Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘How To Be A Writer’ Category

strange thing 2

A strange thing happened on the way to the blog.  I received an email out of the blue from someone I’ve never heard of.  That’s not so strange in itself; I get enough spam to feed a spambot until it vomits flowery poetry.

 

What was strange is that it was a request for an interview.  This wasn’t the usual, “Let’s fill out interview questions and share them on each other’s blogs to cross promote ourselves,” interview request.  This was a straight up, “I want to interview you.”

It surprised me.  The first thing I did was check the email address it came from.  It looked legitimate.  Then I skimmed (that’s what my eleven year old called it) her online.  I Googled, found and checked profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn, investigating if the person looks legitimate.  She looked legitimate.

uh oh

It was time for the, “Oh, uh, wow?” moment.  Me?  Why me?  Out of all the authors out there?

Now I had to know.  I’m not a cat, so hopefully curiosity won’t bring me to my swift demise.

I asked others on one of the author groups what they thought.

I contacted the young lady requesting the interview to ask those two big questions: Why me? – and – How did you happen to find me?

Honestly, I didn’t think I would be all that findable without specifically looking for me.

Her answers were simple.  I’m an author and she got my information from the local writers’ guild, which I’m a member of.

 

terrorThen I had a moment of terror.  I’ve never had a real interview.  I almost did once on a blog radio show, but it fell through due to technical issues.  We, the interviewers and my fellow intervewee, spanned states and countries.  Something went wrong and we couldn’t call in.  The blog show failed after too, so there was no redo.

Why does that even matter?  Because, I was in very near to a state of panic.  An actual talking interview with people I have to answer on the spot.  I can’t come back hours later when I think of something that I think sounds clever.

And now I’m panicking again at the thought of a face-to-face interview.  I would have to try to be clever on the spot.  I can’t do that.  I can write, the words coming effortlessly and fluidly, and sounding marvelous.  I can’t bloody talk.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I sound like a complete moron when I talk.  The words in my head just don’t come out the same way through my mouth.  My brain freezes, I jumble, stumble, and stutter.  I couldn’t do a speech with my eyes glued to the cue cards I’m reading mechanically from.

 

leave your comfort zoneTo truly live, you have to step out of your safety zone.  I decided to swallow my anxiety and give it the old college try.

It made it easier that I wasn’t doing it for myself.  I can’t count the times I opted not to do something because it was just for me.  I’m not used to doing things just for me.

The young woman interviewing me is from McMaster University. She won funding for a research project exploring the connection between Canadian literature and identity.  I was a stop on her trek across Canada interviewing authors about their craft and sense of identity as Canadians.

I went to the interview hoping that I would be of help, but still with that nagging doubt pulling on me like a toddler sized imp trying to whisper in my ear, “Why you?”

I survived the interview and she didn’t look ill listening to my jabbering.  I have to say, the best part of the interview was the end when I gave her a copy of my latest published book, The McAllister Farm.  She was actually excited I gave it to her.
impAfter the interview, that same nasty little imp kept tugging on my shirt hem and whispering my doubts.  Why me?  There are a lot of authors out there, ones people actually heard of and know; authors who sold a lot book books and made bestseller lists, and everything.  Telling me, “You don’t even feel like a real author.”

 

magic quill

What does it take to make you feel like an author?  Of course, the simplest answer should be, “You wrote a book,” or, “You published a book.”  If only life were so simple for everyone.

 

In all the years I spent writing, I’ve always had that nagging doubt.  I’m nobody.  Unknown.  Just some person with a story in her head (okay many stories) that need to get out.  I’m not James Patterson or Stephen King.  I don’t go by the moniker Dean Koontz or any other name anyone would recognize and say, “Hey, that’s an author!”

I always had the doubt, expecting anyone at any time to say I’m wasting my time, I’m not a “real” author, or that my writing stinks like the rancid breath of the partially desiccated reanimated corpse of a komodo dragon with a dead skunk stuck in its mouth.

Even after my first book, Where the Bodies Are, was published, doubts remain.  It’s only one book, after all.  But, it can’t be all that bad if someone else found it worthy of publication, right?  I still didn’t feel like a “real” author; which is probably odd, since I would without question think of anyone else who published a single book as a “real” author.

Now I have a couple of books published, with Indigo Sea Press picking up not only Where the Bodies Are, but also my latest book, The McAllister Farm.

With published books I now have to count on more than one finger, I still don’t feel authorey; and yes, I did just make up that word.

intangible personTo me, an author has always been that intangible person on the other side of the book.  The magic behind the story.  Funny, I don’t look or feel magic.  Not mystical in any way.  I’m just me.

If I had ten published books, I would probably feel the same way.  I’m just me.  Someone asked me to autograph my book she bought and it felt really weird.  I very recently sold a few books to a few people I know and they asked me to sign them.  It felt just as strange, awkward really, in a, “This is a joke, right?” kind of way.  And these were all people I’ve known for years.  I might get sucked into an abyss of weirdness in the floor if an actual stranger wanted me to sign a book.

I’m not sure what it will take before I feel like a “real author”.  At what point this will happen, if ever.

I asked my eleven year old what would make her feel like a “real author”.  Her answer: “If my books sold; lots.  A lot of them.”

I asked my thirteen year old the same question. Her answer: “When a lot of people buy my books and are asking for them, and when I’m making a good profit.  And, when I’m a New York Times bestseller, because all my books are New York Times bestsellers.”

pose question.jpg

I pose the question to you, and this is all about YOU, not for you to try to convince me that I’m a “real” author.

 

Authors: What made or would make you feel like a “real author”?

Readers: What defines a “real author” for you, as opposed to thinking, “Yeah, whatever, so you wrote a book, but you aren’t a real author”?

 

Let the game begin.

Can you handle a little darkness?

L.V. Gaudet is the author of the McAllister Series and Garden Grove.

Tormented by his inability to stop killing, the killer is taunted by his need to find the one thing he must find …

where the bodies are

Learn the secret … behind the bodies and how the man who created the killer became who he is …

McAllister Farm cover 052316_edited-1 - front cover.jpg

The third book will bring these two stories together for a dramatic climax… but no story truly ends.

 

Sabotage, vandalism, poisoned work crew, buried bones, and two strange old people … why is someone trying to stop the new housing development?

Garden Grove Cover - McNally - front cover

Read Full Post »

job experienceAt first glance, they may not seem to have anything to do with each other, the slogging away through job postings, sending out resumes, hoping for some slight recognition in the form of an interview that may or may not get you anywhere, let alone get you a job, and trying to plug your book.

 

When you think about it, they really are not all that different.

Both are selling yourself, who you are, and what you have to offer.

 

one in a crowdYou are an unknown entity, one small piece of paper in a sea of mail.  A single job posting can elicit hundreds of responses from hopefuls.  In the same way, your book is only one in a sea of books vying for the reader’s attention.  Worse, you are not competing against hundreds, but against thousands of hits that may show in a search before yours.

 

While it is easier for the professional to brand themselves, many professions being close-knit groups where everyone knows pretty much who everyone else is, publishing is more like the mainstream office flunky.  You are literally one in millions.

 

brandingBranding yourself and getting your name and image out there in local circles definitely can help.  Make your name itch their scalp with a sense of familiarity.  I heard that name.  It’s familiar.  It makes you harder to ignore.

 

But how do you do that?

 

I sent out news releases for my new release, Garden Grove, to every local news outlet.  One – only one – posted it.  And they got my gender wrong.  But that’s okay, because apparently books of this genre from male authors tend to sell better, but that is a topic for another day.

 

you are not famousApparently, if you are not already a well-known celebrity author, most news agencies won’t touch your new release.  Like the big publishing houses, they know big names sell.  Unknowns don’t.  So, now the challenge is to get past that.  After all, nobody will ever buy or read your book if they don’t know it exists.

 

Any skills you’ve learned in life in selling yourself or anything else, whether is the job hunt circuit or through your daily job, you can use that knowledge to help you sell yourself and your books.

how will your book get noticed.jpg


First, you have to get their attention
.  Why, out of the faceless stack of emails, letters, and other media, should they bother looking at yours? Don’t get buried, get noticed.  When there are literally millions of published books, hundreds coming out daily, on every site, how do you get the reader, or the person filtering through those news releases, to notice YOU?

 

get into their heads.jpgInsinuate yourself into their heads.  Plug yourself wherever and whenever you can.  Make your pen name go from the great white unknown of white noise to something that rings a vague sense of familiarity.  A sense of familiarity brings the world together.  When a reader is scanning a list of books, when nothing special about the covers pop out, what catches their attention?  The feeling of the familiar.  Familiar is safe.  Familiar is home.  Familiar is friends and family.

 

 

who are youThen, you have to make them know who you are.  Brand not just your pen name, but your photo as well.  Whatever that photo may be, whether it is you or not, that is your brand.  That is what becomes familiar.  Like the logo of so many products and stores, once it becomes familiar it is instantly recognizable and the human brain will target it in a lineup of unfamiliar images.

 

branding3What is branding?  In simple terms, branding is making something familiar; making it consistently familiar.  When someone sees it, they know exactly what it is about.  Branding is making it reliably about something meaningful.

 

When you see or hear the name Stephen King, you know exactly what it is about.  You know immediately, this is not a car or brand of chocolates.  You are not wondering if the book cover will be fanciful imagery of a scantily clad love-struck young woman mooning over a buff man in a field of flowers.  You know immediately who this author is and what he is about. You expect demonic clowns peering out at you from sewers, possessed cars, and anything else that may titillate your fears.  That is branding.

 

Find those little ways to get you and your book to show up, even if only randomly.  Advertising can be expensive.  So can trying to get yourself into local events.  In addition, there is the cost of printing up a bunch of books to give away or have on hand.  As a newbie author, you likely don’t have that kind of money to commit.

 

Randomly placed posters might be one way.  Get out and talk to random strangers.  Heck, maybe even show up for those fundraising used book sales where you can talk to people and maybe give away a few free autographed copies.  It may not do anything at all for you, but it may get a few people talking about you.

 

word of mouthThe best sales gimmick is word of mouth.  When I heard non-book readers talking about Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and all the negative hype about it, and how they needed to read it to find out what all the fuss is about, I knew immediately that his people nailed it.  They nailed making the word of mouth advertising work.  Instant hit.

 

But the hardest part of getting anyone to notice you and your book is to get anyone to notice you and your book.  There are as many ideas out there on how to do this as there are people trying to do it.  Some will work, some won’t.  None will work every time or for everyone.  It’s a bit of a crapshoot.  But you will try because it’ the only way to sell books.  Obscurity sells nothing.

 

 

i am addicted to youMost importantly, give them a reason to love you.  Your writing must be quality, and your editing even better.  Without a quality product, you are nothing.  The junky dollar store stuff that looks cheap, and is of poor quality, is quickly forgotten or tossed out.  But whether something cost a dollar or twenty, if it is quality that is what stands out.  People remember good quality.  They brag about it.  They are impressed and want others to be too.  They come back looking for more.

 

 

Garden Grove Cover-FinalGarden Grove can be downloaded in multiple ebook formats FREE on Smashwords using coupon code YV67F until Dec 31/15.

 

Reviews left on your favorite online retailer are very much appreciated.

 

 

Can you handle a little darkness in your life?

  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/587705

 

Read Full Post »

end of the world.

It’s the day before the last day of the world.

.

Okay, so the world is not going to end tomorrow night at the stroke of midnight.  This is not a Clive Barker, Richard Matheson, or Stephen King the world is ending thing.  Nor is it the end of the world in real terms.

.

end of nanowrimoTomorrow is the last day of November.  The end of National Novel Writing Month, a month of madness where authors, writers, aspiring hopefuls, writer wanabes, and whatever else they choose to call themselves join forces in a mass online campaign to deluge the world with newly and hastily crafted works of literary art from the atrociously bad to brilliant.

.

The last few years have shown me how easy hitting that 50,000 word mark can be.  After the initial years of failure, disappointment, and even abandoning all hope (and abandoning writing the NaNo novel) as early as halfway through the month, the past few years were a revelation; perhaps one that made it seem too easy.

.

This year has shown me once again how hard it can be to reach the goal.  A mere 1,667 words per day, made easier by the good days that allow you to slack on others, can seem so simple.  And yet, it can be so out of reach that you stare forlornly at your measly 156 words you managed that day, wondering, “What the hell is wrong with me?”

.

its not about youIf you are like me this year, and utterly failing at NaNo, I am here to tell you that it is not you.  And it is not about you, not in the sense of whether you achieve that magical number of 50,000 words.

.

This year, for the first time in an absolute failure year, I did not give up.  I know I cannot possibly scrape together the necessary words to meet the 50,000 goal, not without cheating and copy and pasting.  (But then, who would I be cheating if I did that?  Only myself.)  I still plug on.  Even if I only manage a sad 76 words right now.  I will still write on my NaNo today, and I will still write on it tomorrow, even if tomorrow will likely give me a whopping twenty minutes to work on it.  I will still post my results and validate my failure.

.

keep calm and don't give upWhy don’t I give up?

.

Why should I?

.

Sometimes life has plans other than yours.  Life can be busy.  This year just happens to be one of those years for me where life takes control of my plans, other priorities come first, and too many priorities leave too little time for each.

.

That doesn’t mean you should just give up.

.

NaNoWriMo is more than just slapping a bunch of words on a page.  It is about releasing your inner creativity.  It is about allowing yourself to let go of your preconceptions of what a writer is and what they must do.  Release yourself from what holds you back, the fear of somehow doing it wrong.  Gleefully wallow in knowing that what you write does not have to be perfect.  Every word does not have to be carefully plotted, formulated, or follow strict rules and guidelines.  Imagine what the greatest painters in history would have accomplished if they aspired like so many writers do, to follow *the rules* of what other artists before them said was allowable art.  I doubt we would have any greatest painters in history.

.

be realIt is about being real with yourself.  Embrace both your strengths and your weaknesses, your doubts, your feelings of writing success.  Embrace your writing limits and push them.

.

It is an exercise in writing.  Teaching yourself to conquer the doubts you call “writer’s block” and teaching yourself to write regularly.  The more you retrain yourself to write regularly, the easier it will come.  It is the exploration of your capabilities.  Nothing is done well without practice.  The more you write, the better you get at it.

.

.

Post NaNo brings a new challenge.

.

challenges aheadDecember first will bring with it the month of post-NaNo blues or victory celebration valedictory.  Will you continue the novel to its end, or abandon it?  Maybe you already finished it.

.

Maybe you will go back now to do that careful plotting you were gnashing your teeth over the need for all month.  Now you can return to the novel, tear it down, and rebuild it if needed.  Edit it until both you and your story cry.

.

Months and endless hours from now, when you have finished writing and editing until you simply cannot edit it any more, after you perhaps let it sit and then attack it again with more edits, you might declare it publish-worthy.

.

.

If you thought National Novel Writing Month was a challenge, you are now about to face an even bigger challenge.

.

Are you ready for what could be the worst streak of rejection you will ever experience in your life?

.

Did you think dating as an awkward teenager was hard?  Did that fear of rejection make you abandon all hope of every finding love (or at least a comfortable semblance of it)?

.

You may choose the traditional publishing route.  If you do, the best of luck to you.  The reality is that it will probably take more luck than talent. Unless, of course, you happen to be a celebrity.  But that does not mean it’s impossible.

.

Smaller independent publishers will give you better odds.  They don’t have the big corporate name, money, and advertising of the big publishing houses.  And you may not get your book onto the shelf of the major bookstores.  Your odds of having smash success sales are smaller too.  But, are you looking for moderate success, or to be the next J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyers, Stephen King, or Dean Koontz?  Be warned, though, to thoroughly research any independent press you choose to court.  Research them more if they actually offer you a contract.  They are not all equal.  Some are more helpful, some less.  Some you may find yourself locked into a contract that is not worth the paper it is printed on, your book languishing unpublished indefinitely, or as on your own in every sense as if you are self-publishing, except that you are forever waiting for them to reveal whether or not you sold a single copy.  Others will prove to be fantastic publishers and allies.

.

You might decide for any one of many reasons to take the self-publishing route.  Here, you are on your own for everything.  No one is vetting your manuscript for salability.  It is up to you to make sure your manuscript is written and edited to the closest to perfection that is possible.  You need to find a book cover that fits the story, and appeals to the readers.  You are your own publisher, editing manager, marketing team, and everything else that goes with it.  Your book will only be as good as you can make it, and that might be mediocre or marvelous.

.

.

welcome to rejection.jpgRejection and obscurity.  Two ugly words.  All three publishing routes are filled with these two words.

.obscurity.jpg

My first published novel, Where the Bodies Are, took what felt like an exceedingly long time to be published after signing a contract with an independent publisher in the U.S.

.

In its first year of publication, I made enough in royalties to buy a coffee.  Depending on where I bought it.  The second year was worse.  Now it sits in limbo, waiting to be re-released under a new publisher name, with little hope of improved sales.

.

The second book, The McAllister Farm, is in pre-publishing limbo.  The contract is signed, promises are made, and a book that I am told is even better than the first sits unpublished and unread with no end in sight.

.

But I do not give up.  I know any publisher is in it ultimately to make money.  Even if they are in it for the love of literary art, they have to pay the costs associated with it.  That puts authors like me, lacking in a history of selling large numbers, on the backburner behind the authors that already make them money.  It isn’t personal, it’s just business.

.

.

My newly released book Garden Grove has already had more success in the fifteen days since it was released than my first book in two years.  That success is not counted in paid sales, unfortunately.  It has “sold” more free coupon copies than the first book did in total sales.  And even those free copies are a very small number.  It is too soon to have sales numbers from most of the retail sites listing it.

.

no failSo, why do I call that a success?  Simple.  If nobody ever reads a single thing I wrote, not a short story or book, then how will they know if it’s any good?  People have to experience a thing to love or hate it.

.

Millions of writers sit in obscurity, their books not even showing up on a search. If I search either published book title, I get books by others with both similar and not even vaguely close titles.  But not a sign of mine, unless I include my name in the search.

.

What hope do you have of anyone reading your work, hating or loving it, if they never know it exists?  Each click, like, rating, view, download, sale, and review up your chances that just one other reader might accidentally hit on your book.  Each person who reads it increases your chances someone somewhere will talk about it.  Word of mouth is your most powerful sales tool.

.

The biggest reason I don’t give up?  I don’t do it for fame and fortune.  I’m a realist.  I know that likely will never happen.  I don’t care to make a name for myself.  I write for the love of the art, for the artistic expression.  I publish because art is meant to be shared.  Hate it or love it (and if you don’t have a propensity to be drawn to the dark world of books, you will probably hate it), each person who reads and is moved by a story is a success.

.

.where the bodies are


Where the Bodies Are
is still available on Amazon while waiting for the changeover to the new publisher.

.

.

Garden Grove Cover-FinalGarden Grove is available in multiple formats on various online retailers, if you can find it in a search, including these places:

Amazon author page

Barnes and Noble

Smashwords

McNally Robinson – watch for Garden Grove to hit the bookshelf in physical form for a limited time (time dependent on sales volume)

 

Read Full Post »

the half way point..

The first two weeks of National Novel Writing Month are down, we are half way there, and today we all gear up for the second half.

.

.

.just not feeling it

This was supposed to be a light-hearted post, full of encouragement and humor because that is what NaNoWriMo is about.  But, I’m just not feeling it.

.

With the recent terror attacks in Beirut and France, all the blind hatred against so many who are innocent of these crimes and knee-jerk fear it has caused against people for the sole crime of their appearance as someone of middle-Eastern descent (as if that even were some heinous crime), and the daily atrocities being committed across the world by a multitude of terrorist and hate groups, today I find it impossible to feel light-hearted.

.

farHate is an ugly thing.   It makes people live in fear, hating people they know nothing about, just because of what they look like, which church they go to, how they dress, what little piece of dirt on this planet their ancestors were born on, how much money they earn, and even whether they were born male or female, among countless other non-reasons.  Hate has touched every single country, every people, every culture, at some time in history.  People make assumptions about people because of how the look.  No one is immune, and it never makes sense.  Haters hate for the sake of hating, it seems.

.

Terrorism is even uglier than hate.  It is a power game.  A cry for attention.  No one will ever truly understand why people commit acts of terrorism, why they feel the need to join with others and do horrible things to other people who they don’t even know.  They are the schoolyard bullies of the world, only they seriously up the ante.  We can only cry for the hurt, and pity those who are so broken inside that they cannot live their life without the need to hurt others.

.

Okay, now that I got that out, let’s turn the focus on what this blog is about, writing.

.

PrintIf you are participating in National Novel Writing Month, at this point you are falling somewhere in the spectrum of the three groups of the half-way NaNo point.

.

  • The woot-woot, I totally have this group.
  • The hopefully optimistic group.
  • And the I’m so dead in the water I should just roll over and quit group.

.

The woot-woot, I totally have this group are those who are so on track they are smoking.  Maybe you already have the 50,000 words and are just waiting to sail across that finish line at the end of the month with a record-smashing work count.  Maybe you are just at or above par, but you know you have this.  You rock!

.

The hopefully optimistic group are in the zone where they may fail or they may triumph.  You are at par, struggling to keep up, but you are still hopefully optimistic because you know that if nothing unforeseen happens you can still do this.  Maybe you are behind a little or a lot, but you still have hope.  Hell, you still have half a month to go!  If you knuckle down now, you can push your way through to make that 50,000 count by the end.

.

The I’m so dead in the water I should just roll over and quit group.  Yeah, you know who you are.  You are feeling it.  You are still plugging away at that NaNo novel, even while you wonder, “Why am I even bothering?”  You are so far behind, haven’t the time, and know that you have already lost.  You feel defeated already, without hope, lost.  But you are still plugging away at it, too bloody stubborn to give up even though you keep telling yourself to give it up and just go have a glass of wine and drown your losses.  So why are you even still trying?  Why?  Because you are a writer and that’s what writers do.  They write.  They keep writing when all feels lost, when no one around them understands what they do or why they do it.  They keep writing when people around them think they should just quit, when they themselves think they should quit.  They keep writing when even they don’t know why they bother to keep writing.  Why?  Because they must, it’s who they are, a drive only other writers truly understand.

.

This would be the category I fit best in, although I am trying hard to be in the hopefully optimistic group.  I am woefully behind on NaNo.  I’m maybe just not cut out for this, but am too stubborn to give up, no matter how many times I voice out loud that I give up, that I quit.

.

I did the stay at home parent thing for years, and have now been back to work for four years (holy crap, has it been that long already?!).  And now, it feels more like I’m still a stay at home parent, with all the things a stay at home parent has to do because that’s all the things every parent has to do, only ten hours a day, five days a week, are sucked out by the need to earn a living and pay bills.  The kids are hitting the age where their bed times are growing later, their activities more numerous, and their demand for attention even greater, as if that were even possible.  And the housework is forever behind.

.

So where does that leave writing?  That leaves writing in the world of blind determination.  Sitting in a corner with my laptop while the kids have their taekwondo lesson.  Spending my lunch breaks writing or editing.  Impossibly trying and failing to tune out the chaos of kids surrounding me because I have no quiet place at home, and finally knocking off some real writing after eleven o’clock at night on a weekend night when I don’t have to be up at five-thirty in the morning.  And throwing in whatever words I can manage when and where I can manage in between.

.

Writing needs inspiration.  But inspiration does not always come just because you are writing.  Without inspiration, your writing is dry and as lifeless as that soggy sandwich you didn’t eat two days ago when you missed lunch.

.

inspiration just aheadNational Novel Writing Month is about committing yourself to trying to knock out those 50,000 words regardless of time and inspiration.  It is about pushing away all your preconceptions about what writing is about, the rules you think you must follow, and just giving yourself the freedom to write without stressing over whether it is good or bad or whether you followed every rule.

.

And, if this makes no sense to you, then you might be missing the point.  Writer’s block is yourself not being willing to let that inspiration flow.  It is a self-made crutch.  Do you go to work or school, look around, and say, “I can’t do this today because I’m just not feeling it.”  Do you stare blankly at that unfolded laundry basket, sink full of dishes, or empty stove and decide you just can’t do it?

.

These are things you do every day because you must.  You trained yourself to do them, to know automatically how to fold those socks vs. a pair of pants, to take separate things and put them together into a creative work of art called “supper”.  The thought process to do your job comes automatically, whether your job is data entry, flipping patties, or creating something masterful and inspirational.

.

NaNoWriMo is a month long exercise in pushing yourself to maybe do something you did not think you can, to write on demand when and where you can, whether you *feel* it or not.

.

lets get creativeTo train yourself to bring on that inspiration on demand.

.

Now let’s get out there and NaNo!

Read Full Post »

week doneThe first week of National Novel Writing Month is done, and if you are participating, at this point you should be starting today at no less than 11,669 words.

.

At this point, I am usually still optimistic of being able to do this.  After all, we are only one week in on a month long stretch.  This year, I’m less so.  I’ve been trailing a little further behind every day.  This year has been an especial challenge with my time stretched further than ever before.

.

Everything has been a bigger challenge since transitioning from stay at home parent to working parent.  You still have all the same things to do as before, only now you have no less than ten hours a day, five days a week dedicated to earning a paycheck.  But now it is even more so.  The kids have hit that age, tweens that in a few short years will both be in or hitting their early teen years, where their needs seem to be growing faster than a B movie monster.  Between later bedtimes than before, homework, activities, and the need for those parent/child talks to help them navigate the changing world of a tween, they are the biggest time goblins that exist.

.

“Me time” is relegated to that drive to and from work, and writing time to the snippets of time after the kids have gone to bed and before I do.  Often on days the spouse is working evenings or nights, because you need to give your partner time too.  Time, that is usually needed to do household chores.

.

So, how does one with a busy life find time for writing?  Particularly for the daunting task of pushing out no less than 50,000 words in only thirty days?

.

Persistence is the key.  Persistence and determination.

.

Don’t discount that five or ten minute chance to pound some words out.  Not at your computer and an idea or sentence or two comes to you?  Note it any way you can.  Notes apps on your phone are great.  No matter how short or long, not that down and you can later copy it over into your NaNo story.

.

Eliminate contractions.  Having too many contractions is just being lazy.  Sixty contractions are sixty extra words you are squeezing into that precious word count.  If it feels ungainly later when you return to edit, then you probably should be rewording sentences so that so many contractions do not feel necessary.  While dialogue can feel more natural with more contractions, descriptions are less so.  And even dialogue contraction use depends on each character’s personality.  A more proper character will use more proper language, while a more laid-back one will use more.  Smooth out that dialogue later in editing.

.

Use Microsoft Word comment sticky notes at any chance you get.  No, it won’t up your word count, but it will flag those random thoughts and things you need to come back and research when it’s fresh in your mind to come back to after November ends.

.dr suess weird

Lighten up.  Don’t be so serious.  There is nothing serious about NaNo. It’s the crazy ass writer’s version of fun.  Get crazy with it.

.

Take advantage of those moments when the words flow.  Forget about worrying so much about where the story is going and if it is sticking to the script.  If the words are flowing, let them.  Let them take on that life of their own.  Any writer with experience on the writing end will tell you that even the most carefully plotted out story can change direction in the writing.  Stories take on something of a life of their own.  Just like your kids, your best laid plans for their future may not be the future they are meant to have.

.

Overwrite that scene.  It’s okay.  Throw all the passion and feeling you can into it.  Describe it at length.  Feel it.  Describe those feelings at length.  Put every ounce of yourself into it.  You can tighten it up later when you edit, but that passion will still shine through.

.week two

Now roll up those pajamas, pour that coffee with a shot of Baileys or Kahlúa, and let’s get our NaNo on!

.

Week two is ON!

Read Full Post »

temptaion.

Tempting, isn’t it?

.

You think, if only I can get enough reviews of my book to push the rating up, then my sales will go up.

And you are right.  But the problem can be in getting those reviews.  The stats on how many people who read your book will leave a review are abysmally small, less than five percent.

And, the reviews you do get can work against you.  Too many five star reviews will leave potential readers suspicious.  If you only have five star reviews that will definitely make them wonder.  Your best chance of making more sales from your reviews is to have a mixed bag of reviews.  Some fives, fours, and even the odd three star review.  After all, who is going to believe that every single person who read your book absolutely loved it?  Even the biggest name authors have their detractors who trash their books in reviews.

But, getting those reviews can be so hard that you can find yourself stuck with a scathingly bad review and very few positive ones to counter it.

.

cryOr, like millions of writers languishing in Amazon obscurity, you could be sitting there with none or so few reviews that even you have trouble finding your own book on this and other sites.

.

This is how there came to be a market for paid reviews.  As tempting as it may be to go down that road, there may never be any turning back.

Paid for reviews will always be suspect.  After all, you did buy the review.  Who buys a bad or mediocre review?  No, you want good reviews for your money.

No one will believe a paid for review is a true and honest review.  They certainly won’t believe it is unbiased.  Anyone with the money can buy positive advertising, which is all a paid for review is.  It’s also a poor choice in advertising spending.

.

Once you gain a reputation for using paid for reviews that reputation will stick to you like “the cheese touch” in Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  All reviews on your books will be suspect.

And now, you have another reason to avoid paid for reviews.

Amazon has begun taking legal action against the use of paid for reviews.

Amazon does make it very clear in their guidelines that paid for reviews are not allowed.

They also do not allow overfriendly reviews.

We have all heard stories about Amazon having a dislike for people reviewing books of authors they know and are connected with in any way.  So, authors doing review swaps tend to get their reviews of each other’s books removed by Amazon.  Review swaps may be a popular way to get reviews in exchange for giving reviews, but are limited in where they can be used.

Amazon does also say on their review guidelines that family members and close friends are not allowed to leave product reviews.  Perhaps this is rightly so, since their reviews would obviously be biased.

But who is to say that a simple review swap, or someone connected on social media, even has a close enough relationship for it to bias their review?  The majority of the people I am connected with through social media are near strangers, connected through shared interests and author groups and little more.

Read Amazon’s guidelines for reviews.

.

ostracisedGiving paid for reviews also will damage your reputation as an unbiased reviewer.

You should also take note that some countries do have laws regarding paid for reviews, including the United States.  A paid for review is required to state that it is a paid for advertisement, even when it is on a blog or a review on a sales site like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

.

No matter how tempted you may be, if someone offers to give you a paid review of your book, you should politely decline.

The same if someone offers to pay you to give them a review.

It just isn’t worth it in the long run to ruin your reputation both as a writer and a reviewer.

.

There is one distinction to note.  While money, gifts, and other financial incentives definitely do count and must be disclosed, giving reviews in exchange for free books can be a grey area.

Typically, receiving a free book in exchange for reviewing it is not considered a paid for review.  However, it is recommended to note whether or not you paid for that book or received it free in exchange for a review.

This is where you should tread carefully.  If all of your reviews are for books you received free in exchange for a review, this gives the assumption that you expect benefits (i.e. free books) in exchange for giving reviews.

Read Full Post »

too many booksSo you thought all it takes to write great is to read a lot.

.

Nothing worth doing is that easy.

.

Do you think the Blue Jays and Chicago Cubs hope to win the World Series by watching baseball?  Did Wayne Gretzky become a Canadian hockey icon from watching hockey games?

Did George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, Ernest Hemingway, and C. S. Lewis all become famous authors by simply spending hours reading?

All of these successes are attributable to many things, but one in particular is common to each and every one of them.  Hard work.  No matter what you strive to be good at; it takes a lot of practice and hard work.

.

True success, the kind that stands the test of time, is earned.

.

I am a believer that studying what you want to be good at is essential.  Reading good books is a good way to study what makes a good book good.  Let yourself get lost in it, soak up the ambience, and let your subconscious absorb it so that it will reflect in your own writing.  But don’t forget to also take note of what makes you like the book.  The little moment in the midst of tragedy or horror that puts a smile on your face or makes you laugh.  The heartwarming moment that breaks away from the cold seriousness of the story.  A particular scene you felt was well written.  This is feeding your conscious mind.

.

Read articles and advice on how those who are successful made their success happen, and what they believe makes a story and its author good.  Study the art of writing in all its forms.  Cross boundaries and read about genres you do not write to expand your knowledge base.

.

The most important part – practice.  Write, write, and write some more.  Edit until you cannot edit anymore and then put it away to come back and edit it again.  Re-write.  Let your writing sleep and work on a new story.  Try different kinds of writing.  Each variation has a lesson to be learned.

.

Types of writing practice:

The writing prompt –      The writing prompt can be anything.  It can be provided by someone else, or by yourself.  It can be the first random item that draws your attention on your commute.  The point of the writing prompt is to take something which you know nothing about, and create a story about it.  It is an exercise in writing and stretching and building your creativity muscles.

Flash fiction –  Can you write an entire story in less than 1,000 words?  In 300 or less?  The whole point of flash fiction is to write a very tight and very short, yet compelling story that feels complete.   This is good practice to help you improve your ability to write tight, losing the extra verbiage.  There are many online sites where these are popular, so they can be fairly easy to get published.  But you typically won’t be paid for it.  The value in this is that you are building a fan base through having these ultra short stories published.

Micro fiction –    A variation of flash fiction, only shorter.  Some require the story to be written in 100 words or less.  This is more of a single scene, but it needs to be a complete scene.  Are you up to the challenge?  This ups the ante in forcing you to write tight and concisely.  Micro fiction has a smaller following, but also a smaller number of writers competing for publication.  Again, you will likely not be paid for it.

Short stories –    Typically running up to 5,000 words, a short story gives you more wiggle room.  Short stories are a good start for beginning writers to wet their feet.  A short story allows you to develop a full story with subplots and character building without the daunting task of trying to write an entire novel.

Short story anthologies seem to be making a comeback.  Once popular, they dropped out of popularity some time ago.  Many anthologies are not paying publications.  You are likely to be paid for your short stories only if you get an anthology published consisting of only your short stories.  If your name is not Stephen King, then that’s not likely to happen.  Getting your short stories into anthologies is still to your advantage even though you likely will not be paid.  You get bragging rights.  Hey, look, you got published!  And by someone who is not you! That means someone else thought your work worthy of publication.  You also are getting exposure.  The publisher has their own following, and each writer who has a short story included in the anthology has a following.  If just one tenth of those people buys and reads the anthology, those are potential fans that might love your story and want more.

.

I recommend to any new writer that they start with the short story.  Write many short stories.  Then dial it back and tighten your writing with flash fiction and micro fiction.  When you feel comfortable with those; move on to tackle a longer project.  Try a novella.  All this will help you prepare for that epic novel you are dying to write.

.

Novella –          A novella can be characterized as a short novel or long short story.  A novella typically runs between 7,500 and 40,000 words and allows you to write a much more in depth and compelling story than a short story.  It makes a good practice to build your writing stamina towards writing a full-length novel.  It also may be the hardest length to sell to a publisher.  A publisher will likely have a similar cost to produce a novella as a full novel, but won’t be able to sell it for as much.  On the other hand, if you are hoping to follow in the footsteps, for example, of the writer of Brokeback Mountain, Annie Proulx, whose story was adapted for screen to become a movie that brought her to fame, your best bet is a good short story or a novella.  A full novel is too long to be easily adapted to film.

Novel –              This is your ultimate goal if you are a fiction writer.  A novel typically runs between 80,000 and 100,000 words.  The length you want depends on the genre.  Some genres just are not forgiving of an epic 100,000 plus word count.  Others would find 80,000 laughably short.

.

.

Just as with anything, practice makes you better.  The more you write, read, and study what makes good writing, the better your writing will be.

Now go get them tiger.  Get out there, hit that keyboard, and write your best.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: