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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

I don’t like the fact that plants sometimes don’t behave as they should.  Who gave permission for my tomato plant all nice and spiky and full of vim and vigor to just suddenly slump.  It’s not fair.  It’s not comprehensible in the perfect world of gardening.  All my other plants are just fine.  Living in an apartment I cannot have a real garden with rows of corn and stakes of climbing peas.  No, I have to garden in two Earth Boxes and an assortment of various pots.  Nice as they are, they are just itty-bitty micro gardens.  I can fit three tomato plants in each of my two Earth Boxes, and all the plants have been growing and flourishing for weeks now.  They have grown like weeds and are already putting out little yellow flowers with the promise of ripe juicy ham sized tomatoes in the height of summer.

But this one little fellow has suddenly decided to expire.  The other two plants in the box are just fine.  They are heroically holding up their part of the gardening bargain and are vibrant and sassy.  But this one guy – one of my favorites, a yellow pear – has suddenly decided to take a vacation.  Bummer.

Yesterday was my day to take my newly printed novel Divas Never Flinch out to the local bookstores to introduce myself, and show off as the NEW LOCAL AUTHOR, encouraging them to buy the book for their stores.  Sad how there are now only one bookstore chain and three independent book stores left in Santa Fe.  Ebooks rule I guess.

Anyway, when I came home I first saw my sad little tomato drooping like Oliver Twist, asking “More please.”  In my rush to take my hot little novel to show and tell I had forgotten to water that morning.  As I was leaving I realized I’d forgotten, but thought, “Ah it will be okay ’til I get back.”  Now here was the result of my rash forgetfulness – a dying plant.

I rushed to water everything.  I have my little water meter and checked all the pots.  Most were fine, but I extra watered my poor little soldier and waited.  Would it revive?  I kept checking every ten minutes but it just continued hanging its head.

Finally it began to revive and I thought if it gets through the night it might revive completely.

This morning I went out and it was almost okay.  Only one little bit was still droopy, but Yes! it was going to survive.  Then I did my morning watering and gave it an extra topping off, and when I checked back later it was drooping even worse.  Can you over water a tomato?  I didn’t think so – but there it was, and it looks like I will soon have to call the Plantville mortuary to take my poor baby away.

And so now I mourn.  Grief spilling out all over the place.  I will give it another day or so, but if the fellow doesn’t respond to the lovely sunshine out he goes.  Don’t want him infecting the other plants with his poor attitude.  And like I said – there is no room in my garden for plants who don’t behave as they should.

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Every morning I read the comics page in my local newspaper.  Occasionally I will see that a couple of the comic strips will have either the same theme or feature identical elements.  For example two of the comics today both were centered around toast or toasters.  I have seen this happen over and over.  Two writers seem to be channeling the same ideas at the same time when they are creating their strips.  I have witnessed this phenomena occur is other art forms as well – movies – plays – books will come out with similar themes or subjects.  I remember some years back several books and plays came out about Mary Lincoln all at about the same time.

What is at work here?  Is it zeitgeist – the spirit of the times?  I don’t want to get all woo woo but something does seem to be working behind the scenes.  Some overreaching thought that is struggling to manifest, and various artists pick that idea up at the same time.

This interests me because of the very nature of the creative process itself.  I have discussed on this blog how I feel that when I am writing, the characters are actually creating themselves through me.  They seem to be in charge and are manifesting themselves without any intellectual imput from me.  This process has always fascinated me, and here seems to be an other example of ideas or individuals coming from some place of collective unconscious which would explain how in something as simple and brief as a comic strip some deeper unconscious force is at work.

I am constantly amazed and amused at how the creative process works.  And I love that it remaines anchored in mystery.

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Okay, I’m finally getting it.  You want to be an author?  So you sit down and compose a masterpiece.  You find an enthusiastic publisher to get you out there, and then you sit back and collect the royalties.  Nope.  You’ve only done half your work.  Now the real work begins.  Whatever your publisher might do marketing your book – that is just not enough these days.  All the old models of selling books no longer apply.  What you really need to do is market yourself.  It is up to you, the author, to get out there and create a following.  Marketing can no longer be left to just the publisher.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it is finally coming home to me after I had a long two-hour conversation with my publisher this weekend about what I am expected to do as my part of the marketing program.  Wow.  Pant pant.  I won’t go into all the details but there are basically three parts to the operation.  1.  Internet and social media  2.  Personal contacts  And 3.  Author book sales

I may decide to describe these various programs as I explore each one, but let me just comment on one of the first projects I am going to do.  A YouTube video.  I have a friend who has a video legacy business.  She makes videos of family history.  Her website is www.heartfeltvideolegacies.com.  She is going to help me construct a nice professional looking video about 5 minutes long.  Since I have no money to do this, I am counting on help from friends.  I will have a short filming session, then serve lunch to all the helpers, and give them copies of my book, Divas Never Flinch.  While this may be small compensation, at least it will be something, and I hope will make for an enjoyable experience for everyone.

And I have sooooo much to learn about the other aspects of social media.  I am the original Luddite, but I will get my head around all this new stuff, and work my butt off to get the word out and make the kind of connections necessary to do my part of the marketing scheme.

One thing my publisher impressed upon me was how important it is to see myself as an already successful writer.  Just to be published is a major accomplishment.  She stressed that people are attracted to success, and it is very important not to be seen as marketing my book, but to be seen as a successful writer wanting to give back to the community by offering to teach writing courses, to give interviews, offering books to charity auctions etc.  There are many ways to participate in the community that will get you noticed.

I know I’ve only touched on the many, many avenues that I need to explore, but rather than lay them all out now I think it would be best to report on them as I move forward, trying each one and seeing how well they work.

And lastly I want to report that the print version of Divas will be available either later this week or next.  The book has been submitted to the distributer, but they need to work their magic, and then it will be officially available.  Will keep you all posted.

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I’ve come to a curious place.  I’m not sure where to go with this blog.  I’ve covered a lot of the topics I wanted to cover in my experience with writing, and there is not a lot to report just now on the launch of the print version of my novel Divas Never Flinch.  I have completed the review of the print version and it is now back in the hands of my publisher.  They have their own mysteries about the procession of the next steps.  All I know for certain is that they will be ordering a printed copy to review with a fine tooth comb, and make sure all is well before they launch the print version to their distributors – where they will have their own esoteric duties and responsibilities.

This leads me to the other subject of this week’s blog – Marketing – which determines the ultimate success or failure of a book.  There are 500,000 published books a year – 200,000 printed books – the rest ebooks.  And only a small percent of those books succeed in a meaningful way.

I have touched on this subject before, but it is becoming more urgent and up front for me now.  I have been so very pleased with my publisher up to this point, but this is where the excrement hits the fan right about now for Divas.  How successful will my publisher be at marketing?  Will they be able to launch the print version in a meaningful way?  I’m afraid this is here I am beginning to have some trepidation.

I’ve been reading a lot about the state of publishing today and it seems that most publishers – and that includes the big ones too – are at a loss as to how to market books these days.  All the old paradigms are no longer working.  Print ads, readings, book signings, emails, PR, book tours – all cost much more than they bring in.  And where are the bookstores any way?  It’s all sales on line these days.

It seems that the new paradigm is something called – at least by one source – the Tribal Author.  The idea behind this is that there is such a massive explosion of information these days through all media that it is now the responsibility of each author to build his or her own fan base.  This means massive work to establish and build followers through social media.  Oh boy.  That is exactly where this 71-year-old recluse just totally misses the mark.  All this social media stuff makes my eyes glaze over and I become inert and incompetent.  I have to be really, really honest here and admit that I don’t think I have the stomach, nor the ability launch the type of campaign necessary to create a tribe of followers large enough to insure the success of my writing.  I guess this leaves me with the prospect of dancing for rain – if you get my meaning.  I will just have to see what my publisher comes up with, and as for creating a tribe – well I hope it’s a tribe that also dances for rain.

I have tried to enter a blog post a week up to now.  Not sure if I can keep that up.  So from now on I will post when I have something I think is significant to say.  Don’t want to waste anyone’s time with filler.  So till next time…..

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My, how the world of publishing is changing!  The print version of my novel Divas Never Flinch is about to come out.  I don’t know about you, but I envisioned huge presses running at astronomical speeds slapping out a book, to then be bound, and the cover added.  I asked my publisher how many copies would be in the first run. I expected the publisher to have a warehouse filled with printed books to be sent out to bookstores all over the country when they were ordered.    I had to be set straight, and was given a crash course in publishing in the world today.

First, the publisher has no inventory of books.  My publisher works through a distributer who also actually prints the books.  But do they have a warehouse full of printed books?  Again no.  It seems the world of books today is print on demand.  Say Amazon wants to have 100 books.  They contact the distributer and order 100 books.  The distributer goes to their print department and orders 100 books which are printed out on demand and sent to Amazon.

Bookstores used to order books for their shelves, and after a period of time would return any that were unsold.  About 40% of the books returned were damaged and unable to be sold again.  Wasteful and unprofitable for the publisher.   So now my publisher no longer accepts return of books.

And of the 250,000 books in print a bookstore might carry only about 60,000.  Hardly a lucrative outlet for most books.  Today most books  – ebooks or printed books – are sold online – Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, and Smashwords being the major players.

Now here’s what’s interesting.  The printing of the books on demand has a new tool.  There is a machine called the Espresso printer.  This printer has access to all the ISBN books and when a book is ordered the number is entered and the book begins to print.  The printing, the binding, the cover, the lamination all done in about 7 minutes, from start to finish.  Here is a link to a YouTube video.  It is really interesting and well worth watching.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ec2BZA50EaY

I’m sure this is not an exhaustive look at what is going on in publishing today, but it sure opened my eyes.  I know I have a lot more to learn, but I wanted to share this as I find it most enlightening.

 

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As I near the end of a writing project – in this case a novel – I begin the process of writing the query letter I will send out to agents.  I spend a lot of time on this as it is very important to put forward your work as succinctly and dramatically as possible to snag the interest of an agent who must get 200 queries a day.

I worked a long time to get my latest letter together.  This novel was the most involved work I have done – a lot of characters that had to be juggled and developed over the scope of the work.  I wanted to present the story as fully as I could, and I ended up with a query letter that had to be reduced in font size to get all the elements on one page.

I gave it to a friend to read to make sure it was comprehensible.  She came back with the question – What are you trying to accomplish with this?  I explained I wanted to get the story across as completely as I could.  But her question nagged at me, and I went back to look again at the letter.  It was clear that I was trying to convey way too much information.  Instead of engaging the reader I was overwhelming the reader.   I was trying to get the whole novel into a couple of paragraphs.  And I had doubts that a busy agent would read all that.

So I decided to go back and rework the letter.   I went again to Agentquery.com and reread their advice on creating a successful query letter.  That was a good move on my part, because I realized I had written way too much.  I needed to connect with the reader with no more than 250 to 300 words.  My goal had to be to excite the reader to want to see more.  There was no way I could convey the whole novel in just a few paragraphs.  Much better to entice them to want to see more.

So I went back and completely reworked the middle of the letter and got the heart of the letter into 286 words.  The first part of the letter is the opening with title, a one sentence tag line about the book, and the number of words in the work.  And the last section is a very brief biography.  That’s all.  I cut out every single word that did not add directly to my goal of getting the agent to request to see more of the work.

It was really very constructive for me to realize I was trying to do too much with my first query letter, and it led me to go back and rework my other query letters as well.

I highly recommend anyone working on a query letter take a look at the Agent Query website.  Under the heading for writers there is a link to How to Write a Query.  Take a look at what they have to say, and be sure and check out the sample query letters of successful queries.  It will serve you well.

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Because I have been unemployed for the past several weeks I have been able to write every day.  Great joy.  And as a result I just finished the first draft of my latest novel.

Now, since I do not write with a predetermined outline, but rather let my characters drive the story, I really don’t know what I have until I have finished and do my first read through.  It’s both exciting and scary.  But it seems to work for me.  I did the same with my first published novel, Divas Never Flinch.  I was surprised at how well it works for me.  My characters seem to know their way and have a knack for finishing up at the end just where they should be.  A miracle that never ceases to amaze me.  In the first novel, since it was my first, I found rewriting was dealing with really careful examination of each sentence and paragraph to make sure there were no extraneous words, and the meaning was clear.  I would come across a passage that was awkward or unclear and I would work it until it was clean and clear.

With this book, my fifth, I find that the writing is a lot clearer with less work to do on the individual paragraphs.  However, this book is a political thriller with more diverse characters, and I had to keep them all in mind as I wrote, and had to make sure all the story threads were wrapped up and completed appropriately.  So my first read through was to see if I had any loose threads sticking out – story lines where information was introduced but not picked up again later.  It was like a weaving.  I had to go back and tuck in all the loose threads.  And that was my first job on this manuscript.

Now, after doing that, I am going through for a second general read.  I pick up a sentance or paragraph that needs work and will fix what I can, but I am still really trying to get a sense of the whole.  When I am satisfied with that, then I will go to the next stage.

And that is the fine tuning and polishing stage.  Here, I go through over and over each paragraph to make sure it is as polished and clean and clear as I can make it.

Of course, the real test is to have someone else read the work.  Unfortunately, unless someone is really skilled at reading and vetting a manuscript, what I usually get is, “Oh that’s nice,” with not much useful information I can use for rewriting.

Another technique I use that is helpful is to let the manuscript sit for a while without looking at it. Then go back to it later with fresh eyes.  That can be very useful.

Again, I say that rewriting is very subjective, but this is what works for me.  I’m sure everyone has their own way of working, and it can vary drastically from person to person.

I know some writers overwrite and have to edit like crazy.  While other writers under write and have to add and fill out.  I am closer to the later.  I like really clean and simple writing.

I know this is not an exhaustive look at the subject of rewriting, but there are many fine books out there on the subject.  I have read several, but like all books covering a general subject, some of the issues addressed are helpful, and some are not.  One just has to pick out what is useful to you and disregard the rest.

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