Put Publishing In Your Own Hands

Book ShopThe dream for most of us who pour our heart into fiction works is seeing them perched on the shelves of Barnes and Noble. The first time I finished a manuscript this was all I thought about.  My days became consumed with searches for agents, queries, and preparing submissions. For a time, I could not work on a new book, because I was so consumed with sending the first book out.  The hurdle of writing a query letter alone took weeks, and I never did feel comfortable with the final product.  Agents and publishers want a condensed version of your work no longer than a paragraph or two that knocks their socks off.   Of course, this is subjective and with the downturn of the economy, you could spend your life trying to perfect this art.  Can you think of any other industry where the artist is expected to perform such a Herculean task?

It occurred to me, the only thing I genuinely wanted was a place to share my work – somewhere I could develop a readership. Ultimately, the most pleasing thing in the world is someone reading your work, and saying, “Wow! When is your next project coming out?”  We want fans, people who are excited to read our next creation.  The world of publishing is changing, and a lot of writers are beginning to question the way we go about getting our work to the world.

SmashWordsEnter SmashWords.com. Smashwords is a dream come true for Indie writers, and here’s how it works. The website allows you to download your manuscript, and the only immediate requirement is following the “Style Guide” so your work is formatted properly for eReaders, and computers.  The Style Guide hits on copyright issues and ISBN numbers. If you have any questions, there is a contact page where you can email the developers of the site. 

After your initial download, your work goes through what they lovingly call “the meatgrinder.” The meatgrinder will kick the file back to you, if the formatting is not right. Of course, the meatgrinder only catches the basics, if your work covers the general requirements it immediately posts to your personal page.  The formatting is not difficult.  You will need to set up a Table of Contents which has hyperlinks to the beginning of each Chapter, delete any erroneous spacing, and create a title page. 

At this time, you can price your book. The website allows you to charge as much as you want, or nothing at all.  Additionally they allow you to create coupon codes, which means you can put a price on your work, and then give discounts to anyone you choose (mine are $1.99 for instance, but I have given discounts up to 100% to increase readership).

Once your work is posted, it will be submitted to the Smashword Team. This is when a human finally takes a look at your manuscript.  The Smashwords team does not edit, or read your entire book,  but they do decide if it’s a fit for the premium catalogue. The premium catalogue is sent to Barnes and Noble, Koko Books, Amazon, Apple, and Sony. Each of these websites will post your work in their eReader stores if it is included in this catalogue! (The steps are simple – all of mine have been included). 

Smashwords is another place to develop your readership, and expose the public to your brand.  There is no better feeling than getting an email announcing that one of your books has been purchased. If you are unsure you can check my site out at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/MOJAMES.

Good Luck!

Are you an indie writer? How do you publish your work?

In Due Time – Writer’s Block

It’s amazing to me that I’ve spent a year blocked in many of my writing mediums. Blogging became a chore that caused more stress than pleasure, writing a short article came with as much pain as a tooth extraction and everything else, down to advertising copy, seemed “blah.” I was fighting an enormous block, mostly surrounded by medical conditions, treatments and therapy. But blocked, I was.

I finally went out and purchased a brand new journal and wrote only when something incredible happened. Not all those incredible moments were good, but incredible still. As I found comfort in working with words again, I ventured outside of my self-imposed barricade and began taking note of extraordinary happenings in the world around. With that, I had a little more fuel for that only-sometimes-used journal.

I decided that I was going to no longer work as a paid writer.

Yep. I said it.

I evaluated why I once loved writing and why that changed. I received my first-ever blue ribbon that came from writing almost twenty years ago. I loved words then. I explored new avenues of writing, didn’t harbor any self-doubt. Everything I did was perfect, because it was done. I cherished that time in my life as a writer.

But today, I can say that I don’t like deadlines. I do not like stress. Simplicity is what I need; in writing, living and life. So simplicity it is. And a very long hiatus from writing, at least writing anything for anyone.

And now, I have a great relationship with my Muse again. I only write inspired words and write them when inspired. I keep my notebook and pen handy for the moments when I cannot devote hours to writing as to retain that which my Muse delivered. And I play. I am nurturing all aspects of my creative self – including painting, again. The process of keeping myself readily available for my muse in all creative aspects has made me able to write again, for an audience.

Every writer experiences writer’s block. Good writers know when to put down the pen. For me, that pen was down for nearly a year. And now, it feels good to write.

Do you spend time nurturing other creative avenues in your life?

Masks Guests Wear To Your Story’s Masquerade Ball

Mask Of The Masquerade

“The most important kind of freedom
is to be what you really are
You trade in your reality for a role
You give up your ability to feel…
and in exchange…
put on a mask.”
~ Jim Morrison

To be honest, when the Absolute Write Blog Chain regulars were talking topics for this month, I loved the Halloween concept. Ideas immediately leapt to mind. I instantly knew how I could relate All Hallow’s Eve to the craft of writing fiction. But, Halloween is not this month’s theme. Instead, I stare glumly at the word “Masquerade” and wonder, “What can I do with that?”

Say hello to my friend, Writer’s Block. There are many causes but the one that tangled me up is: lack of direction. To move forward we each need to see into the darkness ahead. We must unmask the handsome stranger who is our story (or blog post) because while he is hidden behind a mask he is distant and insubstantial. And THERE it is. The connection between Masquerades and writing.

No matter where you find the source of your idea waterfall, be it a dazzling Muse-moment, or a keyword prompt from your writing community (or client), a story begins like a masquerade ball. The invitations were sent, the catering prepared, the music sets the beat, and we wait for guests to arrive. Without the guests the party is a dismal flop. The guests bring the character and plot to every event.

As the first guests arrive, either in your first paragraph for a pantser, or, planner, as you begin to brainstorm and take notes, you meet their mysterious masked faces. Their trues selves are foreshadowed by the mask they wear. They are hidden beneath lies and half-truths. They exist as something other than who they really are.

We all wear masks, don’t we? We have a face for every situation. We wear the “Mother Lion”, or the “Capable Worker”, or the “Talented Writer” mask and we change our mask as frequently as we change our hats. The elements of our stories wear their masks too. These masks are an illusion. They hide the depth and substance of the person beneath.

Just as a person is never a single mask, owning many, our plot and characters are multi-layered. Life is not simple. It was never meant to be. Life is a song, a story, deep and complicated. The best stories reveal each facet slowly, with sultry looks and edge of the seat anticipation. Mask by mask we reveal the strange creature beneath.

As the Masquerade Ball of your story swells, the room fills with masked strangers. They are freer because of their anonymity. They act and speak with a closer connection to their true selves because they are not themselves. Our story is truer too, before it is fully revealed to us, which is perhaps why it can destroy our motivation if we plan too finitely, but, to uncover the core, to see the final and one true face of our story, we must peel back those layers and discover the intricate characters and plot beneath the surface.

How do you remove the masks of your story? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Check out other great posts from Absolute Write’s October “Masquerade” Blog Chain:

Masks by pareeerica

Image Credit: * Wearing The Mask * by pareerica
Image Credit: S2 Wraps Blends by pareeerica

What Color Is Your Creativity? AW’s August Blog Chain

My muse wears a kaleidoscope of blueMy muse is a closet chameleon. She shifts and changes color at whim to suit the inspirational environment she brings in any moment. Like an actress or model who changes wardrobe every time she steps out on the stage my muse loves to embrace dramatic inspiration with her dress sense.

Today she’s wearing a taffeta summer dress of light coral and corn. Vibrant colors that often make me want to get out and enjoy life. There is a chill in this Australian winter morning but I see the cerulean sky and bright, early morning shades of daffodil, sunshine outside my window. I want to be out there, playing. I wore pink today too. A shade of orchid rather than coral but it suits the cheery mood of my muse. It’s a nod to her effervescent enthusiasm. When she wears pink I think of painting and ice sculpting. I think of synchronized swimming and dance. Dramatic, full-body expressions of creativity rather than the physical stillness facing the page.

When I’m focused and resolute in my work she shifts into ocean waves of blue, a mixture of blue colors that flow and swell. The ultramarine glisten with iridescence cornflower. There is never a single blue but every shade of blue from cyan to midnight. A kaleidoscope of turquoise and sapphire. Holograms of denim and periwinkle that never appear the same way once your lose sight of the first glimpse.

When my muse wears blue she draws me to the page. Blue communicates. It is open and giving. Calm blue waters darken in the depth of emotional intensity. Bright blue skies transcend us, lifting us into the heavens where blue darkens again into the inky black beyond.

Red Velvet Fairy Medieval Renaissance Theme Wedding Gown with Cape and Jewelry on EtsyI surround myself with the color blue when I want to write. Blue, and purple. Purple is for reaching into the imagination and spirituality. It is flights of fantasy. It is the open communication of blue mixed with the vibrant passion and fire of red and orange. Sometimes when I’m writing fiction my muse wears an indigo gown made of velvet. But when I’m working on my current novel she wears a medieval gown in scarlet, and black, with cords of gold.

When I knew I’d be trying to choose one single color for August’s Blog Chain at Absolute Write I knew I’d have trouble. So many colors speak to me creatively and like my muse, the connection to color changes from moment to moment with my emotions and with the specific project I’m working on. So, I thought I’d ask others what color they associate with their writing.

Like me, Kari Wolfe feels her writing through “all different colors”. She said, “Currently, I write with multicolored gel-ink pens. Each paragraph is a different color…”

Laura Campbell said, “Purple as I mainly write about fantasy and purple is the magic colour!” and Cari Lynn Vaughn also thinks purple represents her writing, “The Purple Rose is a symbol for perseverance and transcendence.”

Lorraine Powell‘s chick-lit is pink. While Susan McCabe‘s pink is for, “calmness and serenity.”

Misti Bailey Sandefur writes in yellow. She said, “I like to write stories that will inspire my readers and warm their souls, and to me, yellow is a happy color.” Another reader, Cheryl Grey, describes her writing as, “Emerald green” because “it’s one of the most peaceful parts of my life.” While Evea Morrow has connects her writing to “blue- because most horror movies are shot with a blue filter” and Anthony Jennings to black who’s “stories have dark endings or plots.”

The range of colors we each gravitate to is broad and I found reading the other entries in the blog chain just as fascinating as the comments from The Craft of Writing Fiction readers. Check out these other entries and leave a comment below or write a blog post of your own describing the color of your creativity. “If you had to pick one color for any aspect of your writing, which one would it be and why?”

Photo Credit: 阿乃
Photo Credit: Red Velvet Fairy Medieval Renaissance Theme Wedding Gown with Cape and Jewelry on Etsy

Fiction Characters: Do You Need A Mental “No Vacancy” Sign?

Do your fictional characters keep you awake at night?It is 3:57 in the morning. Do you know where your characters are? If you are like most writers, you know exactly where they are because they refuse to let you get a proper nights sleep, or bath, or read, or time alone to enjoy the minutiae of life.

Once you have given life to someone, sometimes they do not shut up. I find this to be true of children, and characters. I rarely get to spend my hour commute listening to the radio, or relaxing with the windows rolled down and my mind on mute. As soon as the fiction characters in my latest story realize I’m alone the chatter starts.

The first time this happened to me, I was sure I was schizophrenic. When I stopped at each red light while driving, I tried to jot down an idea but, by then the characters had told their friends that I was free, and I forgot what I was noting in the first place.

Forget taking a bath. I used to think the kids, and the dog were most deft at keeping me from taking a bath alone. No, it is the antagonist calling to say he is ready to kill my main character, and by the way, …I need to shave my legs.

Sleeping can be like running a relay race. When I sleep someone shouts something into my psyche, and I have to jump up to write. My best stuff comes at 3:00 A M decidedly, because like an infant, that is when my fiction characters are awake. After I have pecked the brainstorm into my computer, I head back to bed. Usually, I can fall back asleep. At least until, the protagonist finds out what his adversary said about him.

When I first started writing, it drove me mad to share my brain with all the people who were crashing my psychological party. Now, when I’m done with a story, and things get quiet, I have let down.

I want to throw up the No Vacancy Sign!I sit in the tub and wait for someone to say something. Then I lay in bed, and listen to the quiet wishing my fiction characters would “throw me a bone.” When I’m feeling overwhelmed by the amount of jabber going on in my brain, and I want to throw up the NO VACANCY sign, I remember how lonely I am without them.

I just flipped my sign over, reads Vacancy – welcome all night owls. I’ll probably catch you all at about 2:30…in the morning.

Do your fiction characters keep you awake at night? When was the last time you were able to have a relaxing bath or drive from one side of town to the other without their company? How do you deal with the lack of mental vacancies?

Photo Credit: Nathan Barry
Photo Credit: DG Jones

Support And Sounding Boards – Share Your Unfinished Work

The value of support, and a sounding board, during the writing process can be immeasurable.  While there are writers who keep their work locked in a vault of secrecy until the first (sometimes second and third) draft is finished, I am not one of them. I have never been able to complete a chapter without support, feedback, constructive criticism, and encouragement from advance readers.

Call it artistic insecurity, or call it vanity, but I get a little boost when I hear, “Wow that rocked!”. The enthusiasm of advance readers can be just the kick in the rear you need to keep going. I often (no less than three times a day) and like many other writers think, “Why am I writing this?  Have I completely lost my mind?” The backing and encouragement of a trusted friend reminds my of my motives for writing. I write to be read.

Sharing what you write when you are at the top of your game can come in handy when your self esteem takes a dive, too. Your advance readers can reignite your enthusiasm and excitement. When you face that nasty bout of writer’s block they’re there to push you to keep writing. When the work knocks you on your rear they’re there to pull you to your feet and dust you off.

My favorite thing about the champions of my writing is their never tiring of willingness to brainstorm with me. They don’t mind reading the same paragraph twelve times. Sometimes it’s just a thought or word they share that spurs my imagination. A five minute conversation can turn into three thousand words and a captivating new plot twist.

A true advocate will also spread the word when your work is done. He’ll back it as if it were their own.  Friends will feel a sense of shared ownership and pride in the finished product and be eager to help you market the work.

Without the supporters who spend countless hours reading, critiquing, and loving my work, I’m not sure I could have finished my first novel, let alone plunged into the ones that followed.

What are some of the other ways you stay inspired? Who do you trust with your work before it’s finished? What do your advance readers do for you?

If you haven’t shared your work yet, I highly recommend it, and I guarantee a smile.

Inspire Your Children to Write Fiction

Inspire Your Children To Write FictionFor most of us, the gift of writing is cathartic and freeing.  I received the first gift of a journal, full of empty pages just waiting for my words, sent me into bliss at the ripe ole’ age of eight.  My memories of being given this gift at an early age inspired me to pass on a love of writing to my own two rug rats.  It may seem like a daunting task to have a thirteen-year-old sit down at his computer to write a story.  Especially, if you consider that this type of request from a teacher would send him into a complete tailspin.

How do you get around this?  All kids are inspired by what their parents do.  Sometimes we miss the subtle clues screaming “Hey this kid has talent.”  However, you know that within each of them a story lives.  The basics for employing a love of writing start early.  If they can pick up a pen, they can describe the way it felt to jump in the pool the first time the weather permitted, or how meeting their new teacher felt.  Wonder of wonders, they may write something they hadn’t expected, and that clues you in to their intimate childhood worlds.

Of course, how the concept is presented will influence your chances to inspire you children to read and write.  This is the difference between a frown when you suggest they write about their trip to zoo, and “Good Idea!”.  Making the idea their own is important; you need to show interest, and spur their imaginations.  Simply saying, “Don’t you think it would be cool to write about our vacation?”, may not work.  However, you may be surprised by their response if you say, “Help me think of a character who lived in this area… do think they would have special qualities?  What do you think their problems, fears, and dreams would be?”

My oldest child loves to get involved in my stories and help me develop characters.  He is also a deft creator of turmoil and drama.  During our conversations about my own writing, I sometimes suggest that he would better communicate the intricacies of the character.  Now he has a small book of his own writing and is quite proud of it. Of course, I’m very proud too.  My hope is that he will learn to purge his frustration into his stories, a benefit to him, and his characters.

We should all inspire the writers of the future so a truly beautiful art form is never lost!

Do you inspire and encourage your children to write fiction? What are your own earliest memories of being encouraged to write?

Photo Credit: 07-24-08 © Yucel Yilmaz

Recreate: Inspiration To Write New, Fresh, Unique Stories

Recreate from the Mosaic of your MemoriesWriters recreate – everything we write is not truly unique. It comes from outside of itself.

Did you know? “The muses, the Greek inspirers of the creative arts, were the daughters of Memory, or Mnemosyne.” 1

Everything we experience, see, read, watch, hear, is archived on some level in our brain. As we write our subconscious draws from these billions of fragmented memories. This does not mean we plagiarize. Instead, drawing from experience, our own and that of others, we recreate, innovate, change, and forever alter the original. We create; new, fresh, and unique.

One night, I lay in bed watching the opening scenes from the movie Twilight. Bella’s voice-over talks about her decision to leave Arizona. “And this will be a good thing; I think.” In deciding to leave Arizona she is right into the event that begins her story. This is “The Inciting Incident”2. As I considered “the inciting incident” in Bella’s story my mind wandered into the intricate folds of my current work-in-progress. My thoughts ran through and weighed significant details as I considered new ideas and improvements to strengthen the initial scene, “the inciting incident”, in my own work.

My story is not Twilight. But something within that movie triggered a connection within my subconscious that influenced my writing. Echos of Bella, the scene in Arizona, and her softly spoken but decisive words are recreated in the inspiration that gave me new insight into the opening scenes of my current project.

In another example of fractured memories influencing new content, I was recently working on my current novel, ruminating on it in the darkness of the night, and daydreaming through the day. In it, the death of my protagonist’s father is a significant memory but the actual event had not found itself on the page. A scene came to mind but I couldn’t grasp the details. They were hazy, fuzzy. I delved deeper, trying to gain clarity in the image so that I could put it onto the page.

Aspects of the scene I could visualize in my mind’s eye echoed other memories. The setting reflected one I remembered from The Mummy Returns starring Brendan Fraser. The rich opulence, ancient artifacts, varnished wood surfaces, and the palpable sense of old money was mirrored in the room where I visualized my protagonist’s tragedy.

In my head I saw a picture and aspects of it echoed the set from that movie. As I dug deeper into my image, as I dissected it, I discovered a mosaic of memories. That setting was made of a thousand different rooms, ornaments, experiences. I could recreate from each segment of the mosaic, but collectively they created a unique setting.

From the mosaic of our mind and memory, we can recreate and find inspiration for new, fresh, unique stories, scenes, characters, and plots. Do you recreate, within your own writing, inspiration found in books or movies? How much influence do you feel your experiences and memories have on your writer’s voice and the stories you write?

Footnotes
1 “The Poetry Dictionary” by John Drury – First Edition, Page 158: Memory
2 “Hooked” by Les Edgerton – Chapter Three, Page 47: The Inciting Incident

Photo Credit: 03-25-10 © Nancy Ross

Motivation Techniques To Reduce Writing Job Stress

Motivation Techniques to Reduce Writing Job StressHas a lack of motivation ever seen you sitting at your desk or curled up in your favorite chair with your laptop—and no inspiration to work on your writing? Not even one word?

This is how I feel today. And I thought I’d blog about it here because surely other writers and bloggers have experienced this same thing.

Some days I’m on fire, writing and writing. The ideas are endless. My passion for words keeps my fingers tapping away at the keyboard. Then there are days like today. Days where I just want to crawl back under the covers and stay there until the inspiration comes back.

Folks, the muse plays tricks on our minds!

Whether it’s a headache, feeling blah – physically or mentally/emotionally – or dealing with life, there are times when I feel like I can’t bring myself to purge one word from my soul.

Of course, if you’re building a career as a writer, crawling back under the covers until the muse comes back to sprinkle her inspiring dust about, is out of the question. When writing is your job you can’t always afford time to give into job stress.

Here are 5 motivation techniques that keep me writing—especially when I don’t feel like it:

  1. Connecting with my writing friends. Communicating with other writers and bloggers, who know exactly what I’m going through, is crucial to the health of my writing craft. They do this job too so they know the stress I’m feeling. By the time they’re finished tossing out quotes, words of wisdom, advice, encouragement, and even a joke here and there, I’m feeling refreshed, confident, and ready to take on the words. This motivation technique’s added benefit is motivating the friend too!
  2. Reading quotes, blog posts, or a few pages from my favorite authors. I find great inspiration from motivational people like Maya Angelou. After drawing strength from her words, anything is possible!
  3. Yoga. I’m a huge fan of yoga (particularly Ashtanga style) and have found that my writing is much more prolific, inspired, and meaningful when I practice regularly. You don’t have to take an hour to feel the benefits and motivation of this technique. As little as five to twenty minutes of yoga can reduce stress, clear your mind, stretch and warm your muscles, and inspire your creativity!
  4. Gardening. Sometimes it takes nothing more than a few minutes strolling through the garden, inhaling fresh air and seeing the fruits of my labor, to feel my motivation levels rise.
  5. Eating or drinking something nutritious. My brain needs food as much as my body. So if I’m hungry or have forgotten to eat, I’ll notice it affects my writing. Whether it’s a salad chock-full of veggies and a little protein, a handful of nuts, a piece of fruit, or a raw juice or smoothie, fueling up my body results in filling pages!

I hope these motivation techniques have sparked your interest and given you a few ideas you can try for those days you can’t find your motivation – or muse – but need to get the job done.

What do you do when you have to write through lack of inspiration, motivation, and/or chaotic, disruptive days? Do you ever just throw up your hands and crawl back under the covers or hide away somewhere in your house? Or do you press through? What tips and tricks do you have? Do share!

Photo Credit: wagg66

Real-Life Inspiration for Fictional Conversations and Finding Ideas

“Imagination and fiction make up more than three-quarters of our real life.” ~ Simone Weil

Ever been at a family reunion, get-together, party or other event and overheard juicy gossip about love affairs or other eyebrow-raising talk?

The (Real) Scene

You’re nibbling on that yummy chocolate cake someone made—the one that is so moist it melts as soon as it hits your tongue; the one that is so chocolaty and divine, you think you’ve died and gone to paradise when, all of a sudden, it happens–you overhear juicy news.

“Susie, I have to tell you something.”

“What?”

Overheard Chocolate Cake Confessions“I’m pregnant.”

“Congratulations to you and Darren!”

“Um, not exactly…”

“Whatever do you mean, Erin?”

“Well, see, I met this man–Carlos.”

“Where?!”

“At the park.”

“Oh, Erin! How…”

“I know what you’re thinking, Susie. And I felt awful at first. Just horrendous!”

“But Erin.”

“Susie, he’s so handsome! His skin looks and feels like soft, melted caramel. His eyes are an endless sea of dark chocolate. And his hair… He has a mane of hair that is long, shiny, black, and wavy. It glistens in the sunlight (and moonlight!) with hues of blue–breathtaking. Carlos is everything I’ve ever dreamed of: daring, spontaneous, mysterious, loving, romantic—and oh, so much more!”

“Oh, Erin!”

Jolt of Reality

In walks the husband, Darren.

Uh-oh!

Gulp.

Oh, that was you—not Susie!

Now both Susie and Erin have realized you overheard the whole shebang. And Darren is left wondering why he could cut the tension in the room with that (chocolate) cake knife.

Stealing Inspiration

Wouldn’t this make for a pretty cool scene in a love story? Or do you think it’s cheesy and awful?

Have you ever been in that situation? Did you take notes—whether mental or with paper and pen? Did you try to ignore the conversation and then later wished you had written down every measly detail of juiciness?

Would you tell Erin’s husband she’s cheating on him? Would your reaction be different in real life than the make-believe story you’re writing–or would it be the same. Why?

And what about “those people” from down the street? Or the co-workers with questionable behavior?

There are so many things in real life that we can take and bleed into works of fiction. True, not every family member, friend, or “different” person you come in contact with will have a steamy — or even interesting — story. But even so, you can spice it up and make it as interesting as you’d like.

In my opinion, a lot of fiction is based on real life anyway. Sure, there are writers who have off-the-wall, unique (and simply amazing!) imaginations but there’s also quite a bit of make-believe that’s based on true stories. They’re just embellished. That’s where creative writing comes in, right?

Right.

Have you  swiped a storyline from your own family or friends? If so, did they find out? What was their reaction? Do you think it’s ethical? Of course, you’d have to change names, locations, etc., so readers (or the people you’re swiping inspiration from!) would never know exactly who you’ve based your story or book on. Come on, spill the beans. You know you want to!

Photo Credit: 10-08-07 © Hélène Vallée
Quote Source: Quote Garden, Imagination