It All Started Because I Wanted to meet Debbie Macomber
I had spent 20+ years as a journalist and even won an award from the Society of Professional Journalists. You would think that winning that award would compel me to go further in my nonfiction endeavors. Instead it did the complete opposite. Suddenly I wasn’t feeling that little flicker of excitement that I used to feel upon starting a new assignment. Months went by and I realized that my time as a freelancer had come to an end. What did excite me was the possibility of getting back to my first love – fiction.
I promptly joined RWA and wrote 3 novels. All three are on my hard drive and one I went so far as to print it out for edits. It’s buried in a filing cabinet to this day. I don’t know if it’ll ever see the light of day again. Then, in 2011, my absolute favorite author announced a contest. Debbie Macomber, famed women’s fiction and romance author, would be choosing the winner of a novella of up to 25K to be included in a reprinting of her novella, A Family Affair.<---[endif]-->
This was it! I would write a fun, sweet romance that would win the contest. All I have ever wanted was to meet Debbie Macomber. Of course the prize had nothing to do with meeting the author. But having Debbie Macomber pick he winning story was as good as it gets for me. I wrote my story, A Husband for Danna, at break neck speed – 3 weeks. For those 3 weeks I lived at my computer, writing thousands of words per day so I could make the contest entry deadline. And I did. And for someone who, I’m ashamed to admit, is plagued with doubt and entertains negative thoughts, I look back today amazed that I never once thought about the fact that I might not win the contest.
And I didn’t. But oddly enough that didn’t faze me. The fact was that I had enjoyed writing that short, fun, fast paced story. I loved my characters, Danna and Eric. So I decided I would submit it to a small press that was looking for novellas. This time I didn’t count on getting published. I told myself “I’ll wait to see what the editor thinks.” I told my writer friends that I was hoping to get some positive criticism to make the story better. I was secretly hoping that I would be offered a contract. I wasn’t.
But, hey, that was only 1 rejection – one. At the time I didn’t even realize how lucky I was. That editor actually wrote the rejection email himself and said “I love the premise, love the idea but your characters are flat. They need work.” I could have shelved the story because, after all, I had only written it to ‘meet’ Debbie Macomber. But I loved that story. So I decided to submit to another small press that had a call for contemporary, sweet novellas.
Flash forward to Labor Day 2013 or around August 31.
I’d love to tell you that I was busy, that last weekend of the summer, rewriting my novella. After all, I need to somehow bring my characters to life. Honestly, at that point I wasn’t sure how to do that. So I submitted the story as is to this small press and crossed my fingers. Maybe she would offer some advice on how to bring those flat characters to life. She did. In fact, she did more than that. She sent me an email telling me that she loved the story and asked how open was I to revisions in order to make the story work for her. Open? Just call me a door.
The email arrived exactly on Labor Day. How fitting. I went to work to work, throwing my all into that novella. One month later I happily hit the ‘send’ button on my keyboard. And I sat back and waited to hear the good news. I pictured myself signing a contract. I envisioned the cover of my sweet book. The cover was the easiest part. Actually, I was now watching my book unfold as a movie. Did I mention that the whole time while I was writing this book, that 3 week marathon, I had been running the story as a movie in my head? I was thinking Hallmark Channel (and Debbie Macomber did have two of her books turned into Hallmark Channel movies. A girl can dream).
Stop the cameras!
Not happening. At least not at the moment. The editor sent back yet another round of extensive editing she would need to see before she would consider my book. She asked to see them no later than the first week of November. No problem. After years of working as a journalist, I’ve always loved editing. For me the editing is the easiest part of switching from non-fiction to fiction. I dove in to those edits, again making my desk my home, only leaving it for visits to the little girl’s room or bed. I’ll be honest. I am not one of those writers (you lucky gals) who can burn the midnight oil. I need my 6-7 solid hours of sleep each night. Mornings are my peak creative time.
I hit ‘send’ again. This time I’m not holding that picture of a contract or book cover in my head. I’m feeling a little less confident but still hopeful. I decide that whatever happens I’ll be better for it. And besides that, I reason with myself, most authors get dozens, hundreds and more rejections before they make that first sale. Who was I to think that I would bypass that time honored tradition?
Good thing I had that little pep talk with myself. Too bad it didn’t make the rejection hurt any less. It was just three days before Thanksgiving. After all that editing, the changes and even cutting out chunks of my story, she had decided that A Husband for Danna just wasn’t for her after all. I left my desk to lick my wounds. I took a walk out in the cool November air. I spent some time with my cats (they’re great stress relievers).
I’m a journalist. So I did what I’ve done over the 20+ years of working as one. I picked myself up, sat down at my keyboard, and wrote her an email thanking her for the opportunity of working alongside her and getting her expert help. She wrote back and wished me luck placing it elsewhere.
That night I talked to my critique partner. She offered her shoulder and some virtual chocolate and said “Why don’t you put it away for now and start something news?” But I really loved that story. Thanksgiving came and went. I didn’t work on the story anymore. I just let it sit there while I mulled around some new ideas. Then a writer from one of my RWA chapters, Faith, Hope & Love, posted about a pitch party that was being held by her publisher on Facebook.
This was it, I told myself. I would pitch my novella to them through Facebook and see what happens. If that didn’t ask to see it I would pack the story away. But they did. So I sent the completed manuscript (the one I had completely revised for the other editor) to them on December 13. And I decided to just forget about it. No more fantasizing about contracts, no more picturing contracts and no more movies in my mind.
I’m going long here so I’ll cut to the chase for you all. I actually lost track of time. On February 17, 2014 I decided to follow up my submission with a quick email. The editor’s assistant promised I would hear back with the week. I did not get my hopes up. I hadn’t gotten many fiction rejections but I’d had tons of “Sorry we can’t use your story” rejections in my nonfiction work. I was ready for a rejection and to pack up that story (so to speak).
But on February 19, 2014 I got the surprise of my life – an acceptance from Astraea Press! What makes this even better is that ten years ago I had made a deal with myself. I would be published by my 50thbirthday. Well, I had turned 51 on January 19, 2014. This email arrived exactly one month after turning 51, a year after my self-imposed deadline.
As they say, better late than never!
And that’s my story……not quite as miraculous as the authors who receive dozens, hundreds and more rejections but pretty amazing just the same.
Thanks for letting me share it on one of my most favorite places on the web!!!
Christina is giving away a copy of her novella, A Husband for Danna, so please mention you want to be entered in your comment!
Christina Lorenzen started writing as a young teen, jotting stories in wire ring composition notebooks. Her first typewriter
made it faster to get all those stories out of her head and down on paper. Her love of writing has sustained her through a myriad of
jobs that included hairdresser, legal secretary, waitress and door-to-door saleswoman.
Luckily for her, writing proved to be successful and a lot less
walking than going door to door. A Husband for Danna is Christina’s first novel. She is busy working on her next. When she
isn’t writing or reading, she can be found walking her dog, talking to her herd of cats and spending time with her family.
Connect with Christina online at:
with guest Vickie McDonough.
Howdy folks! I’m excited to return to Seekerville and visit all of you nice people. I have a cold sarsaparilla here to wet my whistle, and I’m settling in to stay for a bit.
For those who don’t know me, I’m best known for writing historical romances set in the Old West, but I have been known to dabble in contemporary writing. As of this October, I will have 34 books and novellas that have been released, and only three of those are contemporaries. My latest contemporary is Rancher Under Fire, a Love Inspired Suspense, which releases Sept 2nd.
Today, I thought we’d talk about few random things that will help you create good historical dialogue. As with science fiction and fantasy writers, the historical author must create a believable world for their characters to live in, and a big part of that world is how your characters talk and communicate. To engage the reader, you must bring the time period to life with interesting dialogue.
1. Remember that your reader wasn’t born a hundred years ago.
The majority of your dialogue should be speech your reader can easily understand. Give your characters a unique word or two that belongs only to them, but don’t go overboard. Sprinkle in words from the past to add the flavor of the time, like you would lightly season your supper.
Here’s a line from The County Fair Bride, which will release next summer and is part of the 12 Brides of Summer Collection.
“Miss Willard, how nice to see you again. Might I inquire after your father?”
Today’s version: “Prudy, it’s great to see you again. How’s your dad doing?”
See the difference? Historical dialogue is often more formal, such as in using a person’s surname instead of their first name. The flow is a bit stiffer at times with a more formal cadence, especially for wealthier characters with a high status in society and a good education. The manners and customs of a historical era governed how the people would speak and behave. In a historical, dialogue is one of the most powerful tools to use, both to create the setting and to establish the characters.
2. Avoid overuse of dialect.
Does anyone remember the Red Neck Reading Test?
M R Ducks
M R Not
M R Too
C M Wangs
M R Ducks = Them Are Ducks
M R Not = Them Are Not
M R Too = Them Are Too
C M Wangs = See Them Wings
Here’s a link if you want to read the silly whole thing: http://jokes.edigg.com/Redneck/Reading_Test.shtml
Let me just say, do not write like this! I’m sure you wouldn’t, but I don’t want you to think I’m endorsing it. I just goes to show you that you can take dialect way too far.
Okay, I’ll confess that I’m a g-dropper. I write a lot of westerns with cowboys and sometimes hick characters, and I tend to drop a “g” on the end of some verbs. Some sources say not to do that, but I like it and think it gives the reader a better sense of the character’s drawl. Don’t drop the “g” on every –ing verb though. That would be overkill. Be selective with any dialect you use.
3. Watch for anachronisms: What is that? Something or someone not in its correct historical or chronological time. I once read a historical set in the 1880s where the hero was carving a toy truck for a child. Yikes! He can’t carve something that hasn’t been invented yet. Keeping with the topic, words that are common to us often slip into our writing, and we never stop to think they weren’t around at the time our story takes place. Take the word, “nursing” as in “nursing an infant.” According to http://etymonline.com/ this term dates to the 1530s. If you write Biblical fiction or stories in the Early Middle Ages, you’d be inaccurate if you used that term. “Electrifying” is another word you must be cautious of in historicals.
Here’s a goof I got called out on by my editor while she was editing Song of the Prairie, which just released:
Aaron mentally smacked himself upside the head.
I changed it to: Aaron inwardly chastised himself.
The second version doesn’t have quite the visual impact that the first one does, but my editor was correct in saying it sounded too modern.
Here’s another site you might find helpful in determining when a word was used: https://books.google.com/ngrams
I asked a couple of writer friends for tips to pass on to you.
Here’s one from Connie Stevens—the author, not the actress:
Nothing will yank me out of a story faster than a character in a 19th century story saying something like, “No way” or “I’m out of here.” Even many phrases that were used in the 18th and 19th centuries carry a different connotation in the 21st century, so we must be careful to stay in the period with dialogue.
For example: the term “out of pocket” was originally used in the late 1600s to mean someone was broke—out of money. It later grew to mean having to pay for something out of my own pocket or to label “out-of-pocket expenses.” Today, “out of pocket” can mean a person is going to be out of the office. So even if the phrase is essentially correct, it can sound contemporary.
Angie Breidenbach says:
Using words of the time period. It helps to read books published during the time you're writing. Read letters and journals too. I love the old newspapers!! Hilarious stuff in those and very much written as the spoken word, gossipy, in most of them. Look at the ads too. The way ads are phrased is very conversational in old newspapers and magazines :)
From Amanda Cabot:
In general, I advise authors to use more formality in dialogue. That means fewer contractions and fewer sentence fragments. I also like to substitute "four and twenty" for "twenty-four," since it adds an historical flavor to the story without being overwhelming.
Margaret Brownley offers two resources I haven’t heard of before: My favorite dialogue resources are I Hear America Talking and Listening to America by Stuart Berg Flexner. These books are well-organized and fun to read. For example if you look up the word courtship you’ll find pages of the popular terms used throughout the years starting from the 18th century (bill and coo) to the roaring twenties (dating).
That’s some excellent advice from well-published authors. I hope you found something you could use. Before I close, I want to leave you with some other resources to help with writing dialogue and dialect.
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms book.
Here’s an interesting dialect map if you can make sense of it and read the tiny font: http://aschmann.net/AmEng/#SmallMap
This is a cool site that lets you listen to audio recordings of people from all 50 states so that you can hear their dialect: http://www.dialectsarchive.com/united-states-of-america
Dialect Survey: http://www4.uwm.edu/FLL/linguistics/dialect/staticmaps/states.html
I LOVE! this site. Each state has a long list of words with different pronunciations, and it shows the percentage of people from that state who say the word each way. In the example below, 87.76% of Oklahomans say “ant” for the word “aunt.” (How do you pronounce the word?)
a. [ ] as in "ah" (6.12%)
b. [ ] as in "ant" (87.76%)
c. [ ] as in "caught" (2.04%)
Farewell, y’all, and may God bless your writing. Be sure to share your pet peeves when it comes to dialect. Two commenters will win a copy of Song of the Prairie.
(Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.)
Song of the Prairie
Janie Dunn's life changes when, at the request of her dying cousin, she flees with her cousin's newborn son to protect him from his abusive father. She moves to Kansas, but things take a dire change when her brother is killed. Is a marriage of convenience to kindhearted Aaron Harper the answer to her problems? Is Kansas far enough away from New York that they are safe from the baby's father?
Bestselling author Vickie McDonough grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead she married a computer geek who is scared of horses. She now lives out her dreams in her fictional stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen, and others living in the Old West during the 1800s. Vickie is the award-winning author of over thirty published books and novellas. Her books include the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series, and End of the Trail, which was the OWFI 2013 Best Fiction Novel winner. Whispers on the Prairie was a Romantic Times Recommended Inspirational Book for July 2013.
Vickie has been married thirty-eight years, is the mother of four grown sons, one of whom is married, and she is grandma to a precocious eight-year-old girl. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, antiquing, watching movies, and traveling. To learn more about Vickie’s books or to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website: www.vickiemcdonough.com
Debby Giusti here!
As promised, I’m blogging today about my experience at this year’s Romance Writers of America National Conference, held at the beautiful Marriott Marquis on the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas. My daughter, Mary accompanied me, and we arrived on Monday to experience San Antonio’s Southwest hospitality before the start of the conference, which gave us time for leisurely strolls and stops at shops and restaurants that bordered the waterway.
|Remember the Alamo!|
Tuesday morning, we joined Janet Dean and her husband for a full-day tour that started at the Alamo. Established as a mission in 1718 and later used as a military outpost, the Alamo has been preserved as a shrine to the 186 heroic men who stood with Colonel William Travis, Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett against General Santa Anna and his army. Outnumber and under siege for 13 days, the men fought for Texas independence and their valor and heroism live on as an inspiration to all.
From the Alamo, we headed to the outskirts of town to visit Mission Concepción. The church was dedicated in 1755 and is the oldest unrestored stone church in the US today. Mission San José, with its expansive grounds and Rose Window, provided a glimpse into the life of the missionaries who spread the Word of God and the Indians who lived and worked within the safety of the mission walls.
|Janet Dean finds a friendly cowboy at the Buckhorn Saloon.|
We ate lunch at the Buckhorn Saloon. Built in 1881, it stands as the oldest salon in Texas. While there, we toured the accompanying museum that included Bonnie and Clyde’s bullet-riddled car, Texas Ranger memorabilia and other Wild West artifacts, including a mockup re-creation of old San Antonio.
In the afternoon, we took a riverboat ride on the San Antonio River. A flood in 1921 claimed 51 lives and devastated the downtown. Bypass channels were built for flood control, and some years later, architect Robert Hugman proposed a commercial development plan which turned the much needed waterways into the fun and festive River Walk that’s a favorite destination today for all who visit the city.
|Mariachis play at La Tierra under the twinkling lights.|
Our tour included time to shop at El Mercado, and we returned later that night with Missy Tippens and her husband and daughter for dinner at La Tierra. The expansive restaurant, decorated with murals of the famous and not-so-famous, is known as the best place for San Antonians—and eager tourists—to enjoy Mexican food, Mariachi bands and lots of local color.
|(L to R) Mary Connealy, Mindy Obenhaus, Lindi Peterson, Myra Johnson
and DiAnn Mills chat after the FHL meeting.
The Faith, Hope and Love Chapter meeting Wednesday afternoon is the perfect way to start the RWA conference. Joining together in prayer for the success of the conference and for all those who attend sets the tone for the next four days.
|Debby Giusti gets ready for the Literacy Autographing.
Notice the balloons Harlequin gave their authors.
Excitement built as readers lined up, waiting for the doors to open, for the “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing that evening. More than 500 authors participated this year, and $53,800 was earned and donated to organizations that foster and encourage literacy. The Literacy Autographing is one of my favorite events. I love meeting first timers and reconnecting with old friends. Thanks to everyone who stopped by my table to say hello and pick up copies of my Writer’s Prayer and other giveaways.
|Debby and Tina Radcliffe pose for a picture.
|Piper Hugely stops by Missy Tippens' table.|
Last week, Myra Johnson recapped a few of the workshops she attended. If you missed her blog, "A Random Recap: RWA 2014," you can find it here.
Like Myra, I attended Marie Force’s workshop, “So Your Books Have Taken Off… Now What?” I came away thinking of my writing as a business. I’m not in Marie’s league, but I do need to have long-term goals and find ways to work smarter instead of harder.
|(L to R) Mary Curry, Tina Radcliffe and Carol Post|
Here are a few notes I took from Marie's workshop:
Think like a business person. Get an email address with your author name so each email you send builds your brand. Start a mailing list. When a reader emails, ask him/her to subscribe to your newsletter. Gather snail mail addresses and consider special send outs, such as Christmas card. Your website is open for business 24/7, 365 days a year. Keep it updated. List your series books in order and include buy links. Marie went from making $2500 in 2010, to over $3M in 2013 and 2014. She didn’t expect her business to grow so quickly, and she encourages all authors to be prepared for success. (BTW, Marie Force will be the Keynote Speaker at the Moonlight and Magnolias Conference, held in Atlanta, Georgia, October 10-12. Consider attending.)
|Waiting for a workshop to begin.|
Myra also mentioned Cindi Meyers’ workshop, “Writing Faster, Writing Better.” Here's what I took away from Cindi's program:
Find free time to write by eliminating wasted activities.
The average person watches 4 hours of TV a day. Cindi’s advice. Turn off the tube.
Grab short bits of time to write.
Record writing time on your calendar to track your progress.
Use ritual to help you “go into” your writing world. Get used to writing at the same time, same place, perhaps get into the “zone” with candles or music.
Really fast writers plot so they have a road map.
When you stop at the end of the day, make notes in ALL CAPS about what you’ll write the next day.
If you get stuck, write your scenes out of order.
Limit negative self-talk.
The Internet can be a bad habit.
Perfectionism gets in the way of productivity.
Embrace your rough draft. (Cindi writes straight through until she has a completed rough draft and then polishes.)
Resist the temptation to show your draft to critique partners.
Use writing sprints to increase productivity. Set a timer for 10 to 15 minutes and just write. Don’t stop until the timer dings!
According to the Pomodoro Technique, the most efficient work is done in 20 minute time periods, followed by a 5 min break.
Go on writing retreats two or three times a year.
Accountability Partners are good.
Cindi writes 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, with a yield of 3,000 words per day. She spends 3 to 4 days in prep prior to beginning a new story, and does one big revision and one fine-tuning review when her draft is completed. She writes a HQ Intrigue in 5 to 6 weeks and spends three months on a 90,000 single title. Although she writes for different lines, she works on one book at a time.
|Harlequin even decorated the furniture with their logo
for their big party!
I moderated Love Inspired Editor Emily Rodmell and Harlequin Editor Susan Litman’s “Tips for the Perfect Pitch from the Editor’s Side of the Table” Workshop.
Susan started off the hour by saying: Consider every pitch as a moment of opportunity. Do your homework and know what the editor is acquiring. Does your project hit her sweet spot? Check to ensure your manuscript fits that particular publisher’s needs. Remember you’re selling your story and yourself. Index cards are fine, but don’t rely solely on them. Practice your pitch, and include word count, hooks, blurb and plot.
|On the dance floor at the Harlequin party.|
Emily offered the following advice:
Consider the pitch a conversation rather than a monologue. Focus on the plot, conflict and hooks. Hooks can include a special location, Amish or secret baby, and/or a particular occupation, such as cowboys or firemen. Include both internal and external conflict. You’re the architect of your story. Tell the editor why your story is memorable, along with the obstacle that will keep your hero and heroine from falling in love? Mention if you’re published. The manuscript should be completed. Share your marketing strategies, such as your followers on social media, and explain why you want to write for their particular house. Submit as soon as possible. Include a short email and mention something to refresh the editor’s memory about your project. Make eye contact and smile. Don’t bring your manuscript.
|Tanya Aglar and Julie Hilton Steele are so pretty!|This year, I choose workshops that focused heavily on business, hybrid writing, and ways to juggle traditionally published stories and independent releases to build readership.
A number of workshops talked about writing fast and releasing stories—full-length, novella or short stories—every ninety days to keep readers remembering your name and buying your work.
In the past, the publishing house or agent was orchestrating a writer’s career. Now the writer is the CEO of her writing business.
Not yet published? You’re learning your craft. Pubbed or not, we all need to increase our productivity and keep our eye on any changes in the industry.
Indie author Hugh Howey and his agent, Kristin Nelson, in a PAN workshop, “The Down and Dirty: What It Means to be an Outlier,” talked about earning a living by writing. Hugh went from earning $200/month to $3,000/month by releasing work every three months. He writes short stories and releases them independently to generate more interest in his full-length books and claims good content and regularity are the keys to his successful career. Kristin said we’ll see more changes in the next three to five years, and those changes will happen first in the romance genre.
This year, the Keynote luncheon was held on Thursday. In lieu of a second luncheon, the conference attendees received breakfast on Friday and Saturday, followed by General Session speakers Cindy Ratzlaff and Karen Rose. Each person attending got a free copy of their books, and following their talks, the ladies autographed in the lobby. I like the new format and found the talks inspirational and a great way to start each day.
Our lunch break was shortened, which made room for more workshops. President-elect Cindy Kirk, the RWA board and staff were always available to answer questions or help with any problems. Cindy is an outstanding leader, and I’m looking forward to her tenure as president.
|The Awards Ceremony Saturday night.|
I often hear Christian writers question whether to attend RWA. Everything I know, I learned from my GA RWA chapter. This year’s National Conference was warm and welcoming. I always felt surrounded by good friends, perhaps because I was usually with Seekers and Villagers and other Love Inspired authors. Joking aside, RWA offers something for everyone, and I encourage you to consider attending next year when it will be held in New York City. You’ll mix and mingle with industry professions and editors and agents and have lots of opportunities to pitch, to network, to improve your craft and sell your story.
|After the Awards Ceremony. Tomorrow we head home.|
Share your RWA experiences from this year or from past conferences. Leave a comment to be entered in the first-ever drawing for my October Love Inspired Suspense. I’ll be giving away five copies of HOLIDAY DEFENDERS, featuring my novella, “Mission: Christmas Rescue.”
In honor of San Antonio and RWA, I’m serving Southwestern Breakfast Burritos, Scrambled Eggs with Cheese and Peppers, Quesadillas, an assortment of pastries, ham and…you guessed right…GRITS! Enjoy! The coffee and tea are hot. Pour a cup of your favorite beverage, and let’s talk about books and writing and what we learned at RWA!
Wishing you abundant blessings,
MISSION: CHRISTMAS RESCUE
On the run from a killer, Elizabeth Tate must accept U.S. Army captain Nick Fontaine’s protection for the sake of her young niece and nephew. Now her life is in the hands of the very man who broke her heart years ago.
Sherri Shackelford here, fresh from conquering The Big Apple. And by ‘conquering’ I mean I didn't die.
Because my good friend wrote a fabulous book, I had the opportunity to attend the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City a few weeks ago. (You may recognize the book by Cheryl St.John – Writing with Emotion, Tension and Conflict.)
Several attendees mentioned how many classes were offered on ‘selling your book’ or ‘how to get your book published quickly’ rather than ‘how to write a great book’. The sentiment was something I heard echoed throughout social media from the Romance Writers of America Conference. (Full disclosure-I didn’t actually attend RWA this year. Maybe they were lying.)
Curious, I thumbed through my RWA conference booklet from 2008 in San Francisco. I was a starry-eyed young writer back then. I was still green and hungry for knowledge with less than a year of learning under my belt. Thankfully, there were plenty of sessions about craft for a newbie.
Which left me wondering: Are we selling books, or selling out?
I’ve just sent off the proposal for my fifth book to my editor at Harlequin this week. So you’d think I’d know what I was doing by now, right? Wrong. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.
Which brings me back to the question: Are we selling books, or selling out?
I came into the business at a great time. Indie publishing was still in its infancy and I didn’t have any other choice but to learn the hard way through a series of rejections and re-writes.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not here to champion traditional publishing. Unless, of course, you’re a big fan of dying poor beneath a leaky garret. (Just kidding. I’m not kidding. I am. Mostly kidding.)
I am, however, a fan of learning. When my first book was published, I received a small burst of interest from other authors curious about ‘how I did it.’ (Not in a scary OJ Simpson kind of way, I’m sure.) These fresh new authors wanted me to give them an honest opinion of their work.
These authors wanted me to tell them they were great and ‘here’s my agent’s home email’ and ‘here’s my editor’s private line to the red ‘publish-this-person-now’ phone’. They wanted me to dress up in old-timey clothing and write A++++++++ on the chalkboard.
Don’t be that person.
Why sell books before their time simply because we can?!
A lot of what I learned in New York is old news for most people, but it’s a good refresher.
1. Take advantage of Goodreads. That’s where the readers hang out. But don’t be creepy and try and sell your books all the time. Engage people in discussions about other books you both love. Join groups and learn what people are reading and enjoying. Never, Never, NEVER engage a reviewer. EVER. Not unless you want cyber pitchforks lobbed at you. Read all the rules of the groups you join and FOLLOW them. Don’t be like your brother-in-law, the Amway salesman, and make people hide behind potted plants to avoid you.
2. Gather a mailing list. People read 1% of their twitter feed and see about 10% of their facebook posts. Everyone reads email.
3. Don’t bug people on facebook. They want to see pictures of your cat wearing a sailor hat. Really. Or maybe a nice meme of Tom Hiddleston ordering you to relax and take a bath. People do not want to hear ‘buy my book’ blah blah blah ‘buy my book.’ Sure, they like to hear about new releases and they enjoy cover reveals. They also like to hear how you dictate all your books to a male-model-turned-secretary while wearing your pink silk mules and a diaphanous peignoir. (C’mon, we’re all selling a dream, right?)
4. Have a nice website. It doesn’t have to be Potterville, but don’t have something that looks like your brother-in-law, the Amway salesman, designed it. Update your website. If your biography has your 2008 release listed as ‘new’, update the information. People are looking for an easy way to discover your backlist. Help them.
5. Stop worrying so much about selling your books and building a platform, and spend more time writing new books. More content drives more sales than a Tom Hiddleston meme.
6. It’s okay to be traditionally published. The galaxy will not be cloaked in evil if you sign with a Big Five Publisher. It’s also okay to be a hybrid author. It’s okay to be Indie published. There’s no need for ‘Team Indie’ and ‘Team Traditional’ T-shirts.
7. The guy from Amazon doesn’t differentiate between small-press and self-publishing. It’s Big Five or Indie. I don’t know what that means, but I thought it was interesting.
8. Figure out metadata. And when you do, explain metadata to me. That class was really overwhelming.
Here’s what I learned about craft from the Writer’s Digest Conference:
1. Never stop learning. (Actually, that’s not from the conference – that’s from me.)
2. Good stories will trump good writing. (I know we’re all thinking about the-book-that-shall-not-be-named with the numbers ‘5’ and ‘0’ in the title.) Read Lisa Cron’s ‘Wired for Story’ and search the Seekerville blog for further explanation. (I once had an admired friend tell me she enjoyed THAT book. She sunk in my estimation faster than an Italian cruise ship. Then, she said, "It drew me in." You can't argue with that.)
3. A story is emotion. Read Cheryl St.John’s, ‘Writing with Emotion, Tension and Conflict.’ Take special note of the excerpt from Sherri Shackelford. (Just kidding. I’m not kidding. I am. Mostly kidding.)
4. Writing books is hard work. If it’s not hard work, you’re doing it wrong. The fun is in the beginning when everything is fresh and wonderful. The fun is at the end when all that work is behind you. The fun usually dies somewhere in the middle when you realize you’ve just spent three months writing THE WORST BOOK EVER WRITTEN. Real authors suck it up and push on. Hobby authors start a new project.
Here’s the thing—I don’t know how to tell when your work is good enough for publication. There’s always some point in the process where I’m pulling out my hair and having serious discussions with my husband about how I’m planning on hitchhiking around the country to pull my current books from Wal-mart shelves one by one because they’re awful. To which my husband inevitably replies. “Keep the crazy at home, and you already spent the advance.”
(Joke’s on him—I let the crazy go public a LONG time ago!)
I DO know it’s a good idea to keep learning, to ask for and accept criticism -- hire a professional editor. (Not your brother-in-law, the Amway salesman.) Attend lots of conference and share what you’ve learned. Especially about metadata. Because metadata is really confusing for some people.
Bad books do not a good career make. Discoverability is getting more and difficult. Earning money is a good thing. Self-promotion is important. (For example: If everyone reading this blog could buy a copy of The Cattleman Meets His Match and then pop on over to Goodreads and/or Amazon and leave a review, that would be great!)
But please don’t annoy people all day long with blah, blah, blah ‘buy my book.’ And don’t just sell books. Sell GREAT books! That’s what I learned at Writer’s Digest.
Now, my question to you, Seekerville is this: What is the new apprenticeship/polishing process in this brave new world of publishing?
I’ll give away two copies of The Cattleman Meets His Match to people who comment!
The Cattleman Meets His Match
GALAHAD IN A STETSON
Cowboy John Elder needs a replacement crew of cattle hands to drive his longhorns to Kansas—he just never figured they'd be wearing petticoats. Traveling with Moira O'Mara and the orphan girls in her care is a mutually beneficial arrangement. Yet despite Moira's declaration of independence, the feisty beauty evokes John's every masculine instinct to protect, defend…marry?
Moira is grateful for John's help when he rescues her—and she can't deny that his calm, in-control manner proves comforting. But she is determined not to let anything get in the way of her plans to search for her long-lost brother at journey's end. However, can John show her a new future—one perfect for them to share?
A wife and mother of three, Sherri Shackelford's hobbies include collecting mismatched socks, discovering new ways to avoid cleaning, and standing in the middle of the room while thinking, “Why did I just come in here?” A reformed pessimist and recent hopeful romantic, Sherri has a passion for writing. Her books are fun and fast-paced, with plenty of heart and soul.
Sherri is currently working on three more books for her Cimarron Springs series. Her current books include Winning the Widow’s Heart and The Marshal’s Ready-Made Family, and The Cattleman Meets His Match. The Engagement Bargain releases in February of 2015. Visit her website at sherrishackelford.com or contact her email@example.com
Where is Your Warrior?
If you’re like me, writing can be a war zone. Every day I march to my computer and battle with words. Sometime I carry the flag and stand on my desk and scream victory. And other times I hide under my desk and cower like a . . . little girl. I make the choice to be successful. I don’t choose my circumstances, and neither am I controlled by them. I am a writing warrior.
Writing tactics vary according to personality, and all of us have ways to achieve our objective in a strategic manner. We approach our stories with proven maneuvers we’ve learned from other writers, and we’re not afraid of making adjustments. The crazy truth? There isn’t a perfect way to create a novel.
If you doubt your fighting and survival abilities in the writing and publishing world; if you want to crawl out of your foxhole and write a marketable story, here are ten ways to champion the writing warrior in you.
The Writing Warrior
1. <---[endif]-->Purpose: A warrior understands the goal of his craft is to pen a manuscript that exceeds anything the writer has created in the past. The elements of story are deepened through vigorous practice and a review of skills. The first line of defense is creativity.
2. <---[endif]-->Motivation: A warrior finds the drive to begin and finish a story by understanding his purpose and ignoring the enemy flanks approaching on all sides.
3. <---[endif]-->Determination: A writing warrior isn’t afraid of an ambush. In fact, the writer is prepared. Revisions from the editor, changes in the industry, and personal situations don’t have to be an ambush. A writer is ready with a counter-attack. We arrange our schedules to finish manuscripts before the due date so a hitch in our professional, personal, and psychological life doesn’t flatten us. We find the resources necessary to do the work. Period.
4. <---[endif]-->Mental: Courage takes its form in ways that are often unpredictable. A writer is prepared by mentally being aware of what success entails, training the mind to review and add ammunition to his arsenal. The writer isn’t afraid to invest in how-to books, explore the best methods to use social media, or research the best writer conferences. A warrior seeks the tools to keep his morale up.
5. <---[endif]-->Physical: A warrior trains his body so his mind will respond accurately. This means eating nutritionally healthy foods and exercising daily. Put the good stuff into your body, train it, and watch it operate more efficiently by defeating self-doubt and exhaustion.
6. <---[endif]-->Spiritual: The Bible says to put on the armor of God so we can stand firm in our faith. Do you wear your faith like a set of new clothes? Are you clothed in the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, boots of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit? A warrior without faith is defeated before he begins. Look up for your marching orders, not at your fingers on the keyboard.
7. <---[endif]-->Objective: A warrior knows his objective before he straps on his weapons. He trains with courage. Don’t be afraid of guerrilla warfare. If your story isn’t flowing the way you envisioned, take a step back. Look at the story from another angle. What happens in the middle of your story that changes everything for your characters? What detail in your backstory pushes a character into unexpected action? Reach out for a critique partner. Work your way back from the story’s resolution.
8. <---[endif]-->Hunger: A warrior craves his very best and leads the charge. Do you hunger for your work to be viewed as respected, a strong story that entertains and inspires the reader? Does your heart want a manuscript that fulfills a need?
9. <---[endif]-->Love and compassion: A warrior takes every weary step forward because of his love for people. The world is filled with hurting people, and he wants to protect and help them overcome adversity by showing them how to be warriors.
10. <---[endif]-->Commitment: A warrior faces the challenges of the ever-changing writing and publishing industry by seeking information that teaches new concepts. His allegiance to story and pleasing readers links him to all areas of writing and publication. A warrior doesn’t admit defeat; he’s armed with knowledge that ensures he’s still writing when the smoke clears.
Have you discovered your hidden warrior? A writer without a battle is a writer who’s given in to the echoes of defeat and forgotten the will to create.
I’m a writing warrior. What about you?
Okay warriors! Leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of Firewall.
After a whirlwind romance, Taryn Young is preparing to board a plane at Houston International Airport, bound for a dream honeymoon, when a bomb decimates the terminal. Injured but still alive, she awakens to discover her husband is missing and they’re both considered prime suspects in the attack. Further, the FBI is convinced her husband isn’t who he appears to be.
Agent Grayson Hall’s number-one priority is to catch those responsible for the day’s act of terror. All evidence is pointing to Taryn and her new husband. But his instinct tells him her pleas of innocence are genuine. Is her naiveté just for show, or could she truly be another victim of a master scheme, possibly linked to the software she recently developed for her company?
With both their lives and reputations on the line, and the media outcry for justice increasing with each passing minute, Taryn and Grayson have no choice but to trust one another . . . and pray they can uncover the truth before they become two more casualties.
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than sixty books published.
Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; the 2014 president of the Romance
Writers of America’s Faith, Hope, & Love chapter; and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.
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