Lunatic Mistress

...Iris Mori's author site.

On Tools of the Trade

Hi folks, it’s been a while.  You’ll get this often from me, I’m afraid; The trouble with a Day Job that simultaneously (barely) pays the bills and sucks the soul out of you as soon as you enter the building, is that on some days, as soon as I get home, the Blog takes a back seat to whatever will “spark joy” (to quote what I’ve been hearing a lot of lately), such as working on a revision, or outlining a new project, or, on days when the Soul Sucking has been particularly bad and my characters refuse to budge until I’m in a better mental space, I binge watch baseball games, or romantic comedies, or baseball romantic comedies, or period dramas. So sometimes the Blog takes a back seat. 

But I digress.

I thought I’d use this space today to list the things I have in my writing space that I must have in order to create properly.  Note that this is just me, and everyone is different, and I can’t guarantee results if you replicate this exact thing on your own – you’ll have to play around with your environment until you do.

1)    A comfy chair.  This to me is key.  Honestly I can sit and write anywhere, but the output is greatly reduced if I’m sitting on a backless wooden splintery bench, or one that doesn’t have back support in general.  My body rebels, you see, if it’s not at the right height relative to my keyboard, with proper lumbar support.  Back pain and carpal tunnel are serious, people, and being a writer means you’re setting yourself up for both unless you. Have. A. Comfy. Chair.  A desk is optional, but preferred—I’ve learned to write where the muse takes me, be it a cramped airline seat or standing in the subway car.  Sometimes my muse is a jerk.

2)    A Vision Board. I have a corkboard that currently has famous people I think might be a good physical match for my characters, alternate character information that isn’t critical to the story but helps me reset back into their heads (favorite spell components, band members, family members three times removed, etc ), physical locations that my scene might take place in… and actual aspirational things like the heading of the New York Times bestseller list, a “Publishers Weekly Starred reviews releasing this week” page, and the like (Gotta keep those dreams alive!). It hangs above my desk, where it’s the first thing I see when I look away from my computer screen.

3)    Clacky keyboard. I grew up actually learning to type on a clacky keyboard (which I have long since forgotten—now I am surprisingly good hunt ‘n pecker that can manage 70 wpm), so I tend to jam on my keys to make some noise.  (I played piano the same way—my harpsichord instructor in college lamented my barbaric pounding of keys) I imagine one day I’ll splurge on one of those thousand-dollar monstrosities with fancy Cherry MX Blue keys that light up in the color of my choosing.  For now, as I work in publishing, I pound on my poor cheap $20 keyboard that I replace after I’ve worn all the letters off and half the keys aren’t responsive anymore.  Bottom line: I am a loud typer, and I’m okay with this.

4)    Spotify, Pandora premium.  This is where the playlist comes from.  Once I have the characters down I usually stick with one artist for general tone (One of my WIP’s is pretty much all Disturbed and Avenged Sevenfold all the time, and I don’t know how I feel about that haha)

5)    Microsoft Word, Scrivener. I generate scenes in MW, then plug into Scrivener.  Don’t ask me why I don’t just do this all in Scrivener, I don’t know.  I’m a creature of habit though, and I was using MW way longer than Scrivener came into my life.  That Scrivener app has been a game changer, though.

6)    Space to walk around.  When I’m in the zone I trip on things.  Okay, so I trip on things regardless of whether or not I’m in the zone.  But sometimes I get up and pace. Or get a cup of coffee.  Or a snack.  I need to get up sometimes—even a comfy chair can’t save you from the hungries or the weird position my neck was in for a couple of hours as I typed.  (I try not to hover over my keyboard like a vulture but it happens sometimes) not having random things in my walking path is key.

7)     Coffee.  I don’t think I need to really explain this one.  I’ve been blessed (?) with a high caffeine tolerance, so I’m drinking caffeinated coffee until 9PM some days.  Yay, me.

8)    A writing instrument and a vehicle for said writing instrument.  SO: Moleskine notebook + .03 ballpoint pen, or my laptop + ghetto $20 keyboard, or my ipad + portable keyboard.

And that’s it! (There’s a whole subcategory of “kinda necessary” like snacks, but I should also NOT have snacks at the ready when I’m writing, so I’m very torn regarding this subcategory in general.) What are your tools of the trade?  Let me know in the comments!

Things I Wish I Had Known Before Signing With That Agent (AKA mostly everything I knew about publishing was wrong)

A simple, down ‘n dirty list: 

1)    No one you know will comprehend what just happened to you (ie getting that agent, signing that contract with that agency), and as such no one you know will share your enthusiasm, or understand your sudden, “kinda creepy” effervescence.  I was lucky enough to know a few editors and published authors who know how ‘the biz’ works, and from these folks I got the most awesome of hugs and well-wishes, but everyone else got real bored when I told them I can’t quit my day job yet. (I DID know that I could not quit my day job, but if you’ve read any of my past entries you know I probably won’t anyway because I’m probably a wee masochistic)

2)    Speaking of, you have to explain to ALL of these people what’s going to happen next.  Takes away some of that effervescence, explaining how long it takes to get your book on the shelf in your favorite bookstore, and how you’ll likely not make much money off it anytime soon.  Which brings me to

3)    Best case scenario, if an editor at a publishing house likes your stuff, you’ll maybe see half your cash money advance on signing which the publishing house takes 6 months plus to draft your contract.  (NO ONE understands why this takes so long.  I am a practical person, and to me it SHOULD be as simple as USING A SIMILAR CONTRACT but there are likely nuances I do not understand and this is why I write books and not contracts. However.  I have asked MANY PEOPLE.  They all give me the equivalent of a shrug emoji.) You’ll see the other half maybe when it gets published. Which brings me to my next point which is

4)    Don’t quit your day job because at this point none of your stuff has been sold yet and you still have to pay rent, and also

5)    You will be asked to write your own author bio which is equal parts terrifying and exhilarating and weird that you have to refer to yourself in the third person and

6)    You will be asked “what else are you working on” by said agent which makes sense, considering they like what you write enough to want to make the both of you money, so it stands to reason that they would like to represent more things that can bring you both money.  Said agent needs to pay the rent too. If you’re smart, you’ll have multiple outlines with the first three chapters ready.  If you’re like me, you’ll have 12 chapters of something your agent doesn’t represent, and a couple of viable ideas you came up with in the shower.  But hey that can be set aside for the moment because finally

7)    (I DID also know this but…) you’re working on a revision.  Again.  Because there are a few tweaks that need to be made and frankly, the fast as molasses speed at which the publishing industry works you really need your best work to be sent out.


No one will understand what just happened to you even though you’re finally allowed to leave the kiddie pool to swim with the adults, but it won’t matter anyway in the grand scheme of things because you still have to tweak and write.  And quite honestly, it’s the best, most validating feeling in the world. But yes, adulting is hard. Did I mention I’m likely a wee masochistic?

On Cutting My Losses

You may not know this, but my last project began as a simple Paranormal Fantasy.  After the first unsuccessful round of agent queries, I learned the art of letting go; I can’t speak for other writers, but that metaphor you hear re: finished projects being an artist’s “children”?  Completely true in my case, at least back then. Umpteenth rejections later, I was forced to consider the warts on my “child” and all its imperfections, and threw myself into an edit/revision bubble, during which this project morphed into a YA Paranormal Fantasy, this time with the assistance of a writers group. 

It stopped being a child at that point – I was a plastic surgeon, aiming for perfection.

Another round of submissions.

A brief flirtation with the concept of self-publishing, so brief I didn't even look into it.

Then two revise and resubmit offers, after which this project was turned down again.

Another round of edits.

Sometime in this endless death cycle I started developing an odd sense of detachment towards this project.  It was good – enough people who had no relation to me whatsoever had told me so, and I trusted them enough to believe—but it needed someone who loved it as much as I did to tell me what it needed, that extra, final push, to finally get sold.  I knew when people gave me advice on what to fix, what felt right, and what I’d brush off with a smile and a nod because it wouldn’t work.  I understand this is a gift from the Writing Gods, and trust me, I’m most grateful for it.  But would I find someone?  There were moments when I was consumed by the futility of it.  I’d tried to shelve the project before, but it always came roaring back, via a new connection, or a contest, or somesuch.

All the while my current WIP sat, waiting, not happy with the occasional 15-page chapter I’d write for it, but secure in its knowledge that I’d return.

At the beginning of this year I started submitting my previous project again, halfheartedly; it stemmed more with my general disillusionment of my life in general (I’m a person who needs to be doing something to improve my lot in life, and I get quite grumpy if I’m unable to do so.  Submitting seemed at the time to have the potential for faster results than finishing my WIP.).  And in February, lo and behold, a Full request!  Huzzah!

One by one the other agents I’d submitted to sent their regrets, until that one agent that requested the full was the only one in my Query Tracker that didn’t have a frowny face.  My One. Shining. Hope. And then, tragedy: abandoned by the head of her agency, neither she nor her clients had a home. 

While I have no doubt they’ll soon find one (Publishing, I swear, is as insular and adulterous as the Food industry I used to work in), I see this as a sign.  I cannot work on my WIP when I’m forever editing and submitting my previous project. 

That agent is the last person who will see my last project.

This blog post, then, is a written reminder to myself that I’m filing my previous project away, to devote my time to my WIP.  Maybe someday I’ll go back, but for now, the character voices of my WIP are becoming increasingly persistent. 

It’s time I gave them a bloody chance.

RIP, Family Demons.