owl in winter

owl in winter

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Last Diatribe of 2013

Once Upon a Time. As writers, we carry an image in our heads of the scribe, hunched over his writing pad/typewriter/computer, under a dim light bulb in the attic of a Victorian mansion, slaving away at his manuscript. Once upon a time, said writer would have sent the work off to an agent or publisher and then voila! He’s instantly known worldwide, some kind of writing prodigy this guy, and he comes down from the attic and appears on Oprah looking remarkably well rested and smug. Well, don’t count on it. Publicity is up to the author now and visibility is key. Platform, platform, platform. Amazon author page. Facebook, Twitter, website, blog. Post/comment on other blogs and websites. Put a button on your website or blog going directly to Amazon so that your book can be ordered from your site/blog.

It’s becoming increasingly important in our new publishing world to think of yourself as a brand. So, once you are published, make the most of marketing by contacting schools, bookstores, libraries, county fairs, anywhere you can host a signing, keeping the appropriate audience in mind. You wouldn’t go to an elementary school to promote your 1,000 page Scottish historical fiction novel, for example. At your signings/appearances, distribute little niceties, such as refrigerator magnets, bookmarks, or pens with your book’s cover and your information on them. But keep your face out there because, well, we like to see it.

One last point with this, keep in touch with other writers, published and not published. I firmly believe that one way to guarantee your success is to assist someone else in attaining success. Participate in critique groups. Help edit a manuscript. Promote your fellow authors when their books come out. Review books on platforms such as Goodreads. Leave reviews on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Whatever you do to further someone else will come back to you in droves.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Don't be Modest

As writers, we're all different in the subject matter we choose to splash on a page and I understand that so before I go too far and make anyone uncomfortable, just know that I know and recognize that fact.

Our November speaker at SWG talked about the five plus one things he wished he'd known before he started writing a novel. One of the points he raised stuck out for me because, well, I've been known to get on my soap box about this very concept. He said, "write about something that scares you." Now, he didn't mean the "boo!" kind of scary. He was talking about writing about the dark stuff, delving into the unknown, pushing the envelope. And writing it real.

I maintain that no writer worth their own spit can write without coming up against an uncomfortable subject sooner or later. It's got to happen or there is no story, no tension. Your work will be one-dimensional. I find it similar to painting taupe on an off-white canvas. When you finish your great masterpiece, and stand back, crossing your arms over your chest and gaze upon your beautiful work, what do you see? Blah. But if you slam a bucket of wild red across the canvas, ah, then you've created interest. You've created dimension.

You see, I think we worry too much about what others will think about what we write, and I think this happens often within a writers' group. It's difficult to reveal your words, your inner brain workings, to others. What will they think? Will they think it's dirty or lewd, or twisted somehow? Will they be grossed out? Will it be a reflection on me? We should not be so modest.

I believe a writer must write in the moment. If your character is that person who unluckily became part of a convenience store robbery, and his face is pressed against the cold tile floor, you need to be able show your reader what the floor smelled like (all those rubber soles that went before), the hoarse panting of someone an aisle over (must be old, sounds hoarse, like a smoker's breath), how did it sound when the doors to the cold storage shattered as a bullet jetted through them, does he taste his own blood in his mouth because one of the assailants slammed him to the floor (bitter iron paint, spewing from his jaws)?

There are more controversial subjects; i.e., rape, incest, family violence, terminal illness, divorce, death, mental illness, or murder. Point is, at some point you need to pick one and let yourself write about it. Push the envelope. Write about something scary. Let yourself be free with it.

This is your challenge as we finish 2013 and move into 2014. Write about something that scares you to the bone when you go back and read it. And don't be modest. Do you think Stephen King got to where he is by being modest?

Be honest, write in the moment. Write about something that challenges you.