Tuesday, July 29, 2014

despondency and disillusionment

Writing is a lonely endeavor. What I said in my last post is true--we cannot control or know how our writing will be perceived or even if anyone will read our books. This can be very disturbing depending on our mental state at the time and can stop us in our tracks.

If we are constantly checking on our ratings, our reviews, how many books have been purchased or downloaded, we forget why we're writing in the first place. Facebook and Twitter can pull us into it as other authors tweet their 5 star reviews or talk about their successes. I don't begrudge them their success but if I begin to compare myself I can get into a seriously bad mood.

In my yoga class on Sunday the teacher talked about expectations and how they can take us out of the moment and drive us nearly mad. The only thing in our lives we really have control over is our thoughts and our speech, which includes writing. If we think we should sell 20 books on Sunday and we sell none our spirits go down, especially if we've taken steps to make this happen. Why didn't it do better? What's wrong with it? Why doesn't anyone like my writing?? Thinking positive thoughts is not the same as expectations. We set our books free and then visualize someone picking them up and enjoying them--an entirely different approach. Being attached to the outcome is the problem.

On the way home from that yoga class I began to think of my books as children who have grown up and gone out on their own. As a mother I want to remove any obstacles that might get in their way but ultimately they have their own karma now.

Of course that doesn't mean we ignore them. Just as we pay attention to our children, we have to look out for our books. We have to tell people about them as best we can without spending hours each day promoting or boring the heck out of our friends. Each author has to find his or her own tribe. And sometimes this takes a while.

I recently listed one of my books on Story Cartel, a site that brings readers and authors together. The main gist of it is to get people to pay Story Cartel to list his or her books for free in return for an honest review. And the cost is not insignificant. Are reviews really that important? Now that I've uploaded my book and paid them I'll have to wait and see.

All of us experience disillusionment from time to time. The trick is to pull out of it before it takes over. When my husband responded to my complaining by saying, "Well, you could just write and not publish",  I looked at him aghast. "No way!" I write because I love to write but I also write because I want my writing to be out in the world. And that psychological piece of it is a subject for another blog.

Thanks for reading and I would love to hear your comments on the subject.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

the inner critic and what to do about it

We all have an inner critic who whispers in our ear from time to time. But how much criticism do we need to listen to? What is too much and what is not enough?

When I'm writing I try to let go of the critic, at least while I'm working on new material. It's not helpful to the creative process to be constantly second guessing and going over every little detail the moment the words are down on the paper. This stymies and clogs our progress more than anything else.

Think of an idea as a tiny seedling that needs to be nurtured to have it sprout. To yank it out of the ground before it has even formed a diploid is just plain cruel! At least give it water and sunlight and let it grow. See what it turns into. It may be a weed but then again it may be an unexpected exotic flower. Give it the time it needs.

If you have trouble with this watch for these little destructive sentences that form in your mind--this sucks, I can't write, I'll never be able to write, why did I start this? who am I to think someone would like what I write? Why am I sitting here wasting my time? No one will ever read this, ____ can really write, why can't I write like him?...and so on and so on...

For one thing the writing isn't about others, it's about you. Unless we're writing formula we can't know that anyone will like what we've chosen to write about. First and foremost you have to please yourself. Write what you love to write about. Forget the adage to write what you know--to me that's boring. I would much rather explore a topic that I'm interested in even if I know nothing about it. The research is half the fun! Tell your inner critic to take a hike while you're writing. Light a candle and call on your muse.

Save the inner critic for the editing part of the process. Once you've got the words down and you feel like the story has progressed to the point where you can go back and take a look at it without crumpling it up and throwing it away, that's the moment to redo a sentence here and there, to add more clarity or to expand on a topic. If you do it too soon you'll block that seedling from growing, cutting off the supply of water and sun it needs to blossom.

And do not under any circumstances give your work to someone to read before you know where you're going! That is unless you trust this person with your life! We are all our own worst critics. Once the work has grown sufficiently you can cut it back, take branches off, weed it, shaping it into your own creation.

Once the pruning is done you can you hand it off to a reader or an editor and be able to take in what they have to say. But even then you have to keep hold of your original intention. No one else has the right to hack away branches that you think add to the beauty of the plant.

Listen to what others say and take their advice or not. The main thing with editing is to make sure the narrative reads smoothly and isn't confusing and that the grammar and spelling errors have been corrected. How you want the plant to look is ultimately up to you and you alone.

Friday, July 11, 2014


I published Gypsy's Return on July 8th after having my editor edit for content and then do a thorough proof. Excited, I ordered twenty copies and then proceeded to advertise it on Goodreads, and set it up on Smashwords. Alas. Today, thanks to KDP, I discovered that the book has 21 spelling errors. Twenty-one!!!! Every other book I've published has had a few, Gypsy's Quest coming in with zero mistakes.

I looked through them, not surprised to see letters switched and letters left out of words. I've become fairly dyslexic of late and my eyes are not what they once were. But the real misspellings were a surprise. And there were more than I care to admit. I was a master speller in school and won spelling bees all the time.  (insert violin music here)

Word spellcheck is a joke. When the MS reaches a certain point in length it announces that it's shutting itself off--too many mistakes to keep up with. But when I turn it on it comes up with things that are fine the way they are--that versus who, for instance. I was taught that 'who' is used when referring to people, 'that'  when it's an inanimate object. Spellcheck also refuses to acknowledge names. The grammar feature is even worse. Who programmed this thing?

My mistake was assuming that my editor caught everything and not taking the time to go through it one last time before handing it off to my formatter. Luckily Rik Hall is willing to make the changes in the docs he formatted. (I sent him the list and what pages they were on)

And so the book has been pulled. My apologies to anyone who has already ordered it. I did notice that I had one sale on the first day. It won't be too long before it's up again.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

so, you think you want to make your book into a movie...

I have recently been on this bandwagon, sure that my books would make FABULOUS movies. My first idea was to send them to a friend of mine in the movie business, albeit, documentaries. When, after several months, she still hadn't read them or given them to anyone in the movie business to read, I had to give up on that idea. (And just so you know, I realize how very stupid this idea was) I then got an e-mail in my junk mailbox from someone called Nat Mundel at Voyage Media, who offers classes and every kind of service related to moving your book into some sort of visual form.

I wrote them an e-mail back, presenting the last book of my fantasy trilogy, The Wolf Moon, as the one I wanted to concentrate on. Although Voyage Media offers many ways of doing these things yourself, I opted to go the expensive route. With stars in my eyes I spent the money to have them do a 'treatment' of my book. A treatment is  synthesizing the story into the major plot points in order to have it appeal to producers. And after this was accomplished, my book would be 'shopped' by them to several producers and then stored in their data base for anyone looking for an idea. (Hello, Earth to Nikki--are you a well- known author?)

All well and good. However, once the treatment was accomplished and I read through it, I realized that my story was still too complicated and needed further condensing. And not only that, some of the most important aspects of the story had been left out of this fifteen page narrative the Voyage Media crew had come up with. With my payment, which I actually didn't think was exorbitant considering what they promised, I had a bonus call with the big man himself, Nat Mundel. This was touted as something very special and I looked forward to it, trying to frame my questions to fit into the twenty minute time slot.

When Nat called I was very pleasantly surprised. He was engaging and interested in my work and had lots of good things to say. I liked him immediately. Instead of talking for twenty minutes, we were on the phone for forty-five minutes. We spoke of what my intentions were regarding the project. Did I just want to see what would happen with this first phase--a fishing expedition I guess you'd call it, or did I want to go further? Was I committed to seeing my book up on the big screen? I said I still thought it would make a good movie, although it needed further condensing. He agreed, and I swear he either read my book himself or he had heard all about it from his crew. (or he read through the 'treatment' before the call)

So, in light of my willingness to go forward, Nat suggested a couple of things that would do just that. The first was what he called a 'look book', which reminded me of what I would call a storyboard. He sent me a sample of what Voyage Media had done for another client while we were on the phone. "I love it!" I cried. And I did. It was very cool. But then I found out how much something like this costs and my excitement dwindled a bit, but it didn't go away. At least not yet.

We spoke of how this would work for my book and how they put something like this together. The cost was within reason, but out of my range at this point. But the stars were back and I told him that I would like to move forward but first I had to talk to my husband.

After several hours of contemplating it all and lengthy discussion with Jim, we both decided that my money would be better spent promoting my books. If I used a fraction of what the 'look book' cost, I could definitely do some major advertising. And in the long run this would help me become better known as an author, which in turn would help my chances of making one of my books into a movie.

And so the stars are gone, but the glint is still there. I will soon be writing a press release and talking to my editor, Christine Myers, about other web related marketing. I will be putting an ad in the local news magazine and looking for other ways to promote on a bigger scale.

But for any of you out there who related to this idea, do not hesitate to look up Nat Mundel and Voyage Media. They have lots of less costly ways to go forward and many good ideas. I highly recommend them.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Hooks and other things to consider

I'm not even sure where I read this, but the advice was to keep the reader turning pages by ending every chapter with a hook--what will happen next?

This can be done several ways--by someone running for their lives or by simply ending the chapter with a question. Will she make it to the town in time to stop the insurrection? We don't know and so we turn the page.

I find myself doing this automatically now, and many times I'll come up with a sentence that seems like the end of a chapter when in reality the chapter is too short and needs to go on.

How about the hook at the beginning? The adage of 'start your story with a major hook and then keep the suspense building' is a good one. But at some point we need to hear the backstory, or the narrative has no depth. Who is this woman who's running from the law? Why does she keep doing stupid things?  What in her background would account for this? Don't do an info dump, just weave it in when you need to slow down the action.

One of the things I've discovered is that when the narrative moves too quickly, it's as though we don't have time to take a breath. As a writer, breathe in and relax a moment, bringing the reader into the present, and then get in touch with what the main character is feeling. Take a short hiatus and then you can heighten the tension again. It's like mixing staccato sentences in with longer ones--they all have their place but if you overdo one or the other it makes for a less engaging story. It's like a symphony in which the music changes from fast-paced, to slow and steady.

But first and foremost be interested in what you're writing. Be there in the scene, visualize the booming cannon as it kicks backward, emitting a plume of smoke, hear what it does to your eardrums, see the sparks and the smoke from the explosion, smell the cordite. This is where you hook your reader because you've brought them directly into the action.

The more engaged you are the better it will be.

Thanks for reading and comments are most appreciated!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

a reprint of my newsletter...

For those who are not on my e-mail list, here's a copy of my latest newsletter!

Nikki's Newsletter

Dear wonderful Friends, and family, 
Believe it or not, I've completed Book #2 in the Gypsy series, 'Gypsy's Return'! The second book of this time-traveling/romance took only four months to write, a record for me. 91,700 words later, I have now sent it off for editing and then will begin the lengthy process of preparing it for publication. I expect it to be up on Amazon by the end of July or early August. For any of you who read Gypsy's Quest, this one continues Gertrude's story, leading us into a changed world. Look for the third in the series sometime early next year!

Meanwhile I have another book that's nearing completion. It's a very different story, inspired by the Sonoran desert where I now live. I don't want to  give it away, but I'll share here that the protagonist is a coyote who would like to be human. The pitfalls of this lead him down several hilarious, strange and dangerous paths. I'm hoping to have this one published in the fall, before the holiday season begins. 

If you've been reading my blog, Authorinprogress, you'll know that I've been struggling with marketing. This aspect of the business of writing  has been discouraging and exhausting for me. It's extremely hard (nearly impossible) to compete with the zillions of books in the marketplace and to find a way to target my readers. A friend mentioned the idea of press releases and ads in local newspapers and I plan to follow up with this when I bring out my new books. A few dollars spent for an advert in The Desert Leaf would at least get my name into the public eye. My books are in several bookstores here in Tucson, but if no one knows about them then the possibility of sales is nil! 

Despite these setbacks I continue to be fascinated with writing, unable to stop myself. The book that began my obsession, the fictionalized WW2 story of my father and mother's struggle to maintain a relationship amid war and myriad other obstacles, is on the back burner. With 400 pages written I have finally figured out a suitable ending. I have a beta reader here in Tucson, a woman whose opinions I respect, and every month we get together to go over the chapters. Once the other two are out, I'll have time to concentrate on this one. 

Thank you all for reading!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Marketing--a necessary evil

So, I've been marketing like mad--or have I? I wonder sometimes since that what I do goes into a bottomless pit. I send queries to review groups and offer to do reviews for others, I tweet newsy items in between tweeting links to my two blogs or excerpts from the new book in the Gypsy series, or simply posting a link to Gypsy's Quest with some kind of quirky quip to go with it. I've submitted two books to Bookbub, without success, and I've paid for ads in places that I can't even remember now. These efforts have brought little success. According to nearly everyone, having an online presence is of the utmost importance. Is it?

And then we come to Facebook. I am considering giving up most of the Facebook groups I belong to. We all seem to be in the same boat on the same shitty creek and none of us have paddles! We either need some paddles or we need to get off that particular creek.

My writing pal has suggested that I write a press release to post in the local paper, and/or, an ad in one of the entertainment papers that come out weekly or monthly. I think it's a very good idea. And from what I see when I check, which isn't often, my e-book sales are not as high as my book sales. And neither one are much to brag about.

When I get discouraged, and believe me I do, I have to remember my reasons for writing. I simply can't stop, as I mentioned in a previous blog. I'm writing the books that I want to read, but maybe what I like only appeals to a small niche of the population.

A friend of mine said, "You could figure out a formula and just write what you think the public wants." Even if I could do that, (and I doubt that I could) I wouldn't, because what I write comes from my heart. I can't churn out something that I'm not utterly immersed in. And so the struggle to have my books noticed continues--because that's how it works, right?

My latest endeavor, mentioned above, has been trying to get more reviews. What I'm finding is that many of my readers are buying my books from bookstores and so are not allowed to post a review on Amazon. And do a lot of 4 or 5 star reviews really bring up sales? When I search for a book I use the 'look inside' feature and check out the quality of the writing. I usually read the first couple of paragraphs to figure out if the storyline is one I'm interested in, that and the back cover.

How is your marketing plan going? Do you use reviews as a marker when you buy a book?