Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Pitfalls of Writing To Market

I’ll admit to feeling rather bummed about writing today.

It’s not from of a lack of writing progress. I was pretty darn productive this weekend, making significantly more progress than I expected. And if that wasn’t enough reason to be happy, I’ve attended two critique groups and one SCBWI meeting during the last two weeks, all of which usually psych me up for writing.

No, I’m down because I came across the website of a book marketing guru, one of those people who make their money telling us how to market our books. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but this guy was explaining the concept of writing to market, which basically means picking a hot genre and writing stories in that genre as quickly as you can,.

So he set himself a challenge to write (and supposedly edit) a book in a ridiculously short amount of time—I won’t say how long, but it’s shorter than the time it takes me to finish a chapter for my critique group—and then launch it using his marketing techniques. Needless to say, his book is doing pretty well. I was shocked that anyone could write and edit a book so quickly, so I peeked at his first chapter on Amazon.

OMG! It read like fan fiction written by a high school student. (Not that there’s anything wrong with being a high school student) The sentences were overly simplistic, the dialogue was cringe-worthy, and the characters (supposedly trained military personnel) acted like a bunch of squabbling kindergartners. I don’t consider my prose to be particularly good, but even I would have been embarrassed to show these words to my critique group, let alone the public.

And yet the book seems to be doing quite well, which means either the readers of this genre are scarily desperate for anything they can get their hands on, or this guy’s book marketing tricks are capable of selling anything. Has the bar really been set that low? Makes me wonder if I’m wasting my time trying to create a well-crafted story. Maybe I should jump into a hot genre and write as fast as I can too. Heck I wouldn’t even have to attend critique group meetings any more.

The money’s tempting, but that’s not why I got into writing in the first place. I want to write words that make me proud to be a writer, not something I threw together during NaNo and uploaded the next day.

Oh well.  Perhaps I just need to read a few well written books and all will be well again with the world.


Friday, March 3, 2017

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 161

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Not as much writing this week as I would have liked. I'm currently beta-reading for another author and since my comments are due Monday, that took priority.  The good news is that tonight I have a crit group meeting, followed by tomorrow morning's SCBWI meeting.  Both of these events usually charge me up for writing, so we'll see what happens when I get a double dose of encouragement. 

The big question is: what plans do my family have for me this weekend?   

Have a great weekend and enjoy the links! 


Book Marketing: Using Amazon Ads to Grow a Newsletter List

Anti-Heroes: Why We Love Them & Keys Ways to Give Them Depth

Writer Struggles: Killing Nice Characters

English vs American Murder Mysteries

The 11 Most Common Questions Authors Ask BookBub

Revision Workshop: Day Three: Analyze the Scene Structure

Descriptions – the Angels are in the Details!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Insecure Writer and Writing Podcasts

Today is March's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I’ve been watching too many darn podcasts on book marketing! 

For the last several months, I’ve gotten into the habit of listening to podcasts about indie publishing while driving to work. The two I enjoy best are The Creative Penn podcast and the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Marketing Podcast, but there’s a whole slew of them out there. Although they do cover the craft of writing to some extent, most of the interviews are concerned with how to sell more books, and include lots of marketing tips and tricks. And boy are there a ton of them.  Here's a small sampling of topics:

How to avoid the 30 day cliff on Amazon.
Staying exclusive or going wide. 
How to avoid the 90-day cliff on Amazon. 
Bookbub ads. 
Amazon ads. 
Facebook ads. 
E-mail lists. 
Kindle Unlimited. 

The list just goes on and on. 

But what really drives me crazy is that the number one thing you can do to drive more sales is to write as many books as you can, as fast as you can. It seems most of the writers who’ve been interviewed write a book every two months. What the hell? One author pumps them out so quickly she has to have her cover designer create her covers before she even knows what the stories are about. Seriously? I remember one successful author who lamented being a slow writer, which made me feel a little better—that is, until he mentioned it took him a full 3 to 4 months to finish a book. 

The swine. 

I certainly don’t expect to get rich from writing, but it sounds like the hurdles you have to overcome in order to convince more than 100 people to buy your book (not counting friends and other authors) are depressingly high. 

What marketing tactic works best for you? Please, I need to know!


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Spending Too Much Time On The First Draft

Photo courtesy of Pixabay and Voltamax
I’m always on the lookout for ways to increase my writing speed. Based on what other writers tell me, I spend a lot more time on first drafts than everyone else. There are various reasons for this, but one of the biggies is that I revise as I write. Not full revisions, mind you, but if I know that a sentence or paragraph doesn’t make complete sense, I have to fix them before I can go on. Or if my descriptions sound like bullet lists, my muse refuses to cooperate until I go back and dress them up a little. Or if a logic flaw rears its head…. Well, you get the drill.

I know writers are supposed to speed through the first draft, but leaving behind a big pile of problems that need to be fixed later just seems like procrastination. Better if I fix some of the more glaring problems right then and there while the scene is still fresh in my mind. Now these aren’t my final revisions. Oh no, far from it. But they’re enough to allow me to move on with a clear conscience.

But here’s my problem. After spending all that time thinking about these first draft revisions, I’ve discovered that the resulting sentences and paragraphs kind of get locked down in my head. So when I return later during the editing phase, I often can’t visualize writing the words in any other way, even when I know there’s a problem. I can tweak a word here or there with no problem, but if a paragraph needs to be blown up and rewritten from scratch, it can take days for me to recognize this. The number of hours I’ve wasted staring at a paragraph that isn’t working before I realized a simple reordering of words would solve the problem is embarrassingly high.

So now I’m trying a new approach. From now on, whenever I feel the need to revise during the first draft, I’ll make sure to keep my added sentences short and full of telling prose. That way I’ll have no choice but to rewrite them from scratch.

Will my muse allow this? Only time will tell.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 159

Photo courtesy of José Manuel Botana (Pixabay)

Not much to report this week, writing or otherwise. As usual, I'm stuck on my latest chapter, but this time I can't complain too much since I hadn't spent much time thinking about the chapter beforehand. So tonight my plan is to sit down and work out the complete sequence of events, along with maps to show character movement. And I'm doing this all by hand instead of typing it out on the keyboard, because I think it'll put me into a more creative state of mind. 

I'll be interested to see how well the actual writing goes after this exercise. 

Do any of you find that writing by hand makes you more creative? 

Have a great weekend and enjoy the links! 


7 Tips for Writing a Book Blurb

Growing Your Audience by Growing a Mailing List

An Old World Concept Made New: How Patreon Works for WritersKit with “5 Fun Facts You Didn’t Know About Me”

Writing an Effective Book Description: 7 Ways to Turn Browsers Into Buyers

How to Start Your Own Publishing Company

9 Statistics Writers Should Know About Amazon

8 Ways to Troubleshoot a Scene–and 5 Ways Make It Fabulous

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Starting Your Story Too Late -- Plus It's Release Day For Abducted Life!

One rule of thumb for writers is to start your story at the last possible moment, right before the story takes off. Boring your reader with descriptions of scenery or having the main character doing regular everyday stuff (usually while thinking about how boring and/or terrible their life is) is a sure fire method for convincing the reader put down your book forever. What’s rarely mentioned, however, is that starting too late can be just as bad. 

The other day I was reading a story that suffered from this exact problem. The story began with the heroine willingly walking into what she knew was a trap. Now this can be a perfectly fine way to begin a story, but it turned out that in this case the author had jumped so far into the story that she had to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining everything that had happened prior to the scene in order for the scene to make any sense. 

Every single page had backstory. So much backstory that I kept checking the front cover to be sure I wasn't accidentally reading the second book in the series instead of the first. Besides being terribly confusing, all this explaining really killed the pacing. Needless to say, I didn’t get very far into the book before giving up. 

Why did the writer begin their story here? I don’t know. Perhaps she wanted to begin the story right before the big fight scene in order to capture the reader with action. The problem is, everything that led up to that scene—the mysterious message the main character received that morning telling her that someone would be killed if she didn’t come, the conversation where her paranormal friends told her that they would help her fight when she met up with the bad guys, the difficulties she had finding the designated rendezvous point as the clock was ticking down—were all exciting enough to have been the story’s starting point. There was no reason to begin the story right before the fight.  To be honest, I suspect the real problem was that the author wanted this scene to be a prologue, but if she’d stuck in all the necessary information as real time action instead of giving it to us via backstory, the prologue would have become much too long. 

Choosing your story’s starting point can be a tricky thing. You want to start the story close enough to the inciting incident that only a little backstory is needed to get us through the first chapter, but not so close you have bury us in backstory for the scene to make any sense.

One writer who does know when to start a story is fellow Michigander, Patricia Lynne.  And today she's celebrating the release of her new novel, Abducted Life.  So be sure to drop by her website and wish her congratulations.


Savannah Janowitz’s perfect life was destroyed the night she and her boyfriend vanished without a trace. When she reappears a year later––alone––she’s a shell of her former self. Robbed of her popularity and her boyfriend, she has no memory of what happened to her. Savannah struggles to move forward as strange, new abilities manifest.

Evan Sullivan never gave extra-terrestrials much thought until the night he and Savannah were abducted. While Savannah’s memory was wiped clean, he remembers every horrific detail. Constantly reminded of the experiments that made him less than human, Evan hides in the shadows and watches Savannah rebuild her life without him. But neither can let the other go.

When their paths cross, Savannah and Evan finally see a glimmer of their old lives return. As they face what happened to them, they soon discover they aren’t safe. There’s more to fear than what’s hiding in the stars.

Available for 99cents at Amazon.

About the Author

Patricia Josephine never set out to become a writer. In fact, she never considered it an option during high school and college. She was all about art. On a whim, she wrote down a story bouncing in her head. That was the start of it and she hasn't regretted a moment. She writes young adult under the name Patricia Lynne.

Patricia lives with her husband in Michigan, hopes one day to have what will resemble a small petting zoo, has a fondness for dying her hair the colors of the rainbow, and an obsession with Doctor Who.

You can find her lurking on Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Wattpad. Find the latest news at her website or sign up for her newsletter. A link to all her books can be found here.

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