I’m a guest

My friend and fellow writer, Kyra Jacobs, invited me to be a guest on KickAss Chicks. The “chicks” have a fun webpage. If you want to check it out, here’s the link: http://kickasschicks.com/2015/06/04/judith-post-of-myths-and-musings/.

Kyra writes contemporary, romantic suspense. Here’s her author page: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=kyra+jacobs
She’s working on a paranormal romance now with a dragon shifter. Can’t wait till she gets that one ready to go!

Writing: to market, to market…

I’m feeling pretty happy with myself. I finished the rewrites for Magicks Uncaged, my third book in the Wolf’s Bane series. Now, I’m waiting to see the cover, and then I’ll wait for it to be formatted and put online. But MY part’s done. At least, on the writing scene. The next “to do” on my list is marketing–not my strongest skill. And the sooner I start, the better.

A long time ago, I did a post on marketing. I haven’t gotten more brilliant at it, but since I’m at that stage again, I thought I’d mention it. In my writers’ group, there’s a wide variety of approaches to promoting books. Some–the more serious, literary writers of our group–pen beautiful, wonderful fiction, try to find a market for it, and then do very little to promote it. I think they feel that it cheapens their talents to hawk their own products. But unless you have a publisher, famous friend, or agent who works his fanny off to sell you, you’d better come to terms with the fact that you need to do it yourself. Readers won’t know your work exists if you just put it out there and let it die. Even publishers expect authors to market their work these days. Some look at a writer’s blog, twitter followers, and social media before accepting his work. So…here are some thoughts.

In the group of authors I know, there are those who think they’ll only succeed if they market their work to find an agent and a publisher. If you’re looking for a big, New York publisher, you have to have an agent. None of the big publishers, except Harlequin, look at unsolicited submissions these days. Getting an agent is no easy task. Sometimes, you can get one because you know an author who’ll recommend you. Even then, you might get turned down. Agents are as subjective about what they like and don’t like as anyone else. They have specific things they’re looking for. Another way of finding an agent is to join twitter and participate in some “pitch” sessions. (Use the hashtag “pitchwars” or “nestpitch” and follow the leads). If you don’t want to go that route, go to a bookstore and look at the acknowledgements in books similar to yours to see if their agent is listed. Then look the agent up online. OR type “agent” in the search engine of your computer and follow the leads. And do your homework. Find out what clients the agent has and how well he’s sold them. Even with an agent, you might not be able to tempt a big publisher. That’s why some of my friends have turned to smaller publishers. And they’re happy with them. You don’t have to have an agent to submit to most small presses. And if none of those appeal to you, you can self-publish through smashwords or Amazon, etc. If you go the self-publishing route, though, you’re in charge of EVERYTHING. You need to write the best book you can write, make sure it’s clean of any errors, find a topnotch cover, format it, load it, and promote it. And remember. A book cover is usually the first thing a reader notices. It gives a “feel” of what the book’s about, but you don’t have to pay a fortune to get a good one.

No matter what you do, you need to be willing to promote yourself. You need a webpage, a blog (on your webpage or separate), and you should be on twitter and facebook. I have a friends’ facebook page separate from my author’s facebook page. And there are theories about the best way to use all of them. I’ve found #MondayBlogs useful on twitter, but there are more writer twitter hashtags. Paula Reed Nancarrow (whose blog I love for many different reasons) did a survey on twitter and blogging and wrote a few posts on the results. Here’s one of them: http://paulareednancarrow.com/2015/03/23/twitter-bloggers-and-communities-of-practice/

Another blog I always recommend for marketing is Lindsay Buroker’s. Most of us won’t have the success she has (she knew marketing and blogs before she started writing), but she’s happy to share what works for her and what doesn’t. http://www.lindsayburoker.com/amazon-kindle-sales/my-self-publishing-thoughts-after-50000-ebook-sales/ I’ve learned a lot from her blogs. Here’s another one of hers I found useful:
https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/4318779-how-do-you-establish-a-fan-base-before-you-launch-your-book.

Can’t think of anything to blog about? Try Molly Greene’s link: http://www.molly-greene.com/101-blog-topic-ideas/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=evergreen_post_tweeter&utm_campaign=website But remember. When you blog, you’re trying to build an “author platform,” to “brand” yourself. Another blogger I recommend for marketing is Rachel Thompson: http://badredheadmedia.com/2013/12/06/branding-101-authors/. A second, good post on branding by her: http://www.bookpromotion.com/brand-author-book/. She’s worth following.

Just to give you a checklist, these are good for marketing: twitter, facebook, a blog, and a webpage. Most experts suggest blogging at least once a week. Some authors use blog tours to promote their books before they come out. I’ve never done that, but I know authors who’ve had success with it and some who haven’t. If any of you have tried it, I’d be curious if you liked it. I can tell you that I’ve been happy with some of the paid advertisements I’ve used to promote my books and novella bundles. I can recommend kboards and Ereader News Today. They’ve worked for me anyway. And many of them aren’t that expensive. Most have a variety of packages. Anyway, I’ve run on enough for one post. Good luck with whatever you’re working on!

twitter: @judypost
webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
author’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy

Writing: Language at its best

I’m pretty comfy as a genre girl. I appreciate the intricacies that go into mysteries, urban fantasy, and romances. But every once in a while, I yearn for the subtleties of a slower pace, the fluidity of language that lingers on the tongue, and then I turn to fiction that’s a bit more on the literary side. My friend, Rachel Roberts, combines literary fiction with a southern voice, and she mesmerizes me, so I invited her to be on my blog today. I sent the questions, and her answers made my knees weak. It’s not often I feel unworthy, but Rachel can do that to me. Without more ado, Rachel:

Thanks for visiting my blog. Your background has helped shape your writing. Would you care to tell us a little about yourself?

Thanks, Judy, for this interview. To answer your question, sometimes I wonder if a person is born to write or whether his/her writing is cultivated. When I was around 12, I longed for a fountain pen! Imagine such a thing! When I got an Esterbrook pen for Christmas, I was ecstatic. I’ve been writing ever since. I was born in interior Brazil, where I went to public school—all in Portuguese– before my parents moved back to the United States. In high school (Dillon, SC), I wrote for the school newspaper and had some writing successes. In college (Furman, SC), I wrote poetry and edited the literary magazine. I earned my MA (U. of Richmond, VA) and began teaching (Radford U) and Haverford HS (PA). While rearing my children, I took up newspaper writing. That led me to do interviews and write articles and features. For 15 years, I wrote a personal opinion column called “View & Review.” I continued teaching (IPFW and Trine) and began writing books. These days, I mostly write short stories and plays. I swim laps regularly at the YMCA, and I’m very much involved in the local arts community. When I get antsy, I pull out my old Latin book and look at it, or I concoct some sort of soup, or if it’s summer, I weed my flowerbed.

1. I’ve read your books and love them. You have a unique, southern voice. What do you consider special about southern writing?

A few years ago, I gave a lecture about southern literature. Based on that research and my experience, the American South is undergoing cultural and social changes, including rapid industrialization and an influx of immigrants to the region. As a result, the definition of what constitutes southern literature also is changing. Some of the main themes in southern literature are: the significance of family, a sense of community, an agrarian outlook, the importance of land, and how it shapes a person’s identity. Other themes are religion, the historical significance of place, the telling of a story, and in some cases the use of southern dialect. Erskine Caldwell said about his writing, All I wanted to do was tell a story, and to tell it to the best of my ability.

2. How would you describe voice?

Voice is the natural style, tone, sentence structure, language, and words expressed by a writer and the cadence (rhythm and sound) of those words and sentences. Whereas one writer’s voice may be formal, another’s may be whimsical or satirical. A writer’s “voice” is something of a personality trait—memorable and indigenous to that one person. It also reflects where a person comes from and how he/she observes and/or accepts life. Les Edgerton’s book, Finding your Voice, explores the subject quite well.

3. I know you’re involved in an annual writing contest to encourage new writers. What do you look for in good writing?

Good writing is direct, clearly expressed, and conveys information appropriately. It displays a writer’s knowledge and respect for grammar and word usage. Good writing has a tone or voice that is memorable. As a dear friend of mine, L. Dorr used to say, “Writing isn’t laying down tiles. The words have to sing.” I am always astonished that some people who have a wonderful story to tell, ignore, don’t know, or don’t make the effort to learn the mechanics of how to express themselves clearly. Other people know all about mechanics and grammar, but they haven’t thought about their story or idea long enough to tell it in a fresh or interesting way. Good writing demands and reflects effort. When I read someone’s work and find myself in awe or thankful to have encountered it, I know I’ve found good writing!

4. Who are your 2 favorite authors? (You can list more) And what are your all-time, favorite books?

My favorite authors? That’s hard to answer. Certainly Eudora Welty and Jesse Stuart for their abilities to capture the essence of southern culture; James Thurber for his wry humor and intellect, and Lawrence Dorr for his determination and stories of courage and luminosity. You’ll note these four are short story writers. I suppose I should include Scott Russell Sanders for his essays and Russell Baker for his down-home style. I can’t limit myself to just two.

My favorite book? No question about it—the Bible, followed by the dictionary, and then the World Book Encyclopedia, but let me explain. I don’t think they publish encyclopedias anymore, but I sure did enjoy reading it as a youngster. Aside from its moral directives, the Bible is a compilation of drama, short stories, romance, poetry, essays, history, letters, and philosophy. But you’re asking about fiction, aren’t you? I honestly cannot say. When I find a good book, I tend to fall in love with the writing and declare it to be my favorite. The first novelist I wanted to read twice was Zane Grey for his Western adventures and Iola Fuller for her The Loon Feather, but one time I went back to Fuller’s book and for the life of me, I could not get “in to it.” You see, at different stages of life, different books appeal or answer a reader’s need. I suppose I needed adventure when I read Zane Grey, but as I matured, I graduated to Chekov, Conrad, and James. Works by Georgia Green Stamper and Ruthann Ingraham are among my latest “favorite” books.

5. Besides writing fiction, you’ve written non-fiction and plays. What attracted you to non-fiction?

I got involved in non-fiction writing as I developed my journalistic career. I did book reviews, features, and personal opinion columns. I had to do research and then express facts in a cogent and interesting way. Non-fiction writing is rewarding, but challenging. No matter how careful the research and after publication, the author inevitably will encounter someone somewhere who offers a startling new “fact” or detail about the subject. It’s a non-fiction writer’s worse nightmare.

6. What appeals to you about plays?

Drama requires movement, dialogue, character development, and conflict. I especially enjoy the back and forth interaction that dialogue demands between actors. I have an ear for dialogue, so writing a play seems natural to me. I love irony and humor in a play, but I’m not good at writing comedy. I admire those who can! A wonderful play is one that entertains me, informs me, makes me think, and allows me to suspend my disbelief for an hour or so.

You can find Rachel’s charming blog at: http://www.rachelsroberts.com/

I love Rachel’s voice. You can find her books on Amazon:

Tacking Forward at http://www.amazon.com/Tacking-Forward-Rachel-Roberts-ebook/dp/B00SZDILB4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1424544499&sr=1-1&keywords=Tacking+Forward%2C+Rachel+Roberts

This Red Earth @ http://www.amazon.com/This-Red-Earth-Book-ebook/dp/B0078SPDBI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1424544643&sr=1-1&keywords=This+Red+Earth%2C+rachel+s+roberts

Beyond This Red Earth @ http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-This-Earth-Between-Rivers-ebook/dp/B007W7549Q/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1424544705&sr=1-4

Writing–End of Year Thoughts

Do you know, when I first started writing aeons ago when cave men used pigments on stone walls, people kept telling me, “If you want to be published, write a good book.” Quality, according to them, was your only concern. If your book was good, someone would buy it. I’ve been on writing panels where I hear writers spout that same wisdom. Do I agree? Bull Pucky!

I’ve met wonderful writers who knock their heads against the Great Wall of Publishing. Why? Publishers are concerned with making money. Can’t blame them. They can’t keep their profits afloat each time a child believes and claps his hands. It worked for Tinker Bell, but businesses have to pay attention to the bottom line. I understand that. I just wish publishers embraced mid-list writers a little more. Everyone’s looking for the “BIG” book these days. Or the latest trend. I used to be perfectly happy buying a lot of mid-list authors.

Mid-list probably still wouldn’t help me sell. I seem to be one of those writers who’s always writing the wrong thing at the wrong time. There are authors who hit the hot trend at its upswing and ride it to success. I’m not one of them. I’m one of the writers who gets notes from editors who say, “love your writing, but can’t buy this. The market’s glutted.”

I’m not trying to pierce anyone’s balloon, but if you write what an editor has too many of and the market’s shrinking, it doesn’t matter if your writing’s topnotch. No one’s going to buy your stuff. That used to be the end of it. You tossed your book in a drawer and gave up on it. These days, you can try your hand at self-publishing. That’s what I did, and I’m happy about it. But…here I go again…if you go that route, you’d better be ready to learn some marketing. Because there are a LOT of books on Amazon or smashwords or Barnes & Noble or wherever it is you decide to try. And if your field was glutted with publishers, it’s going to be even more glutted online. So you have to figure out a way to help readers find you. My stab at marketing? I started this blog, made an author’s Facebook page, made a webpage, and joined twitter. Did it help me find readers? Darned if I know. Did it make my sales go up? Not that I’ve noticed. But I’ve made lots of online friends whom I enjoy and appreciate AND learn from. I still had to turn to some advertising sites, though, to promote my books when they went up…with mixed success.

Another truth, some people are going to dislike or hate whatever you do, and it rankles and hurts at first, but it’s okay. You can’t please everyone. Some writers say your novel is too bland if a few people don’t trash it. But hopefully, eventually more readers will find it who’ll appreciate it.

Things I’ve learned:

1. I should have started with a series. And I should have put up three books in that series in quick succession.
2. Book covers matter. Make yours good! Make them fit your genre, and make each book in a series have the “feel” of the other books in the series.
3. It helps to post things more often than not to remind readers that your characters are doing interesting things that they’ll enjoy. Some writers post novellas between their books just to keep their readers happy. Or they post out-takes from their novels or short snippets from a minor character’s POV. I’ve tried that with my webpage. I’m not sure how successful that’s been, but then, I did everything wrong, so doing a few things right isn’t going to take right away.
4. Marketing is essential. Twitter helps, but I can’t say that I’ve sold a lot of books because I tweet. I have, however, learned a lot from other generous writers on twitter–things that have proven helpful. I love writing my blog, but I’m not sure it’s helped me sell books. Again, though, I’ve met some interesting, wonderful people. My author facebook page is still a mystery to me, but I’m getting more comfortable on it. For the first time ever, I sent out an e-mail newsletter to people who signed up to receive it, and my mother would have washed my mouth out with soap if she’d have heard all the cussing involved in setting up my account and campaign on MailChimp. I’m no computer guru, and every time I have to learn something new, it’s a challenge. MailChimp felt more like torture, but I love the results. Too soon to know if it’s effective or not, but it’s my attempt at reaching READERS.
5. Writing a good book might not help you sell your first book or find a publisher or an agent, but it WILL help you sell the second one in the series. Readers know quality when they meet it. So make your book the best it can be.

This isn’t an all-inclusive post. It’s an end-of-the-year look back at what worked and didn’t work for me. I hope 2014 was good to you, and I hope 2015 is even better. Keep writing and good luck!

My webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
My facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy
My newsletter: http://eepurl.com/_P_Eb
At twitter: @judypost

World Blog Tour

I want to thank Sia Marion for inviting me to the World Blog Tour. Sia posted a blog on how she writes on July 15, and I enjoyed reading about how she crafts her stories. http://sia4215.blogspot.com/2014/07/world-blog-tour.html I hope you visit her blog to learn her techniques, but more, I hope you poke around to read the free, short pieces she’s shared to lead up to her WIP. She’s up to Part 6 for Blaize, one of the lead characters in her novel…& he’s already in trouble:)

A Little About Me

I just finished reading the book Lost Lake, by Sarah Addison Allen. There’s a character in the novel, Eby, who enjoys listening to people, invites them over for a meal or a drink, but still cherishes her alone time. That could be me. I’m a Libra, and I love people, but I need balance. I guard my alone time, too. I love to cook, and over the years, I’ve cooked for lots and lots of people, but lately, I’m learning the pleasures of cooking small instead of large. I write more now, read more books, and enjoy more freedom. It’s been an adjustment, but a happy one.

Four Questions About My Writing

What Am I Working On?

Right now, I’m writing a contemporary romance, IN A PICKLE, but I usually write urban fantasy. Occasionally, I like to stretch my writing muscles, and romance makes me focus more on character development and relationships. I tend to be a plot-driven writer with stories triggered by battles or events, not feelings and misunderstandings, so this is a learning curve for me. Different triggers drive the story.

How Does My Work Differ From Others Of This Genre?

I think every genre comes with certain expectations. When readers pick up a romance, they want chemistry, characters they like, and a happy ever after. When they pick up urban fantasy, they want strong, kickass characters and lots of tension with a good-versus-evil struggle between different supernaturals. The basics are similar, so it’s how the author approaches them that makes each author unique. I have a fondness for myth and legends with a little bit of the Old Testament thrown in. I think that gives my writing a certain slant. Patricia Briggs favors the fae and Southwest, American Indian legends–like Coyote. Ilona Andrews uses old gods and goddesses in her Kate Daniel novels, and Faith Hunter adds a different American Indian myth base for her Jane Yellowrock novels. I like Greek/Roman and Norse myths. And fallen angels…well, they’re Biblical. Oh, and witches. I really enjoy witches. As for romance, I think that’s where my idealism sneaks in.

Why Do I Write What I Write?

I think most of us write what we’re drawn to, what we enjoy reading. I started out writing mystery short stories. I still love short stories–hence, all the novellas I’ve written. And I wrote mysteries because I was an Agatha Christie fan. Mysteries have changed over the years, though, and so have my tastes. Now, I read urban fantasies and “magical” romances–like Alice Hoffman’s earlier novels: Practical Magic and Turtle Moon. My daughters and I buy Sarah Addison Allen’s novels and buddy read them together. So, I guess, the things that excite me when I read, excite me when I write.

How Does My Writing Process Work?

I’ve written quite a few posts about that on my blog, but basically, to start with, an idea grabs me. I try to ignore it, but if it won’t let me go, then I know it’s a keeper. I write it down and ask myself How did this happen? Why did it happen? Who will it affect? How will the protagonist deal with it? And then the beginning of the story starts to take shape. I play with a main character and write the opening hook and then expand it into a first chapter. I never start with back story. That can be added later to add depth to the character. I just throw the poor protagonist into a problem, watch him struggle and try to cope, and then write a few plot points to see what he’ll do next. I decide on a setting. Then I decide who or what motivates my antagonist and why. I add some minor characters, do character wheels for them so that they bump and clash, and then write enough plot points to sustain the story. I almost always have my entire novel plotted out with turning points at the end of each quarter. And it never takes away the surprise, the enthusiasm for writing the scenes, because my characters still surprise me. Always.

I want to thank Sia Marion for inviting to this Blog Tour. It’s always fun to meet new authors and learn how they work. It’s my honor to introduce you to two more, wonderful writers who’ll post on the Tour on July 29. A writer friend of mine–who writes fantasy, contemporary, YA, and Regency–has just started a blog. It feels like I’ve been waiting for YEARS for her to get around to it. http://historyfanforever.wordpress.com/ It’s new, only one post right now, but she’ll write about her process on the 29th, so check in for that, and I happen to like her webpage, too: http://www.mlrigdon.com/. The second writer I invited for next week is Susan Bahr. Susan and I met through our blogs, and I’ve enjoyed her posts for a long time. She recently started a new blog, mostly about writing, and I enjoy her approach. You can find her here: http://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/64320109/.

Happy Writing, All!

Writing: Play Time

This coming Wednesday is another Scribes meeting. My writing group meets twice a month most months. We only get in one meeting in November. Thanksgiving sidetracks our second one. And one meeting in December. We don’t even try to compete with Christmas. But once a summer–this coming Wednesday this year–and every December, instead of a regular meeting we have a carry-in. We used to pretend that we’d still get around to serious subjects. We’d schedule one or two readers and a speaker. Now, we don’t even bother with that. We just bring food, get together, and enjoy each other’s company.

I have to say when you get a lot of writers together, somewhere during the day, we end up talking about all of the things we can’t get to in regular meetings. Marketing. Books we’ve read and loved. Anything new we’ve read or learned. If someone has a book coming out. All of the things that go along with the writing life. And once we’ve covered those things, then we talk about our kids, our lives….we’ve become close friends over the years.

It’s nice to shake up the old routine once in a while. It rejuvenates me, kicks me out of my rut. And sometimes, let’s face it, it IS a rut instead of a routine. Or should I say habit? I’m a pretty focused person. I plop my fanny in a chair most week days and pound out words, and I write a blog most Sundays, but breaks can be good. My friend Kathy, (she belongs to Scribes, too), tweeted about going on vacation and panicking because she wouldn’t be sitting in front of her computer everyday. http://findingfaeries.wordpress.com/ It was a fun blog, but I know what she means. We get so wrapped up in the worlds and words we create that sometimes, we need to get away from them. We need to LIVE and ENJOY. And then, when we return to our computers, we’re refreshed. And ready to write again:)

FYI: This blog is shorter than usual, because Sia Marion invited me to a World Blog Tour about “how I write.” Her post went up July 15: http://sia4215.blogspot.com/2014_07_01_archive.html. Mine goes up this Tuesday, July 22. It always interests me how different writers write, so hope you check these out.

P.S. My agent okayed my rewrites for SPINNERS OF MISFORTUNE, and Sharon can get to it in a couple of weeks, so hopefully, it will be up near the end of July or the beginning of August. Good news to me! http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Writing: And now it gets ugly

I usually write my blog posts on Sundays, but my sister and I are driving to Bloomington to visit my grandson tomorrow. We’re leaving at 9:30 in the morning so that Mary can take him out for lunch–his pick–and then take him shopping before we drive home. Yes, my sister is the best great aunt any boy could have. Both boys know it. My other sister’s not too shabby either. It’s going to be a great day–yakking with Mary on the way there and back–and seeing Tyler, but it’s going to be a long day. I won’t want to write a blog when I get home, so here goes.

I’ve been working on the romance novel I started. I’m always excited when I start a new book. Ideas churn away in my head, my characters clamor to do this or that, and everything’s new and different. My first chapters usually have problems, but it’s still a joy writing them. I can’t really hear my characters until I watch them act and react to things and listen in on their dialogue for a while. Usually, after the third chapter, I know them better, and then I can write plot points for them. By then, they have opinions of what they will or will not do. I’m a plot driven writer, so I have turning points they have to reach, but they tell me how they’ll manage that. It works for all of us. I’ve been sailing through my plot points, and my characters keep stretching and surprising me, and all’s going well. But now, I’ve finished the first fourth of my book. It ended with a crash–literally. Someone cut the chains of the beautiful, crystal chandeliers that Ian bought for the great room of his lodge. Someone’s sabotaging him.

Now things turn ugly. Not just for the characters. Every conflict cranks up from now on. Ian’s hit his internal and external problems, and so has Tessa. And things are only going to get worse. For me, the writing gets more serious now. There are more balls to juggle, more subplots to weave in and out. We’re past introductions and we’re going for the long haul, the nitty gritty. The longer the story goes, everything has to become more intense, have more depth. Pacing becomes more important.

I’ve never written a romance novel before. In urban fantasies, the bad guys gain momentum, and the battles grow more dangerous the longer the book goes. That’s what I like about reading and writing UF. Eventually, the stakes reach the point of live or die. In romance? There has to be the push-pull of attraction that’s frustrated by the reasons the hero and heroine can’t get together. So far, it’s been fun figuring out what brings them together and then adding things that push them apart. But now, my characters have hit the nitty-gritty. They’re past chemistry and sly looks. It’s time to up the ante. push the buttons, and add the romance. I have some great ideas. We’ll see how they go:)

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Just a note: Another practical blog from Lindsay Buroker: http://www.lindsayburoker.com/

Writing: you cross lots of finish lines to reach the Derby

My husband and I just finished watching the Kentucky Derby, and when it was finished, he said, “It’s sort of like writing, isn’t it?” “How?” I asked. “It takes picking the right horse, tons of training, and crossing lots of finish lines to be a contender.”

After I thought about, he’s right. A writer has to find a niche for himself–whether it’s writing fantasy, romance, mystery, or literary–and then he has to find a way to be unique from the other writers in that niche. I write urban fantasy, and that means readers expect certain elements when they pick up my books, but each writer puts a unique twist on those elements to make the genre their own. Ilona Andrews is different than Patricia Briggs, who’s different from Jennifer Estep, who’s different from Faith Hunter. And once a writer has found how to follow the rules of the genre in his own way, he’s found a niche. It’s the horse he’s going to ride to the finish line, if he’s lucky. Of course, sometimes the niche becomes glutted or half-dead, and then a writer has to find a new horse or decide to hope for the best and stick it out.

The only way to be a good writer is to write. A person has to master the craft of writing–plotting and pacing, varying sentence structure and writing dialogue, grammar and spelling, etc–as well as finding his own voice and style. That’s where the training comes in. And it’s not just the actual act of writing he needs to learn. There’s a fine line between listening to criticism to make his writing better and listening to criticism to the point that he tries to please everyone and loses his own voice. I’ve met writers who won’t listen to anyone and they never fix their mistakes. I’ve also met writers who listen to everyone and end up with a homogenized nothing. Too far one way or the other does a writer no favors.

The last part of horse racing is crossing the finishing line. But to reach the Kentucky Derby, most horses have raced in lots of others races to hone their skills. Writers, hoping to have a career, have to cross lots of finish lines, too. First, they have to decide on their niche. Then they have to find a way for their story/book to be unique. Then they have to FINISH their story–
and that’s an accomplishment, in itself, but it’s only one finish line. Next, they have to DO something with their books. They can try for an agent, an editor, or self-publish. Whichever way they go, once they accomplish that, they’ve crossed one more finish line–a substantial one, but there are more races to go.

Even published writers have to market themselves anymore. Most authors write blogs or have webpages. A lot of them tweet and have Facebook pages. They advertise and promote. They work to “brand” themselves, so that when a reader hears their name, they think of a product. These days, marketing is a finish line almost every author needs to cross.

Not every horse reaches the Kentucky Derby. Only one horse wins it. The same is true for writers. Some of us are still working to win small races. A few have won more races and sold enough books to have earned a name and a career. Fewer still hit the jackpot. But a writer can’t win if he doesn’t race. The odds are against winning the Derby, but there are smaller victories along the way.

My big dream? Someday, I want to go to the Romantic Times convention, not as a fan, but as an author who might have fans stand in line for me to sign my books. But I have a few more finish lines to cross before that ever happens. So I’m going to keep busy until it’s off to the races! You should, too.

P.S. I put a new post on my webpage for May. http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Writing & Creativity

I’ve been reading a lot of posts about creativity lately.  A few of them claim that if a writer plots ahead and doesn’t follow his/her muse, he stifles his creative juices and forces them to go somewhere they might otherwise avoid.  I usually stay out of the pantsers/plotters debate.  I think every writer has to find what works for him.  We all tap into our creative juices and sweat-and-blood, putting-words-on paper in our own ways.  But a couple of comments here and there have made me feel the need to defend my need for plotting.

For me, plotting is NOT plodding.  That term applies to the late middle of any novel I’ve ever written–it feels like it will never end.  And plotting doesn’t ruin my creativity when I’m not constantly surprised by what my characters might come up.  I don’t make elaborate, detailed plots anymore–even though I did when I wrote mysteries–but the plot points were always just dots on a map.  I start at point A, travel to point B, take a left at C, follow a winding road to D, and finally end up at point E..or F…or wherever the end of the book lands.   Plots are destination points, and my characters almost always suprise me on how they decide to get to each of them.  The points make sure I don’t take any detours that  lead nowhere, but the actual journey is still an adventure.

Plot points actually FREE UP my creativity.  I’m not sitting, looking at a blank page each time I finish a scene, wondering what I should write next, because I have a next bus stop in mind.  All I have to ask myself is how am going to get from here to there?  And what kinds of flat tires, accidents, and bumps in the road can happen along the way?

That said, when I find a blogger who explains writing better than I do, I like to share their post with you.  It’s no secret that I love Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series.  A fan asked her how she wrote her query for the first Kate Daniels book, Magic Bites, and she generously took the time to give a brilliant answer and then a second blog describing what’s crucial to make a good book.  Both would make good, pre-writing scribbles for what to decide on BEFORE you start a book.  You don’t have to agree.  But plot points work for me.

http://www.ilona-andrews.com/category/business-of-writing

http://www.ilona-andrews.com/business-of-writing/queries-common-issues

 

Writing–& Mood Swings

cover_mockup_25_thumb  (coming this week)

I don’t talk about marketing very often.  There are plenty of blogs out there, written by people a lot smarter and savvier than I am when it comes to promoting their work.  I respect and admire them…and appreciate how much they share about what’s worked for them and what hasn’t.   One of my favorites is Lindsay Buroker’s blog.  http://www.lindsayburoker.com/  She’s worth looking at.

After I read one of her past posts, I offered my novel, Fallen Angels, for free for 4 days on Kindle Select when I put up the 2nd novel in the series–Blood Bound.  I’ve never done that before, and it was a wonderful experience.  I paid to advertise on Book Bub (which was worth every penny), and over 18,000 people downloaded Fallen Angels.  Remember.  It was free, so I made no money on those downloads, but my reviews went from 11 to 38, (all but one good), and some people went on to buy the second Enoch book.

One or two reviews came in a day for a while.  It became a habit to start my computer every morning and check my amazon page before I started writing.  Each good review gave me a big push to start work for the day.   And guess what?  In the  middle of the novella I was working on at the time, even with all the good feedback, I could think of all the things I might do wrong.

The promotion was from May 19 to 22, and the fun times are finally beginning to dim.  My numbers are starting to sink, but I learned something important from the experience.  Writers ALWAYS worry about their work.

What is it about writing?  No matter what happens, no matter how good the news, each new story is a challenge.  Did I get the characters right?  Is there a story arc?  Is it a good one?  I’m not the only writer who does this.  I read a blog recently that made me feel a lot better.  http://blog.karenwoodward.org/2013/06/11-tips-on-how-to-become-better-writer.html  According to Karen Woodward, almost EVERY writer hits a point where he looks at the manuscript he’s working on and wonders what the heck he was thinking.

I’ve written long enough to know that when I start a story,  in my mind, I’m a wonderful writer.  When I finish it, I’m not so good.  But when I think of the next idea, I’m brilliant.  There seems to be no middle ground.  And I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  Because if you agonize over each scene, each character, it makes you push yourself harder.

Sometime next week, I’m putting up a bundle of 4 Death & Loralei novellas.  Three have previously been published.  The fourth and last one in that series is new.  I liked SPIRIT BOUND when I finished it.  It turned out better than I expected.  Will readers like it?  I can never tell.  And I always worry.  But then, that’s part of writing, isn’t it?

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/