Månegutten

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Månegutten bodde i et lavt lite hus i utkanten av en mørk men snill skog. Han hadde et rundt og mykt ansikt, og hår som var enten gull eller sølv, avhengig av om du så ham i sollys eller månelys. Øynene hans var dype og blå, som himmelen en stormfull høstkveld. Den lille månegutten likte å holde mammaen sin våken om nettene. Ikke fordi han var trassig eller slem, men fordi han hadde noe han så gjerne ville vise henne.

Men det var ikke så lett for gutten, for mammaen gjorde alt for at han skulle sove. Hun ga ham et varmt og deilig bad og tok på ham en myke og nyvasket pysj. Hun ga ham honning rørt ut i melk og leste for ham så han drømte at han var ute på morsomme eventyr og møtte alle slags spretne harer og rufsete små ponnier. Ponniene var favoritten hans, for de var modige og sta selv om de av og til ble redde av ingenting, akkurat som ham.

Men noen kvelder, selv etter at mammaen hans hadde badet og matet og lest for ham, greide den lille månegutten å holde seg våken. Og det var da han husket det, det han måtte vise til mammaen sin.

Han kunne høre henne nynne lavt fra kjøkkenet, der hun pleide å sitte og lage store tegninger på kveldene. Han måtte være lur, for selv om hun var våken, så likte hun ikke at han var våken også. Hvis han ikke passet seg, kom hun til å få ham til å sovne igjen, før han rakk å vise henne.

Nei, det nyttet ikke å gå ut på kjøkkenet. Han måtte få henne til å komme etter ham, men først måtte han komme seg langt vekk fra dyna si. Så han krøp ut av sengen og listet seg bort til vinduet. Det sto på gløtt så han kunne lukte det gule og røde løvet, som vinden hadde plukket fra treet og strødd utover plenen. Luften var kald på de runde kinnene, det var kanskje best han tok på seg tøflene sine.

Med tærne lune og trygge skjøv han krakken inntil vinduskarmen og klatret opp. Det var alltid litt skummelt å hoppe ned på bakken, men han måtte være like modig som de sta ponniene, de ga seg ikke selv om de var litt redde. Han landet på knærne, og da han reiste seg hadde bladene klistret seg til pysjen. De var blitt grå i månelyset, men gjorde ikke noe, for ham visste at de kom til å være like fargerike neste morgen.

Han skyndet seg bort til treet. Der fant ham ullpleddet han hadde glemt igjen da mammaen hadde ropt ham inn til middag. Med pleddet over skuldrene som en kappe, marsjerte han opp bakken bak huset. Det var ikke vanskelig å se hvor han gikk, for månen var stor og lys, og du skal ikke se bort ifra at den reflekterte seg i de runde kinnene til gutten.

Trygt oppe på toppen, spredde han pleddet og la seg på ryggen og ventet. Det ble fort kaldt i bare pysjen, spesielt siden knærne hadde blitt våte da han klatret ut vinduet. Men det gjorde ikke noe, for snart kom nok mammaen hans, og da skulle hun få se.

Men mammaen hans hadde det nok veldig gøy, for det gikk lang tid uten at han hørte annet enn bladene som hvisket til hverandre bort fra treet. Tærne hans hadde det neimen ikke like lunt og godt nede i tøflene sine lenger heller, og selv følte han seg ikke spesielt modig. Han skulle nesten ønske han lå trygg og trøtt under dyna si igjen.

Akkurat da tennene hans hadde bestemt seg for å hakke mot hverandre, knirket det i vinduet. Han hadde latt det stå på vidt gap, for selv om mammaer er lure, skjønner de ikke alltid alt, og de kan noen ganger bli litt fort redde, spesielt når sengen til gutten deres er tom sånn helt plutselig. Det visste gutten, så derfor lagde ham små pipelyder da han så det bustete hodet til mammaen sin stikke ut av vinduet. Hun var mer bustete enn noen av ponniene i fortellingene, og minst like modig.

Hun snudde seg mot lyden. Han pep igjen, bare for å være sikker på at hun forsto. Hodet forsvant, men like etter dukket det opp igjen, og en stor mørk kropp klatret møysommelig ut av vinduet. Det var ikke like langt ned for henne, så hun slapp å lande på knærne. Det var nok like greit, for trøtte mammaer likte ikke skitne bukseknær.

Selv om hun ikke hadde et måneansikt som lyste opp veien, fant hun frem til treet og begynte på bakken. Da hun kom frem, satt gutten seg opp, så hun kunne legge pleddet hun hadde med seg over skuldrene hans, før han la seg ned igjen. Han fikk hvile hodet på armen hennes. Hun luktet av tegneblyanter og papir, og nå var det ikke noe kaldt lenger i det hele tatt. Mammaen hans kom akkurat i tide, for nå begynte det.

Snart var hele himmelen full av perlemor og sølvstøv. Han pekte, så hun skulle se hvordan himmelen danset med seg selv. Han var ikke riktig sikker på om det var månen eller mammaen hans, men han hørte en lav melodi som passet inn mellom lyset og fargene.

De lå der til han var helt varm på både knærne og tærne igjen. Og enda litt. De lå der faktisk så lenge at han begynte å drømme at han var tilbake under den varme dyna si igjen. Og rett før han holdt på å våkne syns han at han hørte mammaen sin hviske noe. Hadde han også sett den lille enhjørningponnien? Den med sølvfarget man og månelys pels? Jo, han trodde han hadde det.

Og hvis ikke kunne det hende han så den neste gang. For selv om hun kom til å gi ham steng beskjed om å ikke gå ut sånn igjen, så kunne han jo ikke det. For mammaen hans trengte at han tok henne med ut og viste henne når himmelen danset. Hvem skulle ellers gjøre det?

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Writing with a baby

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Sleeping, for how long?

I knew that babies take a lot of time, and I was unsure of how my writing time would be affected. Babies sleep a lot, don’t they? They do, but it seems to coincide with my most tired periods. That is the thing. It isn’t the time that stops me from writing, it is the lack of concentration and self-discipline, which seems to run on sleep, not coffee.

Don’t get me wrong, I have surprisingly little time to my self. And even though I would like to proclaim that writing trumps showers, naps and my daily walk, it doesn’t. It could, for a week, but I am in this for the long run.

So, how to adapt? We have bought a vacuum cleaner robot, started ordering our groceries online, and hired a help to cleans the house once a month. This frees up a lot of two hour slots, so now I am (mostly) clean, rested and walked. Which puts me in a good-ish position for self-discipline and concentration. Or, put in other words, I’m back in a position where coffee can again work its magic.

However, I still only have one, maybe two, hours of uninterrupted writing time each day. Which means quality over quantity. I also find if useful to have a defined goal. Not a big one, just something to focus my scattered brain on. One that can withstand unplanned disturbances and sudden loss of motivation and concentration. And maybe most importantly, one that can bear to be stay unreached for a time. For I am not going to push through with this project at the expense of either my love for writing or these first months with my son.

I only have one small problem left. I am at risk of spend his sleeping time (my free time) looking at him, rather than do any of my own stuff. I guess parenthood has challenges in store that I haven’t the slightest resilience against.

A new era

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My new writing buddy

I got a new writing buddy. Though I have a feeling he won’t increase my words per week count much. Three weeks without writing says not.

Even though I am up several times each night, watching the dark slowly give way to the brightening morning sky, I can’t say I feel particularly inspired. More hungry as it were.

I guess that the first three weeks as a parent isn’t be quite representative for the coming year as a parent, but I am prepared for a serious reduction in productivity. So far at least, I am critically lacking in both sleep and time.

It is a bit scary, knowing that I will have to reprioritize my time. Writing has to step back. But I will find a way, I just have to be smarter about it.

I regret nothing, now lets see how it goes…

 

The business of writing

Tuva Tovslid (19)

The opposite of business

The writing carrier can sometimes seem just as mythical as Huldra, the pretty girl with a cow tail, but there is actually living evidence of paid writers, and someone has taken the time to gather, analyse and present it. Here are some articles I have found useful. There are links within links on these pages. So if you are looking for some hours immersing in the subject, there you go.

Chuck Wendig, novelist, screenwriter, and game designer, has gathered a lot of business advise for writers in this article: A hot steaming sack of business advice for writers. It isn’t a pep talk, but contains realistic and important advice to be aware of.  I hadn’t read this before I signed my own contract, but I was confronted with several of the same issues that he warns about. Like keeping as many rights as possible and signing with a small press. Still in the middle of it, I still have to wait and see how it plays out.

For nine years, another author, Jim C. Hines, has been doing an annual blog post about his writing income, with the purpose of putting the data out there to help build a more realistic picture of life as a working writer. This year, he went bigger, collecting data from novelists who had at least one book published. There were a total of 386 responses. The survey asked questions about the number of novels published, how they were published (large publisher/small press/self-pub), income and expenses, genre, whether or not they used an agent, which country the novelist was in, and more. And that is just Part 1.

Rachel Aaron is another author who has written a lot about the business side of publishing. Like how to build a writing career, how to promote your books most efficiently, marketing, career planning and so on. Her archive on posts on business is extensive. 

In Norway we have several writer associations. One of them are Forfattersentrum. They have an overview of what their members should get paid for literary jobs like readings, lectures, writing courses etc. They even have minimum rates for extended travels and much more. This list is available to non-members as well, and is very useful to avoid selling your work short. A full overview (in Norwegian), can be found on this page.

The Norwegian writer association have a standard contract that they propose as a basis for authors. My own contract was mainly build on this one, with some deviations from the standard royalties and some specifics on marketing. It is worth knowing about if you are to publish a book in Norway.

I find it very inspiring to read about the practicalities around writing. It just makes it seem possible. And it goes to show that there are other ways to go about a career in writing, than to be discovered as a genius with your debut book.

There is of course a lot more out there, and if you know of some great posts or articles, please leave a link in the comments.

Paid writing job

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Hidden clue

I have had my first paid writing job. That is a noteworthy milestone. It wasn’t a big deal for anyone but me, but it was so much fun. The assignment was to write a detective story for children, with a manuscript for a guide, hidden clues for the children and location descriptions. It was to be held as a detective walk where the children followed a story and clues through the park at a local outdoor museum.

The detective walk has been held twice already, and will be held twice more. I had to go to the museum last weekend and observe the group of small detectives, with hats and magnifying glasses, trotting through the park looking for clues. The parents might have found it weird that the same woman was sitting on a bench close by every time they turned around, but how could I not?

 

Different kinds of critique

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In the beginning, when I started showing my writing to others, I was just grateful that anyone would take the time to read and comment it. A part of me still is. Reading to give feedback takes a lot of time, though I suspect that several of us actually like the opportunity to tell others how to do things better. A lot of us, probably.

After three and a half year of working on my writing I have noticed a huge difference in how I respond to different kind of feedback. Specifically negative feedback.

I would expect to hate negative feedback, but a lot of it makes me happy, honestly. One criteria is that is has to be constructive. If you make it sound purely like personal preference, I will most likely disagree with you out of self-defence.

I love critique that makes me see a pattern in my own writing that can be improved, something that does not only make the text better, but me as a writer, better. That got to be my favourite kind of critique.

I also like feedback on stupid mistakes. I am so relieved for the opportunity to remove them. If you take the chance to point out that I am stupid at the same time though, it makes it difficult to not throw the whole comment away. And this is where the difference lies.

Good feedback for me is objective. Personally loaded comments, on the other hand, makes me unapologetically defensive.

I also find that I get in a critical mood myself, when receiving feedback, so if you write with a lot of spelling errors, or make sentences that are hard to decipher, I get frustrated and irritated.

That being said, I love my most critical readers. Some weeks ago, my sister called me out of the blue, to give me some feedback on my latest short story, just because she knows that I like it. I were impressed with how many things she pointed at, things that I myself only had a vague unsatisfied feeling about.

I wouldn’t have had half as much progress without my readers taking time to give me feedback. Thank you!

 

 

Cover and rewrites

Tuva Tovslid (18)

Rewrites 

Ninth version done! Today I am finally done with rewriting based on my editors feedback. It’s been a challenge to constantly considering whether each sentence is good enough, or if I am just not experienced enough to know it isn’t. Not good for my self-esteem. The manuscript is better for it though, I am certain. And having to look at my weak points for two months have to have taught me something. Let’s hope so.

In addition to editing, I have gotten the first drafts for the cover. I guess there is a reason there is a profession called designer. There is so many possibilities and so much potential, both for genius and for fuck ups.

One have to considered pictures and contrast, colours and fonts, details and target group. Preferably without giving to much weight to personal preferences. Luckily I have a friend to discuss this with, she had some great feedback on font, font families, colours and motive.

I think we landed on something both the publisher and I like, and I look forward to seeing the final version closer to the publishing date.

For now I’ll just enjoy not having any obligatory writing to do, maybe write a short story again, and await the editors verdict.

 

 

Manuscript progress

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Revisions

It has been about a month since I got the first round of feedback from my editor. I have been revising as much as I can since then. It is good to finally start working on it again.

The feedback mostly focused on sentence level descriptions. I expected us to start with an overall view on characters and plot, but that seems to be saved for our next full revision. I am anxious to hear her thoughts on the dramaturgy and how much work it needs. Large changes are hard work.

I haven’t looked at this manuscript for a year, and I find a lot of stuff to improve. That has to mean that I have developed some, doesn’t it? Don’t answer that, I’ll just go for yes. I need to feel that I am getting better, for it is hard on my confidence to scrutinise my work, searching for mistakes and tings to improve.

I have 1/5 of my manuscript left to correct by hand, and then I need to type all the changes into my computer. Hopefully I’ll send it back to my editor before May… Goals makes me feel like I try my best. I mean, I can blog as long as I have set a goal, right?

Contract with a publisher

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The contract

Three weeks ago I was contacted by the publisher currently holding my manuscript. They were interested in publishing it. However, them being a small publishing house, I had to either partly pay for it myself or agree to pre-sell 150 copies.

My initial decision was to decline. I didn’t have money to pay for it myself, and selling 150 copies sounded hard. But I couldn’t put it out of my head either.

I called some friends for advice. One of them is a writer like me, and she seemed to think the same as me: all or nothing.  My resolve to decline grew stronger. But I knew that I needed some outside opinions as well.

I called my second friend, who has experience with start-ups and entrepreneurship. Her take on it was very different. She compared the money/work to other start-ups, and reminded me that I would have to do a lot of self-promotion either way, so maybe pre-selling books wasn’t that different form work I had to do. It wasn’t very romantic, but it got me to reconsider.

Last, I called my little sister. She decided that she wanted to be a world class runner (800m) early in her twenties, quit her studies and went all inn. Now she is(!). We talked about having to carry the risk yourself in the beginning and she reminded me that you have to believe in your own potential before others will.

So we were two writers hoping to be recognised and helped into a writer-career (at least I was). And then we were two non-writers with real life experience and knowledge on making it in other fields.

Of the four of us, I am probably the one with the least real-life experience in risk-taking and entrepreneurship. I wanted the easy offer, the all expenses paid and royalties in advance-deal. I didn’t actually care about the money (realistically there wouldn’t be much of that as a debutante in Norway anyway). I did however want the experience that comes from working with a editor and publishing my own book.

I even asked my psychologist (whom I talk to partly because I am not comfortable with potential failure). She heard me out and then asked: “What is the big deal?” And she was right. I already knew the worst case scenario (having to buy the left over of the 150 myself). I did want to do it, I could afford the risk, and I sure as hell would regret not taking the chance to work with an editor.

I finally managed to make a decision. I asked the publishers for the contract.

Deciding to get published wasn’t a singular moment of bliss. It took some risk evaluations, contract negotiations, and a little reassessment of my pride. But I did it. I signed the contract.

As long as the collaboration works as we hope I will publish my first book in a year/year and a half),. Hopefully, I will look back on my decision, either happy to have taken the risk or at least proud to have tried.

Wish me luck 🙂

Choosing a publisher

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A safe harbor

In Norway most writers send their manuscripts directly to a publisher, waits 6-12 weeks for a reply, and if the reply is negative, sends it out again to the next on the list. This has been my strategy as well.

A lot of the publishing houses have a profile and focus that does not fit with my manuscript. Some of the houses would be a good fit but publish only a few books a year. Other again publish a broader specter of genres. Some seem to publish only imported books that have done great in other countries. Others publish some great, some good and some not so good books.

I have sent my manuscript to publishing houses that fit all of the above. But not without asking myself what is smart. Should I try to get published no matter what? Should I be really picky?

There seems to be valid arguments for both. A lot of established writers admit that they are happy no one was willing to publish their first work. Other say that you have to believe that others will enjoy reading what you enjoyed writing, to never give up, to take the chance.

I think it is important to feel comfortable with your own work. It will never be perfect. But if you are comfortable with others seeing it, maybe even take some joy out of it, why not give it a try? If you publish a semi-good book now, chances are that very few will notice either way. If you get experience that allows you to write a better book next time, it might be worth it.

There are several ways to fail, I may publish my book too early, or publish the wrong book, or choose the wrong publishing house. But I am not sure I am willing to risk never getting published because I am too afraid of regretting it later.