Collaboration

Do you know what I owe most to any success (however minor) I’ve had with publishing my stories?

Look no further than the title of this blog post. Collaboration!

I’ve been very fortunate to work with some talented, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and very patient people over the course of my writing career. (And let’s be clear–you have to be patient to work with me) From my excellent developmental editor, cover designers, alpha- and beta-readers–or just readers who give extremely helpful feedback–I am not an island.

What I’ve discovered, since I started writing my first book (JUST A DUMB SURFER DUDE) when I was a teenager, most people cannot do well in the publishing world alone. I am no exception.

Collaboration is integral in so many jobs, and writing is no exception. While the bulk of the writing process is done alone, in front of a keyboard, while massive amounts of coffee (or caffeinated drink of choice) and snacks are consumed, there are steps before, during, and after, that require more than one set of eyes and hands.

From the developmental editor who listens to my ideas, or reads my outlines and writing samples and helps make sense of it (or reads a finished manuscript and gives me TONS of notes to elevate the plot and characters), to the reader at the end of the line, it’s a group effort.

Every step of the way–other than the actual writing itself–I have help and support.

I depend on a lot of people to help me make my stories as good as they can be. However, I also do what I want, so if my stories are not good, it’s because I didn’t listen to someone. The people who help me share the credit when things go well, but don’t get any of the blame when things go bad. That’s on me and my stubbornness.

The people I work with are honest without being cruel. They suggest ideas that elevate my own. They encourage me when I’m feeling defeated. They keep me grounded when I get full of myself. They’re ears and shoulders in a time of need. They’re comic relief when things seem dire. And they’re my own personal Google when I have no idea what I’m doing.

I know that without the help of the people I work with, everything would be a complete mess and I probably wouldn’t have sold a single book. Of course, a bit of talent, luck, and basic knowledge of how to write a story matters, but the people who support you are invaluable. They make being a writer worthwhile.

One thing that I fail to do time and time again is credit the people who have helped me in my writing journey. I try really hard to remember to give credit where it is due, but I often get caught up in how excited I am with a project and…just forget. Luckily, those I work with know that I don’t intentionally forget them, so there are never any fights about it.

Regardless, I always want those who help me to know how much I appreciate them. However, most of them are like me – they don’t like the spotlight being put on them. Quickly, Allen, Chelle, Bae, Marty, TJ, Teresa, all my alpha- and beta-readers, the end-product readers, reviewers who get word out, Dean (@DeanColeWriter) for his excellent, gorgeous covers for the JMI series and THE GRAVITY OF NOTHING, and anyone who has selflessly offered tips, tricks, and critique.

I owe all of you a big hug–unless you’re the “no touchy” type. You can have a smile and a “thank you” from an acceptable ten feet away.

Overall, one piece of advice I would give to any writers is that you should always be willing to listen. Of course, sometimes you will get bad advice, or people will intentionally try to sabotage you, or you will even get advice from people who feel they are more knowledgeable than they actually are. If you learn to spot good and bad advice, locate some great allies, find people who actually know what they’re talking about, you find lifelong collaborators.

Collaboration only elevates work and makes it better. Not to say that a writer cannot strike out on their own and write a really good story, but having other people work with you, to really give it a shine, is always great.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

Guest Post: Yvonne N. Pierre – “He Qualifies The Called”

I looked back and questioned, “How did that happen?” Absolutely baffled that I’m a writer.  When I talk to most writers, they tell me that they’ve always loved writing and how writing is a dream come true for them.  That’s definitely not my story.  I ran from writing.  And I questioned God, “Me?  Are you sure?”

I had a traumatizing childhood.  I go into more details in my book, “The Day My Soul Cried,” but I’ll briefly share with you that my father was murdered when I was 1-years-old, a childhood sexual abuse survivor, and the list goes on.  I started down a road of self-destruction.  By the age of 16, I was an alcoholic.  I was eventually banned from Gary, Indiana public school system.  I was a troubled teen. 

After graduating from an alternative school barely able to read and write,  and after several wake up calls, I decided to go to a local community college, but was unable to pass the entry exam.  I cried.  The registrar saw how devastated I was and pulled me to the side.  She slipped the answers in my hands and told me to come back in a month.  I contemplated cheating.  But realized that it would be a disservice to me.  So, I called her back and asked her to tell me what to study.  I studied day and night.  I went back to retake the test.  I barely passed but I did.  I had to study a little harder than the other students because I had a lot of catching up to do.  Eventually, I was getting paid to help and do my peers’ homework.  

So, how did I become a writer?  Well.  It was a nagging voice telling me to share my story.  But I ran from the idea.  But the more I ran, the more it hunted me.  But I had this complex that it’s not going to be good enough.  And I didn’t see myself as a writer.  Eventually, I attempted my first book.  I made a lot of mistakes.  I had a lot of doors closed in my face.  Someone told me that I was a nobody and that no one would be interested in my story.  For years, I was unable to write. 

Then, one day, I decided to stop giving those negative voices, including my own, power.  So, I decided to question the voice.  For example, the guy telling me that I’m a nobody, I asked, “Okay, then, how do I introduce myself?”  So, I produced and hosted my radio show.  Then, a few years later launched my first book, “The Day My Soul Cried” in 2010.  I also received my MBA from Colorado Tech University in 2010.  In 2011, produced the first Rise Awards honoring those who are making a difference in the special needs community.  In 2012, I wrote my first short film, “Never Alone” through Studio 11 Films.  That same year, I wrote, directed and produced my first stage play, “Then You Stand.”  I wrote a couple of musicals for directors.  In 2014, produced the Rise Awards.  And in 2016, I published my second book, “Zoey,” and produced the online Rise Awards.  In 2017, I received my MA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Screenwriting from Southern New Hampshire University. 

Today, I can say “I’m a writer” without feeling like I have to explain.  I want to urge you that if you’re struggling with anything, that you know God called you to do it.  Know that he chose YOU for a reason.  Maybe there’s a story that only you can tell. 

I hope by sharing my story that it encourages you no matter what it is.  Educate yourself and just do it!  You don’t have to get a degree.  I didn’t have to have a degree, it was personal for me.  But I highly suggest that you master your craft. If you’re questioning if you’re qualified, instead, ask yourself, “How do I get qualified?”  And remember the verse that says, “God doesn’t call the qualified; he qualifies the called.”

Yvonne Pierre is a proud wife and mom of two sons – Zyair and Zyon.  Her youngest son was born with Down syndrome which led to her advocacy.   Yvonne is a writer, producer, and advocate.  For more information, visit www.ypierre.com. You can find Yvonne N. Pierre’s books here.

Why Are My Parents Useless?

One of the great debates–or maybe a question–that pervades the Young Adult writing and reading communities is:

Why are the parents so useless?

An observation (or complaint, depending upon how you look at it) is that parents in Young Adult books are rarely seen as three dimensional characters. Often, they are just scenery, neither adding anything to the story or impeding its progress. Sometimes, when the parents are involved in the story, they are never fleshed out.

An alcoholic father/mother. A caring mother/father that does nothing more than support the child. Absent. Bereft. Oblivious. Strict. Free-spirited.

We rarely see the parents in Young Adult novels as fully realized characters.

I’ve thought about this observation/debate/complaint for a few years now. It does seem like writers want to make their main characters/protagonists and antagonists fully-realized human beings, and sometimes even side characters get the full treatment. Parents are often forgotten in the course of storytelling.

But why is that? Do writers feel that the parents are useless in telling the story? Do they feel that once a person has children they are no longer a human being with their own wants, needs, and skills?

No. Not really. While some writers do forget about the parents because they are not integral to the overall forward movement of the story, that is often not the case.

The real answer is POV, or point of view.

I’m going to assume everyone reading this is over the age of eighteen, so pardon me if that ends up not being the case.

Let’s all think back to when we were children, preteens, and teenagers. What did we think of our parents? Did we know their favorite book? Movie? Where they picked up the habit of pushing their hair behind their ear? Why they preferred one flavor of jam over the other? Were we always able to decipher every look they gave us? Did we know how to interpret every look one parent gave the other? Did we know that sometimes they get lonely, even when surrounded by the rest of the family? Did they have dreams they had given up on? A lost love they would have rather been with instead of their family? Did we know the sacrifices they made to give us life and keep us alive?

No. We were kids. We saw our parent(s) through the eyes of a child with minimal life experience. Our parent(s) were caricatures to us. Sometimes a god. Sometimes a fool. Sometimes something in between–if only for the briefest moments when our brains were actually working.

When a writer tells a story from a first-person point of view, through the eyes of a teenager (or young adult, I should say), they are letting you view the world as the young adult sees it. That includes their parents.

Teens often see their parent(s) as being on one end of a spectrum or another. Maybe their parents drank too many beers on a Friday night and said something mean. They’re an alcoholic, obviously. Maybe the parent came into their bedroom and sat down on the bed and asked about their day. They’re obviously overbearing.

Jeez! My mom won’t stop smothering me!” – a teenager whose mom asked him how his day was, probably.

The reader is supposed to view the world in the way the main character, or young adult does. In a young adult world, a parent is rarely worth trying to understand as a complete human being–and even if a young adult wanted to understand them, would they be able? Does a young adult have the emotional and mental capability to understand someone who has twenty-plus more years of life experience and is trying to teach them to be a fully-realized human?

That’s why our bad experiences as kids inform who we are as adults so deeply. Things are black and white. They are extreme. The one time your mom called you stupid, it stung. it burrowed its way into your psyche. You weren’t developed enough to think: “Hm. Mom is having a stressful day and she doesn’t mean this. I bet the meeting at work went poorly and later we can discuss what is upsetting her in a rational way.

And that’s why Young Adult books in first-person point of view often have such odd adults for parents. There’s a spectrum for parents–but they can only reside at one end or the other, because that’s how young adults view their parents.

In fact, you can apply this thought to any book, regardless of genre, if it is written in a first-person POV. We only get to observe and experience the world as it is viewed by the main character. If a character falls flat, maybe that’s how the main character views them? It doesn’t mean you have to like it, but at least now you have a theory as to why that would be.

Admittedly, if a Young Adult book is written in a third-person point of view with a more omniscient narrator, and any character falls flat, that’s poor or lazy writing. Or maybe that’s what the writer intended. It’s hard to speculate as to why this would happen unless you read the book for yourself and make a decision for yourself.

Regardless, consider point of view when a character doesn’t feel right to you. Maybe it will give you some insight.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,
Chase

WWMMCD – Don’t Let the Muse Get Away!

The other night, I engaged in a back-and-forth on Twitter with a longtime Twitter/writer buddy. During the course of the conversation, we touched on putting off essentials (like showers) when The Muse was with us.

I can’t speak for all writers, but when my muse is present and firing ideas, I don’t want to stop typing for a second. For some reason, I’ve convinced myself over the years that if I stop writing during a streak of inspiration, I’ll lose it. Even in the twenty minutes it takes to shower.

Even getting up for a drink of water or to do other bathroom duties feels risky during those moments of inspiration.

So, if you want to use your imagination, I’m often dry-mouthed, stinky, and destroying my bladder sometimes when I write.

That’s not healthy.

Self-care is so important for all people. Not the recent interest in faux self-care (i.e. going out for brunch when there are dishes piled in your sink and your floors are covered in a layer of pet hair), but real self-care. Us writers can be the absolute worst at making sure our essential needs are being met.

It’s not healthy to skip showers or standard hygienic duties, or not drink enough water (especially when you’re thirsty), skip meals, lose sleep, or hold your bladder.

Of course, I’m only talking about writers without mental or physical disabilities. Sometimes things we have no control over keep us from completing certain tasks.

We all need to make sure we’re getting enough fluids, eating properly, getting adequate exercise and sleep, getting a little sunshine and fresh air, and using the bathroom and bathing as needed. It’s essential to a healthy lifestyle and health in general. A balanced life is generally a healthy, happy life. Also, if you can find someone to love who loves you back, life is even sweeter.

So, what does a writer do to keep their creative juices flowing when one of their needs has to be tended to but the muse is screaming at them?

A trick I’ve tried recently is to play a game with myself. When I’m in the middle of furiously writing a scene, but I know I need to use the restroom, get something to eat or drink, take a shower–whatever–I take my characters with me.

When I get a drink of water, I think about what my character would enjoy drinking. Would they choose the same thing I am getting? Why? Why not? Would they get a big cup of water? Small cup?

What snack would my character choose when they went into the kitchen? Plate or bowl? Straight from the bag/box?

What scent is their shampoo? Do they wash their body or hair first? What type of soap would they use? Loofah, sponge, washcloth? Do they have a brush to get their back or do they have a partner who would scrub their back for them? Do they do the “crotch floss” with the towel?

By thinking about all of these things while I’m performing every day tasks, I’m able to keep the creativity flowing in my mind. I don’t lose the passion and excitement I had while I am attending other matters.

WWMMCD? What Would My Main Character Do?

It’s a simple thing really, just filling my head with questions about my characters and figuring out the answers, but it works nine times out of ten. Sometimes, no matter what I do, I lose The Muse. However, using this trick, I find that I win more often than I lose.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase