Rosanne Bittner: Heart of the West
Please ... Just Write!!
Today's Technology and the Business of Writing
I have to admit I felt a bit daunted recently when I listened to a conference speaker's predictions for all the changes that are (and will continue to be) taking place in the publishing world. I don't know about the rest of you, but at 65+ years old and as busy as I am, I'm not about to take time out to take a course in media print/advertising and spend hours delving into the ins and outs of today's internet offerings. I know such knowledge is important to writing today, but we all have enough things going on in our personal lives to stress about. I don't intend to add my lack of techy expertise to the long list of other things that keep me awake at night.
I fully understand that changes are taking place and that publishing will likely progress even further and in even more complicated ways into the internet's infinite future. However, one thing kept going through my mind as I listened to all the mind-boggling twitter, Facebook, blogging, rain-running-down-the-computer-screen, music-in-the-background, e-book, Kindle, Nook, i-Pad mumbo-jumbo ...
HOW ABOUT JUST WRITING A DAMN GOOD STORY FIRST?
I think we writers need to focus more on that than how in heck we'll market our books once they are published. The key is to first GET published. Yes, I know we were told that there are numbers/marketing gurus out there now who don't give a darn how good our stories are. But, my fellow writers, that can only go so far. The reading public will spend their money on pure junk for only so long. The demand for really good stories is still out there, and it will grow.
It all still comes down to the right editor at the right time seeing the right story. I guarantee that if you have written a really wonderful novel, if you make an editor laugh or cry, if you hand in a book that the editor can't put down - he or she will find a way to climb over the numbers chief and get that book published. As the author, you might have to settle for a trade-off maybe an extra low advance and not much marketing on the part of the publisher but at least you will be published and on the e-book shelves or the "in print" shelves.
I think we need to step back and take a deep breath. Shake all the internet highways out of your thoughts. Stop wondering and worrying about advances and how you will advertise and don't even worry about what the latest genre trend is now or the one soon to come.
We need instead to get away from the computer, cell phone, i-Pad, blah-blah-blah all together and just go sit outside. Find a nice park somewhere - or if you live in the country and have acreage, go out onto your own land and just sit. Don't take your computer or i-Pad. Take a pad of real paper, a pen or pencil, and just let your mind wander. Think about your story, your characters, your setting, your plot. What do you really want to do with your story? What is its purpose? Are you writing from the heart? Are you writing a subject matter that you truly love writing for yourself rather than the market? And don't forget the importance of the age-old key to good stories goal/ motivation/ character development. Close your eyes and put yourself into the shoes of your characters. BE your characters. It will be a tremendous help when it comes to how they speak, react, feel, believe, move, love or hate. It will help you bring your characters alive, make them real people with whom your readers can easily identify and empathize.
In all my books I have "been" the heroine. I've had over 50 affairs in the past 30 years, because I fall totally in love with every one of my heroes. Don't ever ask me who my favorite hero is, because I've loved them all. In the couple of books in which my hero died (yes, I've done that), I've bawled my eyes out. I even had my husband crying once. He went into the bedroom and shut the door because he knew what was coming. Ladies, if you knew my husband, you'd know what a monumental accomplishment that is!
Have any of you seen the commercial where the mom gets into her new van and locks herself inside for her own little "retreat" from the craziness of family life? I've done that - often. And whether it was getting stuck in a certain part of my story, or just needing to rev up my own writing juices, I can't tell you the number of times I have solved a writing problem by putting everything down, getting into my car with a pad of paper and a pen, and just going to sit and think someplace where I am completely alone.
I worry that younger people don't realize how motivating and helpful it can be to stop all the texting and e-mailing and Facebook'ing once in a while. To all you younger, newer writers - stop once in a while and just "listen" to your own thoughts. Be honest with yourself about your writing - why you write - what you write - what your heart is telling you. Listen to the silence. Play some mood music. Dream about your story, because in the end, you can be the cleverest person who ever sat in front of a computer and advertised/ promoted your books on-line, through every possible venue out there ... but if you aren't creating a good story, and telling it well, then all the advertising and fancy marketing in the world aren't going to help you sell a lot of books. Even if you do sell a zillion copies of that first book, if you disappoint your readers (who thought, because of your fabulous marketing, that your book must be the greatest story ever written), they aren't going to buy your NEXT book.
Always keep that in mind not just the story you are working on now, but also your NEXT book. Editors like to know you're good for more than just one good story. When you get into publishing, you'd better be in it for the long haul. I personally have never bought ANY excuse other than dying for not writing. There is ALWAYS a way. You can MAKE time if you love your craft enough. I could easily break away here and talk about how to write through bad health and tragedy and the "business" of life, but that's for a different article. Suffice it to say that where there is a will, there is a way. You will wade through rejections, multi-editing, and even failed contracts. You will fall and get up and fall and get up again, so be ready for the life of a writer who intends to write all his or her life because it's as important to you as breathing.
My fellow writers, PLEASE stop fretting over all the changes that are taking place in publishing stop fretting over whether or not you know how to market your book through the internet stop spending hours and hours setting up your twitter and web sites and then more hours and hours sitting there tweeting and checking Facebook messages and on and on. For one thing, I have discovered that you can actually do all that "checking" and "answering" pretty quickly if you just take a quick look once in a while and not allow yourself to fall into the temptation of "chatting" on-line. Remember that the purpose of on-line marketing is to SELL YOUR BOOK to the reading public, not to tell the world about the latest cute thing your child or your dog just did. Remember that to get published, you first must write that good story, and THAT is what you should be spending hours and hours doing. WRITING!
There are so many avenues out there that you can explore when it comes to advertising your books. And there are savvy people who actually know what they are doing when it comes to the internet and actually love doing it. One of them is the president of my RWA writers group, Mid-Michigan Romance Writers. Her name is Florence Price, and she has a business called My Girl Friday Virtual Assistant. The goal of her business is to "help writers find more time to write." There are a lot of people out there like Florence who can HELP YOU. You DO NOT need to waste writing time playing with the internet and trying to figure out by yourself how to get started. Yes, I am on Twitter now and Facebook, and I now have a blog. But I spent little to no time on any of it. Florence keeps them all up-dated for me.
I've had a great website since 1996 or so one of the first author's sites on the internet. My web site designer is Michelle Crean of Hook and Web Designs. You can contact her at info@HookAndWebDesigns.com. All I do is send her new info and she gets it into my web site. You CAN find people out there who will do these things for a nominal fee. The cost is WORTH IT. You will have more time to spend WRITING, because in the end, SELLING YOUR BOOK TO A PUBLISHER is the first thing you have to do. And that is how you will make the money you can use to pay someone else to do all the rest for you.
I think it was F. Scott Fitzgerald who said the following when he was asked to speak to a group of writers ... "All of you want to be writers, so go home and write." And then he left. At least that's how the story goes. True or not, it really makes the point. Yes, workshops and retreats and now the internet are all ways to learn about writing and publishing ... but no university on the face of the earth, no workshop, no conference or retreat, no famous "other" author you might sit and listen to is going to help you get a book published or even teach you how to write the most wonderful book ever. That only happens when you have a PASSION for writing, a PASSION for your story and your characters, a natural talent for story-telling - and when you put all the other mumbo-jumbo aside and sit down and WRITE. The rest will happen by itself.
Good luck to all of you!
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