Monday, January 25, 2010

All These Distractions!

With my sons off to school and a cup of hot decaf tea in hand, I sat down at my computer thinking, "Ah, yes--finally--the chance to do some serious writing."

Then, the phone rang. Youngest child got sick at school and needed to be picked up. Distraction number one.

Returned home, sat down once more (after reheating the tea)and poised my fingers over the keyboard. The timer on the dryer went off. Can't leave the clothes to wrinkle. Distraction number two. Clothes are out of the dryer--now, shouldn't I fold them and put them away? Distraction number three.

I could go on, but you get the idea. It's easy to become distracted from your work. You plan on writing that next great scene, that pitch to sell your latest article, thank you notes for your Christmas gifts, whatever. Your intentions are good, but there are just too many other things that keep you from completing the task. What can you do to stop this vicious cycle?

First, try to set aside a specific time each day to write. Dedicate that time to writing and nothing else. Unless there's a tornado heading straight for your office or you're being robbed at gunpoint (neither of which I hope ever happen to you!) don't let anything stop you. KBIC--keep butt in chair--and write. You might even plan specifically what you want to get written each day and dedicate yourself to not stopping until that day's writing task is completed.

Secondly, find a quiet spot away from things that may tempt you to stray from your seat. Don't sit where you can see the sink full of dirty dishes, or in my case, the basket of clean clothes. Believe it or not, those things will still be there (unfortunately) when you've finished your writing time.

If you have children, keep them occupied while you work by allowing them to watch a favorite video, draw on paper, or any other task that they can enjoy with minimal or no supervision from you. Be sure to set down "writing time" rules with children of any age; i.e. "I will be working in my office, at my desk, at the table, etc. You are NOT allowed to bother me unless it is an emergency." You can decide what constitutes an emergency in your home, and perhaps offer a small reward if they follow the rules.

What other distractions have you encountered, and how did you work through them? Please feel free to share your comments below. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hey, Look At Me!

I had an epiphany this morning. Contrary to any prior beliefs I may have entertained, I'm NOT the only writer in the world. In fact, I determined that there are somewhere close to ten billion others who have made the leap into the literary realm in one way or another.

Okay--so maybe ten billion is stretching it a little. But, I do know there are quite a few.

Ever-changing trends in the publishing industry are making it easier for authors to get their works into print causing those numbers to grow daily. Given this knowledge, how does one stand out in the crowd? What can a new author do to get noticed? Here are just a few tips to help you answer those questions:

1) Produce a quality product. By "quality" I mean everything from polished, carefully edited text to a catchy title and exquisite cover. Don't rely on your own abilities to catch manuscript errors, and stay away from cover templates. If your publisher doesn't offer these services automatically and your budget will allow for it, consider hiring professionals to help you proofread and custom design your book's appearance. If money is a factor, network to find people with some expertise in these areas.

2) Talk it up. Don't be afraid to tell people what you do and what you have to offer. Opportunities for networking are everywhere. I have become very skilled in bringing the words, "I'm an author" into virtually every conversation and situation. You never know when you will make a helpful connection! Remember the "3-foot rule"--everyone within three feet of you at any time should know what you do.

3)Find your niche market. What is your book about? Is there a specific audience that would benefit from its message? I write moral and tasteful fictional romance, and while there are men who have enjoyed my work, my actual target audience is women aged 15 and up. I have found success in speaking to church women's groups, ladies organizations, book clubs, and Christian-based groups. Take your work straight to those who will appreciate it most.

4) Advertise yourself. It's easy to talk about your work, but who are YOU? Believe it or not, there are many times when people are more interested in the author's story than the story the author has written. I can stand all day and tell a prospective reader what my books are about, but I find that when I share HOW the books came about, i.e, my personal story, I sell more of them. If someone likes, trusts, and values you as a person, they will naturally be drawn to what you've written.

5) Don't let them forget you. Seize every opportunity to promote yourself and your work, whether it's a simple book signing event, an appearance with a local group, or being a keynote speaker at a writer's conference. Seek out interviews with local media, volunteer to do readings at schools or assisted living communities (depending on the genre and age group of your book). Host a "Meet the Author" event at your local library. Even if you are far from finishing the next manuscript, keep your name and face out there promoting what you currently have to offer. It will only build anticipation for your future works.

What other tips do you have to offer new authors? What has worked for you? Please share!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Moving Right Along....

If you're an author, my heart goes out to you. I feel for you in the fact that, each and every time you finish one manuscript, you have to come up with an idea for another. Once you have the idea, you have to develop new characters, a plotline, a setting, and decide which "person" you are going to write from. Some work on a deadline which can add to the pressure. You may have to do research of some type. Occasionally writer's block sets in which can result in several hours, even days, of total brain freeze. And, let's not even get into the subject of editing....

While I don't mean to brag, I think I may have the upper hand by being a series writer. Each book in the Forever Love Series ends with a cliffhanger which serves a two-fold purpose: 1)it makes the reader eager for the next book in order to find out what happens (a clever marketing strategy!); and 2)it gives me the idea to work from for the next book. Because one book feeds off the plotline of the one prior, the characters remain the same. I need only to add one or two new ones per book to keep it all interesting, and that's only if I feel they will somehow be relevant to the overall theme. I use a James Patterson Women's Murder Club series style of both first and third person, so all the stories are told from the same POV. (and hey, if it works for him....) Being self-published eliminates the deadline issue, so that just leaves editing. Once again, we won't talk about that.

So, now that I have a third book in the making, I should be sitting pretty. Right? Not exactly. While being a series writer does have advantages, it comes with its own set of challenges that "individual" storytellers may not face. One of the biggest issues I deal with is to make sure my novels aren't clones of one another. For me, it's all about taking that cliffhanger ending and using it to build new, exciting, and entertaining circumstances for my characters to encounter. Its about being careful not to exactly duplicate scenes from the previous books even though my characters may find themselves visiting the same places or talking to the same people. I have to incorporate just the right amount of backstory into each book so that readers will be reminded of who someone is or why something is happening. Backstory also serves as a method to provide pertinent information to those who may not have followed the series from the beginning. Then there's always the task--once I get through everything else--in creating yet another cliffhanger ending that will be interesting enough to entice my readers into wanting the next book. After all that comes the tweaking, revising, more tweaking, rewriting, and yes, editing. Oh, and by the way, I'm not exempt from writer's block, either. There are many times when my muse decides to take a hiatus.

So, what's my point in all this? The point is that we as authors all seem to face the same obstacles in our writing regardless if we write all our novels individually or string them along as parts of a series. We all have those day-to-day issues that we strive to overcome in order to deliver that fresh manuscript to the publisher on time. The good news is, we do it not because we have to--after all, no one is holding a gun to our heads to make us write. We do it because it's in our blood. It's what we live for. And when we hold that finished product in our hands, that completed manuscript or published novel, we know it was worth it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Just Write

I have a confession to make--I am not a writer. Yes, I have written two books, and yes, I am writing another one. But in the official sense of the word, I don't qualify.

I didn't grow up thinking that someday I would be a writer. I didn't rush off to college and take classes in journalism or creative writing. I didn't pour myself into the 'classics' to see how others do it or study 'how to' books on style, grammar, or proper sentence structure. I've only attended a handfull of official writers' conferences, and that was only because I was one of the featured guests.

So, you see, I'm really not a writer. Or, am I?

Just what does it take to be a writer, or an author, or whatever title you want to give it? I was told by a few very wise people(both of whom are accomplished authors themselves) that all you really need to know how to do is tell a good story. I have encountered countless individuals over the past few years who have expressed to me their interest in writing. But the one thing I hear from these people more than anything is, "I don't know how to get started." The idea is in their head, but getting it down on paper seems to cause every nerve in their body to tense up. The connection between the brain and the fingertips just doesn't seem to be there.

So, what's the solution? It's really very simple. Just tell the story. Just pick up the pen or sit down at the keyboard and let the story come out. No doubt you have put the words together in your mind already, so just put them down on the paper or on the screen in exactly the same way. Don't worry if you have misspelled words, if the grammar isn't perfect, or you forget every punctuation rule you ever learned. When the story is finished, you can go back and take care of all the details.(or better yet, find a good editor to help you)

In writing my first novel, A Forever Kind of Love, that's exactly the way I did it. I sat down at my computer and just let the words in my brain flow into my fingertips. I didn't know--and at the time, didn't care--if I was doing it the 'right' way. I only wanted to tell the story, and I did. Everything else came after I had the manuscript completed. Because I took the initiative, I have not only been given the gift of a successful book, but I have built a fan base, made wonderful new friends, and am continually learning how to improve upon my newfound love. You will undoubtedly see the differences in the sequel, Waiting for Tomorrow. I have definitely grown.

And you know what? I told my story, and still have more to tell. Maybe I am a writer after all.

I'm All "Write"--How About You?

Some of us see images that others can't see. Most of us hear voices in our heads that others can't hear. All of us have what some might call an unhealthy obsession with our computers, pens and paper, and the written word. We spend countless hours making things up, scribbling down random thoughts and ideas, or combing through the research section at our local libraries. We're no strangers to critics, rejection letters, or red circles on our paperwork. We come from all races, backgrounds, and geographic locations. We share a common bond that separates us from the rest of the world. Despite what anyone may think, we really aren't crazy. We're writers, and I'm here to tell you, we're all "write."

Welcome to The Ink Spot. I undertook this blog at the prompting of two good friends of mine--Freelance Writer and Author Marie Cauley, and Freelance Writer Kristine Meldrum Denholm. Both are accomplished writers and fellow bloggers who felt that it was time for me to break out of my shell a little and share my personal knowledge and experience with the rest of the literary community. Now that I'm here, I hope to encourage, inspire, and support those who have published, are in the process of publishing, or still working toward making that dream a reality. As for those who simply wish to follow the blog as nothing more than good reading material, I hope you'll find a place here as well.

Once again, welcome. Take a look around, stay as long as you'd like, and come back often. I look forward to our times together.

Until next time...happy reading and writing!