking criticism/critique, hiring a professional, rewriting–I changed. I realized I didn’t need anyone to wave a magic publishing wand over my head and tell me I was “good enough.” I could do it myself. Well, mostly… (See #4 below)

#4. It takes a village.

Just because I’m an “Indie” author, doesn’t mean I’m solo. I do need others to help my stories come to life and be amazing. Beta readers, trusted friends, supporting family members, encouragers, EDITORS, and (for me) children to remind me that there is so much wonder and magic in life when I dive deep into my imagination. Most importantly though, it takes believers. People who believe in you and your work are so important.

#3. Too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil the soup. Or spill it in our nether-regions and scald and/or singe our unmentionables. Not to mention, no more soup.

There is such a thing as too much outside input. There comes a time–when 2,000 of your closest friends on Facebook are writing this or that or telling you to write this or that–that you have to press the “mute” button and do your own thing. Don’t chase trends or do what they do, if it means straying from your own lighted path. In “The Treemakers,” I touch on some pretty taboo subjects. I’ve had to have some heart-to-hearts with my characters and make sure it’s really what they wanted. The answer was yes. I wrote the story the way it would’ve really happened, I truly believe that. And if I were to change it because so-and-so say it might offend a few narrow-minded individuals, then I would not have a true, authentic story to offer to the world. We must write the story that is in us to tell, regardless of those pesky naysayers who don’t like much anyway.

#2. Growing Up in Public SUCKS.

I’ve erased countless blog posts because I read back over them and sputter the contents of my cereal bowl onto my computer screen. “Ugh, did I really write that crap?” Sometimes, it’s so overwhelming learning all of the things that go along with being an Indie author. Social media. OY. All of those things those “other authors” do that piss me off on Facebook? I think I’m guilty of every single one of them. Almost. You’ll never catch me in a half-naked yoga pose, but, you know… all the rest. We learn as we go. It sucks that we have to be ignorant of certain things in the process, but that’s just the way it is in this golden age of Everything Online & Social Media. My advice though: Never get on social media angry or drunk. That will save you so much embarrassment.

AND

#1. I can prove the naysayers wrong–just because I am self-published, doesn’t mean I’m throwing a fat turd in the air and calling it a book.

I just wrote an amazing book. I can say that with confidence. I put the work into it and it will be great. There will be people who hate it, most definitely, but the fact is, there will be a ton more people who don’t. And that makes me happy. 😀

Sooo, that’s it for now! I have a slew of amazing announcements coming up, including my cover reveal, and the unveiling of my fansite. I’ve yet to figure out how to do an actual mailing list signup in WordPress (growing up in public!), but for now, take a look at the blurb for “The Treemakers” below, and if you’d like to be added to my launch list for when it releases, you may email me at rozelle[dot]treemakers[at]gmail[dot]com. Feel free to email me for any other reason as well; just to say hi, ask a question, or vent about whatever… just promise you’ll be nice because I’m sensitive. 😉

“The Treemakers” (Edgy YA Dystopian/SciFi)

Doomed to a life of building mechanical trees for the dying world of Bygonne, sixteen year-old Joy Montgomery remains the only one left to care for over thirty orphaned children enslaved by the Superiors in the Tree Factory.

But the iron bonds of friendship and family, the discovery of magic in the dark, and love amidst devastation, soon fuel her search for a way out. Aided by an unlikely ally who harbors a dangerous secret, Joy and the Treemakers embark on a quest for freedom, and for the truth about the existence of a forbidden paradise.

Coming in November! (Release date/cover reveal TBA)

Until next time, writerly souls,

Write on! ❤

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21 Reasons Why Life without Facebook is Totally Awesome

flower girl

So many things fall to the wayside when chained to Facebook for endless hours days months years. Some time away allows you to see the many ways it negatively impacts your life.

For the past two weeks, I’ve spent a total of fifteen minutes on Facebook, which is no easy feat. As you can see >HERE<, getting off for even an hour was once a near-impossibility.

If you are anything like me, you too, may be unhappy with the amount of time you waste in the vice-grip of status-updates, friend requests, and all the jingly bells and screeching whistles that go along with a life glued together at the seams with good old Facebook. Because I’ve enjoyed my break so much–I wanted to entice you to give it a try.

Here are 21 Reasons why life without Facebook is totally awesome, and why I’ll be limiting my time there to fifteen minutes, one day a week from now, until further notice. 🙂

21. Less chair ass

If you’ve experienced the torturous hell that is hours of writing, whilst fighting Facebook distraction (and losing), followed by the darkest moments of a writer’s existence–chair ass–you understand. Often times, this is accompanied by mouse-wrist and/or typing-elbow. (Yes, I am aware I just made these up, but these writer ailments should have names, shouldn’t they?)

20. More exercise

19. More time outside

18. More time with children/friends/family

First on any list of dietary restrictions should be Facebook: Serving size I’LL SLURP OUT YOUR SOUL AND SAUTEE THAT MOTHER WITH TWITTER BALLS AND PINTEREST NUTS SO JUST SIGN YOUR LIFE SAVINGS OVER TO CANDY CRUSH NOW AND CALL IT A DAY.

Last week, I walked a total of four miles. On purpose. And not just to get to the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot, either. I did it because, hello, I opened my eyes to the wide world around me and decided, what the hell, I’ll go for a stroll. Destination? Starbucks. There was a venti nonfat carmel iced coffee calling my name. Funny, I didn’t hear it when I had my Facebook earmuffs on. Who knew those things were soundproof? Distance: two miles. It was a beautiful, sunny, relatively warm, late-spring Dallas, Texas afternoon. There were bugs. And noise. I perspired. I pushed my son in his stroller as he experienced the wide world around us from little toddler eyes. It was beautiful. 

It’s common sense; less time playing kissy-face with Facebook leaves room for endless possibilities of fuzzy-feeling real life stuff like being active and spending time with family and whatnot.

17. More time to write

Okay, raise your hand if you’re guilty of using “platform” as an excuse to insert Facebook into your body intravenously?

Uh-huh. *gives you evil eye*

I don’t wanna hear it. Platform shmatform. You don’t exactly need platform if you don’t have a book to sell, right? And even if you do have a book to market, think of how many more you could have if you didn’t spend so much time stroking the Zuckerburg…. I have a lot of writer friends, and not a one of them has ever gushed about how Facebook sells tons of books. If you’ll check out your top NYT bestselling authors, you will rarely find them spending hours–if any time at all–on Facebook. They do what writers are supposed to do. They write.

16. More time to do housework and other things you’ve been procrastinating

I get it, I really do. Hunting down the perfect meme-of-the-hour is way more appealing than doing the dishes. But your significant other is tired of doing them while you harvest friends on Facebook. Or your kids are tired of wearing dirty and/or wrinkled clothes because surfing meaningless status updates and filling your little brainy with mindless chatter that means ultimately jack to you and your life–seems more important to you than doing their laundry.

And shower, cuz… damn. *pinches nose*

15. More time to do other (than writing) things you love

Facebook is a drug that should come with dosage information and a warning label. And certain people should really cut it out mostly, or entirely from their life. Being a recovered drug addict/alcoholic, I have an addictive personality. I get “stuck” on stuff if I’m not careful, and then hours days months years go by and I look up and realize EVERYONE IS DEAD AND THE WORLD HAS BECOME A DESOLATE WASTELAND IN WHICH THE UNDEAD HAVE TAKEN OVER AND I MUST NOW LEARN HOW TO SHOOT A CROSSBOW LIKE DARYL DIXON AND TELL TIME BY THE SUN’S POSITION IN THE SKY AND LEARN THAT MOSS GROWS ON THE NORTH SIDE OF TREES OR WHATEVER AND ALL THAT’S LEFT TO EAT THAT HASN’T BEEN LOOTED ARE THOSE LITTLE DRIED CRAWFISH THINGYS WITH EYES THAT YOU FIND AT MEXICAN SUPERMARCADOS…

Not a good scene.

Would I rather spend my pre-apocalypse moments on Facebook, stalking Daryl Dixon (well, actually…), or doing fulfilling things that make me happy, like making cool stuff with my hands?

Tough call.

*sighs*

*stomps foot*

I guess I’ll take the art. (As long as I can watch reruns of “The Walking Dead” after.) 😀

14. You see who your true friends are

I’ve made a lot of good friends on Facebook. Almost 3,000 as of last Sunday, actually. And every other Tuesday, we get together and go bowling and then go to the spa afterwards and I catch the tab on a few rounds of those little umbrella drinkys…

Yeah.

I can count the true friends I’ve made on Facebook on two hands. From what I can tell, most of them out there are looking out for numero uno. I am but a drop in the bucket, of which may as well be a toilet. Taking a step back, I was able to see who I miss, which is a surefire way to tell who you really care about. And most of those people have my email address and some of them have even acquired the much sought-after 10 digits of happiness, and I don’t mean fingers. Some of them even call me on the… phone. *GASP!*

13. You can address your festering narcissism and get some effing humility

If no one has told you today, you are a precious little snowflake and everyone on Facebook–all of the internet and the world even–should stare at the exquisite uniqueness that is your Facebook profile. They should soak up every single status update from now, until the beginning of time, memorizing the luscious deets and “liking” every post, every comment, every picture, and every single little marvel that is your totally real, unfiltered, un-photo-shopped real life. Really.

And if they don’t…

Gah, how dare they. The nerve.

12. No Facebook drama

Does this really need explanation?

11. No Facebook trolls

*please hold while I squeeze into my ranty-panties*

There is nothing that pisses me off more than those still-living-with-momma social outcasts that have never seen the sun rise nor fall, that tell me what sort of sunscreen to put on my poochy. And worse yet, even blatantly judge me for putting the stuff on his furry be-hind in the first place. Hey, buddy, if I wanna put a gosh-dern t-back and tap shoes on my dog, that’s my own damn business and I don’t need you or anyone else to tell me how to–or not to–do it.

*tosses ranty-panties to neighbor’s poochy*

*snickers*

10. No more constant marketing

If I see your book cover one more time I’m going to hang you upside down by your toenails from the ceiling fan in my mind and flip the switch to the “on” position. Then I shall pop popcorn and set my demon puppy loose to chase you around, snapping at your hair or ears or what-have-you. And I shall laugh.

9. No more creepers/perves

In case you weren’t aware, Facebook just recently became a free dating site for the uber creeps and perves and still-living-at-home trolls. If you have never seen troll genitalia, be warned… the sight of this in an unsolicited private message has been known to cause vomiting, insomnia, loss of appetite, and in serious cases, blindness.

(NOTE: If you experience an erection that lasts for four hours or longer, well… you may be part of the problem. Seek professional help immediately. And in the meantime, please, stay the bejeezus away from Facebook.)

8. No more game requests

Do you hear that? It’s the sound of every harp in Heaven simultaneously playing Queen’s “We are the Champions,” because we have done it. We’ve won. People, ONE. Facebook game-requests, ZIP-O-ROOONIE.

7. No more clogging your mind space with unimportant crap

No, I was not aware that the African spotted muskrat is endangered. Please, post that Upworthy video all about it so that I can lose four minutes of my life learning all about them, and what I can do to ensure their future safety.

6. No more depressing selfie sessions to find that “perfect” profile pic

Of course, I have no personal experience with this one… but I had a friend once that, um…

yeah.

Next.

5. You no longer have to pretend to care about things you don’t care about

Hear that? (Isn’t it amazing how much you can hear without your Facebook earmuffs on?)

It’s the sound of 2,500 people clicking the “unfriend” button as they learn that I wish (I really do) I had enough mind-space, time, and heart, to give two squishy turds about what you ate for dinner, or how your husband wants you to get a bikini wax, or how your new Ferrari unfortunately had to go to the shop today to get the problem with the vibrating seats fixed. Because you paid extra for those  damn vibrating seats and by-God, they better vibrate on “GO.”

4. You no longer have to bite your tongue to keep from being an asshat to other asshats

If you hang out in a barber shop long enough, you’ll either get a haircut, become a barber, or try to eat that thing that looks like a candy cane because you’re hungry and you can’t take the curiosity any longer…

(Note: It does not taste like a candy cane.)

In the same manner, if you hang out on Facebook around asshats for too long, you too may start to present symptoms of asshatedness. You must ask yourself: Is it worth the risk?

3. You get a new perspective on life

This isn’t my first Facebook-free stint. I actually deleted my account three or so years ago, for a whole year. My finger hovered over the “deactivate account” button for–I shit you not–a whole hour. I sweated profusely. I pulled my hair out and I cried. I banged my fists on things and broke many pencils. Facebook had taken over my soul, and was eating my family, my life, and my sanity away at the seams like greedy little blue termites. When I finally pushed that button, I literally grieved the loss of my intangible, fabricated cyber-life, and all of the “friends” who would no longer “get to” be a part of my life.

Notice the self-righteous asshatedness (above) than soon became apparent. Once I stepped back, a week went by and I realized the sun was shining… “Whoa, when did the snow melt? What day is it? June? When the hell did summer get here? Where is my family?”

I had to integrate myself, not only back into the lives of my family–relearn their ways, their schedules, their habits, likes, dislikes–but I also had to be integrated back into society. It was serious culture shock. When you spend five or six hours a day on Facebook, you may as well be spending five or six hours a day at a dope house. Some of you may not have it this bad, but some of you can drink alcohol without it ruining your life, too. Others of you, like me, may hit a wall, where you have lost control. We are powerless over our Facebook addiction and our lives have become unmanageable. Stepping away removes a dark shroud that you didn’t even realize was there. You will experience life anew.

2.  Live life in the ever-mysterious and spontaneously beautiful now

Without the distraction of Facebook, I remember to enjoy life right now. Instead of “building that platform,” “marketing that book,” “cultivating that following,” all of which are future-oriented visions and aspirations, I can just enjoy the awesomeness that is my life right now. I can sit on my back porch and look at the sky and quiz my third-grader about what type of clouds are out today. I can play. I can breathe in deep the official first day of summer because I am experiencing it firsthand, not because I saw someone’s status update reminding me of it. I can be present in my life.

1. Freedom

Facebook is designed to hold you hostage. It is a prison without walls or bars. Sure, there are some good things therein… there are bible scriptures scrawled on prison walls, too, but that doesn’t make me want to go to prison any time soon. You?

Without Facebook to tie you down, you walk a free human. Free from ego, from narcissism, free from garbage-in garbage-out, free from the poisons there, disguised as profit, prosperity, popularity…

Without Facebook, you are free to just be. And live.

Until next time, fellow humans…

Just be. ❤

 

You can check out my books on Amazon here:

 The Treemakers (Book 1 in the Treemakers Trilogy) (Mature YA Dystopian Scifi Horror)

The Soultakers (Book 2 in the Treemakers Trilogy)

The Seeker’s Keys (Book 3 in the Treemakers Trilogy)

The Truth About Mud (YA Fantasy Adventure novelette)