Thursday, June 29, 2017

Thanks Teddy Roosevelt!

I'm not just an author. I have a day job. My day job often sends its employees to training seminars in the name of making us better. Yesterday, I went to what amounted to a leadership development training. Naturally, the facilitator had a power point presentation. One of his slides was this quote from Theodore Roosevelt: Comparison is the thief of joy.

As soon as I read that, I had one of those a-ha moments, but it wasn't related to my day job. It was centered around my writing. I realized just how much I compare myself to other writers.

Every time I shop for e-books, I'm looking at the covers. Sometimes, I'm thinking I love a cover and how much I'd love to have it on one of my books. Other times, I'm happy that my covers are better and I'm grateful to my graphic artist.

The big thing I do when I shop for other books is look at the reviews. When I see a writer with more than twenty reviews, I'm immediately jealous. I wish I had that many reviews. I wonder what the author did, other than write an amazing novel, to encourage readers to leave a review. I start thinking about all the ways I can get more reviews and wondering if I can make it happen.

When I crack open a book and start reading, one of two things always happens. I either find myself rewriting it in my mind as I would have written it if I were the author, or I wish I'd been clever and creative enough to come up with such a stellar book.

Every month, I get a report of my book sales for the prior month. My sales are steady, but there is no way I could support myself on my royalties. I see that report, and I start thinking about my peers. Some of them share what they make on their social media. If a peer makes more than me, I start to wonder why and how I can make more money, aside from writing better or more books.

Whenever I see a book on a best seller list, it pulls one of two reactions from me. If the book is really good, I wish that my writing was on par with the other author so I could also be a best seller. If the book isn't as good as I think a best seller should be, the green-eyed monster rears its head. This is especially true when the other book is full of errors or just plain weird. I always go on a private little rant about how it doesn't make sense that a book about alligator shape shifters can be a best seller, but my contemporary romance about a Marine suffering from PTSD barely registers on the radar.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Yesterday, I read this quote and I immediately understood just how true it is. By focusing so much on my fellow writers and trying to live up to them, I'm causing myself undue stress. I would not be surprised if that stress was carrying over to my writing and affecting its quality. I can also say without a shadow of a doubt that comparing myself to my peers often results in me second guessing my talent and ability and wondering if I should just give up. All because I'm so busy wondering what others are doing that I'm not putting my energy where it belongs, on my own writing.

I can't promise I'm going to quit my comparison addiction cold turkey, but I know it's not doing me any good. And I owe that knowledge to Teddy Roosevelt. Well, him and the trainer who introduced me to the quote. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Does Size Really Matter?

Last year, I was invited to participate in a Kindle Worlds release with several other romance writers. Until I received that invitation, I had never heard of Kindle Worlds. It's basically a fan fiction forum. Authors who write in this world are using the characters and settings of the primary author. Considering the person who invited me to participate was Erin Nicholas, one of the best contemporary romance authors ever, I didn't hesitate to say yes.

I have since learned that you don't have to be invited to write a story for these worlds. You can write and submit a story as long as you follow the publishing guidelines.

Several of the authors who were part of last year's Sapphire Falls Kindle World release have decided to do a release in July. With as much fun as I had with the last one, I agreed to be one of these authors, but I have a problem; a big one.

The story has to be a minimum of thirty thousand words to be accepted.

When I write, I don't focus on word or page counts. I just write. Some of my books end up being longer than others. For those shorter novels, I adjust the price accordingly.

Here's the thing with my July Sapphire Falls release. It's a continuation of the story I wrote last year. My story last year topped out at over forty thousand words. This one is just under thirty-one thousand words. While that meets the criteria, I'm concerned.

Thirty-one thousand words will translate to approximately seventy e-book pages, and here's where I'm worried. Is that too short? Do readers want something longer, or is this novella going to be enough? Should I go back in and fluff it up or trust that it's what it should be?

So many questions. As a reader, I don't mind shorter stories, but I want to see it reflected in the price. Nothing irritates me more than a writer offering a twenty-five page story for $2.99 or more. To me, that's the equivalent of a restaurant charging for a glass of water. It should be free, and so should short stories, unless they're part of an anthology.

My inclination is to beef up the story, but I'm resisting. I've already written three drafts and the third one has been fully edited. I think I'm going to trust the story to stand up as is. Let's just hope that size doesn't really matter. Does it? 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Finish What You Started

When I first started writing, all of my stories were stand alone novels. It never occurred to me to write a series. As a reader, I also don't recall reading a lot of serials growing up. I can think of a few, but I'm not going to tell you what they are so you don't realize how old I am!

A few years ago, I took my first young adult novel to Wattpad. Like You Mean It was a stand alone young adult novel about a popular teen who loses his arm in a car accident and has to learn to navigate life and relationships.

It never occurred to me to make the book a series. Not until I took it to Wattpad. As soon as the last chapter was posted, I was inundated with readers' requests for more of those characters. Not quite sure what else to do with Danni and Darren, I decided a spin off story for Darren's brother was in order. That series spawned two more series. Each set of books introduced new characters that readers wanted more of so I responded to the call of the readers as well as my muse.

Now, it's pretty common for books to be part of a series. Most of us not only expect it, we look forward to it. The more books there are, the more emotionally invested in the characters we are. I don't know about you, but every time a new book in a series comes out, I brush up on the story line by rereading all of the preceding books.

I love when books are in a series. You know what I don't love? Actually, I guess there are two things I don't love when it comes to a book series. The first isn't as offensive to me as the second.

First, I can't stand it when a writer starts a series and puts huge gaps in between the release dates of the books. The days of waiting a year for the next book in a series died when Harry Potter finally defeated Voldemort. I'm not saying I want a book a month, though it's nice. I just don't want to wait months and months between the book releases. Not without a good reason. Of course, there is one exception to this. If the book series is long, say ten or twelve books, it may take a couple of years to get from book one to twelve. That's okay, but taking two years to get from book one to book two because the author lost her inspiration? That's just wrong!

The second thing I can't stand, and I mean I hate it with a purple passion, is when a writer starts a series and never freaking finishes it. There are one or two or maybe even three awesome books with more promised only nothing more ever comes. Any number of things can be to blame: the book didn't sell as well as expected so the publisher doesn't want any more of the series, the author loses her inspiration, the author gets a better idea and shoves the original series to the side and so on.

Authors, if you want to work on more than one series at a time, that's okay. As a reader, the more I can get from my favorite authors, the happier I am. I just have one request. If you start a series, and you tell readers it's going to be a series, please, please finish what you started; especially if you ended the last book on a damn cliffhanger.