Be Prepared

The Boys Scouts’ motto is “be prepared.” But I failed several times this year. What about you?

With the recent release of Ruth Ann Nordin’s and my anthology, Bride by Arrangement, published by Parchment and Plume, I realized I was not prepared.

(The anthology includes two novellas – Ruth’s The Purchased Bride and mine She Came by Train. The story is where two women meet on a train traveling from Virginia to Lincoln, Neb., in 1876. They live separate lives but keep in contact. The Purchased Bride is a mail-order bride story. Who is this quiet man Ada is to marry? Janet’s character, Opal, becomes a governess of a widower’s two children. Two men vie for her affections. She Came by Train will she return that way?)

But writing She Came by Train took many late nights and wee morning hours to finish. Because of this, I did not update my social-media sites before the anthology was released in e-book. I failed. My only salvation is all will be completed before the paperback Feb. 1 release.

Thus think ahead. If you have a book coming out, update your social-media profiles BEFORE your book is released. Doing so, acquaints people with you, your book and its cover, such as our anthology.

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One good thing I learned from Ruth is to publish excerpts of your work-in-progress on your blog and post on social media. Readers become acquainted with your work, and it entices them to purchase the product once done. This is an excellent marketing tool.

Also, respond to blog comments. In this way, you show you value the commenter’s input. Remember online interactions build relationships as do  personal ones.

How else can you be prepared? Goals help. Some people do longterm goals, such as when a book will come out and more. I do a little of this but not as intense as others. I will sit down in January and incorporate realistic expectations in completing my Cameos and Carriages, a prequel novel to Lockets and Lanterns, which was released in 2012.

However, more valuable to me is my short-term list. What do I wish to accomplish this week? A weekly planner (another great Ruth tip) sits beside my computer.

The small calendar allows you to see a week at a glance. I jot down my daily entries in pencil. Using a pencil is a great idea since if the day goes haywire you can erase and move that entry to another day. My entires include when to submit stories, join or rejoin organizations, write blogs, post work-in-progress excerpts and re-examine certain e-mails to better digest their contents.

How do I know what e-mails to re-examine? I star them in my e-mail system. There are days, as everyone of you knows, where you do not have time to study a confusing or lengthy e-mail. By placing a star beside it, you can return to it on a date where you have more time. I do this also with Facebook birthdays. If I do not have time to wish a person a Happy Birthday, I can return to it a day later as long as it does not pass their birthdate.

Well, I think I have said enough. Remember to be prepared. However, also remind yourself that you will fail at this. You are human by the way. Have a great new year and may the Lord richly bless you in 2014.

Creating A Great Antagonist

The antagonist or antagonists of a story are often the central driving force to the story or what causes the central driving force to come into being. That being said, a lot of thought has to go into creating an antagonist, especially the central antagonist. In fact, for horror novelists such as myself, it’s often one of the first things we come up with in a story, and what we often use to describe our stories to others (ex. “an evil clown demon terrorizes a small town”, “a cult leader with horrifying dark powers and those who stand against him”, “two children fall through a doorway to a world where the demonic ruler has a terrifying interest in the young boy”).*

When designing antagonists (human or otherwise), there are a few things I try to keep in mind in order to make them as evil/terrifying/monstrous as possible. Here’s some of them (the ones I’ve identified, anyway. I’m still new at this and I’m still identifying what I do, what works and what I should probably stop doing):

1. What does your antagonist want? I’m going to use a villain from a hypothetical novel, because I don’t think this is the best place to advertise any of my own books(as fun as that might be). And since I’m watching Once Upon a Time while watching this, I’m going to say…my villain wants to take over the magic kingdom. Why does this villain want to do it? Perhaps he’s a sociopath (I’m going to make it a male villain) who just wants power, mayhem and murder. Perhaps he’s the illegitimate child of the King’s eldest daughter, there was a really bad scandal where they murdered to keep things under wraps and he’s got some mommy issues. Or maybe he’s thinking he’s doing the kingdom a favor by trying to avert a prophecy about the current regime and the destruction about the kingdom, so he’s willing to do some very terrible things to avert disaster. Any of these or even a combination could work. This is also a step where I try to create as much backstory as needed to explain how my villain came to be, though if I need to I can hold that off till much later in the story, when it becomes much more relevant to the story to explain why my villain is so evil and screwed up.

2. What are my villain’s means of getting what he wants? Every villain has a means of getting what they want. Maybe he’s a very dangerous, highly-trained assassin. Perhaps he has magic powers, or a mercenary army with enough magical weapons to do a miniature Chernobyl. It can be anything, as long as you can make it plausible in the universe of your story.

3. Who opposes my villain? I’m going to assume the protagonist. Perhaps it’s the crown prince of the kingdom, who just found out about his elder sister’s illegitimate son and sworn to stop him but bring him back alive for the sake of his sister, who has always regretted letting her child go. Or maybe a knight who wants to protect those close to him by going off to slay the great evil. Perhaps it’d be more interesting to see if an orphan of humble background (or perhaps not; s/he is an orphan, so s/he could have any background I please) could go up against this great threat to the kingdom. In any case, the antagonist needs someone to go up against him, so I have to create that person at some point early on.

And now that we’ve come up with the antagonist’s motives and who’s going to try to stop him. Here comes the fun part of designing the antagonist:

Family values, loves cookies and miniature golf…and he does horrifying magical rituals to become a terrifying demon. What’s not to love?

4. Design your villain’s character. Perhaps my villain will be a full adult, or perhaps a teenager or even a young boy, to drive home that he’s the son of a princess, son being the operative part here. I could give him a dark, sadistic personality. Or maybe he’s like one of my favorite villains, Mayor Wilkins III from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who always had a smile on his face and acted like your typical 1950s sitcom dad even up until the moment he killed you. Maybe he’s got a hobby that indulges in while he’s not busy planning the destruction of the kingdom. Does he actually care for anyone besides himself? Maybe that person would give him someone to interact with besides his despicable followers. All these options and more are at my fingertips, and I can mix and match as I please in designing this villain.

This is basically how I design villains. And it works for all types of villains, from primary to tertiary in importance of plot and in all types of stories. I could also use these steps to design a sultry heiress hell-bent on doing some nasty stuff in LA’s best social circles. Or maybe a company president with some very cruel plans for a Native American community in the Amazon. It even works on zombies and vampires, too.

However you create your antagonists though, if it fulfills your need to create a great villain to go up against your hero or heroine, then it works. I’m just trying to give helpful suggestions, and if these help you, then my job here is done.

Also, if you get inspired by the hypothetical story I created above, by all means write a story about it. I just came up with it on the spot and I have enough on my plate without another story to write. Go ahead. It’s yours.

*Only one of these examples is a story I’ve actually read, and that’s Stephen King’s IT. The other two, if there are stories that are like that, I haven’t heard of them. Let me know if you have.

Resources For Researching The Unfamiliar

In every writing class and seminar we take and every book on the writing business we buy, they tell us over and over again, the same piece of advice: write what you know. Judging by the content of popular fiction today, either people are very experienced with supernatural creatures, are involved in romances that take on all forms and in all time periods, and have been to dystopias that kill off their own citizens, or authors of all types are disregarding that write-what-you-know rule.

But what if you want to write about something you don’t know very well? What if you’d like to know more about the White House, neuroscience, or the life of Leonardo da Vinci, and incorporate it into the plot of a story? Then as an author, the thing to do is to research the subject in question. It may be one of the least exciting parts of the writing and publishing process, but often it is one of the most important parts and usually highly necessary.

Here I would like to offer some ideas for resources an author may use for their research, as well as some tips on things to watch out for or some smart habits to do when you do your research. First, I would like to point to some resources and ways of going about researching a topic:

If you’re researching something, visit it. If you’re planning on setting a story in Florida, then take a trip to Florida and do a little sightseeing. If you want to do a story involving an anthropologist as your protagonist, then meet with a few anthropologists and interview them on their jobs. If your latest thriller involves a modern art caper, visit a few museums and galleries to learn a little bit about what they display and sell.

Of course, this suggestion isn’t always feasible. Most self-published authors can’t take off on a research trip when they want. Luckily they are alternatives:

•Read about the subject. One of the best things about authors, we are voracious readers, which is an asset when it comes to research. Read as many books as you feel you need in order to familiarize yourself with a subject. When I was researching my science fiction novel Reborn City, I read several books on gang violence and the Islamic religion in order to be as well versed as I could be on the subjects.
And it’s not unusual for writers to read more than just a handful of books. Some authors will read one thousand books, letters, manuscripts, diaries, and other sources in order to find information that both agrees with and disagrees with a point they will make in their story.

This brings me to my next subject:

•The library is your new best friend. Whether it’s a university library with thousands of tomes in its stacks, a city library with branches all over town, or a local library that hasn’t changed much since it first opened, libraries are great places to go and get your research materials. It costs no money to join or be a part of a library, and you can often hold onto the books you need for long periods of time.

And should your local library not have the books you need, many libraries these days have InterLibrary Loan programs, which allows your library to ask other libraries if they wouldn’t mind lending out the book you need. You won’t believe how many books I’ve been able to find just by using InterLibrary Loan.

•Ask the experts. I’ve often consulted with experts on subjects for details both minute and major in my stories, and you can find them just about anywhere. I’ve asked teachers at my university about various subjects from healing loss to psychogenic fugue to Russian transliterations, and they always seem happy to help.

And you don’t have to limit your inquiries to university professors. When I needed help with creating the psychological profiles for my novel Snake and learned that none of the professors at my school dealt with that sort of thing, I contacted a clinical psychologist at a local psychiatric firm and asked if he wouldn’t mind helping me. Sure enough, he gave me excellent psychological profiles which I incorporated into the story and which also saved me from using pop psychology to explain my killer (which apparently would’ve been so off the mark, it’s not even funny).

Other experts you can ask for help in understanding unfamiliar subjects include doctors, lawyers, clergy, and anyone who’s experienced with a field or business to the point they can answer obscure questions about the field. And they’re usually glad to help without any compensation (though it’s considered polite to cite them if they contributed significantly to your research efforts).

•Use the Internet. Yes, I know using the Internet isn’t always the safest way to get information, but if you know the right websites, there is plenty of useful information that you can use, even if it’s just quick facts you’re looking up.

And now for some tips that help with the research process:

Be careful what websites you use. Yes, I know I just said using the Internet isn’t as hazardous as it’s made out to be, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that one must be careful with websites, especially with websites like Wikipedia, where anyone can create an account and edit an entry or article on the website. You could read about Elvis Presley on that site and read a passage that says he was investigated for Communist ties in the fifties, never realizing that was added in by a conspiracy theorist in his mother’s basement.

In addition, sites that seem reputable may not be. The website martinlutherking.org claims to be the site for Dr. King, but in actuality the site is run by a white supremacist group. The real site for Dr. King is actually thekingcenter.org, though most people don’t realize. Like I said, be careful what websites you look at and who you listen to on the Internet. Otherwise one risks looking like the girl from the State Farm commercial below.

Check your sources. When I was researching Snake, I read a book about psychopathy and mental illness called The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson. I thought it was awesome and I learned a lot from it. I was devastated to learn later on that Ronson, the book’s author, edited or made up several of the interviews he used in the book in order to further his point. So whenever you use any book/person/website/etc., make sure there’s not a scandal behind it or there’s any other reason you shouldn’t use the item in question. You’ll save yourself my embarrassment.

Keep a list of the sources you use. If you do a lot of research on your story, the kind that involves more than ten books, keeping a list to cite your sources so you can add them to the end of your book will not only show how much work went into the research and writing of the book, but it’ll keep the people who go to great lengths to fact-check and disprove your book that you’ve got your bases covered.

Research is an important aspect of writing, and if one goes about it correctly, one can create a wonderful story. And even if it’s a pain to do sometimes, it is well-worth the effort when people say they loved your book and thought the level of detail seemed so real.

Good luck with future research projects, everyone.

* If there are any other resources or tips you think should be included in this list, please let me know. I’ll add it in at a later time and date if I think it could be useful.

Can And Should You Ask For Reviews?

Lately it came up in a writer’s discussion group I belong to on Facebook about whether or not it was considered acceptable to ask friends and family for reviews. One author, who was new to the group, had written a novelette and published it on Amazon, but he hadn’t received any reviews for it yet. He was considering asking for reviews from people he knew, but he was afraid it would come off as tacky or as rude to ask for a review.
The consensus of the group seemed to be that asking for reviews wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, several of us had already done so and had received reviews that way. What mattered, we believed, was how you went about asking for a review. Asking in a nice manner, such as saying, “If it’s not too much trouble, after you’ve finished reading my book would you write a review for it?” is perfectly acceptable and is much more likely to garner a positive response for both you and possibly your book than if you said something like “Give me a review or I won’t ever do anything nice for you!” Remember, people are taking time out of their hectic schedules to read your book, which they are under no obligation to read even if they know you. In a way, they are doing you a favor, and the review is like an extension of that.

However, if you’re still uncomfortable with asking people for reviews, try reviewing the works of authors you are friendly with. If you read their work and you write a review of it, positive or negative, they may want to reciprocate by reading your work and then writing a review of their own. I know a few authors who have received reviews or the promises of reviews that way.

And if you are still uncomfortable, think about it this way: most publishing houses actually pay magazines and newspapers to have their critics read their books and write a review of them. Compared to having to gather up the fees to pay a critic to read and review your work in even a small circulation magazine, asking for a review from some friends or family isn’t too difficult, is it?

Author Fun: Random Title Generators

Have you ever stared at your manuscript, or your outline, while making a face like this:

Gollum plays the riddle game with Bilbo via The Hobbit

If the answer is yes, then welcome to the club!  the other day I was emailing with an author who joking said, “I wish they had book title generators” and I thought, “I’ll bet they do!” So off I hopped to google and – Guess what! – they do!

 Fiction Alley generator: For this one you need to input words and it will rearrange them into several titles. Yes, you could do it yourself, but it’s still kind of fun.

Warpcore SF generator: this one gives you both a title and a series name, but you only get one. To get another you need to hit the back button.  Still pretty fun.

Random title generator: This one gives you six at a time, and actually came up with some pretty compelling titles. There are some mature content words involved occasionally.

Fantastic Random title Generator: This one also has six titles at a time, as well as links to a Romantic Title Generator and a Sci-Fi/Fantasy title generator.

Adazing Title Generator: Fill out eight “questions” (such as protagonist occupation) and it generates titles – you can even “save” titles you like!

I had a lot of fun generating random titles, and even made notes of a few of them. But, beyond entertainment, what value does a title generator really have? For me it helps me to think “outside the box” – or rather outside “my” box, so to speak.  It actually suggested “Children of Petals” to me which, while it wouldn’t work itself, led me to think of Children of Shadows (Shadows being a word I have collected on my “good words for titles” list). Would I suggest straight up using one of the generated titles? Sure, why not, if it fits your story.  And even if none of the titles do, it’s a great way to kill twenty minutes.

How do you come up with titles or what are some of your favorites that someone else has written?

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Does Writing More Really Improve Your Writing? Guest Post by Terry Compton

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photo by Joleene Naylor

I see this advice tossed around on a lot of blogs.  Write more and improve your craft.  But does it really work?  I think it does up to a point.  For me at any rate, writing more makes it easier to write.  Getting ideas from my head to computer file does come easier but…

Just because it is easier to get your words into a file doesn’t always mean that they are better.  If you are striving to improve, your storytelling will advance.  Scene timing will get better but I’m not sure how much writing you would have to do to reach a professional level.

What is the answer then?  How about getting help?  Your editor is one step.  They can help find repeat words.  For instance, for me, some days certain words get used a lot.  A good editor will catch these and suggest you find an alternative.

One good source I found to improve my writing is the local authors’ group.  Our group here, Authors of the Flathead, has a wide spectrum of talent and experience.  One of the members gives a lecture once a month.  He wrote as a screen writer for Hollywood for years.  His credits include McGiver, Airwolf and several other top TV series.  His hints about character development, world building, etc. have been invaluable in my improvement.

Another is a published author from the Authors of the Flathead who pointed out the use of ‘was’.  At open readings, he used a red pen to circle that word on my pages.  He also noted phrases used over and over.  When he handed my first selections back, they looked pretty bloody.  But, going back and correcting his red circles made each story a little more vivid.  Concentrating on not using ‘was’ forced my writing to pace a little faster and descriptions to become brighter.  The story flowed better.

Other speakers pointed out point of view.  Think of it as a camera focused by the character.  If you jump to another character’s point of view, hand the camera to them.  Do something to let the reader know the camera has been handed off.

The authors’ group also offered a critique group.  This group helped with show, don’t tell.  They also pointed out when I would tell what would happen and then go ahead a sentence or two later to show it.

Can you run into problems with an organization like this?  Yes, I had one person who focused on minutiae.  I read one story at an open reading about the travails of a small town mayor faced by government bureaucrats of the EPA.  The EPA was going to levy a large fine.  The person wanted lots of details about the government agency and the exact amount of the fine.  The story didn’t need either one.  The reader can discern that EPA means ‘big government’ and a large fine will vary from person to person.  To some $100 would be large and to others $10,000 would be.

If you run into someone like that, you have to ignore them or switch groups.  If everyone in the group finds the same problem with your writing, is it time to change?  Using their suggestions did help improve my writing.

The biggest key is finding someone with real life writing experience.  Those writers I chose to listen to had years of experience and had all sold screen plays, magazine articles or books.  All of these types of writers had something to help me.  The ones who wanted to discuss minutiae were still working on their first great novel and wanted my writing to fit their ideal.  Most ideas have a kernel of help for your writing but you don’t have to accept them all.

I have found that writing some short stories helped, too.  I could try different techniques and genres without spending weeks on a project.  Some stretched my ability while others just helped polish my storytelling.

My conclusion, yes, writing more does help but it really zooms into the stratosphere if you get quality, experienced critiques and editing.  Avail yourself of opportunities to expand your knowledge and experience.  Keep writing.  Sometimes a little idea will bring big results and turn on the light bulb in your head.  Then each new project becomes a little more professional and enjoyable to read.  Does this mean that my writing is perfect now?  No, but even my editors and critiques agree with me that my stories are improving with each one.

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Terry Compton author of Sci-Fi, fantasy, westerns, political satire and other stories that don’t really have a genre but fit in several.

http://www.terrysbooks.com/

What Readers want….Are you sure?

Not sure why, but there seems to be this idea that readers want a certain type of book. That if a writer pulls away from the pack to write the story they have passion for, that it will be hated and not sell. I’m going to throw down the bullshite flag on this. It’s a myth. A writing myth. (Of which there seems to be a bushel full.)

Once upon time, when the only way to be published (yeah, I know there is more to that story) was go through a publisher, writers were forced to follow certain rules for the type of books that were acceptable by the publishers. As with anything, this grew into a fact of life that is mere mythology now.

If you are reading this blog then you are either self-published or you think of it. Self-publishers don’t have to follow this rule of the industry. They aren’t publishing for anyone else besides themselves, and possibly readers. This doesn’t mean you can’t follow the rules of storytelling, or have it edited for typos. You want to put out the best book that you can.

What you can do it experiment. You can try out new ideas. You can mix genres. You can write the strangest story ever.

There are readers out there for every type of book. Trust me, if you write the book and market it to the audience who wants it, it will sell. It might not sell like blockbusters, but it will sell and you will be happier for it.

Organization for a BETTER Writing Life

Yes, I just yelled ‘better’ at you. And yes, I know some of you subscribe to the “It’s an organized mess!” group. I know I spent the better part of 16 years thinking the same while the stacks of paper grew around me. However, the ‘organized mess’ really should be an ‘unorganized mess.’

Don’t believe me? How much time do you spend looking for things when you could be writing? Do you forget things because the paper you lost it on is lost in the craziness? For those who don’t have a dedicated writing space. How long does it take you to locate a paper when you sit down to write? Do you have to go to a different room to retrieve things you need?

It’s probably not surprising to most that writers and creative types aren’t the most organized person, after all, many of us appear flighty daydreamers to most people. It’s kinda part of the job description. It shouldn’t be a surprise that organizational systems that work for some don’t work for us. Our needs are as varied as any other business.

Streamlining one’s working life can go a long way toward better productivity and more writing time. Organization in your writing life can make it less stressful and better. Why? Because when you have a place for everything and everything is in it’s place (Oh! Just quoted my mom!), life is easier.

So my question is, what kind of organizational systems do you use to make work easier? Are you interested in learning to organize your writing and business life?

But I want to Target my Readers

I love discussing writer related business with other authors and in my second business of cover design I get the chance often to talk about publishing and marketing. I was recently asked my opinion on audience targeting and how to do it. Ummmm…My advice was don’t until after the book is written. While you are going through the stages of editing and getting it ready for publication, when you have a firmer grasp of what the book is about, then it’s time to target your audience.

The author I was speaking with wanted to target their audience before they wrote the next book.

I’m not a big fan of audience targeting before you write the book. For whatever reason I have this image of an author in a mini-sub patrolling the Webseas, seeking out readers, and torpedo-ing their books in their direction. Some of these authors are targeting their genre audience, others every reader they find. I’m sure it works for some authors. As a reader, nothing annoys me more than authors and even readers who blast everyone in range with their “buy the book” message a million times. Aaahhh, let me think…will I buy the book…Um, not in a billion years. (Recent examples: Fifty Shades, Twilight, Harry Potter, Nora Roberts, James Patterson, Stephen King, Amanda Hocking….and the list goes on.)

They might be great authors and their following seems huge. But I’ve heard about the book so much I already know what people liked, didn’t like, how it ends, and what was different in the books from the movie. Ok, can you tell how much it annoys me. It’s also a post for another day. Today I want to discuss ways to target your readers. And I’m still seeing the writer in a sub.

Writing for your audience is important if you want to sell books. If you are willing to place your marketing and sales before your creativity. However, there are good and bad ways to do it. If you don’t like the billionaire romances, don’t write them just because they’re popular. If you like Star Trek, create your own Universe and people, don’t copy and give them different names.

1) Decided who is your perfect reader is.

What I mean by this is who are you writing for and who is the type of reader you want to read your books. You can work up a character profile of who this reader is as some book marketing gurus suggest. I cringe at the very idea. I’d never look at it after the fact.

I would suggest picking a reader you already have and respect, even if that reader is imagined, and gear your writing toward them and hope there is more than one out there. Although the better option would be to write what you like and make that perfect reader you. Yeah, I know you are an individual and oh, so different from everyone else, but really, the best reader for your books are readers like you. In my opinion you are your perfect reader and you should be writing books you would enjoy reading. There are more people out there like you.

2) Research your readers needs and wants.

You can browse the top 10 bestsellers in your chosen genre or genres, research the common threads that make readers love them, and compile a list from those common traits. You can then use those common threads in your writing. If you do this, please only use the ones that you are comfortable with.

If you are uncomfortable writing about incest, James Bond like spies, epic fantasies, cheating spouses, serial killers, or any of the other dozen topics, then don’t. Writing something you aren’t comfortable with will only come out in your writing as awkward  and stilted. Besides that it won’t make you happy and it can even bring down your confidence and respect in yourself. Not! what you want to do.

3)  Make the book unique

Yes, vampire and shifter novels have been done to death, however, if you add your own unique writing style, author voice, and spin to it, then you’ve made it unique enough to attract readers to it when you start promoting it. I’m not a vampire fan, but I love Joleene Naylor’s vampire novels. My latest book had creatures that were like vampires and shifters in it. No, I wasn’t writing to a specific market it’s just how the story unfolded. It also didn’t take place on Earth. It had a unique spin to it that has attracted readers although I have yet to market it. (Bad me!)

If you write a book because it is the newest craze or trend, you better make your book stand out from the rest. If it is just like every other book out there, then you are writing for a limited audience. They will eventually move on to the next craze and the book you wrote will be left behind.

4) Market and Promote your book.

There are two ways to do this. Jump on all the forums, popular hangouts, guest post on blogs, and start talking about your book to everyone that will listen and make friends with the hope that they will become fans of your book or at least buy the book because they like you. Or go the other route and blog about your book a few months before it comes out (on your blog or guest post on others), giving readers interesting tidbits and story samples, see if reviewers are interested in reading and reviewing your book, release the book, and start writing the next book.

I like the second approach personally, which is probably why I make just enough to enjoy my success and my writing career still. I let people come to me and readers suggest the book without guilt tripping them into doing it. I also don’t have the added stress that ‘over-the-top’ marketing brings and I’m happier with my writing career. All pluses for me.

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So there are my tips to targeting your reader. Most of them that I don’t follow myself because I’d rather write the next book which seems to work better for me.

Writing for yourself First

I was reading on a forum today where an author asked how he could get the joy of writing back. He was worn out and bored with everything he started. The thought of writing another word was akin to pulling his own teeth with a pair of pliers.

As I read through the comments it became very clear to me, despite all the great suggestions given on how to help him, that his true problem wasn’t writer’s block or burn out. It was gearing his writing toward what he thought readers wanted from him. It was suppressing his own creative voice in an attempt to give his audience what they wanted. And it was boring him to death.

You see, he loved his daily writing pages. He enjoyed warm up stage before the critic’s voice came in to kill the fun. He still daydreamed new pitfalls for his characters.

It made me start to wonder, how many writers start with the joy of writing only to lost the passion? How many authors gear their writing toward what they think readers want? How many writers are writing books they hate or would never read themselves because it sells well? How many of you are doing this right now?

Stop it. Stop it right now.

The best part of writing is writing what you enjoy for the fun of it. It’s what makes work a little less work-y. It’s what makes the right readers love your books. Passion in your writing voice will carry the book far longer than formulaic writing.