Of Writers and Prose: I am the Muse and the Muse is me.

Quill-And-Ink-Line-Art-300pxYou hear a lot from writers about the Muse; that wonderfully invisible entity that bestows upon us lowly creatures the plots and creative inspiration so we can write our novels, but many tend to use them as an excuse to not write.

“My Muse isn’t talking to me today,”

or

“I wait until my Muse whispers in my ear before I write.”

Sound familiar? While that may sound like divine intervention the reality is, we are the muse. I read this article on how our mind use its synapse to co-ordinate activity across a several parts of the brain, and delves into a hypothesis of a ‘mental workshop’; a cognitive function if you will, where the brain engages several key areas to manipulate images and possibly ideas.

How Imagination Works

Our brain is a complex organ and we’ve only just begun studies on it. T act that it can take a familiar idea and rearrange them into a new concept to me is incredible.

Creative Thinking

I believe our imagination is a muscle skill. As we learn how to create new ideas, the stronger the skill becomes. I learned this first hand when I upgraded my math. At the beginning of the course, I could barely work on fractions but come the end, I could calculate an equation like Charles’ Law  in my sleep. Like those who are more skilled at singing or math, I believe that some people are more ‘hard-wired’ to be creative than others. Does that mean those who creativity doesn’t come ‘naturally’ are any less creative? No, but it may take a little longer for them to achieve the level of creatively they desire. You can’t sing opera after one lesion; so is it with writing.

Even with all this new information, I still think the notion of an invisible entity whispering in our ears is romanticised, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s only when we use this this idealized fascination as an excuse for not doing something that it becomes a problem.

Remember, the Muse waits for no one.

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Of Writers and Prose: The 3 F’s of Writing.

Quill-And-Ink-Line-Art-300pxWe’ve all seen those writers who claim their story idea is ‘a million dollar idea’, and we quietly snicker behind their back in haughty derision at their inflated egos, but I think we could all stand to take note of their self-confidence. These are people who, for better or for worse, ignore that negative voice that tells them their story isn’t as good as everyone else’s; they ignore the possibility that their novel won’t be read or that their writing is crap. Now I’m not saying get all egotistical about our work, but learning to love our writing is a hard thing to do, especially when we read other people’s books and we see such a perfect story.

F #1 – Frustration: Frustration comes when we constantly compare our work to other writers. I’ve talked about this before (as have others) how we must NOT compare our writing career with other authors. Whether it’s style, ability or even financial, they’re not us and we’re not them. I dislike hearing new writers say they want to write like Stephen King, or Anne Rice or whomever they idolize. They set lofty goals, and when it’s not achieved, they fall into depression. That’s when those nagging voices take over. You know the ones. The voice that says we’re not good enough.

F #2 – Fear: Fear comes when we’ve convinced ourselves that our work will never be as good as the author we’re trying to mimic. I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t worry about my writing. I worry no one will read it or that my stories aren’t good enough. Notice the present tense? That’s because this is something that’s with me all the time, but I don’t give into that fear. I accept all the fear and the worst case scenarios. Unlike frustration, fear can be an easy thing to dispel. If you’re afraid your writing isn’t good, then do what you need to improve it. Read more or take a class on creative writing. Talk to other writers, and you’ll see you’re not alone. If you’re afraid no-one will like your book, understand that no one can write a book that relates to everyone. If you’re afraid no one will read your book, join the club. That is a fear that we all have but if you write what you would like to read and I can guarantee someone will read it.

F #3 –Fulfillment: Fulfillment is like a breath of fresh air to a writer. It can start out as a small thing, like writing for an hour a day, and slowly increasing to encompass a lofty goal like getting an agent or publishing a book. Fulfillment’s grow and change over time and we have to make sure we grow and change with them. We must push ourselves to the next level once a fulfillment is complete. We grow each time we succeed, and even if we fall back into an old pattern, we can’t let that keep us from achieving our goals. We can’t let ourselves go backward and give into our fear or frustration, otherwise we’re f*****.

Of Writers and Prose: WARNING! YOU’RE LOSING MONEY BY NOT DOING THIS ONE THING!

Quill-And-Ink-Line-Art-300pxDid I get your attention? Of course I did. No one can resist clickbait and if you say you don’t fall for it, I call bullshit because you just did.

Just like clickbait, writers need snappy titles on their blog posts to attract potential readers. It’s hard enough to come up with original material on topics that have been done a gazillion times before, but trying to put your personal ‘spin’ on them can be even harder. Maybe that’s why writers have let their blogs fall by the wayside over the last couple years.

When I first started blogging way back in . . . (I can’t even remember) people blogged about all sorts of things, and then someone realised you could sell more books with your blog and (I feel) it went all to hell from there. Just about every writer out there started their own blogs and wrote about writing and their books. It became more about the number of subscribers and ‘hits’ than making a connection and or discussions. Naturally, people got bored of re-reading the same stuff, stopped reading and suddenly . . .

BLOGGING IS DEAD!

It isn’t dead. It just got bored.

I’ll admit, in the early years of my blogs (at one point I had three), I was one of those people who wrote only about the industry, and then I read an article about how writers needed to expand topics and attract readers who weren’t writers. We were trapped in this bubbled known as the ‘writing sphere’ and in order to to increase your readership we needed to step OUTSIDE of the sphere.

Wait? You mean promote to ACTUAL PEOPLE?

Here is where a new age of blogging begins; a renaissance even. Blogging was once about important global conversations that had to be said; opinions that needed expressing. Now it’s personal. It’s about the smaller, but just as important events that happen in our lives. Non-writers read books too, but we need to connect with them on a different level; a more personal level but that doesn’t need to be a scary thing. You don’t have to blog about every part of your life, but we should include other aspects of our lives on our blogs. Hobbies they like, or shows/movies they watch. A multi-topic blog can (in theory) bring new readers; readers from OUTSIDE the writing sphere. This is where our audience waits for us. Let’s connect with them again.

Of Writers and Prose: Do All Stories Need Romance?

Quill-And-Ink-Line-Art-300pxI once had a beta ask me when two characters were ‘getting together’. It caught me by surprise because I had no plans for any romance to take place between these two, and I didn’t think I’d written anything to suggest there would be. Naturally, I started playing around with the idea that maybe a romance should happen. After all, romance is a big seller and there’s nothing wrong with a little nookie every now and then, right?

Uh . . . maybe?

Look, I have nothing against romance (I used to DEVOUR Harlequin novels), but I don’t/can’t/won’t write it (I’ve tried), and I HATE it when it’s forced on characters simply to make a sale. Romance in a non-romantic story needs to be organic; a secondary element that doesn’t overshadow the plot. Is the main character in your crime drama falling for a suspect? That’s an awesome tension-builder and can cause conflict between them, but you need to remember why he/she is there – a crime. I’m not a fan of any romance in zombie/end-of-world scenarios either, at least not during the mayhem that reigns supreme in the first few weeks/months of said apocalypse (don’t get me started on the whole Carol/Daryl thing). For me, the idea that life as we know is on the verge of going bye-bye is NOT a good time to hit that ol’ charm button for another survivor. Would YOU be thinking sex during an apocalypse?

I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, just realise that if romantic feelings do occur between your characters, make it valid and not something you think will let you sell more books or list your book in more categories. Allow them to flirt a little or look longingly when they don’t think the other is looking. Better yet, if they do end up getting close, have them in a platonic relationship. Two people who become good friends is just as good as plausible as romance. As a matter of fact, it might be a breath of fresh air.

Of Writers and Prose: Putting ourselves into our novels.

Quill-And-Ink-Line-Art-300pxI finally watched the last two episodes of THE CROWN. In the ninth episode where Churchill is having his portrait pained, he gets into a rather deep discussion with the artist about his work. Churchill, trying to find some fault with the man and his work, cajoles him on the bleakness of one print in particular. The artist agrees, stating that it was painted during a mournful time in his life; right after his infant son died and then retaliates by pointing out that Churchill has painted one particular scene a multitude of times; a pond located on his property. The artist says he sees something in the way Churchill painted the water; something painful; emotions that lay deep under the surface. Churchill clams that he paints it often because he cannot get the look of the pond just right; that it eludes him. After a fashion, the statesman acknowledges that he built the pond short after his own young child died, and realises his own grief may be the reason he constantly paints this particular scene. It’s a beautifully poignant moment.

As artist, writers pour their hearts and soul into their work so it’s not unheard of that pieces of our lives, emotions or experiences also end up in there too. Even our hobbies can be added to give our characters a more realistic feel to them and possibly connect with readers. Sometimes, like Churchill we unconsciously add details about our lives into our work. For example, I worked at several restaurants in my youth and therefore I understand that particular world and what goes on behind closed doors. Just about all my stories have a scene where the characters are eating or at a restaurant. Even my short stories have a brief moment of foodie love in them. These are easy references that I am knowledgeable about, so I have no problem including them. This is how we make our characters more ‘real’ or three-dimensional. Every writer has some real life experience they can include in their stories to bring their characters to life and connect with readers. Bad experiences as well. Last summer I got into a fight with a bus stop sign and had a nice trip to the hospital via an ambulance. You can bet that at some point, I’m going to use that experience in a story. Everything about that day it etched into my memory; the way I felt, the ride, even my experience in the emergency room is still fresh. My only regret is that I should have asked the nurse to take a picture. Apparently I looked like I’d been in a horror movie.

Life experiences can add a world of colour to our stories, no matter what genre you write. Don’t be afraid of including even painful experiences. Chances are you’ll connect more with your readers, and in the end isn’t that what we all want?

Of Writers and Prose: Promoting Yourself, Not Your Work.

[DISCLAIMER] First of all, I’m not an expert at this and I’ve never claimed to be. This is just my perspective and how I view the publishing industry.

Quill-InkI read a blog post a few months back claiming that Twitter was no longer a viable option for authors to promote their book. You can read the article here.

http://www.justpublishingadvice.com/poor-twitter-growth-is-bad-news-for-self-published-authors/

 

No shit. It never was.

What struck me about this article is that it equates statistics for Twitter with readership and author visibility, and while no new growth may be bad for Twitter, that doesn’t mean it’s bad for authors. I understand what the article is saying, but to compare Twitter with writers is LITERALLY comparing apples to oranges. As a writer, I know my books aren’t for everyone and depending on the genre, writers will have a limited audience. If you look at Book Bub’s genre listing, you’ll see that mysteries top the chart compared to YA, which agents are constantly looking for.

EXISTING accounts/readers are the ones that authors need to focus on. EXISTING readers tell other readers about your book; WORD OF MOUTH. Companies are notorious for offering sign up deals and discounts to NEW customers instead of rewarding their ESTABLISHED customer base. Imagine there were no freebies or low-priced books. What do you think would happen if an author offered a discounted price to ONLY NEW READERS? While you must look at your books as a business; this is where the business model for companies and the business model for readers MUST branch away. The approach cannot be the same.

So what’s an author to do?

Yes, we need new readers, and we find them by connecting with them via social media, but here is where I see a lot of writers going off the rail; they don’t connect with their readers, they talk AT them, instead of TO them. A while back I helped a writer from my writing group try and understand social media. He has a book coming out and his publisher is all over him about getting ‘out there’. Over the course of an hour or so, I explained how you can use social media to HELP sell your books; because that’s what it is – a TOOL (I’m pretty sure I wrote a blog post on social media tools, but I can’t find it).

Authors must keep one thing in mind when promoting themselves and using social media; it’s about being social. There’s nothing wrong with promoting your work, but like the linked article states; Twitter is no longer a viable option for authors to promote their book.

And it never was.

Of Writers and Prose: To the market with your book. It’s Easy and Cheap. Trust me.

Quill-Ink[DISCLAIMER] I’m not an expert at this and I never claim to be. This is just my perspective and how I view the publishing industry.

Last month I wrote a rather long post on, well it was supposed to be on selling your book and the whole thing kinda got away on me. I’ll try to be more on topic this month. You can read the post HERE.

Marketing your book is easy.

It is, really.

Seriously, I’m not messing with you.

If you have your book on Amazon or Smashwords or one of the other ebook or POD sites, then you have a purchase page generated for your work. Guess what. That is known as the ‘MARKET’; the place where readers go to buy your work. If you want to ‘market’ your work, then you put it where it can be purchased.

It’s. That. Easy.

As I said in my last post, MARKETING and PROMOTING have become synonymous with each other when they are clearly two separate entities, and that’s where the confusion and frustration set it. Writers who say they don’t know how to market their book are really saying they don’t know how to promote it, and that’s another post altogether, but first we need to understand the difference.

Markets include brink and mortar bookstores and online retailers; it about how you get it into the reader’s hands and where the public can access it. Some writers like to keep it simple and have it on just one outlet. Others, like myself, have their book in as many places as possible. I believe the more places my book is found, the bigger my market, and with each new market I’m increasing my ‘potential’ audience. Some people call it ‘target’ audience or ‘target’ readers. I prefer to call them ‘potential readers’. Using the word ‘target’ denotes competition and despite what it looks like, authors are not in competition with each other. I’m not a target and I don’t like to be labelled as such. I doubt anyone else does either.

The biggest mistake I see with writers is not having any book links visible on their website. More than once I’ve clicked on a writer’s blog or website and all I see are paragraph after paragraph about their books, but nothing showing me where to purchase. If you have more than one book, you NEED to have them all on one page so a potential reader can view them all. Don’t put a link to one book on your Twitter account. Not even if it’s a free one. Make it as easy as possible for them to find ALL your work. Like this:

http://darkeconteur.weebly.com/books.html

All my books. All the markets. Period.

When you’ve piqued a reader’s interest, they’ll click your link and the first thing they see should be your books. I know Instagram won’t let me post the book page link, but I can post the web page link. Go figure. Make sure all the links work too. As savvy as we all like to think we are, mistakes can and do happen. Do this with all your social media sites. If you are solely on Amazon, make sure you have the links to all Amazon sites. The four main English ones are .com, .ca, .uk, and .au. If you do good sales on the other markets, say Germany (Amazon.de) include them also, and again don’t link to just one book. You should have an author page for each Amazon site with your books neatly along the top or down the length of the page. USE THIS LINK.

Remember, you’re trying to make this as easy as possible for potential readers. If a reader has to click more than twice to find a market with your work, he may abandon the whole idea altogether.

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