The blog of author Harper Alexander

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The ‘Book a Month’ Project

As I sit here trying to figure out precisely what I would like the main focus of this ‘writer’s blog’ to center around, the obvious occurs to me: I have recently undertaken the challenge/project of writing a book a month.  I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out if I want to think of this (and if I want other people to think of this) as a writer’s blog, a reader’s blog, a self-publishing blog, or a general literary blog.  I like (and have things to say and share) in all of these categories, but it’s nice to have a constant.  Something everything else accumulates around.

I started thinking about other blogs – how people like to follow other people’s unique journeys of one sort or another, how the most successful blogs seem to be those where someone undertakes some interesting or never-before-seen challenge.  And I realized, quite un-eloquently: duh.  I turned to my mother, sitting in the next room just waiting to be a consultant (read: a source of affirmation) and promptly informed her of the ditz she had birthed for not identifying, amid the search for blog-worthy content, the potential of the fact that I have in fact just undertaken the unique, arduous task of writing a book a month.  “I mean, be honest,” I said, “How many people do you know who are writing a book a month?”

And, being the source of affirmation I have come to count on, she confirmed it: “Wellll – no one, I guess.”  And there you have it.  My unique undertaking to add to the subscription pool.

Here’s how it works.  Basically, as stated, I write a book a month.  Thus far it has only been going on for two whole months, but – so far, so good.  I was inspired to try this following a rather life-changing loss of a source of stability I had been counting on for my future, wherein I found myself asking: what am I going to do?  With myself, my life, my career…  As any aspiring writer can attest to, an aspiring writer does not typically pay the bills with their aspirations.  While it is our dream to turn our passion into a career, it is a hard, hard market to get a good break in, and even if you have what it takes, it is often painstaking.  You have to do something else along the way.

And that’s exactly what I had been doing.  ‘Doing something else’ while I kind of wrote on the side.  Compared to most people, even many writers I know, I wrote a lot, but it was still at more of a ‘hobby’ level as far as time and attention went, because frankly other things were paying the bills.  And there were advantages to only spending so much time and attention on writing.  It meant that whenever I did write, I was totally eager to, and there was all this pent-up creativity just waiting to be unleashed onto that paper.

But I started thinking to myself: what if I actually put as much time, attention, and effort into this as I would academic assignments or work?  What if I actually treated it like a job, and set goals and deadlines for myself?

I knew that such a clause had the potential to kill creativity and see me quickly burnt out, but the idea intrigued me.  It certainly couldn’t hurt to try, and I was interested to find out if I could actually do it, and what kind of results it would produce.  So I decided to go ahead with it.  If it totally killed my creativity, I would cut back and loosen my expectations, but in the meantime I would surely at least make some decent progress.

Well that was two months ago, now, and the trial has been thus far successful.  I decided to set a quota for myself of 1,700 words a day, which by the end of a given month amounts to a nice, round, book-length 50,000.  Sometimes I write less than 1,700, and sometimes I write way more, and sometimes the book ends up being 60-, 70-, or 80-thousand words, but so long as I reach at least 50,000, I’m perfectly happy to let it be whatever beyond that it aspires to be.

Surprisingly, it’s quite easy to just sit down and write 1,700 words a day.  Except where other engagements are concerned, that number is not an overwhelming amount of words for a writer.  Who knew discipline was all it took?

There are definitely times where it feels as though I’m burning out creative reserves, or where I feel the pressure of plotting and developing things on a schedule.  There are many times I start second-guessing my work, thinking ‘What if I’m pushing it?  What if this is junk?  What if I’m ruining one of my babies or stifling its potential by pushing it through?’  But then I remind myself it’s a first draft, nothing is set in stone, and in the end, when it’s time to edit – if I like it, I keep it; if I don’t, I fix it.  And it all comes together, and no world (mine, or that of the book) falls to pieces.

And, as there’s no high like finishing a book, the gratification is proving enough to spur me on to the next project.  Hopefully, blogging about it will only boost its energy.  There’s nothing like having a sounding board, and a group of followers to be accountable to, to keep something alive and kicking.  And if this project serves to inspire someone else along the way – I will be all the more glad I chose to blog about it!

I would love it if you joined me on this journey.  It is always a pleasure to hear from readers and other writers – and of course, as a writer, it is always the best kind of reward and fulfillment just to have readers.  I will keep you all up-to-date on book progress and ideas, and hopefully we’ll all have some other literary fun along the way!  There’s lots of fun stuff in the literary world to share and discuss these days.

Let the official kick-off of the Book-a-Month project commence!


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You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover

You can’t judge a book by its cover.

While this is wildly true, I have to admit that my reading experience is, in fact, affected by the cover.  This may be my own psychological glitch kind of thing (I would love to know if anyone else finds the same thing), but regardless; if I don’t like the cover, my reading experience suffers.

This may be shallow-minded of me, and may in fact completely wreck my credibility as a true reader/writer.  I feel as though others would be quick to insist that any true reader/writer can appreciate the soul of a book – that it’s all about the essence of the story and dragging the cover into it suggests maybe I’m more fitted to being one of those readers who buys books to put them on the shelf.

But there’s just something about the cover that sticks with me as part of the essence of the book.  It’s not as though it’s a face that someone couldn’t help being born with.  It’s not as though it’s a face that shouldn’t have anything to do with the inner beauty of the thing.  A book was not born with its cover.  The cover is supposed to reflect what’s inside the book.  It’s supposed to be created to draw people in to what’s in that book.  It’s supposed to do as much justice to the book as it can.

I’m the kind of person that loves to run her hands over the cover of a favorite book.  The cover is a cherished part of it, to me.  And if it’s not good – well, I’m not going to want to do that.

The cover does feel like part of the soul of the book to me.  When I read a book, the impression of the cover sticks with me even while my nose is stuck between the pages.  When I think about the book – what comes to mind?  The cover.  When I tell someone about it, what comes to mind?  The cover.  Whether it’s a good book or a bad book, the imprint created for reference in my mind is the cover.  What else are you going to picture when you reference a book?  The white pages?  The black ink?  Perhaps the font?  Maybe the way you pictured the character, or perhaps a place vividly described in the story.  But the fact remains (at least for me) that the cover is one of those things that comes to mind first.

My point being: I am here to confess that the cover of a book not only affects my reading experience, but influences whether or not I even read or buy a book.  It can have a stellar title, and the most gripping blurb on the back flap I’ve ever read – but if that cover doesn’t do it for me, I’m likely to put it back on the shelf and never even give it a chance.  Just because I know that cover will taint my impression.

This seems like a crime shame.  How many good stories am I missing out on?  But for me, at least, it can’t be helped.  Fortunately they seem to change book covers like clothes, these days, to reach a more diverse audience, and so there’s hope for some of these overlooked lovelies to be redeemed.

Am I the only book-lover who feels this way?  Is the only possible explanation that I am not, in fact, a ‘true’ book-lover, or that something traumatic must have happened to me in my childhood to leave me with such a bitter associative outlook?  Please tell me I’m not the only one!