THE ROAD MORE OR LESS TRAVELED…ALONE

Creating the elusive perfect story is a solitary endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be a lonely journey.

 

Lonely manThe art of writing or the mere pursuit of it is an infinite journey of self-discovery. Writers draw from their various life experiences to tell stories which speak of who they are and where they’re from. Because of the amount of introspection necessary to formulate a story, writers are often portrayed as eccentric loners, whose brilliance is inextricably intertwined in their quirkiness. The image of the withdrawn, lonely, psychotic and often self-destructive figure, banging away at the keyboard has become an accepted icon for the writer’s life.

As a writer, I’m here to tell you that the aforementioned assessment of writers is not entirely accurate and yet not entirely without merit either. When the writer is trying to extricate the ideas that form the story they want to tell, it is an internal process which only they alone can achieve. It is often painful and lonely. Writers place themselves in an environment that is isolated, so as to afford optimal concentration and peaceful reflection. However, along the way we must take the opportunity to interact and network with others, or else doom ourselves to failure. Writers are natural born observers of the world around them. They interpret the various events they see—in the chaos we call life—that touches them and compels them to create a story only they can tell. Yet, for all of the observations, mental snapshots and quickly jotted notes on the happenings around us, we must also interact with the world we’re drawn to observe.

I’ve found that a cup of coffee with another writer, or group of writers helps to quell the feelings of isolation writers are often subject to. It gives us not only the opportunity to express ourselves to others and get constructive feedback, but also to take a break from the act. Writers know that deadlines, whether from an agent, publisher or self-imposed are the gremlins of psychotic breakdown. They are necessary evils that we cannot escape yet, we can’t let them drive us insane either.

Reliable sounding boards, a referral to a service for assistance in an unfamiliar business aspect of the writing business, are few of the benefits to networking and interaction. We must also not forget that maintaining a healthy dialogue with others can improve our writing when we’re faced with creating a scene where dialogue is required. It can also help with character development as well. Despite my call to occasionally step away from the writing machine, I am aware that it is unrealistic to expect a total abandonment of a writer’s nature to observe.

Writers are some of the most creative people ever produced, and as such are prone to anxiety and depression. In order to combat this we must force ourselves to take the time to stop, breathe, and interact with others, not only for the purpose of improving our writing itself, but also to save ourselves from the fate of the iconic stereotype. As a community we must work together to keep ourselves from falling into the abyss of isolation and depravity. We should live by the motto, “United we stand, divided we fall,” and help ourselves to realize that, “The road more or less traveled, doesn’t have to be traveled alone.”

HOW TO CREATE A WRITER’S PLATFORM AND WHY?

Clip Art Graphic of a Brown Guy CharacterAs writers, we’re inclined to devote much of our time in the pursuit of our main objective and that’s to write. Most writers make lousy business people, unless their background is in a business related field.

We are imaginative people who have a passion to create, so we tend to be oblivious to the business of writing. However, one of the first things that writers need to understand is that they can write eight million stories, but if no one knows about them they won’t get published and no one will read them.

There are many reasons that it is necessary for writers to create a platform. The most basic reason is to inform the public—your potential audience—about your writing. However, the concept of a platform is a bit deeper than merely letting people know you’re a writer, it’s also your ability to personally sell books through:

  • Your own individual merit
  • Networking—personal and professional connections
  • Media outlets which can be utilized to sell your books

How well people know you and know of you, is extremely important as it relates to establishing a platform.

Well before I signed the contract for my first novel and short stories, I began using as many resources as I could think of to let people know that I was a writer and I had work to sell!

I instinctively got out in front of creating a platform for myself and my writing. Mostly I was simply geeked about the idea of people reading my work. Now, I am developing, maintaining and utilizing my platform for more focused reasons.

For the purposes of this blog post, I will assume that most of my readers are new writers or those who are just now accepting their calling. Although anyone, at any stage in their writing career needs to create a solid platform—if they haven’t already—and could benefit from the information contained here.

The following is a list of the most basic and common building blocks necessary for creating a platform.

  • A website and/or blog—the goal is to build and maintain a large and loyal readership
  • Social media—this is one of the most important aspects of building a platform as it allows for the most immediate and wide-reaching exposure you’re likely to get
  • Blog posts—this is how you are able to relate your writer’s journey to your readers and help them to learn from your experience(s)
  • An e-newsletter and/or mailing list—this helps you to maintain your readership and keep them informed of important info pertaining to your writing
  • Guest post on the blogs of other writers—this is a way for you to broaden your readership and outreach
  • Memberships in writing organizations—this helps to establish your standing and credibility within the writing community
  • Media exposure—writing articles for media outlets, public speaking and media appearances (here the BIGGER the better)

While not all of these components are going to be relevant to you and/or necessary, they are the most important to consider. In today’s market and society, a website/blog, mailing list and social media are the three most important building blocks to consider in my opinion. These three components are the ones which will account for the maximum amount of exposure you get and the farthest reaching attention you receive.

It’s important to understand that building a platform takes time and effort.

This doesn’t happen overnight!

Developing a following/readership takes perseverance and dedication. It is a continuing effort which happens daily.

The amount of effort and foresight you put into it, is directly indicative of the gains you get out of it. Simply creating a website/blog and being on Facebook or twitter doesn’t constitute having a platform.

Here are some helpful anecdotes for defining just what platforms are:

“I have a simple formula for platform: Authority + Network = Platform.”

~Roseanne Wells (Marianne Strong Literary Agency)

“A platform is the people who know and love you and your writing now, as opposed to all those hypothetical people that will know you once your book is bought and you get motivated to do all the social media stuff…built-in audience.”

~Meredith Barnes (formerly of Lowenstein Associates, Inc.)

“A platform showcases the experiences you’ve had that qualify you as an expert in your field, which advocate your successes and serve as a vehicle for your publicity.”

~Bernadette Baker-Baughman (Victoria Sanders & Associates)

Simply writing your novel or short story isn’t enough. Even getting it to the publisher or self-publishing isn’t enough. You have to establish an identity/brand, own your marketability and work diligently to cultivate your readership with every opportunity available.

In closing, I’d like to encourage any writer—new or established—to consider taking the time and making the effort to build and maintain a solid platform. It is a highly essential component of selling your books/stories and connecting with loyal and well entertained readers.

WRITERS WORKSHOP OF SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY

My publisher, Seventh Star Press is proud to announce that Writers Workshop of Science Fiction & Fantasy,  an incredible book by editor Michael Knost, is now available in eBook format, with print availability in trade paperback due on Wednesday. This release features contributions from a sensational list of writers such as Neil Gaiman, Orson Scott Card, Kevin J. Anderson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Harry Turtledove, Joe Haldeman, and many other top names in genre fiction, Writers Workshop of Science Fiction & Fantasy is a highly valuable contribution to the speculative fiction community developed by Bram Stoker Award-winning editor Michael Knost.

Final-WW_cover-WebWriters Workshop of Science Fiction & Fantasy is a collection of essays and interviews by and with many of the movers-and-shakers in the industry. Each contributor covers the specific element of craft he or she excels in. Expect to find varying perspectives and viewpoints, which is why the reader will find many find differing opinions on any particular subject. It is a book with something to offer all levels of writers, from those seeking to get published for the first time to others who have numerous releases to their credit.

This edition also features several original illustrations from award-winning artists Matthew Perry and Bonnie Wasson. In addition to their own illustrations, a special collaborative piece created by the two artists is featured in the book.

Available by mid-week in trade paperback format, Writers Workshop of Science Fiction & Fantasy is now available in eBook format for the Kindle and Nook at the following links for just $4.99

CLICK THE LINKS BELOW TO LEARN MORE & GET YOUR COPY TODAY!!!

Amazon Kindle

Amazon Kindle UK

Nook

http://seventhstarpress.blogspot.com/2013/04/writers-workshop-of-science-fiction.html

ARE YOU A WRITER?

typewriter_1_lgAre you a writer and if so, why do you write and what do you write? Are you a starry eyed reader who thinks that the writing life is an exclusive society of posh, well to-do people who revel in success? These are serious questions you must ask yourself if you dare to write. I didn’t ask myself these questions at first and my awakening was not so much rude, as it was extremely educational.

The following quote is from Fantasy writer, R.A. Salvatore:

There’s way too much pain in this business (writing) for anyone who doesn’t have to write. I always tell beginning writers, “If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, you’re a writer.”

~ R.A. Salvatore

Salvatore’s advice is sage. In my experience, I’ve learned that writing will confound you, make you angry, depress you and attempt to drive you insane. However, if none of the above puts you into a psychiatric hospital then it can also be quite rewarding. Though if you’re looking for fame and fortune, then writing isn’t likely to be your ticket to it.

Writing is a discovery and a continuous learning process. If you stop learning, stop reaching for that forever elusive perfection (The Perfect Story) which writers always pursue then you’re not writing. Writing is an exploration which serves to help the author discover things about themselves which they never realized or ignored, and also serves as an expression of the author’s thoughts and emotions which both entertain and inform the reader. If you’re extremely lucky you will accomplish all of this, and do it well. If you’re like most of us, you will attempt it and maybe your readers won’t notice your mistakes.

While pursuing your goals as a writer, it’s important to learn and apply the proper mechanics which all writing instructors drill into you. Rigid rules which when followed will help you to produce fair, if not great work. However, it’s important to understand that writers often break those rules by following them and therein is the trick…the story itself.

Your story is the means by which you can break the rules successfully once you’ve mastered the rules in the first place. Confusing? Yes, it is. Now you can get a glimpse into the mania of a writer. In my humble opinion, what you write isn’t too important as long as it’s good. So if you write poetry, essays, short stories, novels or all of the above, no matter what genre make it good. I won’t list the rules which make a good story in this blog post (perhaps in a future post), because that is a lengthy list, and not the purpose of this posting.

Every writing instructor I’ve encountered on the collegiate level (for one reason or another), looks down at genre fiction from the lofty height of their literary perches. These professors often expound that the substance of anything outside of literary fiction is mostly garbage. While is some cases this may be true, the same can also be said about literary fiction.

DON’T GIVE UP YOUR DREAMS OF WRITING GENRE FICTION, IF THAT IS YOUR PASSION!

There is an audience for your work, and you can succeed. Writing instructors are paid to pontificate about the higher quality of writing that goes into literary fiction, as they expound upon the merits of avoiding genre fiction. Let the haters hate, because that’s what they do, and they’re quite good at it.

If you choose to write genre fiction (like me), make sure you plot out your stories very carefully and don’t get caught up in the nuances of the world you create. Your story must have a human element in order to reach the reader on a human level. This can be very challenging and (like myself), you will undoubtedly miss this mark at least once in your career. Not every story an author writes will resonate with every reader, even though that should be the writer’s goal.

Should the author be embarrassed?

Should they hide themselves away like a pariah?

Not if they learn from it. Some element within your writing must touch upon what we know to be true to the human condition. A former instructor of mine gave me that advice and I ignored her on a story I wrote…let’s just say the next critic was downright rude. I took what criticism had merit to heart and chocked the rest up to their disdain for commercial fiction.

If nothing and no one can dissuade you from your passion for writing, then welcome to a career of pain, suffering and blessed rewards!

Writing in and of itself is no easy endeavor, and requires quite a large chunk of your soul to achieve. So, no matter what area of writing you practice, (from business writing, poetry to essays to screenwriting to prose, short stories, novels or flash fiction) I believe that it is important, and makes a contribution to the fold, at least on some level. Quality writing isn’t exclusive to literary fiction; it can be found in all genres. And what’s most important is that readers are given what all readers want…A GOOD STORY!