Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Famously Reclusive Authors

Suzane Smith, blogger on a college site, sent me a link to a post in case I was interested enough to mention it on my blog. The post is Famously Reclusive Authors and Artists. (I checked but I'm not on there-- guess I'm not reclusive enough, or famous enough.)

In this time of author forced-promotion-to-sell-their-books, it's fascinating to read about J.D. Salinger, Harper Lee, Cormac McCarthy and others who stay hidden, refuse to do interviews, speeches, or signings. And of course there's Emily Dickinson, but she wasn't famous for her poetry until after her death. These others all had acclaim in their lifetime, and turned their backs on it.

Can you imagine a young up-and-coming, newly contracted author telling the publisher, "Oh, sorry. I don't do appearances. If Oprah calls, tell her to get someone else."

Writers tend to be reclusive by nature, and promoting ourselves can push us way beyond our comfort zones. But in today's writing world, getting out there is part of the job whether we like it or not. At least until we're famous enough to hide away on our farm in Connecticut.

Where would you hide away if you could? Or would you even want to? Honestly? Yes, I would. I would be Emily Dickinson, if I could get away with it. But I can't. So instead I'm Xena.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Establishing a Platform

First I have to thank everyone who chimed in on my post about social media. Your comments were incredible. I even printed them up and used some of them in my presentation. What I learned from your comments was invaluable. I appreciate beyond words the awesome helpfulness of writers here in blogland. And as GGray mentioned-- this is all free. Unbelievable.

I thought I'd share the main element of my presentation, which was the necessity of a platform and focus to make a blog work. And no, you do not need to be published to have a platform, nor do you need to be a nonfiction writer. (You don't even need to be a writer, but that's beside the point since this is a writing blog.)

I started my blog last June, 2009. My first post explained the name Coming Down the Mountain, which had to do with my reclusive nature and now here I am. Tada!

Here's a sampling of my posts that first 8 months:

A birthday letter to my son

A report on Sunday school

A book review

My adventures canning 3 bushels of tomatoes

Analysis of book signings

Excerpts from emails sent to me by my missionary son in South Africa

Well, it's easy to see why I only had 23 followers that first 8 months, and rarely got comments in the double digits. I had no platform. I thought I did, but I kept interrupting it to talk about other stuff completely unrelated to writing. Was this a church blog? A family blog? An insecure writer's blog? Who was I anyway?

In January I revamped and set up my platform, as a reclusive writer who is now a published author, and added that to the name of my blog. (I know it's long, but oh well.) I deleted all posts that weren't about books, writing, editing or the publishing industry. I added a section on my blogroll for strictly publishing blogs, as well as the one with writing/blog friends I follow daily.

Result? From mid January to mid March I jumped from 25 followers to 106 at the last count. (Thank you all you 106 awesome and attractive followers!) That's over 75 followers in two months, compared to 23 in eight months. That's the difference a platform can make in a blog.

Natually I did other things, like actively seeking other writers. Follow. Make comments. Have something to say in both my comments and my own posts. Clearly, a person can't just create their platform and wait for the world to find you. But it almost seems like that's how it works, it can happen that fast on the internet.

Creating a platform, which used to scare me turned out to be a LOT of fun. After all, it's a creative endeavor and we writers are creative. Have you got your platform yet? Have you changed it several times? Does it relate to your work or your personality?

Mine relates to my personality and my history as a writer. I'm toying with the idea of doing something relating to my books but haven't settled on anything yet. Besides, I can't have too much fun here, or I'll never get to the real writing!

Friday, March 26, 2010

What's Your Online Presence?

Tomorrow I'm speaking to a group of aspiring authors on the whole online presence thing-- blogging, twittering, Facebook, website. Pretty funny, isn't it, since those of you who have been following me from the beginning-- um--last June, 10 months ago--know what a novice I am online. My blogging which started out as a response from my publisher to "establish your online presence" has now morphed into what you see today, giraffe and all. As for the rest of it....

Twittering
-- not interested. Maybe I should be, but I'm not and don't plan to be.

Facebook
-- oh please no.

Vox-- yes. It's a smaller, cooler, wannabe Facebook that most people have never heard of. Probably why I like it.

Linkedin
-- leaving that one to my husband

Myspace
-- that is so 5 years ago

Website
-- what you see is what you get, folks. This is it. (Well, this and my Vox blog.)

And I have to speak 30 minutes? HELP! So I turn to my good friends in blog land who probably know way more about this than I do and would no doubt be far more interesting and attractive, with better hair. Yes, I am taking a poll. Your responses on any or all of these would be oh so helpful :)

What is your online presence?

Do you think it's essential to be online as a writer, either published or not?

What have you gained from your online experience?

If you twitter or pursue any of the others (besides blogging)-- why?

Which online experiences would you most recommend?

Are there any of these you've given up for various reasons?

If you've got anything else to add, please feel free. I may even quote you! And if you have a book out, be sure to tell me the title, so I can mention that as well. Thanks for your help!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Interview with e-publishing author Simon Kewin


When I read on Simon's blog, Spellmaking, that he had decided to publish one of his stories electronically, I wanted to know more about the process. He graciously agreed to an interview about the experience. When I read his answers to my questions, I was blown away with Simon's knowledge and expertise. And I'm sure all of you appreciate his broad-based and detailed information.

(Note: Read Simon's part with a British accent.)

KarenG:
What made you decide to publish electronically?

Simon Kewin: I was interested to find out how the whole process worked. There are these huge changes going on in the publishing industry - in the way we read books - and I felt I wanted to know more about it all. As it happens I don't have any sort of eReader device myself, but I know lots of people who do. I felt a little like I was being left behind. There are supposedly 1.5 million Kindle users out there, for example, not to mention all the other devices. But I had no idea how easy or hard it was to get my stories onto those machines. I'm a professional software developer, too, so I suppose my interest was partly geeky.

Karen: Are you on Kindle? Can you be downloaded on iphone or any other device, or only Kindle?

Simon: I'm on the Kindle and also on the iPhone and a host of other devices. I think eReaders are in their infancy and will need to get a lot better than they currently are. I'm sure they will. The Kindle seems to be the market leader but it's pretty drab isn't it? It's hard to escape the belief that the Apple devices - iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch - will become the de facto standard because they're so ubiquitous. But then there are all these other machines coming out too, such as the Microsoft Courier, which I like simply because it has two pages. You open it like a book and it’s immediately immersive.

The problem all these machines have is their price, I think. The price of the actual text of an eBook may be pretty low but the price of the hardware is way higher than it is for the paper of a novel. Obviously it's a completely different thing, but I'd happily take a paperback to places I wouldn't want to take an eReader for fear of it getting damaged or stolen. I'd be wary of taking a Kindle to the beach.

The other issue which has to be sorted out is the whole area of sharing. With conventional paper books, it's easy to pass along a book you love to a friend. I'm sure writers attract a great many new readers in that way. But how is that going to work in the electronic world where copying/pirating a file is trivially easy? You either try to stop people sharing at all via DRM (Digital Rights Management) or you make it a free-for-all and just hope that some of the people who get free copies of your work then go on to buy other things you've written. Perhaps it depends on how established a writer you are. Perhaps there is some sort of middle-way. I don't know.



Karen:
What was the process you went through to get everything set up?

Simon: I used two different services : Amazon's own Digital Text Platform for getting my work onto the Kindle and the Amazon store and then Smashwords to cover all the other devices. There are alternatives out there but Smashwords seemed to me to be the best at what they do. They cover the iPhone via the Stanza app, the Sony Reader, Palm machines and so forth. You upload your manuscript once and they convert it to all the formats they support. They also develop their service actively so I was fairly confident they would cover new devices and platforms as they came along.

The process for each service was more or less the same : prepare your manuscript to adhere to a particular format, upload it, provide a title, a description, some categories, provide some cover art-work, set a price and click Publish. Each service provides a lot of help should you hit any snags. My own blog describes in a bit more detail my experiences with Amazon, for instance.
Both services are free to use, although they obviously take a cut of any sales you make.

Karen:
Was it easy? Like easier than you expected?

Simon
: It was way easier than I expected. I suppose it helps that I’m a bit techie but I’m sure anyone could use these services without too much trouble. As writers we’re used to formatting our manuscripts in certain ways. Using these services is just a matter of formatting it in the way they need it. You don’t have to get it right first time; you can upload, see how it looks, then try again. It took maybe an hour to use each one. The hardest parts for me were coming up with the interesting blurb/description and then providing the cover artwork. Alas I don’t have an artistic bone in my body. Or, if I do, it isn’t one of the bones in my hand! So I just bought a stock image that suited the story, added my own text and used that.

To be honest, the publishing bit of ePublishing is the easy bit. The hard bit is in publicizing your work, in finding readers. Because obviously there are lots of people out there all doing the same thing and you don’t have a conventional publisher to push your work. I haven’t put a vast amount of effort into the promotional side as I don’t want to eat too much into my writing time but I dare so you reap what you sow.

That all said, I was pleasantly surprised that readers started downloading and buying my story more or less straight away without me doing very much. Not in vast numbers, but more than I’d anticipated.

Karen:
Which works have you uploaded? Full novels or short works? Word count?

Simon:
I uploaded an SF short story entitled The Armageddon Machine. Actually it’s more of a novelette at around 14,000 words. It was a story I’d had published once before in a magazine but it wasn’t available anywhere at that time so it seemed like a good candidate. Also, I imagined that people who like SF would be more likely to have eReaders but I have no evidence for that!


Karen: Have you gotten any feedback from readers?

Simon: Some. Not a vast amount. Both Amazon and Smashwords have reader review/rating mechanisms. The last time I checked I had some feedback on my Amazon page, which I’m pleased to say was good!

Karen:
Are you optimistic about sales?

Simon:
Not enough to give up the day job! I’ve had some sales which has been gratifying but it’s obviously hard to make much headway without putting a fair bit of effort into the publicity side.

Karen: Would you do this again?

Simon:
Yes, I think I would. I suppose everyone has to decide for themselves about this. But I think there are grey areas in the strict publishing vs. self-publishing debate. Writers are all encouraged to blog, tweet and “build a platform” these days. As far as I can see, ePublishing provides one way to do just this. I wouldn’t ePublish a full novel, nor even an extract, but I might ePublish, say, a short story in which some of the characters of a novel appeared. That might be one way to build up a readership.

Karen:
Will you continue to seek an agent for your other projects?

Simon:
Definitely, yes. For me, right now, an agent is the right way to go for novels.

Karen:
Do you think you will prefer this to traditional publishing?

Simon:
Traditional publishing is still the main event so far as I can see. But I see both worlds coexisting and, no doubt, intermingling in all sorts of unexpected and interesting ways. For me, ePublishing is a way of establishing my name and building a readership rather than an end unto itself. Obviously, that may change. There are others who rely on indie publishing and make some sort of living at that. And good luck to them.

Karen:
What advice would you give to other writers considering this option? How to begin? The pros and cons, etc.

Simon: Have a go if you’re interested! There’s plenty of help out there on the web, as well as FAQs and guides on the sites themselves. It genuinely isn’t too tricky to do this and it may get you somewhere. I suppose it all depends on where you are with your writing. If you have an agent and a publisher, then ePublishing yourself might not make much sense. I certainly wouldn’t ePublish something I was also trying to find an agent or a “proper” publisher for because I’d have blown the “first publication” rights. But if I was at the stage of trying to establish a name for myself -which I guess I am – then it seems to me there’s a lot to be said for ePublishing alongside conventional magazines and publishers. These are interesting times in publishing and I think writers need to keep themselves up to speed with what is happening.

Karen:
Thank you, Simon! Wow, these are such great answers. I have nothing to add to this, I'm just trying to take it all in. I hope many people will read this interview and ask you questions here, because you are the one in the know. And I hope many will purchase The Armageddon Machine and enjoy it on their Kindle or whatever device they prefer. Awesome cover, by the way, Simon. I love love that cover!

Okay, folks, your turn. Any questions or comments for Simon?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Is e-publishing for you?

Who isn't interested in the topic of epublishing right now? A year ago I wasn't in the least. Now I'm compelled to find out more about it. My publisher plans on trying it out with my novel Uncut Diamonds as it's first trial and error project. I'm fine with being the guinea pig. It won't be the first time lol!

I interviewed author Victoria Wescott a few months ago on my blog. You can read that interview here if you want to see why she went this route and how she made it happen. Another blogger and writer I have followed for some time, Simon Kewin over at Spellmaking, recently made the decision to publish on Kindle.

As usual, I have a lot of questions about the process, and Simon has agreed to be interviewed about his experience. So watch for it in the coming days! Meanwhile, I'm wondering-- has anyone else considered epublishing as an option? Why or why not?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Today--Writer or Editor?

Today I'm going to the BYU Publication Fair in Provo to represent WiDo Publishing as an editor. Along with another WiDo editor who is also a writer. So today I guess I'm an editor. We'll be meeting writers who may be anxious about:

*the pitch

*the submission

*meeting an editor

*their talent or not

*the company-- would WiDo be a good fit for them

*rejection

So today I'll be an editor. But I'm also a writer who's been there. (Well, not at a conference or a fair like this, lacking opportunity AND guts.)

So today of all things I hope I will be kind. And pleasant. And not let the fatigue and boredom show on my face. Hmm, that doesn't sound very nice, does it? I'll work on that.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

No Weak Voices!

Just read M. Gray's review of Fallen on her blog. She didn't like the voice, and that got me so riled up about the issue of voice that I just had to write a post. I couldn't even wait for my last post to get to 23 lol, I have to write it NOW.

We've heard it a hundred times: Voice is of utmost importance in good writing. One of the key elements the agent or editor will look for in a submission is voice. It must be strong, clear, vibrant and true. Writers may labor over the query letter, writing long involved plot summaries, and miss what really helps to sell themselves-- voice. If your voice comes through in a query, you're way ahead of the game. Then if the narrative voice is strong and clear in the first few paragraphs of the submission, good chance the editor will keep reading.

We all recognize voice when we see it, hear it, whatever. There are certain blogs I never miss because I love the voice. There are authors I want to read again and again because I love their voices. Sophie Kinsella is one. Agatha Christie. Judy Sheehan. Stephen King in Misery-- loved the voice in that one. Voice is often easier to identify than to create in our own work, yet it's what must be mastered for one's writing to go anywhere.

Nothing frustrates me more in my reading than a weak voice. Weak voice = weak writing. Weak writing = huge disappointment to Moi. Not to mention the big question-- How did this person even get a contract in the first place?

Oh, well, nothing we can do about that. Better to work on our own skills than worry about how so-and-so got the big advance, right? So. How to make our voice stronger? There's really only one way-- write, write, rewrite and write some more. Okay, there's two ways-- read, read and read some more. And read lots of genres, not just your own, not just your favorite. Find new authors, find new voices. And keep on writing until your own distinct voice is strong and clear.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Charles Dickens' pen

Charles Dickens had a pen he used for each book. You know, back in the day when authors wrote out their manuscripts longhand with pen and ink-- yikes! Dickens would not use his authoring pen to write letters, or to write bills or notes or any of the other daily writing he had to do. He didn't want to contaminate it, or muddy the waters, or confuse creative writing with business-type writing.

This really makes me think. I use my laptop for EVERYTHING. Emails for business, friends and family. Blogging. Research. Business-- creating fliers, press releases, and all that. And every so often, I whip over to wordperfect to sneak in a few hours of creative writing on my current novel. Which often seems distracting, confusing and just plain wrong. At least according to Charles Dickens. And maybe according to me. The switch from blogging to writing to business to casual emailing gets blurry and I'm not sure it allows me to plumb the depths of my creativity.

My last two, (or is it my first two?) books were written before I had internet on my laptop. So I'd check my email on a different computer, the one in my husband's office, and use my laptop solely for working on my manuscripts. That was also before I started blogging. My routine was open laptop, go to ms., start writing. Now it's open laptop, check email, check blogs, comment on blogs, and then I also do outside work on it as well. Is my writing suffering? I'm not sure yet. We'll see what my first reader says of this draft, and we'll see how revisions go. But I'm definitely thinking about Charles Dickens' pen.

How about you? Do you use the same computer for creative writing as you do for business and personal work? Do you sit at the same desk? Do you think this might be a problem? Or do you, like Charles Dickens, have a separation between pens/computers/creative writing and other writing purposes?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Inspiring Words from one of the Literary Greats

Something to consider this weekend--William Faulkner's Nobel Peace Price acceptance speech-- given in 1949:

I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work - a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand here where I am standing.

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed - love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Becoming the Hero-- the Second Plot Point

I should dedicate my current novel to Larry Brooks at Storyfix.com. This guy has been with me during those long midnight hours until early dawn, helping me with story architecture. (Well, not literally, heh heh, since I am happily married.)

Now as I round the bend on 52,000 words, I'm approaching the second plot point (spp). Why is this one so difficult? First plot point--easy. It's where everything changes for the MC. Mid-point milestone? No problem--that's where the curtain parts, new information is revealed and the stakes are raised. Got it. Done and done.

Now I'm at the second plot point, which Brooks defines as: the final injection of new information into the story, after which no new expository information may enter the story. It puts a final piece of narrative information into play that gives the hero or heroine everything he or she needs to become the final catalyst in the story's conclusion.

Got that? Me neither. Sigh. But that word final must mean something. Like, we're getting close to the end? (Disclaimer: this is a long post. You might want to start thinking of Tom Cruise right about now. So clear your mind, think of Tom Cruise, and keep reading.)

Okay, so take it a step at a time. After the spp, no new information can enter the story. Which means that AT the spp, there IS new information that enters, and it's the last bit that CAN enter, and it is information that gives the MC what he or she needs to BE the HERO (which is what I think final catalyst means.) It means no one will come in and save the hero, or he or she wouldn't BE a hero, now would he or she?

Another way Larry puts it: "it's when the chase scene begins." For example, the spp provides information to the MC of who or what or where the villain is-- therefore MC goes after villain (thus the chase scene) and maybe a fight scene, and then MC turns into a HERO. Voila!

Of course I'm way out of my league here, because I'm writing a character-driven novel with no chase scenes. That's okay too, according to Brooks, because the spp allows the hero to go from warrior to self-sacrificing martyr of all that is good: "At least in terms of the dramatic problem the story is portraying." So it doesn't have to be a chase scene, or the MC dangling from the top of the Empire State Building. It might just be the MC giving up something he or she really wants for the greater good.

I keep thinking of Tom Cruise in The Firm (movie). The spp must be when he finds out who's pulling the strings behind the firm and meets with the mafia-- oooh scary!-- but he's the hero now, he pulls it off brilliantly, and we can smell the ending right around the corner-- (another definition of spp according to Brooks). I love that scene in The Firm where Tom Cruise meets with the mafia. It's the last information that's provided, and Tom Cruise wraps it all up. He's a hero, he's a martyr, he's literally awesomely awesome how he pulls that off. I love Tom Cruise.

So as long as I can think of Tom Cruise, I think I can keep track of what the spp is and how it works to create the story architecture. Whew!

Here's the pop quiz. Name the spp in a movie you've seen recently, or a book you've read. Remember--the spp provides crucial information that allows the MC to become a real hero, and after that no new information can be revealed.

Let's see how well you can do! (If this is too difficult, you can just say how much you love Tom Cruise and how he became a hero in the last movie you saw him in, and you will probably have it right. Or Daniel Craig, if you're British.)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Just Finish Already

This came up in the comments of a previous post. Ann from Inkpots and Quills said she needed to finish something, and I replied with this comment: "Ann, funny you should mention that little detail about actually finishing something. When I finished Farm Girl, I realized it was the first time I had a complete ms. in my hands, after all my years of writing. Even then, it was only 35,000 words! Embarrassing, huh?"

Without giving away my age, let me say that I've been writing for a long time. Finally, I complete a book-length manuscript, and it's under 35,000 freakin' words! My favorite rejection letter came after a week, from the University of Nebraska: "It's too short for us, but have you tried the Nebraska regional magazines?" Aaargh!! I finish my so-called book and find out it's not a book after all? It's an article for a magazine!

Well, fortunately, someone thought Farm Girl would make a delightful small book and was willing to invest in it as the first release of a new press. Short as it is, no one has complained. Not a single reviewer said it was too short. Still, needing to redeem myself as a "serious writer", my novel, Uncut Diamonds, is divided into two parts and comes to approximately 100,000 well-edited words, (including the Glossary of Mormon Terminology). Aha! Now that's a book.

This is what drives me to finish my next book. I spent too many years writing and not finishing. I know from reading your blogs that this isn't common to all writers. I see where many of you are prolific writers, churning out one full-length ms. after another. I admire you. I wish I were more like that-- more disciplined, more bursting with story ideas, more determined to spend the required time to write and to finish. More passionate about all of it.

Hats off to you finishers! You inspire me. And do you know the secret to getting published? Two words-- finish already!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

First Readers

Most of us writerly types need an audience. It takes readers for us to feel complete. We aren't content to just write, put it away and write some more. We need feedback, we need readers, we need validation. Since it takes courage to show our work, we often start with those guaranteed to be supportive, like family members.

I remember a scene from a film of about 20 years ago, when the main character (a journalist) played by Chevy Chase, moves to the country where he plans to write a novel. When it's finished, he takes his wife out to a wonderful inn for their anniversary, and then leads her to a comfortable chair next to the fire for the big surprise. Voila! He hands her his finished ms.

"Read it!" he says.
"Right now?" she asks. She's all dressed up for a night on the town.
"Yes!" he replies. "Go ahead. We have all night. I'll wait right here." And he watches her every move and expression while she reads the entire thing.

Yep, that's us writers! Almost pathetic in our eagerness to get readers. I used to read my stories out loud to my kids, picking those choice moments when they would be a willing/captive audience. Like when they didn't want to go to bed. "I'll let you stay up longer if you listen to this story I wrote!"

Once that final draft is done, the writer needs a reader. It's a must have. For Stephen King, it's his wife Tabitha. He writes all his books with her in mind, and she's the first one to read his final draft. Mine is my daughter, who is also now an editor (I guess I trained her well back in the day!)

Who is your first reader? Who makes up your favorite first audience once the final draft is done?

Friday, March 5, 2010

15 Reasons Why an Author Needs Kick-butt Confidence

A few days ago, David J. West posted about an author needing a thicker skin, and I just read en violet's post about confidence. Both these posts inspired so much thought material on my end, I thought I'd write about it further. Thanks to both these excellent bloggers for their inspiration!

Note the name of my blog-- from reclusive writer to published author. Hmm, wonder why I was so reclusive for so long. And not published. Might it have had something to do with a lack of confidence and a super-thin skin? Well, yes. Still, I've worked out my issues and moved on, knowing I still have a ways to go. I judge my progress as a writer by the *thickness* of my skin.

Why does a writer need kick-butt confidence?:

1. To start writing for an audience in the first place

2. To finish a manuscript

3. To ask for critique

4. To submit to an agent and/or publisher

5. To take rejection, rewrite and resubmit

6. To keep going on this merry go round, which you're never sure will get you anywhere.

7. To put yourself on the internet and start blogging for the first time.

8. To interact with others on the internet, make comments, and be a part of the cyberspace community.

9. To get published at long last, and realize the work of finding your readership is just beginning.

10. To go to that very first book signing and watch people avoid your table. P.S. Don't chase them down or grab at them. No, I've not done this, but I've known authors who have. It doesn't work.

11. To give a presentation on your book and have all these people watching and waiting to be informed, entertained and enchanted by you, a reclusive writer not a public speaker or a performer.

12. To read reviews that are negative, mean-spirited, and critical of your baby, your heart and soul.

13. To make a pitch on yourself and your work.

14. To go back and do it all again and again and again.

15. To respond graciously to those people who ask you when you're going to get a real job.

That's my list. I decided to stop at fifteen. Anything to add? Why do you need confidence?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wimp to Warrior

I'm getting through this story structure if it kills me. I wasn't going to write tonight, or blog, but I couldn't sleep and after debating 5 minutes whether to clean house or write-- here I am, ready to tackle Part 3!! The kitchen floor can wait.

According to Larry Brooks, the genius who explains story structure on his website, the Part 3 attack comes after the mid-point milestone: "Part 3 is where the hero literally fights back, hatches a plan, enlists assistance, demonstrates courage, shows initiative. This is when they step up. They evolve from responder to attacker. From wanderer to warrior. And just as importantly, this is where they begin to really fight about against their inner demon."

So I have (finally!) figured out my mid-point, and true to form, my wonderful and quirky main character (I love Marcie McGill!) goes from wimp to warrior. Thus I'm on the right track. Marcie is now taking care of business, stepping it up and becoming an attacker. So I'm deep into Part 3 and headed for the second plot point.

All is not well in the world of my wip, however. Because it's all happening too fast. It needs more scenes and more tension. That's okay, I can do that later. For now, it's enough to know that the crux of the story triangle is in place. And the second plot point is right around the corner--along with my ending.

Word count is only 51,000. No worries. After this draft I'll go back to the beginning--now that the basic story structure is in place-- to fine tune the writing itself while adding scenes. That's the fun part. Wait! It's all fun! Up until the final two words. The End!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

From newspaper interview to fun discovery

The other day I had a phone interview with a reporter from my long ago past. I lived in Chillicothe, Illinois eons ago, graduated from the high school, then moved on never to look back. Somehow this reporter heard about my two published books and wanted to do an article for the local paper. I sent her copies of Farm Girl and Uncut Diamonds, which she read and enjoyed. I liked hearing her refer to my old hometown as "Chilli." (Hadn't heard that in years, but it sure took me back!)

Eager to see if the interview was posted online yet, I googled myself this morning. Hadn't done that for awhile, not expecting anything new really, except maybe the interview. Couldn't find the interview, (since I really need to allow her to write it first lol!) but I did find this:


A man calling himself The Curmudgeonly Professor had photographed the books he had recently purchased with a $50 Amazon gift certificate. And there's Farm Girl front and center! (Well, sort of front and slightly to the left actually.)

I was so tickled by this that I emailed him straightaway and asked his permission to use the photo on my blog, which he graciously gave.

This brings to mind the whole what-happens-when-you-google-yourself scenario. I've had thrilling little surprises like this one, and I've stumbled across mean-spirited reviews. The whole gamut, really. You never know what you'll run into when you google yourself or one of your books. Be prepared to have your day ruined, or to get a happy lift. Thanks to Dwight Blood, the curmudgeonly professor and his Amazon gift certificate, my day got a happy start to it.

How about it? Have you googled yourself lately?