Thursday, March 6, 2014

My response to From Bestseller to Bust: Is This the End of an Author's Life?

I've been closely watching for the last few years as the publishing industry heads toward changes. Similar info to this has made the rounds on LinkedIn where there is a variety of discussions across vanity, indie, self-publishing, marketing, cover, and every other aspect of the publishing industry.

Comparing all info, I have concluded that the major six traditional publishers are cutting back on advances because of the shift to e-books and the massive amount of them flooding the market currently. They have partnered with vanity presses (give me six grand and I'll do all the work types) in order to supplement their losses which has damaged trust and made many authors flee to self-publishing like smashwords, amazon, etc. As a result, the self-published authors have to fight harder through any means necessary to get noticed; thus, flooding social networking tools (twitter, g+, facebook, goodreads, etc.) with promotional efforts while creating a massive amount of free works. Some of these free works are hideous which has created a few new catagories within the publishing industry (beta-readers, proofers, reviewers, networkers, etc.). Everyone has become their own editor, proof-reader, and cover creator. Some can pull it off, others cannot.

From what I understand, aggressive marketing is necessary across all avenues (networking, self-pub platforms like amazon, etc.) to get the word out because the internet is flooded with creatives tweaking works in order to get noticed when bigger names throw their works out as self-published. There is also a trend where some authors are attacking others by purchasing the work, leaving bad reviews, and directing the reader to read the attacking party's works instead. That can easily backfire because (1) one-star ratings cause curiosity and (2) many readers are ignoring five-star ratings because they know most of them are from family/friends/paid reviewers.
In essence, the change can benefit or kill a work/career. It all depends on the care placed into packaging/marketing/promo/
network ventures and killer motivation while fighting for space on a steep learning curve alongside everyone else. : /

Friday, February 21, 2014

Let it be Noted

Let it be Noted

We all have stress from various angles. When you catch the flu, your body reacts to the virus and grounds you immediately until it fights off the virus. Other illnesses have the same effect. Unfortunately, so do some life events.

Due to circumstances beyond your control, an event triggers a massive amount of stress to infuse your life. It comes from all directions and impacts your family on an uprooting level. For a temporary period, your life is altered significantly. You have to take action or drown. You don’t have the resources; time, money, or motivation to deal but must. What do you do?

You push forward and do everything in your power to survive. What’s the cost if you push too far?
You wake up one morning and your body’s immune system rejects your eyeballs. They blister. It’s a side effect of Lupus, an immune deficiency disease where your body attacks its organs; lungs, brain, eyes, skin, kidneys, heart. Your fingers turn white and get really cold. They look dead when you’re extremely stressed out or very cold. You shake so bad sometimes that your teeth chatter.

Then the migraine hits. You lay in bed and search for a place where the pounding is not so bad. When you find it, the ache dies down until you cannot tolerate even that level of pain and move. The slight shift toward a happier place causes a flair in pain so bad that you remember the level of relief your former position offered. You wondering if your eyes are bleeding. And now you must find that place again.

Grit your teeth and bare it.

This goes on for days on end until you think there has to be a death around the corner. When’s it going to happen? Time stretches to a month. There are very few times that you can even crawl out of bed. 

You force yourself to get up on the good days and build up the amount of time little by little that you attempt to write. The third day, you wake up with your skull on fire and your brain throbbing. Everything is too bright. Nausea hits.

You clench your eyes shut and your orbs feel gritty. Another symptom of Lupus is dry eyes. Someone is pounding a nail above your left brow. Each heartbeat, the hammer strikes. Both eyes are blistered and your face has broken out in a rash. 

You pushed yourself too hard. Now, your body is forcing you to rest.

Two days later (equaling five in all), you have done little on a $6,000, 3-month trilogy contract which needs an outline and the invention of sci/fi characters and world. You drag yourself out of bed and try to do it again. 

Impossible— Back to bed. 

You do this several times over the next two days until on the seventh day; you think you just might die. What do you have? Is it a brain tumor? Because this much extended pain is ridiculous. No pain meds help.

A full day at that level passes before the headache starts to ease. You don’t dare move. Another two days go by (making it nine) of barely doing anything. Your client contacts you and says, “I’ve seen nothing so I’m going to have to drop you.”

One event that drives you into survival mode can park your ass into bed in an instant.  

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Changing What is Written

Have you ever written something that you feel is golden but sticks out so much that it creates a blip in the flow of the story? 

Many times, pearls of wisdom may flow from the fingertips in that first draft but, upon the second read-through, causes a stumble because it leaps off the page. Although it may capitalize on your style or aptly represent the prose you seek, that phrase will cause the reader to stumble. 

Little stumbles like this hang in the readers mind. I've read books by writers that have become household names where I remember the questions (or having to reread a page or more) verses the plot and characters. Does this make them a bad author? Of course not.

It's simply a memorable moment that sticks in the mind. Unfortunately, it also dissuades that reader from picking said book back up or moving on to the next story created by the same author. 

My point? Don't get stuck on a phrase because you deem it your best pearls of wisdom. Pat yourself on the back and let it go. Reword it to correct flow and realize the learning moment.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Flavorful Ramblings

Flavorful Ramblings

Academically trained as a technical writer, the need to reserve condense writing for technical papers and articles is glaringly obvious to me in many ways. I now write short stories, serials, and full-length novels in the romance and erotic genre. Allow me to explain:

When writing a short story, the demand for space tempts the author into using impact words for description which draws the reader in. Every author wants to dazzle the reader, leading them visually as well as intellectually through a kick-ass story. Targeting the plot, character development, and flow while writing from a technical aspect can damage that experience. 

I've had quite a few works that readers provide feedback stating it's a great piece but rushed or this would make a great novel. Some are much worse but, if you read between the lines, you get the gist of it. I transitioned from academic papers (communication degree) into writing short stories for an online platform where a 1,000-3,000 word count was required. Taking into account that plot, character development, and flow are pertinent at this level, atmosphere with intent to emotionally drive the reader is just as important.

Delivering the reader straight off a cliff is easier than you think, especially when writing in order to fire arousal, fear, or intensely stimulate the reader's imaginations.

If memorable, a DIY manual may tease the senses if a friend is having the same or a similar issue. That dishwasher repair manual taught you to fix something and now you can relay that knowledge if the writer did their job. A damn good story will transport the reader if they encounter similar situations in their real life or hear a similar story. Memorable is my goal but I want a certain tone to those emotions, instead of a cringe. That cringe will drench my name if I'm not careful.

After graduating from the online format, I ghostwrote short stories, and then serials and novels. I still write shorts of 2,500 words but its more difficult leaping from expansion on one plot where freedom to explore is the norm to condensing with impact words to walk the reader visually through the story without spoon feeding them too much spice in my flavorful ramblings.

I've edited some works where the material was so heavy with simplicity and wrought with errors, it brought a shudder and sent me fleeing from my chair for a much-needed break. I've also been known to face-palm and shriek write what you know! at the computer. When tiptoeing your way around BDSM scenes, it becomes glaringly obvious when an author crosses the line into torture. 

I'm happy that I don't know who wrote some pieces at this point because there's no way I can slip them an e-mail advising them to change genres--write horror instead! In the same fashion, maybe its time they explore tentacle, monster, or the much-naughtier side of sci-fi genres.

In the other direction, the prose can be well-written but the details too strong to stomach. I'm sure there's a niche out there for high-quality works but the heavy usage of impact makes an erotic piece read more like porn (you know what I mean). Another factor in short stories is character development. Should you make the character so lovable that the reader is aggravated upon finishing the short read?

Someone wanting to live in the character's world for a bit of time (every reader I know) may resent the fact when the ending swiftly appears. If the characters pop, the finale has to be just so to avoid that reaction. Otherwise, the reader will develop resentment when no serial materializes and attach that feeling onto your name. Congratulations, you've just scored a disgruntled reader. While your story was completely memorable, its for all the wrong reasons. Pull back.

My Process:

Pick a name, occupation, location, and time frame. Start with an outline, premise, or just a mental sketch of what direction I'm headed. Characters plus conflict sprinkled with romance, lending heat and activity is the name of the game. Who is my main character? How does she feel? What life changing moment am I to display? Explore what if... and brainstorm.

Start with action, impacting the reader with conflict or an emotional state. Unless directed by the client, avoid dream sequences or bedroom scenes because they're overused and amateurish (personal opinion). Character and atmosphere development means background building. I have to set the scene for two people to meet. Is it their first meeting, chance and/or second encounter, or are they already married?

What helps me at this stage is dragging or layering the plots/characters and molding the plot around the characters. Answers to the previous questions spawn more questions. Answer them as the story marches forward. I've grown accustomed to writing shorts so I lay out the premise without a word count goal. I know not to rush it. This is simply the beginning of a story.

The first section normally hits around 3,000 to 4,000 words. I don't think of the ending yet.

Starting back at the beginning, I mold the characters and stretch the word count further. It doesn't matter how many words I finish with but I still don't worry about endings. I go back to the beginning once again and tighten/expand the plot. Here, I add details that will drive the story in certain directions while continually molding the characters. Of course, I expect this to extend the word count beyond the ten thousand range.

By this time, I've also launched into a bit of developmental editing. Since I'm changing the story, I'm driving the work in a certain direction throughout the first two 'drags'. This allows me to target where I'm heading, explore titles for the book, and possibly set what might be a good cover in my mind. Even though I may be ghostwriting the book, I treat it as if it were one of my own works even though the title which I apply may be changed. 

I have nothing to do with the cover but setting that image in my mind helps me mold the book. Most of my contracts call for the book of 60,000 words be broken down into 15,000 word sections. In my mind, these can easily be broken into chapters, blended back together, or released as a serial if my client wishes. I let them deal with that process but always keep their choices in mind.

If the characters are popping just so, the ending (or hook to the first section) may rush out of nowhere but I don't let a fixed finale concrete too much in my mind. While writing, I try to sink into the main character and write what she sees to drive the story to finish. In doing this, the reader will (hopefully) enjoy the same visuals and level of emotion that I feel as I write. If tears are drawn to my own eyes as I write, I expect the reader to feel the same emotions.

There are times where I may 'head hop' even though it's frowned upon. When writing romance and erotica for women, I always use a female as the main character and normally don't step outside the M/F genre. When around her male counterpart, his reaction is described through her eyes most of the time. There are appropriate times when I transition the point of view to the male main character. For instance, the main female may be passed out or sleeping. This is a good time to give the reader a taste of what the male character is thinking.

My style is to keep the story positive so I rarely have a partner step outside a relationship if married. What if the female's husband within the story is a brute and she falls for another? Keeping consideration on a time frame or genre, it may be better to portray certain times through the male's eyes. Any adulterous scenes on her part should reflect how she is feeling--the good, confusion, and the bad emotions. Sometimes, this is difficult to accurately portray through her eyes. Give the reader a taste of what she's feeling through his perception and allow the reader to form their own opinion. Later, back up her character with her point of view towards self as she reflects back so readers will be more sympathetic instead of deeming her an adulterous so-and-so.

You hopefully get the point. Even though I may 'finish' the first section at this time, I'm not done yet so I don't place my trademark ~~The End~~ just yet. By this time, I may groan when going back to the beginning. As a ghostwriter, I don't have to option of setting the work aside and letting it brew. Many of my works are still brewing while one is screaming hey, over here. Remember, Peter? I'm the sexaholic counselor that launched your butt into writing. I need your help. 

Slamming the door on Peter, I go back to the beginning of the ghostwritten work and read aloud. Why? Because I know I'll hit every word and hesitations mean awkwardness. If rushed (this should be done every time but I don't have that luxury), I record the work. Normally, I edit as I go. Every time I alter something, I back up and read it over again (aloud). 

Approaching the ending once again, I stretch the story. Since working in increments of 15,000 word segments, I normally assign myself four days to a week for this process. I'll know the characters need work if I'm focused.  Many morning at this stage, I leap out of bed with dialogue or an image resting in my head as if the character lives and reminds me that we're not done yet.

There's been plenty of times where I've worked on multiple plots, skipped across genres, and overwhelmed myself in such a way that focus was damn near impossible. It's not recommended on longer works! When my mind can't latch onto a character to mold it because there are too many swimming around in my mind, the story falls flat. Forcing this separation of characters in order to maintain uniqueness always has the opposite effect when read. That's also why its not a good idea to overload a work with too many characters.

Anyway, this process leads me to the ending. Once I've written the The End, I go back and reread it aloud to make sure the flow, style, and random errors are taken care of before I deem it finished. Take into account, this is based on deadlines where I have to hand if off and never see the work again. Based on my contract and client relationship, I submit the work and move along. It's rare that I receive feedback on plot or anything from ghostwritten works. 

My process is subject to change as I learn. I may not garner much from my client with regards to plot, character, etc. but I'm often complimented on quality of work and efficiency. I rely on personal reviews of my work and beta reader feedback, altering my process as I move forward with writing. And now we've reached the end of this post. 

Happy writing everyone!

~~The End~~  

Friday, August 2, 2013

Constructive Verses Destructive

As writers, we all get criticism and reviews. Hopefully, these are constructive verses destructive but we have to take the good with the bad. What's the difference?

Constructive is when one describes what may be missing, should be altered, or suggests changes in a tactful way. For example: If the sentence structures are incorrect, constructive criticism would be to point out how they are incorrect and suggest a way to reword or fix the issue.

Destructive is when someone slams the writing without offering any why, how, or suggestions to fix the issue. It comes across as personal. It's as if the reviewer suddenly forgets that there's actually a person on the other end of the computer. For example: If the sentence structure is incorrect, destructive criticism would be to tell the creative soul to stop writing now and find a different profession. This does nothing but crush.

Within the writing field, it's easy to say 'just be blunt' but we must consider that every day is not going to produce pearls of wisdom or diamonds (even if their in the rough). Sometimes creativity takes time to emerge.

I've reviewed plenty of writing and read some posts that looked like they were written through someone's phone while they were horseback riding (not good). If offering feedback, look at the main theme along with the writing. Sometimes, the theme is great. Don't hesitate to let the writer know that their content has promise before tactfully explaining that the structure needs work.

If the content is all over the place, offer suggestions on how to pull it together. It could be that too many characters overtake the plot. Or the plot has holes, isn't believable, or is too dark. Whatever the case, remember there's a person at that keyboard who is attempting to relay an emotional message through their writing.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Barring The Wicked

New on Amazon (under 10K short story: Barring The Wicked). Along with this, I have a series of short stories (dark & twisted erotica) on Erotic Aria titled Forbidden Pleasures which I hope to have released soon.

Have you ever been hurt so deeply that you ran into another’s arms only to discover they offered no shelter? I have. My name is Zoey Peterson. After Trent Black’s promises to never hurt me ended when he was imprisoned for burglary, I ran to hide. Not only did Trent hurt me but he also used my brother as a get-away driver. I lost a slice of time with the only family that remained because of Trent.

They claimed innocence while I tried to ignore society’s judgment. I was proud and in serious denial. I let pain rule my actions. When my brother called to tell me he was out, I had no clue that my future was about to get overhauled. I quickly discovered that my attempt at barring the wicked from my life had allowed another evil to enter. Thankfully, Trent was not only talented and charismatic but had never forgotten me.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Happy Writing

Within college, I sank into creating essays, research papers, powerpoint presentations (you get the point) before my level of creativity roared to life and demanded that I pay attention. That was halfway through a Masters degree.

Since putting off unleashing that beast, I slammed out three versions of a trilogy (editing process turned out to be a bitch) before I did a face-palm and switched to another idea. That was a year ago. Another novel and more short stories that I can count later, I have finally released my first short to Amazon.

Why did I wait? I'm a perfectionist. I wanted to hone my craft (writing, editing, re-writing, get it) before I threw myself on the mercy of the wolves. Okay...let's back up a minute.

Before I did this, I launched into freelance creative writing to get a taste of what it was like and see what was out there. I've made money (and continue to do so) but it's definitely not a get-rich-quick type of thing. The industry is so flooded with low-paying jobs that it's difficult to find lucrative pay. I type extremely fast, am highly imaginative, and devour new information.

So...I'm off--finally emerging under my own steam. I don't expect to get rich but will be happy with whatever my craft produces. Why? Because I love writing, need to create, and cannot stop the stream of prose filtering through my mind.

If you're a similar writer, do yourself a favor. Write because you love to create and enjoy leading someone on a journey outside themselves. Don't slap the keyboard because you can string a sentence together and think you'll make money. There's already enough of those out there...

Happy writing! :)