Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Writing for Yourself

Learning to Soar    

Write what you know. That's what we're told when we begin writing fiction. Usually, we're kids then and don't know a heck of a lot. So, that advice goes out the window real quick.

Write what you like to read. This is what we're told when we're taking matters seriously and trying to get published. Even then, it's kind of bogus. I recall wanting to write a vampire series and being told by my agent and several editors that vampires weren't selling. Just from looking at books in bookstores I could tell that was bunk. Vampire books never go out of fashion, right along with loner cowboys and damsels in distress. But I was discouraged enough to put aside my vampire dreams because "those in the know" had decided that what I liked to read was dead. (Forgive the pun.)

Write what you'd like to be reading. Ah. Now we're talking. This is the best directive you can give to writers and it will save them a lot of trial and error as they attempt to write what they know and then try to emulate what they're reading. 

Writing what you would like to be reading fills a void and, therefore, makes your novel different enough to stand apart from all others. Why? Because it has your unique fingerprints on it. You aren't encumbered with only relating what you've personally experienced or by trying to fit your ideas and characters into a neat, prefabricated box that other authors have constructed. You are writing a book from your head, your heart, and your own creative imagination.

You pay homage to other writers' styles by using them as scaffold while you construct your story and create your characters. No doubt, you're comfortable enough with a specific genre to use it as a blueprint. Beyond that, you're free to entertain yourself.

Ask bestselling authors and most will tell you that their "big breakthrough" novel was one that they'd wanted to write for some time, but they were either discouraged to do so or they weren't brave enough to attempt it for a few years. However, once they shook off the bindings and wrote what they really wanted to write, they made believers out of the nonbelievers.

My advice? Once you know your craft and yourself, don't worry so much about what others think you should write. Write your story the way you want it written. You won't please everyone and you might even write a book that most of your acquaintances won't read, but someone will read it -- and love it. Many someones just like you are waiting to read your next book, even if they don't know it yet.

 As Garrison Keillor says, "Be brave and do good work." Excellent advice.





Sunday, June 25, 2017

Here, Take it, It's Free

Freebies. Why That Still Smarts.

Giving books away has been a no-no in my life ever since I was first published. It was drummed into me by other authors to NEVER give away your work -- except to your mother and maybe some siblings (providing they actually read books). So, now that every expert in the field of book marketing is telling me to "GIVE AWAY YOUR BOOKS," I find it very unsettling and not an easy thing to do.

But I'm doing it. (gulp)

Not all of of my books, mind you, but one and sometimes two of them. The powers-that-be call this "baiting" or "magnet books" that attract readers to your body of work. Yes, I'm used to sending out ARCS (advance reader copies) in hopes of getting a review or two out of them, but giving books to readers is a new activity for me.

I understand how it works to build your reader base and get them talking about your books. When I go onto Goodreads and see people asking if anyone knows of any good westerns or romantic suspense series, I fume. Why? Because Goodreads doesn't allow authors to jump in there and write, "Read mine! They're fabulous!" Nope. You can't do that. You must remain on author pages where you can post your new book or cover or whatever and hope that readers migrate there to see it. Fat chance.

So, I've jumped onto the freebie bandwagon and have been sending my books to people left and right, free of charge. I'm also going to begin offering a novella of mine to anyone who signs up for my elite readers group or my elite Facebook group. 

Of course, if you're a KU member (Kindle Unlimited) you can get my books for free any old time you want. However, it's alarming to discover how few reviewers are KU members. This is, of course, because they don't ever buy books, so they sure aren't going to pay for a KU membership.

It's also odd to discover people who STILL don't read ebooks, for whatever reason. Most of the time, it's because they say they can't afford an ereader. This seems preposterous to me. You can buy a Kindle Fire for $50 and get books, movies, email, etc. on it. That will SAVE you money, in the long-run. Especially, if you're one of those people who never pays for books, but gets them free on various online sites. Spend  $50 and not another dime to read thousands of books. Yes, the majority of those free books suck. But, hey. They're free, so quit whining.

If one out of five people I have sent books to actually leaves reviews of them on Amazon and/or Goodreads, I will be a freebie convert for life. If not? I'll still keep giving them to readers in hopes that some of them will enjoy them so much they will want to read more of my books. Gee. They might even want to BUY one!




Monday, February 13, 2017

I've Got You Under My Skin

Skin to Skin

A large part of being successful when writing fiction is the ability to slip into character. Ideally, we should become each viewpoint character. Sometimes writers make the mistake of being more like a camera looking at the characters. Or they pop into everyone's head and tell you things about every character (omniscient viewpoint). There are times when these tactics can work well.

However, 98 percent of the time, writers do their best work when they "become" the viewpoint character and stick with one character per scene. This means that they feel, see, taste, smell, think, and know only what that character feels, sees, tastes, smells, thinks, and knows. In this way, the reader is immersed completely in the story. Ping pong viewpoint -- switching from head to head -- can be jarring and keep the reader off balance. Sometimes the reader has to backtrack to figure out who's who and what's what. It can be that confusing.

Writing in first person helps writers stay in one viewpoint and not slip in and out of a character's head. It's a good device for that and it's a popular viewpoint for many romance novels (ala Fifty Shades of Grey). Third person viewpoint is trickier, but I like it because it seems more like a novel rather than a diary to me.

Whatever viewpoint is chosen, the objective should be to use it to make your readers live along with your characters. I like to think that I can pull them in so far that, should a doorbell chime or a phone ring or someone speaks to them, they startle. They're so deeply into that fictive world that they forget everything around them. I know that as a reader I love books that suck me right in so that I'm oblivious to time passing and what's going on around me.

The same thing happens when I'm writing. Once I get inside my character and surrounded by the scene transpiring, I have no idea of the time. Often, I come up for air, so to speak, and I'm shocked that two or three hours have gone by. That's when I know I've been on a roll.

When I was learning the profession of novel writing, viewpoint was the thing I tackled first and it wasn't without struggle. Slipping into someone's skin -- even someone you've created -- is no easy feat! But it's so worth it.