AUTHORPRENEUR: Why It’s No Longer Enough To Be Just a Writer

18 06 2012

Oliver Standard Typewriter

*image from Flickr Creative Commons
With the rise in indie publishing and more options available to a writer, you can no longer tell yourself that it’s okay to just write and release your work into the world and it will find an audience. Even if you go with a legacy publisher, the publicity and marketing you feel your book should get and what it actually gets are two very different things, unless you’re one of their stable of bestselling writers that they feel is a sure bet to make them money.

To survive in the publishing landscape, every writer must become a hybrid between creative and marketer, an authorpreneur that both creates and markets their work.

The romanticized notion of a writer in their creative space, laying text on the page for their readers and sending it off when it’s finished, cueing end credits on the process, is over. That image has now pivoted. Where the end credits would have rolled is now the beginning of the harder work, getting the notice of the reading public. No longer is it enough to be able to write well, you must be able to sell yourself as a writer worth noticing and your book as something worth reading.

As more and more mainstream published writers turn to publishing their own works and the whole indie/self published industry grows out of its reputation of vanity and not being good enough for legacy publishers, the landscape is going to change dramatically, making a writer’s skill at marketing themselves and their work not just a necessary skill, but an invaluable one.

Every writer should be working on honing their skill as a marketer right along with their skill as a writer. In pauses between drafts, read up on social media marketing, start following blogs that review work in your genre and start commenting on posts, start your own blog and document your journey of writing your book, network with other authors on twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Most of all, study a writer that you see working social media like a rock star. Look at what they’re doing, what ratio they’re posting social comments to promotion. Every avenue of social media has ways of tracking how many people are reading what you post, whether they’re sharing it or talking about it and what days and times most people read your posts. Use the tools, they’re free and they’ll help make it more a part of the process of getting your book out there and less of a dreaded chore.

This listing has 50 free tools, there’s something in there for everyone.:

http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2012/03/18/50-mostly-free-social-media-tools-you-cant-live-without-in-2012/

We all have what it takes to be an authorpreneur. Start now, no matter what phase of your writing journey you’re in, it’s never too late.

The article that inspired this post can be found here:
http://jonfmerz.net/2012/06/14/rise-of-the-authorpreneur/

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Knee Deep In The Edits

6 02 2012


One thing about editing is that it always takes a bit to talk yourself into starting, but when you get going it turns into a challenge that you give yourself on how much tighter you can make your prose.

I’ve had a good few months away from the intensive writing on the first draft of this and I’m doing an editing pass before doing a second draft. The space away from it has given me a little emotional distance and that makes it easier to find the words that don’t need to be there and the parts that don’t add to the overall story arc. Very few parts are escaping being touched, as you can see from the screenshot below.

I know the font is a little odd, but I find that American Typewriter seems to be easier on my eyes than Helvetica or Times New Roman for long periods of time. The rounded curves and close together letters of them seem to bleed together a lot more the longer I’m staring at the screen.
I also find that I can’t edit if I’ve got music going with words or even a lot of tempo changes. It distracts me from what I’m doing. I’ve found the perfect editing accompaniment for me is….the sound of a spaceship idling. Really. Someone out there on the internet put up a file on you tube of the ambient engine noise off of Star Trek TNG, or as I called it to my friend Shae, a white noise machine for geeks.
I also took part in my first Google+ hangout, with a few other writers, about editing for ourselves and others. It was interesting to see and hear how others do it and I learned a few tips that will help me on my way. If you haven’t already checked out Google+, give it a try. There are a lot of authors, writers and those aspiring to be on there and you can cultivate some great circles on there of people who post great content and take part in some great discussions.




Can You Send Your Writing For Voice Lessons?

3 10 2011

When you’re starting out as a writer, one of the hardest things to craft is your voice. Going beyond your use of narrative and tense, voice is what digs down deep inside of your writing and is always indicative that you wrote it.

When I think of literary voices that I know instantly, there are a few that come to me. Hemmingway’s machismo and guys guy way of writing. Anthony Bourdain’s unmistakable narrative voice in his shows that carries over to his writing. It’s quick, in your face, and very New York City. Just like the man himself. I have to wonder what it says that I’m having trouble recalling a female writer that has a distinct voice. Most female readers I’ve read tend to let the storyline and characters speak for them and I remember the voices of their characters, but not theirs as a writer.

When you’re first starting out , your voice is informed by what you’ve read, what you love to read and what inspired you to pick up the pen and start writing Your voice is overlaid on top of the voices that you’ve been soaking up and emulating when you decide to start to write. Writing teachers recognize this stage, it would be hard not to when you’re reading submissions that sounds like amateur versions of well known authors. They then urge novice writers to find their voice. They stress the importance of that voice, that you must find it to succeed and you must find it now.

I’m of the mind that your voice develops as your writing does and that for a lot of people, that voice has several different octaves and changes as you go through different stages of learning the craft of writing. Finding your voice can not be forced to come quickly. It comes with time and experience and it also changes with them.

I’m finding that looking over my own writing for the past year that my voice has been undergoing a change. My writing has always been detail-filled and, I’m going to admit it, wordy. Over the last few projects I’ve been working on, I’ve noticed my narrative is tightening up, I’m choosing what I’m revealing in plot points more selectively and finding ways to convey the story I want to tell with fewer words. I’ve learned that sometimes the act of finding your voice is also the act of shutting yourself up.

Have you found your own writing voice has changed over the years? What changes have you noticed?





A Change of Scenery to Stop Chewing It.

21 04 2011

It’s been a bit since my last update about writing. Even though I did my best to not let my first rejection rattle me, even though I knew what I submitted was dark and probably not going to be an easy sell to a publisher, the email was enough to make me start second guessing what I’ve written on the story I’m working on now.

Even though I had every intention of getting back to work on the new novella right away, when I found myself staring at what I’d written and contemplating deleting half of my word count, I knew I needed to lift my hands off the keyboard and walk away for a bit.

I took some time off to be a reader for a bit. I finished two books Room, by Emma Donoghue who is actually living in the same city as me, which gave me a little hope. And Saving Rachel by John Locke. They were both complete mind bender books, one told from the point of view of a 5 year old boy who has spent his entire life in one room, being held there by, along with his mother, by a man he calls Old Nick, and the other being the type of story that loops back and twists and even at the end you still weren’t sure exactly what had happened.

I’m firmly of the belief that writers need to be readers as well. If you don’t read, it’s like saying you’re going to be a pilot but being never having flown because you’re afraid to fly. I also find it inspires and informs my own writing and like it has before, it definitely did that now. It blows a fresh air on where you’re stuck and helps you find the trail of your own voice again, because as you read you start thinking of how you’d word something differently, what plot twist would have been something you would have done, or not done. You start believing you can do this again.

Writing is a solitary thing and usually I’m fine with doing it at at home in the writing space I’ve created or anywhere else in my house, but delving back into my novella, I found that I couldn’t do this in a solitary space. I needed movement and voices around me, maybe to drown out the overly critical one inside of me that wanted to slash and burn as it went. So I went out to a bookstore and situated myself at a small table by a window in the Starbucks located inside. Armed with caffeine and pastry, I took a deep breath, opened my file and dove in.

When I was able to finally look at my own work again, without wanting to start over or take away half of my word count, I read over the 5,000 words I already had with a critical, but not masochistic eye. I edited as I went and only had to lose 1100 words and some of the exposition in those words has since been worked back in.

The voice of criticism that had leapt to the forefront was now being beaten back by the slightly sullen voice of Matthew, who hates the feeling of being ignored more than any other thing and then followed by Jonah who was used to being noticed in public and fading into the background and towing the family line in private, both of them bending my ear with what they’d been up to while the other voice had taken over. The reading and consuming of others words had given mine back to me.

This is why a writer is always, first and foremost, a reader. You find your own words from the words of others.





I Know We’ve Just Met, But A Name Would Be Nice.

7 04 2011

20110407-104829.jpg

I’m still puttering along on the new novella I have in progress. The POV rewrite has been done and wasn’t as laborious as I thought it was going to be, which was a nice surprise.

I’m at about 4000 words right now and it’s flowing nicely, when I can get my scattered mind to work on it. That’s an ongoing battle, but I’m getting better about treating it like a job and scheduling it in as time not to be spent doing something else that catches my attention. I have the idea of where I want to get with the story and now I’m just laying the road to get there.

It’s odd that I don’t have a definitive title for the new story yet. Usually it’s one of the first things that come to me, but with this one it’s been mostly living on my hard drive as MatthewJonahStory and nothing has really bitten me as being the title of the story. We’ll have to see if something during the writing process jumps out at me as a possible title.

I also got my copy of the Chicago Manual of Style in the mail recently. Man, that thing is huge and intimidating. Every time I think I should really delve into it, the sheer heft of it makes me think twice. Right now, I’m just using it on a subject by subject basis to try to get myself refreshed on punctuation.

I grew up during that lovely period of time in the Canadian educational timeline where instead of grammar, we were taught phonetics. I don’t know who thought that was a good idea, but it has haunted me as a writer ever since. I know grammar from reading and writing for most of my life, but to name parts and punctuation rules is like me having to translate to a second language in my head. My hope is that some day I’ll be able to do it as second nature and I’m sure my main beta reader Shae will throw a party when that happens.

Okay, back to it. My goal is to be to at least 5k and in Rome in the story by the end of the week.

I wonder if I could write off a trip to Rome on my taxes as a business expense… yeah, I didn’t think so either. =)





Well… It Could Have Been Worse.

4 04 2011

In my last post, Adding Flesh to Bone , I talked about two of the storylines I have been working on mapping and fleshing out the bare bones of the skeleton of the outlines I have. I’ve been working on one of the stories, a love story based on a school trip to Rome by a group of college film majors. It’s also working in an over-arching nod to the film Roman Holiday.

Matthew is the first voice you hear in the story in the airport as he’s talking into his camera for a video diary he keeps. He first came to me in third person point of view and I’ve put down about 3000 words of his story so far.

I wanted to get his story started, see how it was flowing, before more fully fleshing out the arc of the story and imagine my surprise when the other character who is going to be a main voice, Jonah, started going off in first person point of view.

Really boys? You couldn’t have maybe discussed this before you started talking in my brain?

Jonah has pretty much insisted the second half of the story is told by him. He’s willing to give the first half to Matthew’s voice, but once Matthew reaches his hand out to meet Jonah’s, he’s put a line there and at this point I have no choice but to let him speak.

Now I have to go back an rewrite 3000 words in first person for Matthew. It could have been worse though. I could have gotten to that hand-off point and realized I’d written an entire half of a story in the wrong point of view. That would have sucked.

In a somewhat related note, I was watching Oprah’s Master Class on Friday and pulled up a recorded one that I had on my satellite box on Maya Angelou. I was very much captured by how she sees words as both a person and a writer. I think maybe the universe was using this program to soften the blow of the change in POV in my story.

Here is what she said about words. For a woman who is over 80 and still incredibly sharp and eloquent, all I can say is that I want to be like that when I grow up.

“Words are things, I’m convinced.

You must be careful of the words you use or the words that you allow to be used in your house.

Words are things, you must be careful. Careful about calling people out of their names. Using racial pejoritives and sexual pejoritives and all that ignorance. Don’t do that.
Someday we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls, they get in your wallpaper, they get in your rugs, in your upholstery, in your clothes and finally into you.”
– Maya Angelou




Editing done! Now On to Geekier Things.

13 03 2011


The editing of Shae Connor’s first novel, or at least my part of it, is done! I had a goal to get it done this weekend and I finished in the wee hours of this morning. \o/ It’s a great read and I can’t wait for it to be accepted and released by a publisher.

Now it’s time for a little geek out. I’ve had people ask me what I use, tech-wise while writing, so I thought I’d put it here as a clearinghouse of geekery.

So, it’s no secret that I’m a tech geek. I outright say so in any bio anywhere online. I grew up with a father that was a Systems Analyst back in the days of punchcards and the Vic 20 computer. I remember how excited we were when we “upgraded” to the Commodore 64. In fact, I think I still have the Commodore 64 in my basement as we speak.

I’m almost sure I learned to type before I learned to write cursive. It would explain a whole heck of a lot about the state of my handwriting, come to think of it. I’m going to give you a rum down of the things that I use on an everyday basis when I’m writing and who knows, maybe you’ll find something that helps you out too.

Researching, Storyline Ideas and Storyline Brainstorming.

Evernote: www.evernote.com www.twitter.com/evernote (free and works on anything)


I call Evernote my external brain. It’s a cloud (online) based program that you can use for making notes, clipping web pages, leaving yourself video or audio messgages, and even email in notes to yourself.

I’ve been using it almost since it started and use it to clip pages from websites that I use for research for my story and it automatically keeps the website address there, so I can find it again. I use it to keep notes on story ideas, right from the one line of a thought, the expanding of the kernel to a storyline, to a chapter by chapter outline that I go by while writing the first draft.

You can organize everything into notebooks and also tag them with keywords, so when you’ve hit a wall in a story and you remembered a plot idea you had about an 8 foot ball of string, you put in keyword string and there is your note. My suggestion is start with the tags from your first note and keep consistent with them. It will save you so much time in the long run.

I’ve introduced it to writers. and non-writers alike, and everyone I’ve introduced it to uses it on an almost daily basis. I have a friend that uses it to take pictures of things she’s comparison shopping for, she can take a picture with her phone, puts the store, the price and  tags it for easy reference and uses it to shop. I use it for beyond writing as well, taking pics of the labels of my favorite wines with my iPhone and instead of trying to explain what I want to the person at the liquor store, I just pull up the picture of the label and say “Do you have this?”

You can add it to your computer, your smart phone and tablet as well, so no matter where you go, or what you have with you, you have access to your content. It may not seem like a big deal, but when you have a great idea for a storyline and you can make sure that every one of your devices has it , you’ll be loving it as much as I do.

The Writing Process

Beyond word processing programs, there are programs I use to help while I’m writing.

The first is MindNode www.mindnode.com (free, but Mac only)

I use this program to map out relationships in what I’m writing. I start with the central character and work the relationships out like branches from that trunk. If you’re writing a very involved storyline with lots of interactions and inter-relationships between characters, this will stop you from losing your mind, or having to go back in what you’re writing to find a name you can’t recall by finding the last scene you wrote for them. You can lose hours that way. You could also map storylines this way, keeping a chronological listing of events. I prefer more text based layouts for that, but it could definitely work for those that are more visual based.

iA Writer  www.informationarchitects.jp/en/writer-for-ipad/ www.twitter.com/iawriter

When I’m writing, I’m horrible about getting distracted by other things. I have a mild case of ADD, the predominantly inattentive type, and sometimes it’s incredibly hard for me to sit down and concentrate on writing. This is a program that I love, because it’s been designed from the ground up to help you concentrate and focus just on your writing. Everything about it has been engineered with writers in mind. They have their own touch keyboard in the app that has all the most used keys right there for you, buttons that let you position your curser before or after a word, so you’re not stabbing at the screen trying to fix one letter in a word without erasing the whole thing.

It has two modes on it, the regular mode that gives the upper half of the iPad’s screen real estate to what you’ve written and the keyboard the bottom half, then you have focus mode, which blurs out everything you’ve written, except for the last three lines. It makes you focus on being in the moment and your eyes aren’t going upward looking for typos or distracting yourself with thoughts of maybe rewording that sentence two paragraphs ago that could be tightened up a little. It’s simple and ingenious, even the font that the program uses has been specially made for the program to give the crispest, easiest to read letters.

There are not a lot of bells and whistles on the program and they’ve specifically made it this way. You have word count, estimated reading time and if you’re inside your document, it will tell you what the estimated reading time your cursor is at. They consulted a lot of writers when they were making the program and it shows. It has everything you need and nothing you don’t.

Can you tell I love Writer? I’ve also heard from their twitter feed that a Mac version is coming in the next few weeks. You have no idea how happy this makes me.

I used my iPad and this program for a week in NYC and managed to get a surprising amount of writing done, considering I had no laptop with me and at least 10 other people around at all times. It comes down to this. If you have an iPad and you write, this should be one of the first apps you get.

Backing Up Your Work

If you only take one thing from this blog post, let it be this section. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever have your work saved in just one place. You do not want to reconstruct all of your work on a novel from scratch. It’s not fun and will more than likely have you just giving up rather than starting over. I have four different places, besides my hard drive, that my work is backed up to.

The easiest way is to have an external hard drive. Make sure that you’re getting a brand name though. I made that mistake the first time and didn’t go with a known name and all of a sudden my external drive just stopped working. I lost files I’ll never get back, since it conked out in the midst of one laptop dying and getting another loaded up.  This started the multiple streams of saving my stuff.

Thumb drives are great. I have several of them and have them labelled for different purposes. One for back up of writing, another for work I’ve edited for other people, and more for picture back ups. They’re easy to throw in your bag when you’re travelling, so you have a mobile back up of any files you use while travelling that doesn’t need the internet or a subscription to a cloud service.

For those counting along at home, that’s 2 back ups that are not my hard drive.

The third and fourth ways are my iDisk through Mobile Me and Dropbox. www.me.com and www.getdropbox.com. These are both online or ‘cloud’ based ways of saving things, this way if every other means of backing up fails, if you have access to the internet, you can get your files back. It also means that I can write a chapter on my laptop one night, edit on my iPad in a cafe during lunch, think of a new scene and write it on my phone while waiting in line at the grocery store  and all of it’s pulled from the cloud and automatically updated no matter which device I access it from. Even if everything else blows up, back up-wise, as long as the internet stands, I’m good. If the internet breaks, I think we have bigger problems than whether I can access my last chapter. =)

So, there you have it. Geek-out over. There is all my geekery and gadgetry that I use on almost a daily basis when I’m writing. Hopefully you learned of a new service or program, or if I’ve completely not mentioned something that you think I’d use, let me know.