Writing for yourself First

I was reading on a forum today where an author asked how he could get the joy of writing back. He was worn out and bored with everything he started. The thought of writing another word was akin to pulling his own teeth with a pair of pliers.

As I read through the comments it became very clear to me, despite all the great suggestions given on how to help him, that his true problem wasn’t writer’s block or burn out. It was gearing his writing toward what he thought readers wanted from him. It was suppressing his own creative voice in an attempt to give his audience what they wanted. And it was boring him to death.

You see, he loved his daily writing pages. He enjoyed warm up stage before the critic’s voice came in to kill the fun. He still daydreamed new pitfalls for his characters.

It made me start to wonder, how many writers start with the joy of writing only to lost the passion? How many authors gear their writing toward what they think readers want? How many writers are writing books they hate or would never read themselves because it sells well? How many of you are doing this right now?

Stop it. Stop it right now.

The best part of writing is writing what you enjoy for the fun of it. It’s what makes work a little less work-y. It’s what makes the right readers love your books. Passion in your writing voice will carry the book far longer than formulaic writing.

What Type of Writer are you?

Last December I come to that point in my blogging career where I don’t know what to blog about anymore. Maybe it is because of who I am, or maybe I burned myself out after 7 years of constantly blogging. Either way, my lack ideas gave me a way out reason to take an extended vacation from blogging…and social media…and basically everything online except lurking on blogs and reading articles. During those four months I realized something. Actually I realized a bunch of somethings about myself, but I want to focus one of those here.

The Introverted Writer. 

This lead to thinking about the Extroverted-Introverted Writer and the Introverted-Extroverted Writer (Yes. There is such writers out there.) and how their marketing and promoting techniques would be different.

Every author/writer, just like every person, is different. Some of us aren’t made to interact in the world, at least not well and no amount of training help will change that. It’s not only uncomfortable for us, but it’s awkward and weird for others, and possibly detrimental to our careers. There are others out there, of which I’m not one, who are perfectly suited to be salespeople and interact with the populace at large just fine (Amanda Hocking?).

As self-published writers we are told that we need to market and promote our books through blogging, social media, guest posting, etc., etc., etc. Some articles tell us we have to do it, but give no directions on how to do it. And, yes, some of us need instructions on how to deal with the outside world. Others give directions on how they did it and why their method would work for you. Um…Usually it doesn’t help. While others tell you to do it, give directions and disclaimers, and unleash us on the world. I cringe at the idea.

Introverts and Extroverts

Writers for the most part are considered pure introverts. But that isn’t always the case. There are different levels of Introversion and Extroversion. You can be both an extrovert and an introvert.

Introverts are more likely to:

  • Be absorbed by their thoughts and ideas
  • Seek quiet and calm
  • Think before speaking and even over-think and not speaking
  • Draw energy from their inner world (ideas, emotions, and impressions), the external world drains them
  • Proceed carefully when meeting people and avoid crowds
  • Lose sight of what others are doing
  • Participate in selected activities
  • Not offer ideas freely and wait to be asked their opinions
  • Reflect and act cautiously

Extroverts are more likely to:

  • Talk out their ideas and thoughts
  • Energized by the external world
  • Seek out others to energize themselves
  • Love to meet and talk to people
  • Participate in the activities that offer
  • Rash and sometimes reckless (don’t always think through thought or actions)
  • Offer ideas and advice freely, without being asked

I’m sure some of you are looking at the lists and thinking, I do this and this but not that. This will help you figure what kind of writer you are, your strengths and weakness, and where your efforts would best serve you.

The Extroverted-Introverted Writer

This might seem contrary to what many people think when they think of a writer, but there are a few out there. My uncle just happens to be one of them. Rather be hanging out and doing things then writing, although he has his bouts of writing. The Extroverted-Introverted Writer has more extroverted traits than introverted ones.

If this is you, congratulations, the whole entrepreneur thing won’t be so hard for you. The business world of promotion will probably be easier for you to navigate and enjoy because you like to talk to other writers and readers about writing, publishing, books, and anything else on your mind. You’ll probably see the rewards of your efforts quicker. However, be wary of too much promoting and not enough writing. The next book is important. So balance your marketing efforts with your writing efforts.

The Introverted-Extroverted Writer

This type, like the one above, can be a great combination of writer and entrepreneur. Their list of traits are based more on the introverted side which can be a benefit with their extroverted traits. If this is you, you’ll probably be active on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, blogging, trading emails, etc. Many of these writers are prolific writers and make money from their efforts because they balance the promotion with the writing. Long term they do better because they have the backlist to back up their promoting efforts.

The Introverted Writer

Most or all the listed traits on the Introverted list above and very few to none of the extroverted list apply to the Introverted Writer,  You might find little value or desire to blog or be active on social media, you might even be forcing yourself to do it. Promoting yourself is like pulling teeth and you tire of it easily. Being online is a drain of energy.

If this is you then a better use of you time and efforts might be directed toward writing the next books, with occasional updates to your blog and social networks. It’s a slower process, but one that might be more beneficial to you since the more books you have out the greater chance of being discovered by readers. You might also have greater success with website pages that show an inside look into your books rather than a blog.

As always, I love to hear from you. If you want to add to the discussion, comment below, and if you liked this post, please share with others.

Blogging, Social Networking, Answering Emails – Hey, when do I get the time to write?

Are you blogging? How often? Once a week, 3 times a week, every day?

Are you on social media? What ones? Are you posting every hour? Once a day? Are you talking about about what you ate for lunch? Or a link to your latest book?

How about answering emails? Are you answering them, or ignoring them? Do you read through all the email you get from newsletters and blog subscriptions or do you find yourself deleting them?

Now that you’ve answered some of those questions and I’m sure asked some of your own, here’s another: When do you get the time to write? Are you writing regularly?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d bet money that most of you are busy people with a day job or two, family, kids, and/or other commitments to take up your valuable time–like food, friends, and sleep. So fitting writing and book marketing into an already full schedule isn’t so easy. But it can be done. I’m going to share with you one way to help you.

The 80/20 Rule

First, I want to mention the 80/20 rule. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s basically 80% of your time should be on Marketing and 20% writing and other business related work. I’ve also heard some people say that the 80% is all business related work  that is not writing including marketing and the 20% is writing only.

Now some of the writing/publishing gurus tell you that you have to do this to succeed as an author, if you read authors like Dean Wesley Smith you’ll find his approach is very different. I’m going to suggest that you spend 80% of your time writing new fiction for your backlist, 10% of your time researching and book setup such as editing, rewriting, and setting it up for publishing, and 10% of your time on business related work like marketing, blogging, and emails. Before anyone protests, yes, it’s a slower process to making money, but if you aren’t writing, editing, and publishing new work then social media and blogging are doing you no good.

Hey, this is Ruth here. Stephannie’s letting me add my two cents to the post, so here it is. The important thing to remember is that you want to build a solid foundation.  Once you build a fanbase (even a small one), you want to get more books to that fanbase.  Why will someone keep coming to your site if you don’t have something new coming soon?  While it’s good to reach new readers, you shouldn’t neglect offering something new to your current ones.  

People get so hung up on authors who made it big like Amanda Hocking, but what they don’t remember is that she had a backlist already out there when she went into the social networking part of her career as a writer.  She didn’t just write one book and keep marketing it.  There are some authors who hit it big on one book, but if they can’t get the next one out there, then how will they satisfy their current fanbase?   Will you sell like Amanda Hocking if you have a backlist and social network like crazy?  The odds are against you.  We’re not promising that.  I have a little over 40 books total published, and I’m nowhere near making Amanda Hocking sales.  But I do know I wouldn’t have gotten to where I did if I never wrote the next book.  Plus, I started writing because I loved creating stories.  Little writing and all social media would ruin my joy.

This leads us to the second point…

Don’t Neglect your Writing

Writing is the most important aspect of business, your book is the life blood of your career. It should be your main focus. It’s why I suggest focusing 80% of the time you have on writing.

Now I’m not the most productive writer or as self-disciplined as I would like to be. I love researching and reading stuff on the Internet. I’ve also gotten in the habit of opening my emails in the morning when I start the day. Once I finished checking emails, reading blogs and newsletters, sending or answering requests for guest posts and book reviews, answering emails and comments, writing a (daily?) blog post, leaving a meaningful comments on blogs, interacting on my favorite social networks, updating my website, etc., I’d lost a valuable chunk of time from my day. And lets face it, if we aren’t writing that book or the next book after that, then all the marketing and promoting we do on social networking and blogs won’t help.

My word count goal for the last few months has been about 300 words throughout an 8 hour day. Horrible, I know. I decided I needed a change this and recently downloaded a productivity app I’d heard of called Cold Turkey. This app doesn’t allow you to access certain sites and you can add your time wasting websites to it. I highly suggest it and I get nothing from if you download it.

Since I like to write in the mornings, each night after I finish working on business for the day, I set the app up for the next day. I can still access research sites I need, but everything else is closed to me. Which means I get more writing done in a day. I’ve been averaging about 800-1000 words in a 4 hour day. I’m hoping for more when I get into the groove of things.

Ruth: What I started to do is limit the days I’ll respond to blog, Facebook, and Twitter comments.  I take 3-4 days a week to answer them.   I’ll do it less often if I’m especially busy.  I’m not as active on Facebook or Twitter as I used to be in terms of interacting with people, but I do link up blog posts to those places.  Linking blog posts can help you social network with no extra effort on your part.  That’s why I like to set up my Twitter and Facebook accounts to WordPress to link automatically on those sites.  I hit publish or schedule to publish, and WordPress does the work for me.  I also link my blog posts (from my author blog) to Goodreads.  I will share a blog post I’ve done for a deleted scene or inspiration for the book or sample scene to Pinterest.  These are time savers for me.  I love those share buttons at the bottom of the blogs.

I also love those share buttons and suggest that everyone who writes blogs and have websites install them on their website and leads into my last point.

Don’t Neglect your Author Platform

Please don’t neglect your author platforms to carve out more writing time, that’s not the point I was trying to make above. Your author platform is very important, not as important as the next book, but a close second. Why? Because your website, Twitter, Facebook, other social media sites, and blogs are your way of telling the world, both readers and fans, that you are writing a book. It’s a way to get them excited about what you are publishing and it’s counterproductive to do a disappearing act to write. It can set back your marketing efforts.

What I am suggesting is plan you platform activities carefully. I’ll use my efforts as an example.

After I finish my writing for the day, I check my emails, reading through and answer those that need to be answered. Those from fans, people wanting to guest post, answering comments on my blog and other blogs, and answering questions from authors who need book cover designs done. I wait for Saturday to read through blog posts and newsletters. Since I find social media distracting, I wait for the blog muse hit and spend a day writing blog posts and tweets. I don’t schedule them ahead of time because I like to read through them one last time before they go live. I spend about 10 minutes in the late morning and evening on Twitter (posting tweets, retweeting, talking to people, etc), about 10 minutes on Facebook (updating my status and talking to others), and about 30 minutes rereading and publishing blog posts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Once a month I like to update my website, though since me website and blog are one, every time I post I’m updating it too. LOL

I’m hijacking this post again. I’m not as organized as Stephannie on this one.  I love her idea, though.  It might be helpful to have a timer nearby.  Ten minutes on Twitter, Facebook, or another social network site is easy and doable.  The problem comes in when you get sucked into looking at pictures or reading articles that look interesting (this is where I end up spending a lot of time that takes away from my writing).  If there’s an interesting article off Twitter (a lot of good ones come from there, esp. ones that help authors), I suggest marking them as “to read” when you schedule time to do it.  (And this is all stuff I am going to mark down to do since my approach has been lacking in this area.  :D)

Why you might not be succeeding at Self-Publishing?

I’m sitting at my desk this morning with my cup of coffee, my emails open, and an urge to slap someone I don’t know upside the head. Why? Because there is this erroneous myth floating around the Internet that self-publishing is the easy way out and it’s easier to succeed at self-publishing your books then going the traditional route.

Um…Really?

In my opinion they are both hard routes, just in different ways. The end goals of the two are also different. I’m not going to go into details. It’s not why I’m writing this post.

SPAL has had more than a few self-publishers email us for advice, one of the reasons we started the Writing as a Business series. No, the person I want to slap upside the head isn’t one of these people. He is someone else entirely, He asked another writer a question and when she tried to help him he didn’t really listen to the advice she gave him (outside link), but looked for an easier way to do it.

Self-publishing isn’t easy, It isn’t a straight path to success. Success, of course, being defined by most as a “make tons of money right away” venture. (I don’t define success this way, but I realize most people who go into self-publishing might.) If you think you can just slap up a book on Amazon, B&N, etc. and become the next Amanda Hocking, you are in for a rude awakening.

Self-publishing is hard work. You have to do everything yourself, or hire someone who can, and in a way that can compete with the big boys. From writing the book to book setup to marketing and promoting. Each book should look like a traditionally published book you can find in a bookstore. Yeah, you can hire someone to do some or most of it, but search for someone who can produce quality work.

If you plan to succeed at this business, be realistic. Things take time. You need a backlist of books with each book being the best work possible. Don’t skimp on polishing it up (outside link). Also, keep in mind that not everyone is going to be a bestseller. Even if you do hit the bestselling charts, you won’t maintain it forever and your next book might not sell as well. You can never predict which book will resonate with readers and which won’t. Each book is unique.

The good news is, you don’t have to be a bestseller to make a nice amount of money. With enough good quality books, it’s possible to make a nice secondary income or even your main income. But this is going to take dedication, time and lots of hard work.

It means that you need to be professional in your conduct. Don’t play the games that authors without integrity do. People are watching what you do, and you never know is some unethical action might come to light.

It means pricing your book where the market will hold and you are getting sales you’re content with. While researching what others are pricing their books at be aware that some people can price their books higher and sell. Other price their lower and earn more than when they had higher prices. Experiment and find a place you are happy with.

Special thanks to Ruth for helping me with this post. 😀

When is a Writer a Writer…

Looking through my Lifestream through AIM this morning I found this interesting post on “The Simple Reason You’re not a Writer (Yet)” by Jeff Goins that I thought I’d share with you all.

I once asked author Steven Pressfield when a writer becomes a writer.

 

Is it when you get book deal? When you sell your first thousand copies? When you hit the best sellers list? When do you get to call yourself a writer?

 

Steve said something I’ll never forget:

“You are when you say you are. Screw what everyone else says.”

If you are interested in reading the rest of the article, visit CopyBlogger’s The Simple Reason You’re Not a Writer (Yet)

My Take on Why Romance and Erotic Romance is More than Porn

There seems to be this misconception in our world that people need to be beautiful to be perfect. That the good guys always win or wear white hats. That the cheerleaders should go with the football/basketball players or be brainless.

The same type of misconceptions are found in writing. Like fiction isn’t true literature and everything that isn’t considered literature isn’t worth reading. That writer’s wear tweed coats, smoke, and/or drink (I so want a tweed coat right now! It would look awe-some over that white corset I bought the other day! Nope. Scratch that. I think a velvet suit coat would look better.).

That romance, erotic romance, and erotica is nothing but porn. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the argument on why romance and erotica are or are not porn. The problem most people get stuck on is the sex in the story.

When you focus on the sex you miss the books theme and the lessons they teach that are only enhanced by the relationship and the sex, whether it is: love will find away, compromises are sometimes need in relationships, nobody is perfect (even mates you have no choice screwing), even the most unloveable people are sometimes worth loving, you’ll always have a second chance at love, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, just because you’re not perfect doesn’t mean that you won’t find love, couples are allowed to fight and disagree, beauty isn’t everything, danger makes people sexual charged, no one is perfect, every relationship has its ups and downs, or love can conquer most things and if not team work will. See what I mean?

So here is my break-down of each category.

Romance – couple falls in love and has sex. The focus of romance is on the relationship between the couple and the obstacles they have to overcome, not so much on the sexual aspect although that can play a big part. A HEA or happily-ever-after is required.

Erotic Romance – couple may have sex before they fall in love, then again they might not. An erotic romance is a highly explicit story with more blunt sexual terms, but at its core the erotic romance is still a romance, usually centering around a sexual conflict and their relationship. A HEA (Happily-Ever-After) or HFN (Happy-For-Now) is required.

Erotica – they have sex and things happen. The erotic story has a theme and a story line that usually surrounds a sexual situation. The situations and sex scenes in the story may be graphic and controversial. A HEA (Happily-Ever-After) or HFN (Happy-For-Now) is not required.

Porn – This is just sex. The story line is only to get you from one sex scene to the next, which happen frequently and with little purpose other than to have sex. A HEA (Happily-Ever-After) or HFN (Happy-For-Now) is not required.

Romance and erotic romance is more than just sex, it’s romance, albeit sometimes not a very realistic romance. And that is by no means the end of the list, just the ones off the top of my head. Sex in a romance is just the added bonus. For some people it can even be a learning experience. FYI How-to manuals are soo dry. ;)

I’d love to hear your opinions. Even if you disagree with me.

5 Tips to Creating a Fictional Place in your Fiction

A few days ago I wrote a post that talked about using a real place in your fiction. Today I want to talk about creating a fictional setting for your fiction. The good thing about creating a fictional place is that anything can happen in that world. The bad thing is that some authors think they don’t have to follow the rules because their world is not real.

You have to follow some rules though. Yeah, I know. You create this world from your imagination and it’s not real, so why should you have to limit it. One simple reason: Readers have to believe in your world and accept what is happening to your characters.

Just as I mentioned in Ever Want to Use a Real Place in Your Fiction and Get Away with it? readers may be willing to suspend belief, but they also have certain expectations, and while they may allow you to get away with fictional events and monsters, their minds will immediately contradict something it knows is not true.

Rule # 1: Pattern your world on real places.

You can use a real city or town as your template. You can rename the places, the streets, and even move around the buildings or add more in any way that furthers your plot.

Creating a sketch of your world where your action takes place can help you keep details straight. You can include street names, parks, city walls with entrance gates, hotels, stores and markets, businesses, farms or ranches, way stations, estates houses, and anything else the involves your characters. The more details you have, the better you’ll know your setting and the more life your book will have for your readers.

If you don’t want to sketch out your place you can make a description of the place. Include details about the building materials used in homes, foods eaten by your characters, plants that grow in your world, clothing worn by your characters, even the animals found on your world. The more details you jot down, the better you’ll be able to track how your world operates. A character setting sketch can help.

Rule #2: Pattern your world on real time periods.

Use aspects of different time periods in the story to add realism. You can set your story in a pre-technological society, or something more modern with traces of the old world. An author I know created and alternate world that is not part of our history as the basis of her stories. There is a blending of modern technology, such as electricity and running water with an old world feel.

Remember to do some research at the library or on the Internet. You’ll be surprised at some of the “modern” conveniences that appeared before the Middle Ages. The Egyptians had all types of make-up (eyeliner, eyeshadow, creams, oils, and moisturizers). The Chinese had fireworks for centuries. The Greeks used a weapon called Greek fire that was probably a lot like napalm.

You can use anything from the clothes they wear to the weapons they wield. If you are going to use weapons learn the different types and the damage they can accomplish. The state medical examiner’s office can help you with details on death and dying. The more realistic the details you use, the more believable your story becomes.

Rule #3: Be consistent with your World.

You can write about some far-off place you’ve never been, a place that doesn’t exist, space, or another planet, but don’t move the bank from Main Street in Scene 1 to 3rd and Elk Street in scene 5. Readers will notice the inconsistency. This is why I suggest a sketch.

Rule #4: Be careful to keep some things based in reality.

If you have the characters time-travel know some theories of time-travel so that it seems real and believable. In order for a totally made-up world to set well with a reader, it must have the same sense of reality and continuity as our known world. You can use the non-fiction articles to help create a fantasy world. This can give your story a basis of reality and credibility.

Rule # 5: Follow the rules of your world.

Make sure that your reader knows the rules of that world. If there is magic in your story decide how much exists and who has it. After you decide who has the magic, you need to decide sources of magic: the gods, nature, sacred places, plants and animals, artifacts, and innate talent. Also what is the price of using magic? Are there non-magic users?

If all your wizards suffer from a mood disorder because of magic, except your wizard hero, there had better be a really good reason for it. Because if your characters don’t remain true to those rules throughout your story, your readers won’t accept and continue reading your story.

Summary

I’ve mentioned before that setting is important and should be treated like another character in your story, but it should also blend so well into your story that it doesn’t jerk someone from the story. Be sure to check your facts. Talk to experts in the field if you can and learn as much as you can. Allow your characters to do real things like eating, sleeping, and taking showers, but don’t overdo it. Your world won’t be real to your readers until it’s real to you.