Why Call Yourself a Writer?

March 11, 2018


Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock.

There are two types of writers. Those who write because they have something to say, and those who write merely for the sake of saying they’re a writer.

It doesn’t seem to matter if they’re young or old, but a lot of people are solidly in the second camp. Most of the advice they get about writing only compounds this direction.

“Write all the time. Write for your college newspaper. Get an MFA. Go to writer’s group meetings. Attend writing conferences. Send query letters to agents. Build your social media platform.”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s all good, sound advice. I’ve mentioned much of it here. But do you notice what most advice-givers never say?

“Go do interesting things.”

If you really want to be a writer, that’s probably the most important thing anyone can tell you. Think about it. Take any good piece of writing, something that matters to you.

Why is it good?

No one ever reads something for the very first time and says, “I got absolutely nothing out of this, and have no idea what any of it means but, wow, technically it sure is beautiful!”

But they will say “Damn, that was really good” all the time to things with questionable grammar and simple diction.

Why?

Because of what it says. More to the point, because of what the writer’s words manage to communicate. It’s because the story, technically perfect or not, is so good it speaks to you.

Stories to Tell
I’ve written fiction, off-and-on, my whole life. I earned a degree and an MBA. I spent decades working in advertising and public relations, but not much of it was focused on writing. If there is anything that’s good in my writing it came from things I did outside of school, outside of work, outside of the “craft.”

My technique developed from my life experiences, varied interactions with people and reading dozens of books a month. It was living through an explosive civil rights movement, and a city riot in Detroit. It was observing a war-torn America during the contentious Vietnam conflict, where several of my friends didn’t come home.

These experiences, among a lifetime of others, gave me a unique perspective and voice. I have been able to write about both the bright and dark side of life, because I was in a position to see some of it firsthand. It gave me something to say.

To quote Schopenhauer, the nineteenth century philosopher who contended that, at its core, the universe is not a rational place: “The first rule, indeed by itself virtually a sufficient condition for good style, is to have something to say.”

What Does That Mean?
If you want to be a writer, my advice of the moment is to put the fact you’re “writing” on hold for a while … and look around you.

It doesn’t have to take a long time. When you find something you can’t wait to share with the world, and I’m sure you will, you’ll have your chance to dazzle us.

I’m not advocating bailing out of your writing groups or composition classes. Practice and conversation among peers will always be worthwhile. I still try to attend a local Freelance Marketplace Writers’ Group meeting every month. I’ve been doing it for years.

Like always, a lot of what I’ve said here is opinion and you can take it or leave it. My voice (to paraphrase a corny cliche) is just another in the wind. After all, there are many ways to become a writer.

But another part of writing today, that is an absolute truth, is an undeniable change in the economics of the business.

It used to be just getting “published” was the hard part. You had to impress some gatekeeper and that gatekeeper was an agent, or an editor at magazine, a newspaper or a book publisher. Today, with the explosion of indie publishing, there are seemingly infinite outlets for your writing (at least it sometimes feels that way).

But remember this, if you remember nothing else. With almost all of them, no matter how you ultimately do publish, traditional or indie, you’ll have to bring your own audience with you.

Getting published today is easy. Getting anyone to care …

That’s the hard part.

So, What Do You Do?
What matters more than any other single thing is that what you’re saying is interesting; that it provokes some response from people. You’ll only accomplish this if what you’re writing, particularly in fiction, is a compulsion rather than a vehicle to display how smart and well-trained you are.

So, think about it one more time. Are you writing because you want to be called an author? Or do you have things inside you feel compelled to communicate?

Do you have a story to tell?

Getting the answer to that single question right is the day you really become a writer.

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My books have all garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or like my Book of Face page.

You can also find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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On March 1, 2018, Rochester Media started publishing my articles about writing. They will update twice a month. Come on over, take a look, and let me know what you think.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Things an Indie Author Should Share

February 12, 2018

Last weekend, my wife and I were wandering around our local Costco. We had a list for that shopping trip, but we got sidetracked by one of the giveaway stations offering free pastry samples.

We went past, tried one, and were very pleased with the tasty little chunks of poppy seed roll. We found an excuse to wander past again, and help ourselves to another sample (at least, I did).

“Didn’t your grandmother make these?” I asked. My wife nodded, and took the second sample away from me.

“Yes, and these are almost as good,” she said, smiling as she ate it herself. Too embarrassed to go back a third time for a freebie, I caved-in and bought a whole roll.

Be Personal
Believe it or not, a good use of social media for the indie-author works in a similar way. The writer gives a small, free sample of their life or, as with this blog, shares some of the things they’ve discovered about the world of independent publishing.

Writing about your discoveries, as well as your likes and dislikes, gives readers an opportunity to meet you, to know a bit of what’s going on in your life, and connect in a friendly way.

Think of your social media posts like the little free chunks of pastry at the Costco giveaway station. The samples you give away help readers become invested in your whole story.

You want them to feel like they know you, after all … and the reason should be obvious. The hope of every indie-author in doing this is always the same … to entice followers into buying a book.

I confess … I’m guilty.

Ratings & Reviews
However, sometimes authors struggle to find the right voice with their social media. If you choose to write a blog, starting one is easy. But please realize I’m not talking about giving away personal secrets, or anything else you feel uncomfortable sharing.

It’s up to you to draw the line at what you feel is appropriate, but your social media will always benefit greatly from posts that talk about your writing process, books that truly inspire you, how you go about crafting your stories, or what you do when you get stuck.

I’ve done that often, and find fellow storytellers relish the chance to read personal thoughts on the creative process.

Since your main goal is to get more readers interested in following you as a person it’s okay to show off a bit. Opening up about your experiences is a great way to help to grow your readership.

Don’t forget to also offer readers a chance to comment on what you say … and be sure to respond to those comments. What readers say is important, because ratings, reviews and comments are things people will look at before deciding to buy.

Don’t Forget the Links
If you’re an indie-author, I’m sure you already know there’s no room full of marketers helping you figure out how to sell what you write. For a newbie, that fact alone can be discouraging.

Once you start on this road, you will soon discover that it’s a whole lot of work trying to promote yourself … far more work than you might have imagined.

But I guarantee it’s worth it.

At the end of the day, staying trustworthy to your customer base is simply about being honest, consistent and, most of all, sharing the love of what you do.

As a final point, be certain to remember the real purpose of an indie-author blog, as I said earlier, is to convince people to buy your books, so make sure readers know where to go if they want one.

Don’t overdo it, of course, but be sure to mention your books, and make sure it’s easy for readers to find where to buy them.

Write regularly, without spamming people, and you’ll also discover folks interested in what you say are coming back often to visit their new-found friend … and the more times they visit, the more likely they are to cave in and buy that whole poppy seed roll.

Just be sure to give them value for their time.

**********

My books have all garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or like my Book of Face page.

You can also find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

How Easy is it to Become an Author?

January 15, 2018

You have stories to tell and fantastic ideas floating around in your imagination that deserve to be communicated to a vast army of readers. Hell, you can imagine and create stories that are as good as any of them out there, can’t you?

How Hard Can It Be?
Who wouldn’t be excited? You know in your heart you can be the next Hemingway, Faulkner or Rowling and your talent deserves the celebrity and prestige of authordom … and a shot at immortality.

Why? Because you’ve been validated by your friends.

Now, all you have to do is follow a formula to find a good agent to get your work published. If you don’t know one, you can sign on to the abundance of places on the internet claiming to locate them.

Easy, right?

Maybe you’ve already tried the traditional route. You’ve submitted your ideas to agents, or maybe you actually found a publisher, but your work didn’t sell very well. You’re certain the only problem was no one was promoting it properly.

What do you do now?

Self Publish?
Perhaps you’re thinking about doing it yourself and going indie. People have told you the traditional publishing business is faltering anyhow. Retailers like Waldenbooks and Borders are already out of business. From what you hear, Barnes & Noble is in danger, too.

Every day, advice for the self-published author is coming at you from people who tout their expertise. Many claim to offer you a magic ladder that will get you into the stratosphere. All I can say, if you decide to do it yourself, be careful who you use to assist you.

You’ll find services that say they were created expressly to get you discovered, increase your book sales, get your work on television, into the movies, or adapted for the stage.

Their come-ons are great. If you’ve dreamed that far, it’s easy to imagine lots of money rolling in, being lionized at book parties and having people line up for your autograph.

Why not?

Just remember, nearly everyone who tells you this comes at a price, and most guarantee nothing at all. All I can do is say good luck … and remind you: A fool and his money are soon parted.

Writers’ Conferences
You could decide to attend a good writers’ conference, which I actually do recommend – (see Rochester Writers).

Many occasionally offer speakers who can tell you how to find a good agent and make it in the business (but remember, many don’t tell you how they made it … because many of them didn’t).

You have to choose wisely.

CreateSpace
You decide to take the plunge and use CreateSpace to get your work listed on Amazon (it’s what I’d recommend, if you asked me).

Amazon welcomes you into their book-selling machine and, for all intents and purposes, you are finally what you always dreamed you’d be … a published author. Your friends and family are proud of you. Amazon has come to your rescue.

Except …

Okay, so you probably don’t get to quit your day job.

For some, that really doesn’t matter. Just being published is worth the journey. You are officially an author, sainted by experience, up there with Dickens, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Asimov, et al.

But readers aren’t stampeding to the cash register to buy your book, and those dismal sales are discouraging. So now what?

You try lowering the price to $9.99; then $5.99; then $2.99; then to .99 cents. Finally, you offer it for free (imagine the irony of becoming a best seller for a book that’s free). Nothing happens.

You can’t blame Amazon. You’re in a very crowded pond, in the company of a multitude of authors and literally thousands of books. How can readers find you? Oh, they might take a chance for free, or pack you into their Kindle to read some day.

Maybe.

Hard, Time-Consuming Work
This is when the “How-to-Succeed” boys will come after you again, trying to drag you into their podcasts and how-to subscriptions (always for a price), to show you how to stand-out from the mix.

They’ll dangle in front of you the possibility of speaking gigs, publicity and discoverability. Then (again for a price), they will tell you to get off your butt and blog like all-get-out, social network like crazy, create a massive circle of “friends” and cultivate those new “friends” like hell.

They’ll admonish you to personalize yourself. Tell folks your life story. Bond with them. Keep them engaged. After all, maybe some of them are actually readers. Finally, they’ll try to get you to push these new “friends” to buy your books and, above all, leave a review.

Promote Yourself
You might think that I’m putting you on, satirizing the indie author’s dilemma, but I’m not. I’ve been at this for many years, analyzing the process, studying it, experimenting.

Call this little exercise a cautionary tale. Better yet, a reality check.

Because there is no magic bullet.

You don’t realize it yet, but I just saved you a ton of money. I told you essentially what you’ll discover in all those “How-to-Succeed” sites.

You can promote yourself.

Just don’t go around screaming “Buy my book!” That will only succeed in turning people off entirely.

Getting your name burned into the public consciousness without a huge cash expenditure is a task requiring all your ingenuity and time. The net is like a bullet train, passing at warp speed. Getting the public’s attention is paramount. Keeping it is a small miracle.

Go For It
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to dampen your enthusiasm for becoming an author, because with social networking skills, optimism and energy, you might develop a following. If you stay the course, the sales, recognition, celebrity and fame you crave could be yours.

In the end, however, remember it’s really all about your work. Is your dialogue believable? Are your characters and your stories worth the reader’s effort? Do they engage, connect and inspire? Make certain they do, and you might get lucky.

After all, someone does win the lottery.

**********

My books have all garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

I’ll be at the Rochester Writers’ Meeting this week. See you there!

**********

You’re invited to visit my website, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Visit my web site to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” by The Authors Show.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


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