Thursday, July 30, 2015

Run-on Sentences; The Story of my Addiction

Over lunch, while eating a sandwich she picked up from the deli up the street on her break, she pored over the work spread across her drafting table.

I am ashamed to say the above sentence was written in my most recent book. Now, in my defense, the book is currently in the editing stage. So, the good news is that I managed to catch this before it goes to print. The funny thing about this sentence is that the very day I realized it was filled with unnecessary words, I read a blog article on tips to keep an editor from cringing. I’m happy to say I read the article before I took issue with my wordy sentence, but it got me to thinking. How many more of my sentences are this cluttered?

Asking myself this question led me to seek the answer. Finding that answer in a one hundred thousand words plus novel was no easy feat. The results are both good and bad. Good news? They weren’t as many cluttered run-on sentences as I was afraid of. And since the novel hasn’t been published, I was able to address them before they saw the light of day. Bad news? There were more cluttered run-on sentences than I was hoping for. Since the novel hasn’t been published, that means I have to correct them which might lead to a delay in publication.

As I was going through my novel in search of these pesky critters, I realized something. I have a tendency to add a lot more detail than necessary to some of my sentences. Take that first sentence for example. Who cares where she got the salad from and when? Does leaving that information out of the sentence negatively impact the story? Does leaving it in help? The answer to both questions is no. The solution is to take it out.

I also discovered that I like to take what could be two, sometimes even three sentences, and make them one nice, long, flowing sentence. There were a few instances where I had one sentence paragraphs that were three lines long. I like writing which means I like words, but even I can see this is some serious overkill.

In the category of more good news, this isn’t the end of the world. It’s something I can fix which means making my stories flow better. Of course, the flip side of that coin is the realization that it took several published novels for me to catch on to this problem. Now I have to avoid rereading those novels, or I might end up crying.

A long time ago, an editor told me I was addicted to adverbs. I laughed her off until I counted how many there were. It was an eye-opener. Now, I do my best to use them sparingly. It seems I substituted one addiction for another; run-on sentences in place of adverbs.

Thankfully, I can and will do something about this. I am by no means convinced I am the best writer I can be. As long as I write, there will always be room to improve my craft. If I can overcome my adverb habit, I can beat this too! 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Self-Promotion Sucks! Help Me!

The other day when I was putting my lunch in the break room refrigerator of my day job, a coworker said to me, ‘I didn’t know you had your own website, Trish. That’s cool.’ My website is specifically devoted to my writing and I have a rather large sticker on the back windshield of my car that advertises my site.

The observation about my website was made by someone I’ve worked with for a little over two years now and it perfectly illustrates one of my biggest shortcomings as a writer; self-promotion. I’m not just bad at self-promotion, I’m terrible at it.

There’s a common misconception among aspiring writers and non-writers that the publisher is going to invest in marketing your book. The reality is much different. Large publishers do have marketing budgets, but those are typically reserved for already established authors. There will be little to no money invested in the first time author. Small publishers just don’t have the budget to promote the author. Whether large or small, most publishers expect authors to have a marketing plan by the time their novel is ready to go to print.

I have a marketing plan. It’s a really nice one. I worked hard on it and it’s a good looking document if I do say so myself. Not only do I have it, but I’ve actually implemented some of the strategies on the plan. I created an author website. I have social media accounts which I update regularly. I’ve solicited reviews for each book I’ve published.

I’ve even done some things on my marketing plan that weren’t there. I’ve had created and posted social media ads. I’ve done a virtual book tour. I’ve joined online reading communities to try and expand my audience. I even started a small street team to get my most faithful readers to help me generate an online buzz about my work.

Yet no matter what I do, that best-selling author status continues to elude me. I am apparently either a terrible writer or not doing the right things to get the word out about my books.  For the sake of my ego, I’m going to say it’s the latter and not the former. It’s not that I’m a terrible writer. I’m just not good at promoting my work. Only time will tell if I improve on that. In the meantime, I’m throwing myself on your mercy. 

Please read my work. If you read it, post a review online. It doesn’t have to be a big one. It could even be a one liner; something like ‘Best book I’ve ever read!’ If you have a Twitter account, follow me and favorite and retweet my tweets. If you have a Facebook account, like my author page and like and share my updates. And finally, spread the word. Tell your friends and family how great I am, or rather how great my work is.

Okay, yes, I hear the desperation in my voice and I’m sure you do too. Self-promotion sucks. It doesn’t come naturally to me. Take pity on me. Please.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Resisting Temptation

A few years ago, I was on this writing contest kick. I think I've told you this before. Besides looking for some validation that my writing didn't suck, I needed some writing credits I could include in my query letters to agents. Trying to get an agent is like trying to get a credit card. You can't get credit without an established credit history. You can't get an agent if you don't have some writing credits to your name. How's an aspiring author supposed to get a writing credit? Well, a writing contest seemed like a good place to start.

One of the contests I entered was sponsored by publisher Hardie-Grant-Edgemont and it was called the Ampersand Young Adult Novel contest. It gave emerging authors the chance to have their young adult novel considered for publication. The thing I liked best about this contest, besides the lack of an entry fee, was the fact that it welcomed edgy novels.

I polished up my favorite unpublished YA novel entitled Totally Sick Freak. With the first line of the novel being 'I'm probably the most fucked up person I know', I figured that certainly qualified as edgy.

Obviously, I didn't win the contest. You've never heard of Totally Sick Freak. It's not published and you have no idea what it's about. I did get something I didn't expect though. As part of the judging process, all of the novels were critiqued and authors were sent those critiques. Even though it can be a little sad to see your beautiful creation ripped to shreds, it actually makes you a better writer once you get past the crushing realization that your writing isn't perfect.

A few days ago, I got an email that the contest is open for submissions in two weeks and I gave serious consideration to it. I do have a couple of YA novels that I'd really like to see the light of day. The problem is they're not ready. If I want to submit them, I not only need to clean them up, I need to format them to the contest standards. That's a pretty tall order for such a tight timeline. With enough effort, I'm sure it could be done, but I'm going to stand strong and stick my skipping contests plan I set this year.

I'm all for writing contests, but I made a writing plan this year and contests wasn't in that plan. That's not to say I'll never enter another one again, but I promised myself and my readers I'd try to publish more novels this year. I can't do that if I'm slaving away on prepping for a writing contest that I have slim odds of winning.

So, if you're entering, good luck. I'm pulling for you. As to me, I'm going to resist that temptation; for now!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

It's Indie Author Pride Day!

Earlier today, I was scrolling through Facebook, while on a company approved break at my day job of course. I would never peruse social media on company time. So, there I was scrolling through Facebook on my break when I saw a smiling writer posing beside two copies of her book proclaiming today is indie author day.

I have to admit, I’d never heard of indie author day. Intrigued and determined to find out more, I took to the internet to see what I could find. Sure enough, I found it. You can find most anything on the internet you know.

July 1st has been designated as Indie Author Pride Day. Its purpose is for independent authors to flood social media with pictures and announcements that show their pride in their work. There wasn’t any real explanation of why it exists or who started it, but I assume it was born of the need to remove the stigma from self-publishing.

I’m not going to lie. There are plenty of self-published novels that would probably make better coasters or door stops, but there are just as many that are well written, entertaining, engaging and making national bestseller lists. And regardless of what some people think, it’s not rejection from agents or publishers that motivates some authors to self-publish. There are a number of other reasons that don’t really matter today.

Today is about indie authors taking pride in their work and I have to say I like this idea. I like that someone recognized that all authors deserve to be recognized in some way, even if that means getting out there and sharing their pride on their own. If you ask me, this is actually an interesting marketing opportunity as well.

If you’re an indie author, let’s hear it. If you love the work of an indie author, help them celebrate Indie Author Pride Day by sharing your favorite pictures, stories, books, etc. After all, it’s all well and good for me to get on my own bandwagon. I am proud of the work I do, but I don’t do that work for me. I do it for the readers so thank you. Thank you for making Indie Author Pride Day possible by showing publishers that you’re willing to buy self-published books.