Out of the Shadows

 

ScreenshotSatin

As promised, I have started a new blog and would like to invite you all over to my new home at www.satinrussell.com.

I’ve mentioned before that my real name is not Janyaa. As you have probably surmised, it’s Satin Russell. (How do you do?)

It took me awhile to decide whether or not I wanted to use my real name as my author name. Many people choose to use pen names, instead, and I seriously considered doing so as well.

In fact, it has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make this past year.

You may be wondering why it was such a big deal. For years now, I’ve used this moniker – Janyaa – as my internet identity. It started way back when I first started playing World of Warcraft. (I’ve since quit playing.)

At the beginning, I did it for privacy reasons. Let’s face it, there aren’t a whole lot of people out there with my name. The subject of privacy was particularly relevant given the fact that I was a female gamer, and safety can become an issue.

I also used to write a blog about playing a holy paladin in World of Warcraft. As a stockbroker, I didn’t want my gaming to come up in any searches and bleed into my professional life.

After I quit playing and retired that older blog, it still became a way to differentiate between my “real life” and my “internet presence,” so I kept it. All of my social media was listed under Janyaa, from Twitter to Pinterest. In fact, the only thing that wasn’t listed under that name was my personal Facebook page.

Now that I’m moving into this new phase, being able to connect with potential readers under my real name has become more important. I want to be able to foster a healthy community and interact with people when they discover me as an author.

However, that still left the door open to me using a pen name. As I’ve said, there are a lot of authors out there that go that route. What was to stop me from doing the same?

Ultimately, I guess you could say it comes down to courage, commitment, and ego.

It has taken a lot of courage for me to make this transition and pursue my dreams. Trust me, every day I worry if I’m making the right choice. And every day I take another step towards my goal, I consider it a win against the self-doubt demons inside me.

In some ways, I think it also forces me to reach for a higher standard. There’s no hiding. I need to put out the best product I can. I’m obviously committed to doing exactly that if I’m going to put my name on it.

Lastly, I want to be able to point to my accomplishments and say, “I wrote this. This is me.” I guess you could say there’s a little bit of ego in that, but if I can’t take pride in what I’m producing, then what’s the point?

So, that’s it. This is me! If you’re currently following this blog, I hope to see you at the new site!

What’s in a Name?

roseHi, how is everyone doing out in blog-ville? Life has been fairly busy over on this end. Let’s catch up, shall we?

I’m happy to report that I finished the first draft of my book back in mid-November, November 14th, 2014, to be exact. I participated in NaNoWriMo once again this year, and it gave me the final oomph I needed to get over the finish line. It was such an amazing feeling!

However, the next morning, I found myself looking around and thinking…uh, guys? Now what? I realized that I needed to get it edited, so started researching how to edit and how to find an editor. Most of what I found suggested that I set the first draft aside for anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month before I start taking a second look at it. This actually worked out great since Terry and I were planning a trip for the holidays.

Terry and I went on a cross-country road trip back to Seattle to visit his family, friends, and then headed down to Oregon to visit with my brother, sister-in-law, and little nephew. (It’s amazing how big he’s gotten! Seems like just yesterday I was blogging about him being born.)

It was a wonderful way to spend the holiday season. Coincidentally, it also happened to be our tenth wedding anniversary. You know you have to still be head over heels for someone if you voluntarily decide to get stuck in a car with them for over 3,000 miles!

After I got back, I felt a bit at odds with how to take the next step. It wasn’t just a matter of needing to get back into the swing of things, either. If I could have come back and sat a keyboard, it probably would have been easier. But, finding an editor? Figuring out what to do? That was a bit more challenging.

Luckily, I sucked it up and found three editors and sent off samples to them. After much deliberation, I’ve managed to find someone that I can work really well with.

All of which, leads me to now. February 1st. Can you believe it’s almost been a year since I’ve started this journey? I gave myself until April to get my first book written and published, and the time just seems to be streaming through my fingertips. I’ve started looking down the road to the next steps of formatting, and finding a cover artist…

not to mention marketing! And networking!

Ahh, marketing. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories from self-published authors about that. As a reader, I can say I’m VERY AVERSE to being “sold” to. Haven’t we all seen “that one guy” that likes to spam his title over and over again day in and day out? Yeah, that’s not going to be me. However, I do think there are some things that I can do that will better reflect who I am and what I’m about.

Then I started thinking about this little blog. “Janyaa’s Scrapbook.” Not a great name. I have to admit, I kind of cringe every time I come to this site. Have you ever noticed in the URL it kind of looks like “Janyaa’s Crap Book?”

Um, not exactly the kind of branding I’m looking for. Especially as an author just starting out. Besides, Janyaa is my internet name that I prefer to use in order to stay anonymous. However, if I’m going to be an author, the last thing I want to be is “anonymous.”

That train of thought, lead me to another train of thought. Should I publish under my real name, or use a pen name? Either path seems fairly well worn. It’s certainly not uncommon that an author would choose to publish under a pen name. There are benefits, not least of which is it helps you keep a bit of privacy and as a female, it’s safer.

Yet, there’s also a draw to publishing under my real name and just taking ownership of my work. Being able to point to it and say, “That’s me!”

This is a debate that I’ve been struggling with for most of this past year. For awhile, I was about 50/50 on the matter. However, about three months ago, I started really leaning towards just going for it and publishing under my real name. It’s taken a lot of courage to quit my job and pursue my dreams. I don’t want to start wimping out now. Additionally, I feel there’s more pressure to set the bar high if I’m going to have my work under my real name.

All of which brings me to the point of this post. I’ve decided I’m going to set up a new official Author Blog under my real name and start trying to write about the processes and books over there. I won’t be taking this blog down, exactly, but it will probably stay fairly inactive as I make the transition over. Once the other site gets established, I’ll be sure to post the new address here for anybody interested in following me.

If you’re a reader that won’t be coming with me, no hard feelings! I appreciate that you thought highly enough of a post or two I’ve written in the past to sign up and get updates from me at all. If you do plan on making the transition with me, it will be great to see you! I’ll be sure to give you all a heads up once I get the website looking a bit more decent.

Plotting the Course

sunset-road

Good news! This past Friday, I finished plotting my book and now have a road map for my novel. Granted, it’s taken longer than I would have liked to get to this point, but this is a pretty big step for me.

One of the funny things I’ve had to come to terms with is that I AM going to have missteps during this year of writing. For example, the day after I quit my job, I jumped right into writing. There was a part of me that felt I needed to “earn my keep.” I didn’t feel like I was being productive unless I was sitting down and writing for a designated amount of time.

I made a goal to sit down and write for a minimum of three hours every day Monday through Friday. Now, some of you may think, “Three hours? That’s it? Shouldn’t you be trying to write 9-5?” Unfortunately, writing doesn’t really work that way for me. Three hours is a very good chunk of time. After that, ideas start to dry up and my creativity well starts to feel tapped out.

So, Monday through Friday, for at least three hours, I was going to sit down and write. And, I did! For five weeks I kept to my self-imposed schedule and wrote.

The problem was, I kept writing myself into corners. I’d be inspired and writing one day, then get a different idea or direction for my story the next, and find myself having to go back through what I’d already done to “fix” things.

The first time I did it, no big deal. I was game to hunt through all the text already produced and make adjustments. However, my patience was out by the third or fourth time of this happening. I realized that I wasn’t a “fly by the seat of my pants” author like I’d always assumed. I was going to actually have to bite the bullet, sit down, and plot my book out.

But how? I mean, I’ve made an outline for a ten page paper before, but actually plotting out a book was beyond the scope of my experience. So, I took another two weeks just researching the various methods out there.

What I found was both liberating and scary. There isn’t any “one right way” to plot a book. For every writer out there, there was a different method. Some of the ideas were similar, yet many others were completely out of left field.

I came to a conclusion. I could spend the whole year learning and reading about how to plot a book…but I wouldn’t ever actually make any progress if I did so.

So, I pulled a couple of ideas together from a few different methods and started to piecemeal them together. In essence, I had to learn what my own, personal process would be. Unfortunately, that takes time.

Learning to be patient with myself, allowing myself to fumble, and recognizing that it’s not a “waste of time,” is definitely one of the harder challenges I’m dealing with right now.

Originally, I tried using a whiteboard to help visualize my storyline. However, it was hard to erase and make adjustments, and there just wasn’t enough space on the board to fit the whole story in.

Next, I tried using an outline form, but felt it was too restrictive. Every time I tried to insert something, I felt compelled to go and adjust all the headings, titles, etc. Not good.

I decided to be a bit looser with my structure and basically wrote out a synopsis of each chapter. I notated where I’d want a new chapter (but didn’t number it,) specified the perspective I wanted to write from, then gave a brief account of what I wanted that chapter to accomplish.

Some of the chapters are only a paragraph long and don’t have a lot of details. They’re basically placeholders where I know a defined event has to occur. Things started to flow and get easier in the later chapters as I started to get comfortable with the format and characters of the story.

The last few chapters are multiple paragraphs. If I came up with a certain phrase, or knew a character would respond in a particular way, I wrote it in. However, I didn’t impose the need to write out all the dialogue, or go into specifics of the environment or scene.

So, that brings us back to present day. I’ve finally managed to plot my book. In the end, I’m left with a good idea of the scenery and a specific direction for my writing to travel. In essence, a road map for my story. This weekend, I’m going to kick the tires, fill up the tank and get ready to go on my trip. Here’s hoping I don’t get too lost!

Having the Time to Live

I had originally planned to write a post about one of the main challenges I’ve been having in regards to being on my own timetable and trying to produce a book. However, something happened today that made me want to focus more on one of the positive aspects to this whole “self-employed writing” gig I’ve got going on right now.

I woke up this morning, quite unusually, at 6am and found that I couldn’t get back to sleep. So, of course, instead of actually getting up and being productive, I lounged in bed for another two hours surfing links with my phone and checking FB, Twitter, Instagram, Buzzfeed, Pinterest, and all the other usual time-sucking suspects.

It was very relaxing and indulgent. The rain pattered outside my window, but it was warm and cozy in my bed. Practically the perfect way to spend the morning snuggled under the blankets. (I say practically, because the only thing that could have tipped it over the top would have been to have a freshly brewed cup of coffee miraculously delivered onto my nightstand…but that’s probably asking for too much.)

Having been a complete layabout for a few hours, I finally roused myself up, took a shower, got myself halfway presentable, and made my way to my daily office, AKA the local Starbucks.

(There’s a post percolating in me about my Starbucks in the near future.)

I was lucky and managed to snag a table by one of the outlets, so things were looking quite good. I hooked myself up, popped in my headphones and began reading what I had produced the previous day to get into the zone and figure out how to pick up where I left off, when suddenly, my phone rang.

It was Terry. They let him out early because it was pouring down rain, the construction site was drenched and they were soaking wet. Would I be interested in having lunch with him?

Can I tell you how absolutely nice it is to be able to randomly have lunch with my husband in the middle of the week? To be able to just stop what I’m doing, pack up my stuff, and go meet him at the restaurant? The freedom! The flexibility! It’s liberating!

Definitely one of the perks to being self-employed.

You know what’s even better than that? No feeling guilty. I actually came home after lunch, sat down, and still managed to get a couple of hours of good writing in. So, yup. Still on target and disciplined.

Today was a good day.

Hitting the Life “Reset” Button

Thought I’d try to blow the dust off this little blog. I miss having this outlet for my writing. There’s been so much that has happened in the past…year. (Year?! Has it really been that long?!) I feel like I should write about these experiences while they’re still fresh in my memory. It’d be nice to be able to look back and remember some of what I’ve felt going through this transition.

To be honest, I don’t know even where to begin. How about a few highlights? A couple of posts ago, I wrote about wanting to jump tracks. I felt like I was headed in exactly the wrong direction doing exactly the wrong kind of job.

Well, at the end of March I put actions to my words and quit my job to officially pursue my writing. I didn’t go into this decision lightly. I talked to Terry about it and we planned for a full year before making this jump. There were three main goals and a set of expectations that we came up with.

To start, this was not going to be an open-ended situation. Terry agreed to give me one year to make something happen. That’s not to say I have to become a bestseller in a year. I need to keep my expectations realistic and that’s unlikely. It is to say I’ve committed to finishing a book and taking the steps necessary to getting it published. (Getting it professionally edited, getting a cover professionally done, putting an author site together, marketing, etc…)

As far as goals go, one major one was to pay off all of our credit cards. The last thing we needed was to have any extra overhanging expenses if we were going to drop down to one salary. Plus, it’s just financially smarter not to carry around debt. It’s one of those things you always mean to do, but me planning to quit my job gave us the extra little push we needed to really commit to doing it.

Secondly, we decided on a specific amount of money to have saved by the end of the year. This was to create a bit of padding in case of contingencies. Life happens. Last October our furnace blew out and cost us $8000. We could handle the expense with both of our salaries, but what if that had happened with me out of work? Having more than the usual little cushion would help.

Lastly, I made it my goal to participate and complete NaNoWriMo. For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it’s basically a challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November. I first heard about NaNoWriMo back in 2011, but it was halfway through the month and too late to participate. I can’t remember the exact reasons why I didn’t do it in 2012. I seem to remember being too intimidated. 2013, I finally got my shit together and signed up. I’m happy to say I succeeded, or “won” as they say in NaNo vernacular.

To be honest, I took a look at the novel I started for NaNo, and wasn’t too impressed with what I had produced. However, the very fact that I could produce that much material and create the habit of writing everyday was the main focus for my participating. I got a pleasant bonus out of it by getting a chance to meet fellow writers in my area, specifically my WriNoShores peeps. (More on them later.)

So, with those three goals accomplished, the way was clear for me to make the next step…actually quitting my job. I’ll admit, it was stomach clenching. In fact, the original plan was to quit at the beginning of the year…but I couldn’t quite do it. My January month was shaping up really well and I stood to make a good quarterly bonus. If I quit before the end of March, I would be walking away from a few thousand extra dollars. Money that I knew would come in handy for the next year. Plus, let’s face it, now that the time had actually come, I was scared shitless.

I decided to put quitting my job off until the end of March. Forget New Year’s resolutions, I feel Springtime is more inspirational for starting new projects, anyway. So, I waited, continued to save, and started to get antsy. The longer I waited, the more self-doubt crept in. I had to remind myself of all the preparations Terry and I had done. We WERE able to do this.

I decided to give a soft notice and let my manager know what I was planning. By stating my intentions out loud to someone other than my husband or my sister, I was reaffirming my commitment. Plus, it gave him the chance to start looking for my replacement a bit early, something I know he appreciated.

He was really supportive about my plans, which helped. Mid-March finally came and it was time to put my two week notice in. My fingers trembled as I drafted the e-mail to send to HR. I read it and re-read it. Edited it. Sent it to my manager to have him read over it… and finally – finally – hit send.

The last two weeks seemed to drag forever. Eight hours became eight lifetimes. I resisted telling my clients that I was planning on leaving. I assumed they would think I was crazy to be giving up my well paying job with benefits to basically become an unemployed writer following my dreams.

March 31st happened to fall on a Monday this year. It was weird to go into the office for my last day on a Monday. It kind of threw the rest of the week off a little bit, especially since my sister and my birthdays were also that week. However, I was determined to start good habits early, and insisted on putting a couple of hours of writing in everyday. It was important for me to set a good pace right out of the gate.

That first day off was surreal. April 1st. A new kind of pressure took hold. This was it. Time to actively pursue my dreams. No excuses and nothing stopping me other than myself. Could I get out of my own way and make this happen? Because, if I don’t do it this year, then that’s it. I’m going to need to do some serious gut-searching about who I am and what I can contribute.

It’s been a little over two months as a “Self-Employed Writer.” For the most part, I’m happy to say it’s been a good experience. I will admit, that I have had days where I’ve stared in the mirror and questioned my sanity. There have been mornings where I’ve hated everything I’ve written so far and wanted to scrap every. single. word. and start over again.

There have been moments where I’m doing dishes and will get struck by a thought or scene and dropped everything like a madwoman to get to my computer and type it down before I forget. I’ve been haunted by plotting dilemmas and woken up – eyes wide – at 4am with the perfect solution…only to have it evaporate the moment I got up out of bed.

I will probably make an entirely separate post for all these little challenges that I’m encountering on a daily basis…and the successes, as I find them. I also want to write more about the awesome writing group I’ve joined through NaNoWriMo. More than anything, good or bad, I want to fully immerse myself in this experience and be able to remember it in the future.

If you’re out there and reading this, you’re welcome to join me.