Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My Process is to FREAK OUT

Oh yeah, I forgot that about myself.

Here's a picture from college (1996) that speaks volumes: 
Portrait: Personal Space

I don't have personal space unless I'm in a really bad mood. This photo captures just such a moment, believe me. It was early in the fall semester and I was not pleased with my "Mythopoetics: Process and Place" project. Whenever I see this picture, I remember the anger, the frustration, and the despair. It permeated from my pores so badly, no one wanted to sit near me! I also remember the words spoken to me by my professor.  

"You always do this, Ellen." 

I had just slumped into the chair beside her desk, tears in my eyes, and wailed, "My project isn't working!" 

Her blunt response snapped me out of my whining. Obviously, I'd taken several classes with her and she knew me well. She went on to say I needed to let the process happen. 

Basically, I get so overly anxious about doing a great project that I make it impossible to work. It's been so long since I had to turn anything in to be "graded," I forgot about this problem.*

Well, it showed up last week, smacked me down, and said, "Thought you outgrew me, huh? Well, guess what? Nuh uh!" 

I'm in that momentous period immediately before book release. When you're an indie going e-pub with your first book, it can be daunting--like being in the maze with the Minotaur. Peers are your mentors (string).  Plunging in head first is your journey to experience. You are in charge of everything--be it delegating or doing it yourself.

So let's examine a classic bump in the road for a control freak (aka DIY-er). Here is the unvarnished me in 2013, freaking out diary style:

I'm supposedly in the final countdown of a very long-term project.

Unfortunately (and supposedly, fortunately), issues with my cover were recognized just before the deadline. Starting over from scratch this weekend, I achieved nothing more than a complete and utter breakdown. I know instinctively what my cover needs to be. Shockingly, as a mere author, I don't have the training to make it so. I can't seem to communicate what it needs to be, either. And when I try, I'm told I'm wrong.

Who wants to have a baby only to let someone else name it, essentially identifying something that they don't know innately, deeply, completely? Unlike a child, I do know every nuance of my book. I know it intimately. No one can know my book better than I do. One blog site chastises me for this stance, but I'm not using more than one image for my cover! I have enough sense not to do a collage of images. I'm using a setting that is a character as well as where everything happens!

So it hurts to think that in order to make a deadline I should accept anything, even a chick-lit cover that misses the point by a mile. Maybe I should allow someone who knows gradient and graphic coloration to decide what most essentially sums up my story. Sounds delightful. Expert, shmetz-bert. Have you seen some of the cover art out there?????

My fearless husband navigated this sudden storm of fear and sent me some images. I was much too upset to even consider new ideas so I waited a few hours. I had to calm the frack down. When I opened his link, it lead to an idea. An idea! Inspiration was found.

I searched for more images, slightly more specific, and we agreed to brainstorm after our day jobs. We sat down with sketch pad and pencil at our kitchen table and I doodled my new thoughts. We did a little mind-mapping (animator term for brain storming) on the term "Midwest" and also on my novel as an entity. No single image conveyed both. In fact, a single image for Midwest was really difficult to capture.

We went to the computer and he started building our ideas in Maya software. I could already tell it was too complex for the time we had left until the launch. The anxiety wanted to crawl up my throat and scream, but I kept it in its cage by searching for all the covers of "High Fidelity" by Nick Hornby.

There are many, many, MANY versions of this cover.

Suddenly, one spoke to me. I grabbed my sketch pad and did a crude drawing. My husband agreed with me but narrowed the focus of the image. We worked up a first draft in Illustrator and it was so different from where we started, it was unrecognizable. But we'd achieved the majors for e-book cover design:

1. Easy to see at thumbnail size
2. Looks great in grayscale
3. My name and title are large and clear (no funny fonts)
4. It conveys a women's fiction story that's more serious than chick-lit but still inviting to chick-lit readers

I love its simplicity and how it's all about the main character.

So yeah, I had a tantrum. Yeah, I was an auth-zilla. But I met the minotaur. And you, dear reader, can feel confident that a path exists through the publishing maze. 

Next post - Evolution of a Cover.

* For some reason sending out my manuscript, while stressful, was never as terrifying as doing a good cover.