Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The End

Over a year ago, everything I read said that in order to be a successful self-published author, I needed to blog. I figured people knew what they were talking about, so I created this blog and fumbled around trying to turn it into something useful. I suspect I've succeeded a little bit, as my formatting posts were reasonably popular. I learned a lot and I met some great people.

But the time has come to end it.

To the fourteen of you who have subscribed: thank you. To the extra twenty-six of you or so who visit regularly: thank you, too.

I don't enjoy blogging. I've resisted that truth for over a year now, but the fact is there. Blogging was something I thought I had to do. I'm not sure of that anymore. The only thing I'm now convinced I have to do in order to be a successful self-published author is write good stories. Blogging cuts significantly into my writing time. It's not just the writing of the blog posts, it's the planning and the researching and the linking and the formatting and everything else that goes into reasonably well-put-together, intelligent blogging. It's exhausting. And for something that I don't really enjoy, it's far too much work.

Over the month of August, I hope to move everything important over to my website. When I'm finished, I'll either delete this blog, or leave it for posterity--I haven't decided yet.

Thanks for reading! And thanks for being part of my learning process!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Blog Roundup: July 23 - 29, 2012

Chuck Wendig shared 25 Things You Should Know About Antagonists this week.

Joe Konrath interviewed Melinda DuChamp this week, but mainly the reason I'm sharing this post is for the book cover. That's an excellent example of what a good cover can do for your book. I downloaded Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland despite the fact that I didn't like Fifty Shades of Grey and I don't particularly like Alice in Wonderland because that cover is just so good. Penis mushrooms!

Getting Naughty Between the Stacks reiterated the warning from Roni Loren: Bloggers Beware.

James Killick posted about creating and maintaining narrative interest. This is a concise, straightforward post on plotting. I especially like the "tent poles" diagram.

...apparently, it was a slow week?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

SitRep Saturday: Work, Work, Work

Yet another super productive week. I have four of the five stories for the new anthology drafted and ready for editing, I have the book cover, I have some meta for the anthology (I started the summary, I know who the target audience is, I started the marketing plan, that sort of thing) and I'm looking at a timeline for release that is reasonable and manageable.

In fact, I have a timeline for the next five books. Three of those five books are outlined and/or action drafted and all of them are plotted. So that's pretty cool.

I've been working like mad. So much writing. So. Much. Writing. I haven't written fewer than about 3,000 words a day all week. I've also been researching. Not too much, mind, but enough to get the outlines and action-drafts done. Real research comes during the drafting process and then even more comes during editing.

And reading! I've been finishing about two books a week lately. Right now I'm in the middle of War Brides and I just downloaded Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland. I let the "being a reader" part of being a writer slip for far too long.

I am also beta-reading for a friend. She has this massive fantasy epic she's been working on for years and she just sent me the first installment. I'm a thorough, brutal beta, so it's slow going, but it feels good to be beta-reading for someone talented and skilled.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Nine Writing Things: Sexytimes

Sex in fiction is a touchy subject. There are as many different opinions on writing and and ways to write it as there are to have it. And that's totally okay. But I think there are some basics no matter how you do it. Write it, that is. I'm not stupid enough to presume to tell people how to have sex.

1. Learn the anatomy.
Nothing yanks me from a story faster than misuse of the word "vagina." A vagina is not the external sex characteristic. When a character incorrectly identifies his partner's anatomy in this most basic way, it calls everything into question. If he doesn't know where her vagina is, how am I supposed to believe he's going to please her?

2. Learn the slang for the anatomy.
Unless it's in-character, chances are your character isn't going to think "vagina." S/he might think "penis" but "vagina" is the sort of word that, for some reason, makes people squeamish. There's a wealth of resources for learning appropriate slang out there. (I like this one.) Find those resources and use them.

Note: Vajayjay is not ever, not even a little bit, not even jokingly acceptable. Don't make me bitchslap you.

3. Mind your hands.
This happens frequently in fanfiction, but professional fiction certainly isn't immune: someone has three hands. Or the positioning just isn't physically possible, or someone left their shoes on but five minutes later--without any mention of having removed said shoes--toes are getting sucked. Just pay attention to your details. During editing, position yourself where you've got your characters. If you can't do it, they can't do it.

4. Nothing tastes like peaches and cinnamon.
Several years ago, this was a big problem in fandom, particularly in the Harry Potter fandom. It stemmed, mostly, from people who were not old enough to have even really experienced their own bodies writing terrible smut. Again, professional fiction is not immune. Something might taste almost pleasant or have a hint of flavor of the food the character has been eating, but nothing coming out of the lower regions is going to taste like peaches or cinnamon or cherries. Don't sugar-coat it. (However, you can have your characters actually sugar coat it. Flavored lubricant is pretty nifty.)

5. The big O.
Fact: up to 75% of women do not orgasm during intercourse. If your heroine were in the real world, she probably wouldn't reach that peak. It's okay to have her do it, anyway, because fiction is fantasy. But it's okay if she doesn't, too. Sex isn't always just about the orgasm and if your character is a "journey is half the fun" type, it's completely okay for her to miss that climax. Men don't always achieve orgasm, either. Sometimes, they even fake it. If you're writing sex as part of a larger story (and not, like me and other porn writers, writing it because it is the story), then it adds a touch of unusual realism to have your character skip the big O... and who knows, you might make readers for life for that little detail.

6. You have five senses, use them.
Sex is about more than touch. It's sight, smell, sound, and taste. Just keep that in mind when your characters are getting hot and heavy. Of course they're not going to notice everything--nobody does--but showing us what they do notice, and what they savor, is going to tell us a lot about them.

7. Don't sacrifice character.
Out-of-character sex is just as bad as any other out-of-character behavior. If a hero of few words is suddenly spewing erotic terms of endearment, or a shy, repressed virgin turns into a wanton woman the second the hero drops his pants, I am going to call bullshit, roll my eyes, and close the book. Make me believe it, damn it.

8. There's nothing wrong with porn.
Written porn, at least, hurts no one. Oh, it might upset some people, and it might make others uncomfortable, but written porn for the sake of porn is--in my world--perfectly acceptable. If you want to write sex not because it's part of a larger story or because it shows or tells something, if you want to write sex simply because you want to do it, then do it. It's okay.

9. If you don't think it's hot, your reader won't think it's hot.
This maybe should be my number one tip. It's the one thing I preach whenever asked about it. Write what you think is hot because if you're not enjoying it, that shows in your words, and you ruin things for your character and the reader. You really don't want that.

Bonus Thing: The rules for writing sex, like any writing rules, can be broken. Just not until you learn them.

But I really will come bitchslap you if you use "vajayjay."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Miscellany: What I Want as a Writer

Yesterday, I went back to see The Avengers one final time before it leaves theaters and we settle in for a two-month wait until the DVD release. (Unless those rumors of an extended cut are true, in which case, I will probably go back one more time.) I haven't seen a movie that many times in theaters since Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. (Shut up, okay, that was a great movie!) It really got to me. When I was able to concentrate yesterday, it hit me: it was the writing. There were no gaping plot holes like there usually are in big-budget summer blockbusters. It was such tight, tidy writing. Of course it was, Joss Whedon was responsible for it. But it's still just really inspiring for me. My poor husband doesn't understand why I needed to see it four times and why I'm seriously considering pre-ordering the Avengers Assembled collector's set. He's not a writer or much of a nerd, so I can't explain it to him. Mostly, I just settle on telling him that Cap has a really nice ass that is best viewed on the silver screen. That isn't a lie. (Seriously. Chris Evans has an amazing rear end and in the new Captain America costume especially, his shoulders-to-hips ratio turns my biological clock into a ticking time bomb. It's unfortunate.) I'm lucky enough to be married to a wonderfully secure man who just rolls his eyes and shakes his head whenever I mention a crush.

Anyway, when I got home of course I felt inspired and ready to work on making my own writing just as tidy, so I managed to churn out an action-draft for a writing exercise and then tackled a little more of the short story anthology I'm working on. I've done so much writing in the last week or so it's kind of crazy. I have two novellas outlined/action-drafted and two more with only the barest outlines, all four of those with very clear beginnings and ends and very clear word count goals. I have the first sequel to Please, Sir in the works. I've finished the first draft of three of the short stories for Lost and Found and I'm looking at completing the fourth tonight or tomorrow. I started up again with The Guest and started thinking about something I'm calling VietZombies for right now. I even started work on the novel I hope to take on for NaNoWriMo.

I did the math and have been practicing meeting the word count goals. In the three nights I've attempted to write 1,667 words (the approximate daily word count you need to meet in order to write 50,000 words in thirty days), I've succeeded. The first three nights are easy. It's the last three nights that'll be hard. I'm hoping to be ready to take on NaNo and win this year. I've never written a novel in a month and it's been a long time since I attempted a story longer than about 30,000 words.

Short stories are kind of My Thing. Novels? Not so much. But I'm kind of stubborn. I like to push myself to learn and master new writing things.

And then I like to do what I can to perfect the things I've already learned.

So... I guess that's the point of today's post, then. Drive. Knowing what I want to accomplish with my writing. Having written things to look at and take inspiration from and model my work on. Not that I want to write a superhero movie, but I certainly want to write lean, clean stories. I want to write characters that make my readers root for them--or against them. I want to be good.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blog Roundup: July 16 - 22, 2012

I liked this post from Greta van der Rol on "the process of plotting" and not just because I'm a fangirl and it means we're getting a new book. No, I liked it also because it gives a nice glimpse into the insanity that is a writer. She's just so matter-of-fact about Ravindra talking to her. And aren't we all? Our characters speak, we listen. It's when we don't that things get messy and complicated and difficult.

Well, this is interesting. Back in May, Joe Konrath hosted a guest post from Ann Voss Peterson. She talked about her relationship with big publisher Harlequin and why she couldn't afford to write for them anymore. It's a startling, sobering post. This week, Joe posted an update on her situation--sort of. In Harlequin Fail Part 2, Joe mentions the class-action lawsuit against Harlequin and the shady business practices that led to it. Yikes.

Girl Who Reads wrote about newsletters in her Tips on Thursday post this week. I'm definitely checking out those resources.

Paperback Writer made a wonderful list of suggestions for coping with the culture of immediacy.

Pub Rants hosted a Roni Loren guest post that all bloggers need to read. Especially if you use photos in your posts, read that post! (Don't panic, but don't ignore it, either. It's about lawsuits and the dangers of copyright infringement.)

Delilah Dawson shared some thoughts on editing. I really liked her first thought. That can be such a problem for new writers--and even for some of us who have been at this a while.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

SitRep Saturday: Writing!

Writing! Seriously, that's all I've been doing all week. I made it through two short-story drafts, several novelette/novella outlines, a week's worth of 750 Words, and I started a massive file meant to help me really clean up my business plan. I've been using yarny, reading blog posts, and doing tons of research for my stories and for my writing blog over on tumblr (Fuck Yeah Write Life in case you were curious). I have been writing like crazy. And it feels so, so good.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Writer's Resource: 750 Words

One of the things I did on my vacation was learn about new writing resources. I stumbled across a blog and on this blog, people were discussing the various programs and sites they use to write and stay organized. So I made a list and started checking them out.

The first site on my list was 750 Words. It's a simple, no-frills site designed to help you write your three daily pages. (You know, the three pages you're supposed to write every morning on whatever is on your mind.)

I love it. I love how neat and tidy the site is. I love how easy it is to sit down and write, distraction-free. I love that it's private and online. I love the point system. I love the little badges I earn for writing. I've been writing for 23 days, typically do so in the wee hours of the morning, and tend to finish my words in about eleven minutes without distraction, so I've earned up to a flamingo, plus a night bat, a hamster, and a leopard. I love the word count feature. I love the general encouraging atmosphere of the place.

Actually, it has inspired me to see if I can complete a NaNoWriMo challenge. I'm going to do a test run next month and see if I can write 50,000 words in one month. (I'm hoping to pound out two novellas.) If I can, I might actually take on NaNo this year. I've never felt brave enough to sign up for NaNoWriMo, so just the fact that I'm seriously considering it, I think, speaks volumes about the wonder of the 750 Words site.

Try it. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Nine Writing Things: Characterization Exercises

One of the things I find incredibly useful to do is write characterization exercises. (Or detail exercises, or dialogue exercises, or activity exercises.) These generally don't get shared because they're not usually pretty, but mostly because they're just not meant for others' eyes. Writing exercises like these help you find your voice and develop a strategy for dealing with some aspect of your writing in a larger, meant-for-publication piece. I suggest picking a word count--500, 1000, or 2000 words are good numbers--and going for it.

1. A car breakdown.
The way a person behaves when their car breaks down tells you a lot about them and their history. Is this a regular occurrence? Are they used to it? Did they prepare for it? Where it happens can provide a nice exploration of character. Is it on the side of the road between cities? In a bad part of town? Near home?

2. Preparing for a parent's visit/going to visit parents or in-laws.
Unless your character is a single orphan, family will probably visit her at some point. Or she'll visit family. It doesn't have to be an overnight visit. Maybe her dad and his new wife are just popping in on their way to dinner, or maybe her mother-in-law is doing one of those surprise inspections on the new housewife. Whatever the case, there's a lot of emotion and a lot of character rolled up in how we deal with parental figures. 

3. A first date.
I'll confess: I hate dating. I went on maybe four dates during my "high school" years and I didn't date at all in college or for about a year and a half after college. And even then, I got married eleven weeks after meeting a guy (ten weeks after our first date). But I hear some people like it. And I understand that most people don't meet someone and decide to marry them three weeks later. A first date for your character is kind of the same thing as a first date for you. You're going to learn a lot about them based on how they present themselves, what they worry about, what they ask, what they notice.

4. A job interview.
This is sort of the same as a first date, just with an added layer of professionalism. Is your character prepared for the interview? What does she wear? How does she feel? What does she say? What's her attitude about being there? (Is she being herself or is she trying to be what the interviewer wants?) Does she need the job? Does she want the job? A job interview for a character will probably show you how she behaves in the most stressful of non-intimate situations.

5. The first time your character had sex.
This is an old one and maybe kind of cliche, but it's a good one. You remember your first time. It's kind of a defining moment in a person's life. Your character is a person. And, not to get too triggery here, but if your character's first time wasn't consensual, or if your character's first time was maybe plagued with doubt and regret, you're going to learn a lot about him.

6. Doing something that frightens her.
I am utterly, completely terrified of "fun" houses. You know the ones. With the mirrors. Or the dark ones with the people in costumes who don't touch you but make damn sure they chase you. Shaking, crying, full-on panic attacks. Which is weird for me, because I am the least-easily-frightened person I know. This includes my Army husband and retired Navy/cop father. Bugs? Icky, but okay. Snakes? Respect 'em. Bad guys? Try me, buddy. I've been through a lot of very real, very scary stuff in my life. But fun houses reduce me to a small, scared, whimpering child. Throwing a character into a situation that scares her is going to reveal a lot about who she is and some of the most primal inner workings of her mind.

7. Winning the lottery.
It's an ultimate fantasy situation, like getting a chance to spend the night with your favorite celebrity (*coughTimArmstrongcoughyesIknowIammarriedandnoitdoesnotreallymatterIwouldtotallyhitthatcough*). But if you take the fantasy part out of it, there's some real conflict there. How does she react when she finds out? What does she do with the money? Who does she tell? How does she react to people coming out of the woodwork? Does it help or hurt her goals in life?

8. Home alone on a dark and stormy night.
Come on, even the bravest and most jaded among us can get a little spooked all alone in a big, drafty, silent house in the middle of a terrible storm. Or maybe she likes to cuddle up on the couch with fuzzy slippers and hot chocolate and read herself Edgar Allan Poe. The point is, it's a mini-isolation exercise. How does your character fare, think, act when she's completely alone?

9. Confronting someone who has wronged her.
Is she into the guns-blazing kind of confrontation? Is she subtle and manipulative, drawing out the confession before she acts? Is she passive-aggressive? Is she passive? Is she aggressive? Does she have control or does she let her anger/hurt control her? Confrontation is powerful. Facing the person who has done you wrong is a highly-charged moment. Is she a fighter or a flier? Write and find out!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Miscellany: Ways To Write

Did you guys have any idea that there are, like, a million programs out there for writers? I'm not talking research or printing or formatting programs, I'm talking word processors and storyboards and research consolidators. Incredibly useful programs. And a lot of them are free or inexpensive! I certainly didn't. I've been limping along with Works, Word, or OpenOffice (with the occasional foray into Notepad, WordPad, or a blogging platform like LiveJournal or tumblr) or I've been going the old-fashioned route and using pen and paper since I started writing. (There was also a DOS-based word processor way, way back in the day. I used to journal like Doogie Howser and Dana Scully on the very first computer my family ever owned. No, I wasn't even ten years old yet.)

I knew about Write or Die. I actually bought it last month and it feels super awesome to meet my goals in that program and hear the fanfare. I didn't know about programs like ZenWriter, yarny, yWrite, or Scrivener. There are more, too, apparently. I've barely scratched the surface. But for right now, these are the programs I'm checking out and testing.

One of my new muses is determined to turn me into a real novel writer. I've tried before and, I feel, failed miserably, so right now I'm taking baby steps. Playing to my strengths, doing a lot of research, and thinking about word counts. I've begun work on two novels, the vampire one--The Guest--and a fantasy novel--The Lost Princess (Returns? I haven't decided quite on a title)--and despite my short attention span, I'm not rushing anything. Programs like yarny, yWrite, and Scrivener are designed for novel-writing. So far, my favorite is yarny, but, then again, I haven't spent much time with yWrite and Scrivener yet.

As for ZenWriter, I have the feeling this could be very, very useful. I just haven't found the perfect situation for it to be useful.

Some of it may be because I'm so used to plain old word processors. Teaching yourself to use new programs can be tricky and frightening and human nature seems to resist change. That doesn't mean we can't learn to change... or use spiffy new writing programs that make our lives much easier.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Blog Roundup: July 9 - 15, 2012

Chuck Wendig is basically like a hairy, foul-mouthed little writer god and you should listen to him. Read his 25 Bad Writer Behaviors post. It's a good post. It's a really, really good post.

Caustic Cover Critic discussed E-Book Cover Design here and here. If you're looking for a cover artist, or doing it yourself, read these posts (and this blog).

Over at Do Some Damage, Scott Parker wrote about knowing if you're a writer. I would argue that if you write and identify yourself in any way by that activity, then you're a writer (even if your work only has an "audience of one"). If you're feeling any of the insecurity or self-doubt that seems to come with writing, that's a good post to let you know you're not alone and there are ways to make it better.

Girl Who Reads discussed negative reviews in her Tips on Thursday post this week. I've said it before and I'll say it again: reviews are for other readers, not for authors, and authors would do well to keep in mind that a negative review isn't a personal attack (except when it is, and then it's not about the review, it's about nastiness and being a jerk), it's an opinion, and everyone is entitled to their opinions.

Rik Davnall's posts likening a story to sex and books to sex toys made me laugh, entertained me, and informed me enough to make me think--which means those posts hit the perfect trifecta of How To Be Successful On The Internet.

Lynn Viehl's Zero Cost Ten is packed with useful, free writing tools. I love it when she makes posts like that!

Every single one of Delilah S. Dawson's posts last week was golden. Every. Single. One. Go read them all.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

SitRep Saturday: Best Laid Plans...

I have done something to anger the gods or the universe, The Powers That Be. It has been an exceptionally trying week or so. At first, I was just getting sick; being sick while caring for a toddler and working from home is difficult, but doable. Then some personally devastating news came my way (it's nothing too bad and no one is dead or injured, but for me, it was quite crushing) and there was some personal drama, and by the end of the week I just wanted to curl into a ball and cry myself to sleep for a year.

Needless to say, I didn't get much done. Oh, I still wrote my 750 words every day, and I gave the short story collection a title, but as far as drafting an editing go, well, that was a big old failure.

I did get some reading done. I finished Rogue Warrior and started on a romance novel. Next up, I'll finish Starheart. And then, I don't know. But reading is definitely back to being a major priority.

Today, I'm hoping to draft one of the short stories and plot next week's blog posts. We'll see how that goes...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Nine Writing Things: Tips for Self-Editing

I've written about self-editing before and I'm positive I'll do it again. I'll probably even repeat myself. Self-editing is a crucial step in the writing process and learning to do it well will save you--and your editors and beta-readers--a lot of headaches.

1. Read it out loud.
Listen to the flow of sentences, your word choices, and your dialogue. Reading aloud also helps you find those missing words you thought you wrote but totally didn't.

2. Have it read to you.
Back in the days before on-screen readers, I used to have my youngest sister read my fanfiction to me. Now, you can just save your file as a PDF and have Adobe Acrobat read it to you.

3. Read it backwards.
This step is useful for spelling errors more than anything else. Start at the end of your document and read backwards, one word at a time. It might also help you see if you fall into the trap of using the same vague words more toward the end of the text, when perhaps you're tired and frustrated and not as fresh and excited as you were at the beginning.

4. Find and replace "problem" words.
First you have to identify your problem words, which I would define as words you use excessively. I like to do a quick find-and-replace and substitute an all-caps version of the word for the word itself, that way my eyes catch on it and when I'm looking at the document as a whole, I can see the placement of the words. After that, I go in, look at, and edit each instance of each word.

5. Find and replace pronouns, and, then, as, like, was, were.
I like to get a sense of how often I use s/he, his/her/its, him/her/it, and the rest. I copy #4 for this tip.

6. Ignore it.
Sometimes, ignoring it is all you can do. The longer the work, the longer your break should be. When you come back to it, you'll see it with fresh eyes and read it with new understanding.

7. Save it somewhere else and read it from there.
If you write on your laptop, read it on your Kindle or iPad. Print it out and read it on the back porch with a glass of wine. Change your surroundings to jar you into seeing the piece differently.

8. Change font, size, color.
Simple tweaks like using a font you don't normally like in a larger or smaller size or different color can change the way you see the manuscript.

9. Read it as a reader, not as a writer.
Turn off your inner editor and just start reading. Don't do any editing until after you've consumed the work as a reader.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Miscellany: Books!

I've been reading again. I never should have stopped, but one of the side effects of writing and editing is not being able to enjoy reading; your inner editor is hard to turn off. Taking a break from "real" writing allowed me to shut off that inner editor and enjoy reading again.

Greta van der Rol's Starheart is, embarrassingly, sitting unread on my Kindle. My inner editor, that bitch, wouldn't even let me enjoy that--so I stopped. Because Ms. van der Rol is one of my favorite new authors and I can't bear not enjoying her work.

What I'm reading right now is an old book, one I've read many times before: Dick Marcinko's autobiography, Rogue Warrior. It has been fairly easy to shut that inner editor up for this book, mostly because I think she's afraid he'd hurt her if he found out she had any criticism. Even though he's over seventy. And probably half a world away. Probably. (Never underestimate the power of fear as a tool against your inner voices.) I also powered through a Delilah Devlin short, Two Hot For Teacher, which I enjoyed but did find a few faults with (something I hate, because I love Delilah Devlin; I know for a fact that when I pick up one of her books, I'm going to get exactly what I want).

Going through last week's blog posts led me to a new book I want to read, Lustily Ever After. I have a soft spot for fairy tales and when they're re-imagined for grown ups, I'm like that macro of Fry from Futurama: SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY. I can't even tell you how many times I've pored lovingly over the Snow White, Blood Red books. But I'm not letting myself download Lustily Ever After. Not yet. I have a to-do list first.
  • Review the books I've already read. (This includes the Morgan Selwood books from Greta van der Rol and the Branded books from Stella Deleuze.)
  • Finish reading the unread books on my Kindle (Starheart, a book on WWII home life, a few freebies). Review them as necessary.
  • Finish my own short story collection.
 ...I really need to get to work.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Blog Roundup: July 1 - 8, 2012

Greta van der Rol released a new short story this week. GO GET IT.

Karen McQuestion posted about keeping your finger on the pulse of the publishing industry with a short list of go-to blogs. I can't fault her choices there and I recommend anyone just starting out follow those blogs.

Parajunkee posted about DNF (did not finish) book reviews. As a reader, I think DNF reviews are very useful. If readers who think like me didn't finish a book, I want to know that, and I want to know why.

Aimee Salter defines humility and insecurity. This should be required reading for new authors. (I would also like to add a bit on false humility. Where you say, "Oh, no, I'm terrible" to make yourself look good, then reject all criticism because you secretly believe--and your "friends" confirm--that you're the Best EVAR. No. No, you're not.)

I love Sierra Godfrey's 6 Tips for a Friendly Author Website. So many authors, especially self-published though traditionally published authors (George R. R. Martin, Aaron Allston, I'm looking at you fellows), have bad websites. Don't be one of them.

Stella Deleuze's Confessions post is nice to read because, really, we're all of us--self-published authors--in the same boat. We want to produce high-quality, error-free text that lets us live our dream.

Delilah Dawson's 10 Tips for Barfing a Book made me laugh and agree. She's got some great tips there.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

SitRep Saturday: Being Strong

I'm not a novelist, not yet. I've only written two novel-length stories that I've shared, Star Wars fanfictions that weren't even that long (I think the longest was 80,000 words). I haven't quite developed those skills. It's something I'd like to work on, something I finally figured out how to work on, but for now, I plan to keep playing to my strengths. Short stories. I'm good at those, I think. Well, good enough and getting better. I'm comfortable with them and I'm confident with them.

So this week, I outlined and action-drafted a five-story anthology around the theme of getting what you want. They run the gamut from dark and desperate to cloying and romantic and I'm actually pretty proud of all of them. The stories have titles (Lost and Found on Burano Island, A Vision in Gray, Worth Fighting For, Burning Breakfast, and Damn, Sam) but the collection doesn't. I'll get there.

I was pretty productive this week. That feels good.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Self-Publishing: On Sales (May 2012)

Are you proud? I'm getting this post up in the first week!

Here's the screenshot of my May 2012 sales totals. I went ahead and just hid all the outlets through which my books are available, but no sales were made.


Numbers are still falling, but they're not all that abysmal, I don't think.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Self-Publishing: Do These Things, Don't Do Those Things

Quite possibly the hardest thing to do as a self-published author is get your book to sell. You can do everything "right"--blog, Tweet, get your book available on all the big sites, have reviews, even buy adspace--and still sell not a single copy. Or sell just a handful of them... to your friends and family. It can be incredibly frustrating.

So you go in search of promotion and marketing tips. Maybe you Google "how to sell your self-published book" or "how do I sell my self-published book." You read a lot of articles and a lot of lists on how to do it. And you implement some of those strategies. Maybe you start doing giveaways, or you get on a blog hop, or you swap reviews with a fellow author, or you get a high-profile review blog to give you a favorable (three stars or more) review. Or maybe you go a different route and start acting like a jerk because controversy gets you attention. Maybe you decide to be obnoxious and tweet at your followers to buy your book or GTFO. Maybe you flood Amazon and MobileRead forums with your book plug. Maybe you direct message anyone on Twitter who seems even remotely interested in reading. Whatever your strategy, maybe you get a few more sales, maybe you don't. Maybe you're right back where you started wondering what's wrong.


DO

1. Write a good story.
Seriously, this is the most basic thing. You want to sell books? Write books worth reading. People won't tell their friends to read a book they didn't enjoy, and word-of-mouth is your very best marketing tool. 

2. Get the formatting right.
Use the Smashwords Style Guide (even if you're not publishing through Smashwords). Use Calibre. Download the apps for all the formats you plan to offer your book in and look at your book. If you can't get the formatting right on your own, pay someone else to do it. 

3. Make it readily available.
Give people options. People love options. They want to read your book on their smartphones or on their computers, their electronic readers or their tablets. They want to buy your book in print or print it out themselves at home. Let them. 

4. Identify your target audience and market to them.
As narrowly as possible, identify your target audience. Think of it as a characterization exercise if you have to. Imagine your ideal reader, everything from her physical appearance to the car she drives to the emotional baggage she carries to what she does in her free time, and figure out how to reach her. Then do it.


DON'T

1. Expect a majority of your sales to come from fellow authors.
Tweeting and blogging about writing is going to attract writers. These people are not your target audience. They are your support network and your competition and there are probably a few new friends among them. But they're not likely to become die-hard fans. 

2. Be a jerk.
Just don't. Controversy might get you some attention at first, but people aren't going to remember your work unless it's spectacular. And if you have to resort to being a jerk, your work sucks. So you're just going to end up looking like a jerk who can't write. 

3. Be ungrateful.
Especially in the beginning and even later. (Nothing makes me want to read an author less than when they seem to assume everyone should read and love their work.) Every sale you make is a sale you didn't have before. Every review you get is proof that someone cared enough--and it doesn't matter if it's a one-star review or a five-star review--about your work to tell others about it. People don't owe you anything just because you typed a few words up on a computer screen. 

4. Think you're better than everyone else.
If you were, you wouldn't be self-publishing and struggling. Just accept right now that you're one of a million, not one in a million, and work on getting better. 

5. Stop.
Expect to spend two years building your "brand" before you see any sort of significant result. To be safe, I'd say don't expect success before year five. Don't give up.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Nine Writing Things: Reasons to Write


There are millions and millions of reasons to write. Seriously, a basic Google search turned up 210,000,000. Today, I have nine for you. These are some of my reasons. (Reasons like "because I want to think about [interchangeable male character] naked" and "to evict old story ideas and clear out space in my head" didn't make the list. Sorry.) Maybe you can identify with them. Maybe you think I'm crazy. Maybe you're someone I know here to find out why I do what I do. Maybe I'll just make you feel better about your own reasons to write because yours are better.

1. There's something missing in your life.
New romance. Adventure. Attractive naked men doing your bidding. Zombie killing. Flying cars. Attractive naked men pulling pranks on other attractive naked men that lead to naked oil wrestling. What? I'm sorry. The point is, writing is a great way to get something you feel is missing from your life.

2. To live more than one life.
I like my life. It's pretty cool. I've got a hot husband, a smart kid, a great family, awesome friends, and some hobbies and interests that keep me entertained. But it's only one life. I'm not a spy or a supervillain or a hooker or a vampire or a dominatrix or a commando or a werewolf hunter. Writing lets me be those other things without giving up the comfort and safety of my relatively boring life.

3. Catharsis.
Sometimes, bad things happen. Sometimes, really bad things happen. And sometimes, the best way to deal with those really bad things is to just write about them. Make someone else--your characters--deal with the situation and you can deal with it, too.

4. To give voice to the characters in your head.
Most writers I know are not alone in their heads. We've all got a pretty solid grip on reality, don't get me wrong, but there's no way I could talk to my mother or husband about the harem of muses without them looking at me like I'm nuts and scheduling me a visit with the head shrinker. Characters are born and grow up and have adventures and become real in a writer's mind. They deserve to have their stories told. 

5. To figure something out.
Dump your characters into a problem situation and let them figure it out. Or set up a conversation so the characters can talk out a problem until they come to a solution. Sometimes, this is the best way to figure out real-life things.

6. To do something you really want to do but can't.
Do you really really want to go skydiving but can't because you're pregnant? Or maybe you really really want to see the surface of the moon but you can't build a spaceship because you're terrible at math. Everyone wants to do something they can't do, either because they're physically limited or because they're scared of the social consequences. Writing helps you do those things. It certainly helps me.

7. To escape.
When I was a kid and teenager, I used writing in the same way I used reading: it was a nice escape. It still works. Sometimes, you just need to get away from your life and writing is a really good way to do that. When you write, you create your new, perfect world.

8. To give voice to things you can't say in your normal life.
Social pressure is tough. Propriety keeps us from telling that horrible woman we work with that she needs to feed herself to a ravenous horde of Danny Boyle zombies. Fear keeps us from telling the adorable barista that you want to bite his biceps. But you can do those things in your writing. Not that I know this from personal experience or anything.

9. For fun.
And sometimes writing is just like arts and crafts or playing video games or going to the movies or doing a crossword puzzle. Sometimes, the best reason to do it just because you want to have some fun. There's nothing quite as awesome as endless possibilities, and that's exactly what you get when you write.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monday Miscellany: What I Did On My Summer Vacation

It started and ended with The Avengers. I caught the final showing of the movie yesterday evening, which is why my Blog Roundup post was so late. Now we're playing the waiting game until September 25 and the DVD release. Can it be September now? (Well, okay, so it's coming back to the on-post theater at the end of July, and I may very well try to go see it then.)

To be perfectly honest, I didn't to a lot of work this month. After about the middle of the month, I only logged in to Blogger a few times to make sure the posts were going up properly. I didn't log into my email or check my Facebook page, though I can see now that I probably should have since the formatting book went live. Oops. Oh, well. I'll get my thank yous out soon.

What I did do was a lot of personal and fandom writing, a lot of thinking, and a lot of planning. I discovered a few great websites and blogs that I'll be sharing over the next little while and I even created a new tumblelog of my own. I watched a lot of movies. And, perhaps most important, I just spent a lot of time playing and reading with my kiddo. Actually, reading with her is pretty much all of the reading I did this month. I read one short story from Delilah Devlin and a little bit of Richard Marcinko's autobiography, but that was only in the last few days.

Going hard with this writing thing has sucked the enjoyment out of reading for me. I needed some time away from editing and Being Serious to learn to enjoy being entertained again.

And I did learn to enjoy it! I haven't kept up an internal monologue of criticism on a single movie all month. I've even read some fanfiction that I didn't immediately want to tear apart. It has been wonderful.

For any of you struggling with your writing, and being able to enjoy reading, I whole-heartedly suggest taking time off. Don't do anything useful for a set period of time and see how much better off you are at the end of it.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Blog Roundup: June 1 - June 30, 2012

Oh, Chuck. I knew I could count on you to keep the quality coming while I was away. As usual, Chuck Wendig kept up his 25 posts: Ways To Fight Your Story's Mushy Middle, Reasons This Is The Best Time To Be A Storyteller, Things You Should Know About Writing Fantasy, Things You Should Know About Writing Sex.

Greta van der Rol wrote about local colour and asked, "How much is too much?"

Into the Morning had this interesting post on the subject of reviews. She breaks down her comments in a list to reviewers and to writers. Worth a look, I think, especially if you're a reviewer... or an author who has received a negative review.

Isis Rushdan had a simple, inspiring post on hard work.

If you want to be a bloody awful writer, James Killick has some tips for you.

Paperback Writer is such a wonderful resource blog. This month, she had a number of great posts: No-Nos for the Nasty, a review of a free editing program, and a list of short story sins.

Among her other useful posts this month, Aimee Salter wrote about the critical requirements for successful self-editing.

Sierra Godfrey's How to Sell Books post could really apply to any product you want to sell, as evidenced by her anecdote about spearmint.

Sirra collected another round of her Twitter writing tips.

I typically don't include posts from Somebody Has To Say It, but two posts stood out for the month of June: this one on dialogue attributes and this one on publishing contracts.

Stella was my most recent Blog Roundup feature, so you should already have read some of her most recent entries. If you haven't, start with this Tip of the Week post on editing and professionalism.