Posts Tagged writing goals

WRITING CHRONICLES #19: nitty-gritty to watch out for when publishing

When writing fiction with the intention of reaping glory or sale, it is very important not to become overly simplistic about one’s passion for the act of writing. So you have a great story to tell, so it’s all you can think about, so the high will not be tamped until you have flushed the words onto some surface for later reading. But if you want others to feel even nearly as passionately about your work as you do, it is important to keep your eye on some of these following rules:

  1. Write a story that your audience wants to read not just the one you want to tell. A little compromise can take you a long way. You have built up your writing voice by reading up on a particular genre and know what you enjoy. Well, since the books you are reading sell, there are others with similar needs as yours. Invest in a little research to see what this audience is actually looking for when they pick up the same books as you do instead of relying on guesswork, imagining that your customers are just more of you. Hard data is a trouble worth the results they will get you.
  2. Be honest about what you are writing. I know, it seems to contradict the previous rule, because if you are writing to market to an audience, then how are you also writing the truth? Simple, if you don’t believe in it, don’t dish it. Writing exists on a truth-enhancement continuum. Find your place on this spectrum and go with it. One way to do this is by drafting your ideas, outlines, cluster passages/chapters before going into the research part. You have gotten the passionate bits recorded so now you may calm down and employ some cool calculation. Remember, if fiction writing was not a professional career, it wouldn’t have a whole gamut of systematic rules to getting published.
  3. Hit the nail with a strong opening. When readers are shopping for new books, whether at a brick-and-mortar or at a dot-com, a lot of them will flip the first few pages to see if they can connect with the content. This means they will go through the first chapter, poem, or what have you. Most online book retails also provide a “Look Inside” or similar preview tools to entice shoppers. Your opening scene can be a powerful marketing tool and you should make the most of it. I posted a blog on creating great First Impressions previously that you may wish to check out 🙂
  4. Add viable conflict. Interestingly, this is a point that requires mentioning because a lot of novel (as in, new) writers forget while in the throes of writing that even though the conflict must tempt the readers to turn pages, it must also match your character and plot personality. It’s all good when James Bond is flying through Bangkok in an airborne tuk-tuk but will this the way the good reverend would travel to deliver his Sunday sermons?
  5. Length does matter so it’s best not to prolong the conflict unnecessarily. Despite the fact that I hate when a good book comes to an end, I can appreciate that all good things must be enjoyed in moderation. Adding conflict after conflict, dishy scenes after dishy scenes might be enjoyable to you but will probably diminish the value of your book. When outlining your story, make sure you always keep the scenes and chapters you add remain true to why you are telling that particular story. Nip anything irrelevant when you edit. This is especially true with today’s readers who have endless TBRs to get to.
  6. Don’t info dump on your readers. Again, just because you put in all that effort into your research, doesn’t mean you keep looking for ways to pass on all that you learned while writing. The entire chronicles of Queen Mary’s rivalry with Queen Elizabeth I is probably irrelevant in a historical romance novel about a lowly girl marrying a duke just because the setting is 16th century England.
  7. Finally, write a good blurb. No one knows the story better than you – yet, most authors have a difficult time arranging a summary that emotively allures readers to their novels while not giving away the end. Authors, by nature, tend to bounce back and forth between a state of self-importance and diffidence. Even before reading the first chapter, your audience will judge you by the synopsis on the back of your book jacket. It doesn’t matter how epic your story is, before the word-of-mouth goes viral, you will have to rely on those first few readers. And unless you are able to convince them with a blaring announcement selling them why your story is worth spending a day of their life on, your book will probably languish on their shelves for eternity. When writing the blurb, put yourself in a book reviewer’s shoes and make sure you remember to add that very valuable conflict that makes the story important. It took me only about a hundred try to get my blurb for Bad Daughter to satisfy me, and let me tell you, it looks a lot different from the original blurb I had posted on Amazon. It currently reads like this:

BAD DAUGHTERWhat would you do if you were taught that the price of safety is silence?
At the age of six years, Obaira Osman was sexually abused by her uncle, the memory of which she manages to keep buried for a decade. At sixteen, she is a dedicated daughter, loving sister, and an ideal student. When she wins a national essay writing competition and finds herself wooed by the most handsome and intelligent boy in school, life seems like it couldn’t get any better – even if cultural constraints demand she keeps her love affair a secret. However, after a planned rendezvous, which should have been a simple rite of passage, goes awry, Obaira’s memory of a terrifying past comes crashing around her and she realizes she has been far from being the perfect daughter. Her response is to shackle herself to the rules and regulations of her home environment in order to reclaim the safety she once knew to be true.

What if you one day realized that the cost of silence is freedom?
Over the next two decades, she finds herself atoning for the burden of shame that is her legacy. She attempts to earn back her parents’ faith even while trying to find peace by lending a voice to women who have been crushed by similar forms of abuse – much to her conservative parents’ chagrin. But she is kinder to the women she helps than to herself, as she remains unwilling to accept a second chance when fate takes her across the world to the doorstep of the man who just may be the one to emancipate her tortured soul.

I’m sure there are about a thousand other rules to keep on the lookout when writing fictions to sell, but these seem to be some common mistakes authors make. I know, I am guilty of at least half of them 😐

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WRITING CHRONICLES #16: Finding Focus

Via: Daily Prompt – Root & Blanket

I have decided that procrastination might be the primary vice of my writing career. I used to think I was too preoccupied with my corporate responsibilities but. now that I have switched to writing full-time, I realize the problem is that I can find ways to become preoccupied with just about anything. The burning question is how can a person who loves writing as much as I do be so out of sorts with the writing itself.

Well, I know how. Fear is at the root of my problem. I keep stalling because becoming a novelist is something I always wanted to excel in. Even with my multiple fallback plans, I have stored all my eggs in this basket. Honestly? I don’t want to have to resort to those fallback plans. The pressure is real. Hence, even though I can, in theory, believe in my writing capabilities, living by that faith is a whole other ballgame. Even when what I write seems to satisfy me, I keep wondering what if it’s not good enough.

Resulting in all the bottlenecking of my creative endeavors.

There are some ground rules I try to follow to jar me out of my whack. Mostly, it is to keep me from lulling myself into the fear sinkhole. They work too. Often enough to share the list of precautions with my fellow writers:

Read the rest of this entry »

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WRITING CHRONICLE #15: Contest! & #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Via: Daily Prompt – Climbing & Jolt

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I have been very erratic about posting on the blog recently. It’s because I’m preparing for a writing contest! Amazon UK has launched a writing competition, the Kindle Storyteller literary prize, and I’ve decided to give it a go. Aside from the £20,000 cash award, it also offers the opportunity of being recognized in a well-publicized platform and a book marketing contract by the sponsors. The money is tempting but the glory would be nicer. That’s one way up the ladder, right?

Now, here’s the thing. No way am I delusional enough to believe that I’m winning. But it will ensure that the judges will read my story and who knows, I may pick up a contract anyway. The award program was announced last February but for some reason, I only received the reminder e-mail, which was sent last week. And the entry closes on May 19! It has to be a previously unpublished story of minimum 5,000 words (which is manageable). I had thought of putting in one of my short stories (we fiction writers always have a few completed works lying around) but decided I was to write a fresh one.  Read the rest of this entry »

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WRITING CHRONICLES #13: Quantity Vs Quality

Via: Daily Blog – Pause & Prudent

 

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Image: Pixabay

 

My weeklong departure from writing gave me time to stop and reflect my goals for producing fictions. While visiting my Grandma’s, I took with me books and TV movies as a fallback plan if village-trotting no longer suited me. It suited me fine but I still found time to finish one novel and two sets of TV movies. They provided good points of activity and discussion with my cousin-sisters.

Living amid rural grace, I felt watching the BBC adaptation of Flora Thompson’s trilogy Lark Rise to Candleford and Hallmark Channel’s adaptation of Jannette Oke’s Love Comes Softly series would be fitting. Both were good choices but I think I was more swept away by Thompson’s work. I had read Love Comes Softly as a kid and, coming by the movies was a nostalgic experience. However, as my cousins and I worked our way through Lark Rise to Candleford, it dawned on me that writers whose work I have come to most revere all have produced so few books. Of course, I have contemporary authors on top of my list who have produced over two dozen novels each in nearly half as many years, but the works I believe to be truly timeless were written by authors who had very few books to pen. It got me thinking, was it the age-old trade-off between quantity and quality?  Read the rest of this entry »

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An Absence of Passion

Via: Daily Prompt – Symptom

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Should a slump be considered an absence of passion? I was watching Bones earlier. Episode 10 of Season 12, The Radioactive Panthers in the Party. While the main story revolves around the panthers, the secondary plot shows Bones regressing into deep reflection over the “passion for work” after meeting one of her senior colleagues who has retired upon “waking up one morning and feeling that her heart was no longer in it”. Throughout the program, I was thinking Bones must be considering quitting for good. It is the final season and she is plenty stable, so, yeah. [With a show of hands, how many of you think you might go into withdrawal when the show ends?]

Turns out it’s not her future she’s reassessing but her intern Wendell’s. It was all really well done. I was so sure that Bones was going to make an announcement at the end of the episode. Instead, she ends up advising Wendell that maybe he was having so much trouble choosing a topic for his dissertation because it wasn’t his calling to be a forensic anthropologist, maybe he is not passionate enough about the subject.

It got me thinking about how I left my work to start a new career path. I, like Wendell, was good at what I did but I always wanted to do something else. So now, when I hit a writer’s block, I panic twice as much. I never hit blocks in my old work, I just tackled each problem with my sheer force of logic. But my desperation to be a successful author has me questioning every piece I compose.  Read the rest of this entry »

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State Your Price

Via: Daily Prompt – Conquer

 

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Image: Flick, CC

 

When I left my career to pursue writing fictions, I knew the day will come when I start freelancing. After all, unless you become an instant best-selling author, you must find some other means to pay the bills. And regardless of how sternly you saved your income to one day pursue your lifelong dream of becoming a novelist, the fund will deplete sooner or later if you do not keep replenishing it.

As news got out that I had truly left my last workplace for self-employment, I was approached by more than a handful organizations to take over their marketing departments. I took to thanking them and the Almighty for the appreciation and vote of confidence but, of course, declined. It is difficult for people to fathom that given the workaholic I demonstrated myself to be for over a decade, I could trade in the euphoria of corporate stress for the more relaxed self-paced lifestyle of a struggling novelist. If you noticed the irony in that statement or are pursuing to become published, you would understand that writing a novel is no idle profession.

After volleying offers for six months, people are finally coming around to accepting that I’m not looking to peddle myself as a corporate monkey. So now the work offers have started to arrive in the form of developing contents for brochures, websites and the like on the basis of independent contracts. Very good. It sounds much more maintainable. I will not be obligated to maintain any fixed hours and can accept or reject work as per time suitable to my novel writing needs. In fact, I feel writing other materials will be a good way to de-stress from constantly working on my book. Novel writing as a career with freelance writing as a hobby sounds the right deal.

But now the problem is I have to state my price. I have to figure out what my talent is worth on the basis of the value I add to my clients’ projects. I have never been very good at asking for money. Sure, in the corporate arena, I know the structure in each industry for each position, so salary negotiation is a fair affair between each party. But I now realize that pricing strategy for a freelancer is a totally different ballgame. When discussing the work that needs to be done, I feel the excitement but the moment the topic of discussing the price of my work, I lose my place in the discussion.It is just so embarrassing. Especially, because the queries I have been receiving are mostly from people I have built a close bond with during my career. And frankly, I think most creative people seek appreciation more than money. Hell, I have done plenty of complimentary work in my life just because someone appreciated my talent.

It is just so embarrassing. Especially, because the queries I have been receiving are mostly from people I have built a close bond with during my career. And frankly, I think most creative people seek appreciation more than money. Hell, I have done plenty of complimentary work in my life just because someone appreciated my talent.

Upon discussing the problem with a few friends, I finally have realized what I must do. I must research freelance work rates in the market and draw up a table of standards for myself. Then if someone approaches me with work, just send them this rate chart. Like RFP-ing agencies. It’s just a matter of a little-bold application, that’s all.

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Just Add Salt

Via: Daily Prompt – Nuance

There’s a loaded word. I always felt that nuances exist on the precipice of stereotypes. You take the expectations cultural dogmas have conditioned in you and add a little something-something. Voila! You have nuanced characters for your stories. Personally, I use the following template to guide me when creating my characters. This should help a few writers.

 

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Image: Someone on Tumblr

 

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Such is Life

Via: Daily Prompt – Desire

Image: Pixabay

I have always had this lackadaisical attitude towards life and death. It’s always been, meh. Whatever will be, will be. I saw and heard people around me, fearing death – not in the “Voldemort kills to split souls and gain immortality” sort of way but the “I still have so much to live for” sort of way. For the most part of my life, I have dreamt and aspired to do great things. But if I were to die before fulfilling them, I wasn’t going to fret over something I cannot control. They weren’t something I HAD to live for.

Then I left my career behind last year and took up writing full time. I haven’t earned anything from it yet. I’m still editing the novel I just finished writing and have been outlining the plots for the follow-up series. But now, I’m no longer ready to die. Not just yet. I have to finish these books and a few more. I have to get them published. At most, I desire to write and let loose in this world six epic novels like Jane Austen before I call it quits. In the least, about twenty very well-written witty romance novels like Jennifer Crusie to gain a small-but-chuckling fan club would do.

Oh, and a bit more time to finish my reading list 😉

That’s about it. I’m working on it.

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WRITING CHRONICLES #09: Five

Via: Daily Prompt – Arid

Some five years ago, an interview with a college consultant motivated me to start blogging. A brief meeting with him informed me of the budding world of independent publication when he questioned me why I’m letting a delay in studying creative writing keep me from becoming a novelist. He showed me his friend’s WordPress blog and how this friend had set up an enterprise for himself online, already with a few novels published beyond the traditional channel. This consultant had practically chastised me for not taking the initiative on my own and I am so grateful to him. I don’t remember his name or his friend’s blog site, and I wasn’t yet convinced about self-publishing a “book”, but I was ready to start focusing on building a career as a novelist.

So I opened this blog on February 25, 2012, with the hope that having a live audience would shame me into finally finish writing a full novel. In the end, I did sort of self-publish a novel on this site with serialized posts of the chapters. And even though procrastination ensued now and again, and for long periods at a stretch, I so appreciate the habit working on this blog instilled in me. I started the blog with the objective “It’s a site to make sure I write” and it made sure I wrote.

The career path I was on, tough I enjoyed, did not harbor an everlasting appeal for me. Life seemed barren, my dreams left to dry without nourishment. Now? I live, I thrive.

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Image: Vinegar and Brown Paper

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Read or Write? (05 min read)

Via: Daily Prompt – Overwhelming

 

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Image: Zaireen Lupa

 

Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” And who better to listen to than this king of the craft, right? But even before coming across that particular pearl of wisdom, I had discovered the benefits of reading for the profession of writing. First and foremost, reading good literature (ranging from classics to simple feel-good entertainments) was what turned me towards the need to create literature of my own. I would read an especially eloquent phrase or passage and marvel at the world of meaning behind the selection of each word. I would be inspired to create in that all-consuming awe-inspiring manner and sometimes envy the range of skills, this depth of knowledge possessed by the authors I read – that they got there before I did – even as I devoted myself to their praise. To me, good writing has always been akin to godliness and the fact that I am able to partake of that godliness is an honor.

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Image: Pexels

So when I started roaming the WP blogosphere at the end of January and started perusing the reading lists of many book lovers and reviewers, I felt ashamed of falling so far behind. I read only one complete novel in the month of January 2017! I am that person in all of my groups who is defined by her reading habit. It is not uncommon for people to introduce me first as a reader and writer in social engagements. The summer I turned 12 years old, I consistently read 25 books every week and at the end was given a token reward by the Queens Library in Main St., NY, NY from where all these books came. As usual, I broke my reading challenge goal on Goodreads last year and I keep increasing the number every year because, to me, reading avidly is an accomplishment. So to have only one book read in an entire month? Stunning. Castigating.

It’s not that I didn’t see it coming. Every week, as the time came around for me to work on my WEDNESDAY REFLECTIONS, I would panic and pick up a book. But I just couldn’t push myself to finish any. What happened? I started writing. Those of you who have been following my blog the past month would know I’m taking part in this online fiction writing course. Well, there are multiple assignments every week that require us to come up with new characters and stories. We also get into a lot of group discussions on the forum based on our observations of the course materials provided. Then there is this blog itself. Apart from starting my two weekly articles to record my writing experiences and books/movies I am coming across, I have also been responding to these damn Daily Prompts. Why? Because the writing course is doing its job and has turned on the faucet in my head. I constantly write. Grammarly reported to me this week that I wrote 29,088 words between January 23-29. That’s just online. Never mind all that I’m composing on MS Word or my notebooks. Meanwhile, Goodreads sent me an e-mail prompt that I haven’t updated my Currently Reading section in a while. Well, slap me silly and call me a delinquent!

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Image: Pexels

The first three-quarters of last year, I hardly got any writing done because I was enjoying reading so much. This year, I have hardly read anything. Between writing like a maniac, I mostly shower, eat, and rest. On random occasions, I watch a movie; once or twice, I leave the house to see the world. A few times, I tried reading before bed but I conk out before I finish a single chapter because writing relaxes me these days as much as it depletes me of my energy. It’s such a high, it’s overwhelming – and I don’t want it to stop.

Meanwhile, so many promising books came out in the past few months and a lifetime before that, which I haven’t gotten to. And so many are lined up for the coming year. My reading list continues to grow and I haven’t stopped filling up my devices with e-books and my shelves with hard covers and paperbacks. And there’s the fact that Stephen King also said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Easy for you to say, Mr. King!

 

 

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