Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Learning To Spread the Word

And I thought writing was hard.

Wrong!  Maybe because it's the part I enjoy most, but writing seems a dream compared to self promotion.  Like most things it's a learning process.  I don't claim to know much, and right now I don't have the sales to back up what I'm about to say, but if you are struggling to promote your own work, here is my advice.

I can't imagine there is a writer out there that isn't a member of some sort of social media, but if you're not stop right now and go sign up for one.  MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, United Basket Weavers Association . . . something.  Go on.  I'll wait.

I'm on Facebook, Goodreads, and Kindleboards.  Now, I can't say that these places will greatly increase your sales, but they can't hurt.  On Facebook I've created an Author's Page that is dedicated to just my writing.  That way I can keep my personal life and writing life a little more separate.  I also joined a couple of FB writing groups (Indie Authors International & Indie Writers Unite!).  They have been a great support to me during my short time as an indie author.

Goodreads is another great place, both for readers and writers, to discuss books, movies, or just life.  There is every kind of group to join.  You can create an author's page, start a discussion group centered around your book, make quizzes, there seems to be no end.

Also, in the right sidebar I added a section titled "Promote Your Work" that has a short list of blogs that do free reviews, interviews, or allow you to advertise your book.  There are two links to free press releases as well.  With one press release I got around 200 views on the first day.  Did that translate into sales?  Not yet, but we'll see.

Joe Konrath has said it time and time again.  E-books are forever.  That's a long time to make sales.  Self promotion can be kind of a crap shoot.  It's hard to tell, especially in the beginning, whether you have made a difference or not.  But if you do nothing at all, you have no right to complain about your terrible sales record.

Self promotion can make you feel like a wave lost in the ocean (believe me, I know).  But you never know when you'll break the surface, and with a little help you just might become a tidal wave.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Write Where You Can

So, I'm trying a little experiment the week.  My word counts have been less than fabulous of late, and it's been driving me crazy trying to figure out how to fix this.  My wife works full time and is going to school.  We have two young children.  There is always something broken at the house.  My car is trying to commit suicide.

I'm not complaining.  It's just life.  But for most of us, life and writing seem to be at odds with each other.

So, onto my experiment.

A while back I mentioned that I bought a netbook so that I could be more mobile with my writing.  Yet, I still struggled.  Kids have a way of finding you no matter where you hide.  Now, what I tell you next you'll have to promise to keep between just us.

At work I sometimes have a lot of downtime (hopefully my bosses don't read this).  So, I've been sneaking my netbook into work so that I can write in between my other duties.  So far things are going well.  I'm not getting great numbers while at work, but every little bit helps.  Right now I'm trying to finish up a few short stories that are rattling around in my head, then if thing go well, I'll be moving on to my next novel.

Of course, now that I've posted this I've most likely doomed myself to get caught.  But a writer's gotta write and sometimes the only way to get the story on paper is to write where you can.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

One Hundred and Sixteen Years Later

In 1895 Mark Twain wrote an essay titled "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses".  Twain stated that Cooper, in his work "Deerslayer", violated 18 out of 19 of the rules governing literary art.  Here we are 116 years later and the rules still hold strong.  I cannot say that I've never broken any of these rules . . . I cannot even say that I haven't broken them all.  Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

I've heard that rules are flexible and even meant to be broken. Yet that power should rest in the hands one who understands the rules through and through.  Here are the eighteen that Cooper broke.  Have you broken any of these in your latest WIP?

1. That a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere. But the "Deerslayer" tale accomplishes nothing and arrives in air. 
2. They require that the episodes in a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help to develop it. But as the "Deerslayer" tale is not a tale, and accomplishes nothing and arrives nowhere, the episodes have no rightful place in the work, since there was nothing for them to develop.
3. They require that the personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others. But this detail has often been overlooked in the "Deerslayer" tale.
4. They require that the personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there. But this detail also has been overlooked in the "Deerslayer" tale.
5. The require that when the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject at hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say. But this requirement has been ignored from the beginning of the "Deerslayer" tale to the end of it.
6. They require that when the author describes the character of a personage in the tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description. But this law gets little or no attention in the "Deerslayer" tale, as Natty Bumppo's case will amply prove.
7. They require that when a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven- dollar Friendship's Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a negro minstrel in the end of it. But this rule is flung down and danced upon in the "Deerslayer" tale.
8. They require that crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader as "the craft of the woodsman, the delicate art of the forest," by either the author or the people in the tale. But this rule is persistently violated in the "Deerslayer" tale.
9. They require that the personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable. But these rules are not respected in the "Deerslayer" tale.
10. They require that the author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and in their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones. But the reader of the "Deerslayer" tale dislikes the good people in it, is indifferent to the others, and wishes they would all get drowned together.
11. They require that the characters in a tale shall be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency. But in the "Deerslayer" tale, this rule is vacated.
In addition to these large rules, there are some little ones. These require that the author shall:
12. Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it. 
13. Use the right word, not its second cousin.
14. Eschew surplusage.
15. Not omit necessary details.
16. Avoid slovenliness of form.
17. Use good grammar.
18. Employ a simple and straightforward style.
Does anyone out there know what rule #19 is?