Blog Archives

The Many Moods of Writing

We’ve done all of these and more! How about you?

 

Why Writers Shouldn’t Read Reviews

The agony and the ecstasy. That’s the best way to describe what it is like for authors to read reviews of their books. It’s natural to want to know what readers think of your story, but, overall, it is better to give it a miss. Why? Reviews will eventually affect your writing.

But isn’t that the point, some folks will ask. Don’t reviews help authors improve, point out flaws, show them the strengths and weaknesses of the story? Not necessarily. Reviews reflect the personal experience of the reader and every reader’s experience is unique. Readers bring their own ideas, fears, prejudices, and emotions to any book they read and will interpret the story through the filter of their own perception.

No writer can write to meet the expectations and beliefs of every reader. Louis May Alcott in her book Little Women describes the character Jo’s struggle with this very problem. Jo has written a book and everyone around her has made helpful suggestions about how she can make the book better. She rewrites the book according to these criticisms and the book is published.

Well, it was printed and she got three hundred dollars for it; likewise plenty of praise and blame, both so much greater than she expected that she was thrown into a state of bewilderment.

“You said, Mother, that criticism would help me. But how can it, when it’s so contradictory that I don’t know whether I’ve written a promising book or broken all the ten commandants?”

It can be very confusing to read some of the comments reviewers make. Some reviewers praise our book for being great science fiction. Others say it is pure fantasy. Still other rail that it should be one or the other. One reviewer complained that we used too many “ten dollar words” while another reader lambasted us for having a limited vocabulary. Some love the story, claiming it was the best book they ever read. Others attack with such nastiness that you might think our book was going to be the cause of the fall of western civilization.

Bewildering, indeed.

The worst part is that when an author sits down to write, these reviews rattle around in his head subtly, and sometimes not-so-subtly, tainting his writing. Gee, someone really loved this; I’d better give them more of it. Hmm, someone really hated that. Better leave it out altogether. And on and on.

Reviews can get in the way of creativity. They obscure the unique perspective an author brings to her book. Part of the joy of writing is the creating a story for the love of telling a tale your own way. If an author begins to try to write to suit other people’s visions of the story, the uniqueness is lost.

The joy of reading comes from interpreting the story from your own viewpoint. Each reader takes away a different experience from a book. Reviews are nothing more than an expression of each reader’s unique view of the world. So, authors, don’t take it to heart.

Living your life according to what others think is best for you is dust and ashes. Creating stories according to what others think is best is the same.

We’ve Been Editing Our New Book

Sung to the tune “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”

 

We’ve been editing our new book

all the livelong day!

We’ve been editing our new book,

and the time has slipped away.

We can see the deadline looming

so we rise up early in the morn.

We can hear each other shouting

“Damn it, cut some more!”

 

Damn it, cut some more!

Damn it, cut some more!

Damn it, cut some more and more, more, more!

Damn it, cut some more!

Damn it, cut some more!

Damn it, cut some more, more, more!

 

Someone has to check for grammar.

Someone has to check for form.

Someone has to check for style.

While rewriting it some more!

 

We’re singin’ “Gee, why did I write this?

Gee, this piece has to go-o-o-o-o.

Gee, why is editing so damn hard?

Wish we were strummin’ on the old banjo!”

Why Book Promotion Sucks

1. It’s tedious. Not at first. At first it’s new and exciting. Kind of like falling in love. But as time passes, monotony sets in. How many ways can you say “buy my book”? How many times do you have to say it? The answer? Forever! It’s an endless Groundhog Day of tweets, blurbs, and blogs. (Groundhog Day. The movie with Bill Murray where he lives the same day over and over. Just rent it and watch it. You’ll see what we mean.)

2. Everyone else is doing it. Yep. Me, you, our plumber, your mother-in-law, and everyone else on the block. The result? A cacophony of white noise in which nearly everyone’s attempts to be heard are lost. Like The Cricket in Times Square. (A book by George Selden. Go to the library. Borrow it and read it. You will see what we mean.)

3. It’s time consuming. Hours and hours every day. Must post. Must blog. Must check stats. It eats loads of time. Time that could be spent writing. Most authors are aware that the more books you write, the more income you bring in. And writing is what authors love to do. But who has time to do it? (Yes, we can already hear the writers who will say, I network, raise children, sew my own clothes, bake my own bread, and write ten novels a year. We admire you. We also promise to send flowers when you drop dead from over-work.)

4. It’s painful. In several ways.  Physically. (Repetitive strain injuries from being on the computer too much. Also headaches from banging one’s head on the desk. ) Mentally. (I can’t possibly think of one more blog/post/tweet. Plus my head hurts from banging it on the desk.) Emotionally. (Riding the roller coaster of feelings as we watch our stats rise to new heights only to tumble back, dashing all our hopes. And the drama of restraining each other from banging our heads on the desk.)

5. We suspect it is not quite as necessary as everyone believes it is. Do our tweets, blogs and posts really make a difference? Probably not. We don’t have enough followers on any site to claim that we have reached a broad range of people. And yet our books are selling; sales are steady. (Phew. We can stop banging our heads on the desk.)

The bottom line? Ratings, reviews, and pricing seem to matter the most in promoting a book. What do authors do when they want their books to be noticed? They cut the price and have a sale. Some give a book away for free, knowing this will draw attention to their work. The hope is that if readers like the free book, they will be willing to pay for other novels by the same author.

We are going to try an experiment. (Actually it is already underway.) We are cutting back on all the social networking. Not abandoning it, just reducing the amount of time spent on promotion so we can spend more time writing. for when it comes right down to it, a good quality story is the best promotional tool of all.

 

How Writers Exercise

You would think that sitting at a computer all day would mean that writers get darn little exercise. Not so! Using just a few objects found in any house, writers can stay fit. Here’s how:

1. Cat. Preferably, more than one cat. Sit at the computer. Begin to type. At the sound of a loud crash in another room, jump up and race to the scene. Clean up broken vase/lamp/knickknack. Return to computer. Begin to type. When loud hissing and snarling breaks out, run to the next room. Observe cats sitting calmly washing themselves and looking at you as if wondering why you are breathing so hard.

2. Washer and Dryer. Throw a load of clothes in the washer. Run back upstairs. Sit at computer. Begin to type. Remember fabric softener. Run back downstairs. Add fabric softener. Run back upstairs. Sit at computer. Actually type a few pages. Washer buzzer sounds. Run back downstairs. Transfer load to dryer. Start second load. Run back upstairs. Begin to type. Remember dryer sheet. Run back down stairs. See washer spilling water all over the floor. Grab mop and begin aerobic mopping.

3. Stove. Place main course in oven. Sit at computer. Begin to type. Jump up and run to kitchen to start the potatoes. Return to computer. Begin to type. Jump up and run back to kitchen to turn down potatoes which are boiling over. Return to computer. Begin to type. Buzzer sounds. Jump up, run to kitchen and turn meat over. Return to computer. Begin to type. Encounter really exciting scene which is flowing so beautifully you are transported. Come to when smoke alarm sounds. Race madly to kitchen to put out the fire.

4. Spouse. Get married. Sit at computer. Begin to type. Spouse calls from basement. Jump up and run downstairs. Answer perfectly simple question about what to do with old box of junk. Run back upstairs. Begin to type. Spouse calls from garage. Run out to garage. Help lift several heavy boxes of junk to make room for new box of junk. Return to computer. Begin to type. Spouse calls from front yard. Get up and run outside. Cat escaped while spouse was carrying box of junk to the garage. Spend next twenty minutes jogging around the yard chasing the cat.

5. Kids. Self-explanatory.

6. Telephone. Sit at computer. Begin to type. Phone rings. Jump up, since it is the land line in the other room, and run to see who it is. A telemarketer. Return to computer. Begin to type. Cell phone rings. Jump up (because the phone is in the bedroom on the nightstand) and run. Friend texting silly joke. Return to computer. Begin to type. BOTH phones ring. Answer cell phone (which you have cleverly brought with you) while running for the other line. Friend wants to know if you received the funny text. Telemarketer wants to sell you a gym membership. Laugh so hard it counts as aerobic breathing.

 

We’re Blogging When We Should Be Writing

We saw an interesting post on Twitter last week. An author wrote that he was spending more time promoting his books than writing them.

We know the feeling.

Facebook. Twitter. Blogs. Etc., etc., etc. Get the word out. Plug that book. Get another follower. Create some book trailers. Speak at a library, school, town fair, supermarket, doctor’s waiting room. (Yes, we did.) In short, SPREAD THE WORD.

Why do we spend all this time on promotion? We were asked that question by a student in a school where we recently spoke. Sigh. There are several reasons.

1. The book promotion elves are not taking any new clients.

2. The reading public, amazingly, had never heard of us before our first book came out.

3. Do you know how many books are published each year? (Um, we didn’t either. A quick check produced a figure of over 955,900 according to worldometers. The scary thing was the counter that was recording the number of published books changed every few minutes. Goodness knows what it will be when you are reading this.)

4. The cost of hiring someone to do it for us made us hyperventilate.

Seriously, book promotion is a necessary evil. Evil? Well, perhaps, time-suck would be a better term. Yes, yes, we have read the blogs from authors who tell us we should glory in promotion, look it in the eye, wrestle it into submission. We’ve also seen the posts about making book promotion our friend, lavishing it, loving it for all the good it does for us.

We admire the authors who are gung-ho about promoting their books. We marvel at them, wondering how they do it all, where they get the time. We are secretly convinced some of them have a time machine, or perhaps a Time-Turner just like Hermione in the Harry Potter series. Write a few chapters, turn back time, do some book promotion. Write a few more chapters, turn back time, do some more book promotion.

However, the small, rebellious writer in each of us resents the time spent promoting books. Time spent on promotion is time spent not writing. And writing is what we love to do. Does this mean we are going to stop blogging, tweeting, posting on facebook? No. We’re committed to our writing careers and therefore committed to promoting our books.

But if anyone has a spare Time-Turner they aren’t using, please let us know.

 

 

The Usual Chaos

Last winter, as a blizzard approached, we planned to stay inside, all nice and cozy, and write.  (See How to Write a Book During a Blizzard for details of that fiasco.) Now, as Hurricane Irene nears, we have once again resolved to spend our time writing. This time, we had plenty of warning. We have already gone shopping, the lawn furniture is safely inside, batteries have been purchased, cell phones and laptops charged. Nothing left to do but plot, edit and write. Right?

Well, first we have to check our email because we won’t be able to do that once we lose power. And we’d better take a look at our Facebook page, too. Oh, look a new friend! And a few people have liked our new book trailer. Wait! That’s not the new one. Yes, it is. No, it’s not! Hmm. Maybe you’re right. We’d better upload the new one. (Upload, upload, upload, why is it taking so long?!)

Now Twitter. A bunch of new followers. Better follow back. Some mentions. (TY, TY, TY). A retweet! (TY!). Need to tweet about the new trailer. Hey, that’s a good one! Retweet! And some hurricane info. Retweet that, too. Start scrolling. Interesting… Yada, yada, yada, Hey, that one’s cool! Hmmm, let’s click on that link… Look, some new tweets have come in! Oops! Have we really been on for an hour?

Enough! We’re supposed to be writing. But wait! We haven’t written a blog this week! Can’t we just skip one week? Just once? No! (Horrified look.) Think of something. (Silence.) Well? (More silence.) Well… Umm… (Extended silence.) Are you sure we couldn’t just skip… NO!!

So here we sit writing a blog about how hard it is to find time to write. (Or how easy it is to be distracted from writing. Take your pick.) And now that we’ve finished, we are going to work on our next book.

Right after we take a nap.

Connecticut Authors Trail

We are very excited to have been invited to participate in the 3rd annual Connecticut Authors Trail. We will be appearing at the Sprague Public Library in Baltic, Connecticut on July 21st at 6:30pm.

The Connecticut Authors Trail consists of a consortium of Libraries in Eastern Connecticut who are constantly amazed at the variety of genres and diverse styles of writing among the authors who live in or are associated with the Nutmeg State. Beginning July 12th, 2011 in Franklin and ending September 22, 2011 at the Mohegan Sun, local authors will showcase their books and share their stories. Please join us on the 3rd Annual CAT.

Passports are available free at participating libraries throughout the summer as a guide to the author events. Have your passport stamped at each author event for a chance to qualify for an exclusive pre-program Meet & Greet in the Cabaret Theatre at the Mohegan Sun on Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 6:00 pm. If you can’t make the Trail during the summer you are invited to meet many of the authors from the Trail on Thursday, September when the doors to The Cabaret Theatre open at 6:30 pm. Then stay and join us for a fun-filled evening starting 7:00 pm.

 

Genre Busting

Every book has a genre, right? Or perhaps not. Trying to describe the particular genre of a book these days is not as cut and dried as some may think or even want it to be. When is a mystery not a mystery? When it’s suspense. But aren’t mysteries by definition, full of suspense? And what if a mystery novel also has a romance? Then it’s romantic suspense. Throw in something supernatural? Paranormal fiction. Add some magic and set it in the present day. Urban fantasy.  But what do you call a book that has mystery, romance, and a little magic? A paranormal urban fantasy suspense novel? Sheesh! Labeling can be taken too far!

Many folks want books to fit neatly into one major category, and we understand readers’ desires to find books in genres that they love. But good stories often have details that fall outside “the genre”. We love tales that include a little mystery, a little romance, a little adventure. Unexpected elements add interest and depth to a story. And if that means the book doesn’t fit neatly into one genre, so what? Most things that happen in life don’t fit neatly under one subject heading. Why should our books?

Of course, we know books must be classified in some way or searching for something to read could become very much like Indiana Jones searching for the Lost Ark. What we are applauding are writers who stretch the boundaries and take their particular genres for rides down new roads. Sure this may befuddle the people who love tidy labels, but the rest of us get the fun of enjoying stories that challenge our expectations.

Our book, Time’s Edge, is basically labeled sci-fi/fantasy. One review claimed it was pure fantasy, while someone else praised the book for being great science fiction. One called it a sci-fi romance, another a sci-fi/fantasy adventure. But several readers realized the book didn’t fit neatly into one particular genre. A recent review on Amazon said “I enjoy reading mystery books, science fiction books, fantasy books, and good ol’ fashioned shoot ’em ups. This book literally had all of these in there somewhere, plus a healthy dose of romance and, dare I say, lust thrown in for good measure.” Now this is our kind of reviewer. He understands that the line between genres has become blurred and what’s even better, he doesn’t seem to mind.

The Seven Stages of Writing

1. Inspiration. You have a great idea for a book. You love it. You know everyone else will love it, too. You can’t wait to start writing. You begin to make notes. On your brown lunch bag. On napkins. On little sticky notes.

2. Frenzy. You start writing. Every spare moment, you’re at the computer. The words are flowing so freely, you can’t type fast enough. You write anywhere, any time you can. On your brown lunch bag. On napkins. On little sticky notes.

3. Doubt. The plot isn’t turning out exactly the way you thought it would. (Where is that sticky note with the great plot twist…?) The characters are, perhaps, not quite right. Maybe the pacing is too slow? Perhaps the ending is a bit predictable? Perhaps… maybe…

4. Anger. Oh, crap. This plot problem is insurmountable. You can’t figure out how to end the chapter you are working on. You’re over your word count. Your characters just aren’t behaving. Your sticky notes are wadded into a giant sticky note ball. Banging your head on the desk doesn’t help.

5. Exhaustion. You feel this damn book will never be finished. You type grimly with fingers made of lead. Each word is drawn slowly and painfully from your beleaguered brain. You know you will never have another creative idea as long as you live. The sticky note ball is in the trash.

6. Acceptance. It’s done. You sigh with the relief of a mother who has just given birth. You even retrieve the sticky note ball from the trash and untangle the pages. After all, you never know. You drift off peacefully to sleep. And dream…

7. Déjà vu. See stage one.

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