Thursday, October 11, 2012

Don't Fence Me In!

Since becoming a writer, I have read and heard many different 'rules' that I should be following in order to be considered a "good writer."  Strong writers never, ever use adverbs, they don't write in more than one POV, they avoid cliches like the plague, and the passive voice has them turning and running in the opposite direction.  (yeah, I know--don't say a word!)  I have no issues with any of these rules--after all, my goal is to become the best writer I can possibly be.  I want people to read my books and not cringe when they come across something that may be considered less than 'perfect' in the eyes of some in the editing community.  I want them to enjoy my stories and come back for more.  I want them to share my books with their friends and relatives.  So, I sit down at my computer and crank out prose perfect enough to win a Pulitzer prize and place me on the NY Times Bestseller list for the rest of my life--so perfect that there is no need to edit because I have followed all the rules to a tee.  Right?  Wrong!

I write.  That's what I do when I sit down at my computer.  I let my muse take control, I let the characters take me on a journey all their own--I write!  I don't worry so much about the rules.  Why?  Because rules are sometimes meant to be broken. What will it hurt if I occasionally say that Dana held Mitch tenderly, allow him to claim that his wife was "madder than a wet hornet" as he talks to his brother, or express my own unique voice and writing style in BOTH first and third person?  It won't hurt anything. And folks, I confess--I do it all the time.  It works for me, and with a book that has been read by some of the industry's most influencial people--librarians and booksellers who found my work good enough to award a prize--I must not be shaking things up too much.

Now, before you get your feathers in an uproar, let me say this: I have spoken with editors who have many, many years in the business and have been told that it's okay to break these rules on occasion.  Sometimes your work calls for the use of passive voice to make the point come across; sometimes you need to throw in an adverb or two (although, yes, I admit, it is better to use strong verbs instead when you can), and the POV thing--well, that's my style.  It comes naturally to me, and to try to change that now--completely--would be like cutting off my right arm. The good news there is, many authors are now 'breaking the rule' and doing the same thing (including Mr. James Patterson). This does NOT mean that I am condoning sloppy writing or that an author shouldn't continuously be learning and growing in order to improve upon the craft.  I'm simply saying that--well, I've already said it.  Sometimes it's okay to break the rules, as long as the result is still a well-written story that your editor, publisher, and readers approve of, and not a total trainwreck.  Don't be afraid to push the envelope a little from time to time.  Now, get out there and write!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Get In On The Action--2012 Writer's Conferences in Ohio

One of the things I find most appealing about being a writer is the ability to network with others who share my passion for the art.  No matter how long you have been writing or how well you do it, I believe that there is always something new you can learn.  I have had the honor of speaking at several writers' conferences over the course of my writing career, and I'm always amazed at the amount of knowledge I take away from them by just socializing and sitting in on the classes of my peers. 

I would highly recommend any--or better yet, all--of these fine conferences coming up in the next few months here in Ohio.  The ladies who coordinate these events are all skilled writers themselves who bring in only the best to share their knowledge with you.  Check them out, and take your writing from good to great!  (just follow the links for more detailed info on the event and how to register)

Skyline Writers' Conference--Saturday, August 18 from 9:00 am-4:30 pm in Euclid, Ohio--Claudia Taller,

Western Reserve Writer's Conference--Saturday, September 29 from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm in Kirtland, Ohio--Deanna Adams,

Ohio Writer's Conference at True North Cultural Arts Center--Saturday, October 13 from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm in Sheffield Lake, Ohio--Kelly Boyer-Sagert, (I will be speaking on marketing and promoting your work!)

Y-City Writers Conference--Saturday, October 13 from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm in Zanesville, Ohio--
Summer Clark and Rita Smith, Coordinators--

Christian Writer's Conference--Saturday, April 20, 2013 in Amherst, Ohio--times TBA--Kelly Boyer-Sagert, Coordinator--email Kelly at (I will be speaking about marketing and promoting your work!)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Do You Read The Labels?

I'm sure that, if you are like most consumers, you generally read the labels on items before making a purchase.  On food items, a label may not only list the ingredients but instructions on how the food should be properly prepared.  A clothing label will list the fibers the item is comprised of as well as how to care for it.  Labels are everywhere and on most everything.  But, did you ever stop to think that books have labels, too?   They are better known as book jackets or covers.

Book covers serve as the 'label' that readers will use when deciding whether or not to buy your book.  As with most other products, the more attractive the label, the more appealing it will be to the consumer.   What artwork or photo is on the front cover of your book?  Is it brightly colored, does it contain bold lettering, or does it give a clue as to what the story might be about?   Besides listing the title and author's name, the front cover should stand out enough to create a desire for the reader to pick it up to learn more.  A dull, drab cover or one that is a 'cookie cutter' of others won't hold the same appeal as something unique.

Now that you've created an interest with the front cover, will the back cover do the same?  Will the book 'blurb' and author bio cause the customer to want to read what's inside?  The best blurbs are those which accurately describe the plotline of the story without giving too much away.  They 'tease' the reader with information just enticing enough to make them want to know the rest of the story.  One or two paragraphs is really all you will need for a good book blurb.  The same holds true for an author bio--the reader wants to know a little about you--not your entire life's story!  One or two paragraphs, along with a current picture (if you desire) will generally suffice.

It's been said that books shouldn't be judged by their covers, but in reality, they are.  Be sure yours is one that will not only attract the customer, but the sale as well!  Happy writing!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The UN-truths of Self-Publishing

One of the biggest, and probably most difficult, decisions for an author is whether or not to self-publish. Unfortunately, there are still many in the literary world who feel that self-published works are sub-standard and that the writers of these works will never achieve any sort of success. As an award-winning, self-published author with sales in the thousands and an ever-growing fan base, I'm here to tell you that much of what you are hearing from these sources simply isn't true. While I always encourage an aspiring writer to choose the path to publication that best suits his/her situation and desires, I would like to help those still in the decision-making process by debugging some of the un-truths about self-publishing.

UN-TRUTH: Self-published works are primarily poorly edited, sub-standard pieces of literature.
TRUTH: While there will always be some authors who do publish poorly edited material(and make a bad name for the rest of us!), it is by no means the norm for self-published works. Most self-published authors spend their hard-earned money to hire professional editors who will examine their works with a fine-toothed comb. Some go through two or three complete edits--including rewrites, deletions, and self-edits--before submitting their manuscripts for publication. Yes, it is true that an occasional error will go unnoticed and wind up in print, but I have witnessed this in traditional works as well. After all, editors are only human!

UN-TRUTH: A self-published author will never sell more than a few copies of his/her book.
TRUTH: I personally know many SP authors, myself included, who have sold thousands of copies of their books, and not just to family and friends! Knowing one's niche market, a willingness to participate in book signing opportunities, and having the dedication to regularly market the work will go a long way in gaining a strong reader base and book sales.

UN-TRUTH: Self-published books don't have a wide distribution.
TRUTH: Many self-publishing companies offer their authors distribution through thousands of online outlets as well as availability through Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and Bowker's. Authors who choose not to go through a SP company can still gain wide distribution by signing up with various online outlets. Query letters, phone calls, or better yet, personal visits to libraries and book stores are often all it takes to gain a spot for your book on their shelves. My books are distributed worldwide and can be ordered through 25,000 online retailers. They are also available in many libraries and book stores, including some stores in a national chain.

UN-TRUTH: Self-published authors can't get reviews, awards, or recognition for their works. TRUTH: There are now many online review sites and publications who cater primarily to self-published books. ForeWord Magazine is one of them, and I have two awards through their Book of The Year contest. Several contests invite and encourage self-published authors to participate, including USA Book News. Many self-published authors have had their works turned into movies--"Legally Blonde" by Amanda Brown (published by 1st Books (now Authorhouse)) is one of them. Again, a willingness to seek out and participate goes a long way to getting there!

UN-TRUTH: Authors self-publish only because they can't get a traditional contract.
TRUTH: Authors self-publish for many reasons, and rarely, if ever, is it simply because they are unable to get a contract. Some of the reasons I have heard for self-publishing include, but aren't limited to: a desire to get the work to market quickly; desire to retain all rights to the manuscript; complete control of content, word/page count, etc.; ability to work on one's own schedule (no deadlines); and freedom to market in the manner of one's own choosing. Also, many SP authors who have gone on to land traditional contracts--John Grisham, Christopher Paolini, and Nicholas Sparks, to name a few.

UN-TRUTH: Traditionally published authors make higher royalties on per-book sales than SP authors.
TRUTH: In many instances, it is the other way around! While royalties will largely depend on one's publisher, sales volume, etc., I know many TP writers who make significantly less per book sold than some of my SP friends, including myself. (Six or seven cents per book sold (TP) as opposed to a few dollars per book or more(SP))  Again, this depends largely on the publisher and the contract they've established with the writer.

Again, choosing a publishing format is a personal choice.  Before making a decision, be sure to thoroughly research all the options available to you.  I hope this post has helped you on your path to that decision! Happy writing!

Can You Relate?

I have a confession to make. I'm in love with a man who isn't my husband. It started off innocently enough; we met one morning almost eight years ago over a bowl of Corn Flakes and a cup of Lipton decaf tea. As I sat alone with him in the dim glow of the computer screen, he promised me a future I had never imagined was possible. He told me that if I would only believe in him--if I would only allow him into my heart--that he'd be with me forever. That was all it took. My life changed that day, and I've never looked back. He's become such a part of me that I could never imagine life without him. The best part is, my husband knows about our relationship; in fact, he encourages it. How can one woman be so lucky?

Now, before you get your feathers in an uproar, I'm really NOT cheating on my husband. The man I'm referring to is the hero of my Forever Love Series, Mitch Tarrington. On that fateful day in September, 2004, I was introduced to Mitch, his future wife, Dana, and a cast of their family and friends through what I describe as divine intervention. Like my own children, I was given the responsibility of breathing life into them, of shaping their personalities, of making them who they are and playing a role in who they are to become. I speak to them, I scold them, I laugh and cry with them. They are a part of me and I am a part of them. They fill my life with an indescribable joy that only another writer would understand. After all, it's a writer's duty to know his characters so intimately that they become like real people to him. Only then can he make them appear as real people to his readers. I've spoken to many aspiring writers about the importance of creating credible characters who will jump off the page and into the hearts and minds of their readers. The author has to understand how each character thinks, feels, reacts to situations, his likes and dislikes, what makes him happy, sad, angry, or afraid. He has to know how each character walks and talks, what he likes to eat, his favorite passtime and occupation. Just like a family member or good friend, the author must know the characters intimately. Once he does, he will be able to write them into his story with such passion and accuracy that readers will love them just as much as he does, and will continue to read his works for years to come.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Write What You Know--or Not?

One piece of advice I'm sure every writer has heard--and possibly followed--is "write what you know." I always thought it made sense until I recently read a different take on the subject in "The Writer's Idea Book" by Jack Heffron. Mr. Heffron tells the story of a good friend who was determined to become a writer upon retiring from a big-city police force. His 30+ years on the beat had given him the edge to write crime stories--or so he thought. His stories, while filled with technical jargon and the ins and outs of police work, were dull and lacking in plot and character. Upon seeking advice from Mr. Heffron on how to bring more life into his work, the conversation somehow drifted to a collection of beer memorabilia that littered his home. Noticing the light in his eyes and the passion with which he discussed those items, Mr. Heffron advised him to stop with the crime stories and start with the beer(writing about it, that is!) It became obvious that, while he knew a ton about being a cop, it was something he no longer enjoyed or held a passion for. Once he began to write about a subject that held an interest for him, he went on to publish with several prestigious trade magazines.

The point of the story is this, as Mr. Heffron puts it: "Too often we choose to write about what we think others will like, or what's hot in the marketplace. If writing about something feels like a guilty pleasure, you're on the right track." He goes on to say that we should forget about writing strictly about what we know, and write about what we like. (and if what you know and what you like are one in the same, even better!) The more I thought about it, the more I agreed. When you're excited and interested in what you are writing about, it will show on the page. Your passion will come through in the scenes and breathe life into your characters. Not only will you produce a work you can be proud of, but you'll also produce a work that your readers will love. Happy writing!