Monday, October 24, 2011

Taking my own Advice

Since the inception of this blog, I’ve always confined my topics to writing. The intent has been to show the trials and triumphs of the professional aspiring author. The hope is that I can not only educate budding authors of any age, but I can also serve as a source of inspiration.

Though it’s rare, once in a while, I may include a personal note on this blog. However, my Face Book posts and tweets on Twitter are a little more liberal with this type of information. That being said, I’d like to take a moment to address a topic that’s part personal and part professional. After all, regardless of the old adage about leaving your personal problems at the door of your job, you can’t help being professionally influenced by personal factors.

If you recall, a few weeks ago, I was a bit concerned about my third and final installment in a rather popular trilogy I’ve been sharing in an online writer’s community. To recap, fans were clamoring for the story, and I had some reservations about being able to live up to their expectations. While I’m pleased to report they’ve embraced the novel and are giving it rave reviews thus far, I’ve run into a new problem; something I never considered would happen.

Fans are so rabidly enjoying the work that they devour my chapters in short order and quickly ask for more. In the past, I could meet this demand and was good to upload a chapter every few days. As S.E. Hinton pointed out in the title of one of her lesser known novels, that was then, this is now. I don’t have the same luxury of time I had in the past, which I’ve been upfront in sharing with fans each time I post. Still, I get the tongue in cheek threats to discontinue following me if I don’t post faster or the outright refusal to read any more of my work until I’ve uploaded more. Each time this happens, I have the urge to reach out to each of these people to explain the cause of the delays. Seeing as how that could be rather time consuming, I thought I’d do a one size fits all post. So, here goes.

Writing is not my full time career, though I’d love it to be. Instead, it’s a hobby that’s slowly been blossoming into a secondary career. My proverbial day job is a supervisory position with my local government that requires I be there for the standard eight hour a day forty hour week. I wish I could say I run right home from my job and go straight to my computer to bang out my latest literary creation, but I’m lucky to see the computer on weeknights. As the mother of two daughters, both of whom are active in extra curricular activities, I’m often shuttling them to practices. Days that aren’t devoted to practice are dedicated to competitions in their respective sports which I make every effort not to miss. And for the record, I’m not a single parent. I have a husband who takes an active role in our children’s lives, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have parental obligations to fulfill. With a full weekday schedule, you’d think my weekends were my time to pursue my passion for writing. This is true to a small degree. My children have weekend practices and events that my husband and I have to drive them to and then attend in support of them. Weekends are also the time I set aside for grocery shopping, housework, laundry and other domestic tasks.

With this many demands on my time, I’m forced to budget time to write. And you know what they say about the best laid plans. I had a very fine plan to get in a few hours of writing yesterday that was unwittingly sabotaged by a surprise visit from the in laws. Because my time to write is few and far between during this busy season, I guard it greedily. Rather than spend all of my time uploading chapters of a novel that’s already written, I like to work on new offerings as well. After all, when this trilogy comes to an end, fans will be expecting something new that lives up to the standard of this trilogy.

To be fair, I could be in worse predicaments than having my work adored by impatient people. It could be panned by them. Worse, no one could have any interest in it and then my demanding personal life would be moot.

In my day job, I tell my subordinates you can only do what you can only do. That’s advice I need to apply to this situation. I can only do what I can only do. Hopefully my fans will understand.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Thoughts Exactly

As I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, including my post last week, I’m an active member of an online writers’ community.  Since joining last year, I’ve posted several of my works in order to gain a following and elicit fan feedback. A few naysayers aside, the comments have been largely positive, and I’ve felt rewarded by the experience.

One of the things I’ve taken to doing since in recent months is to post a reader quote of the day on my Twitter feed.  Not only is it fun, but it nets more exposure. For all I know agents or publishers could be following me and could see the tweet and be intrigued enough to investigate, like what they see and contact me to offer me a lucrative writing contract. Okay, that’s a little far fetched, but you get the idea.

With so many readers gushing over my work, I’m often found on Twitter posting a suggestion that I need to get my readers to circulate a petition to send to publishers demanding that my book be published and made available in print. Whenever I’ve made this suggestion, it’s always been tongue in cheek. I don’t expect my readers to do this nor do I believe publishers will be receptive to it. It’s just another in a long list of laments I’ve engaged in on this road to success.

I had to laugh out loud when I saw one of my readers post something quite similar on the recent chapter of my newest novel. To be fair, she could be one of my Twitter followers as well and is echoing sentiments I’ve already publicly expressed. If not, it’s good to know my readers are so supportive of me.

I’ve heard of authors achieving publication in stranger ways than having readers petition publishers on their behalf. In that vein, I suppose anything’s possible. Do I think it’s likely? Not really. Am I flattered? You bet.

All I can say is great minds think alike because those were my thoughts exactly!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Isn't that the Truth?

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

Ask anyone who penned this famous phrase, and the hair trigger response is President Abraham Lincoln.  However, this quote was written by poet John Lydgate and later used by Lincoln which no doubt accounts for its popularity and continued use in contemporary settings. While I’m sure President Lincoln had something different in mind than what I do, I like to think John Lydgate and I were of similar opinions being that he was a poet. 

Returning readers of this blog are familiar with my recent foray into the world of on line writing. Permit me to digress for a moment.  As soon as I typed the first sentence of this third paragraph, I made myself smile. It seems such a haughty way to say I joined an on line writer’s group and post my stories there for fans to read. However, for those of you who know me on a personal level, you know I have a tendency to use expansive vocabulary whether the occasion calls for it or not. This was a habit instilled in me at an early age by my father who always placed a premium on being well spoken.  And I assure you, I speak to my own children in much the same way, often sending them running for the dictionary app of their Iphones. Dictionary app! Let’s not go off on that tangent.

Now, as I was saying, I’m a member of an online community that allows me to post as many or as few of my stories as I like. Since joining this group last year, I’ve enjoyed much success and admiration. Fans have flocked to my work to give me validation in a way that agents and publishers can’t or won’t. While I don’t receive any monetary compensation, I think having a fan base reading my work far outweighs that aspect. After all, what good do stories sitting in computer files do me? The result is the same whether I take a chance and share in this on line community or I allow them to sit unread in my hard drive.

Over the past weekend, I posted the final chapter of the first of a four book vampire series I’ve written. Yes, I know, vampires are cliché and overdone, but that’s a discussion best saved for another time. The feedback I received on this chapter was so varied it immediately brought Lydgate’s quote to my mind. Some readers were outraged there was a cliffhanger ending with unanswered questions. Others were outraged the heroine didn’t end up with her beloved. Still other readers loved its originality and praised me for not tying everything up in a neat little package.

Let me be clear about one thing. I value all feedback, whether it’s good or bad. Without readers, I’m a writer with no audience which isn’t very fulfilling. I love to log into the site and see what fans are saying, but I do confess I’m happier when it’s ego boosting. Even when fans are appalled at a plot twist, I relish their input. The fact that they’d be so offended on behalf of their favorite character demonstrates an emotional investment in the story, which gives me a reason to continue writing. Still, with so much variety in the reader responses, it really drives home Lydgate’s famous quote.

As a writer, and in any other role I suppose, I can please some of the people some of the time. I can please all the people some of the time, but I’ll never be able to please all of the people all of the time. You know what? As long as I have fans who are reading my work, I’m okay with that. I can’t be the first writer to run into this, and I doubt I’ll be the last.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Happy to Help

Until I became a writer, I didn't know how many writers there were in the world. And I'm not talking about the published writer. Walk into any bookstore, if you can still find one open, and you'll see evidence of how many writers have been lucky enough to break into the biz. Instead, I'm talking about the aspiring writer.

Tell people you're a writer and chances are they either know someone who's an aspiring writer or they're writers. As soon as people know you're a writer, there's always a flood of questions that follows. Who's your agent? How did you find an agent? Do you use an editor? What do you think of self publishing? The list goes on and on. To be honest, I'd rather be asked questions like these than have someone ask me what my book's about. It's not that I'm ashamed of my work. I'm just not good at giving the cliff notes versions of my stories. One liners just aren't my thing, and summaries take time.

After asking me a flurry of questions about the business side of writing, most of the inquisitive are humble and even apologetic for asking. I'm always quick to assure them I don't mind helping out, and I'm not blowing smoke when I say that. I truly mean it. Having been burned a few times in this business when I was just starting out, I'm more than happy to help others benefit from my bad experiences. Believe me when I say there's nothing more damaging to your dream than having an unscrupulous character take advantage of you.

Sometimes it may take time for me to give a reply due to my time constraints. Some things I just don't know the answer to and can only offer an opinion. Either way, I'm happy to lend a hand. If I'd known another writer when I was starting out, I would've asked the questions too. Maybe it would've saved me some heartache and even a little money.

Since I can't change what I've gone through, I'm always happy to help those in need.