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Cheri’s Note: This was an uplifting and inspirational way to end another great WD conference!

The Drive to Write–Chris Baty, Founder of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo); author of No Plot, No Novel and Ready, Set, Novel

NaNoWriMo: Writers sign up to write a 50K word novel, from scratch, during the month of November each year. Baty and a few friends first experimented with the idea in 1999 (a total of 6 people). By 2000, 130 writers participated. In 2011, there were 300,000 participants in 33 countries. Six years ago, NaNoWriMo became a non-profit in Berkeley, CA, with a staff of seven. On Friday, January 20, Chris left the organization. On Monday the 22nd, he began his new job as a full time writer.  He explained his decision to make this change with this quote: “A ship in harbor is safe–but that is not what ships are built for.” –John A. Shedd, Salt from My Attic, 1928.

Baty said that a common trait in others who’ve left the shore is the drive to write. Something else they share in common–they’ve all packed the same four things:

  1. An established deadline.  Set a deadline and then share that date with someone (even a newly met stranger). Ask that person to hold you accountable for that deadline commitment. And don’t ask just one person. Invite several people to hold you accountable.
  2. Momentum. “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” –Thomas Mann, German writer. “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest.” –Isaac Newton. Even if you don’t start out writing every day, commit to opening the document every day. That single motion of opening the document will automatically begin to expand and lead to writing.
  3. An appreciation for messes. Writers need to make as many messes as possible in both the writing and the business levels of this endeavor. Fumbling in the dark, on and off the page, is part of the process. The only way we can better ourselves is to make mistakes–trying and failing first.
  4. Faith. Faith that “our books don’t suck.” That we’re getting better as writers. That our work will eventually mean something. The world holds a lot of surprises–and success is often closer than we know.

If we give ourselves permission to take this crazy path, we have the power to accomplish unimaginable things. Baty says he’s watched hundreds of thousands of people write a book in one month that they didn’t even know they had in them when they started. That’s quite impressive and unimaginable. And we each have the power to do such things.

He offered to have faith for us, on our behalf, believing in our possibilities, because he’s seen them firsthand.

Cheri’s Note: As I said earlier, this was quite a moving and inspirational presentation, and the perfect closing for this conference!

And this concludes my series of summaries on the sessions I attended. But this exercise in sharing has accomplished something unexpected. One of my goals for 2012, as I complete and rebound from the chemo, is to get back to a more frequent and predictable blogging rhythm. Very much in tune with Chris Baty’s “objects in motion tend to stay in motion” point, my need to get these summaries out to you has put me on a daily blogging cycle that I’m hoping to sustain–unexpectedly meeting one goal by accomplishing another. And that, after all, seems to be the story of a writer’s life.

Wishing you all a happy, productive day!

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My 2011 stat report for this blog are posted unedited below. They are interesting and point out for me lots of room for improvement, which will get underway shortly. Meanwhile, my heartfelt thanks and a hearty Happy New Year go out to each of you who are represented in the stat report because of your continuing support, interest, and encouragement. I am deeply grateful for your presence and comments, and I wish you the greatest of success with your own dreams in 2012!
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Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,700 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 45 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Hi! Well, Saturday I had my big surgery at Sloan-Kettering for endometrial cancer–my third primary cancer in sixteen months. (Nope. No idea why this phenomenon is happening yet, but you can be sure this is going to turn into another book!)

At any rate, the surgery (a modified radical hysterectomy) was performed laproscopically using robots, and I was literally upside down for the entire six hours. My face, needless to say, was sort of swollen afterward, but I’m pretty much back to normal now. The technology and skill they used defies description!

Late this afternoon I’ll be going home already, and then I’ll start preparing for the chemotherapy portion of this journey. Much of my energy will be focused on my writing during that time, so there shouldn’t be any excuses for my not finishing a couple of books by spring.

Just wanted to keep you updated, as promised. More when I’m back in my home base.

All the best to each of you.

Cheri

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Hi! Well, I’ve had one heck of a time getting onto this blog today as I promised I would. First, the wireless connection specifically set up for the conference had some “technical difficulties,” and won’t be live until tomorrow morning (Saturday) at 6 a.m. Then, the room where all the opening sessions were held this afternoon did not get 3G reception–and, of course, I have my new iPad with me, which operates on either 3G or wireless. Finally, there was a “tweet-up” at a club about a block away from the hotel from 7:30-10:00 were I was able to finally get a wireless connection, but for some unknown and highly irritating reason, the iPad wasn’t letting me key in anything except the post’s title (which I ended up publishing just to let you know that I was trying to get to you …)

Otherwise, this has been a great day! For those of you who are long-time followers, you know how significant the first Writer’s Digest Conference was for me in September 2009 (see my blog launch posting on November 4,2009). Consequently, I have been anxiously awaiting this second conference for the last year and a half–and I don’t think I’m going to be disappointed.

Since I couldn’t get online for the first three sessions, I took notes in the iPad Notes sections and will summarize those for you tomorrow. And hopefully I’ll be able to capture the rest of the sessions as they happen, as promised. Meanwhile, the big deal tomorrow afternoon will be the Pitch Slam where 55 agents will be arranged for us to each have three minutes with as many of them as we can squeeze in to pitch our books/manuscripts/ideas. I’m going to pitch Separation of Faith and will report on my immediate reactions and feedback.

Lots of eye-opening stuff has already been presented and discussed, with plenty of time allowed for our questions. (There are about 450 of us in attendance here.) The publishing industry is changing daily and is now ready to entertain just about any version of the Dream we want to pursue. And quality self-published books are now viewed as far more of a valuable commodity than even two years ago. POD (print on demand) is a business tool now being utilized by the remaining twelve major mainstream publishing houses for traditionally published books. And ebooks are the monster eating everything up at the moment. According to Richard Curtis–longtime literary agent and book publisher (he has his own ebook publishing company)–ebook piracy is poisoning the entire ebook business. He looks for government regulation and stiff penalties to start showing up in the near future. That little bit of information was sort of scary.

Logistically, the Sheraton where we’re staying is on the corner of 7th Avenue and 53rd Street in the heart of midtown Manhattan. Unfortunately, the temperature is hovering around 10 degrees without the wind chill factored. Otherwise, I’d be out walking around this amazing city that I love so much.

Well, I’m going to sign off for the night and will keep my fingers crossed that the conference’s wireless connection is up and runnning by morning. I want to make sure you don’t miss anything.

If you’re a Twitter person, you can follow a lot of the dialogue through #wdc11. Talk to you soon.

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Since posting stats to track progress (or the lack thereof) has always been an important part of this blog, I thought I’d share this new report that just arrived from WordPress regarding the first full year of “the Journey.” Sort of interesting, to say the least … and not too bad, although there’s much I hope to improve upon in 2011!

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The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

We think you did great!

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 3,500 times in 2010. That’s about 8 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 78 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 87 posts. There were 71 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 93mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was April 22nd with 97 views. The most popular post that day was About.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were WordPress Dashboard, facebook.com, ewritersrus.com, en.wordpress.com, and mail.live.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for cheri laser, cheri laser blog, laser blog, a journey obscurity to somewhere else, and ‘cheri laser”.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

About November 2009
31 comments

2

About Separation of Faith August 2010

3

Journey from Publishing Obscurity November 2009
38 comments

4

#65–Separation of Faith Officially Launched (for Real This Time)! September 2010
2 comments

5

78–Writer’s Digest Conference Open for Registration! October 2010
6 comments

Some of your most popular posts were written before 2010. Your writing has staying power! Consider writing about those topics again.

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First, I’m Late …

Hi! My apologies for not being around very much over the past few weeks. This blog’s first anniversary was on November 4, and I had planned to publish this post on that day. However, another unexpected medical situation arose in late September and then accelerated through October. Long story short, I was in surgery again on November 3 and wasn’t able to work for the next several days. During that time, things piled up … and, well, here we are. This new medical “thing” is unrelated to the breast cancer, which is going to be fine. But there will be some sort of further “something” required to totally flatten this new one, and I’m supposed to know what that “something” is by the 19th.

Meanwhile, I’m celebrating the first anniversary of this blog in a number of ways. Right off the top, I’ve added a blog roll to the site where I’ve listed the blog/Web site addresses for all of the wonderful acquaintances I’ve made over the last year. Everyone on that list is going after the same dream in one way or another, and re-reading the comments from everyone has been fascinating and heartwarming at the same time. I can’t believe how many lives have intersected with mine over twelve months through this medium, and I’m unbelievably grateful for each one!

Another way that I’m celebrating the blog’s first anniversary is by reflecting on the original mission (established in the November 4, 2009 Blog Launch Posting). There were several goals:

  1. Complete and publish my second novel, Separation of Faith, and that objective was gloriously met in mid September (a little behind the original schedule, but met nonetheless).
  2. Completely re-edit my first novel, The Truth About Cinnamon, and then publish the shiny new Second Edition. We’re about two weeks away from the fulfillment of that objective. All of the edits and reviews are complete, so we’re just waiting for the book to go live everywhere. I’ll let you know the moment that happens.
  3. Share through the blog all of the steps involved to accomplish the first two objectives, including the things that went wrong as well as the things that went smoothly. (And some of those steps where things went wrong turned into full-blown stories themselves, if you have time to check out the posts sequentially.) Throughout the process, the subject of editing and the critical importance of that element emerged as a fourth goal.
  4. Ensure the highest quality possible in terms of both editing and writing, especially for Separation of Faith. After a huge amount of effort and about five additional months that I hadn’t calculated in the plan, that second novel earned the Editor’s Choice designation from my publisher (iUniverse), a level achieved by fewer than 10% of books they publish. The Second Edition of The Truth About Cinnamon wasn’t submitted to as much rigor, but I cut out 20,000 words and tightened things up substantially without changing any of the original story.
  5. Share tips, articles, other bloggers’ posts, and any relevant/interesting information I might come acoss to help fellow writers on the same path. Toward the end of this anniversary post, there will be another list of things to share that I’ve been collecting.

Highlights

As I was reviewing the November 4, 2009 post, several points and passages stood out as being major reasons behind my starting this whole thing in the first place:

  1. I was close to finishing my second novel, but I had no idea which publishing direction I wanted to pursue. Then I attended the first annual Writer’s Digest Conference in September 2009 where the realities of the publishing world today were painted very graphically for us. (All of that is covered in detail in the November 4, 2009 lauch posting.)
  2. In the opening address of the conference, the speaker (Mike Shatzkin) told us that, in today’s publishing environment, our books, no matter how fabulous, are completely irrelevant if we don’t already have a clearly defined platform and a foundational readership/following in place before we ever submit a query letter. In the same address, Shatzkin also let us in on a little secret: The first thing that happens now in the agent’s/editor’s office is that someone (a staffer, most likely) Googles the name of the writer sending the query letter. If nothing shows up that demonstrates some sort of following or platform already in place–one that’s relevant to the author and the book being queried–a rejection letter/postcard is generally sent out immediately, with no further exploration of the writer’s actual writing. WELL … since I was one of those writers who’d been resisting the all-time-consuming entry in the land of social media, the fact that I had a problem was rather obvious–thus the launch of this blog and everything else that’s happened over the last year, all chronicled herein for the perusal of interested parties.

As an aside–and as I mentioned in a posting a couple of weeks ago–the second Writer’s Digest convention is happening in January (21st-23rd). If you’re only going to attend one conference in your life (or if you haven’t been to one in awhile), this is the one. Check out the details at: http://www.writersdigest.com/conferences-events/. If you decide to attend, let me know. I’d love to connect with you while we’re there!

How’s Separation of Faith Doing?

Great, I think (especially since I’ve had two major surgeries in the seven weeks since the novel was released). Amazon rankings go up and down. (I can follow them hourly on my Amazon author site, but that can really drive a person nuts, so I don’t do that anymore.) I won’t know the exact number of books sold for awhile, since all I get at the moment are rankings, and I won’t receive my first royalty statement until the end of this quarter. But the reviews coming in, from both individuals and review sites, are all wonderful. If you haven’t been there yet, I invite you to check those reviews out at http://www.amazon.com/Separation-Faith-Novel-Cheri-Laser/dp/1450232183/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1289665738&sr=1-1.

At first, the hard cover was outselling the paperback, and then that reversed. So far, the best ranking has been 60,963 for the paperback at 2:00 pm on October 31. And to show you how fast the numbers can change, the hard cover had crept up to 1,707,759 on the morning of November 9. But at 3:30 that afternoon when I checked again, the hard cover was at 152,959. I don’t know yet how many books that represented, but the change was stunning (and very exciting).

One of the things I’ve learned in the last seven weeks of promotion is that if I don’t prime the pump every single day through some combination of activities–blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, tag surfing, etc.–absolutely nothing–zip, zero, nada–happens. And since we’re all responsible these days for the promotion of our books, regardless of whether we publish traditionally or otherwise, building that sales record is a huge challenge.

There is supposedly a point–if we’re putting a great story out there that’s meticulously edited, and if we’re promoting that book in some fashion seven days a week–where the momentum will become somewhat self-propelling, at least for awhile. But everything I’ve read and heard from the experts says that a minimum of six to eight months of concerted effort (and probably longer) is required before any sort of buzz can become self-sustaining for any period of time.

So, we march forward! Things like this posting by Glenda Bixler (a reviewer) on Facebook today can be incredibly uplifting when you start thinking that you’re never going to get “there”: http://gabixlerreviews-bookreadersheaven.blogspot.com/2010/11/cheri-lases-latest-is-separation-of.html.

When I look back through all the postings on this blog over the last year, though, I realize that an enormous amount has been accomplished, and I’m very grateful to be where I am (which is a millenium further than I was when I walked into that 2009 Writer’s Digest conference).

Some Information to Share with You

I’ve been accumulating these links for a few months now. Because, in addition to promoting Separation of Faith, bringing out a new edition of The Truth About Cinnamon, and being stuck in a surgical revolving door, I’m also trying to get started on my third novel, I’m drawn more to articles about writing now than I am to those about publishing and promoting, for the moment anyway. And I realized that I’d unknowingly been collecting lists, which I’m putting in numerical order for you, just for fun. Hopefully, one, some, or all of these links will prove useful to you as well:

  1. Five questions to ask yourself before you start revising: http://elanajohnson.blogspot.com/2010/08/questions-to-ask-yourself-before-you.html.
  2. Six personality types who will succeed as writers: http://victoriamixon.com/2010/07/13/6-personality-types-who-will-succeed-as-writers/.
  3. The ten commandments of fiction writing: http://www.writersdigest.com/article/The_10_Commandments_of_Fiction_Writing/.
  4. Janet Fitch’s 10 rules for writers: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2010/07/janet-fitchs-10-rules-for-writers.html.
  5. 11 plot pitfalls and how to rescue your story from them: http://www.writersdigest.com/article/rescue-your-story-from-plot-pitfalls/.
  6. 12 dos and don’ts for making the first page of your novel more compelling: http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/2010/08/act-first-explain-later.html.
  7. Secret emotional triggers for your writing: http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2010/07/18/SecretEmotionalTriggersForYourWritingCapitolCityWritersRecap.aspx.
  8. You can learn as much from writing friends as writing experts: http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2010/08/24/YouCanLearnAsMuchFromWritingFriendsAsWritingExperts.aspx.
  9. How to write the ending of your novel: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2010/08/09/how-to-write-the-ending/.

Then, because the editing of our books is so unbelievably important (poor or inadequate editing will eliminate a book from contests and consideration by agents/editors, and will cause readers to put the book down, just to name a few things that will happen), I’m including a couple of links to articles about editing:

  1. The myth of the evil editor: http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2010/07/myth-of-evil-editor.html.
  2. A 4th of July lesson in the value of editors: http://writingfordigital.com/2010/07/04/a-fourth-of-july-lesson-in-the-value-of-editors/.

And lastly, for those of us intent on pursuing the traditional publishing path through agents and editors, here are two enlightening links:

  1. What writers wish they’d known before pitching: http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2010/07/29/WhatWritersWishTheydKnownBeforePitching.aspx.
  2. How to ensure 75% of agents will request your material:  http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2010/08/16/HowToEnsure75OfAgentsWillRequestYourMaterial.aspx.

Hopefully, you’ll find these tips as interesting and useful as I did/do/will.

In Closing

As I wrap up this first anniversary blog posting, I want to thank everyone I’ve encountered over the last year for the wealth of information and the generosity of spirit I’ve come to know in the writing community. As significant as this year has been, I have great hope that the next year will be even better for each of us. And I’d like to close with the last passage from my November 4, 2009 blog launch posting:

“I believe very strongly that there’s enough room in this dream for all of us, but we need to get our arms around the realities of the publishing world and then take control of our own destinies. Here’s to the journey!”

Have a great weekend. I’ll look forward to talking with you soon.

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URGENT: Update on Separation of Faith/Newly Designed Blog/Etc.

Hi, everybody! Sorry I’ve been a little awol, but I had an unexpected stay in the hospital last week for three days preceded by the infection and fever that had me out of commission for five days prior to being admitted. I’m fine now–just a little bump in the reconstruction process.

Meanwhile, lots of things started happening ahead of schedule and have sort of launched Separation of Faith a smidge prematurely. (But at least you’re all getting to see the cover now … 🙂 …) The social media group at the publisher developed the new blog site, which is supposed to be secondary to my standard “Journey from Publishing Obscurity” site. I’ll be straightening that out on Monday.

Also, since we had to pull the book back briefly (see blog post #57), Separation of Faith is not actually available yet–and consequently, this new blog site should have been held back as well. I’ll also be straightening that out on Monday.

In short, we’re almost there–and I’m deeply grateful for the excitement I saw from several of you once this new site hit the air waves. I do apologize, however, for your need to put the horse back in the gate for just a little while longer. The updated galley for Separation of Faith should be in my hands this coming week, I hope, and assuming all is well, the title should go live again shortly thereafter. I’ll post at least a sentence or two daily to keep you current.

Last November I promised to share everything that happens on this Journey–the good, bad, and the ugly–and this little situation is sort of a real-time issue that I will be unwinding before your very eyes. 🙂

Meanwhile, since there’s lots of information available on this new site now about Separation of Faith, I welcome any comments and input regarding your first impressions, the cover, etc.

Hurray! The Truth About Cinnamon Reduction Edit Is Complete–At Last!

Those of you who’ve been following this Journey will know how monumental these words are: Last night at 10:30 I emailed the edited Cinnamon manuscript along with cover updates to the publisher! Honestly, I was beginning to think that this part of the Plan was never going to be finished. Last week while I was in the hospital, I worked many hours on the edit, simply because there wasn’t much else I could do there while lying there on IV antibiotics. All I can say now is, “Thank God that part is over!” (The edit as well as the antibiotics.)

Once the new version of Cinnamon goes into production, the original version will become a First Edition and will no longer be available on Amazon, etc. Hopefully the Second Edition will become available by the official (the way it’s supposed to happen) launch of Separation of Faith in September.

I will keep you posted. Meanwhile, if you’d like to secure a First Edition copy, you can still do so through Amazon, etc., or directly through the bookstore on my Web site (www.cherilaser.com) where you can also request a customized autograph.

Sorry Again for Any Mixups/Confusion about Separation of Faith

This was one moment in time when dealing with breast cancer and trying to bring out a new book didn’t gel very smoothly. Hopefully, order will be re-established early this coming week.

Thanks so much again for hanging in there and for being excited. You’re going to love the video book trailer, which will be ready very shortly and then linked into everything as soon as the title becomes live again (I will post when that happens).

Here Are a Couple of Interesting Links I Found While in the Hospital. Hope There’s Something of Value/Inspiration for You!

Take Care & Have a Terrific Weekend!

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