Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Instagram for Authors

Jennifer is trying a new social media platform...

In my continuing quest to try new marketing things, and while I wait for my galleys to be sent to me, I decided to try Instagram for my author account.

I’m on Instagram personally—I love posting photos of my family or events, and playing with the filters is fun. Because I do post photos of my kids, my account is private—if I don’t know you, and know you well, I don’t allow you to follow me.

But photos are popular everywhere on social media. Posts that include them get a higher reach. Readers like to get a glimpse into authors’ lives. And my publisher said that Instagram is the number one social media platform.

So I created an author account on Instagram—authorjenniferwilck. Not very creative, but there it is. Instead of making the account private, it’s public, so anyone can follow me. I post a photo a day of anything having to do with writing—my books, my blog, my writing space, a book I’m reading. And I hashtag the heck out of everything I post, choosing hashtags that are pertinent and popular.

So far, it’s been fun and seems to be working. In two weeks, I’ve gotten almost 60 followers (weeding out the creepy guys—FYI, if you’re going to use a hashtag with romance, make sure there is a word after romance, like writer or author. Otherwise, you get lots of men who think you’re looking for a date.). They are growing slowly and steadily.


I’m hopeful that this platform will increase my reach and enable me to promote my books to another group of readers. Since I set it up as a business account, I plan to run ads when my book is ready for release.  I’ll let you know how it goes, but in the meantime, feel free to follow me!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Getting to the heart of the story

Ana muses about getting the first chapter right.

I've written three drafts of my WIP's opening chapter, one from each main character's POV. Now I have to decide which works best.

The heroine is Mary Masters, eighteen-year-old daughter of a wealthy investment banker in 1889 St. Louis. Pampered and sheltered by devoted parents, Mary has grown up sweet and idealistic. She believes she's independent and free. She's well-educated in the finer things in life: dancing, the proper way to serve tea, when hat and gloves are required. She's a talented pianist and a generous contributor to charity causes.

Her family expects her to marry a Society man, namely Carville Phillips, whose father is a well-connected St. Louis attorney. He expects his son to graduate from law school and join the firm. Trouble is, Car prefers to carouse all night and sleep all day. (He's the villain.)

The hero is Robert Eagle. Stripped by the government from his Lakota family when he was four, he's survived institutionalized abuse in an Indian Industrial School and clawed his way to a summa cum laude law degree. In school, he and Car became friends and struck a bargain: Robert tutors Car in exchange for a position in Car's father's law firm. Then Car introduces him to Mary.

In the dead of last night, I realized I needed to formalize the theme of the story:  love vs security. Does a young woman of privilege settle for a life of soul-killing comfort, or will she dare to risk everything for a forbidden love?

I think now I know whose POV should rule the opening chapter.









Wednesday, November 29, 2017

I Did It!

Debra won her first NaNoWriMo!


Sorry about the late post this week, but I wanted to make sure everything was official before I wrote my blog for this week.

Today I am officially a proud NaNoWriMo winner! I actually wrote over 50,000 words in the month of November! It took a lot of time away from other things, but I did it! My official word count was 50,003. Since I started in the middle of a mss already in progress, the entire project is now up to 62,601 words. I'm not sure if non-writers really understand what an undertaking this is, but I'm going to share my exciting news with them anyway!

Since I've reached the end of this journey, I thought I'd look at some takeaways from the experience.

Let's start with the positives:

*I wrote 50,000 freaking words in one month.
*I sat in my chair and wrote every single day.
*I made a lot of good progress on my WIP.
*I challenged myself and came away a winner.
*I am really, REALLY glad I did it.

On the other side of things:

*I'm not sure I'll do it again. Like I said, it took a lot of my time in a month that is already busy.
*I'm pretty sure my mss is a mess. I don't tend to write in linear fashion in the first place. If I get an idea for a scene, I write it, whether it's at the chronological point I'm at in the story or not. With NaNo I was REALLY all over the place. I was determined to get words down no matter what. Lately I've trained myself to be pretty good at not doing a lot of editing or revising when I sit down to write. However, I usually do some, just to find my place, get the rhythm and feel of the story and characters, and check for major continuity issues. With NaNo, I did next to no looking at anything I'd already written. I just kept going gangbusters each time I sat down. I am sure there is a ton of repetition. I'm not sure my characters' emotions and arcs are done properly in a logical manner that builds throughout the story. And I'm pretty sure I have some major timeline issues. Now, granted, all of this is fixable during the editing process, but I'm just wondering if I've made my life harder than I needed to when it comes to that point. I'm almost scared to do a read-through at this point. The story is not finished. I'm aiming for that 85K mark, but it's definitely on its way to getting there.

And what's my next step?:

Now the BIG question is, do I just keeping going in the haphazard way I have been and do a HUGE revision/edit read-through at the end, or do I stop now, print out what I have, read through, and assess where I'm at? Perhaps just a computer read-through. I definitely know what needs to be added in regards to the story, but it might be in the best interest of saving my sanity later to hit pause and take some time to go through what's there. And I have to say, I'm insanely curious to find out what kind of quality product I've put out since I've been mainly focused on the quantity this month. I was decent at cranking out the words, but it remains to be seen if it's any good or not. Knowing I can write 'quickly' puts me in a good frame of mind for future prospects of meeting deadlines and such. (Fingers are still crossed on that submission I have out there.), but again, if it's all crap, writing quickly might not be the way to go.

AND, if nothing comes of that earlier mentioned submission, I'm kind of wondering what direction I want to go with my writing career, and if that all comes to naught, was this just a giant exercise in futility? I guess only time will tell.

All in all, although it doesn't get me much more than bragging rights, I am proud to say I did this. And NaNo combined with my chapter's 90 day writing challenge (Which I won, by the way!) from August through October, has definitely built an excellent habit of writing or editing each and every day. I am author: Hear me roar!


Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com




Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Ending a Romance Novel

Paula is approaching the end of her 'work in progress; but isn't sure exactly how it is going to end!

When I first start a novel, all I really know is that the hero and heroine will have a 'happy ending'. By the time I am partway through the story, I usually have at least a vague idea about the final scene and how I am going to get there. However, with my current novel (now standing at about 67,000 words), even I don't know how I am going to bring the hero and heroine together or when/where that final scene will happen.   

This made me start thinking about how we end our romance novels. We see lots of advice about the first line, the first paragraph, the first page, the first chapter – providing the hook, drawing in the reader to make them want to read on, etc. But what about the last chapter, paragraph or line a novel?

I’m reminded of the King’s advice to the White Rabbit in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: “Begin at the beginning and go on until you come to the end and then stop.”

Where’s the best place to stop? In a romance, it’s taken for granted that there will be a happy ending. Does that mean a wedding, or at least a proposal? Or does it simply mean that the reader knows these two characters will be happy together and get through what life throws at them from now on?

I’ve read romances where the ending is contrived – some coincidence brings them back together, or one of them is injured and the other rushes to their side in the hospital. I’ve also read romances where the reconciliation comes two (or even more) chapters before the end and the rest is padded out with buying the dress and walking down the aisle. In contrast, I’ve read rushed endings that leave one thinking ‘Oh, is that it? But what about …’

Explanations (and apologies) may be needed at the end of the story, but these don’t have to be dragged out. Nor does the ending have to beat you over the head with sappiness where they repeatedly declare their undying love and drift around on pink clouds of happiness.

I prefer romances to ‘come to the end and then stop’. The couple come back together, sort out whatever the problems have been, and then the story ends, leaving the reader knowing they’ve made an emotional commitment to each other and a willingness to explore a future together.

And what about that last paragraph and final sentence? I think those need as much care and thought as your first sentence and paragraph, in order to ‘round off’ the story in a satisfying way for your characters - and more importantly, for your readers.

Now I just need to work out how to get my novel to ...

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Everything Old Is New Again

Jennifer is editing an old manuscript...

I recently received my rights back from a book on my backlist and I spent a week going through the latest manuscript version and making significant edits. There were several reasons for doing this.

The first was that oh my goodness, it really needed it! As much as I had edited it before, my skills as a writer have improved (thank goodness) and I realized there were a lot of places that either repeated what I was trying to say or said things badly. There was repeated word usage and just all around writing that needed improvement. Unfortunately, that meant I had to delete my very favorite scene in the entire book! While it’s a great scene, it didn’t advance the plot and it repeated something that basically happened earlier in the story. So I copied and pasted it into a document that I’ll keep to drool over and maybe offer a deleted scenes bonus at some point in the future.

The second reason to edit the manuscript was that I am submitting it to a publisher as a sweet contemporary. Sweet means no sex and this publisher is very strict—the sex can’t even take place off the page. This book didn’t have sex in it, but it was clear when it was happening. And there were scenes that led up to the sex that were pretty steamy. So I had to tone things down and make sure there was emotion, just no smexy times!

And the third reason was that for this same publisher, I was about 4,000 words over their highest limit for submissions. So I needed to be ruthless. With all of the other edits I was making, cutting words was easy, and I ended up cutting my word count by about 10,000 words, putting me smack dab in the middle of the desired word-count range.


It was a great exercise. As I’ve said, you can never do too much editing, and I think the story is stronger than it was before. I’ve submitted it to the publisher and am crossing my fingers they like it. If not, I have other plans for it, so it will eventually be back in circulation, but with much better writing!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Building an email list of readers

Ana muses on building an email list of readers.

My next author marketing step is to develop a connection with people who have read and enjoyed Stormy Hawkins. I plan to start an email list. 

This is a scary proposition, and a recent post by Tim Grahl, called 5 Myths About Email Marketing for Authors, addressed my fears directly.

1.     I will not annoy people by inviting them to subscribe to my newsletter. They sign up freely and can unsubscribe easily.
2.     I will find interesting and entertaining things to say. I’m a writer. I can imagine--and will refine-- newsletter content that will appeal to readers of my romances.
3.     Direct mail will be an effective way to let readers know when book 2 is ready.
4.     It will not be overwhelming to send two newsletters a month. One, an author update. The other, some new content.
5.     The technology for maintaining subscriber lists and sending newsletters is out there. 

      As with anything new, it will take time to become comfortable with this process. But it seems like a good plan.


Monday, October 30, 2017

The Waiting Game

Debra is trying to be patient...but it isn't easy.

I did it! I got my mss of "The Cowboy and the Princess" polished up and submitted. And now...I wait.

According to the publisher's web-site guidelines, I'l receive confirmation of my e-mail submission within 21 days. We're at day 17, which means technically I should hear a "Thanks we received your submission." e-mail any day now. After that, I'm to allow 8-12 weeks for a response. Is that from the time I originally submitted or from the time I received confirmation of the submission? Either way, it's a long time to wait.

I know waiting is not uncommon in this industry, but I've been working with a small press that is VERY quick on the draw for the last nine years, so to say I'm a bit spoiled is a total understatement.

I try not to think about it, but every time I open my e-mail I can't help but wonder if I'll have my initial response. And I'm trying to decide, planning ahead, if when I get the BIG response, whether I want to open it at work. If it's a no, I might cry. If it's a yes, I won't be able to scream and shout and dance around. But how in the world will I be able to wait until the end of the day when I get home? What if it comes in first thing in the morning? It'll be like Poe's Tell-Tale Heart: Open Me. Open Me. Open Me. All day long.

See? I'm not very patient.

In the meantime I'm about 11K into my new project. There are two more days left in my RWA chapter's 90 words for 90 days challenge, and then NaNo starts on Wednesday. I still haven't decided if I'm going to tackle that or not. On the one hand, I definitely plan on writing, so even if I don't think I will make the overall goal, at least I'll be accumulating words. And, my chapter challenge has been great for keeping my butt in my chair and my fingers on the keys every single day since the beginning of August. (For someone coming off of a huge dry spell, well, that was...huge!) So for accountability, it might be worth taking it on. So I have a day to decide about that.

I also have several guest blog appearances scheduled for my holiday titles and was asked to participate in a fellow Rose's release party in December. So even though I don't have any new releases this year, I'm trying to drum up some interest in my back list. My Halloween story was on sale for most of October, and my Thanksgiving story and my Christmas stories will be on sale the beginning of November and the beginning of December respectively. And I'm trying really, really hard to be active on social media.

On the down side of things, I learned today that two of my books which I'd entered into a contest didn't even place in the top five. Which I'm a bit bummed about. Let's just say it's not the shot of confidence I was hoping for to add a boost of encouragement for positive results for my submission. On the up side of things, tomorrow is Halloween and if we don't get many trick-or-treaters, I'll have a whole lot of chocolate left over to ease the sting of disappointment.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Colours

Paula thinks about how we describe colours in our writing.

On one of my visits to Ireland - and with the Johnny Cash song in mind - my friend and I challenged ourselves to actually name 'forty shades of green'. The first dozen or so were fairly easy, but by the time we got into the 30s, we were struggling to come up with 'genuine' names and not ones we invented!

Quite often, when I'm writing, I have to search for colour names.  Wikipedia has a good list, but I’ve also searched paint colour charts, make-up and fashion sites, and hair colourant lists to find the right word(s) to describe the colour I can see in my mind’s eye.

I admit I do like the synonyms which show the slight differences:  for yellow, there’s daffodil, flax, lemon and mustard; for red there’s fire-engine, ruby, crimson, scarlet etc etc. At the same time, I tend to think the standard names for colours are the best, since everyone knows what they mean.  No point describing the heroine’s dress as ‘Dublin Bay green’ (anyway, Dublin Bay is usually grey!) or ‘Mayan blue’ if no-one has a clue what those descriptions actually mean.

Colour 'cliches' can sometimes be boring – how many times have we read ‘eyes as blue as the sky' or 'hair as black as ebony'?  Contrived, long-winded or eyebrow-raising similes can be equally irritating.  Recently I've seen a couple of examples describing hair – ‘as blonde as a buttercup in a meadow’ (does that mean bright yellow?) and ‘as blonde as a dirty cloud’ (what? was she grey?)

Just as a matter of interest, did you know that, in early colonial times in America, Puritans used no similes or metaphors in their writing, because these glorified the writer, not God. In contrast, Southerners often used showy language in literature much more freely.  Maybe I was a Puritan in an earlier existence, since I prefer to keep colour descriptions simple! 

I once read a story where the author had obviously decided to use every possible variation of blue for the heroine’s eyes – cerulean, baby-blue, azure, sky-blue, denim, electric, sapphire etc – so much so that I got distracted from the story wondering what shade of blue the eyes would be on the next page! 

As with many things, sometimes less is more!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Glimpse Behind The Scenes

Jennifer talks about her writing life…

Lots of people ask what it’s like to be a writer, and I usually answer that question with all the work that goes into getting a book published and out in front of readers. It’s a lot of work, and can feel like you’re in the middle of a thunderstorm—deluged by to-do lists, rattled by deadlines and illuminated by hope that all will go well on release day.

But what about afterwards? What’s it like to be a writer on those other days, after the book has been released into the world?

Well, for me, it’s filled with emotions and requires time management skills. Once my book has been released, I’m monitoring sales, tracking reviews and of course writing. Monitoring sales can be frustrating, since I personally don’t get an accurate daily picture and usually have to wait until my publisher posts them on their internal website for me to see. While people tell me they are buying or have bought my book, I’m never sure until I see the numbers. This time around, sales seem to be good, although they’re better for Addicted to Love than In the Moment.

Then there are the reviews. No matter how much I beg, I don’t get many. And when I do get them, there are always a few that aren’t great—after all, reading is subjective and not everyone will like everything I write. I take comfort in the fact that I do get positive reviews, and any negative ones I get don’t complain about my craft. And I develop a thick skin. J


Finally, there’s writing. Even though I love to write, I get distracted—by life, by the crazy world and by my family. Writing is great because it offers me an escape from the politics and fear out there. But it’s also hard to concentrate on writing when the craziness gets overwhelming. And as much as I like getting away from the stress, sometimes my stress gets the better of me and I can’t sit still. Added to that are the doubts—maybe I’m not really as good as I should be; maybe this story is going to be terrible; maybe that reviewer keyed into something I just can’t fix. To combat that, I try to divide my day into chunks—I have my early morning time where I get ready for the day and make sure the world is still turning; my time to get errands done for my family; my time to do book marketing and blog writing; and my time to write and edit. I try to keep my focus on the task as much as possible. Some days are easier than others. Some days I realize why I fall in love with my heroes. And some days I console myself like Scarlett O’Hara—tomorrow is another day.

If you're looking for a Halloween read, my book, Skin Deep, has a great Halloween party, thrown by the costume department of a hit TV sitcom. Check it out here.