Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Big Search

A couple of decades ago, writers had to pound on the closely guarded doors of the New York City publishing machine, whose defensive strategies seemed designed to keep even the best out in the cold. 
Today the industry is in flux. The paradigm is shifting. What’s emerging is an increasingly accessible publishing industry where writers can take charge of their own careers, sometimes even by-passing the traditional system altogether. Today there are doors and windows where sturdy walls stood just ten years ago.
But these doors and windows require more work. We have to: write advertising copy, design marketing plans, build readership, erect platforms and utilize today’s internet technology. It’s both exciting and frustrating because all this takes time. Time to learn new writing skills. Time to access and use social media groups, online organizations, blogs and websites. Time to build a platform and create a marketing strategy, both of which need to be started long before the book is even begun! And all this time must be snatched away from what we do best: write books. Like I said, both exciting and frustrating.
Take agent submissions, for example, since that’s where I’m at at the moment: finding an agent for my newly-finished paranormal suspense book. The internet made it quick and easy to search out those who handle my genre. But each agent wants my work submitted according to his/her own protocol. And each one is different. Some want traditional snail mail submissions with varying numbers of pages. Some want email only. Some require a combination. Some will accept email attachments, most won’t. They want the first 5 pages, the first 10, first chapter, first three chapters, first 50 pages, etc. All of which must be formatted for the body of the email or it’s unreadable. Or reformatting as independent documents if they’re attachments.
This search requires skilled organization, advance planning, and effective record keeping. None of these are my strong suits. This whole thing is going to be a steep learning curve, a gleaning of new skills. Maybe they’re not skills I’d choose to develop, but they’re necessary these days to play the “get an agent” game. 
All I can say is, it’s a good thing I write suspense. My mind is already churning, a new story in the making. All this time spent organizing, planning, reformatting and record keeping will serve double duty. Someday soon they’ll be instrumental in either killing off a character, or solving the crime du jour. Or both. Just wait and see...

Previous Word Count: 578
Today's word Count: 422
Week #1 Total Count: 1,000
Exactly! Week One down...and counting...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

You Need To Blog

Get yourself out there: I heard it from almost every presenter at this September’s Central Coast Writers Conference (at which I took first place for Young Adult Novel in the Lillian Dean First Page Competition, my first time out writing for the YA market — wow!). To be a successful writer these days, you must have a platform, an internet presence that drives potential readers to follow you, eagerly awaiting your next thought, opinion, book. It’s what agents look for, what acquisition editors look for and, most importantly, what the marketing department looks for. (After all, they are the ones who have the most to say about whether or not your Great American Tome will sell.)
To blog successfully you need to be unique. You need a hook with which to capture as large an audience as possible. But with so many blogs in existence (I heard 180 million and rapidly counting…) pretty much everything has been done a hundred or more times over, unless you fill a very specialized niche. What’s an “average” writer to do to rise to the top of an immensely huge milk vat? Hard not to be discouraged before one even starts.
Had a long talk with my son (and outlook mentor) on this subject, during which he pointed out that I was defeating myself with an “I can’t” attitude. His advice? Forget about who’s writing what about what and just go do it. Even though there are 180 million blogs out there, there are a few billion or so readers floating around, too, so there’s an audience for everyone.
Huh. Why didn’t I think of that? (I guess that’s why I keep the kid around…) So, with the pressure to be unique and sparkling and intriguing off my fairly frail shoulders, I was free to allow my subconscious to ruminate on the sticky problem of how to go about blogging in a way that would be fun for readers and challenging for me (in a good way, not a “rats, I’ve gotta go write yet another blog!” way). And suddenly, out of the blue — well, the dark, actually, since it was nighttime — it hit me.
My nickname in my family has always been “A Woman of 1,000 Words,” mainly because I like to talk (maybe too much, but that’s for another day). And I write the same way: if everyone else can say hello in 10 words, I need 100. Minimalist is not my style. I love to wallow in words, though I have learned to control my love-affair with adjectives. Why not capitalize on what I already have? My way with (multiple) words?
And hence my blog, both title and weekly aim: 1,000 words. Exactly. Each week. I will write about writing: about the process, the muses, the stories, the plot conundrums as they arise in my work. About new directions in literature. About writing groups, critique groups, writing events. About books and reading and readers. In 1,000 words. Exactly.
Not all at once. Some weeks I may post three, four or more times; some weeks only once or twice. But each time it will add up to exactly 1,000 words. Words of advice, words of instruction, words hopefully of interest to some of the billions of readers searching internet blogs for enlightenment and entertainment. Come follow me on my journey and watch the weekly word count.
1,000 words. Exactly. After all, I’ve gotta live up to my nickname, don’t I?
Post Total: 578 words
First Week Running Total: 578 words