Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Time to Write, A Time to Not

I perceive four types of people who pursue writing. There may be more, but I suspect all of us who dare take on this lofty ambition will fall into one of the following four types, even if it is a subcategory.

• Those who talk about writing, but never really seem to get past all the perceived roadblocks.
— Time
— Family
— Kids
— Responsibilities
— Summer adult baseball, winter adult basketball, or youth sports, dance and other classes
— My REAL job
— I’m really busy developing my Internet social sites and interacting
— I’m in love
— We broke up
— I died

• Those who have scads of ideas, copious notes, all kinds of outlines and partial WIPs
— I don’t know how to write
— I cannot finish anything because I’m always starting something new
— I don’t have enough confidence to continue
— My last 52 starts haven’t been good enough
— I need a mentor
— I want somebody else to take my ideas and run with them, but share the glory (riches) with me
— Everybody who reads my idea tells me it’s a great one but don’t tell me what I need to do next
— My laptop battery went out and I cannot find the plug-in adapter
— I lost everything and hate to start all over
— I’m still working on my NaNoWriMo project, knocking all my other ideas to the back burner

• Those who have finished manuscripts
— I need to know what to do next
— It’s too long, I need to cut it down
— It’s too short, I need to bulk it up
— I need an editor (cheap or free)
— I need readers (cheap or free, but they need to get back to me yesterday after agreeing to read)
— I need a book cover designer (C or F)
— I need a publisher
— It’s finished, but not really, so I need to go back and read and re-read and re-write it
— I’m going to let it rest for a month, then go back and take another look
—Hey everybody! I did it! I wrote a book! Several books! Starting another one!

• Those who are ready to market, solicit, query, seek an agent or self-publish
— How do I let everybody know about my book unless I SPAM them everywhere?
— How do I SPAM everybody everywhere when I only have four e-mail addresses?
— I can’t get anyone to review my new book!
— I can’t get anyone to give me more than one star!
— I get plenty of reviews, but they all suck!
— I’m not happy with: SmashWords, Amazon, Nook, iBookStore, Lulu, CreateSpace, etc.
— I’m not happy with the contract I signed with ACME (fictitious, I think) Publishers!
— My publisher isn’t doing anything for me. I have to do it all: editing, marketing, promotion...
— I got a 5-year, 5-books signed contract, but I have no idea what to write next.
— My manuscript was accepted but here it is a year later and they’re still making me do rewrites!

Does any of this sound familiar? Ring a bell? Make your eyes pop at the pure audacity of the comments? Are you amused, confused or abused by any/all of the above? I admit, it really isn’t funny. After all, we all take our writing, or attempts thereof, seriously. Who is this blog author to abuse that?

For the many, many, many of us who are truly serious about our writing endeavors, the answers are simple. We have read them all in a billion other blogs, books, articles by successful commercial authors, at seminars and workshops. For those who simply want to play at it, all the answers are hard, difficult, impossible even, because they all require that we do something...apply ourselves.

You ever wonder why, for the most part, you cannot remember your dreams? Because they are, after all, only dreams. Nothing tangible, except for those who immediately wake up and use their bedside notebooks or voice recorders...but, hey, these people are the ones who are truly serious about writing. For the rest of us, dreams are dreams, realities are realities. But, if you are truly serious about writing, then each and every reality (Story. Your novel.) was once a dream. Not an enigma or riddle. The equation is simple: Great ideas won’t work unless you do.

It is up to each of us to keep our fires burning, our momentum going, our dreams alive. The basic formula for the first type I listed is to make the determination to write a few words, sentences, paragraphs or pages each day—whenever and wherever we manage to take the time, and regardless of how we feel mentally or physically when that opportunity arises.

The second group needs to pick a story, any story, keep a journal or voice recorder close by to jot down or record new, conflicting or more enticing ideas, and finish that story. Then peruse your other ideas and pick another. Finish it. Pick another. Finish.

There are a number of ways to approach things if you’re a third group member. If you are a writer of any size, shape or description, you must, MUST begin another project ASAP! You will stagnate as a writer if you abandon your stories for the sake of placing your finished, nearly finished, or all but finished manuscript. Yes, it needs to get “out there” and be seen in print or eBook. Yes, you need to develop a readership, gain exposure, establish yourself as an accomplished author. Unless, however, you plan to be a one-book wonder, you need to keep writing. So, if what you did is a labor of love and you wish to openly share, then upload and release it. If it is worth more to you than that, then you need to find a way to outsource some of the other services you need so you can keep writing. If you don’t, you’ll fall back into the elements of the first two types I listed, and essentially have to start the whole process all over again.

Ah, those of us in the last group have so many challenges before us. Primarily, however, we need to be organized. We need to focus on our individual Big Picture, and generate outlines, to-do lists and establish priorities for our long- and short-term goals that we believe will get us where we wish to go. There are decisions to make, to be sure, but we’ve made it into this category so we have conquered our inability to self-start, to overcome, to finish projects. All we need to do, really, is research our options, and when opportunities manifest, we need to carefully study the options and not gleefully jump into the fire with the first smiling handsome person who shows up to bid.

Hard to be logical and left-sided in a right-sided, creative brain, but we all are capable of adapting. It is important to remain positive, keep the faith, maintain hope and stay the course. Those of us who do will...those of us who cannot see how this is possible. Well? Well, you do have access to awesome friends, fellow readers and a boatload of online resources to help you get where you think you want to go as a writer. Doing something about it will move you from one category of writer-types to the next.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Writing is a Piece of Cake

Writing a story, be it drabble, short story, novella or novel, or even a series, is easy. It's a piece of cake! There it is, waiting for the knife. You slice into it, make another cut and create a wedge, then lift it off the platter and onto your plate and dig in. Everybody can do this and enjoy the results...piece of cake!

Well, before the cake you or your readers were able to enjoy, you did need an oven.

You need someplace where it can rise and bake provided you had all the necessary ingredients.

But first you would need the eggs, milk, shortening or oil, flour, baking soda, flavoring, salt, nuts for texture, pieces of chocolate or other goodies for the surprise bursts of flavor, butter, and any other ingredients (elements) that you may decide to use in order to not only make your cake as good or better than any other ever tasted, but unique perhaps. Different. Something with a surprise element like the raspberry and chocolate filler between the two layers.

You might decide to go for a butter icing, marzipan or something entirely different—perhaps whipped cream. You mix, stir, fold in, let it set or sit, or not, then preheat the oven, pour the batter into a special pan, bake it at just the right degrees for just the right amount of time, test it with a broom straw (don't worry, the heat probably killed any germs), take it out, turn off the oven, and let the cake layers cool.

Then comes the icing, and all that goes into creating the wonderful coating that melts, spreads or otherwise forms to your baked and cooled cake. Once again you might fold, mix, stir or beat an assortment of ingredients into confection perfection, or boil for just the right amount of time over just the right temperature, then apply it.

And, if all efforts fail, if you are the type who doesn't give up, who is tenacious and believes the outcome will be worth the effort, you'll begin the process all over again until you get it right. Then take a knife, make a slice, make another slice, and lift that wedge up onto a small plate and savor the results of all your hard work.

Yeah, writing is totally a piece of cake.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

How to Market Your Titles

Talking about promoting our books, about marketing, about how to do it and do it right.

Well, I personally believe the approach is threefold:

1.) Give them something
2.) Stop suggesting they buy the product or title(s)
3.) Don't overdo it

The unasked question by any and all people on the planet, as well as in the next galaxy, is: "What's in it for me?" We must reward interest, loyalty and support with genuine information, entertaining reading and/or something worth something for nothing. If we always ask of them, but never reward them, we lose them.

Hurry! Hurry! Step right up! Only four steaming piles of poop left! Well, okay, not all of them are steaming, but we quickly turn off potential interested readers, followers or referrals if all we ever do is give them kisses and promises, and constantly suggest they go to our site and buy our books. Like tuning out, or turning off the radio during commercials, fast forwarding recorded television programming to bypass the promotions, and glazing over or even closing our eyes when we flip past print media ads, this is what folks will do if the white noise of "buy me" is all that comes up out of the static we post. And, suckering them with terms like "free," "buy one, get one," or "jump this hoop and I'll pat your head" isn't going to endear them.

What will? If they've visited your site, blog, or otherwise viewed your Internet, direct-mail or other content...They. Are. Already. Sold! Cut the sales and promo, and give them a quality product. The best way to do this is via video book teasers, short stories, testimonials or interactive forums where discussions are being held by our readers, even our detractors, comparing us to other writers and authors, or those steaming piles of poop.

Even the quality content, awesome interactive forum or blog discourse and giveaways can be overdone. Pace your promos. Be consistent and dynamic, offer solid good content, but keep them wanting (panting) for more. Don't gorge them on every possible thing you can think of in a five-day period. Spread it out. Be regular, but even a daily bowl of oatmeal gets old if you eat it day in, day out.

So, offer quality content.

Stop selling and start interacting.
And keep it at once a week (sometimes daily, if you can sustain/maintain the quality and dynamic content) for blogs, twice-monthly for newsletters, and one a month or bi-monthly for specials and giveaways.

Do ask them to sign up or follow. Do invite them to comment, but do not make them have to jump hoops, provide the location of all scars, tattoos and their nose hair count in order to be a part of this awesome presence that is YOU THE AUTHOR.

This the kind of content I am going to try and provide, along with applied endeavors for promotion of my titles, and links, at my recently redirected blog E.C. Come, E.C. Go. If you like what you see and read here, feel free to follow. I will hound and not pound on you for your subscription to my forthcoming newsletter later. All my titles can be found at Lulu, as well as other popular sites like Amazon, iBookStore, Nook, SmashWords and Sellfy.

If you like western storytelling, visit Writers of the West. Watch for information on marketing and branding for popular eBook titles, independent authors from around the world, as well as a planned authorial website and major specialty titles website coming soon.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How Do I Finish a Writing Project?

NOTE: With this blog entry I am redirecting the focus of my ongoing EC Come, EC Go, blog posts to writing, primarily fiction writing, rather than video production. I do, however, continue with my series of books on making money producing video, found at Lulu. Revised, updated editions and new books in the “Seven Ways to Make Money with Video" series are coming in 2015.
A dear writing friend of mine asked me recently: Do you have any tips on how finish a (writing) project?
I responded:
There are, of course, the thousand-and-one things that people (writers and wannabe writers) post or comment whenever a question like yours gets posed. The vast majority will comment "just keep writing" or "if you really wanted to write you would" and while there's certainly truth in that, there's MORE to the challenge of finishing a project as well. The simple fact that pushing or punishing yourself into writing, forcing it, hammering down, blah, blah, blah, alone isn't The Answer, as you already know. It's easy to say or think, "just do it!"
That being said, the single most important truth has more than one element of focus. The essentials include: TIME (real or perceived, available or lack thereof); Incentive/drive/self-discipline; and DESIRE/MOTIVATION.
More than anything, there is the very real need to WANT to write your story.
You are ambushed by feelings of doubt, insecurity—is it REALLY any good, or am I just kidding myself?—when you read or see so many others bragging and going off on how many thousands of words they accomplished today. You then ask yourself how you can possibly hammer out a thousand or more words a day, and if you don't, will you EVER finish a writing project.
There are many RIGHT and ten times as many WRONG ways to go at it.
But you first have to be excited about the story you want to tell.
So, you have a story you want to tell and you are truly excited about it. You WANT to get it written, and, maybe share it when you're done.
I am primarily a "reveal" or "discovery" writer—what many refer to as a "Pantser"...writing by the seat of my pants, with no safety net and no outline. That is just me, but it does do one helps me simply TELL my story without paying a lot of attention to rules, homilies, you ought to do this or thats, or a rigid plan. I can let my imagination run wild and free, only focusing on telling the story—time enough for editing and cleaning up later. STORY first, fix later.
BUT, I do outline. By that, I mean I'll take this idea that has slammed its way into my creative imagination, and I'll use a journal or notebook to simply AT LEAST, come up with ideas and thoughts for each chapter. Those are my Roman numeral I, II, III, IV, etc. outline headers. I may, or not, go any further. I may just use this as a rough guide for moving along with a story that I hope will be something close to what I imagine it should be.
TIME: If you tell yourself that you WILL WRITE one hour a day. It can be 6 in the morning or 10 at night or anything before, after or between. You don't HAVE to stick with the clock, just KNOW in your creative writer's heart-of-hearts that no matter WHAT happens on any given day you WILL write for one hour. This is where it all starts and how you get into the mode that will help you finish a project.
So, you have a story idea you LOVE, and you've determined that you WILL write (hand, or typed) one hour a day.
You have written some notes to guide your effort, and perhaps a simple outline of the chapter events that you think ought to take place.
If you DO determine that you like and enjoy not only writing, but the story idea you want to give life to, if you determine to write a certain period of time each day, you are close to having the ingredients that will help you complete a project.
Do this daily, but like running or other life events, don't thrash yourself if you miss a day here and there. Just do not allow missing your one-hour-a-day writing session to become an anti-habit. It is critical that you do whatever it takes to compel yourself to write a certain period of time at least 5-6 days a week. Don't let LIFE get in the way.
As I have shared with my many FWG (FB Fiction Writers Group) writing friends before, there is a strength to putting down X number of words a day. Not editing. Not correcting as you go. Not reading and re-reading, changing and plodding forward a sentence or two. But simply writing to tell your story. Visualize your story as it unfolds. SEE it in your mind's eye, and simply write down (REPORT) what you see, hear, taste, smell, feel. Then keep in mind that ANY number of words, written each day, day-after-day, WILL result in a story, short story, novella or novel over time.
Just 50 words a day—written during that one hour you've committed to—will result in a GREAT short story, or two awesome short stories a year. One story of 12,500 words, or two 6,250 excellent short stories.
100 words a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, will generate a fantastic novella of 25,000 words. Awesomesauce!
Double that to 200 words each day, for one hour of serious writing, for 5 days a week and 50 weeks a year, and you are in NOVEL territory. And, there is nothing at all wrong with writing one novel a year of 50,000 or more words.
With all the wonderful folks and resources available on Fiction Writers Group, you have at your disposal, readers, editors, book designers, cover designers and reviewers, even marketers who can help you once you've written your story.
It does, my friend, take a certain degree of personal drive and ambition, but if you set aside the time, have the inspiration and plan for reaching your storytelling goal, you WILL absolutely finish your project.