Sunday, August 28, 2011

Encouraging Other Writers

I have been given several gifts as I’ve explored my path towards writing fulfillment. Let me tell you about two.

I had been playing around at writing since my late husband, Pete, and I were married in 1982. In 1988, we had bought our first home together and there were four bedrooms, one for each kid, our master bedroom and a fourth that we wondered what to do with. It was Pete who insisted that it should be my writing room.

I still didn’t sit down and write very often. One Saturday morning, he led me from the bedroom, still in my nightgown, to the writing room and firmly said; “Now I’m going to make breakfast and bring it to you. I’ll bring you lunch. Except for potty breaks, you can’t come out until you’ve written 10 pages.” And then he pushed me gently towards my IBM Selectric typewriter.

I wrote that day - 11 pages. After that: I wrote nine screenplays, we bought a computer, I placed highly in a contest and gained two offers from agents, settling on one, met with all kinds of Hollywood people. Nothing sold and I moved on – BUT I had started writing for real, instead of just talking about doing it. I will always treasure this gift my Pete gave to me.

Secondly, years later I was struggling to write again and a very kind woman gave me a copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This book is geared towards bringing out the artist who resides inside us through simple means – so simple it seems too simple at first. But it works so well. Shortly after receiving this book, I sold a romance to Woman’s World for $1,100 and finally thought – “My God, I am a writer.”

So, I’ve made it my mission in life to encourage other writers to start or stick with it. I meet people who so obviously have a writer buried inside that it’s almost painful to view. If I don’t have the means to give them the book at that time, I at least give them the information so they can get it themselves.

But as writers, we all know, this is a delicate state of mind – the writing doesn’t always want to come. Our muse has left temporarily. This is when we need each other the most. So, if you spot a fellow writer that needs a push or a helping hand – give it. It’s the least we can do in return for our own gifts.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Finding a Balance Between Marketing and Creation

Whether you’re an Indie author or going the traditional route, there’s a lot of marketing you must do – both of yourself as a writer and your material. If it’s not building a social media platform, it’s sending queries out to agents and publishers. This is actually true of most artists - if they want to sell their work.

I’ve found, lately, that aside from blogging, I haven’t written much. I’ve mostly been involved in marketing my first novel, Red Mojo Mama, then my second book, Tell Them You’re Fabulous. When I’m not doing that I’m trying to make connections and build my own social media platform. At first I chastised myself for not writing enough. This past week I’ve finally realized that this is a necessary step for me.

I don’t know about you, but between my day job, where I’m forced to put on a professional business hat, and the self-promotion I do nights and weekends, it’s hard to switch gears into the creative mode. So, I spend many hours on Twitter or making changes to my Facebook page, and at the end of the day, writing is the last thing I can get my mind around.

That’s okay. For the moment, I’m just staying in touch with the next book. I still have a compilation of short stories to publish over the next two weeks - then I’ll have three books online. I’m making friends and adding followers on Twitter and each one is a precious resource and well-spring of joy. I’m having the best time.

But I’m also doing business the old-fashioned way – putting a product out there and shaking hands (figuratively) with people I think might like it or may let someone else know about it. I am creating the life I want to live – as a freelance writer without an obligation to a day job.

So, if you find you are busily creating your own world and temporarily neglecting your writing, take a mental tally. Is this the thing you are supposed to be doing right now? Maybe so. Once you’ve made your mark – carved a place for yourself – I’m willing to bet your efforts to write will come more into balance with your marketing endeavors.

As I wind up this current project of publishing my third book, I can already feel the artistic juices flowing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Writing from the Heart

I’ve learned a lot about being a writer over the years, but there’s one lesson I have to reconfirm, over and over. That’s because this lesson requires courage.

Recently, I posted on my other blog about sensing my late husband around me. I wavered for days about posting this because, frankly, it was very intimate and that’s scary. I was writing from the heart – laying it all out there – and rejection of that would have hurt.

As usual in these cases, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Others have shared their own experiences of feeling the presence of someone who has passed on. I can’t tell you what great joy that gave me. But again, I had to be reminded of the truth: when you write from your heart it will always turn out okay, even what’s bad is good.

I’ve read some authors that were truly tough to read but their work was redeemable because I could find truth within and truth is treasure. Writing from the heart results in your truth being revealed.

Again, rejection is what makes it so tough to do. You have just bared your soul to your readers. What if they reject you? Every man jack of us is afraid of that, no matter how tough an exterior we project to the world. But here is the reward – if you can bear to expose yourself you will ultimately create something good.

When I began writing Red Mojo Mama I was afraid of being too fluffy. What would people think? Would they realize I know that this is just a fun read? Would they judge me as a lightweight? Then one day, while I was laughing out loud at what I was putting on the page, the dam burst and I thought “What the hell! I’m having fun. This feels good. This is what writing is all about.” And I gave up my fear and wrote. God, it was fun.

So, if I could pass on just one tip about writing it would be this - get past your fear and write from your heart. It will pay you (and your readers) dividends in the end.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Writing is a Lot Like Living in an RV

I love analogies! It’s my favorite way to explain things. Last night I had a profound realization: for me, writing is a lot like living in an RV.

Wanda, my home, is a 23-foot RV. I took up residence three and half years ago. I moved into her from a 3-bedroom home. Doing so meant giving up enormous amounts of stuff, some useful, some simply sentimental. This is exactly what’s required in rewrite.

So, I started rewriting my life. In the process, I found that the things I used regularly needed to be easily accessible, so I put them where I could get to them without much thought or effort. Exactly the same as making some layers of plot and character completely obvious.

Other things, like tax paperwork, photo albums, old writing samples, winter clothes, got stuffed into distant corners and overhead compartments. This is also how I treat the complex points of a story, the plot twists, the deeper aspects of characters.

At the end of the day, however, I have 2’ by 8’ of floor space. When I stand in the middle of Wanda’s interior, it’s only one or two steps from any part of her. This is how I like to write; simple, concise, mostly easy to understand, occasionally requiring extra work.

It’s also the way I like to read. I’ve recently tried to read some of the more difficult classics and authors that are brilliant, like James Joyce, but honestly, I failed – probably because I couldn’t gain access to their deeper meaning. An analogy – their old Victorian home had too many rooms and too much in the attic for my taste.

So, in reality, for me – moving into Wanda was practice for honing my craft.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Excellence Does Exist in Indie Publishing

I’ve read about 10 books written by independently published authors over the past month and I’m very proud to say there is quality to be found.

Let me say, right up front, my novel Red Mojo Mama, is not heavy lifting. It is fluffy, fun reading with perhaps a few precious moments. So, I’m not judging this from the POV of a “great author.” Not even a little bit.

But, I’m a voracious reader and have been all my life. Before I started tweeting, I flew through 3-4 books a week. Unless you’re an idiot, if you read that much you have to come away with the ability to recognize when you’ve encountered something extraordinary. So, far – that has happened twice since I bought my Kindle.

The first such experience was halfway through The Killing of Train-Man Brown, a short story by Will Bevis – available on both Amazon and Smashwords. Within the first few moments, I was invested in the narrator and seconds later I was captured by Train-Man himself. Drawing a reader in that quickly is phenomenal and extremely difficult to do. The tale then took me through a life – two really – lived in one time and changed by another. I was amazed, saddened and in the end heartened again by Train-Man – the man and the story. It was 30 minutes of pure joy.

Next I discovered Suffer the Little Children by Christina Carson. In no time, I was attached to Nannie and the child she takes on, Little Bit. How their story unwinds and the changes that come to the both of them are nothing short of gripping and magical. Perhaps spiritual is a better word than magical, but at different moments both seemed the perfect word. Carson has created a novel that entertains and changes the reader. You will become a better person, if you read and absorb just a small part of the world she presents.

I write this piece for a single reason – in defense of Indie authors. We have been bashed by the publishing industry – both originally as we attempt to gain the attention of an agent or publishing house and afterwards, when so often, the impression is given that this body of writers “couldn’t make it.”

This is SO not true. These are just two examples of writers that should not have been overlooked. I don’t know that they ever submitted through traditional means, but that’s rather irrelevant. The fact that I’ve read so much traditionally published material that is pure tripe supports the conclusion that Indie authors have nothing to be ashamed and everything to be proud of.

After all, we took a chance on ourselves. We made our dreams come true. And a few of us are incredibly good writers. Stand and applaud for Will Bevis and Christina Carson. They can be our standard bearers until we have a Academy of our own!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Newly-found World of an Indie Author

Four months ago, I promised to tell folks what my self-publishing experience was like as I went along. Yeah…no. I didn’t do that, mostly because I got so caught up in it I forgot all about this blog…and much of the rest of the world.

Here’s just a bit of what I’ve found:

· Getting a print copy of your book published and printed on Amazon is incredibly easy and can cost at little as $.00 (excluding the cost of buying copies of your own book). I spent $150 to upgrade to Professional and to buy my ISBN number.

· Getting a Kindle copy published on Amazon is even easier and completely free.

· I’ve also tried Smashwords for other eBooks. This wasn’t as easy and I’ve had zero sales on Smashwords.

· I floundered around for a while, selling hard copies to friends and family, and a few online. Also a few Kindle copies sold. I tried several ideas for marketing – none worked – then I bought a Kindle.

· The minute that happened I got a promotional email from Amazon for a book by John Locke called “How I sold 1 million eBooks in 5 months!”

· I bought the book, my first Kindle book – for just $4.99 and my world expanded. Buy the book and you’ll understand why.

· It’s impossible to explain exactly what happened, without writing a book myself, but I can say I now have a successful blog – nearing 1800 views in the past month.

· Twitter is best thing I’ve discovered – to promote my blog and therefore my book.

· In one month, my book sales increased 1600%.

I also discovered how much I love to blog. So, I’ve reactivated this blog – to be strictly about writing. My other active blog right now “Red Mojo Mama Musings” is to express feelings and thoughts about the world.

If you are a writer on the cusp of becoming an Indie author – a new phrase I discovered as well – I hope you buy the Locke book to give yourself a fair idea of what must be done and I hope you’ll stop by occasionally and see what I’ve found out.