Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The End of the Tunnel

Paula celebrates completing the nth draft of her story!

On Monday evening, I reached the end of my current novel – and it felt like I had reached the end of a long tunnel in which I’d been stuck for ages. Out of interest, I looked back at the various drafts of this story, and the dates when I started each one.

I first started it in November 2011 - 28th November, to be exact. By the middle of March 2012, I had got to Chapter 13, but although I liked my characters and some of the scenes, the story itself wasn’t working. For one thing, I gave the heroine a broken ankle in Chapter 8 which proved to be far too restricting for the rest of the story.

So between March and May 2012, I rewrote from Chapter 8, and got to Chapter 14 this time. However, I still wasn’t happy with it. To me, it read like ‘How they met and fell in love’ with not much more than that, apart from far too much internal agonising.

Back to Square One – or, in this case, Chapter One. Three months later, August 2012, I’d got to Chapter 11, but I was floundering again, even after two and a half re-writes. I put it to one side for a couple of months (can’t remember what I did in the meantime!), came back to it in October and added 4 more chapters. By this time, I was ready to delete the whole thing!

Instead, I did the next best thing, put it on the back burner, and started a new story (Irish Inheritance) which took me from November 2012 until May 2013 to write, and then another 3 months to edit, before I submitted it to my publisher in August 2013.

With a big sigh, I turned my attention back to the story that languished among my other documents, and decided it needed a thorough overhaul. Instead of the heroine going up to the English Lake District for a short break, I decided she was going up there for a location shoot for her new TV drama series. At least that breathed a little more life into it, and by January this year I’d actually got past the dreaded Chapter 13/14 sticky patch which had stopped my earlier drafts. I even had a title for it, ‘Different Worlds’.

Then, once I’d completed the edits for ‘Irish Inheritance’, my publisher suggested there was an opportunity for a spin-off story about Charley (the heroine’s best friend). My first reaction was, “I’ll think about that once I’ve finished this story,” but the next day the ‘what ifs’ started. What if I move this story to Ireland instead of the English Lake District? What if I change the heroine’s name to Charley? Once I started thinking about it, I realised it was possible, and worked out where in Ireland it would take place, and how some of the other characters from ‘Irish Inheritance’ could come into the story.

The upshot was – yes, back to Chapter One again for another stab at this story that somehow would not let me go. A few chapters into the rewrite, I started thinking about a title. Maybe it needed ‘Irish’ in the title again. ‘Irish Intrigue’ sprang to mind. This meant I had to do a lot more work building up the ‘intrigue’ part of the story.

Nine months later (yes, rather like a pregnancy LOL), I’ve finally reached the end of this draft (actually on Monday, November 24th, just 4 days before my deadline of November 28th, 3 years since I first started it). I’ve lost count of which draft it is!

Of course, this isn’t really ‘the end’. I have a lot of work still to do, especially with the sections I’ve highlighted in various places. These highlights mean everything from ‘this sentence sucks, rephrase’ to ‘more info/explanation needed here’ to ‘big gap needs filling here'. But at least I have a story that has a beginning, a convoluted middle, and an end. There were times when I thought I would never ever get to the end of the tunnel.

Major editing will now begin (not least to reduce the huge word count of over 100K!) but getting to the end is a major victory for me. After all, someone (can't remember who) once said, “You can’t edit a blank page.” I now have lots of pages to edit!

 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Back to Writing

Jennifer is making progress…

I wrote about 500 words yesterday. It’s the most I’ve written in months and I’m very proud of it.

My writing life has been pushed to the side while working on a fundraising auction for my Temple. I ate, slept and breathed the fundraiser for the last six months, and actually started working on it a year and a half ago. We raised a ton of money, which was great, but I lost all ability to focus on writing in the process, especially toward the end.

There are still ends to wrap up, but I finally have the time and the mental focus to go back to writing. For the first time yesterday, I sat down with my newest manuscript, Book 3 in my Women of Valor series (currently untitled) and wrote! I even wrote while both kids were home and asking for help with homework!

Of course, the scene I’m working on is a fun one—the hero and heroine are participating in a speed dating event—and I’ve done a lot of research on it, including observing one in the restaurant I was at this past weekend (with my daughter, who helped me secretly video some of what was going on), which made the writing easier and more enjoyable. I needed that. Writing is like a muscle and when you don’t use it for a while, it’s gets tight and sore. Starting up again, with something easy, similar to a warm-up exercise, is very helpful.

So author me is back and I’m out of excuses for why I can’t get things done. And I’m really looking forward to the process.



Monday, November 24, 2014

Are commas important?

Punctuation rules seem to be changing. I am fairly certain that this is due, in part, to texting and tweeting, where space or time are limited and "you know what I mean" is approved. I have also read that punctuation affects each line of an ebook and therefore trimming commas is "approved."

Recently I received a sample edit from an editor seeking future work. She deleted hyphens from adjectives where I am pretty sure they are supposed to be used. That's how I learned the rules.

I know language evolves. I have accepted that the comma before "and" in a set of three+ descriptors is optional. Yet there are times when my meaning could be misconstrued if I modernize and do not put in that comma before and.

This is an example from a grammar post by MM Pollard, the queen of English:
"I posted the pictures of the strippers, JFK, and Stalin."
"I posted the pictures of the strippers, JFL and Stalin."

Do you trim punctuation to keep up with "modern" rules?



Friday, November 21, 2014

Author Kristy Tate!


Ana welcomes Kristy Tate, today's Friday Friend!

Sweet Romance


 I had an uncomfortable experience a number of years ago when I attended a workshop where a writer brought in pages and pages of sex scenes to be critiqued. She read one steamy passage and then said, now, skip 70 pages and then she’d read another libido boosting scene. After the workshop, after I stopped blushing, I asked her why she’d saved and clustered her sex scenes just for us. Her answer, my agent said the reason my novels aren’t selling is because they need the sex scenes so I’m adding them. Since then, this writer is self-publishing her novels, sweet romances, sans sex scenes, and she’s sold thousands of her books. I think she’s financially doing much better than she would have had she published within the traditional romance industry AND she’s able to look her grandmother in the eye.

This reaffirms my belief that there’s a giant gaping hole in the publishing industry. I believe in the power of words. I believe in the power of stories and I also believe not every story has to be powerful. Entertainment is as valuable as enlightenment. Sometimes we just need to get away. Go somewhere else--take our mind off of the nitty-gritty of everyday. And even if we can’t afford an African safari or romp in the Amazon, those experiences are available to us, FOR FREE, at the public library. We can have romance, mystery and intrigue if we possess a library card.

I’ll admit I cried when the Border’s Bookstore closed. Whenever I felt sad I’d go to Borders and buy a book and a chocolate. It didn’t happen often, I’m usually upbeat, but when I’d feel trampled upon and world weary, I knew that I could be lifted up just by going to the closest bookstore. Chocolates and books were there, waiting. My son couldn’t understand my loss. You made your choice when you bought your I-pad, he said. I want libraries, bookstores AND books in the clouds, I replied.

I want books with romance, mystery and intrigue, but I don’t want books with titillation,excessive violence or gore. And that’s the genius  of Autumn's Kiss: Ten Contemporary & Historical Sweet Romances. Ten sweet romances by ten authors. Now available for pre-order on Amazon! http://amzn.to/1whXZj5

Long live sweet romance. The books in the clouds have set us free. Good books are there—we just need to know how to find them.

BIO
Kristy is the mom of six incredibly brilliant and beautiful children, and the author of several novels. Although many of her novels have won awards and have ranked on Amazon's top 100 list, Kristy has yet to realize her lifelong dream of owning a Schnauzer farm. Kristy studied English literature at Brigham Young University and at BYU's International Center in London. 

For updates on Kristy's upcoming novels, please visit her blog at kristystories.blogspot.com

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Week Early

Debra is wishing everyone an early Thanksgiving.

Next Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the States. Since I'll be away all day eating yummy food and watching the Bears (lose), I thought I'd give my shout out to Thanksgiving this week, since I probably won't post.

I love Thanksgiving. It is probably my favorite holiday, and it never gets it's due. It gets sandwiched between the candy-grabbing madness of Halloween and the present-buying-giving-and-receiving of Christmas. And that's a shame.

To me it's such an unassuming holiday. No one is begging for treats. No one is expecting presents. It's simply a time to be thankful for the things we have and to spend time with family and friends.

And of course we get some of the best food ever on Thanksgiving. Succulent turkey, creamy mashed potatoes, tart cranberries, crumbly corn bread, spicy pumpkin pie...excuse me while I wipe the drool from my keyboard. And then there's always leftovers for turkey club sandwiches the next day. Yum and yummier.

Now don't get me wrong, I love Christmas too, but it has become so commercialized and it just can't wait it's turn. Christmas crafts have been out in the hobby stores since summer. Decorative Christmas items went into the stores before Halloween. Even the Village has already strung and lit all of the trees downtown. The Christmas tree lightning ceremony is the night before Thanksgiving. The other day I was driving home and saw a home with its tree already up and lit in the living room window.

And even the weather isn't cooperating this year. We already have some snow, and we've had wind chills below zero. Ugh.

Poor Thanksgiving just doesn't stand a chance.

So I have a firm rule that I do nothing that has anything to do with Christmas until the Friday after Thanksgiving.

One year when I was promoting my Christmas novella, many of the blog tours kicked in before Thanksgiving. I had a tough time breaking my own rule. That's partially was inspired me to write a Thanksgiving novella. I wanted to focus on the proper holiday at the proper time. And for fun, my heroine Katy shares my feelings about giving Thanksgiving its due before Christmas comes around.

So whether you officially celebrate Thanksgiving or not, take a moment to stop and count your blessings this week or next.

Until next time,

Happy Reading and Happy Thanksgiving!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

An Unexpected Blessing - a Thanksgiving novella - from The Wild Rose Press

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Does a successful novel help with the sales of previous novels?

Paula is curious that a successful novel hasn’t bumped up the sales of her previous novels.

“Get a back list,” they said.

“Once you’ve written three (or was that six?) books, and built up a fan base, your earlier books will sell,” they said.

Well, in my experience (so far anyway), they were wrong!

My sixth book ‘Irish Inheritance’ took off last April, after selling slowly in February and March. You may even remember how depressed I was at the end of February because of the low sales. I’d almost decided to give up writing, since only a handful of people were reading my books.

From April, however, ‘Irish Inheritance’ has sold steadily. Okay, not millions of sales but way higher than any of my other books. I won’t go into the whys and wherefores of that, except to say I have not done any more promotion and marketing than I’ve done for any of my other books, and I am at a loss to explain the continuing steady sales, especially on the Amazon USA site. My publisher’s suggestion was: “The word "Irish" in the title might be the draw factor. Then again, it might just be that we have hit the very magic combination of great story, right cover, excellent price, and timely market (which only happens once in a blue moon!)”.

Whatever the reason, it is still selling, and so far has garnered 22 five star reviews and 13 four star reviews on the USA site, plus 20 five and four star reviews on the UK site, and four good reviews on the Canadian site.

However, back to my original point. ‘Irish Inheritance’ has been relatively successful – but has that success had an impact on the sales of my previous novels? The short answer to that is a resounding NO.

This month, ‘Changing the Future’ is featured in my publisher’s November Sale, and is being offered at 99 cents. The result? Maybe a few more downloads than in previous months, but nothing to shout about (i.e less than 5 so far!). My very first novel, ‘His Leading Lady’ was also re-released this month (with a great new cover), but again, only a few sales. As for my other 3 novels, the effect has been nil.

It appears, therefore, that one successful novel does not, despite what the ‘pundits’ say, lead to more sales of one’s other novels.

I’m not complaining, by the way! I’m more than happy that ‘Irish Inheritance’ continues to sell well, but I thought it was worth pointing out that even the reviewers who have enjoyed this book aren’t rushing to buy my other books. Well, apart from one reviewer who said, “I had not encountered this author before but now I can't wait to read more.” I hope he/she does!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Facebook Ads

Jennifer bought a Facebook ad…

Rebel Ink Press just rereleased my first book, A Heart of Little Faith. It was previously published by Whiskey Creek Press, but that press was bought out and I got my rights back to my books. On November 10, A Heart of Little Faith was released with more editing (thank goodness) and a new cover.

Unfortunately, the rerelease occurred at a time when I had no spare moments to do any publicity. I was in the homestretch of organizing a fundraising auction and I hadn’t cooked, seen my kids, or slept in weeks. Publicizing a book? Not happening.

Last month, when I went to the writer’s conference, I attended a workshop about social media, and one of the things discussed was using ads on Facebook. For a minimal fee, you can tailor who sees your ads and how long you want them to run. You pay per click on whatever website you connect it to and you watch your results in real time. So, I decided to try it.

I used my book cover, created two tag lines, linked it to the Amazon page and spent $5 per day for 5 days. I targeted romance readers and decided even if it failed miserably, I was only out $25.

Here’s what happened: According to Facebook, in 5 days, I received 18 clicks on the Amazon page for a total of $24.96 spent. I’m not sure if any of those clicks resulted in sales yet. However, what was unexpected was my associated Facebook author page skyrocketed to reaching more than 2000 people (at one time I think it was at 2400). On a normal week, I reach 200 people max.


My conclusion is that the $25 increased my exposure. Whether that translates into sales, who knows? But I might try it again for a few other announcements I have coming up.