Winter’s cold or Frigid air with swirls of frosty breath that left ice crystals on his beard that soon became icicles – Huh?

As I write this, it is spitting out the first winter precipitation for our area (North Carolina Piedmont). We tend to get overly excited over just one flake or ice pellet. The bread flies off the grocery store shelves with just a hint of winter in the forecast. Milk is equally in high demand. We all learned that lesson several years ago when we had a whopper snow that kept all of us in our homes for ten days.

A rare event in NC - enough to clear grocery store shelves!

A rare event in NC – enough to clear grocery store shelves!

Okay, I know all of you who live in colder climates are laughing at us. And believe me, even we who are snow starved cried in sympathy with the folks in Buffalo over the excess snow they had earlier this season. Too much of anything is bad, just as is too little. Which brings me to my point; what does this have to do with writing?

I recently read an excellent blog about the proper amount of description to use when developing a story, characters, or setting. There were points made on both sides of the issue; all of them valid.

For me, less is more. I believe in the reader’s ability to fill in the details according to their take on the written word. Now, I’m not talking basics here. We all need to know the character’s sex, age, location setting, and basic personality traits. But beyond that, what is needed?

There is a very prolific author whose stories I enjoy. But, I’ve noticed that in more recent books, some of the descriptions are overkill; way too many words to describe a relatively unimportant action, or trait. And that is when I start skipping pages to get on to the meat of the story.

There is another prolific author that I also enjoy reading and this person has a skill I truly admire; that of minimal description. With one or two words, this author paints a complete picture that I can not only see in my head, but feel as if I know the character or scene in question.

So, which way should an author go to be successful in writing? My preference is obvious. But, what about yours? Next time I will discuss some ideas about developing one’s descriptive skills. Meanwhile, I hope each and every one of you has the best Christmas holiday ever and a New Year filled with the best of the best of God’s blessings!

Twelve Gifts for Writers

Give them time – Writers get pressures pushed on them all the time by those who either don’t have a clue or who sit in judgment as to what they really fill their time with. Give the gift of time to your writer; be considerate. If you want or need them to do something besides write, ask with hope and genuine understanding that you know what they’re doing is important.

Image courtesy of cescassawin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Giving precious gifts to others doesn’t always require money or gift wrap!Image courtesy of cescassawin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Give them understanding – Even if you don’t know what it’s like to be under a deadline, or the pressure of being creative, let them know you are trying to understand. Writers work as hard as anyone else, but because they usually do it on their own time, not their bosses time, so many people jump to erroneous conclusions that they must be lazy or really don’t have work to do and then make erroneous judgements on the writer’s work ethic.

Give them reasonable expectations – Just as we all struggle to fit everything that is demanded of us into our days, writers do as well. How we communicate to writers about what we want or need determines the level of pressure the writer feels in meeting those unspoken expectations.

Give them encouragement – Encourage them in their work. Even if you don’t understand what it is like to be a writer, let them know you’re supportive and are wishing them the best. Writers need encouragement, from those who write and those who don’t.

Give them space – Don’t constantly ask them to go to lunch, or to this event or that function. This is not to say writers don’t need a break. But if you ask and the answer is no, let them know you understand. Reaffirm that you would love to get together but on their time frame.

Give them help with daily chores or duties – If you are the spouse of a writer, or even the roommate of one, help them out when they are deep in the middle of a tangled plot line and can’t stop to put the dishes in the dishwasher. They may lose that all important train of thought that solves the mystery of the primary characters!

Give them peace and quiet – If your writer works while you are in the same space, try to be considerate and let them have few to no distractions while working. Compromise is the great truth to this scenario. And it can go both ways. By giving your writer some space, you’ll most likely get consideration as well. When that big game is on, shouts and screams for your team won’t get snarled at – unless your writer roots for the opposite side!

Give them protection from distractions – If your writer is busy at work and the phone rings (yours or the home’s) don’t wait and make the writer get it. The same goes for if someone is at the door.

Give them your ear – Listen to your writer. Encourage them to talk about their plot, or their characters. Don’t be too eager to jump into the conversation but rather encourage them to talk by asking questions, or for clarification. This is helpful in it gets the writer to think about his or her work and can often led them into new insights on their work.

Give them your support – Support is really one that sums up several of the other items. But it also includes being their for your writer when they get that 100th rejection letter, or they inadvertently lost everything from chapter 15 due to forgetting to hit the “save” button. Sometimes writers, like all of us, just need to know someone else stands on the same side with them.

Give them your honesty – If you are asked to read a portion of the writer’s work; be honest. Being honest is telling the truth but with love/gentleness and so on wrapped around it. Like, “Gee, I know you’ve been working so hard on this piece, but for me, I just don’t think the male character is a good fit for your protagonist. I envision something more like. . .” Cushion the criticism by making it only your opinion and stating your preferences, not what you think it should or should not be.

Give them your unconditional love – Finally, give your writer some love. When we hear the word love, we usually think romantic love. But, there are many more types of love to give and receive in life. While you’ve been encouraged to give honesty, support, your ear, encouragement and space to your writer friends and family, more importantly, you can give them your unconditional love. This means that no matter what he or she does, you will still love them. This makes a safe place for anyone to retreat to whenever the world gets too rough or sour and one needs to “lick their wounds” and retreat. Loving someone unconditionally means that no matter what they do, they can be forgiven and not lose their standing with the person who is doing the forgiving. This type of love has almost become a foreign concept in today’s world. But, many years ago, Unconditional love was born in a lowly manger, born to take on all the bad things each and every one of us does in our life time. And there is nothing we can do to earn His love and forgiveness. It is given freely. Once we accept this free gift of forgiveness, we learn that we are loved, no matter what, and that is the most liberating gift anyone, not just writers, can receive.

Merry Christmas and don’t just give these gifts to your writer, but to anyone in your life.

 

 

Procrastination or Thanksgiving

Does procrastination freeze you in place, unable to move forward?

Does procrastination freeze you in place, unable to move forward?

We all know the holidays are breathing down our necks. Heck it’s less than a week until Thanksgiving. All of the obsessive-compulsive types lurking out there (ME), may be (ARE) panicked if he or she is like me and procrastinates until the last minute to get something, anything done.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and friends and very much enjoy gathering for the traditional dinner, and even cooking the usual dishes. The stress comes from waiting until the last minute to do it all. Year, after year; event after event, nothing changes, I’m always waiting until the last possible second to get the vacuum, feather duster and mop out of their dark, cob-web ridden corners. This year, I’m proud to say I’m ahead of the game. The vacuum cleaner is sitting in the living room, just waiting for me to plug it in and turn it on. It’s been there for over a week. I’m staring at it as I type these words. But, I just can’t get the gumption to walk three feet over to it and actually turn it on. It silently mocks me, daring me to overcome whatever fear it is that holds me hostage in my chair. But heck, that doesn’t bother me. I’ll turn it on when I’m good and ready and not a moment before!

I’m sure there are plenty of therapists out there that salivate over dissecting the causes and cures for people like me. I’m just not making myself available to them! Even though I know I have an issue with procrastination, nothing changes. And, I hate to admit it, but I’m the same way with my writing. Yep, something I enjoy and get energized by doing, I procrastinate on doing. Go figure. To my defense, the proscrianation usually occurs when there is a deadline. Perhaps I just love playing with fire and pushing my boundaries as far as I can just to see what I can get away with. Or, maybe it’s something deeper. I have no clue.

I think a lot of writers chant the “I-can-put-it-off-until-next week-next month-next year” mantra. We’re not that unusual a species. Are there advantages to being a procrastinator? I’m not sure. I can certainly rationalize why I put things off, but if there is a benefit to it, I haven’t discovered it yet.

Many people do their best work when under pressure, and writers often rank at the top of that list. Many don’t plan on putting off that all important assignment; but instead get caught in the pressures and demands of daily living. I know I can claim that excuse 90 per cent of the time. As writers we can claim “Writer’s Block” for a good amount of procrastination, but not all of it. We also can claim family demands; no one will argue with that. What I think it comes down to are priorities. What really is most important to us?
When I take the time to re-assess my reasons for writing, I somehow get a sudden inspiration and often find myself typing away within minutes of that revelation. If I could just keep it going. But, it’s like being on the never-ending diet, the motivation that gets one through the first day or two somehow likes to evaporate like a sun drenched mist in the aftermath of a summer thunderstorm. And I suddenly find myself staring at a blank screen not sure how I got there in the first place.

Whatever psychological reasons exist for one’s procrastination, I think it is critically important that we do not beat ourselves up over it. Instead, we need to accept who we are, determine our priorities of what must be done and even more importantly, what we want to get done. Just adding that little bit of “want” to the equation can often be all the impetus needed to get that wheel rolling. Just thinking of the rewards of completing a successful piece can sometimes be enough. Sometimes we need more motivation. Whatever is needed, please search for it. Those words, thoughts, emotions and scenes playing out in your head will be something that entertains, evokes thought, or can even change one’s life. Don’t keep it to yourself; feel free to share it. More people than perhaps you imagine can be affected by your work. And that in itself could be the best motivation to overcome procrastination yet.

Happy Thanksgiving! And yes, I did plug in the vacuum cleaner today.

Authenticity and a Pinch of Nutmeg

Cooking on Hot Rocks added that special touch for an outstanding dish.

Cooking on Hot Rocks in Germany’s Black Forest added that special touch transcending ordinary to memorable.

In the world of writing, I wonder if other writers feel as I often do – does anyone really care what I write? Does it matter in any way? Granted, my writing is crafted to entertain, maybe to make one think a little, but mostly to entertain. In that vein, if one is just entertaining, how important is it to get every fact right, even if used in a strictly fictional sense? How accountable are we to uphold the facts if we’re spinning a purely fictional story? I honestly don’t have that answer.

My husband gets on my case when I fret over such things as having it “just right”. He says,”So, one person out of a hundred might catch that you described something a little differently than from what it actually is. The other 99 won’t know the difference.” But, I do.

I enjoy reading authors who research and get the descriptions right, or use real experiences, events and history to develop a compelling backdrop for their characters. To me, it gives the story an additional element or layer of authenticity.

Patricia Cornwell is known for her in-depth research in her writing. Whether it is a detailed description of a hand gun or an obscure locale, her reputation for authenticity in her writing is what I find thrilling when reading her books. Granted all writers have to fictionalize locations, places, even events to fit the story and this is fine. I do love it, however, when the author acknowledges this to let the reader know just how authentic (or not) the background of the book is.

I really admire Diana Galbadon’s work. She has a special gift for drawing the reader into the Scotland of the 1700’s with visual, audible, and even sensual descriptions. The fact that the history she weaves into her story is based on truth makes the story even more exciting. The authenticity gives credibility to her characters and draws the reader in. Just look at her great success – a Starz TV series, tours to Scotland based on her books – who could want more from their writing efforts?!!

All this is to say, I believe added authenticity to writing is like the pinch of spice that makes a good dish great. It is that little added pat of butter that adds a sweet crispness to a crust or a dash of fresh nutmeg in a dish that brings out all the flavors without distraction. It may not stand up on its own, but added to the other ingredients, makes the whole truly outstanding.

PS Yes, I am a fan of Rachel Ray!

Distorted Words

Distorted thinking. Most people hear this term and think some type of mental dysfunction is at play. But in reality, we all are affected by distortion in our lives.

These windows distort the light, so images cannot appear true when viewed through this distorted lens.

These windows distort the light, so images cannot appear true when viewed through this distorted lens.

We get so used to it, however, that after a while, we don’t see it or even notice it.

So, what does this have to do with writing? First of all, when writing, it is very easy to “get lost” in the story, the characters or even the setting. We see our work as “complete” when in reality it may be missing key pieces, such as words, punctuation, or even information that was intended to be included but left out.

Writing distortion can happen to anyone. You don’t have to be a new writer to suffer from it. In fact, seasoned writers may be more prone to distortion since they have developed a routine of writing that causes the brain to develop a picture of what is perceived and therefore makes it harder to detach from that picture and actually see missing words or words that are out of place.

It is frustrating to read works that are well thought out, executed and meaningful only to see the word that should have been deleted, or is the wrong tense, or uses the wrong “two” instead of the correct “too” glaring at you. It’s like an email you get that tells you “your” going to love whatever it is they are selling. Instead, most likely “you’re” going to by-pass that message, dismissing it because of the glaring mis-use of a word. I could just scream!

I recently read an excellent, fast-paced, and thrilling novel. It was truly one that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. The problem? I lost count after finding thirty-five “distortions” (words missing or unnecessary, ones that made no sense, or had the wrong spelling) in the first chapter alone. I enjoyed the book but let the author know that a good and thorough copy edit was needed.

And this brings up the whole point of editing. We all need it! We need someone other than ourselves to carefully read through and check for these types of mistakes. In this day and age of computers, spell checks and even predictive text, it is easier than ever to overlook these distorted words.  It happens to every writer.

Yeah, I know. Not every writer can afford a professional edit. But the truth is, even if you get picked up by a traditional publisher, most authors, unless already well known, are responsible for the edit. So, how does a writer deal with such things?

Get a friend to read your manuscript. Be open to any suggestions made. If you have a friend who teaches or is a big reader; especially of the genre you are writing, even better. Again, it may not be the high priced edit, but it will help you get your work to the place you want it to be.

Another option is to put your manuscript in a drawer or somewhere that it won’t constantly remind you of its presence. This only works if deadlines are not in play! After your work has aged appropriately, pull it out and savor your words. Look at each one slowly and without haste. Judge it as if it is a fine wine that only gets better with time. Imperfections will show up easier and you won’t be as likely to overlook them. Even with this route, it is still a great idea to have another person read it, preferably someone who did not read it earlier.

None of us is perfect and that will never change. We can work to be the best we can be, with each attempt improving us and our talent. Even though we all know we won’t achieve perfection, we can reach for this goal and that makes for work that is worth attention, good, positive attention. We want to be noticed, but for all the right reasons.

Go grab that glass of wine. Swirl it about your glass. Notice the fine details. Consider how the meniscus marks the side of the glass. Study the clarity of the liquid. Inhale the vapors and savor the aroma. Don’t be afraid of age, both in the wine and in your work. Both can produce an even better product. Cheers!

How Not to Write a Book

Off chasing yet another tangent

Off chasing yet another tangent

From time to time I am asked where did I get the inspiration for and how did I plot Against Their Will. The answer is one that often surprises people, especially those who are preparing to write their own books. I simply started with a couple of people I could visualize, adapted a real life event in my own life and inserted them into it. After that event concluded, I had no idea where the book was going next or where it would end up. I just had two characters who had experienced a cataclysmic event in their lives. For those organized and perhaps anal writers, this is not the way to start! But, I will admit, I am a free-thinker, and being creative, I don’t want to be “boxed in” by parameters, especially those set by others. My husband often accuses me of deliberately doing the opposite of what I am told to do, just because I can. And, I do! It drives him crazy, but I’m happy.

When I started on my first novel (long since buried in the trash can), I wrote what I liked to read. I still do. Reading a variety of other works, and a good dose of those that fall into the same genre as what I am writing in, helps me to develop my own voice and style. This initially didn’t help me with the plotting conundrum, but as I have learned to step back and analyze my work, what I learn from other writers makes a big contribution to my own development. I’m not advocating any kind of plagiarism, but rather the studying the styles and methods of successful writers is a way, especially for new writers but also more experienced ones, to see the types of things that work and those that don’t work. .

Because I love thrillers and suspense novels and those are the books I want to write, I asked myself what could I do next to surprise the reader. Nineteen chapters and one prologue later, my novel was born.

Despite the challenge and fun of creating a story in this manner, I would never suggest to another author to use this method. Using an outline as a skeleton and then adding “meat” to it would be my preferred method. However, I am the kind of author that gets “lost” in the created world I am developing and it is just more fun to let the tangents rule and follow their trails in unknown directions. A pre-defined story map is often limiting to those of us who let their creative sides trump the more structured side of their writing minds.

One big set-back to the tangent writing style is the fact that it can get complicated keeping the story straight. This caused a lot of re-writes and edits in my case. It also necessitated a content edit to be sure all the dangling events were tied together and resolved.

Although I still utilize the Tangent Style of writing in my other books, I have incorporated a new method to help me focus. That is, I write the ending just as soon as I have the opening scene completed. This gives me a “finish line” or goal to achieve and helps to keep my wandering ways in check. It also helps when I get “stuck” or blocked. I re-read the ending and visualize what the characters would have had to do to get to that point. Soon after, the creative juices get flowing again and my fingers are tapping away on the keyboard.

Aside

I Gave up on Traditional Publishing – Am I Crazy?!

Sales, Sales, Why am I so Stressed?

Sales, Sales, Why am I so Stressed?

More and more authors now agree that traditional publishing is not the same lofty goal and heavenly realm that was held as the ultimate achievement for one wanting to write the great American page-turning book. It no longer guarantees success for the author, or that a published author can sit back and watch her bank account grow daily. With the exception being that known authors get more, most authors on a traditional royalty paying program, especially those first time writers, receive often paltry payment, the sums sometimes as little as cents on the dollar earned. So, what is a new author to do?

Okay, I have to ‘fess up. I’m one of those authors who left “traditional publishing”. Gaining my independence wasn’t entirely stress free, however. I was chided for “daring” to leave the structure of the traditional program. I was told I was crazy to give up guaranteed publication. There was no mention of guaranteed sales, however! And that was the kicker. I had little to no control over the cover, the design or editing. Despite begging for changes and pointing out mistakes, etc., it seemed nothing happened to rectify these things. So, I jumped and made the plunge into the turbulent waters of doing it on my own.

I have control over all aspects of my work, from cover, to fonts, to design, to even how long I keep it in print. I decide how it is released and how it is promoted. Going independent opened up new horizons for me. I began to see the book selling world differently and slowly learned that getting pushed outside one’s comfort zone wasn’t a bad thing. What I was doing was for me and my success, not someone else’s.

Okay, so those are the positives. There were negatives as well. Like so many writers, doing sales was and still is “not my thing”. Talk about intimidation and total paralyzing fear! Help! And, that’s what I got. I selected a company that offered a full range of services that were designed to get authors up on their feet and running toward success. Services covered all aspects of PR campaigns, to websites, and even doing book trailers. These were the items I felt I could use successfully. There are many others offered that I didn’t select. Some authors may not need these extra features. Some don’t need content or copy editing. They are confident in their work and its appearance. Some have relationships with book sellers and can utilize this to set up their own sales strategy. That’s the beauty of it all, use what you need, not what you don’t. One word of caution based on personal experience; don’t be too confident in your work’s appearance, editing or style. After all, we’re the creator and sometimes we’re so emotionally attached we cannot see the faults in our own work. Regardless of experience, get some honest evaluations of your work before going forward into publication.

Regardless of experience, get some honest evaluations of your work before going forward into publication.

For those of us on limited budgets, much can be learned from those who have already traversed this sometimes scary path. Information on what formats are best, to the best prices, to who is reputable can be found all over the net. And that is a good thing. Reading what others have to say about a company, product or service is invaluable. I cannot encourage one enough to do their homework. Check out others’ comments that have used a particular service. Compare packages and prices from company to company. If there are negatives listed, are they ones that would likely impact your project? Even after finding the perfect plan and provider of service for your project, there still is no guarantee there won’t be some hiccups along the way. Just don’t let them distract you from the ultimate goal, sales and recognition of your work.

After getting past this step comes the all important marketing of your product. This is daunting, even for seasoned sales people. I’ve told many others that writing a book and sending it to market is like giving birth to a child and watching him mature and go into the world. It is a personal part of your identity and when it is not received favorably; for whatever reason, it feels personal. Heck, it just plain hurts! Authors have to learn hard lessons in this realm just as others learn hard lessons in the fields they have chosen to pursue. We all have to pull ourselves out of our comfy slippers and flannel robes and go out and face the world and pitch ourselves, uh our work, to strangers.

Although, this is merely a short summary of my experience, I can say, I’m glad I took this route. Are there things I would do differently next time? You bet! Would I do it again? Certainly!

What are your ideas on this subject? What have your experiences been like? What would you do differently next time around? We all have to make hard choices. But, Destiny is in our grasp and we will not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!

Yes, I would rather have my head in the sand!

Yes, I would rather have my head in the sand!

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Alternatives to Traditional Publishing – Self-Publishing; is it a Dirty Word?

We're not in Kansas anymore!

We’re not in Kansas anymore!

As discussed before, traditional publishing is starting to take a back seat to new alternatives. The old stigma of never paying for publication and the often negative association with the terms “vanity press” causes many authors to avoid these options altogether. But, today is a new day, Things are changing in the world of writing and publishing, in some cases quite rapidly. As new technology grows, changes in attitudes toward these new options are growing as well. Authors now have more opportunities to get their work in the hands of readers. This is truly good news.

Independent and self-publishing platforms are rapidly becoming the new norm for today’s authors. I read an article just last week about a main-stream author who has been writing in excess of 20 years. This person has written numerous books that were published by traditional presses. Even with “success” in the traditional publishing realm, this author felt there were greater opportunities to be had by switching to independent publishing; which this person has done with success.

Going the independent route for authors offers a sense of control over the project. Depending on the company and the package of services the author acquires, the levels of control may vary. Still, authors have a say in most every step of the process. If you have strong opinions on a cover design, how the book should be formatted, or even as to which color the ink should be, these are options where the author is in charge. The book size, the paper used for printing and word length can be chosen by an author. Another area of control is the timetable. How quickly an author wants to release a book can be tweaked, depending on the author’s schedule, and other factors. Pricing is another area of input. Some companies leave it entirely to the author what to charge; others “suggest” a price and others give a minimum price which reflects costs and the author can determine how much mark-up is needed.

For those independent spirits out there, this path seems like an ideal approach to get one’s work in the hands of the public. However, for all the positives, there can be negatives. These can be minimized or avoided if the author does the homework and considers all potential variables that will affect how successful the results are. The costs involved are not just financial, but personal as well. Writers who choke and stammer with fear at the thought of speaking to a literary group or book club must realize they will have to do things outside their comfort zones. If you’d rather cower in a corner with green gills and streams of sweat running down your temples than hand out book marks at a writer’s convention and tell others about your work, you may have trouble getting significant sales with this method of publishing. Those with marketing savvy most likely will find the sales pitch a bit easier to swallow. But, even for those with marketing backgrounds, the process can be daunting. Let’s face it, we authors are much more comfortable sitting in front of a laptop screen than standing before a crowd of strangers telling them why they should read our books.

Some of the bigger independent publishing companies have figured this out. They’ve capitalized on the demand for help in marketing and put together various packages to help authors promote and sell their work. This can be a great way to go for some authors, but not all. Not every one of us has thousands of dollars to spend on marketing and we must make our money count!

Authors are creative and this evidence shows in some of the ways they devise to attract attention to their books. Anything from email “signatures” with links to their book, to social media campaigns that offer something unusual in exchange for a review or other promotional considerations; the sky really is the only limit.

Finding success with independent publishing requires commitment, determination and a “failure is not an option” mentality. We have to come out of our comfort zones, shove those bookmarks in readers’ faces, “brag” about our work and never be afraid to tell others that we’re an author, a published author! Yes, I include myself in that demographic! I’m the one over there, huddled in a corner, a nice shade of green creeping up my throat and sweat running down my temples as I hear my name being announced as the next speaker at a literary event. How bad do you want it? That’s the question. As for me, I carry extra bottles of TUMS in my pocket. After all I’ve shoveled down my throat, I think I should buy some stock in the company, but I’m not giving up. Neither should you! In this new world of publishing I think Dorothy said it best, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!”

Next time I’ll discuss some of the companies offering publishing packages and give my two cents worth on what an author should look for when considering these options.

A Better Way to Publish – maybe?

Authors are not limited in their choices; we can choose the process that works best for us.

Authors are not limited in their choices; we can choose the process that works best for us.

 

Last time I wrote about the downfalls of traditional publishing. This time I want to begin to look at some alternatives to the traditional model.

Anyone who is serious about their writing most likely has had some experience in attempting to gain a publishing contract. If not, then the author probably most likely, has had other relevant experience in entering writing contests, or attending writing conferences and even networking with others to find an agent or publisher who might be interested in their work.

I followed this same path of frustration. Oh, not that I didn’t learn a lot along the way. I made some good contacts, garnered various tips and tricks to try, but possibly more importantly, I learned how to approach and adapt other methods to gain publication.

When I first started writing and had a completed product to sell, I was told absolutely to go the traditional route. And I did. Eventually, it seemed the best I could do was to go with a small, start-up, independent publisher. They were a royalty-paying group, but were small, with no resources to help promote the books they listed and the authors were pressured to devise their own marketing and promotional campaigns.

You may or may not be a marketing guru, but I am not. This was all strange to me and I struggled with the entire process. But hey, I could say I was published. And, I did sell a few books and get some royalty checks. I knew, however, that this was not my ultimate goal and that to get to the place I wanted my work to be, I had to step out and be responsible for my own destiny and not wait for a publisher to make it for me.

As I researched the topic, speaking with other writers, looking at different types of publishers, and reading the latest articles on how the industry was moving forward, I saw the changes moving forward in the publishing world. The independent model, the self-publishing programs and other similar types of opportunities for authors were beginning to grow, and not just grow, but take off astronomically. What great news for authors!

With opened eyes, I realized that my first experience with a publisher had prepared me to accept the new norm, that I would have to do things on my own initiative. I began to hear the success stories of unknown authors doing some creative things and coming up winners in the market.

Currently, I am out in this new book-selling world. The verdict is still out, but at this point, I can encourage every writer to look past his or her boundaries of what you are willing or able to do to get your work out there. If you can do that, you can succeed in publishing and selling your work. Don’t doubt yourself or what you have produced. If you feel uncertain about your work and its value, then get some professional help with critiquing, editing, or even a content edit. There are well-qualified people out there who can assist in this process, and if you get the right person, it is well worth any money spent.

So many things to think about, I know. Next time I’ll discuss more on this topic of where to find the right people to assist you in the process, some things you can do to garner the support and enthusiasm of others, and even what to look for when looking to publish independently or self-publish. Meanwhile, dig deep into your writing heart and ask yourself, is my work worth it? Even if it is not as complete as you or a reader would like, it can be determined if it is worthy of pursuit. If you want it bad enough, it is worth whatever it takes short of robbing a bank, to get your work in the reading public’s hands. So pat your back and start typing!

How maybe to possibly, hopefully, sometime soon, get published!

Nancy Livingstone discusses her book, Against Their Will with host Sue Lucey

Nancy Livingstone discusses her book, Against Their Will with host Sue Lucey

Last week I was the featured speaker at a writer’s festival in our town. While the questions the moderator asked me were about my recently published book, when it came time for audience questions, they seemed much more interested in how I got my book published.

Now, I’m fairly certain there’s not a one of you writers out there that hasn’t given some (okay maybe a lot) of thought to the part about getting your work published. And you’ve probably figured out by now that the traditional way of publishing is pretty much gone, unless you have connections, are a star or have done some outrageous thing that put your name in the headlines and therefore created enough name recognition to carry a book. Unfortunately that leaves the other 98 percent of us out there struggling, trying to determine what to do to get someone to read our number one bestseller. After all, we wouldn’t be writing if we weren’t certain that our story is the best, the most unusual, the most gripping, terrifying, funny and tear-jerking story ever written. Why can’t those publishers see that right away?!

The traditional query to the agent or publisher can still be sent out, however the rate of return on that investment is rarely more than zero. Yes, there are those few who get past the censors and land their manuscript on a decision maker’s desk. That is absolutely the exception and not the rule. The first line of defense in a publishing house are the readers, those who screen through the stacks (physical, but more and more electronic) of queries.  In this case the writer must come up with a good hook, something short, sweet and sums up the story in an appealing way in just two to three sentences. Sadly, even with the best hook ever, some manuscripts are never seen. There are just too many of them for assistants and others assigned the task to determine the fate of those poor souls whose work is siting in front of them. It becomes easier for them to just stick a pre-made little note in your SASE and toss your work in the trash. Some queries land in good hands and may genuinely strike the reader as great material, but the timing is wrong. You’ve written a detective novel, but they’re looking for true detective works. Do your research and send your query to the right house and person. Even though the odds are most often against you, if you believe in yourself and your work, then don’t stop!

If you want to pursue the traditional route to getting your work published, go for it. The key is persistence. Keep at it, even when the rejection slips exceed the storage limit of your email account. It is not impossible to get published going this route, but it is frustrating and sometimes, downright depressing.

Today, most writers are getting creative in their efforts to draw attention to their work. And creative they are. But hey, aren’t writers supposed to be creative? Whatever route you use to get published, you need to generate interest in your work. Your goal is to make readers run to grab a copy of your latest. Next time, I will discuss some ways authors have succeeded in getting their work recognized.

Audience questions

Audience questions

Until then, keep those ideas flowing!