Ink To Paper

Hello, everyone! Despite being under the weather, I wanted to take a break from the manuscript I am working on and see what I could bring to all of you fine individuals today. 🙂

Writing is going incredibly well, knock on wood. 110,000 words in approximately six weeks, minus things I ended up cutting. That isn’t a normal or common word count in that amount of time, but immersing the story in so much truth is possibly part of why it’s been smooth. This is the truest piece of fiction I’ve ever written (or read), and I’m sure I’ve said this multiple times. I try not to repeat myself, but life happens.

I am in the process of fine-tuning certain scenes and adding things I intentionally skipped at the start because, for certain things, I need to be fully in the correct head space to write it. Some scenes require more anger, more emotion, more sarcasm (Someone I know is reading this and thinking, “Lisa is NEVER without a sarcastic, witty, acerbic, biting comeback. EVER.” It’s true. That’s part of my personality which 99% of the people I know love about me. Only one person has no respect or appreciation for it, and often interprets the most banal comments AS sarcasm or some form of self-imagined cruelty, when it’s generally just dry delivery. To know me is to know that my sense of humor is a combination of all the different personalities which reside in my head, in a non-schizophrenic/dissociative identity disorder kind of way. I have always been a keen observer of anyone who was dark, funny, interesting, or compelling sense of humor. Ultimately, the core of my humor is dark, and I inherited that from my father, who would be pleased to see this project, and others, going well for me.), more love, more passion, just, something more. We’ve all been there. A writer who instinctively knows when more is needed, or less, is one who knows their craft and knows themselves.

I don’t usually write a project from start to finish. Usually I put scenes together as I visualize them. Creative visualization is especially crucial for fight sequences, which I genuinely love writing. This has been a process of A to Z, and then I read through it and add a few things here and there, as needed. Part II of this project is nearing 10,000 words, and the final part of it is at about 5,000, so it’s clear I took this seriously from day one. You might write 20,000 words to challenge yourself and see what you can do, but you don’t write a full-length, highly detailed novel as a challenge. This story came to me out of nowhere and I ran with it. For me, it’s so incredibly different from what I’d normally write, and that’s part of the love for me. I enjoy the lead characters so much. Their story is an easy one to tell, and at times, an emotionally charged adventure. There is so much honesty in it, so on some level, it’s probably easier for me, someone who has a background in nonfiction, to be able to write an honest story, even though it is fictional.

Some scenes I am working on require a certain level of research so that I get them right the first time. Minor details are big details at times, and it’s always important to be accurate, as opposed to attempting to be imaginative. That’s my process, but it isn’t the same for everyone, and I am well aware of that.

I have another large project in the works and was able to get some work done on that this past week, as well. Basically, I am running on physical, mental, and emotional fumes. My eyes have suffered major strain from 16+ hour days doing nothing but writing. However, it is a privilege to do it, and I look forward to everyone’s response.

What else is going on? I’m thinking more about my mental health advocacy in light of specific events. I have a lot on my mind, really. As so much as I can when I am devoted to a project headed for completion. It’s getting all of my attention and mental energy to the exclusion of much, but those things can wait. When I am not writing, I am focused on my health. There clearly aren’t enough hours in the day.

If you’re wondering what I’m up to in my silence, I am putting a lot of ink to paper. I will talk to you all soon.

Be well!

copyright © 2021 by Lisa Marino & Poison In Lethal Doses, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

“Who Are You?”

A few days ago a family member offered to read my new manuscript. It was a very “Alice In Wonderland” moment. I damn near said “Whooo Are YOU?” and everything, just like the caterpillar asks Alice. I turned my face to the right, in utter mortification.

“I can be objective.” was their argument. Um, I’d rather you not be.

Then they asked “Don’t you have anyone you trust who you would want to read it and give you their honest opinion?” I said no. I wasn’t kidding. “How about your best friend?” My best friend Marion is not a big reader, mostly because she reads at work all week long and can’t stand it when she’s on her own time, which is completely understandable. I could write the worst crap and she’d tell me it was fantastic. Not that I’ve EVER written crap in the 20+ years she & I have been friends, but you get my drift. Bestie #2 suffers from Fibromyalgia with terrible brain fog, so asking her to read 100,000 words, or more, would be akin to asking her to lift a crate of dynamite over her head while setting a match to it.

I then had my writer’s moment of realizing I have no Beta Readers. None whatsoever. And in truth? I don’t really trust anyone with my work. As if it’s been a well-kept secret; I’m a fucking control freak. However, experience has taught me to not only protect my work fiercely, but NEVER to hand it over to someone I haven’t thoroughly vetted.

A friend isn’t always the right person to ask. If they don’t want to hurt your feelings, they’re not going to be 100% honest. As the person “most likely to be intimidating”, I don’t think a single friend of mine would say boo to me when it comes to my work. A few would be honored to read it, and others? Not so much. It’s putting pressure on someone. Plus, most people who aren’t writers themselves can’t point out issues. As an editor, I can point out issues in every single thing I look at that is written, from a restaurant menu to a real estate flyer. I self-correct as people speak; I’m THAT bad.

I don’t worry that what I’ve written isn’t good. I know it is. However, it’s not finished. Until you know the story is done, why would you say “Here, can you read this unfinished manuscript?” Seriously?!

Yesterday I hit 91,000 words on the umpteenth rewrite. The decision to either make this story a one-shot deal (which is what I originally intended) or to turn it into 2-3 books, is an ever-present issue. The longer it gets, the more you have to realize it has branch-out potential. The characters are strong, interesting, and I’d hate to lose them. They’re lighter than what I normally write. Freer. More enjoyable because they’re easier to tap into. It’s a lot like knowing your hands, or your own heart. These characters are pieces of me in a very different way, and I am protective of them.

One day, I will have to let them fly out into the world and be judged. That day is NOT today, in their current state. They need time to blossom and flourish, and that’s normal. I refuse to feel pressured to complete something when I know in my bones that it’s not done. While I was able to get past that feeling of being stuck around page twenty-five, I no longer feel that way any more. I do, however, feel like the story needs a break from me looking at it fifty times a day. Progress does not occur when you psychoanalyze and criticize your own body of work for ten hours, or more, each day. That’s not productive.

So instead of staying up until 3:30 in the morning writing, which I’ve been doing for weeks and weeks, I went to bed early last night and actually got under six hours of sleep (which is the new norm post-Spring Forward). If I hadn’t hurt a toe in my sleep (No, I have NO idea how I did it. I just know it hurts and I had to take care of it immediately.) and been searching for the Neosporin, thus letting Kitten know that Mommy is awake because I was rummaging around in the dark, I might still be asleep. Instead, her Majesty thinks it’s breakfast time. It’s not. I went into the kitchen and food bowls are still filled, water bowl is good, and breakfast isn’t until about 8:30 a.m. If she keeps being aggressive, I may have to feed them earlier, but this usually results in the death stare at 3:00 in the afternoon while I’m trying to work. Once you’ve got two sets of eyes on you, it’s harder to say “You have another hour before you’re getting fed.” They’re not being starved. I actually just switched them over to a new grain-free food this weekend. I do think she wants attention because the rain is coming down hard and it makes her nervous, but mostly, I know my cat. She’s all about the food. LOL.

Today I feel like I can look at the manuscript with fresher eyes. I can get the Lexicon prepared for the beginning of the book and maybe do a few other things that until recently, I just haven’t had the head for.

The freedom of working with personal deadlines, instead of rigid ones, it that I’m answering to myself. I’ve already achieved a LOT by writing this multiple times, and writing three different alternatives to the beginning of the story. I’m not patting myself on the back, but I’m not sitting here in shame, either.

If the average reader understood how long it takes for a quality book to be written, edited, and published, they’d be shocked. An author friend of mine, who is currently dealing with copyright infringement lawsuit (someone stole her work and didn’t credit her for it), is paid fifty cents  (U.S.) for every book sold. She’s a very interesting writer, spiritual, thought-provoking, and her take-home is fifty cents per book. Years worth of work put into each book she writes to share with the world, and that’s the paycheck. I was BEYOND insulted for her. And yet, this is often the norm. If she sells 20,000 books, her take-home is $10,000, before taxes. After taxes, it’s a grave insult, but this is such a common theme. It’s why so many people have turned away from traditional publishing and have started self-publishing. And yet, most self-published titles (not all, just most) are poorly edited, riddled with mistakes and major errors, and read like first drafts that were rushed. So when a close friend asked if I thought my manuscript would sell “this month”, I had to explain to her that it is a lengthy, oftentimes frustrating process to get anything sold.

Moreover, I have committed myself to writing a spec piece on Chronic Pain disorders and actual pain patients’ experiences from diagnosis to now. I will be interviewing people by phone and e-mail to get their stories into a series of articles. I write this in the hope that our voices will be heard, but I’m also not selling it for pennies on the dollar, either. It’s an important story that needs to be told, and who better than a pain patient to tell the story? People are reading, and believing, an awful lot of bullshit produced by the media on this particular subject. Patients are outraged, and yet, few of them are willing to stand up and speak up. Venting on message boards and in groups is a waste of time, but participating in something bigger? That’s how you get the right people to listen. If any reader would like to be a part of this, please feel free to leave me a comment and let me know you’d like your story told. I will be changing names for those who aren’t entirely comfortable with their business being put out there for the world,

Today is a brand new day. There’s work to be done, laundry to be washed, phone calls to be made, but if anyone is going to be reading my work this week, it’s gonna be me.

copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Square One

Square One

What happens when you’ve written multiple drafts of the same novel, in a month, and you find yourself liking both versions that are relatively complete? I suspect this doesn’t happen to a lot of people, but it has happened to me.

After staring at each of them on and off for a full day, I had a little breakdown I will call my “What The FUCK?!” moment. How was it possible that I wrote two versions, each one taking a different course of action, only for me to really like both of them? I stared at all the work done and said “Okay. You can start over, taking the best of both worlds and re-fashion the story into something stronger, and or you can do another rewrite from scratch.” And then, I bitched and moaned about having to rewrite it from another perspective.

Apparently, I don’t really know how to take a break from writing when the work is good. It’s frustrating. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to these characters and I want to tell their story the best way I know how. But honestly, I’m not sure how to do that at the moment. It makes me feel like I just wasted a month of devotion and effort, when in reality, the fact that I accomplished it at all was a combination of fortitude, stubbornness, and luck.

No one ever publishes their first draft, or even their fifth. Hell, an agent won’t even touch it if it’s not the very best version you can present. Both of these were number seven, I believe (I could be wrong, statistically it happens on occasion.). So, I am opening file number eight in the hopes that this time, I nail it. However, I’m going to stop pressuring myself to write every single day. I am going to let the story shape itself and take flight. I’m giving it a pair of wings.

This time, the story is going to be permitted to take me on a natural journey. I genuinely hope this one is the winner.

copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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The Not-So-Lost Manuscripts

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For the last eight months or so, I had silently convinced myself that I was abandoning the manuscripts for the series of novels I began writing in 2010. Before you scoff and judge that length of time, note that I wasn’t writing “just one thing”. I was writing multiple manuscripts (hence, a “series of novels”) in order to fully develop the story itself, as well as characters I know like the back of my hand.

My intense desire was solely to walk away from editing because it is so bloody thankless and is barely paying pennies. My inquiries look a lot like this: “Hi, I’d like you to edit 96,000 words in 24 hours and I am willing to pay $10.” Now while I politely decline these jobs, my first thought is “I’m not working 24 hours straight for $10, and I don’t know anyone with an ounce of talent who’d agree to that. Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t even pay $10 an hour, who are you playing with?” I don’t say it, but damn, it’s unbelievably insulting. For the record, my hourly rate is $40, unless it’s a first edit, and it’s by no means an unreasonable rate. I know people who charge double and not necessarily out of talent, but because they’ve chosen to put a higher price tag on their time, but not without a mind-fuck of a “reason”. I didn’t go to an Ivy League school to be able to apply said price tag to my work (that’s THEIR reasoning), but it’s still in the top ten. I also didn’t major in things that make me want to gag, like English Lit, Journalism, etc. I’m more interesting than that, and I have more experience. I also try to give people a fixed rate payment plan, that way they’re paying every 2-4 weeks, the work is being done, and they’re not shelling out a large chunk they don’t have all at once. While many people want to be writers, and I don’t knock that, they aren’t quite prepared to pay and deal with a real editor. It’s time-consuming work and as someone who goes over a manuscript twice, I don’t think pennies are acceptable to be tossed in my hard-working direction.

Somewhere along the line though of feeling used & abused by something I’ve done for so long, I realized I had also abandoned a lot of my hard work. I may not want to edit other people’s “work” (I use that term quite loosely. Some people have no idea what it takes to truly write something that doesn’t stink to high heaven.), but my work should be an entirely different story. You don’t write as long as I have and say “Okay.” to leaving solid work on a hard drive, thumb drive, etc. Sometimes you will have a legitimate reason for leaving a body of work behind (You don’t forget it, but you do shelve it for a later date, perhaps.), but I have no solid reason, and so, it was time to delve back into MY work.

The other day I decided to re-visit the first manuscript in the series. My first impression was “Holy crap, look at that word count! I remember when I couldn’t break 11,000 words.” But as far as the actual written work is concerned; I was completely spellbound. There is nothing like getting completely wrapped up in a story. I read several chapters, became immersed in the minds of each character, and then I had a moment when I realized that I was the one who had created this from scratch. At first my internal dialogue was this, almost verbatim: “This writer is GOOD. So talented. So creative and smart. I wonder what else they will create, because this is EPIC. I’d BUY this. Hell, I’d pre-order it!” It took about fifteen minutes before I realized I am the writer I was having internal dialogue about. It doesn’t always sink in. You will have fans and you will have detractors. In my life, I predominantly have detractors (mostly in my personal life), and so, hearing anything positive is so foreign to my ears and equally as foreign to my eyes. I’d rather be told I’m a talented writer than have someone think I’m pretty. I’d rather be told I am funny and/or smart than have someone dwell on the superficial. And when it comes to my work, I am immensely private with the work-in-progress itself, the ideas, the characters, all the little nuances, and the actual manuscript. Having had someone steal my work in the past and try passing it off as her own, I’ve learned that you can never be too careful with brilliant ideas. It may not be brilliant to every single person that reads it, so ultimately I have to be impressed and surprised that I’m the one who wrote it. I have to continue to impress myself, because I’m the first set of eyes on this work and I believe in my ability to tell a story.

So, despite my deep passion for the new, creative journey I am on, one in which I feel is positive and will break me out of the shell I’ve been in without realizing it, I have decided to continue polishing up the first manuscript before submitting it. The story deserves to be told.

I can create on two completely different levels. One does not interfere with the other. I feel blessed to have come to this conclusion on my own and I look forward to discussing the progress in the future.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend where you, quite possibly, have some self-discovery of your own.  😀

copyright © 2016 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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