3/31/14

Wonderful Curious Peoples

For several weeks, I’ve been asked variations of a particular question by curious peoples: how many books have you sold?

People ask it a little hesitantly, as if they shouldn’t be prying. I truly don’t mind, but I don’t have an answer for them, because I don’t know.

Yep. I don’t know how many books I’ve sold.

It’s quite pathetic really, for this girl who chose a major that does little more than make graphs of data. {Just kidding.} {Not really.} You can blame the major, if you like. Or perhaps my cynicism is at fault. When all this started, I think I expected to be able to keep track of it--more or less--in my head. I’m usually pretty good at that.

I wasn’t taking into account the fact that my books are sold through three different outlets in about a dozen different countries. Keep track of that in your head, I dare you.

But two things recently forced me to put some numbers on paper. First, April 15 is arriving swiftly, and, second, I recently bought glasses after 5+ years of an old prescription {when your eyes are as bad as mine, this matters}.

Thanks to tax preparation, I had to figure out how many books I sold in 2013. The book came out in August, so I had over four months of data to wade through. And I am here to tell you, all you people who want to know, that Those Who Trespass was purchased over 100 times in 2013. I don’t know if I’m supposed to tell you that or not; for authors with a publishing house, this is a bit taboo. But I am my own publishing house, and one of my favorite things about being an indie-author is the utter control I have over things like this. You’re welcome, wonderful curious peoples.

And because you are so curious, I know you’re now wondering what that translates to in dollars. I’ll let you do the estimation yourself {and good luck, because it's so varying that I can't even estimate it accurately}, but I can tell you that I recently went to the optometrist and paid for my own exam, like a grown-up person. And I bought glasses.

Such things are expensive, especially when you have to have your lenses smashed to socially acceptable thinness.

Yes, my face whitened a considerably when I heard the number. And yes, I know about online glasses places. {Wasn’t my cup of tea this time around.} But seriously, do you want to know something cool? The entire cost was covered exactly to the dollar by my book profits.

That was cool.

So. I hope your curiosity is slightly satisfied. If it’s still bothering you, I suggest physics.

3/17/14

100%

If I have learned one thing from blogging, it is never to post about the frailty of excuses. At least, not if you think you'll ever miss a posting day.

Ahem.

It was Spring Break.

Honestly, I've been a bit at a loss as to what to post. I'm practically never writing any more. On occasion, I reach day's end and realize I haven't daydreamed at all. {Daydreaming is very important to writing books.}

The reason?

I came to a decision early this semester: no more whining and complaining about how unhappy I am and how college has jerked away my writing life. I really wasn't sure how I would function if I wasn't needing to write. How could I give up that drive, the words spiraling through my fingertips? Writing is a rush. Voluntarily setting it aside sounded like torture.

But there's this verse in the Bible about doing whatever it is you're doing with your whole heart. And I wasn't. I was trudging through school and school activities while wishing I could be at home at my desk with my laptop. {You really don't want to know how many tears were shed asking God whywhywhywhy.} Everything I did, I did halfheartedly. I dedicated myself to my classes, because I don't know any other way to treat academics, but I wasn't happy about it. I wasn't passionate about physics.

And so early this semester, I vowed to be 100% where I was. I was terrified. Terrified of losing the words and the stories. Terrified even of losing my homesickness, my passionate belonging in my house with my family. Terrified of losing my identity. But I did it anyway. I promised to be "all in."

Yeah, things are different now. I'm okay with spending a lot of weekends in Austin. I'm okay if I haven't written in a couple weeks. I'm okay. Surprise.

Am I the same? No. Do I know what to make of that? No.

Am I okay with that? Yes. Life is not a stagnant thing. It ebbs. It flows.

Have I given up writing forever? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I still say that with absolute certainty. In fact, some things have happened recently that make me think writing will be a thing for Melody in the near future.

Am I happier? Yes. I've known for four semesters that I was where I was supposed to be. Now I've chosen to be all there, and it's a most freeing experience. {And yes, it took me that long. God is so patient.} To be where you are meant to be, to be 100% where you are meant to be...there are few greater adventures.

2/24/14

A Problem To Be Solved

My apologies for the lack of post last week. Time and school and everything got away from me {although, as I was reminded by my grandfather this week, "excuses are well-planned lies."} {whaaat, people read my blog??}.

I'm finally to the point where physics and writing intersect. This semester, I'm taking junior lab, which carries an upper-division writing flag and requires me to actually put on my writing gloves. For once.

Our professor highly recommends Strunk & White's Elements of Style, and he is right to do so. He keeps encouraging us to turn our reports into a story. I know exactly what he means from reading a number of books {none of which are actually about writing novels, surprisingly}. I got caught in a vortex of new software for the first report and so wasn't able to devote much time to story-telling, but it is a comforting thing to be in a physics class and know at least one thing that is going on. Story-telling. I can do that.

The ability to tell a good story is not a skill limited to authorship. It is necessary in every part of life.

What I am about to tell you, I learned mostly from the three following books:
  • A Million Miles In a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life, by Donald Miller {written for normal people}
  • The Elements of Story, by Francis Flaherty {written for journalists}
  • Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need, by Blake Snyder {written for screenwriters}
{Honestly, you'll learn much more about story-telling from picking up any of those books. Your storytelling skills will definitely improve if you take the time to read them.}

A problem to be solved. That's the most important thing to learn about telling stories--any kind of stories. Novels, films, memoirs, news articles, and lab reports. You have to start with a problem to be solved.

Think about it. When you pick up something to read, what makes you turn to the second page? {Yes, this is something that has to be established by the first page.} You may tell me that you're just interested or intrigued by the story, but let's dig a little deeper into what that means.

It means you have questions. And I'll bet your questions have something to do with a wondering of how a problem is going to be solved.

In Star Wars, we immediately meet two likable droids whose ship is under attack. Our question? Who are they and how are they going to escape? The problem? They're under attack!

In The Hunger Games, the problem is immediately presented: Katniss is struggling to support her family.

In Frozen, Elsa has a power that hurts the people she loves.

In every news article you've ever read, a problem is presented: People are starving. People are dying. People need healthcare. People pay too much for healthcare. The police are abusing their power. The police need more power. Tuition is too high. The university is running out of money. Problem after problem after problem.

And why do you read on? Because you need to find out how the problem is or can be solved.

It's the same with a lab report. Granted, it's a little difficult when you're doing experiments that have been done before with predicted results. I've gotten around this by stating that the problem is our need to confirm the results. If you didn't know what the results should be, the paper would be a bit easier. You could simply state the problem: This does this and we don't know why, so we're going to find out. Bam. Problem.

No one wants to turn to the second page if there's not a problem on the first page. If there's no problem, you don't care. Why should you? There's no need!

Good story-telling begins with a problem to be solved. And everything you write with words is a story. Emails, articles, books, and lab reports. All are stories. If you want people to read them and enjoy it, start with a problem to be solved.