Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Being A Creative Person



I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. What drives me to write. Why I keep going, even when I don’t necessarily want to at times. Here’s what I’ve come up with (most at three in the morning, so forgive me).

Whether you paint, write, design, cook, build, dance, whatever, the thing you do is unique to anyone else: you create something out of nothing. That’s the thrill of it. That’s what keeps us coming back for more. That’s why, despite what little money there is to be made and how much we feel like we’re only shouting into the void, we keep creating, even if it means only a handful of people see it and get it. Even if it means no one wants to look.

Mostly, we’re happy creatures. Give us what we want to make and we will create life from a mound of dirt with smiles on our dirty little faces like a toddler on spaghetti night.
But there’s a but. At least for me.


Some artists have a tough time being creative—not that they can’t find the inspiration or actually do the thing that makes them feel human, but just in general. We have a hard time relating to people on basic levels. Someone can get upset over sugar in their black coffee and we’re busy counting the stained rings on the table cloth, wondering how we can work this one detail into something later on. We have a hard time finding time and when we do, it never seems like enough. We have a hard time making money, or at the very least, being taken seriously. People ask you what you do at Christmas and say, “oh, that’s nice,” in the dismissive way someone tells you to pass the salt. We spend so much time trying to describe the human condition with our creations, but that doesn’t mean we understand it any more than the next person.


And the ideas. The inspiration or lack thereof. I will have ideas that flow through me faster than I can write them down and worse, before they are ready. I fear a lot of times that I pick flowers before they’re fully grown and if I had waited a year or so to write something, maybe it would be fuller and more beautiful. But sitting still is worse. I cannot sit still at all. As soon as I am halfway done writing one book, I have started another. As of right now, I am working on three books.


I wish I could sit still. I wish I could just write something, be happy with it forever and not cringe when I look back on it (sometimes I like things, but not often), and move on. Give myself time to relax and do all the things people keep telling me I should do like see certain shows or travel. Even when I tell myself it is going to be a laid back night at home, I am always thinking. I can never live entirely in this world. One foot is always in fiction.

I am not complaining. These are just things I’ve noticed about myself lately, now that I have even more limited time because of my business becoming more of a full time-holy-shit-I-can-do-this-the-rest-of-my-life job. I used to be able to take a whole day and read anything I wanted. Now, when I have free time, I feel guilty if I am reading something that is not research for another book, or something I can learn from in some way.


We don’t really get time off. We don’t really have free time. Our minds are always running, always shifting back and forth between surroundings, between what we’re going to do next. Ask any creative person what their next project is and they will tell you, vaguely and confusingly, that they aren’t sure, but they have some ideas. Even when we don’t, the pressure to create that we put on ourselves is much heavier than any other. We need to keep moving, keep creating, keep looking at things from different angles until it makes sense.

Even when it becomes hard and even when creating seems to be the only thing that makes sense to us—even if we don’t understand what we are bringing into the world—a lot of times it’s just a jumbled mass of limbs and teeth until the last moment—this is who we are. When people ask what we do, most think of our jobs. We have to process the question a second longer than the scientist or teacher. We have to remember that we are “Insert career here” first and artists second, and in some company, it’s best not to even mention that you sing bars to yourself in the car or keep Post-its in your desk for when no one is looking so you can jot down how to remedy that plot hole in chapter seven. Here, we live in two worlds too. Creative and non. When we find the people who understand us, we can be ourselves, but when we are at our day jobs, waiting in line at the bank, taking the kids to school, or at a family reunion, we are in the so-called “real world” where even though some people make a living as artists, we never talk about it, so as to not encourage others to do the same.

Why do we do this? So many people enjoy the products that once only lived in a creative person’s mind.  Movies. Books. Newspapers. Clothes. Makeup. Food. These were all created for different reasons, but at the core, there is only one important one: to connect. Person to person. It seems simple, and because of that, people in the “real world” think that anyone can do it, therefore, it has no value.
From a young age, I listened to a lot of things adults told me that ended up being wrong, but this was one of the few I chose not to believe. If they could do the things I was doing—create the worlds and people I was creating—then why weren’t they?

The answer probably has many names: hunger, drive, power, whatever. I call it need. I need to create. I need to let the strange thoughts happen and I need to listen and write them down. I need to stay up until three in the morning typing until I can’t find my fingers. I need to spend hours thinking of the perfect way to word something into one sentence. If I don’t, something is utterly and completely off balance. I feel like I left the house with my shoes on the wrong feet or my shirt inside out. It’s acceptable, but uncomfortable.

For some people, I guess it’s possible to get used to. Maybe their feet form to the wrong shoes so that when they walk, they barely notice. I have never been that way. It is so noticeable to me that I’m surprised when other people don’t notice. People close to me sometimes do. They ask what is wrong and sometimes I don’t know. It’s only when I finally get the chance to sit down at my computer and connect with that side of me that I realize what was off, what was missing or backwards. Truly, I never feel more human than when I am creating different worlds—different lives. I’m not sure where this comes from or how to stop it, but it’s always there at the back of my mind, asking when the next chance it will have to be set free.

I’m not really sure how to end this post, but I just wanted to get some of my thoughts down. Maybe start a discussion of what this thing is inside of us that makes us want to connect in such a way; what makes people see our hands reaching out and grab hold.

Until next time,
--Nikki

Friday, June 26, 2015

My Writing Process



Hi there! Long time no see. I've been a busy bee as usual, editing and writing, but sometimes I want to write things that aren't fictional, and I guess that's what a blog is for. I also just finish-finished a new book that I may or may not be querying (gasp!) when it's done being edited. So I guess this is a good time to write about what people have been asking for a while: My Writing Process. So here it is, in all its glory.


1.      Idea Love

     
This is the first idea that comes to mind. It could be something abstract like an image or word, but for me, it’s often the first or last sentence of the book. Much like a reader falling in love with a book, this is what draws me in and makes me want to learn more. Usually, the initial idea happens when I’m finishing a completely different book and won’t have time to go back to it for a while—sometimes YEARS.

 

2  The Simmering—or as I call it, The Cake Batter Stage

     
Yes, that is Tubby Custard, bitches.

This is the time that through no fault of my own always ends up happening. I have this idea I’m super excited about, yet either because I’m already busy writing/editing a book or don’t think I’m ready to write down this new idea, I have to let it sit there and cook. Amanda Palmer calls it the embryonic stage. I call it the cake batter stage. No matter how you refer to it, this is the time where your idea has time to mature and gain strength before all the grueling processes that lay ahead.

3.      ALL THE IDEA VOMIT

     

One idea leads to TONS of others for me. They all relate to the same story, but unlike the original idea, these are more solid—plot points, character traits, etc. I actually jot down some o this stuff and save it for later. Oftentimes, I wake up late at night/early in the morning/don’t sleep at all and when I look back at these notes, I barely understand what I was trying to say.

4.      Doing The Thing (Writing. A lot)



This is the stage where I write pretty much every spare moment I have. All of this cake batter is ready to go in the oven and I spend the better part of a month or two dribbling it all into paper baking cups. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. The important thing here is to be as messy as possible and allowing myself to write the worst thing possible. NO DELTEING ALLOWED. That comes later.

5.      Take A Break

I've watched Gilmore Girls from beginning to end three times.

     

This is the first break I take during my process. I find that when I stare at things too long, I end up questioning and hating everything. It’s better to gain some distance, watch some Netflix, and read 
 some books for a few weeks or so before even thinking about the piece again.

6.      Editing Round One

     

So I’ve watched all of Goosebumps and Gilmore Girls on Netflix. I’ve read lots of Neil Gaiman and have gotten over how I will never be as awesome as him, and now I’m ready to look at the book again. I go through, taking notes and trying to make it the best as I can. I may not know some things like names of characters or places, so I either put in a blank (___) or write out what I want (PUT NAME OF PLACE HERE, YOU FOOL). It’s still sloppy at this point, but the cake is starting to taste good (have you had enough of this analogy yet?).

7.      Workshop

     

I’m so lucky to have the best group of workshopping partners in the world. I send them chunks of my book in sections, they suggest how I should make it better, and I have a bunch of ner perspective on all the stuff I wrote!

8.      Editing Round Two

    

This is the second round. Ding Ding Ding! During this part, I take all the notes and suggestions from my workshop buddies and go through and edit the manuscript again. Pretty self explanatory.

9.      Hate The Book

     

There is no exact time where I reach this stage, but it always comes somewhere between the first and last edit. I start to hate every line, all the characters, and I start asking myself who I think I am, writing a book like some type of writer or some shit. This is where I start procrastinating and everything in my house is miraculously clean and organized. I may also pick up new hobbies like baking or scrapbooking to avoid the manuscript. I wish I was kidding.

10.   Print The Book

     

I love Word’s comments and track changes tool, but for me, there is nothing like editing my own work on paper. I’m better able to see what I’m doing, can write myself detailed notes in the margins, and I can flip back and forth more easily. I don’t do any of this however until I first…

11.   Take Another Break

     

That’s right. It might seem a little excessive, but I need that second break between second and third edits. I need to get out of my own head and DO things for at least a month before looking at it again.

12.   Send To People

     

This is where during my time of binge-watching The X-files and reading everything I put off while I was writing, my first writer-friend takes a look at my work. I’ll also send it to my editor during this time so when I get the notes and suggestions back from both of them, I can flip through my own notes and compare them. Essentially, when I go in for the next round of edits, I have at least three peoples’ opinions to work with.

13.   Breathe

     

This is where I’m slowly coming out of my hating the manuscript stage and heading back into love, but I don’t dive head first. There are strangers reading it and it is no longer just mine. It can be a little nerve wracking and this is probably the stage (except #16) that makes me the most nervous. It’s important to take a step back and realize that I’m doing it. This is happening and it’s going to be okay.

14.   Fall In Love Again

     

I get my notes back and I have finished my first critical read through of the book. I see what works and what doesn’t, and finally, the pieces are all starting to fit together and look like an actual novel with a point. I fall back in love with the characters and their story. I’m renewed and ready for phase 15.

15.   Editing Round Three

     

That’s right. It’s round three. I get rid of anything that looks like poop and make sure things make sense. Usually, the only thing left after this are very small and are often caught by…

16.   Beta Readers

Me ten seconds after I send out a book.        

This is different than my workshop buddies, writer friends, and editor reading the book because these are readers, first and foremost. This is the audience that represents who will be buying my book and  most of the time, their opinion means the most because it’s kind of like a test run with a crash dummy in the seat (sorry for yet another awful analogy. It’s late). If the airbag needs to deploy, it’s not on someone who paid five dollars for the book and will get angry and write a bad review when they find the slightest mistake. Beta readers are super important because they’re honest about the overall story and plot, and they’re the last gatekeeper you need to pass before you’re seeing that light at the end of the tunnel.

17.   Editing Round Four

 

This is the final read through. This is the final countdown. I’m getting ready for promotion, the cover, and release and now I have the opinions of test readers. Usually this last one goes by fast because there are a few easy things to fix and then I’m done. I can see it being a book and other people eventually reading it. I also send out review copies or ARCs to reviewers and readers once this is done, which is super exciting and nerve wracking.

18.   Breathe, Damn It

Yes, that is a happy potato. Dancing.
 
I let all the review copies be read, format the book, and upload it for preorder. This is the time where I’m at the top of the roller coaster and waiting for it to drop. It’s hard to not be stressed out, but it’s also hard to not be happy. 

19.   Done!

 

The book comes out and hopefully readers like it as much as I do in the end. Then I’m on to the next book, starting the process all over again.



Thanks for reading. If there are any topics you'd like me to write about in the future, leave a comment below or join the facebook group and post something!
-Nikki 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Super Duper Update Post--Away!!!

It has definitely been a while since I've posted on here, but for good reason!
I have been a busy, busy bee. Here are all the things going on. Stay tuned, you might want to hear about some of it if you like books!

1. As some of you may know, I'm the head editor at Metamorphosis Editing Services and we have been SLAMMED with clients, so I have been filling my days becoming part of other writers' processes. It's been rewarding and fun and awesome! So awesome that in January, I was able to quit my part time job and concentrate on it full time. If you are or know of anyone needing an editor, beta reader, or proofreader, email us fast! The rate is going to change (only slightly, I still want to make it cheap for us writers--we're not made of money) in a month or two--I'm starting to save for a house!


I'm also a part-time editor at Booktrope, and I've had the pleasure of proofreading books by the lovey J.C. Hannigan. You need to get her books. I feel like if we knew each other in real life, we'd be best friends. lol.
And I've just started Forbidden Darkness by Alec John Belle. It's amazing.


2. Animal was released and just yesterday, the paperbacks came out! It hit the bestseller's list on the FIRST DAY it was out. Thank you. : )
Look at this beautiful, big baby!

3. The Sunshine Series is FINALLY being put together into one massive volume and will be out on April 30th! There's going to be a TON of extras (poetry, interviews, Q&A, a sneak peek of Animal, etc) in there and currently the ebook sits at over 500 pages! I don't have a cover yet, but I'm working on it. If you want to see it as soon as it is released and if you want a chance to win some cool prizes, you should totally come to the Facebook party!



4. I will be at the Yo, Philly Author event on May 16 from 10am-5pm! If you live nearby, come see me and over 60 other authors and their books! Tickets are FREE. Buy them HERE!

Spot my name!

5. Speaking of book signings, I'm actively seeking more out and I may be doing more this year, so keep your eyes peeled! Follow me on Twitter and Facebook if you want to keep up.


6. And speaking of signed things, you can now purchase SIGNED SWAG AND BOOKS directly from me! So many people have asked, and I've been trying to figure out a way to make it happen. Right now I'm utilizing Google Forms. If you want something, fill out the form(s) and I'll send it to you! Check out the links up top!


Literal picture of me on a good day.

7. I have a new book schedule. Right now, I'm working on two books that I absolutely need to finish: one for self publishing, and one that I will hopefully be pitching to agents. I haven't done that in over 10 years, so hopefully I've learned a few things since then and hopefully I don't chicken out.
If you're wondering what books they are, you voted for them and they were the two most popular. That's all I'm gonna say. ; )



8. And here comes the BIG news!
Some of you may have noticed that you can't find The Donor on Amazon anymore. That's because I took it down. I had to take it down because it got PICKED UP BY A PUBLISHER. 


I am happy to announce that I am one of the newest members of the Vamptasy Publishing Family, an Imprint of Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing. It's all very new (just signed the contract last week) and strange having people to help when I've done it all by myself since the beginning, but I'm excited to see where this goes! I'm going to be updating on Facebook and Twitter when the new cover will be revealed and when the story will be re-released, so look for it!

And that's it so far. I know I always say I'm going to blog more, but I just don't. lol. Hopefully all this awesome news makes up for it! I just wanted to thank you all--readers, friends, other writers, and everyone I know in general. This year has been a lot more easy and a lot more rewarding than last year. I can't wait to see what happens next!


Sorry. I had to.

Monday, December 29, 2014

My year in books and YOU get to help me pick the next one I write!

It has very quickly become that time of year again where it is simultaneously a period of reflection and moving forward. This year started out rocky and uncertain to say the absolute least, but even I was surprised at how quickly I bounced back, learned, and asked for help. And that was just in my personal life. If you’ve been following me anywhere, you know exactly what most of these things are.

I’m not gonna write a post looking back at my whole year because...bleh. No. Don’t wanna. But this is what I am going to do: I’m going to recap my year in the books I wrote and then there’s going to be some reader participation as to what books I’m going to write next year. I did this once before and it worked out super awesomely, so stay tuned till the end. Or, you know, just scroll past the boring stuff.



The first thing I did starting in March was finish The Sunshine Series. I had originally planned on having Sun Damage out in January of that year, but last January was awful for more than one reason and it just didn’t happen. This is the first ever series I have written and it was the first group of characters I really got to know, so it was really sad saying goodbye. 
Some people truly got the ending and others were angry with it (and weren’t afraid to voice their opinions) but there isn’t a single thing I would change. This series was my baby for so long and now it’s off in the world doing big-book things. I’m proud.
Then I took a break. I was so drained from the personal stuff, graduating school, and all that that I just fried my brain whenever I tried to start something new. In the meantime, I read. I workshopped, I dug out old stories and worked on them, and then I stumbled into The Donor.

Originally, I wrote The Donor as three separate parts (One, Two, and Three). The first was released in July, the second in August, and the third in September. I had never released things so close together or under such strict time constraints, but I wanted to challenge myself after such a long break.
Boy howdy was it a good idea.
Not only did Part One make it onto more than three Bestseller Lists (yay!) but it actually hit number one when it was free for a weekend. Thus, the second thing I had written became an Amazon Bestseller (is this real life?).

In October, I decided to put all three parts together and sell it as one. You can still get the first part on Amazon as an ebook for real cheap, but if you want to read more than that, you have to get the whole thing. Which is a good idea because it has an afterword from me about the process of writing this book. The Donor is the most challenging thing I have written to date and though it’s small, I am most proud of it.

And...that’s it. Unlike most indie authors who can crank out books every month or so, I write longer fiction and take a LOT of time editing and revising (at least a month). I had planned to have my latest release, Animal come out by the end of December, but now it’s set for the end of February. Such is life.


Which brings me to the meat of this sandwich.

In the new year, in addition to working on my editing company, finding that elusive “real” job, blogging more, using my youtube channel more, and promoting, I am going to be writing a LOT more. I have no shortage of ideas, inspiration, or motivation when it comes to writing, but sometimes that’s the problem. I don’t know where to start.

So here’s where you come in.

Below are a few ideas. Some are old and some are new, some I have written half of the book and some I only have a sentence. None of them have any real names yet, of course. But it is up to you to help me decide what to put out into the universe next.

Of course, some things may change. Some I plan to query agents with, some I plan to directly publish myself, maybe I’ll start writing one idea and it will form into another, but regardless, I want to include you all in the process more. Afterall, I can’t be an author if no one’s reading, so why not put the choice of what to read next directly into your hands?

Without further ado, here are your choices. Vote for the one(s) you want to see most and I’ll tally them all up in about a month. After a wee bit of a vacation in February, I’ll start with whatever gets the most votes. : )

Happy Holidays and Happy Reading.

1. The Poetry Collection


If you want to read examples of my poetry, go HERE. Some of these will be included in the poetry collection of at least 100 poems, along with plenty of unreleased poems and prose. It's going to be mainly dark, personal, and even creepy, but there are one or two hopeful pieces in here as well.


2. Human



It's probably going to be hard to pick this one since Animal isn't even out yet, but this is going to be the sort of sequel to that book. Like Animal, it would be able to be read by itself or along with Animal and The Sunshine Series. Rather than focusing on the main character that was in Animal, this will be told from Michael's perspective after he is forced to become human after living such a violent life for so long. He goes through his past and present, trying to make sense of it. Myles and Evan also appear, and if it works...Sophie and Ava. : )



3. The Alien Story




This is an idea I've been toying with FOREVER. There will be mermaids and aliens, abductions, sexiness, darkness, and since I'm terrified of aliens, probably a health dose of creepiness and scary parts. I'm still in the brainstorming stages for this one so I can't really tell you much else about it.



4. The Box


This is my first entry into the more "adult" side of New Adult. There's a painter girl and a mysterious figure that haunts her dreams and seeps into her reality. Is she crazy? Is it real? There's also going to be some illustrations done by me if I can figure out how to do it and a style that works. If you remember the last time I made a poll like this, The Box was on there. I wrote a good chunk of it during NaNoWriMo and I must say, it is very sexy and very mysterious, even to me.




5.The Donor (Jonah's Story)


Not much of a description needed here. It's going to pick up where part 3 of The Donor left off and will continue Casey and Jonah's story from Jonah's perspective. I literally only have a paragraph of this one, but it will be told in much the same way the first three parts were and I think it might be even darker and emotional than the first section. Just a guess.



6. The Android Story


Again, this one was on the last poll I did. It's revamped and redone, but the main idea is still intact. A woman wakes up in a hospital with no memory of who she is or what's happened. Another woman wakes up on a train with the same problem. Which one is real and which one is a machine? This is the one I want to try to traditionally publish. At the very least, send it to a few small presses. So depending on the response, it may be a while before you see it if it wins, but I thought I'd include it anyway.


7. The Complete Sunshine Series with bonus material

Not actual cover. Just playing around.

This is going to be a deluxe version of all three books into one neat, little package. At the end, there's going to be Sophie's Notebook, which are poems and ramblings from her secret notebook that she never shows anyone. There will also be a Q and A and maybe some character interviews and deleted scenes. : )


 8. The Short Story Collection


This will probably be the most challenging thing I want to work on. Mainly because everything I write is so LONG. But I do have a good chunk of short stories already written and a good chunk of ideas for more, so I figured I'd give it a try. There's one about a bird-man, there's one about running over a dog, a zombie, and a storm. Some have appeared on the blog before and some haven't even been born yet.



9. The Dark Contemporary Story


This actually started out as a joke. I mean, I started writing it for a ghost writing position that never paid me so they never got the partial manuscript. It was very freeing, writing something I thought would never be attached to my name. But the more I wrote, the more I liked the characters (damn characters!) so I decided to work on it more and maybe publish it. It's the most adult fiction I have and there are definitely scenes not meant for younger readers and even leaning on the erotica side, but I want to have all of my branches in all of the genres, so why not?


Phew. That was a lot. Now's the hard part. Cast your vote below!


What book by Nikki Rae do you want to see next?
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