Here’s a Little Update on Me

I have been thinking that a good writer can talk about anything and make it worth reading. Today’s blog will be an object lesson. I want to show that I can take an ordinary event in my life and pique your interest. You will be the judge of my success. So now I am going to take a crack at it.

Recently, I was driving home from a simple errand in town and bam! I was rear-ended by a teenager texting a friend. It was a minor fender bender but so unnecessary. If kids would just pay attention to the laws, we would not be going around with sore backs and stiff necks. Yes, the car is fine and I am fine after a complete workup by my doctor. I do notice a difference, however, when I go to the gym. I am not at my best and my back is bothering me a lot of the time. I suppose it will go away, but meanwhile….

I decide to try some home remedies such as hot baths with Epson salts, a heating pad, a hot oil rubdown, and the best massage chair pad. A what! Yes, a massage chair pad. This is something wonderful you can put on an office or home chair to get instant back and neck relief. Do you want to know more? I am going to tell you. Such a pad is electrical so you need an outlet so unless you are camping, it should be practical in most any location. It has several settings so you can turn up the intensity as you wish. If you want to go full throttle, you can elect to use the radiant heat. Sometimes I like to do a heat treatment first, followed by gentle, then vigorous pulsation. It is like a human hand kneading your aching muscles and I must say that it is quite effective.

Imagine a hard day at work and coming home unable to move. You must rush to the closet and pull out the massage chair. Set it up at your home office desk and get ready for a wild ride. Start with high to get your muscles instant relief. You can tone it down later after a long session at this setting. If you feel so inclined, add heat. All the features together equal an afternoon at the local spa. I kid you not. Some people, like me, get so hooked that they keep the pad out all the time. It can be moved to your easy chair if you want to watch TV. Some enterprising genius engineer invented this godsend.

The next best thing would be a foot massage, but I must confess that nothing happened to my feet during my “accident.” The mother of the teenager who hit me was so apologetic that she sent me such a device a couple of days later. You don’t need to be in a fender bender to enjoy it.

Exciting Promotional Opportunity

Writers have certain perks that come with the territory. I am thinking of various publishing promotions and spiffs. Then there is the advance on your book. Now that is most welcome. It is more than exciting, not only because it is income, but also because it means you are in print. Getting published is the ever-present goal. Once you do it, you get the bug and must do it again. No one can say that it was a fluke. You must be good and people want to read what you have to say, fiction or non-fiction. You have arrived.

A big perk is when you see a review in the paper or online. If you make the literary magazines, you are in the top tier. You deserve a big pat on the back. This is the end result, the final joy. There is nothing quite like it, except maybe when your book needs a second run. Meanwhile you are off and running on a new work. Some people write things in a series or as a sequel. Others go in an entirely different direction. I believe in having a style or a recognizable voice. Anyone who writes knows what I mean. Unless you are a ghostwriter imitating another’s image, you want to be distinctive and unique. The goal of writing is not to make money, although that is important. It is also to speak to an audience about a particular subject.

If you haven’t started yet, let me give you some advice. Keep a journal manually or on your tablet or laptop. Your ideas can be stored for future reference. Jot down words, themes, and whole sentences if you like. It will help your recall later. Once you arrive at a genre—romance, history, relationship drama, humor, horror, or sci-fi, you can saturate yourself in your chosen direction. Some people even dream about their plot and characters as if they were alive. Others are content to think about it such that it is all ready to come out when you sit at the keyboard.

Writing has the biggest perk of them all: satisfaction. You are working within your profession on a regular basis. Meanwhile, I can’t discount some unusual perks. My publishing company does promotion for their various authors and has created a number of giveaway items for the public. I was asked to choose first. I noticed that one of them was a large canvas backpack emblazoned with the company logo. I’d been reading about backpacks to suit my style that morning on Business Bag Review, and I knew that this would do very nicely for toting books to expos. I am asked now and then to sign a book and I will have it stashed away right by my side.

There you have it in one blog: all the positive aspects of being a writer and published author, plus a few handy tips. If you are lucky enough to have the gift for words, by all means take a shot at it, if only for your own pleasure.

Treating Myself

One of my favorite ways of relaxing is sitting outside by the pool in a chaise lounge watching a giant TV screen. More and more people are enjoying them as an alternative to stifling inside a stuffy den. It makes me fall asleep. When the weather is balmy, as it is now, you can’t beat this form of fresh air entertainment. You can jump in the pool during the commercials if you like or grab a quick snack. I always have a cooler filled with an assortment of beverages. The problem is that I am finding the best outdoor TVs are expensive, because you want a large size. It is your own mini backyard drive-in for one, except that you walk to it.

I want to spend some of my book royalties as a treat to myself and my friends say, why not go on a vacation. I respond that once it’s over, the money is gone. You can have the TV mounted on a patio wall for many years. I could get addicted to this outdoor viewing. If it starts to get cold later in the night, I have a nice, soft terry blanket. I used to take it to the beach and wrap myself in its warmth as I waited for the fire to be ignited in the pit. Now it serves a new purpose.

Other friends suggest I buy a really nice piece of jewelry. How about a gorgeous pair of diamond earrings or an 18k gold ring. These last longer than a TV for sure. Yet others opt for a new wardrobe forgetting that a writer doesn’t dress for work. My office is at home! I can wear pajamas and slippers if I like. I don’t, but I could! There are many ways to spend your money; I know that and have given it great thought.

I want to indulge in the big TV because I watch every night. It will get a lot of use, more than the indoor unit. I used to read outside but find that the light isn’t conducive to it for very long. I have a book light for the evenings but it always falls off. I read in the house most of the time when I am not on a roll with a new book. I find that now I need to make time for a little TV magic. With Netflix and On Demand, you can watch the great movies you missed at the theater. Plus, you don’t have to put up with people talking and popping their gum. I also hate it when they rest your feet on the back of your seat.

A real perk will be to heat the pool and sit on a raft as you scan your outdoor screen. I hate to call it a “small screen,” as most refer to TVs, because the one I like is huge. I will invite a few friends, open a bottle of wine, and select the latest hit. Lucky me!

Inspiration When I Need It

I was sitting at my laptop editing a friend’s writing to get it ready for publication when I looked out the window at the view. It wasn’t much. To make it more interesting, I need to put something in the yard that inspires my imagination. It can’t be something mundane like a bench, ceramic garden seat, or birdbath. This aren’t bad ideas, but I prefer to take another route.

When you are a writer, your environment makes a difference. Sometimes I get writer’s block or the work isn’t up to par. Where is inspiration when I need it, I always ask? Well, it isn’t out the window. I have a beautiful yard with a healthy expanse of green lawn, but something is lacking. A dog frolicking about could be it. No, I think not. I need to get creative and do something special. I think an art work—specifically a metal sculpture—would be wonderful. In the past, statues and assemblages have interested me as a viewer. Why not make one myself?

If you find the perfect work of art, the decision is already made. You acquire it. I looked and looked at local art galleries and on line, and there was nothing I could afford. Quality artwork costs and the dealer has to take a percentage. It gets marked up but they did the work of finding the artist after all.

I have the idea of finding some odds and ends made of metal either in a thrift store or at the junkyard. I would become a “picker” and scour cast off items, long forgotten, but full of potential. I would then borrow a welder from here and put it all together. Maybe my brother would oblige me and do the honors. He took shop in high school and is pretty good on his own. He has worked in wood and metal for many years. I am off on my hunt.

After a few days of intense looking, I had gathered enough interesting pieces to consider them for the project. They were in shapes and sizes and some of the metal was a bit rusty. I could clean it or leave it for visual interest. Many modern artists of great fame have used rusted Cor-ten steel. My little effort will follow in that vein. I was raring to go.

I laid the pieces out in a few different ways until I selected the final design. It would be completely three-dimensional and it had to appeal to viewers from any angle. Most of all, it had to please me as I glanced out the window. The best view would be mine. I called my brother with great excitement once the final composition was perfected. He came immediately with welder in hand and proceeded to don his face mask and gloves. He also wore heavy-duty work boots. He was well equipped.

Three hours later, he was exhausted but the metal “junk sculpture” was a success. It was upright and placed strategically in the garden. I raced to the window to check out the view. Now it was perfect.

Promo Tour

I am so excited that my new book is out. It seems like I have waited for an eternity. Now comes the promotion period and the inevitable reviews. It is a make or break experience cranking up the sales. I have to travel for a couple of weeks on a “book tour” to be interviewed by local press and to sign books in the few existing bookstores. Thank goodness for small towns with a book store right there in the middle of Main Street. With Internet sales, you do so much better, but it doesn’t feel the same at all. When the last store closes, I will shed many tears.

I love meeting the public and discussing the finer points of my book, but I get overtired and badly need some rest. There are times when I get back to my hotel room and just crash before I even check my emails and text messages for the day. I am lucky if I have a minute to grab a quick dinner. I try to go alone as I would have been talking a blue streak all day long. If my agent insists, he comes along and we plan the rest of the promo tour. I get a new itinerary and post it to my digital calendar. He likes it best when we review the sales figures. As for me, I am dreaming about a sequel.

The hotels have blackout curtains which block sound and light, but in the morning, I have a really hard time waking up. I have resorted to taking a travel sunrise alarm with me – you can see one here if you don’t know what I’m talking about. I find this is the most pleasing way to rise as opposed to an annoying blaring alarm. The traditional method works, but I end up grumpy and irritated. I love that the alarm simulates a beautiful natural sunrise almost as if I were awaking in a fairytale fantasy. Who invented these devices? A genius no doubt. I remember when it was a big treat to wake up to your favorite radio station. Unfortunately, you might get the news or a hated song. Programmable custom sunrise alarms are a much better way to go. The light show that greets me in the morning makes me smile and produces an instant good mood. I like the alarm so much that I have given it to numerous friends as gifts. Every single recipient has been ecstatic.

You can opt for nature sounds like birds or waves, but they sometimes sound odd and artificial. Maybe I could ask the alarm to whisper sweet words in my ear like “get up beautiful” or “arise you wonderful being.” Ha! I am happy to stick with the sunrise for now. If I want to get creative later, I will set the gadget on rainbow hues or floral bouquet. Someday, I expect that the manufacturers will invent a way to include pleasant smells like garden mist or ocean breeze just like they have talked about piping into movie theaters to enhance the reality of a film. It is a nice proposition.

Details Make the Character

I am in the midst of writing something new. I have just begun but am well into the plot structure and character outlines. Hours have gone into researching the authenticity of each and every one so they have sufficient depth. This is the key to realism, which happens to be my goal. Unless you are working within the genre of sci-fi, I encourage young writers to be careful with the details. Everything works together—story, characters, writing style, time frame—to make a successful literary presentation. I have certainly put in the time to know.

This blog is about some basic advice to those entering this formidable field. It is exciting to say the least to see your words on the computer screen and eventually paper. But it is not about ego, but truth. Personal attributes make characters come alive like facial expression, attire, demeanor and stature, color of hair and eyes. What they do for work or recreation gives insight into their nature. I was writing the other day about one person with a central place in my plot and decided to include a mention of his soccer mania. All of a sudden, I was thrown into a world of gear like knee and ankle supports like the ones on this web site. In the long run, I hope this will make the background more believable. It will enter into the character’s decision making process as the reader will see. There will be a long passage about buying a professional soccer ball.

I may end up tossing it all out as extraneous unless I make the game of soccer a metaphor of sorts for something in the hero’s soul. We shall see. I am playing with ideas while I continue to research the world of sports passion. It might take a different turn. Will he wear a soccer jersey at any point to become incognito on the streets? Will he play a match or two against a formidable opponent? Is it to prove superiority or to win the hand of a woman? There is a lot I can do with it if I so chose. I like to reread what I have written at least a week later to see if it all holds up. I will know if it fails right away. At first, as a writer you can’t see the forest for the trees. Distance gives you wisdom so be sure to take it.

Details make the character so it just depends how much. That is my ending advice. I got so into soccer that I shoved everything I learned into my work at one time. It may be too intense as a result. The rivalry shown in the final match could, however, be a turning point in the plot and a clever device. These are the big decisions that writers have to make. Bad judgment has been the ruination of more than a few.

Finding an Audience for Your Work

The important part of any writer who doesn’t just write for himself or herself is finding an audience. It doesn’t have to be a huge audience. You don’t have to try to sell your book to everyone. However, you will need to try to get a sense of who you are writing for in the planning stages of the book.

There is a lot of value in trying to succeed within a niche. It is always easier to be a big fish in a small pond than a big fish in a big pond, and that goes for all fields. However, if you make the pond too small, you’re going to create something that few people will like. It is possible to find an audience for almost everything on the Internet. However, it’s often challenging to aim at a really narrow target, especially since getting the attention of anyone online is often hard in the first place.

Still, people might underestimate the amount of room available in popular niches. You might think that there are too many books in a particular genre and that you’re better off writing something in a topic that few people explore. However, popular genres are popular for a reason, and unpopular genres won’t necessarily become popular just because the popular genres are too huge.

In many cases, this is a situation where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. People have been complaining about the lack of originality in romance stories for a long time, and the same goes for a lot of action epics. It doesn’t stop writers from continually churning out popular works in both genres over and over again. The critics who complain about the overexposure of something will rarely actually stop it from getting exposed some more.

At the end of the day, it isn’t the genre that determines the popularity of a book. It’s the marketing. It’s possible to turn stories that are bizarre into huge hits as long as they are marketed correctly. Stories that are too bizarre to be huge hits can still be small hits when aimed at the right audience. People who can use social media, Reddit, and many of the other resources of the Internet to find the right audience will be the people who succeed. Whether they write something that a few hundred people will love or something that millions of people will quote, it’s because they marketed it correctly.

To Self-Publish or Not Self-Publish: That is the Question

A lot of people are self-publishing these days. There are lots of advantages to self-publishing, so that’s not a surprise. Of course, the main reason for the rise in self-publishing is just technological change. There are so many different self-publishing websites out there today that it’s just easy to get the job done in this manner. People can just go to a website like Smashwords and create their own ebooks right away. They won’t have to go through all of the trouble of trying to get published, coping with rejection, trying to find an agent, and everything else that goes into being a traditionally published writer.

You don’t have to pay anything in order to self-publish, and that’s part of the draw. If the book is already written, you can be a self-published writer in one afternoon. From the standpoint of sheer convenience, it’s really hard to resist an opportunity like this.

For one thing, in some cases, it’s not a choice between self-publishing and traditionally publishing a book. It’s just a choice between self-publishing and not publishing in any format. If you don’t have connections, a great agent, or good timing on your side, you will almost certainly never get published. Traditional publishing is in trouble. For every book that gets traditionally published and that becomes really successful these days, you can easily find thousands that ended up on the slush pile. The slush pile keeps on getting bigger and bigger.

If you don’t have the resources that you need to attract the attention of the traditional publishing organizations, you’re pretty much trying to win the lottery. You might make millions winning the lottery, and it’s an easier road to success than working hard. Popularizing your book through self-publishing is definitely not the easy road to success. However, the odds of you getting any success at all are still higher with alternatives to self-publishing. Selling ten book copies on your own still earns you more money than selling nothing and having nothing published, which is what is going to happen with most people who try to get their books traditionally published.

Of course, there’s a reason why a lot of people still go the traditional publishing route. Yes, getting traditionally published is like winning the lottery. However, people still try to win the lottery, because the promise of a million dollars after investing a few bucks in a lottery ticket is enough to keep a lot of people coming back. A traditional publisher has resources that you just won’t have on your own. They can market everything for you. They can attract professional reviewers. They can make sure that someone reads your book somewhere, and that is something that is genuinely difficult for you to do on your own.

You’re going to have to do all of the marketing yourself if you actually try to go the self-publishing route. There are so many people trying the self-publishing route that you will easily be lost in a sea of writing if you don’t constantly work at marketing your book. On Smashwords, new writers appear with their new books each and every day. There are some writers who have managed to get ahead there, but they will usually spend so much time working on marketing that you will feel more like a marketer than a writer.

The stigma against being a self-published writer is starting to fade. People also know that a lot of books that were traditionally published are terrible. Self-publishing took off for a reason, and it’s partly due to the rise of e-readers and the fact that a lot of people are disillusioned by the more expensive but not necessarily better published works out there today. However, some people are still negative towards writers who went down the self-publishing route, and that’s something that you will have to deal with in your own way.

When it comes to money, most traditionally published authors don’t make a lot of money. The few millionaire bestselling writers who are out there today are the exceptions. Many writers who were traditionally published just make ten grand or so at one point, and then the book is out of print, and they fall back into obscurity.

With self-publishing, you can spend years and years building up a following of your own, since you completely control the copyright of the book. You might be able to eventually earn that ten grand, but your book will never go out of print, and you have control over what happens.

In terms of individual copies, you might earn more. Publishers will take the majority of the proceeds from each book sale. You will keep all of the proceeds from the sales that you make during self-publishing. You might make more selling one book on Smashwords than you would make selling ten books through a traditional publisher.

Ultimately, you can embrace the hard work of self-publishing, or you can work even harder to try to get the very rare opportunity to get published traditionally. Both of these routes involve a lot of hard work on your part that might never truly pay off. However, when you self-publish, at least you will probably make a few sales and get a few fans even if you don’t become the next J.K.Rowling. Your rejection letters will not build you up a following, and many people who try to get published traditionally have nothing to show for it but a legacy of frustrations.

Thinking of Hiring a Literary Agent

Hiring a literary agent is not something that a lot of people want to do. There are certainly scam artists out there that you’re going to need to avoid, and that’s an issue. There are also perfectly good literary agents who still will not manage to really get your book out there through no real fault of their own.

However, if you want to go the traditional publishing route, you need a literary agent. There is really no getting around that. You have to find a way to make sure that you can get the resources that you need for the sake of your book. You just can’t do that unless you have an agent. Even a lot of the people who have agents never get anywhere with traditional publishing. Publishers will rarely even look at a manuscript that isn’t represented by an agent and that does not have the support of an agent.

You don’t need a literary agent to get a book noticed in general, especially in the age of self-publishing. However, you cannot even try to go the traditional publishing route without a literary agent. You need to read reviews and try to get the representation that you need from a literary agent, who may or may not decide to represent you and who may or may not decide that your book is worth reading. To a certain extent, hiring a literary agent is going to feel like an audition before an audition, and that is one of the things that will make the whole process seem that much more daunting to everyone involved.

Hiring a literary agent is not something that you should decide to do lightly. There’s a lot of commitment involved to going down the traditional publishing route. Even working with a literary agent offers no guarantees, except that you will be working hard. You and your agent could try to sell your book everywhere and you still might not get anywhere. However, if you do succeed, you will probably find yourself getting ahead all at once in a way that would not be easy otherwise.

A Character Development Struggle

If you want to make your story interesting, your characters are going to need some kind of conflict or crisis. There are stories where characters have really subtle character arcs. There are also stories where the characters more or less remains static but their multiple facets are explored in a lot of different ways throughout the story. However, you still need to have conflict in a story. If it’s told well enough, your characters will react to that conflict and probably change as a result to a certain extent.

The character development struggle that you create is more or less the entire story in most cases. This is the heart and the meat of the story. As such, you really have to make sure that you choose the right character development struggle.

Having characters that barely change can be a problem, especially if these are very flat characters in general. Rounded characters can stay the same while people explore their many facets. Flat characters can become deeper with character development. Flat characters that don’t develop won’t star in interesting stories, no matter how good the actual prose or dialogue might be. You need solid characterization and character development in order to make a story work.

However, characters that change too much can also be problematic. You want the change to be believable. If your character seems like a completely different person at the end of the book, you’ve gone too far. Of course, there are situations in which people will change dramatically in real life, so extreme character development actually can be done well. Most things in fiction can be done well in the case of the people who are trying to find a way to make a difficult plot line work. However, it’s still important for people to keep in mind some of the central tenets of what makes a good story.

Striking the balance between subtle and believable character development and character development that people can actually see is going to be difficult at the best of times. There will certainly always be people who swear that even the most subtle and effective character development is actually heavy-handed. There are people who will say that heavy-handed character development is still somehow effective. As such, opinions about this sort of this are going to vary tremendously.

As such, it’s a good idea for people to keep in mind that all they can do is to try to stick to some basic guidelines about character development. They’re never going to please everyone and they’re never going to get to the point where they can make their writing immune to criticism. They can only try to get to the point where they can feel like they have succeeded according to their own standards and that they have still created an entertaining story.

How to Find Willing Reviewers

If you want to get anywhere as a writer, you need to make sure that someone reads and reviews your work. People often won’t even look at a book online if it doesn’t have any reviews attached. People look at the star rating before they will even read the plot synopsis in a lot of cases. You need to have a star rating to begin with, and it should ideally be at least three stars or more.

In many cases, you find willing reviewers through a simple case of mutualism. You review something of theirs, and they review something of yours. You can contact other writers directly in order to set something like this up in some cases. However, it is also possible to do this more passively. Reviewing the work of prolific reviewers can often cause people to become successful in that manner, even though it has fewer guarantees.

Reviewing other people’s work can at least get your name out there, and this can get you more recognition to begin with. You need to make sure that you’re not just a lurker online and that you are constantly using your time as a writer to really make a name for your work. This is how you get noticed.

Of course, part of getting people to review your stuff is just a matter of making sure that a lot of people even see your stuff. You need to make sure that your books are getting the traffic that they need. If thousands of people see your book, some of them will review it. If dozens of people see it, you will probably stay obscure.

Even bad reviews can be better than no reviews, although good reviews are still obviously better. Good reviews that appear to be false and overly friendly are still often better than bad reviews. Not all of your reviews have to sound like professional critics. They just need to put in a good word for you initially.