Showing posts with label Johanna Penn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Johanna Penn. Show all posts

Saturday, March 23

Writing And The Fear Of Judgement

Writing And The Fear Of Judgement Johanna Penn's post, On Writing And The Fear Of Judgment, felt as though she was writing right to me. I like to think I'm getting more brave, but I used to be paralyzed by fear of what folks would think of my stories, whether they would look at me differently.

Johanna writes:
. . . I’ve written dark things before but this is the first time I haven’t censored myself as I write. I’ve given the dark side of my mind permission to indulge but as I am about to start the rewrites, I find myself on the edge of crossing things out, not because they need editing, but because I don’t want people to read them and judge me for my thoughts.
How can writers assuage this fear? Johanna has five suggestions:

1. Use A Pseudonym

A pseudonym is a perfectly respectable way to go (see: Should You Use A Pen Name?). As Johanna mentions, many erotica authors use pseudonyms, but pseudonyms, or pen names, are also used by many authors--Dean Wesley Smith for instance--as a way to brand his books.

2. Get A Support Group

We need to surround ourselves with people who understand and accept us as we are. Sometimes this will be a spouse, sometimes it will be a group of writers, sometimes it will be our friends or family.

It is wonderful to be brave and put yourself out there, but each of us needs a safe space; somewhere we can be nurtured when we need it.

3. Accept That We All Have A Dark Side

And that's a good thing! Johanna writes:
In Jungian psychology the shadow is a critical part of our whole self. Life is not all sweetness and light and there is but a thin veneer of civilization over our ancient animal genetics. Death and fear, violence and sex will always be part of our culture so as writers it’s important to embrace that and reflect it in our writing. I am acknowledging the shadow more in my own work, and also feel that when the things we fear are on the page, they have less power over us.
Very true.

4. Realize That When People Judge Your Book They Aren't Judging You

After all, they don't know you. Naturally, whatever you write, no matter how well you write it, some folks aren't going to like it.

It's both feel-good and instructive to look at one star reviews some great works of literature have received.

The appeal of a book, even a great one, isn't universal. For example, someone who despises fantasy in any form will naturally hate your paranormal romance if they, in a fit of masochism, read it.

That's life.

5. You Are NOT What You Write

Yes, maybe you are what you eat, but you aren't what you write.

Stephen King writes bone-chilling acts of horror but he is a laid back community-minded family man.

Also, I'm guessing that the screenwriters of Saw (James Wan & Leigh Whannell), one of the most violent horror movies ever, are no more strange than the average writer. Notice I didn't say the average person. (grin)

As Dean Wesley Smith wrote not too long ago, the only way you can kill your career is if you stop writing. That's it. That's the only way. Write, write what your heart is calling you to write, and publish it. Wash and repeat.

Now it's time for me to toddle off and practice what I preach!
Do you ever fear being judged because of what you write? How do you deal with it?

Other articles you might like:

- The Rules Of Romantic Comedy
- 5 Tips For Creating Memorable Character Names
- Joe Konrath says KDP Select Made Him $100,000 In 6 Weeks

Photo credit: "On The Road" by Philipp Klinger Photography under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, November 6

Chuck Wendig And The Battle Song Of The Storyteller

Chuck Wendig And The Battle Song Of The Storyteller

I just watched Joanna Penn's interview with the incomparable Chuck Wendig of (Writing Metaphor, Memorable Characters And Horror With Chuck Wendig). Chuck gives some great tips for those of us struggling through NaNoWriMo:

1. Figure out what your character is afraid of and then make them confront their fear.

2. Tips for writing memorable and original characters:
- They have to be active and interesting. They have to do stuff.
- They need to have a Save The Cat moment where the reader gets behind the character. We need to see some of their own ethos in action. That's what drives us to know their story.

If you haven't read Chuck's post Battle Song of the Storyteller I recommend it. Here's a sample:
I am a storyteller and I will finish the tale I am telling.

The gods have chosen me as its speaker.

My story has weight and value. It is worth more than a chest of gold, more than a pair of magic boots, more than a cool laser gun that goes pyoo pyoo pyoo, more than a ride on the back of a surfboard unicorn. My story’s merit cannot be measured. All that matters is that it matters.
That's just the beginning. It's amazing. Bookmark it for those moments when you're feeling discouraged, when you feel you can't possibly finish 50,000 words in a month--I mean, the whole idea is crazy, right? That's when you need to read Chuck's post!

At one point Joanna Penn asked Chuck Wendig what an average writing day was like for him. He replied:
I wake up at 6 in the morning and will write until I am done which generally means 2,000 to 3,000 words a day.

Every once in a while I'll do significantly more than that but I don't force myself to do it, there's no gun to my head. Which would be really weird, if I held a gun to my own head. But ... (laughter)

And then whatever happens in the middle of your day. Lunch. And then I tend to do editing in the afternoon or other administrative stuff like answering email.
On another note, I just read the first bit of Chucks book, Blackbirds. Love it! If you like, give it a try. Highly recommended. Though I should mention it's classified as a horror novel. But, hey, you can always sleep with the light on, right? ;)

Good luck fellow NaNoWriMo-ers! I'm at 10,000 words and counting. We can do this thing!!

Other articles you might like:
- How To Get Your Readers To Identify With Your Main Character
- More Writing Advice From Jim Butcher
- Amazon Reviews Are Disappearing
- How To Write 10,000 Words A Day

Photo credit: "Pro Evenflo" by Eneas under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, October 18

What to do if your book isn't selling: Tips from Johanna Penn

What to do if your blook isn't selling: Tips from Johanna Penn

I love Johanna Penn's website, The Creative Penn. Not only does Johanna write fabulous books, but she is the author of hundreds of articles on writing that you can read, for free, on her site. And I highly recommend her blog.

Recently Johanna wrote an article about what to do if your book isn't selling as well as you'd like. Since I've been asked this question too, I give my 2 cents as well as share what Johanna had to say.

1) Make your book available as an ebook

I think this is great advice. Johanna mentions that she doesn't make a print version of her books available anymore because she found it wasn't worth it, and that's perfectly valid, but most authors do try and make a paper version available to their readers since some folks strongly prefer to read a paper book, even if it costs significantly more.

Also, having print copies of your book available can come in handy since some review sites only accept print copies.

2) Have a professionally designed cover

Compare your cover with the covers of books that are selling well in your genre. You want yours to be in the same ballpark--as similar to each of them as they are to each other.

3) Have your book professionally edited

Ideally you would hire a professional line editor or copy editor but, minimally, I think you need to get at least two other people to read your manuscript for errors in logic (eg, calling the same character different names) and typos. Johanna also mentions putting your manuscript aside for a time so you can come back to it with fresh eyes.

I find using a text-to-speech program to read back what I've written helps me catch a multitude of errors, from typos to awkward constructions.

4) Make sure you've categorized your book correctly

It can be difficult to know how to categorize your story. Is it a horror? Scifi? Fantasy? Urban Fantasy? Young Adult? Romance? It's difficult when a book can fall under all these categories. Which should you choose?

My critique group has been enormously helpful in this regard. Your readers can help you categorize your work appropriately.

Johanna suggests finding three to five authors who write books similar to yours and then looking at how they categorize their books.

5) Optimize your Amazon sales page.

Johanna suggests using quotations from reviews and make sure that you give the book's 'hook'. What's a hook? Here's an example, it's the hook for Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark:

Archeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the US government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. (Raiders of the Lost Ark, IMDB)
I've also heard this called a tag line.

6) Experiment with price

Johanna writes:
Most ebooks are under $9.99, and a lot of fiction is under $7.99, with many indie books being under $5.
An entire book--books even!--could be written on this, but that's a great one paragraph summary.

7) Continually put out new work

Hands down, the best way to market a book is to write more books, especially if your book is part of a series. Johanna writes:
The more books you have available, the more virtual shelf space you have, the easier it is for people to discover you. Plus if a reader finds one they like, they may buy them all so you make more per customer.

8) Promote your book

This is one of the reasons writer's build a platform. If you have a Facebook page, blog, twitter account, newsletter or mailing list then you're halfway there. This is a HUGE topic and I don't want to dash off some glib advice.

Don't constantly bombard your community with news about your new book--that doesn't work and turns readers off--but definitely do announce that you have a new book coming out and perhaps run a promotion for the first few days or weeks. This will help get the word out about your book and will reward your loyal readers, the ones who read your blog and/or subscribe to your newsletter.

9) Submit your book to review sites

Johanna discusses this in great detail and gives wonderful suggestions how to get Amazon reviewers to review your work.

It can be difficult to find book blogs that will review an independently published book, but you can do it, just keep your eyes open for opportunities. Also, check out the Book Blog Directory.

10) Give it time

Johanna's title was: Are you working your butt off? (grin)

Dean Wesley Smith advocates putting your book out on the market and then forgetting about it. Yes, certainly, do the best job you can--which means doing a professional job--but then don't fuss over sales. Write another book. Learn more about the art and craft of writing and the business of writing.

Johanna writes:
I absolutely believe that you can be a great writer and make an income from writing.

I have to believe that for you because I believe it for me, and I have left a stable job and steady income to take a chance on being an author-entrepreneur. I’ve been on this path since 2007 when I decided to write my first non-fiction book, so I am 5 years into working my butt off to change my life.
Johanna goes on to say that this doesn't mean you'll get rich and success will likely only come with time, perhaps a LOT of time. And it won't be easy.

That said, I hope you enjoy the journey. :-)

I encourage you to read Johanna Penn's article: Help! My Book Isn’t Selling. 10 Questions You Need To Answer Honestly If You Want To Sell More Books. She includes copious links to helpful articles.

Other articles you might like:
- 7 Tips On How To Get Your Guest Post Accepted
- Want Help With Editing? Try Free Editing Programs
- Amazon Ranks Authors In Terms Of Their Book Sales

Photo credit: Dawn Ashley

Monday, September 10

5 Ways To Make Your Writing Better

5 Ways To Make Your Writing Better

I admire Johanna Penn. She was one of the first indie authors on YouTube and her blog, The Creative Penn, is a wealth of information for writers at any stage of their career.

Recently guest blogger Scott Bartlet dropped by The Creative Penn to share what he has learnt about writing. Here are his tips:

1) Write
"Only writing will make you a better writer"
Scott remarks that reading the sort of thing you like to write helps make one a better writer--as does reading about the business of writing, thinking about writing and taking writing classes--but that only actually putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be) will get one's book story to being published.

2) Be Yourself
"Every novels origin is different"
Some folks, like Stephen King, write without an outline (pantsers) and some do (plotters). It doesn't matter so long as it works for you.

3) Write every day
"Vibrancy comes from writing every day"
Scott writes:
To keep your characters alive on the page, you need to spend time with them daily. Cory Doctorow writes his novels at a rate of one page a day. His rationale? No matter how busy his day gets, he can always find 20 minutes to write one page. As a result, he stays in close contact with the people populating his stories.
4) Write down your ideas when you have them
"Become a perpetual note-taker"
Scott writes:
Your mind is a colander with large holes—if it functions anything like mine does, that is. Life’s experiences flow through, and, you being a writer, they probably generate some great fiction material in the process—snappy lines of dialogue, incisive observations, beautiful snippets of description, et cetera.
So write them down! An old-fashioned pad would do the job or you might want to use your cell phone if you already carry that with you wherever you go. Whatever works.

5) Edit
"Every novel's first draft needs editing. A lot of editing."
I think it was Stephen King who wrote that the first draft is for you and the second, etc., drafts are for the world.
Scott writes:
Hemingway had some choice words for first drafts. I won’t repeat them here, but the upshot was that they universally stink.
Amen! I've just completed the first draft of a novel and I know it needs a LOT of work.

I hope you found something useful. Click here to read Scott Bartlett article in its entirety: 5 Lessons Learned From Writing 3 Novels.

If you have a tip you'd like to share please do leave a comment.

Other articles you might enjoy:
- Peter V. Brett Wrote Bestseller, The Warded Man, On The Subway
- Amazon's KDP Select Program: The Power Of Free
- Book Promotion: Where's The Line?

Photo credit: *_filippo_*