The Writer's Station
Atlanta, GA

Literary Batman is not going to save you

coffee - chris atomic unsplashMet a friend for lunch today. Like me, she’s a writer. Also like me, she’s in the early stages of launching her dream career. I’m working on a blog post about my takeaways from our meeting, but one thing we talked about is how we (the collective) often enter creative ventures hoping or expecting or believing that someone will rescue us.

It’s not something we do consciously. It’s a secret desire that somehow someone bigger, smarter, and much further along in the journey will help us with a shortcut to major success. Of course, we put in some work, and effort, and a whole lot of thought, but somewhere at the forefront of our thoughts is the idea that this individual or this opportunity will somehow present itself and give us our big break. We’re subconsciously seeking a hero.

But as much as I love the DC and Marvel Universes, as much as I dedicate way, way too much time watching the Flash and Arrow on TV, I have to acknowledge that when it comes to the creative career I’ve set out to establish for myself, the literary version of Batman is not sitting on pins and needles waiting for my “writer in distress” signal.

He doesn’t have an eye trained to my tiny corner of Georgia looking for the next breakout multi-cultural, women’s fiction, romance mash-up writer. He probably has no idea what a multi-cultural, women’s fiction, romance mash-up writer is. Literary Batman is not going to launch my writing career into the stratosphere.

So here’s the reality we as writers and creatives must confront if we intend to stick around for the long haul: We must become our own heroes. It’s that simple. At the end of a long day fighting battles with words, we have to go home, peel out of our sweat-slicked costumes, dab some salve on our wounds, and get ready for the fight that tomorrow will most assuredly bring.

It’s that simple. But it’s definitely not that easy.

I’ll follow up next time with the next thing I learned at my meeting: Once you make your desire to launch a creative career public, you’ll be surprised where your help comes from, and where it doesn’t.

The Man Who is Actually in the Arena

Theodore Roosevelt Quote

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” — Theodore Roosevelt

IndieRecon: HM Ward Shows Authors How It’s Done

three-legged-stool-hm-wardIndieRecon, the online conference for indie-authors, is officially over. The conference was jam-packed with live interviews and presentations. Good news if you missed the conference: they’re posting everything on their website. I’m still working my way through the list but after watching HM Ward’s presentation, I was chomping at the bit to share a few things I learned.

If you’re not familiar with HM Ward and you’re interested in the indie publishing scene, you should definitely check out her blog, http://blog.demonkissed.com/.  Ward is a New York Times bestselling indie author who writes “sexy awesome books.”  In fact, since 2011 she’s sold over 10 million of them. That’s not a typo. That’s 10 million books in under 5 years, all without using a traditional publisher. It doesn’t hurt that Ward writes in the hottest indie-publishing genre. But if you’re thinking that her advice won’t be relevant because you write in another genre or because you write non-fiction, you’re wrong. Ward’s advice is practical and applicable no matter what you’re writing. In my opinion, these are the top takeaways from her talk:

Price is no longer the big determining factor it once was in the eBook game

Makes sense when you think about it. With the glut of free titles being made available on a seemingly daily basis, readers who like free and cheap books now look at other things to help them make a choice. The key is understanding what makes a reader choose one book (in their preferred genre) over another. Which brings us to Ward’s second point…

Time is the new obstacle

With so many free books available to readers, time (not money) becomes the real obstacle a new author has to surmount. And the question then becomes, how do I show the reader that my book is worth their time. Ward believes there are three things that get readers to buy a book. She calls it…

The Golden Trifecta

Ward used the image of a three-legged stool where the book was the seat, and the blurb, cover, and sample were the three legs. She argues that if you don’t get all three right, your sales will be hindered. Covers are a no-brainer. If you have a horrible cover, your book will barely get a look. A few highlights about blurbs and samples:

Blurb – Look at your query letter and use that as a guide. Provide a clear hook and give them just enough to want to read the book. The blurb isn’t a summary, either. Keep it short, tight, and interesting. I liken it to a movie trailer. Put in all the exciting stuff, leave out everything else.

Sample – Your cover was awesome, your blurb fantastic. The reader liked both enough to download the sample. Don’t give them backstory or a beginning that doesn’t deliver any excitement before the sample concludes. Give them conflict, action, and empathy.

Here’s a suggestion. Go back and revisit a book in your genre that you loved. Study the cover. Reread the blurb and the first few pages. And then figure out what it was about those things that drew you in, that turned you from a browser to a buyer to a reader, and maybe even a fan.

I encourage you to head straight over to the IndieRecon site and watch Ward’s entire presentation. You can find it here.

Image attribution: Steve Baty Flickr

What Indie Authors Need to Know: IndieRecon Topic Recap

indiereconIf you’ve ever considered indie-publishing and you’re not following IndieRecon, you’re missing out. Really missing out. This is my second year “attending” the free online conference and after only a couple hours in, I’m already inspired. The conference runs from April 15 – 17, 2015, and includes blog posts, video, audio, live-streamed events, and twitter chats.

IndieRecon 2015 Topic: What Indie Authors Need to Know in 2015

I’ve watched the first topic, What Indie Authors Need to Know in 2015, and highly recommend this hour-long interview with Smashwords founder Mark Coker. It contains quite a few gems, hard truths, and motivation for any writer interested in indie-publishing.

A few highlights:
1.) Don’t limit yourself to one distributor. If you do, you’re missing the opportunity to present your work to readers, including those in the global marketplace.
2.) Collaborate with authors who write in the same genre. Box-sets are a great opportunity to cross-promote your writing.
3.) Spend more time writing and less time on social media. You need to have a book before you can market it.  *Bonus – if you’re spending time worrying about people stealing your books, ideas, etc., you’re wasting time.

Click here to watch the entire recorded interview on the IndieRecon website.  I’ll be back over the next couple of days with highlights from other sessions.

The Fall

fall floorA very short, and very true story about the day I fell.

I see the crack in the sidewalk, but I’m going too fast to avoid it. Four weeks post-surgery and this cross between a tricycle and a scooter is my primary means of transportation. And it’s about to be my downfall. Literally.

You know how the movies slow stuff down for dramatic effect? There’s a reason they do that. It’s because when it happens in real life, it being you and your tri-scooter going topsy turvy in your office parking lot, it really does happen in slow motion.

I feel myself pitching forward, and I sense the very moment when momentum has taken me too far forward to reverse what’s about to happen next. I do have the presence of mind to avoid landing on the foot that’s gotten me into this mess in the first place. And I land squarely on my left knee and the palms of my hands.

As I’m going down, I hear a wailing. But it’s not me. It’s my mom, and she’s calling on the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m not sure if she’s calling on him to save me or her, but either way, he let us both down because as I’m gathering myself together on the filthy parking lot ground, my mom is bawling and shaking her fists at the sky, all the while yelling, “Not on my watch! This shouldn’t happen on my watch!” Now it’s hilarious, but at the time, the pain in her voice drowns out the throbbing of my knee and palms and pushes me to move double time over to her to comfort her.

You see, in the flight or fight dichotomy, my mom is neither. She’s the other “F” – Frozen. My mom is so distraught at the prospect of me falling that she has planned her response before it actually happened. A quickly placed hand might have set me straight, but alas, my mom was already planning our defeat.

We’re all good now. My knee was swollen for a couple of days, my palms bruised. And we can all laugh about the fall now. Particularly this bit. My mom, on the phone that night, tears and pain forgotten, said, “My biggest regret is that I didn’t get to her sooner.” But here’s the thing. My mom technically never got to me at all. She was frozen, in place, the entire time. I walked – or rolled rather – over to her.

Grace W. is a writer, blogger, part-time chef (nope), and full-time geek. She’s working on her first novel. The Writer’s Station is where she shares the trials and tribulations of being a wanna-be author.

One Thousand Words

you must write itOne thousand words a day.

It’s the least I can do for myself. It’s the best thing I can do for myself.

One thousand words that may not be the best, but that will eventually lead to my best.

One thousand words that when compounded over time add up to dozens of blog posts, or an entire book, or several books. And ultimately, a career.

One thousand words without judgement, without thought of how I will possibly repeat it tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.

In 2015 a thousand words a day, without judgement, is my gift to myself. It’s my way of thanking God, my way of persevering, my way of demonstrating faith.

Only 881 to go.

What are your writing goals for 2015? Share them in the comment section, then follow me on my own writing journey here on my blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter. Happy Writing!

This week in Writing and Publishing: Five for Friday

write or dieFive of the most interesting blog posts and resources about writing and publishing I’ve found on the web this week:

1.) The website Brain Pickings dissects author Zadie Smith’s 2008 lecture at Columbia University’s Writing Program in the post, Zadie Smith on the Psychology of the Two Types of Writers. It’s worth the read for this gem alone, “It’s such a confidence trick, writing a novel. The main person you have to trick into confidence is yourself.”

2.) Co-founder and publisher of Scratch magazine, Jane Friedman, wants you to ask yourself three questions about your new novel: Why make this? Why make this now? Who cares? In her post Friedman says if you plan on selling your work you need to ask the questions editors and agents will be asking, and you need to have the right answers. You can read her post, How to Tell If Your Story Idea Is Mediocre, here.

3.) Aerogramme Writer’s Studio’s November & December list of contests, competitions, and publications includes awards such as the John Steinbeck Short Story Award for a work of fiction up to 5,000 words and publications like Diverse Voices Quarterly which aims to be an outlet for “every age, race, gender, and sexual orientation.” Click here for Aerogramme’s complete list.

4.) Publishers Weekly reporting that New York Times reporter Stephanie Clifford landed a seven-figure book deal for her debut novel, Everybody Rise, a story about a female striver in Manhattan, circa 2006.  St. Martin’s Press acquired the novel which has already been sold for film to Fox 2000. Read more about Clifford’s deal here.

5.) The app, Write or Die, “aims to eliminate writer’s block by providing consequences for procrastination.” These consequences range from playing an annoying sound when you stop writing to actually deleting your writing, one word at a time, if you don’t keep typing. Write or Die is a little too stressful for me, but for you kamikaze writers out there, it might be the ticket to increased productivity. You can try Write or Die for free, or purchase the app for Mac or PC for $20.

Keep the conversation going. Join The Writer’s Station’s Facebook page and follow on Twitter

 

 

Editing Your Book: Become its Reader Instead of its Writer

burn your manuscriptI ran into a little writing wisdom last week that made me sigh.

I sighed because I knew it was true.

I sighed because the nugget of wisdom focused on what’s probably one of the hardest things about the entire writing process.

Here’s the wisdom delivered by English writer, Zadie Smith. Smith’s novel, White Teeth, was included in Time magazine’s 100 Best English-language Novels from 1925 to 2005 list. In other words, Ms. Smith can write. Yet, this is what she had to say about the writing and editing process:

“When you finish your novel, if money is not a desperate priority, if you do not need to sell it at once or be published that very second – put it in a drawer. For as long as you can manage. A year or more is ideal – but even three months will do…The secret to editing your work is simple: you need to become its reader instead of its writer.”

Smith goes on to say, “ I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat backstage with a line of novelists at some festival, all of us with red pens in hand, frantically editing our published novels into fit form so that we might go on stage and read from them. It’s an unfortunate thing, but it turns out that the perfect state of mind to edit your novel is two years after it’s published, ten minutes before you go on stage at a literary festival. At that moment every redundant phrase, each show-off, pointless metaphor, all of the pieces of dead wood, stupidity, vanity, and tedium are distressingly obvious to you.”

Dead wood?

Stupidity?

Vanity?

*Sigh*

If Zadie Smith is “frantically” editing her novels even after they’ve been published, then what hope do I, unpublished and untested, have?

Well, actually, it’s not hopeless. You see, as much as I’d like to hit “publish” on my story right now, I don’t need to be published this very second. I want to be, oh how I want to be, but I don’t need to, and that offers me a little breathing room. Breathing room that some writers just don’t have.

As I write this post, I’ve got first drafts of two novels sitting in a draw. I started writing my current WIP (work in progress) about a year ago. The first version of that story differs so greatly from what I have now, that it’s surprising even to me. Setting it aside for weeks at a time helped that story immensely, in ways that probably only stepping away from it for long periods could have.

I recently attended the Georgia Romance Writer’s Moonlight & Magnolia’s Conference. New York Time’s Best Selling author, Marie Force, was one of the speakers. Her talk was both motivational and fear inducing (more on the fear inducing in a later post.) One of the things Force emphasized was taking the time to produce your best work. Particularly if you’re working on a series (which I am.) If you’re working on your series, the first in that series has to be the best thing you’ve ever written (until you write the next thing.)

Readers don’t come back for writing that’s “just okay.” They come back for great. And for most of us, being great will take time. Lots and lots of time.

Photo: Flickr

Don’t Follow the Feeling, Follow the Plan

Follow the Plan Recipe“Don’t follow the feeling, follow the plan.” I first heard this piece of advice while listening to NPR on the way to work one morning. The story was about Macular Degeneration, and featured a woman who loved to read. As the macular degeneration robbed her of her eyesight, she found herself falling into depression.

The psychologist being interviewed for the piece talked about therapy for individuals in this situation. The therapy involves making a plan. In this woman’s case, she not only loved to read, she loved to cook, but with her eyesight failing, she could no longer read her recipe books. The plan was to create recipe binders. Each binder would hold one recipe, each page in the binder one ingredient. Obviously using this method took longer than she was accustomed to, but she eventually was able to prepare a huge dinner for her entire family. In her words, the meal covered everything “from soup to nuts.”

“Don’t follow the feeling, follow the plan,” was a constant reminder to follow the plan and the recipes she’d so carefully laid out, regardless of how she was feeling on any particular day.

As writers we’ll most certainly have feelings of self-doubt. We will feel incapable, inadequate, incompetent. We will question our talent, our ability, and we will, at times, feel like throwing in the towel. I know this, because I feel these things on a regular basis. It sucks, it can be debilitating, and while we’re feeling it, it is for most of us, counterproductive.

And this is where plans come in. Don’t follow the feeling, follow the plan. Your plan is to write your book, your short story, or your screenplay. It is to query agents, to submit your essays or to self-publish. Your feelings will derail you at times but if you can write despite of these feelings, if you can stick to your plan, eventually you’ll be able to do what you set out to do, from soup to nuts.

Photo credit: Flickr