To My Writing Followers

self pub

This is an exceptional resource for self-publishing authors. The internet is overloaded with information about self-publishing. As a first time author, it’s difficult to know where to turn to figure out this once “secretive” business of publishing. Joel and Betty’s book, The Self Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide, is exactly what its title proclaims it to be. You will find hundreds of options to assist you from concept all the way to self-published book. The resources are listed as you would need them in the creation process, beginning with developing and editing your manuscript and concluding with promotion of your finished novel. Each resource includes a brief description of the types of manuscripts they have experience with or their area of expertise, thus making it easier to find what you are looking for as an author.

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Why Write?

I am Writing

Ever writer has a different reason for writing, and each work in progress (WIP) has its own unique spin on the ultimate reason for writing. If you don’t know why you write, you will lose your motivation and your WIP will languish in a closet and never be finished. One reason is not better than another, what matters is that it’s big enough. It must be unwavering in its determination and passion.

There are a million reasons to write. It’s fun and interesting, and you’re always learning. You get to be in control of what happens and write the story you have always wanted to read. It’s an provides a legitimate reason to travel to exotic places. It pays the bills. It brings notoriety and possibly fame. You want to entertain others or provide them with experiences they may never be able to enjoy otherwise. It may be a combination of all of a few of these or something entirely different.

Each individual WIP takes your ultimate driving motivation to write and slices it like a piece of pie. The more you write the close you get to having served the whole pie.

Whatever it is, staying focused on the one piece while you are creating your WIP is essential to writing tight prose through the first draft and killing your darlings during editing. It acts as your guide, when your characters want to go off on a tangent or when you think that providing a bunch of backstory is “absolutely necessary” despite not being able to work it in and maintain forward momentum in the plotline.

I write ultimately for hope, to never give up no matter how tough things get. It’s the theme of my life you could say because it bleeds out, not just in my writing, but in every aspect of my life: my day job, parenting, hobbies, and friendships. That’s how I know it’s the correct theme and motivation for my writing. It couldn’t be anything else. It’s big enough.

Each of my novels has an overall theme of hope and then I slice that into a specific challenge for the protagonist to address such as trust, which creates their character arc along with minor characters arcs or personalities to flesh out the slice and force the protagonist to change either negatively or positively. The antagonist can have the opposing arc to the protagonist or just be the central force pushing against the protagonist. The plot drives it all forward creating internal and external conflict.

To find your why, look over your life and see if there is an overriding theme that drives you in your other roles it may be just the thing your WIP needs to get to the last page.

Cover Creations

digital media

Wow! I have a new level respect for cover designers. Seriously, I have been trying to learn to use Adobe Photoshop to create covers for my books and it is not as easy as I thought it would be to pick up. I understand the ideas behind it, but trying to remember where everything is, what it does, and learn new tricks is hard.

I have to say I have developed a new perspective on pictures and seeing the world in general. I see it in layers! To create a cover, or manipulate a picture you layer pictures on top of one another. When I went for my run this morning, the scenery around me went through my mind as possibly backgrounds, foregrounds and in pieces with other central objects as the focus.

I’m excited to be learning Photoshop, but it is a time suck right now. Eventually, I will be faster and be able to modify pictures and create covers more quickly (I hope). I have searched the local high schools for a community education class on Photoshop, but all they have is digital photography, which would probably help, but it’s not what I’m looking for.

Jazz, my 17 year old, took Digital photograph last year. When he saw me struggling with Photoshop, he clicked a bunch of things and made it do, in a few minutes, what I had been trying to get it to do for an hour. He is sweet and willing to help me, but he has his life too and can’t spend hours teaching his lame mom how to use a computer program.

I’ll continue my search for a class because I learn well in that type of environment especially if I doing it while they are. Until then, I will watch Youtube videos on Photoshop on my phone and mess with it on my computer at the same time.

I’ve gone through a few of the Youtuber’s who have created Photoshop video’s for beginners and here are the ones I recommend for anyone who knows absolutely nothing about Photoshop (like me). Learning is enhanced if you can watch and do it at the same time.

This is Kingtuts Pro https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZlXagXwcn4&app=desktop

This is Andrei Oprinca https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL236FDF187D1CEB85

There is Baka Arts for more advanced things. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjKIPQOlTASJrIWQ9H-i5mA

To be a successful independent author, you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and learn new things, and face truths about yourself that you wish you could hide.

 

Connection is Essential

digital media

We all seek a connection with others. Without it we stagnate and go through life performing the same actions without meaning. Connection is what makes everything we do worth doing. The digital age is here and it has changed the way people connect to one another.

In some ways, this has been positive, and in some ways, this change has been negative. We start relationships, friendships and intimate relationships, through the internet more often than we do by face-to-face contact. My 13-year-old son has more on line friends than he does friends at school.

The negative side of this, is that he lacks some of the basic skills of interacting with people in person. You can tell he is uncomfortable in a group of people. He has a hard time talking on the telephone because he is use to bite size pieces of information through texting. Despite my efforts to get him to interact with others more frequently, the problem persists because he is resistant to stepping outside of his comfort zone.

The positive side of this digital communication is that we can reach just about anyone around the world. Anyone can find and build connections with their tribe of people because they are just a click away. If you live in a small town and no one there quiet understands you, you can still find others who do. Digital communication makes it easier for people to be authentic because the fear of rejection is buffered by your computer screen.

Nothing can replace real face-to-face interaction and connection with others. The more you can be out there connecting with people on an individual level the easier it is to market and sell your books. But you also have to be able to engage with others on a more personal level using digital media as well because that is where your audience is.

If you create an individual connection with your readers, promotion and marketing become easier. You don’t have to be as aggressive. Your readers want to know more about you because of the connection. They care about what you have to say because you care about them.

 

Failure is an event not a personality trait

failure1

We have to be willing to risk failure to truly live and give back to the world. If there was no risk of failure involved, then there was no challenge to begin with.

Everything I do, I do with all the fervor and passion I can muster. I give it all that I have, yes sometimes that means it comes out all wrong especially when I am first learning to do something. In fact, the worse it comes out, the better because then I’m able to see how much I improve along the way. Of course, I don’t think this at the time. Usually I tell myself how I will never learn it, there is too much to know, I don’t have time to learn it all. Eventually, I stop freaking out and apply myself.

“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly” G.K. Chesterton.

What does this mean? Why would we want to do something badly? we don’t really want to do things badly that’s not what Chesterton was trying to convey. It’s more like what I was saying above. If we do something badly, but we have put in our best effort, we are going to learn and improve. Failure is an excellent teacher.

When we fail at something, we beat ourselves up for hours and sometimes days. We make it into some huge self-defining moment and not in a good way.

Failure should never be used in reference to a person or a piece of art in any of its many forms. A failure is an event in a specific moment in time. What may be seen as a failure now could be a huge success in two weeks.

If we write a novel and it never sells to anyone but our parents, we just have to keep writing. We have to work hard to get better and produce better stories. Stories that touch the heart of readers. Not everyone is going to like what we produce, and that’s fine because we don’t write for everyone. We write for those who share our passion.

If you write trying to please everyone, you will fail because you are not going to say anything worth saying. You will shy away from anything that may offend the left side of society or the right. Writing isn’t about walking down the middle. It’s about jumping over the edge to reach the rest of the outcasts, your tribe.

cliff jumping

 

 

The Catcher in the Rye and Coffee

pile of books

As I drove to Barnes and Noble, I knew I had to have a plan and I went in with determination and a plan. I was getting a copy of Catcher in the Rye, a coffee, and leaving. No browsing, no other books.

I needed a classic book written in first person for ideas on sentence structure for the memoir I am working on along with the two others I have in progress.

The scent of books and coffee assailed me as I passed through the doors. I could easily spend hours here, drinking in coffee and words. But I have my plan Catcher in the Rye and coffee. Focus.

I stopped at the biographies, looking at covers, font choices, and title length. Before I knew it, I was flipping books over to read the back and perusing snippets from chapters. I totted a couple books around to the next shelf and noticed a book, I knew was at home yet to be read. Hmmmm.

Focus, damn it, Catcher in the Rye and coffee!

I hung my head in shame and placed the two books back on the shelf, caressing the cover and whispering next time and a long sigh escaped my lips.

I took the long way around the store to the fiction and literature section. Dangerous I know. I ran my fingers over some covers, stopped at the new release table, and flipped to the back cover to read a bit. Nothing really sang to my soul, so I gently placed them back with their brothers and sisters. I breathed in the aroma of the coffee and glanced at all the free souls sitting at tables sipping and turning pages.

I found Catcher in the Rye and was heading toward the coffee counter, but to get there I had to go through the fantasy and sci-fi section. Like a drug addict, I had to walk the isles. I smiled at the new book covers on Terry Brooks, Sword of Shannara. I loved those books. I looked over the new books in the Dragonlance Sagas.

Books appeared in my hand and I was obligated to read their covers and flip through sampling their words. Reluctantly, I returned them to the shelf and committed their titles to memory for further exploration later. The cover art on fantasy novels usual depicts the protagonist in an epic battle against some beast or the antagonist. Some of them are taking a more cartoonish or animated look, which I don’t especially like. George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series does not do this. The cover is very simple the hilt of a sword, a crown, or a goblet. It is not flashy but catches your eye because it is different among the color of the other covers.

I look down, more books are in my hand. How did that happen? Hmmm. The pile of books to be read in my bedroom is rather higher than I would like, if you add in the ones on my kindle, it really is a sad state of affairs, which I must address before purchasing more.

I get in line for coffee and continue my mantra Catcher in the Rye and Coffee. As I left the bookstore, there was an emptiness inside. Maybe I should find a book anonymous support group…

Hook your Readers

hook

Five to ten pages, that’s it. If you don’t hook them into your story within that time, most readers will put the book down. In order to hook a reader, you have to grip them emotionally with action and a specific character.

Throw them into the middle of some action. It doesn’t have to be something intense, but intriguing. It needs to get them to ask a question, such as what is going to happen next? It is better if it is more specific, which is why you use a character in action. Opening with a character gives them someone to connect to, someone’s eyes to see through.

Keep your prose tight and description light. You don’t want them to get lost in your big fancy words or trying to create a very detailed picture in their head. Readers are going to connect with a character more easily than multi layered description of the weather and setting. Don’t completely eliminate description, but don’t overdo it.

Many writers want to open with explanation of who a character is and what is going on in the story, but readers will wait for explanation. It is better to start by throwing them into the mix of the story and attaching them to a person/character.

Here are some articles to help with hooking readers with strong opening lines:

Avoid boring opening lines

The all important human element

Hook your readers

 

Here’s the opening to my memoir, Fighting for a Chance to Dream. What do you think?

This house is a cage. “I’ve got to get out of here,” I whisper to my reflection in the mirror. A thin eyeliner pencil glides around my hazel eyes in an Egyptian fashion. The walls push in around me. The pencil follows the smooth curve of my lips like smoldering coals surrounding a fire.

I push aside my lace dress, skull leggings, and long skirts. The hangers screech across the metal bar. Black velvet leggings slide off the hanger. Pulling them on, I decide on my burgundy velvet blazer. I untuck the ruffles of my antique white shirt and slide my feet into my combat boots, lace them up, tie them, and tuck the laces.

My fingers close around the strap of my velvet gothbox, which is like a purse. Flicking my bedroom light off, I step into the dark hallway and wait for a few seconds listening to my mother’s light snoring across the hall. The dog’s tags clink, as she raises her head. The moonlight catches in her golden eyes. We stare at each other across the empty expanse.

Thanks for your thoughts in advance!

 

When is your WIP ready for publishing?

I am Writing

Let’s admit it, you could change your work in progress (WIP) endlessly. Sentences can be rewritten in a bunch of different ways. You can spend days choosing the perfect word to describe one moment. Paragraphs and scenes can be reordered, added, deleted, and amped up on crack.

So how do you know when your book is ready to publish either traditionally or independently? You look at your WIP and you know it is the best you can make it. There is no little voice in your head saying, “You know you should look at your dialog and spruce it up a bit,” or saying “You should rethink X, Y, and Z.”

There are always changes that can be made, there are in the best works, but the little voice in your head, your inner editor, does go quiet with satisfaction eventually. If an editor has reviewed your book and your inner editor is quiet, it’s time to publish and stop fiddling and tweaking.

I have going over my memoir, Fighting for a Chance to Dream, again. I am focusing on POV and targeting sense words (smell, taste, hear, saw, touched). I am also watching sentences that begin with “I.” Fighting for a Chance to Dream is written in first person present tense, so I am careful to vary the sentences, so they don’t all start with I did this or I did that, which gets very annoying and boring.

When editing, it’s important to pick one or two things to focus on as you go through the manuscript. If you don’t, the task becomes overwhelming. After completing a first draft, the first round of editing focuses on major structure and story development. I read the manuscript start to finish (I print it out because it’s easier to keep notes) and make notes in the margins about those two things.

The second round of edits focuses on each scene making sure there is a goal, conflict, and disaster and in the sequels making sure there is a reaction, dilemma, and a decision.

The third round of edits focuses on Motivation Reaction Units making sure at all levels (scene, paragraph, and sentence) I have set the MRU up like a row of dominos.

The fourth round looks at character arc and development of the main and minor characters. Characters need to change and grow throughout the story not just at the climax. Changes and realizations need to be initiated by something with enough weight to actually make the change in a person. A change to a person’s beliefs and values is a process not an instant reaction.

The fifth round focuses on POV and senses making sure that I’m showing where I should be and summarizing/telling when I should be.

Once I’ve finished all of these, I send it out to beta readers asking if there are any holes in the story or major questions that go unanswered. I ask them to mark parts that are boring or confusing. I usually take the manuscript to an office supply story and have it spiral bound, so my reader can go through it like a book.

I make more changes based off what my beta readers suggest. I try to take an objective stance when I get feedback from others about my writing although it can be r hard to hear. Sometimes it is best to just listen, keep notes, and allow yourself a day or two to mull it over. I have found that their suggestions are worth listening to and much of the time taking even if it means killing parts of the manuscript that I love. I just save them in a separate file that way my darlings are never dead.

Tri-Writing

A triathlon is composed of three parts: the swim, the bike, and the run. As a triathlete, you have to train in all three of these areas to prepare for the goal, a specific race. Most people have their strong areas and their weaker ones.

Writing can be broken down into three parts as well: the first draft, the editing, and the publishing. As a writer, you have to learn about each of these areas to prepare your novel. A novel is similar to a specific race. It is the goal of all your prior work and training.

The swim is like the first draft. Most of what you do stays below the surface, your body rotation, kicking, and most of your arm stroke. In writing, most of the work a writer puts into the first draft remains unseen by others. In fact, you probably want your first draft to remain unseen by others. Research, backstory, character profiles, it all remains below the surface of the novel. In swimming, technique is essential. Understanding structure is critical in completing a first draft. It’s your road map to the finish.

The bike is like editing and revising process. The bike is the longest portion of the triathlon. Revising and editing take a long time. You have to let your manuscript rest for at least a few weeks before editing and sometimes for months.  Riding a bike for hours can cause various body parts to become numb and editing can cause mind numbing. Riding the bike and editing are both a pain in the butt. The only way to get through either, the bike section or editing, well is to spend a lot of time in the saddle.

The run is like the publishing process. In a triathlon, you make or break it on the run. It’s the final stretch before the finish line. You can’t give up and just relax, you have to continue to push forward even though you are tired and your mind is screaming to stop. Once you get to the publishing stage of writing, you want to just hand your manuscript over to others to finish it: formatting, cover design, and distribution. But you can’t you have to remain invested and oversee these aspects too and push through by promoting your novel.

For both of these life-changing events, you must be constantly training, learning, and improving. It takes months and sometimes years to reach your goal whether it is a specific race like the Ironman or seeing your novel in print. Dream big. Fight for your dreams. Never give up.

Three keys to keep the creative flowing

keys

There are three keys to keep the creativity flowing, the boys in the basement active, and the muse at the quill. First is to read, read, and read. Second is to learn as much as you can. Third is to write even when it sucks.

Reading in the genre that you write in is important. You learn new tricks of the genre. You keep up on what is trending. You understand the themes and structure of the genre. It is also important to read outside of your writing genre. By reading outside your genre it flexes your creative muscle. New ideas pop into your mind because it combines with the ideas you already have going. It adds a special twist in your novel. I’m not suggesting you combine genres, but you could. What I’m saying is that different genres do certain things better than others and you can learn to be better by reading outside the lines.

Continue to learn about structure, characters, dialogue, and every other area of writing. Strive to improve over your career as a writer. I have found that I need to keep a notebook near at hand when reading about the ins and outs of writing. Ideas for new stories and current ones spring into my mind as I discover new ways to look at things whether it is scenes or sentences.

Write as often as you can. For some this is every day. For others it is every other day. Whatever it is for you, keep doing it and do it regularly. It might be total crap that you are writing, if it’s a first draft it is total crap, but keep doing it. You will get better. However, if you stop you will not get better. Quitting is the end of the line. The chance of success drops to zero. Write all kinds of things. Don’t box yourself into one type of story. Write poetry, short story, novels, non-fiction, fiction, and in any genre that calls to you. I find it easier to have two projects going at the same time, that way, if I get sick of one I can still be productive on the other.

The balance between the three keys ebbs and flows, depending on where you are in your journey. Stagnation and loss of creativity is a sign that you have misplaced one of your keys.

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