It’s a cold Super Bowl weekend, and I’m staying warm with a cup of coffee and chatting with my good friend Shannon Yseult. I met Shannon at a local write-in a few years ago, and we have traveled the road to publication together. Her story, Over-Extraction, is featured in the 518 Publishing Company LLC’s premier anthology, Dark & Bitter. The short story is a fast-paced alternate thriller, and a great read.
“Shannon, the fans of the 518 want to hear about the Dark & Bitter authors, and I’m glad you had time to be interviewed,” I said.
“I’m happy to do it. You know I always enjoy a cup of coffee, and chat about writing,” Shannon said.
“Excellent. How did you get into writing, and when did you realize you wanted to be an author?”
“When I was in third grade one of the librarians was encouraging us to write stories. Even at that age I was into mysteries like 'Nate the Great', so I wrote about 'The Mystery of Witch Island'. I don't remember the story that well, but I do remember being SUPREMELY proud of my final product. I read it, and reread it, to everyone who would sit down with me for five minutes.
Once I got my own computer in eighth grade, I realized that there was this thing called 'fanfiction' and I was all over that. I wrote myself into a number of series, and while the writing was terrible I enjoyed every second of it. By the end of high school I realized that I could write my own characters AND my own stories and started to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The first year I wrote and agonized over the perfect 1,779 words in a story about dragons, and never got any farther. Since then I've written something for NaNoWriMo each year and have successfully completed it a handful of times now.
Despite the trials and tribulations natural to a writer's life I've been interested in some form of writing since I learned to read. That proud moment of showing everyone my third grade book still sings in my heart as I continue my writer’s journey,” Shannon said.
“Wow, third grade. It was much later that I got interested in writing. Who is your favorite author? What is your favorite book?” I said.
“This has been changing quite a bit recently. At the moment Michael J. Sullivan with his series Riyria Revelations is at the top of my list. Patrick Rothfuss and his book 'The Name of the Wind' is a close second. 'The Mote in God's Eye' is also a huge favorite of mine, and I can't see it leaving my favorites list ever. If you're looking for a less well known then I highly recommend Wen Spencer, particularly her book 'Tinker',” Shannon said.
“I’ve read ‘The Name of the Wind.’ It was excellent. I’ll have to check out the others. I’m always looking for the next best read. What genre/genres do you write?”
“Science fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, and YA. It sounds weird when listing them all in a row, particularly ending with YA. The natural follow up question is why, and the irony of the simple answer isn't lost on me; I'm a complicated person. My ideas don't fit into a single genre mold, and I don't force them into one. I take the idea and test drive it in different genres in my mind before choosing the one that I think will give the best story and go from there,” Shannon said.
“I’m with you about writing different genres. Crossing boundaries and not staying in a small box is paramount to a well-rounded person. How would you describe your daily writing routine?” I said.
“The most consistent part of it is going to writers group on Sunday's at Denny's. Being around so many fellow writer friends is an inspirational pleasure. Right now I'm in the thralls of editing the novel I wrote in November 2017 for NaNoWriMo (another consistent part of my writing life). So I'm taking each week to focus on a different part of the story (plot, character, etc). Next I'll put together a game plan for fixing the story and then I'll go about editing it. Basically, I'm doing a daily editing routine right now, but I'll get back to writing for NaNoWriMo 2018!” Shannon said.
“Yes, staying connecting with the writing community is important to any author. Friendships are formed, and are a support system through the many trials in life. What is your writing Kryptonite?”
“Reading a good story! Also if I'm writing along and know that something is fundamentally wrong with the story. If I have a good outline this doesn't happen as much, but for those times I'm pantsing it's like throwing on the emergency breaks,” Shannon said.
“I hear you. A good story is definitely a distraction. Where do you get your ideas?” I said.
“All over the place!
Sometimes I'm reading about a new scientific discovery and think 'what if'.
Sometimes I'm talking about a specific genre/writing style/etc, realize that I haven't written anything in that format, and challenge myself to do so.
Sometimes I use a random word generator, or random plot generator, or random religion generator, until the sparks of ideas colliding take over.”
“Generators are great. Many writers use them to inspire when the ideas dry up. How long did it take you to write the story 'Over-Extraction'?” I said.
“It didn't take me long to write the first draft, once the ideas fly writing can be quick. However, the amount of time I spent editing it was quite a lot,” Shannon said.
“Yeah, editing can be long and sometimes painful. Well Shannon, I like to thank you for your time and I look forward to your next story.”
Two years ago this month the idea of the 518 Publishing Company ignited a spark in the eyes of four women. During the process of creating the small press, we encountered a few struggles. First, getting everyone on the same page took a bit, though that wasn’t a big issue. All of us wanted the same thing, to help local writers realize a goal of seeing their words in print.
Secondly, and probably the biggest hurdle was setting up the LLC. Paperwork, filing, and taxes were just short of a nightmare. The formal LLC letter from the state didn’t come promptly. But after many calls and a good chase, we were finally legal.
Setting up financials was difficult and we had to be creative. With only a few dollars in the bank, the funds wouldn’t cover the cost to publish a book. We needed a professional editor and a book cover. The 518 is not a vanity press. We don’t expect an author to pay for editing and book covers. So what do we do? Kickstarter of course.
Many people use the crowdfunding tool to help fund an idea. Friends, family, and a few unknowns backed us. Dark & Bitter was published, and a few writers became first-time published authors.
And this is why we are here. Every Sunday local writers in the 518 meet at Denny’s to write. Some weeks there may be only a few, and other times as many as thirty. Last Sunday was the deadline to submit for 518’s next publication. A fellow writer felt our push, and they will be published in the upcoming anthology, Exploits of the Adirondacks. It feels good to know that one more person will see their name in print and become a published author.
Check out our ‘Submit to Us’ page. You could be next featured author in our third anthology.
I'm not one for resolutions. I personally find them to be to nebulous. "Lose weight. Write more. Spend less." They're fine aspirations, but what's the plan? How is this going to be achieved?
Good goals should have a defined end point. For example during National Novel Writing Month the goal is to write 50,000 words. An experienced goal setter will give themselves milestones before the end goal, and that's exactly what NaNo does, splitting up the goal into daily milestones which can be celebrated each and every day.
Good goals should have a time frame. In NaNo a writer is attempting to write those 50,000 words in one month. I find that choosing a time frame is the hardest, and most important, part of setting goals.
Successful goals include some social accountability. On the NaNo website your total word count so far is posted under your username on every post. Everyone on the site knows if you're ahead or behind and it can encourage writers to finish their words for the day before posting.
There is one more thing one can do to make goals more likely to be successful, but I don't even do this one.
Successful goals stake money on the outcome.
Our company goals for the year? (By posting them here we'll get some social accountability!)
1) Publish a new anthology before November 2018.
2) Attend one new marketing event a quarter.
What are your goals for the year?
Ever since I was a small child I have known what I wanted in life. I wanted to inspire. While that may seem like a big thing for a young kid, and it is, that is just the type of precocious little one I was. I was also very goal driven. I knew exactly how I was going to achieve this.
One of the ways I wanted to do this was to create. I tried my hand at music and art, and showed no talent at either. Then I found my two loves, storytelling and acting. Both of them, luckily, go hand in hand. Luckily for me, my parents were extremely supportive and I began doing both of these things.
As I grew my storytelling turned to writing. I would write small stories and read them to my family. Many of them I kept to myself. In high school I began writing my first novel, which no one would be allowed to see for many years. In college I became a creative writing major, eager to hone my craft.
Through it all I had one hope. That someday other people, real people, people who had never met me, would read my stories. I would go to book stores and find the spot on the shelf where my name would be. I would stare at that spot and wish. Wish that eventually it would be true.
Well, miracle of miracles, it finally is! A few weeks ago I held in my hand a book which contains a story I wrote. It was real, tangible. Dark and Bitter is out there in the world. That moment was one of the most amazing of my life. That book is now available for anyone to purchase. People I have never met, and probably never will, can read my words. My words will be for sale in bookstores and online. This fact amazes me. It reminds me of one key thing. Dreams do come true.
We’ve all heard of NaNoWriMo. That crazy month of November when we do nothing but write. What many people don’t know is that there are two other months for writing. NaNo calls the months of April and July “Camp” months. The goal here is similar to that of November, but there are some differences.
The first difference is your goal. During November you have to write 50,000 words. Camp is much more flexible. You choose your own goal, any amount you want. This allows people with busy lives to be more realistic about what they can do. It also let’s overachievers show their progress. You can also change your goal as you go, usually until the last week of the month when winning starts. That way if life got in the way you can still win, or if you’re doing better than expected you can surge ahead. This year my goal is 15,000. I think that this will be enough to finish my current work-in-progress.
That is another difference with camp. NaNo asks you to start a new project, Camp does not. You can if you want to, but you can also continue an old one, or use the time to edit or revise. Basically, as long as you are working on some type of writing, it works. I often use camp to finish the novels I start in November.
Another major addition to Camp is Cabins. Cabins allow you to have a specific group of writers to talk to. During NaNo we have the message boards. Cabins are more like a chat with a smaller group. There are a few ways to get a cabin. I usually form a cabin with people from the local NaNo group. We add as many people as we can and often end up with more than one cabin. One person sets it up and then adds the others. I like doing this because these people already know my stories and personality, so I don’t have to explain myself as much. You can also get added to a random cabin. You just select this option and the powers that be put you with a group. This can be interesting because you are interacting with new people.
Overall I like the flexibility that Camp gives, especially as someone who works, a lot. It gives me the motivation I need but at a pace that works better for my life. Happy writing everyone!
I have at least seven 'To Do' lists going at any one time.
First there are the big goals for the year. I personally have nine. Seven are writing related, one is to enjoy/improve the house, and the last is to go do something new and exciting once a month.
Each month I check into those goals. I figure out how my progress has been so far and if the goal still seems relevant and achievable. For 2016 I canceled one of my writing goals that then seemed irrelevant to my bigger goal of becoming an inspirational published writer. I replaced it with a similar goal, learn about the craft of writing, using Brandon Sanderson's class recordings.
I then determine what I should be doing in each goal for the upcoming month. That's the mini goal list. If I look at the big goal too often it feels unachievable. Breaking it up really helps focus.
After that I break it up again, this time into the next step of each goal. Whether it's to buy a plane ticket to go to a new state for a cultural activity, or sit my butt down on the chair and edit the next page, it gets written down on the list.
After that I get to work.
That list becomes the 'number one' important list, but it doesn't hold all of the things that need to get done in every interest in an everyday life. I keep a list of mini goals for author visibility, one for helping out with this LLC, one for the classes I'm taking, one for house upkeep which includes anything from vacuuming to patching the roof, and one for helping out writer friends. They're there, and they get done when I have time, but I know that the 'number one' list is the one I have to spend my time on if I want to succeed in big year long accomplishments.