Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Why Authors Should Strive NOT to be Negative Nancies and Debby Downers

Social media and internet interaction can and will make or break an author. Whether it's another blog or an author's own blog, the author's attitude can either be a positive draw for readers or send them in search of less whiny and less bitter writers. No matter how good the author's books, if a reader reads snarky or critical or woe-is-me driven author's comments, those authors and their writing become less and less appealing.

With minimal searching, you'll find plenty social media cringe moments, and you'll discover glaring examples of oh-my-gosh-she-did-not moments. This is not an author-bashing post. No need, any author that exhibits these behavior handily succeeds at bashing his or her career and writing efforts all on their own.

I've observed these particular actions and have witnessed over the last two or three years the effects certain behaviors have on a writer's potential to draw, maintain, and expand their readership.

Insult your reviewers and readers or present yourself in a negative manner, and it just ain't happening, baby, no matter how many books you write or how many times you recreate yourself with another pseudonym, especially should you continue to exhibit those same off-putting tactics.

Here are a few of the examples of what what not to do:

Use your Former Writer-Based Blog as a Reader's Blog, with your Comments turned off. Why would an author think that walling off their reader access would be welcoming and encourage a connection with said readers? Is it any wonder, an author might ponder, in blog posts, why sales and readership have dropped? Um, well...

Make Comments about Reader Reviews either in Reply to Negative Reviews or Insulting Negative Reviewer on your Author Blog. Although blog posts may even be deleted after the fact,  those that read them while they were on the internet for all to see do not forget. Insulting reviewers and calling them names -- real bright, GE. Fail!

Lament on your Blog about Lack of Sales and Blame Reviewers, Other Writers for their Competition, Timing, Other Author's Successes, etc. As a reader, I am not interested in reading posts where the author whines about lack of sales, poor judgement, other author's successes, blah, blah, blah. Straight up, I'm heading on over to that awful successful author's blog or Amazon author page, if you mention the other author(s), and buy one of their books. Not, um, yours. Great move, Sherlock, for pointing out that your books aren't selling. After all, there must be a reason why, right?

Discuss Personal Issues, such as Hygiene Techniques, etc., when your Writing has NOTHING to do with Any of that Stuff. Share about the Police Procedural class you are taking if you write suspense or the conference having to do with the Thrillers or Suspense. I do not care about or want to hear about what should remain your private quirks or personal grooming habits. I'm interested in your books. (Not to say if you're personal info adds to the interest toward your books. You were a lounge singer, and the book is about a lounge singer framed for murder.) Why waste your time and your readers time with irrelevant silliness?

Use your Blog Posts as an Excuse to Share Foul Language or Gross-Out Factors for Shock Value. You are building your writing persona and this is who the writer part of you is and you'll do whatever the eff you want. Sure. Have at it. No problem here with an F-bomb dropped in an appropriate place or a called for expletive, but if you choose to share all forms of body fluid descriptors, curse words, name calling (Yeah, B--ches!), etc., I suggest you keep it up, just like you can keep your books and your writing. The majority of readers -- and it is a majority of whatever niche your genre falls in that you are trying to reach and connect with -- are not interested in adolescent displays of character flaws and shameless attention getting attempts. Edgy is appropriate and even welcome for some genres; however, the lack of professionalism and out-right rudeness is not. No, thanks, I'll pass on those bleeping books of yours. 

Whine about your Earlier Success not being Your Current Success. Yeah, I want to know that you sold say 7,000 books in a month in 2010, but you are not selling well now. Tell me that, and how you are struggling for an audience now, and I'll rush right over to Amazon and download your most recent book with 1-click. Not.

Act Out Online in a Forum or in Blog Comments and Continue to Rehash the Event on Your Blog. You did something you should not be proud of and that would have bettered your career had it not happened in the first place. If you haven't apologized for perhaps attacking another person (reviewer, author, etc.), then do so, and move on. It was ugliness the first time it happened, and rehashing ugly, as though you're proud of your actions, does not pretty up ugly at all. Do I want to read the writing of someone who would do that in the first place? Er, iffy. Do I want to read the books of someone who won't let it go and brags about it? No, thank you, very much!

Create Controversy in the Name of Being Whoever You Decide Your Current Psuedonym of the Moment Might Be at the Present Time. What a turn off! You insult, argue, snipe at, criticize, etc., and then complain that everyone misunderstands you and that wasn't your intent at all. Perception, it is said, is 99% of reality. Fact is you did act in a manner that was perceived as being negative, and regardless of your over-filtered opinion of your intention, we as readers ain't buying it. Nor your books. 

Attack Other Authors on their Blogs. Writers that are readers as well as readers that are non-writers read author blogs. It's a great way to keep up with what's going on in the writing world, book releases, controversies, etc. Reading your bitter hateful comments encourages me to visit your blog to see who in the world might act that way, then I see self-designed covers that look cartoonish and don't depict the genre. (What the heck are those books about?) Next, just to satisfy my curiosity, I pop over to Amazon and download a sample of your most recent book. Quickly, I discover that you are unable to judge the quality of your own writing and cover design, and I can so see you have reason to be so bitter. Please, accept my apology for my earlier lack of understanding.

Share about your Awesome Sales Numbers then Ask me to Buy Your Books and Memorabilia because the Tax Man has come a-knocking. Um, really? I think I'll belly up the bar and pass.

Release Sub-par Unedited Material and Offer Replacement Copies once your Book has been Edited. Not interested. If I struggled to read your book the first time and your grammar, word usage, punctuation sucked, do you really think I'm going to make another attempt to read your supposed cleaned-up version? Why not do it right the first time and build your reputation as an author, not derail or tear it down? Embarrassing, unprofessional, and not acceptable.

Post Release Dates of Published Books and then Repeatedly Miss those Projected Dates. Missing projected dates can happen, legitimately and infrequently, but if you can't meet your own self-imposed release dates on a consistent basis, perhaps state you have a release coming in the Spring of 2013 or in several months, then surprise us with an early release. Continue to disappoint and your potential releases cease to matter or have relevance. I will no longer look forward to your books or believe you. Yawn.

Note to Self:

These behaviors, actions, and characteristics are negative and a hindrance to a writer's career and a deterrent toward books sales. DO NOT do these things! Focus instead on presenting a positive, professional image that is appealing and interesting to readers in your genre and beyond, while first and foremost, writing good books.

Monday, May 27, 2013

I'm Stylin' Now! (Lovin' Ergonomics)

FOLLOWUP NOTE: Initially the Articulating Arms seemed to help with the tension in my shoulders, however, I ended up with tendonitis in one shoulder. Once I stopped using the arms, the tendonitis healed. (Good try, but not for me. Would not recommend.)

Dear ErgoRest, where have you been all my life?

With stationary arms removed from my office chair, I attached two articulating arms to my writing desk. As many hours as I have sat before and continue to sit at a desk work at a keyboard, I finally found just what I need for arm support in the ErgoRest Articulating Arm, which supports my arms in the proper position to not cause neck, shoulder, and back pain.

The lightweight arm provides support while adjusting to my movements. It's a simple, but extremely helpful gadget for which I am exceedingly grateful.

Tight neck muscles led to aching shoulders and headaches. Bunched and knotted neck muscles refused to relax or be stretched out. Aching wrists and throbbing elbows happened so often that I got used to them. No more tingly hands and fingers or hands and arms going numb during the night.

After all these years of struggling to find comfort in long hours at a desk, I've found it. Thank you ErgoRest!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Determination in Gear

For the first time, I first drafted three chapters in a single day. I busted a writing myth that had been stuck in my head and wrote approximately 6,000 words. (Hat tip to you, Dean Wesley Smith!) And, you know what, I had fun writing those three chapters. Guess what I did to celebrate? I sent out a few hey-guess-what-texts, then jotted down ideas for the next days chapters, and the next morning wrote another chapter.

While I get excited about busting myths and achieving writing goals, since writing books is my job, my focus is production.

Author Dean Wesley Smith's blog post regarding How to Keep Production Going All Year helped me discover which scheduling & production method works for me. (Idea #4 inspired me to set a goal of the number of books I will publish this year, with an increase in the goal for next year, due to shortened learning curve in 2014.)

The key ingredients for me to gain focus and production:
With spending so many hours in front of the computer keyboard and monitor, having an ergonomic enviroment is a must:
  • Desk or Writing Table right height
  • Feet flat on floor or on footrest
  • Arms straight out from the bend of the elbow from armrests
To make the length of time writing non-damaging and bearable:
  • Write in stints of 45 minutes to 1 hour in length
  • Take breaks every 45 minutes to 1 hour
  • Do arm neck & shoulder stretches spaced throughout the day
  • Lie flat on floor and stretch out back throughout day
  • Space writing stints throughout the day
Also, in a comment in his recent blogs about ghost writing a book, Author Dean Wesley Smith mentioned focusing on the next line, then the next, then the next. With this method, Book #5 in Series #1 has taken several unexpected and interesting turns and presented some awesome plot twists! (He graciously took the time to answer questions and reply to comments; therefore, the comments are an integral part of the posts and well worth the read.)

Writing life doesn't have to be limited and long suffering. As Dead Wesley Smith said in his myth-busting blog post Writing is Hard, while writing more than six to eight hours a day is hard work, making stuff up is not.

Another aspect of his advice is to have fun, and, oh man, am I.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Distractions & Dust Bunnies Galore

Dust bunnies, though deceptively cute, breed at an alarming speed.
Having traveled for a few days on a road trip with Hubby, with short infrequent daily stints set aside for first drafting, I returned home a few days ago with an initial chapter GMCD chart and three drafted chapters. With travel clothes to wash and dust bunnies that had tripled in number waiting, I am reestablishing a writing schedule, on alert to every nook and cranny in which conniving dust puffs hide and plot a takeover.

Once they get a chance to propagate, even triple their numbers, I'm telling you, there's no stopping them, while getting back on schedule remains evasive and just out of reach.

Perhaps I should name the creatures because at the rate they are multiplying, to at least be able to call them by name might be my only solace in surviving in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by dust bunnies in control of every nook and crevice of the earth. Wouldn't watching recorded episodes of Serial Killer Earth be less painful than reestablishing a writing routine?

Should try to make friends with the bunnies, but how can one trust something so cute, yet so bent on creeping out of the darkness and into the light? Should I implement short stints of writing to get back into the groove because due to the trip, I lost momentum first drafting. Getting focus back has been a struggle. I sit in front of the computer monitor, and I swear I hear those dust monsters giggle a maniacal trilling laugh.

The defense plan I must implement to regain control of the house and first drafting must be strategic and well thought out. The schedule to eradicate the little boogers and regain focus must be realistic and unrelenting, with stints of writing alternated with determined cleaning methods, I prepare for an outright assault. I must strike without warning and with fortified determination to regain lost ground.

Should I never be seen again, know that I went into battle determined to defend and conquer as a warrior writer and that I fought valiantly to the bitter end.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Less Than Zero & More Than Anything

While on an awesome eleven-day road trip with hubby, where there was no cell signal or wifi for the majority of the getaway, we watched television only once during the entire time, during which I received a revealing lesson in characterization and the character growth arc.

Our TV time consisted of the 1987 movie Less Than Zero, featuring a brilliant performance by Robert Downey, Jr. as Julian. The synopsis for the movie is that the friendship of three affluent, nightclub-hopping Los Angeles youths is thrown into turmoil over Christmas break from college when one of them begins to spiral downwards from excessive cocaine abuse. (Please note, mild spoilers might exist below!)

In addition to phenomenal acting by Robert Downey, Jr., the movie presented an overview of what a writer might want to accomplish regarding character story arcs, which makes sense since the movie is based on a novel by Bret Easton Ellis. (Note, the plots of the movie and novel differ greatly.)

In the movie, Julian is a drug addict on self-destruct. In the process of his self-victimization and self-sabotage, he causes a great deal of hurt and harm to those around him.

The growth arcs of Julian's friend, Clay, is that he goes from an absentee friend to caring about and attempting to help Julian. Clay's romantic interest and Julian's enabler, Blair, goes from being a drug addict to giving up drugs and finding love with Clay.

Julian, however, is an out-of-control drug addict who will do anything for his next hit. His growth arc goes from in-it-for-fun drug addict to wanting to get clean and change his life, until the inevitable setback hits.

The characters go from being less than zero toward what they want more than anything during the duration of the movie. More than anything, these friends want to survive and for their friendship to survive, but as in real life . . . .

The story arc of Goal, Motivation and Conflict (GMC) includes:
  • Goal: What does the character want more than anything.
  • Motivation: Why do they want what they want (external and internal motivation).
  • Conflict: What prevents them from getting what they want (external and motivation).
For instance, Clay's GMC in the Less Than Zero movie includes:
  • Goal: To reconnect with Blair and Julian.
  • Motivation: Current life is empty, Romantic interest in Julian, Misses them, Loneliness, etc.
  • Conflict: Blair and Julian's drug use, drug scene, drug dealer, Julian's desperation, Frustration, Uncertainty, etc.
For Clay's Story Growth Arc, he goes from Disconnected Friend to Reluctant Enabler to Friend set on Intervention (Disconnected Friend > Reluctant Enabler > Interventionist Friend).

From less than zero to what we want more than anything -- awesome writerly and life lessons indeed.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Disconnected and Interconnected

In disconnecting from the mobile phone and allowing only a few minutes a day on the internet, I found myself . . . and I didn't even realize I was missing!

For the past few days, I have streamlined outside contact in order to connect with 1) the final book of the five-book Young Adult Paranormal Thriller series, 2) myself to physically and emotionally ground with the idea of wrapping up the series, and 3) my husband who has been quite patient and supportive during the last several months while I have been submerged in writing.

In a post-apocalyptic world, more than likely there will be no internet, no cell phones, no communication outside interaction other than one-on-one connections with other survivors. Since Book #5 features such a world, what would it be like to not have continued electronic access to others and the world?

First off, I found me. In staying so busy, I avoided a centering and a grounding within myself that I failed to realize was missing. The constant interaction outside of myself assisted me in not focusing on health issues or dealing with emotional stuff I have been avoiding since my parents deaths. Guess what? I learned to daydream again! Not only am I able to daydream, I can visualize potential scenes in my mind. How could I have lost such a wonderful ability along the way? I can also sit in silence with myself and meditate, just focusing on the flow of breath or studying an object or talisman for minutes at a time to increase my length of focus.

I have so enjoyed writing this series, that I am saddened by completing the series and am struggling with letting go. In quiet time, I realized that their story is not finished, and the main characters will return in a later series. So, I am not saying Goodbye, I am saying To Be Continued or Until We Meet Again. Had I not taken time away from electronics, I would not have realized the possibility of a second series, featuring the characters.

Thirdly, I had truly forgotten how funny and creative that husband of mine can be. Over the past few days we have gone on drives in rural areas, where had I chosen to check my phone, No Service would have been the status shown most often. For the past few months, while I have been writing, he has been enjoying hunting seasons, so this week, we both slowed down and got reacquainted with one another. He's a part of my life that encourages me to look forward to each and every day. We have laughed and held hands, and he even volunteered to brainstorm potential plot points of a future standalone book with me. There's more than one novel in that man, and I look forward to reading one of his books some day.

In our drives, we have encountered some wonderful friendly people with whom we've enjoyed talking with and getting to know. In meeting these pleasant folks, I've come to realize that not only do I crave connection with people, I long for positive building up, rather than tearing down, interaction. Share with me, yes; but drown my ears in whining about things that you are going to do nothing about, no. Please allow me to listen, be caring and supportive, without serving as an audience for a senseless soon-to-be-repeated drama dump. I am now aware of the amount of energy I have expended being concerned about others health situations or supposedly dire life circumstances, when they are not interested in making healthy choices for themselves. (Amazing what a little introspection and alone time can accomplish!) In the future, I will be able to direct more energy at home, with my writing, and toward my husband, by eliminating drama-filled encounters.

Book #5 is plotted, and I have begun the first draft. In a few days, um maybe a week from now, I look forward to returning calls and playing catch up with those positive caring people in my life.

Next time I choose to take a break from electronic connectedness, I will make sure to get the word out ahead of time. To not let folks know that I planned to disconnect and that all is well in the meantime was irresponsible. Or perhaps a quick note on FB and on the blog to indicate I am off the grid. I like that!

Off to discover more epiphanies during my time of disconnect and interconnectedness.