The Wedding Date–A crabby book review

the wedding dateWhen I saw The Wedding Date at Target, I picked it up. The premise was a trope I have always enjoyed–a fake date that turns into a real relationship.

When Alexa meets Drew, it’s in a hotel elevator that has stalled. Drew is there to be a groomsman at his ex’s wedding. Alexa is at the hotel visiting her sister. They get to talking; sparks fly.  That she is black and he is white does nothing to the story. In fact, because the author does not use the character’s skin color as neither a negative or positive plot device, I forgot by the middle of the book they are even different in that way. I didn’t care, anyway.

Drew and Alexa are from different California cities, and throughout most of the book, they are flying back and forth to see each other on the weekends.

Drew is a pediatric doctor, and Alexa is the chief of staff for her city’s mayor. Their occupations are thrown into the plot as little side bits in an attempt to deepen their character arcs, and it doesn’t work that well. (More on that later!)

As most long-distance relationships go, there are disagreements and misunderstandings, and I have to admit by the middle of the book I started to skim.

The book ended how I would assume a romance would–happily ever after. And no, she didn’t relocate–he did. As a romance writer, I can appreciate the author made her male main character give a little, as a lot of times in books it is the woman who makes the compromises to keep the relationship going.

But also, as an indie writer and self-published author, I have to ask, “How the F did this get published?”

This is probably one of the most annoying things about traditional publishing. Traditional publishers can publish crap, while good indie writers can’t get an agent to save their lives.

I’m not saying this book is crap or didn’t deserve to be published–but I am saying this book could have used a lot more editing.

One thing that turned me off almost from the start was the use of repetitive words and phrases. As an indie, we’re taught word needs space–but this also includes phrasing. Can your female main character look up at your male main character 10 times a page?

Yes.

Does it read well?

No.

I would have loved to get ahold of her Word document and do a search for a list of “naughty” words.

Someone needed to because Drew kept putting his arm around Alexa’s waist, and every time I read it, it made me itch.

The story itself began to grow repetitive and mundane, and like I said, about the middle of the book I began to skim. There were only so many times I could read about them flying back and forth, having sex (that mostly faded to black, so I didn’t even have the sex scenes to look forward to) and taking the texts they sent each other when they weren’t together in the wrong way.

The ending came out the way I expected, but Alexa’s job, her sister’s backstory, and a kid with cancer made the plot some kind of soupy mess.

I want to be clear here. I am not blaming the author. She had a good premise, and she put forth a good effort.

Who I am blaming is her publishing house and the editing they failed to give her.

There are a few reasons for this:.

  1. They wanted to push the book out for marketing reasons or to catch a trend.
  2. Maybe the editor who acquired the book left the publishing house and little attention was paid to the book after that. (After listening to podcasts about the publishing industry I am surprised at how often this happens, and how much this hurts the author and the book.)
  3. The editor the author was stuck with was new or had too much on his or her plate.

No matter what the reason, however, it is frustrating for an indie author to buy a traditionally published book full of mistakes we are told to stop doing in our own work.

And it’s frustrating to know an author can get a book deal when indies who have stellar books in their possession can’t find agents.

There are probably reasons for this, too. She knew someone in the industry and she used her connections. She may have won a contest. Or simply, she just got lucky.

But that won’t give me my $13 back plus tax.

And I suppose the one thing that makes me the most upset is that the midlist is shrinking. Big publishers go for the big books, the books that will bring in millions like James Patterson’s and Bill Clinton’s The President is Missing.

Few midlist books are printed every year. In fact, there are imprints who publish digital only books like Carina Press. This is disappointing to an author who hopes to see their book on a shelf. Any shelf.  Even Target. Maybe especially Target. It’s not an accident the book section is across the aisle from Toys.

What can a writer hoping to query and publish a book take from all this?

That the publishing industry is broken?

We knew that already.

It says to me I may never want to be a part of a traditional publishing industry.

Because I expect that if Roxane Gay, who is a New York Times bestselling author, would be willing to blurb a book, and that book is a Target Club Pick, it’s going to be good and worth my money.

And again, this isn’t a blast on the debut novelist. It’s a blast on the publishing industry that would publish a book that needed so much more work.

I know books aren’t for everyone and this particular book, or perhaps even author because I’ll never read her again, just wasn’t my cup of tea. (I drink coffee anyway.)

But a scan of reviews on Amazon told me it wasn’t a cup of tea for others as well. (Who also may only drink coffee.)

Even someone reading The Wedding Date as a reader and not a writer can still say a book grated on their nerves even if they can’t pinpoint why.

I don’t expect to like every book I read–that’s a given. But with the resources of a large publishing house–this book was published by Jove, an imprint of Penguin–I shouldn’t dislike a book because of the editing or lack thereof.

jasmine guilloryI wish the best to Jasmine Guillory.  I hope she can come into her own as a writer without help or she seeks it out on her own (if she happens to read reviews) because her publishing house certainly isn’t going to give her any assistance.

What do you think of the plight of a first-time querying author? Do we have a chance, or should we just give up?

Let me know!

How Do You Create Well-Rounded Characters?

From time to time I’ll read a book written by an indie author. I like to see what’s going on in the world of self-publishing and what my competition friends are writing. But I’ve happened upon a common theme–new authors don’t understand the concept of three-dimensional characters. Or if they do, they can’t correctly express it on the page.

What do we mean when we say readers want a well-rounded character?

When you read editing books, (and shame on you if you aren’t!) you’ll read a section on show, not tell. Show me your Female Main Character is tough, don’t just tell me she is.

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This is so much harder than it sounds because you need to begin your character-building from page one and continue the building through the entire book.

Say your FMC is moving, and she drops a box on her foot. Or she’s hanging a picture and she slams her thumb with a hammer. She doesn’t cry. She’s tough. You’ve shown us she can hurt and not give in to tears.

So what?

That means nothing to the reader. We want to know why. Why is she tough?

Did her father beat her mother whenever she cried, so your FMC has trained herself not to cry? Maybe her father beat your FMC for being weak. (Gotta love some horrific backstory, right?)

This makes your character tough. Now we have a reason. How does that tie in with the story? Because it always has to tie in. Your characters’ traits need to blend into the internal conflict and external conflict.

Your characters’ traits are involved in your characters’ emotional growth. And your characters’ emotional growth is propelled forward by the plot.

Readers need the emotional arc to care and invest in your characters, their lives, and their problems.

Let’s have a quick example:

Felicity is starting a new life. She’s tough–life has made her that way. She grew up watching her father beat her mother. Her new apartment in a new city is a fresh start.

She clicks with a mover who delivers her new furniture. He has a temper, and after dating she realizes he has anger management issues. He reminds Felicity of her father. She gets scared of him, though he would never hurt her, or anyone, for that matter.

We have some fabulous internal conflict now:

  1. Felicity is tough on the outside, but as you write her backstory and weave it into the plot, we’ll see she’s actually vulnerable on the inside.
  2. The man she falls in love with brings her back to fearful and unhappy times.
  3. He loves her, but can’t control his rage enough to make her feel safe around him.
  4. She needs to learn that not every man she meets is like her father.
  5. He needs to learn he has to calm down and get help or they have no future.

This isn’t enough for a full plot, of course. Maybe someone is after her (she’s running from something/someone) and she has to trust him despite being scared of him.

Maybe he already knows who she is, and he was assigned to protect her–but he knows if he can’t control his temper, she won’t trust him and he won’t be able to do his job.

At any rate, we have reasons and backstory. (I focused on Felicity, but we see that our MMC has issues as well, and you could make up a fabulous backstory for him, too.) We have an explanation as to why they behave the way they do.

Your characters are people who have traits that have been cultivated by events in their lives.

For your reader, it’s not enough to make your FMC a bitch, or moody, or pissy. Readers need reasons tied to backstory and internal conflict, or all they have is an unlikeable main character.

Even your villains need reasons for being evil. Some of the best villains are characters readers feel sorry for, even relate to.

Jaime Lannister is a good example. Everyone despised him for pushing Bran out the window in A Song of Fire and Ice. But when his hand was cut off in A Storm of Swords, we almost feel sorry for him. And, possibly, everyone wanted a romantic relationship to develop between him and Brienne. Even though there wasn’t a character less deserving. (Oh, that was only me? Sorry. Must be my romantic coming out in me, again.)

Make your character a bitch, and all she is is a bitch. Make your character a bitch with reasons, feelings, and a desire to change, or she’ll lose what matters most, and you have internal conflict and a character growth arc.

The best books are both plot-driven and character-driven.

Readers want change–to go on a journey with your characters. They need internal/emotional growth while going with your characters from point A to point B.

Some of the writers I’ve read have the plot down, but haven’t yet perfected revealing backstory, explaining why the characters behave the way they do.

Sometimes this can be easily solved by getting to know your characters better. Spend time with them. What are their hopes, fears, ambitions, and flaws?

An author will have a difficult time introducing their characters if they don’t know who their own characters are. And if the writer doesn’t know, the reader sure as hell won’t.

Traits, negative or otherwise, does not a well-rounded character make.

For more tips on writing a well-rounded character check out WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®. The assortment of books for traits and emotions can go a long way to helping you figure out who your characters are and how to write them in a way readers can understand and empathize with.

 

Creating Character Arcs is another good book written by KM Weiland. Check out her blog here. She dishes out fantastic tips on writing, and I own all of her nonfiction books.  Happy writing!
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Acknowledgements and Dedications

dedicationRelationships come and go. No one knows this better than people ensconced in social media, or, more specifically, the writing community online. One day you’re good friends with someone, and the next they’re not talking to you anymore. Blocked. You don’t know what you did, what you said, but suddenly you are no longer in communication with someone you used to speak with every day.

And it hurts.

For my mental health, I’ve pulled back with speaking to some people I used to talk with quite frequently on Twitter and Facebook. For one thing, there’s not enough time in the day to talk to everyone, and for another, it’s easy to get wrapped in a relationship that’s one-sided. While I love to support my friends, sometimes, dammit, I need a little support too.

That being said, I’ve made good friends online. Such good friends, I’ve mentioned some of those people in the acknowledgments of my books.

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Until recently, my dedications have been to my kids, “family” in general, my mother. And while I’ve been married for 16 years, never once have I dedicated a book to my husband. I always felt like a dedication belonged to someone who cared about me and my writing, and while I know my husband loves me, he’s never been interested in my writing. This isn’t anything I’ve kept to myself, sometimes tweeting my frustration. On the other hand, part of that is entirely my fault. I never wanted him to be a part of my writing. I wanted something that was just for me, and that’s what writing is for me. My escape. My passion. So maybe, in all this, I was punishing him for something that was my own doing. I don’t know.

But this post is about what happens when you acknowledge someone, or dedicate your book to someone, who no longer holds that significance in your life.

I realized that looking at my proof for Wherever He Goes I have a choice to make.

Some of my closer friends know I met someone on Twitter. A friendship that began because of our love of writing turned into something more. At least, as more as something could turn into with him living down south and me stuck in the frozen tundra of Minnesota. And through it all, I drifted further from my husband than I already was, and just these past couple months we decided to separate.

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That’s when I finally dedicated my book to a significant other, someone who loved me, supported me, supported my writing, believed my books could take me all the way.

Only, the joke’s on me because that relationship crumbled around me, and now I’m left with nothing but words on a printed page.

So I have a dilemma. Do I change my dedication page?

Authors every day have that choice. With self-publishing, making changes to your book is simple and the changes take effect almost immediately. You can wipe out a whole relationship in 24-72 hours. Actually, KDP only takes you about 4-6. Whole friendships, whole relationships, poof.

Should authors do that, though? How right is it? People move in and out of our lives. They teach us something, give us something, and then sometimes they move on. We do the same for other people, maybe without even knowing it. A simple tweet, a DM. Those friendships can grow deeper–you help a person publish a book. You bitch talk about the publishing industry; you are a person’s cheerleader while they query. You help them through a bout of depression, a case of writer’s block. Someone does the same for you, and you thank them for it. Then, one day, you’re not talking anymore. They’ve moved on.

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But the acknowledgments and dedication pages are still there, remain untouched, a testament that those people affected us, helped us grow, changed us for the better.

My southern gentleman did all that for me, until he couldn’t anymore. It doesn’t make our relationship less meaningful. It doesn’t make what he did any less important to me.

But every time I open that book, I’ll hurt. I’ll have to swallow back tears because the support I treasured, the support I needed, is now gone.

It’s up to you on a personal level if you want to change your acknowledgments and dedications. I understand completely if someone did something to you that you cannot, ever, forgive.

Your readers won’t know the history behind your acknowledgments and your dedication pages.  I’m willing to bet some readers don’t even read them.

My mantra is always move forward, always move on. There will always be another book. There will be pages and pages of acknowledgments and dedications ahead of me, if I’m lucky.

And, you know, if I ever run out of people, I haven’t dedicated any of my books to my cats, yet.

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You never know.

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Writing to Market vs. Chasing a Trend

I talk about writing to market all the time. To the indie writing community, there seems to be something fundamentally wrong with a writer who sits down at their computer, looks at their WIP, and says, “Who would want to read this besides me?”

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As James Scott Bell phrases in his book Just Write: “Without readers, a writer has no career.” Of course, writers write for more than just money, but if you’re reading my blog, you probably want to sell some of your stories. And that means writing what people like to read.

Writing to market is primarily writing popular commercial fiction. Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Dan Brown. Tom Clancy. They sell books by the truckload. Every book they write ends up selling thousands of copies. There are other writers who write commercial fiction too, like most big romance writers who don’t always make the list: Lisa Marie Rice, Susan Mallery, Kristin Higgins, Brenda Novak, Laurell K Hamilton. They write consistently what people consistently read. They don’t vary because something is popular. In other words, they don’t chase trends.

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It used to be a writer was warned off chasing a trend because traditional publishing moves too slowly for that to work.

When Twilight was popular, if you wanted to jump onto Stephenie Meyer’s coattails with a traditional book deal, it would have been almost impossible. First, you have to actually write the book. Then you have to find an agent, and she has to shop you around. If she succeeds, then your book is stuck in the publishing process that moves slower than my kids getting dressed for school.

Sometimes movies can draw out the popularity of a trend. Like with 50 Shades of Grey, there were a couple authors I know of that managed to get in on the action, though if it was just timing, or a thought out plan, I guess we won’t know. Sylvia Day wrote The Crossfire quartet, and Jennifer Probst lucked out with the Marriage Bargain. (An experience she shares in Write Naked.)

And sometimes that can backfire. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was glad when Fifty Shades Freed, the movie, was released, and that trilogy could be put to bed. Literally and figuratively. If people are sick of a trend, it’s far too late to try to get in on it.

But with self-publishing, if you can crank out a book in 3 months, and publish it, you could very well get in on a trend before it dies.

Is that a bad thing? I’m going to express an unpopular opinion and say no. Why not? If grip – lit is still going strong and you can write a good book in that vein, why not try?

Trend chasing isn’t evil. But I say that with a couple of caveats.

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1. You can’t build an audience that way. The writers who make it, or seem to be making a go of it, remain consistent in their writing. If you want to chase a trend and can spare the time, maybe write in a pen name.

2. You still have to love what you’re writing. People think when a writer writes to market they don’t love their work, that they are just chasing the almighty dollar. To find a foothold in the industry you need an extensive backlist, and the only way to create one is to stick with it for however long that takes. And that means loving what you write. If you love the trend you’re chasing by all means. But if werewolves are trending, and you hate them, don’t bother. Which leads me to a third caveat:

3. You need to be familiar with the genre so you can hit all the tropes. If werewolves are trending, but you’ve never read them, don’t think you can write them. You’ll disappoint your readers who do know the genre and will be upset they spent their money on your book.

So, chasing a trend isn’t a cop-out. If you can plan it into your writing schedule, if you have a great idea that could potentially be published before the trend fades, why not? What is trending now? It seems like women’s fiction, mystery-driven domestic (family/wife/children) pop up on the list.

As for something sweeping the world by storm, such as Twilight, The Hunger Games, or The Girl on the Train, sometimes all it boils down to is the lucky timing of when the book was published. Ruth Ware, who wrote The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game, seems to be doing okay. But I wouldn’t accuse her of chasing a trend. Perhaps just lucky, because she’d written a few books before The Woman in Cabin 10 made her a household name.

There is a difference between writing to market and chasing a trend. I write straight up contemporary romance. Tropes, plots, and characters like those will never date themselves. For now, I’m not interested in chasing trends. Mainly because if I missed the mark, that’s time wasted on a book that won’t sell. I’d rather invest my time in books for my backlist that will never go out of style.

You are in control of your own career. Chase a trend, write to market, write that thing that’s weird, but you can’t stop thinking about it. We all have different variations of success, and you have to be honest with yourself about what those are. Only you know what will make you happy. Good luck!

 

Happy writing Vania Margene

 

Why authors shouldn’t chase trends

On Chasing Trends…. And why you should just write the book you want to write…

 

What People Don’t Tell You About Blogging

What people don't tell you about blogging.

 

When you first start out writing, or want to be writing, or want to be publishing, or whatever it is you want to do to sell books, poems, short stories, non-fiction, people tell you to blog as part of your platform. And that’s all fine and good. Blogging is fun, you’ll build an audience, a fan base, and your content will sell like hotcakes because they like your free stuff.

But then the questions start popping up. Where do I set up my blog? What do I blog about? How many times do I have to blog, per week, per month, per year? Where do bloggers get those awesome graphics? Are they expensive, do you have to make them yourself? How much are the pictures?

In my last blog post, I wrote about my lack of time, and I said I would give up blogging to write. Blogging is writing, but I don’t see it being a huge moneymaker some blogs can be. I don’t do affiliate links, I don’t support advertising on my website. Partly because I’m not popular enough to make any money from it, and partly because I don’t want to be known for my blog. I want to be known for my books.

But if you haven’t blogged yet, or need some tips to get your blog on track, here are a few that I’ve picked up, and a few that I’ve read about. Maybe you can turn your blog into something amazing!

 

Figure out who you want to blog for.

I blog for indie writers. I blog about non-fiction books I’ve read and liked, editing tips, publishing tips, formatting tips, making-your-cover tips. If it has to do with indie-publishing and writing, I’ve probably at some point blogged about it. And so have countless others. While we’re humans with different experiences, thoughts, and feelings, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something in this area no one has written about yet.

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That said, I wish I would have started blogging for readers. I would have blogged for my fans, my people who love my books. The problem is, when I started blogging, I didn’t have a book out yet. Was that detrimental to writing for my readers? Not really. I mean, your readers will want to know where your ideas come from, maybe how long it takes you to write your book. They like the cover reveals. And maybe if you’re prolific, you have a lot to write about. The problem with blogging for your readers, however, is that all that you’re blogging about should go into your newsletter. There is only so much content to go around, you know? At any rate, it doesn’t matter who you write to, as long as you make the choice and know what you’re getting into.

 

Decide what you want to blog about.

I’ve read that when you blog, you need to choose 3-5 topics and write about only those. Always. Your readers follow your blog for a reason. If you write about publishing tips and news, then your readers want that. Not your thoughts on Trump, or the rogue blog post about how sick your kid is. While I’ve been accused of not being personal enough, do people really care that I had a crappy day and didn’t get my words in? Maybe if I can turn it into a post about productivity even when you’re not feeling well. But no one cares if I have a cold and I watched six episodes of Castle while I ate a gallon of ice cream. Begin as you wish to continue. If you want a lifestyle blog, then find an audience for that kind of a blog. I know for me, (and I know everyone will like different things) if you get to personal one too many times, I won’t read your blog anymore. Not when I follow your blog for tips on publishing, your own experiences, what you found out, if you stumbled upon any shortcuts. I started your blog because I was interested in that. I don’t have enough time in my schedule to care if you had to take your dog to the vet. Sounds harsh, but I don’t care. I read blogs to further my own career. Write your blog assuming that of your readers as well.

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***A quick word about turning your blog into an indie book review site: if you decide to do this, and you decide to be honest in those reviews. Be prepared for backlash. Posting a negative review of a peer’s book is never a good idea, and rarely can you find an indie book where you will have nothing bad to say about it. A good rule of thumb would be to have a policy such as, if a book would have gotten less than three stars, then don’t review it. It’s a personal choice that can come with big repercussions if you upset one too many people. On the other hand, if you only give out 5-star reviews and you’re reviewing crappy books, your credibility will tank. Fast. Trust is hard earned. Don’t lose it. You may never get it back.

 

Find a spot. 

I use WordPress because I like being part of the network. I don’t self-host, I let WordPress host my site because I don’t care about all the little extras you get with your website when you do that. I pay for my website address, and I pay for, I think, the business package so I can use some plugins. But if you don’t want WordPress, you can do Blogger, or Squarespace. My friend Aila did a great blog piece on Wix. WordPress was easy to set up, so I’ll recommend that. Plus the free templates WordPress make it easy to switch up your look when your site gets stale. As you add content (write books) it’s easy to add to your website. WordPress has been able to give me what I need, but it doesn’t matter where you blog. Just get an address and start producing content. Then tell everyone on social media about it.

 

Decide on consistency. 

The reason your blogging is to get your name out there, build your writer’s platform, attach a person to your brand. The more you blog, and the more people who read you, the easier it is to find you. When you Google “Self-Publishing Help” Joanna Penn’s name comes close to, if not to the very, top. Eventually, you want to get up there. Self-publishing help, top fantasy writer, the most popular romance writer. Whatever people search for, you want to be close to the top. This can take years and years and years–I think Joanna’s been blogging since 2008. She has every right to be at the top. But you want to at least stand a chance of being found in a search. That means blogging good content, consistently. This is easier said than done. I’ve heard advice to blog as much as you can when you’re first starting out. Every day if possible. Then when you start to have a following, you can ease back. I try for twice a week, but lately, I’m lucky if I can do twice a month. Even if you blog four times a month, always post on the same day so your readers will get to know your schedule and know when to look for new content. Do I do this? No. Should I? Yes. Do my blogging friends do this? Yes.

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Where the hell do you get all those cute graphics?

Probably the best place for graphics is Canva.  Canva is cool. Just choose the size of the graphic you want, slap some text on a photo and there you go. Awesome. Canva has some great photos free to use, and I also use Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay. You may not be using the photos for anything, but I still try to make sure the photos I use are free for commercial use. It just takes the headache out of it, you know? If you want to see how I used Canva to pretty up some blog posts, look at my interview with KT Daxon. I made those quote graphics in Canva using quotes from her book. Also, see my interview with Aila Stephens. I made those graphics with the cute pictures of macarons and looked up the quotes to slap on them. This leads me to my final point:

 

Figure out how long you want to spend doing this.

I can’t concentrate on anything for too long. I’ve been going back and forth between Facebook and Twitter. But being distracted didn’t do me any favors, and I’ve already put two (okay, three because I went to the kitchen for a snack) hours into this blog post. And I haven’t prettied it up with graphics yet. You need to, because studies have shown, (no, I’m not making this up, but I’m not going to dig for it for you, either) that people consume content better when it’s accompanied by photos. You want to break up long-ass paragraphs of text anyway, so might as well add some pretty stuff to it. A lot of my blog posts come off as book reports, or just reports, heavily researched and referenced. There’s not often I don’t add a few links to someone else’s blog post. That’s a boon for you because you add valuable content to your blog, and it’s great for the other blogs because you are driving traffic to their sites as well. The blogging community is much like the writing community. To get any traction, you have to read others’ blogs, comment, and share. Once you start to get going in that, you’ll have others do the same for you.

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Blogging can be fun, but it can be a drain. It can be discouraging when you feel like no one is listening to you. I’ve been at this for a while, and I still don’t feel like I reach many people. If you only have so many hours in the day, you’re better off writing your books. Chances are good if you start a blog in hopes for a book deal, it’s not going to happen. Blog because you want to, because you want to help others, because you want to share your writing journey. Blog because you want to be included in the writing community.

I’m going to bed now.

Until next time!

Important Reasons Authors Need to Think About Blogging by guest @kikimojo

3 Reasons Why You Should Be Blogging

Why You Should Start a Blog (Even If You’re Not a Writer)

Deciding What’s Really Worth It

Because of some personal circumstances, I went back to full-time work a couple weeks ago. To say that I have not adjusted well is an understatement. I don’t want to sound whiney, like a little kid being made to do something she doesn’t want to do, but it’s definitely a rude awakening when all of a sudden all the writing time I’ve enjoyed is gone.

I know most, if not all, my adult writer friends also have some kind of full-time job, and many of those also add small children to the mix. There, at least, I am fortunate. My son is 18 and will be graduating from high school soon. My daughter is 12 and as soon as she comes home from school, she runs and hides, all her energy gone from putting up with her peers all day long. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have laundry to do, dinner to make. By the time I have a free moment, I am spent. Not maybe physically, but emotionally, all I want to is mindlessly scroll Twitter until it’s time for bed.

So, lately, I’ve been exploring what I can give up, and what I want to keep, in order to have the time and energy to keep writing.

office-620822_1920And it’s more than that, too. I consider myself an indie writer, publisher, marketer of those books. That means staying on top of publishing trends, practicing writing, reading about craft. I just finished Stephen King’s On Writing. There is always something to do when you are an indie writer: build your platform, market your books, run ads.

What do I do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis? Let’s explore:

Daily:

  1. There isn’t anything that I do absolutely every day, except be on Twitter/Facebook (and I can’t even claim I post regularly on my FB author page, either!). I enjoy it, and I follow influencers, top people in the publishing industry. Agents, editors, other writers. It’s easy to write this off as a time waster, but if you follow the right people and use it for more than watching weird gifs, it can be a great networking tool. I’m fortunate to have the account I do, and for that reason alone, I like to try to keep up with it. I have a lot of friends and support on there. Sometimes I do fall behind, and for that, I apologize.
  2. I should add writing to this, but for the most part, I can’t. Sometimes I am physically unable to write. Lack of time or whatever, sometimes I just can’t. It doesn’t help that right now I am formatting and creating my cover for my current novel. Any free time I have is going to that just to get it done. I’m tired of looking at it, and I would love to start a new book.

 

Weekly:

  1. Listen to podcasts. I try to keep up with these as they come out. To give myself a podcasts-2633018_1920two-fer, I try to go for walks as I listen, to get my exercise in. There are two that I absolutely love: The Sell More Books Show and Print Run Podcast. The Sell More Books Show talks about indie news, and I keep up on a lot of things going on in the indie-publishing world. Print Run is run by an agent and editor out of Minneapolis, and they talk about the traditional publishing industry. They’ve opened my eyes to a lot of things, and to their credit, they are candid about their jobs. Others that I try to listen to:
    a) The Science Fiction and Fantasy Podcast. I don’t write fantasy, but a lot of the guests on there talk about their marketing strategies that can work for everyone.
    b) The Creative Penn. Joanna runs a great podcast and keeps you updated on everything from indie news, craft, author interviews and more. At this point, she’s a staple of the indie writing community.
  2. Write. Finally, I can put this on the list. I would go nuts if I couldn’t write. Even when I have to write longhand at work, it’s better than nothing. When I was working part-time, I could write 5,000-10,000 words a week. Especially if the story was going well. Now, well. I haven’t been working long enough to fall into a routine to see how far I can push my limits. And now with summer coming, I just don’t know. All I can do is my best, and so far, I feel like I am failing miserably.
  3. Read craft books/editing books. Being I can read at work if it’s slow, (no internet/computer/device access though, that’s why I buy my books in paperback) I can read a lot. I read Stephen King’s book in two days. I read lots of books, which is a major boon for me. It’s harder to write at work on certain days since a) I can only writing longhand and 2) if it’s busy, I lose track of what I’m doing and my writing becomes choppy. It depends on the day, and what calls I’m scheduled to take. Weekends are better for writing.

 

Monthly: 

  1. Blog. My blogging schedule leaves a lot to be desired. Some of my most dedicated arms-3404941_1920friends will crank out two blog posts a week. I can’t do that. Not only do I not have time, Good Lord, where do they find the content? I’ve added book reviews to my blog schedule (of craft and other non-fiction books) just to add some filler. But contrary to what others say about how important blogging is to your platform, this is the one that I let slip first.
  2. Helping others. Sometimes I’ll edit for free for someone just because I know how hard it is to find help at a reasonable rate. While I limited that to once maybe every three months, or when I come across someone who really needs the help and have nowhere else to turn, I fear I may not be able to do any of that anymore. Which saddens me, because I really enjoyed it.
  3. Author interviews. I don’t do this often, but this falls into blogging, and while it might be easy to email questions, formatting the answers into an enjoyable blog post (see my lovely interview with Aila Stephens) can take a lot of time.
  4. Spend some time on Goodreads. I try to add all the books I’ve read to my shelves, and give a star review, even if I can’t write a quick review on there. Sometimes I’ll try to copy and paste the review I write for my blog into the review on Goodreads, like I did for The Continent.

 

So, obviously, as an indie writer, you need to make time to write. If you’re not writing, you’re not doing much of anything. But if you are writing and publishing, it’s hard to figure out what you can drop since you’re running two or three businesses single-handedly while working a job and raising a family.

business-3385079_1920What could I drop? Blogging, probably. I blog for indie writers, and well, indie writers don’t read indie books. That is not where my audience is, and it was one of my mistakes when starting up my blog. I could give up Twitter, but it’s my main source of writerly companionship. Sometimes I don’t walk as much as I want to, and that’s sad, because MN weather is really nice right now, and I don’t want my podcasts to pile up (when I don’t walk, I listen to podcasts to make the chores and errands go a little bit faster).

This probably isn’t a good time to figure out a writing schedule since I’ve only been working full-time for three weeks, and in that time I’ve been editing Wherever He Goes and have moved on to formatting and creating the cover. I’ll have a more accurate depiction of how I can figure out a writing schedule when I start my next book.

All in all, I’ll just have to try to find some balance like everyone else I know. Pull up my big girl panties, and write when I don’t feel like it. Walk when I’d rather take a nap. Be careful not to burn out.

Lots of people seem to have a handle on it, and lots of people seem like they don’t, too. I’ll just have to look at this as a speedbump in my writing career. It’s not easy to think that way, since I write romance, and romance is notorious for the pressure. It’s not unheard of for a romance writer to publish anywhere from 5-10 books a year. I’ll never get to that point. Even if I didn’t have to work, at all. I’d never make it.

So, I’ll echo the advice I hear over and over, and something I have even told others: Find a balance. Do the best you can. Work with what you have.

It’s all you can do.

Let’s Talk Engagement

There has been a lot of talk of engagement on Twitter lately. What exactly is engagement? The Macmillian Dictionary defines engagement as

definition 4: the action of parts of a machine when they connect with each other or definition 6: the feeling of being involved in a particular activity.

You could even go as far as to say engagement means definition 3: a battle between armies, because, let’s face it, Writer Twitter isn’t always friendly.

 

woman-593134_1920

She’s cute, but forcing people to talk to you isn’t pretty.

No matter which definition you choose, engagement means a give and take between people or things. So when someone on Twitter says they don’t follow back without some engagement first, or they threaten to unfollow you if you don’t engage with them, what does that mean exactly?

This kind of attitude has always baffled me because first of all, they don’t understand what kind of social media tool Twitter is, and second of all, TWITTER IS F*CKING HUGE. “As of the fourth quarter of 2017, the micro-blogging service averaged at 330 million monthly active users.” Obviously, no one is going to have 330 million followers, but even in Writer Twitter, the number of people following you can grow to the double digits quickly.

 

So what does engagement really mean? What are you asking for when you expect (demand?) people to tweet with you?

i#followFriday (1)For sake of simplicity, we can pick on a relatively small account. Say you’re following 300 people. You have more people following you; let’s say this number is 1,000. We’ll keep an even number because my math is terrible. Let’s subtract the 300 you’ve followed back, leaving you with 700 people following you that you have not returned the favor to. Let’s subtract 200 of these because we’ll just assume they aren’t real people. Sexbots and whatnot. That’s 500 people, writers, potential friends, and connections, mind you, you’re not following. What if all of a sudden half those people started engaging with you.  You tweeted something funny, an article that hit home. They try to chat with you. Suddenly you have 250 people engaging with you.

What are you going to do, ignore them? This is your dream come true! You want engagement! Now you’ve got it! Oh, you say, 250 people aren’t just suddenly going to want to talk to me. Okay, fine. What about half that? What if 125 of those people started tweeting with you? Then what? You still don’t buy that? Okay, 75. It’s #FollowFriday. They haven’t been pissed off by your snotty attitude yet, so they try to get into your good graces by giving you a happy shoutout. Seventy-five #FollowFriday happy weekend shoutouts. Yee-haw!

i#followFridayYou better believe you respond to these people because this is what you wanted, right? All right, I know I’m being facetious, but let’s be real for a minute. Even if you had 25 people on a daily basis wanting to tweet with you, that’s a huge time suck. There are days, like #FollowFriday, or #WriterWednesday, where I do get quite a few notifications, and I do have to take the time to sit and thank everyone. I’m getting to the point where I may not be able to always answer all my notifications, but for now, I’m trying my best. I respect my followers, as should you. Someone thought you were interesting enough to follow, or you’re part of Writer Twitter, whatever, and you thank them by . . . ignoring them. Nice.

I admit, you can look at my numbers, and see my following and followers are not even. And that is fine. Some are bots, some are huge accounts I know will drop me after they get a follow back, huge marketers with 100K following/followers, writers who only tweet their books and nothing else. Yes, I do not follow those accounts. And I’m not suggesting that you do.

I follow back writers, readers, bloggers, agents, anyone human related to the reading/writing/self-publishing/traditional-publishing industry.

What I am suggesting is that with an engagement entitlement attitude, you do not.

I get that if you’re a big-time author you’re not going to follow back everyone. I was lucky and Karen M. McManus followed me, or vice versa, before she became famous. You can see that she’s no longer following everyone who follows her. I was lucky, and I’m able to tweet with her now and then.

one of us is lying

Buy Karen’s awesome book here!

 

So, why do I have a problem with this attitude, this need for engagement on Twitter? Because it’s the wrong platform for it. I’ve suggested to a few people on Twitter that if they want to keep their groups small, then they should invite 200 of their nearest and dearest and form a private group on Facebook. Chat away until your heart’s content, and you won’t have to worry about those pesky people wanting a follow back without saying hi first.

Twitter and Facebook are different.

Twitter is used for quickly exchanging information. Read an excellent blog post about editing, tweet it! Found a shortcut for formatting? Share it. Twitter is also for supporting your colleagues. Congratulate someone on their new release. If someone has a question, and you just read a book about it, let them know! Twitter has it set up now that tweets pop in your feed from people whom you do not follow. They did this to broaden your horizons and help you find more people to connect with. Don’t be annoyed by it! Use it to find your next Critique Partner or Beta Reader. If you need something, would you rather be able to ask 200 people, or 10K? Build up your account. Spread out your reach.

i#followFriday (2)Twitter is like being at a gigantic party! Grab a drink and say hello to everyone. You may not exchange business cards with every person you meet, but you never know when you’re going to make a connection. Or know someone who knows someone who can help you. It only takes a moment to follow back a living, breathing writer.

Do not insist on engagement. Twitter isn’t made to be a small group of people, your profile open to the public, and anyone can enter.

If you want privacy, switch over to Facebook and start a small writer’s group there. Share resources, tips and editing, vent. You’ll be happier.

I adore tweeting with people. Maybe I’ll only tweet with them once or twice and they’ll slip away, but that doesn’t mean they’re gone for good. They’ll pop back up one day, and then I’ll be the one to say hi.

And I’ll just make one last point before I go–you’re a part of Writer Twitter. Doesn’t that mean you’re supposed to be, oh I don’t know, writing? Insisting on engagement isn’t fair to the people on Twitter who spend the bulk of their time either working their day job, taking care of kids, and in the little time they have left, writing. Don’t punish your connections for doing what you should be doing, too.

Come say hi to me on Twitter and tell me what you think! I’ll see you there!

 

Happy writing Vania Margene