Don’t Worry, Write Anyway

In her book, Fierce on the Page, Sara Cohen  insists that authors be happy first no matter where they stand on the fame and fortune continuum.  This belies our whole tortured artist myth, that validation, and accidentally, happiness can only be achieved with publication the sharp spires of which beckon  as our own shinning  city on the hill.  This is about as true as black being flattering to all complexions.

You seem both shocked that contrary to fashion magazine claims, the little black dress isn’t universally perfect, and shocked that the end of the rainbow does not lead to a pot of gold, or happiness.  I understand.  When my first book published.  I felt satisfaction, pleasure, had a celebratory drink and immediately  had to get to work because promoting a published book is critical, required,  and lead  to increased crankiness.  Not happiness.

If that is true, how can a writer possibly be happy?

The first strategy is to understand our mythology.  Our favorite myth is that all writers want to be published.  And all published authors are happy.  More specifically, published authors are happier than YOU.   This myth perpetuates the erroneous idea that  all our work will be in vain if we don’t publish.  And not just any publisher, our work must be published by one of the big 5, 4, 3 – the only traditional publisher left.

What if the writing itself makes you happy?   

  Write HappyI am a life-long writer, can’t help it. The work may change, but the process stays very much the same because I love the process.  My goal for writing is that the work will increase in satisfaction and flow the more I do it.  I want the writing in my 80s to be even more satisfying than writing in my 50’s  which is considerably more satisfying than writing in my 20s was. In my twenties, I wanted to have written. I wanted the finished project and the imagined all the acclaim and satisfaction that a published book would bring.  In short, even though the actual process was miserable and difficult, I knew I would be happy once the damn thing was finished and published.

I ended up dropping the awful novel ( A romance. I am not a romance writer evidenced by the excruciating process) in favor of planning a trip to Europe.  Better use of my time.  I remember the trip, it made me happy.  The only thing I remember about that novel was the rejection letter.    

Concentrate on the process – the hours you will spend on creating your work.  Are you happy in those hours?  I’m betting you are.  That’s the happiness. That should be the goal: doing what makes you happy, not waiting in vain for validation from strangers.

So what will make you really happy?

Do you long to announce your book project at family dinners to show you are creative, erudite and introspective?

Will holding the title – Writer – make you more important?

Will adding writer to your Linked In account give you a thrill?

Will wearing the writer’s costume give you deep satisfaction?  (Note, the writer costume does not include a cape, rather it often consists of an old college sweatshirt and yoga pants covered in dog hair) (But being able to wear yoga pants all day confers on many of us, tremendous happiness).

Some writers are happy to have something to do while sipping their lattes at Starbucks, so an afternoon in a cafe noodling around on your laptop, feeling part of the tribe is time well spent.

If explaining the plot of your yet unwritten work delights you.  Then do that.

If endlessly editing your epic poem from 5:00 to 6:30 PM every weekday soothes your soul.  Do that.

If you can turn yourself into a writer who loves the process, and revels in the zone of writing, the doing of it, you will truly win this game.

Whatever you do, don’t believe that publication will lead you through to the beautiful sunset into which you will walk, sunlight streaming from your slender limbs, all troubles and cares erased from your now bright future.  It won’t.  Publication ends up being just one more damn thing to do.

Finding happiness in your work, in the beauty and wonder of putting words to the page, that will last forever.

So stop worrying and just keep writing.  That will make you happy.  Promise.

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Grinning Gargoyles and the Sensitive Artist

All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling. To be natural is to be obvious, and to be obvious is to be inartistic.

Oscar Wilde

When Poetry goes GargoyleWhat if you wrote a beautiful poem and you feel strongly that this is the truth. It is the truth because it reflects exactly  what you felt at the time. It is the truth because it welled up from the very depths of your soul.

What if there was just one tiny catch.

The beautiful poem is one enormous, looming, unattractive, grinning cliche. A gargoyle perched on the edge of the cathedral, it’s soul-less purpose to channel rain and stream it out as  unfiltered liquid drenching unfortunate pedestrians below.

Most early writers don’t realize they’ve written a bad poem or a derivative novel.  And that’s okay, as long as the artist in question is willing to fix their work and channel all that creative flow back into making the work stronger.  But some aren’t.  Some remain gargoyles.

I’ve recently encountered two writers who embody this particular kind of gargoyle – the sensitive artist.

The teen who knows everything.

The poet who knows even more.

When we start writing, it’s all new.  Ah, this is love, this is hate, this is marvelous.  We write it down, it’s new and perfect.  But  maybe we don’t realize our brilliant metaphor, our story, has been done before.  Likely since Homer heard about it in an Athens cafe.

So where does that leave the artist, or rather, the emerging artist?

I would argue that great writers are always figuring out, learning, and improving their craft. What Was missing with my two emerging artists was the confidence that a person can be a great artist, yet still (always) benefit from feedback.

Also,  there is no such thing as a completely original thought. Get over it.  But there is such thing as your voice, your unique view of the world.  Your choice of words.  Just do a quick check to see exactly who went before you, be they bad, great or gargoyle.

For the whole fabulous article   

Your Book Starts Here web siteTo learn more.
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The Fun of Fake Research and How to Avoid It

We know what we believe and no pile of facts or expert opinions will propel us out of our comfortable Lazy-Boy of certitude.

But we are missing one of the greatest joys of writing: research.research in times of Fake News

Even if you disagree with every fact you uncover, research is fun, researching for a book or article can become the project itself, every bit as agreeable as an afternoon spent on Pinterest.

Oh look, puppies!

I teach a class on critical thinking and writing so much of my rant about research and the veracity there in, is to prevent students from  quoting urban legends or common wisdom, or FOX news.  Yes, you say, still seated comfortably, perhaps pulling a beer from the cooler embedded into the chair arm, but research is just for academics, I write fiction, no need to research, it’s my world building against yours.

That was BG.  Before Google.  In the happy past, women knew their place, white men made a living wage tightening wing nuts and  fiction writers used to be more or less exempt from research, it was our world after all, get over it.  But like the wing-nut tightening business, the industry changed.     

Everyone can look up everything.  Which means that you, the author, need to be more diligent with your facts and claims and yes, do more research, which will lead to the problem stated above, the more you love the research, the fewer words will end up in your final book.

So we have two challenges:  You need to do research, but  the research will quickly take on a life of its own through no fault of yours (puppies).

What to do?

  1. Haul yourself out of the recliner.
  2. Limit the research to three credible sources.
  3. Look for consensus and then just write from there.

Credible?  How the heck can I know what is credible?

Ask a couple of questions about the site, or journal, or white paper you’ve just encountered on your digging search:

Commercial or Academic? 

Is the information you found   just advertising copy?  Double check against another site to be sure.    

Links to corroborating sites.

Look for links to other sites – often academic and legitimate sites cheerfully link to more information or to deeper sources.  Flow the links from  one site to the next to next.

For an academic paper your goal is to find the original sources, kind of like finding the source of the Amazon.  Sometimes it feels like it takes that long as well but it’s worth it, just to be very clear.

Can you find the original article? ( I’m looking at you Huffington Post.)

Dig deep and find the original article or journal rather than just believing, and quoting, the first time you see the comment.   

Yes, you can start with Wikipedia

Believe it or not, as much as academic denigrate Wikipedia  Wikipedia isn’t a bad way to start  your research.  Just don’t end there.  Ever.  Yet, the OED was essentially crowd sourced, and Wikipedia is gaining legitimacy.  However, I’m still a fan of digging deeper.

Contact the author.

Is there an email?  Can you contact the author of the web site or journal article?  Can you ask them a direct question about what you need to know?  Probably. Give it a try. You know yourself that you love to be considered an expert in your field, give that compliment to another author, they may respond with   great information.   

Or did the author of the web site post  a selfie  wearing a colander covered in tin foil? A professional tip: don’t reference that site.

If you are writing  fiction, you may want to write the novel first, then research only what you need to research. That will help narrow your search and allow you time to actually write, rather than  just research as fun as it is.

Oh, and did you know you can create pin boards that track your research, discuss your work in progress and are all about your book?   Sorry.  Now you’ll never get that book started . . . But aren’t the puppies cute?  Make a Pinterest board.

Your Book Starts Here web siteTo learn more.
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The (rocky, pot holed, traffic prone) Road to Publication

The Road To PublicationI am quite good at helping clients achieve their dream of publishing.  I have helped launch strong, successful writing careers which I follow with great satisfaction and even delight.

My own publishing story is different.

Maybe I should hire myself.

My publishing journey is not a three hour trip skimming over the smooth interstate of luck in a BMW convertible . My journey, so far, traverses over a a barely discernible track  through burned and denuded prairies.  My journey is more like riding in the back of a used Chevy through the Bonneiville flats with no AC while clutching a sticky Slurpee meant to last until Salt Lake City, but doesn’t.

If you want to feel better about your own rocky trip to publication, here is mine. Don’t compare, just know you aren’t alone.

The brief version of my trip so far: 

Two books, Future Girls and Future Run, were accepted by a local (to me) publisher Eternal Press.

Eternal Press then  sold to Caliburn Press (not local).

Caliburn Press’s publisher appeared on Newbie Writers Podcast.  Nice man, sincerely interested in doing the best he can by his authors.

Two more Future Girls books were accepted by the acquisition editor at Caliburn Press.

A year later – nothing.   

The books were not edited.  The books already published and purchased were not promoted. In fact the published books were no longer even available on Amazon.  It was like death.

Finally, the publisher offered to all the authors that he was willing to sell back our rights should we want to.

I wanted to.

Now I had four books with no where to go.

I sent off the descriptions to an agent, who respectfully declined.

I sent off the proposals to a service, Publishers Agents and Films.  For a fee they submit a proposal to a set number of publishers (I asked for publishers).

That is the current new route for Future Girls.

While I was waiting around for the hand off from publisher to publisher for one set of books,  I wrote a book with my podcast partner, Damien – Don’t Write Like We Talk.

This too was accepted for a new (some would say overly ambitious) imprint of Caliburn Press,  we were thrilled and even walked through a set of edits.

Yes, you guessed it because you already had looked up the destination on Google Maps.  Nothing happened.  We went no where.  Fast.

I bought back the rights to that manuscript as well.

What to do?

Agent?  Publisher?  It’s a writing book with a rather unique slant, where would it fit?

I stumbled upon a micro grant program called Awesome.  One of the grant chapters originated in Adelaide, home to my podcast partner.  I applied to the $1,000  grant program to pay for a book cover design, interior design and publication (ISBN, a small print run, Facebook and Pinterest ads). 

I just applied yesterday.

Some authors are lucky.  They take a hike, knock out a first draft, sell it to  Hollywood for tens of thousands and hit the book tour circuit delivering advice on how to write a best selling book. Their path is clear and free of axle bending potholes (shout out to Petaluma, CA).

I find publishing looks less like the Bat-mobile and more like the car  in Beverly Hillbillies.

This is the middle of the saga for a series of books and a single how-to book.  The process involved many hours of writing the books, managing the 217 episodes of the podcast, managing what seemed a dream collaboration that then disappeared.  Not with a bang, but a whimper.

Don’t feel bad if your first effort wasn’t greeted with a parade and a band.  If everyone you mentioned your project to said – meh -.  I’m here to tell you it just takes another try, a different angle, pursing another opportunity that is different than what you initially thought you wanted.  Take the detour, take the alternative route away from the traffic.

I know it works for my clients.  I’m working on taking my own advice and will let you know if the alternative route leads to if not my intended destination, at least a comfortable rest stop.

Your Book Starts Here web siteTo learn more.
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Social Media for Authors

How to keep writing

I’m teaching a seminar on Social Media for Authors at the Sierra Writer’s Conference this January 21 in Nevada City, CA

One of the more overwhelming aspects of marketing your book is managing social media. Think of Social Media as an exponential tool: focus on creating 100 fans, and those fans will share with their 100 fans, and those fans will share . . . well, you get the idea.  Since there is no such thing as the best social media channel, learn which one will work best for you and your project.  We will also discuss what to say, how to say it, and most importantly – why do this at all? 

Sign up today!

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The Agent Pitch

How to pitch to an agentI had requests to post the notes from the workshop I just gave for Agent’s Pitch Day.  Here they are.

Congratulations, you are here to move your book forward – this is exciting and a wonderful opportunity. And nerve wracking.
I am here to help you make the most effective use of your five minutes with these lovely agents and publishers.
They are here to find great ideas, great books and great authors. Remember this is a business. They want to be able to sell you and your book to it’s specific public.

They are looking for the right fit.

So know, right now, that this isn’t a beauty contest. This is not a win/lose activity. If there is a fit – celebrate! If there are no fits, you’ve learned valuable information and can make more choices for your book publication life later this afternoon. After dinner. Maybe after a bottle of wine.

Here, from Andy Ross, is what these Agents and Editors would rather not hear

• Reading from Note Cards
• Presenting a memorized talk
• Explaining the entire plot of the book
• Telling the agent that this is the next best seller
• Telling the agent that your book will make a great film.

Here is what we will help you with.
• Figuring out and delivering what your book is about which is different than the plot
• Delivering that essence of the book and your platform in a few words.
• Expressing why you are uniquely qualified to write this book – your qualifications.
• Creating an answer for promotion.

Don’t worry about perfection, that’s not the point

Agents are here because they want to see you in person, so as much as you can, be yourself.

Just in case you end up before an editor who did not list your subject in their “want” list, talk to them anyway. Use your 5 minutes to ask them what they are looking for. What is selling? What genre is hot and what is the up and coming genre? Do they know anyone who would be interested in your book?
Tell them a bit about your book anyway.
Breathe.

What is the book about?
Social justice?
Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll?
The clash between expectations and reality?

Rather than list off plot points in chronological order, what is the book’s essence?
There is a reason films cycle around a single idea or protagonist. We can say, Oh Spiderman, and we are done.
How can your idea and book fit into that tiny frame?

Who are you? Have you won awards? Hiked through the desert?
Do you have a massive Social Media following?
Why are you uniquely qualified to write this book?

Platform, this is the overall reason you wrote a book. Platform is also something on which to build a promotional campaign.

Elements of a good pitch
Hi my name is XXXX and I have written a novel based on my experience doing or being XXXX the novel is about a boy, a girl and social enlightenment and will appeal primarily to female readers who buy both e-books and hard copy novels. I already have a following of 10,000 on my blog of the same name. Would you like to hear more?

Hi, my name is Catharine and I’ve written a YA Science Fiction Time travel book series Future Girls featuring female heroines who escape to the past to change their future. I am passionate about delivering the message that teens can change their future by what they do right now.

I am a college professor with two degrees in English and am growing my Facebook Instagram and Pinterest following using both organic and paid advertising in order to increase interest in these books.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
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The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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First Step towards Writing a Book

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

Clients often ask, what are the steps to writing a book?

There are steps and there are steps.  Writing is personal and interesting and quirky. That is why there are so many books about writing, that is why there are so many suggestions, that is why I’m part of the problem.Article on the first step to writing a book

When you are stuck writing – and if you’re reading this, you are, mosey over to Pinterest.  There are countless Pinterest boards devoted to writing – from pithy quotes to fabulous infographics on how, what, who, colors, better words that “said”, better words that “you”.  A nice selection of information and help.  I have Pinterest Boards on writing so you can check them out. But I’m not the only writer on Pinterest.

In case those  nifty infographics do not inspire –  here is the first basic writing step.

(Just to continue the metaphor – no one learns to walk without falling down. A lot.

Remember that as you take those steps towards your writing project.)

Step 1 – start small with embarrassingly low stakes, goals and expectations.

I’m not kidding. 

Examples of good first step goals.

  • Today I’m going to think about my writing for ten minutes while standing in the shower
  • This month I will write for 1/2 hour.
  • I will stop talking about my novel (since I suspect my friends are bored with the plot already) and instead write down all the ideas that I like to discuss when well into my fourth handcrafted stout.

You may think, that’s just insane, those aren’t real goals, I have never seen an infographic listing goals like that.

Yes they are. Any activity that gets  words out of your head, out of your summary speech for the academy awards which you know by heart, and onto paper, is a good activity.

Start there – take an initial step, clutch the back of a chair for support.  Then tune in for additional steps right here.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
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Writing is Imporant

Don't Write Like You TalkDon’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

Writing a book is important. But before you get all puffed up, so is knitting.    

Writing is an art.  Writing is also a hobby.  My friend Myrna  knits beautiful socks as holiday gifts to family.    My friend Terry cooks amazing meals and share them with lucky me. My mother makes greeting cards.  My sister in law creates an elaborate Halloween scene for the local trick or treaters. A number of my friends travel and happily share their experiences with me so my trip will be even better.

What do I do?  I write.  Sometimes I share, but more often than not, I don’t.  Because unlike socks, writing isn’t a really welcome holiday gift.  Wine is better.  Bourbon is much better.

I write because it’s important to me, to my health and well-being.  Writing is my way to organize the world.  It can be yours too. 

I officially give you permission to write for love.  Write because describing the sky makes it bluer.  Write because detailing the grass makes it softer.  Write because it feeds you like  twice baked potatoes.

Why is it important to write?  Because you are making sense of  the   world  and if you do a good job, you’ll help others see what you see, and make some sense themselves. 

 

Visit us on iTunes  – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually.  All you need to do is wait . . .  Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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