My First James River Writer’s Show

This past Wednesday I finally got a chance to attend my first writer’s show, hosted by the James River Writers. The Writer’s Show brings authors and professionals from the writing industry to talk about a wide variety of topics, from novel writing to marketing. Ever since I joined the JRW back in January, I’ve wanted to go to a writer’s show, but as life will happen something always popped up, preventing me from attending. This month, however, despite my crazy day at work and little time to get ready, I put on my big girl’s pants and went to the show, and I’m really glad I did.

The topic of the night concerned something that plagues authors of every kind, and that is how to deal with the “squishy middle” as they coined it. The squishy middle is the condiments and meat of the story. It’s one of the most important parts. It’s where characters and plot are developed, the juicy middle that keeps your readers engaged, but it can also be a point of stress for many authors as well. So this show covered ways to motivate yourself to get through those tough squishy parts.

As I sat in the middle of the audience, struggling with an inner battle of sleep deprivation and trying to focus on the show, I learned that I am not alone on my journey through the squishy middle. Each panelist explained their own struggles with it and offered very helpful advice. Power through it, one author suggested, even if it sounds like complete crap write it down anyways because you can’t edit what’s not there. Another author suggested that you lay out an outline. Write down all the highlights and plot points you want to reach and fill in the gaps as you go. Walk away, sometimes it’s okay to abandon a story, don’t delete it, but let it sit and come back to it with fresh eyes. I’ve done this a few times, it’s especially helpful during the editing process.

All and all I had a really fun time. It’s nice to know even established authors struggle with the squishy middle. You’re not alone out there; just don’t stop writing. Next show I hope to be more outgoing and take better notes instead of a half-dead zombie. If you’re interested in checking out any of the panelists feel free to look them up. I’ve labeled their names on the picture below.

JRWS pic

**Forgive my blurry picture, it was taken on the sly.

Advertisements

Dress-Up Games: An Unlikely Writing Tool

As I traverse the bottomless pit that is my writer’s block, I’ve picked up one too many distracting habits. For example, I’ve rediscovered my love of dress-up games. You know, those flash games 90s kids were crazy about. Well, those blast from the past have come a long way, and they can be great tools for visualizing your characters or just a fun way to pass the time. I’m currently playing on a site called Doll Divine. They have a huge selection of free games, spanning various genres, including games that feature male and female characters including animals. Here are a few examples:

Sailor Senshi Maker 3

Angel and Vulva

 

Prince Maker

 

Kitten Creator 2

Of course, copyright belongs to the artist, but this can be a fun way to envision your characters, which otherwise you’d never get to see outside your mind. So if you’re not artistically inclined take a moment to browse through their selection, you never know, you might enjoy yourself.

Getting to Know Your Characters

Every Bit of Normal copy

Just the other day I was speaking with a friend about how to get to know your characters better. As writer’s, it’s assumed that we should already know everything about our characters before we write, but that is far from the truth. More often than not, we get to know our characters as we write, but what if you wanted to get to know them better before you start writing? How do you go about doing that?

What I’ve found that really works for me, is starting a relationship with your characters, talk to them, ask them about their day. I know it sounds crazy, but it helped me overcome some really tough spots in my writing, especially with my current project, which has been plagued with spells of writer’s block and schedule conflicts. In the time away from the page I think of my characters often. I think what would they be doing if they were here, or better yet, what would they be doing on an average day. Of course, all this information won’t be included in the story, but these interactions may help reveal new character traits you may not have thought of before. I also spend time listening to my characters talk to each other. I have two characters, in my current project, that are best friends and I’ve learned so much about them just through listening to their conversations. This helps make the interaction between them more organic when I write. So I don’t need to come up with something random to feel a dialog gap. Instead, I can rely on what I’ve observed to create a better scene and don’t limit yourself to having them just talk to friends. Have your characters talk to other characters, whether they are side-characters or the shopkeeper in the market, even the antagonist. Find out what makes them tic, it’ll help down the line when figuring out how the characters will react.

I hope this helps in your character development journey, good luck writers and remember don’t give up on that story, the world needs your voice.

Financing Your Self-Publishing Project as a New Author

I see the question come up a lot on forums, how does a new author come up with the money to fund a project? If you Google the question of how much it cost to self-publish you’ll get a variety of sites telling you pretty much the same thing. They all lean towards the opinion that it depends on you and if you’re like me and found that answer unhelpful don’t fret. Those online bloggers aren’t trying to be vague to throw you off. What they mean is the process of self-publishing is completely customizable. You get the freedom to select whomever you want. The decision to go a more affordable route is completely up to you, and affordable doesn’t have to mean the poorest quality. Affordable could mean hiring the best service provider within your budget range, and yes there of lots of talented service providers for any budget. You just have to do your research.

Now that’s all fine and dandy, but even still a good cover artist can run you three hundred dollars. How are you going to come up with that start up cash? Well, if you’re serious about self-publishing, you might want to consider opening up a business bank account or getting a credit card strictly for book-related expenses. It’s often not recommended to jump right into debt self-publishing, but you don’t want to sacrifice quality for price. It’s costly to go back and have a cover re-done or a book re-formatted. Be smart with your cash. If you can find a credit card with a good interest rate and rewards, you’ll find that little bit of startup cash to be a big help. If going the credit route is not for you, there is nothing wrong with saving up for services the old fashion way. I actually did both, and yes it takes time, but one big plus of saving the old fashion way is not having to pay it back.

Going back to opening up a business account, it’s also helpful during tax time. There are a lot of expenses related to self-publishing that can be written off, that means a bigger refund for you and more money in your pocket. There are drawbacks of course, like high minimum balances and fees, but that varies by institution so do your research.

I’ve found that having a credit card with a low balance of around one thousand or so was very helpful. I made a plan before publishing to pay for a third of the cost out of pocket, and it really helped me stay grounded and shop within my budget. There’s also nothing wrong with taking a part-time job to cover publishing cost. A few months in retail, while stressful, can be a major boost to affording the artist you really want to work with. It’s hard work, but a temporary hurdle overcome.

What about crowd funding?

That’s a viable fundraising option too. It works best for authors with an already established audience. How do you know if you have an established audience? Look at your social circle, do you have any friends or family that may be able to help you finance your project? How about your reader niche? For example, are you writing religious children stories? Maybe your local church may be interested in backing you if you agree to make a book donation. There are lots of people out there interested in seeing your project come to life, you just have to look and don’t be afraid to ask. You’d be surprised the reach your social circle has.

Lastly, it’s not a race. If you’re in love with an artist and you really want to work with them, plan and save to pay for their service. Remember this is your project, and as a self-publishing author, you get the final say in how you want your book to look. Don’t cheat yourself or your readers, by cutting corners. You deserve better than that.

Ready, Set, Go…

I know very few authors who haven’t had a case of writer’s block, it kind of creeps up on you, like a spider crawling on your bed. It can strike at away time and solutions for it include clichés like “Just power through it” or “You just gotta sit down and write.” Well duh, obviously I know I need to sit down and write, but how can I if the words are all clogged up? Unfortunately, there is no plumber we can call, there are however some daily practices you can do to encourage the words to flow.

First and foremost, you’re not going to write at your best if you’re in a bad mood. Set aside some time to clear your mind. Snack, watch some television, bathe, get your mind right for the task. As a writer writing is supposed to be a relaxing activity, allow yourself to enjoy it by de-stressing before you start a session. I like to cruise through Facebook and listen to my favorite Pandora station before I begin. Another thing that is critical to getting yourself in a good mood to write is setting up your writing space. Do you write better outside of your home or office? If so, then leave. Certain locations carry a certain air around them that might be over or under stimulating for an already distracted mind. Maybe the peace and quiet of a library may force you to settle down and get a few pages done or the opposite, maybe a busy café is the perfect place for those long writing sprints. Find your writing cave, make it your own, and you’ll find your attitude towards finishing that last chapter will change.

If you’re busy like me, it is also hard to find time to sit down and write. I’m sure you’ve had that powerful urge to write at inappropriate times, like in your car or at work. However, these feelings don’t have to go to waste, carry a notebook around with you or better yet, just grab a pen and a napkin and joint down your thoughts. It’ll be extremely helpful when you finally have the time to sit down and write to have those notes on deck, so no more trying to remember that big break in the scene or forgotten dialog, write it down. Get a tape recorder if that helps, or carry a tablet. I’m most productive while I’m at work, but I only have time to write late at night, and you best believe I flush out a lot of ideas during the daylight hours. You don’t have to write every day, but you should be thinking about your project daily. Run trailers in your mind to keep yourself hyped up, talk to your characters, interact with the story, it’ll help.

Finally, there is no catch-all cure for writer’s block. It comes and goes. Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve hit a wall, writing isn’t something you can just conjure up and spit out, you have to feel it. So in these mini writing hiatuses, take a breather, enjoy a good meal, and distress. It’s not going to last forever and worrying about it isn’t going to help either.

It’s Worth its Weight in Gold

As the weeks turn to days, I find myself asking what I want out of publishing my book. Of course, I want to share my wonderful story with the world and maybe make a little change on the side, but that’s not my endgame so to speak. What I really want out of this whole experience are reviews.

Yes, reviews, feedback, the reader’s opinion. Why does it matter? Well taking a page from my college classes in creative writing, receiving good feedback is essential to improving as a writer, whether it comes from an editor, an agent, a publisher, or a stranger off the street. Of course, I’ve learned to take it with a grain of salt, but how my story is received is very important to me. Maybe the readers don’t like the cover art, maybe the formatting is a little hard to read, or maybe they didn’t enjoy an aspect of the story. All this feedback will help me make better decisions in the future, after all, I want to make sure I’m delivering the best story I can.

It’s important to remember, people who write reviews have gone out of their way to interact with you. It goes beyond buying the book, it’s like sending a thank card to a friend who’s attended a party. It’s special, even if the review is less than spectacular. It means they felt strongly enough to take five minutes out of their time to find your book and write a review. I appreciate that I really do and I hope OTCC earns lots of reviews. I want to hear what you think.

The Fun Part is Finally Here

Now that editing, formatting, and the holidays are winding down I can start focusing on my favorite part of publishing, the launch party! I love planning parties and hosting events, but like everything I’ve encountering during this book writing process, there are challenges. Thankfully I have plenty of resources at my fingertips and turns out you can have your launch party anyway want it. It’s like the Burger King of the publishing world, at least that’s how I see it.

Now you’re probably wondering how this is all going to come together? If you guessed that I have everything all lined out, organized, and planned down to the minute, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I am however going to make the most out of my small budget and with the help of my friends and family I’m going to send Ouji off right.

I don’t have any words of wisdom to pass along right now, perhaps later, but I will share this: if you’re on a tight budget, shop, shop, shop around! I’m hosting my party at my local library, for free, through a program they have. Call your library or bookstore, I’ve read that these locations are good for hosting book events. I’m also taking advantage of local stores and discount online services. Did you know that you can print posters at your local Walgreens for a good price? And Vistaprint, if you haven’t heard about Vistaprint, please go to the link below and introduce yourself. They have amazing deals on cheap goods, like business cards, promotional items, and more. These are just a few of the things I’ve run across so far, but it pays to do your research when planning your book launch party.

 

Here is a short list of some pretty awesome sites I’ve come across so far:

VistaPrint

How to Organize a Book Launch Party by Candy Gourlay

And I still need to watch this one, but I love the free Webinars Kelsye Nelson post

How to throw an Amazing DIY Book Release Party