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Monday, October 9th, 2017
I’m writing this blog from my hotel room in Florida, and hoping that we get home Sunday night. It will all depend on whether or not Hurricane Nate delays flights. Of course, that would just be an inconvenience for us. Hurricane Nate apparently caused multiple deaths in Central America, and could possibly cause more destruction in the U.S., so I’m not complaining. I really hope everyone is safe!
So lots of things to talk about.
On Saturday my middle son (G-Man) proposed to his long time girlfriend!! We are ecstatic! We love his fiance! So for anyone keeping track, I have three grown sons: Oldest is married to Special K, and they are expecting their first baby (my grandbaby!!!) in March. Middle Son is newly engaged. And Youngest is already engaged (another girl we love!), but they have put their wedding off to late 2018 due to her mom’s serious health issue (she is recovering, thankfully). So to sum up, our three sons have brought us three amazing daughter-in-laws! And yes, I’m a tad excited!!
The NINC Conference: It was awesome! I could only last until 2 p.m. as far as workshops go, but I got a lot out of this trip. I’m just going to give you random thoughts off the top of my head.
- I love this specific conference because it’s very, and I’m mean very business and success focused. If someone is a hobby writer who is just happy to publish a book or two and talk about it, this conference would not be right for them. But if you consider your self a business, with you as the CEO and Content Provider (the books), and you are looking to grow your company, then you’d love it here.
- The big thing this year seems to be collaborations (two or more authors writing together).
- Everyone is looking for a great Assistant. Okay, seriously people, if being an author isn’t your thing, but you enjoy being around authors and books, you may want to consider becoming a Virtual Assistant. You will likely need a strong skill set in things like newsletters, formatting, uploading, creating spreadsheets, doing promo campaigns, running street and review teams. It can be a demanding job that requires constantly growing your skill set, but it’s also fun and challenging. And sometimes there are great perks, there were quite a few assistants here at NINC.
- Writing faster is always a goal. It’s pretty much the same advice: Write a dirty first draft without editing, then revise. Use tricks like a setting a timer and sticking to it with no interruptions. Turn off the internet and don’t answer the phone or doorbell. (Um..what about retired husbands? LOLOL. Getting a writing buddy to keep you on track. In my case, I’m talking to an author friend about working together to keep each other accountable, talking over plotting and business issues weekly or so via Skype or something like that. Figure out what works for you and do it.
- Set office hours and try to stick to them. THEY WERE TALKING TO ME!! That’s one of my goals. We will be more efficient if we know we only have certain hours to work, then we can play later.
- Create a Strategic Production Plan: 1) Figure out your plan like I’m going to write three books in a sexy paranormal serious about dragon-shifters trapped in their dragon form until they find a witch to release them. 2) Determine how long it takes to write each book. 3) Develop a launch strategy, like write all the books first, then release them all at once, back-to-back releases or release them as written.
- Set up a yearly calendar with deadline and your production schedule. I have a simple calendar, but I’m going to get a huge calendar and put it in my upstairs office where I can see it at a glance. In a nutshell, my calendar will be color coded and able to see at a glance: 1) 1st draft finished and due to editor. 2) Revision from revision letter and date due back to editor. 3) Line Edits done and due to editor. 4) Copy Edits sent, received and finished. 4) Proofreading. 5) Arcs/Reviews sent. 6) Formatting digital and print. 7) Release Dates. Marketing Plan (pre-release, release day, blogs, advertising, etc.) And that’s for each book.
- Onto audio books. ACX has been the only game in town for a while, but now there are two new players: Findaway Voices and ListenUp Audiobooks. That’s exciting news and I’m really pleased to see these two companies creating more audible book opportunities. They allow writers to keep more rights and distribution options, and seem really excited to work with authors on their projects. However, it’s still very expensive. If it costs $350.00 (conservative cost) Per Finished Hour then it would cost me roughly $10K to put the three books in my Savaged Series in Audio. I didn’t even want to do the math on my Wing Slayer Hunters Series. Audio is a growing market but expensive to do ourselves.
- There was a two hour, very intensive workshop on newsletters. The take away from that is pretty simple–we all need a newsletter mailing list. It’s out most valuable tool in reaching readers who really want to buy our books. For anyone just starting out with a newsletter, look at Mailchimp–they are free for less than 2k subscribers. I started my mine there and do pretty well with it.
Okay that’s enough for now I think How was your weekend?
Monday, January 9th, 2017
Before I start, Good, Bad & Sexy is up for pre-order for 99¢ at all the vendors now!
Amazon Kindle / B&N Nook / ibooks / Kobo / Google Play
I’m going to do a quick review my two main goals from my 2016 business plan, including where I met my goals, exceeded them and where I fell short.
Okay let’s go:
Books: FELL SHORT
- I planned to write three full length books and a novella.
- I succeeded in writing and releasing one novella. SUCCESS
- I wrote one full length book, but held off publishing it until June of 2017 in a revised marketing plan. SUCCESS AND FAIL. I decided that the one book I was writing was too long for a single novel and decided to write three full-length connected books. (My editor agrees and thinks it’s my best work yet—we’ll see if that’s true.) Changing the strategy midstream was a creative decision, but there’s cost to that on the business side of things. It slowed my production for 2016 significantly.
- I failed to write Ram’s book, Primal Magic, in the Wing Slayer Series. FAIL. And it bothers me every single day, but I have to finish this Savaged Trilogy.
- My conclusion? Pretty plans get shot to hell by creative needs sometimes. But more seriously, business plans are a document meant to guide, not lock us in. I think writing the Savaged Trilogy will work out long term, but there will be some short term pain to make it happen. And this is part of taking the big risk for big rewards.
Financial Goals: SUCCESS.
- My 2015 income had a projected drop. So for 2016 I wanted to increase that by 25%. I exceeded this goal dramatically.
- The reason? Marketing and Strategy. A chunk of that marketing and strategic plan began in 2015, so much of this is long term planning.
- My conclusion? Marketing and strategy are important to a long term career. But it’s not as important as the books themselves.
- I believe in a business plan. I have mine in a less formal format this year, but it’s still written out. My publishing plan, financial plan and marketing plan. It’s all fluid and can change, but I know what I need to be doing and what goals I’m working toward.
- I believe in big goals. I hate failure—it’s painful, scary and sometimes humiliating. But I have learned how to succeed from my failures.
- I have too many “rabbit holes.” Rabbit holes are the things that distract me from what I should be doing—writing. This year the whole election was a nonstop series of rabbit holes. I kept clicking on news articles to read and videos to watch instead of writing. Avoid Rabbit Holes at all costs! Right now, Wizard will walk by and call out, “Rabbit Hole” if he sees me doing it.
- Life is not a Rabbit Hole we can avoid. 2016 was filled with medical crap and one major scare that turned out fine. This year is starting out with Wizard having surgery at the end of the month. Life happens and we just have to change and adapt as it comes, and so should our business plans.
- Marketing and Strategy are even more important as the e-book market is slumping and sales are falling off dramatically for most authors I know. Readers aren’t just one-clicking anymore. We have put that book in front of them and that takes marketing and strategy.
- I will always wish I could write faster and more efficiently.
- And this is for all of you. Dream big, then break that down into goals and go for it. You can do this!
Monday, April 4th, 2016
Today is Wizard’s birthday. So for Business Monday I’m going to share some of the reasons I consider my husband (aka Wizard) my biggest inspiration.
I had a secret dream of writing since high school. But for the first few years of our marriage, I was too busy. Once we had our three sons, Wizard went back to school to get his Master’s degree and I began to think that I needed a goal too. I loved our children and being a mom, but I needed my own identity too. When my sister gave us her old computer, I began writing while the kids napped or played, but I didn’t tell anyone. Then after a few weeks, I worked up the courage told Wizard, “I’m writing a book.”
He nodded. “Okay.”
“Do you think I can?”
He met my gaze. “Don’t ask me. Show me. Write a book and I’ll read it.”
See for those of you who might think Wizard is all sweet encouragement…bwahahaha! Um no. Wizard is a real man who judges on actions. So I wrote a book. It wasn’t easy. I had no idea what I was doing. In those days, we were on a very tight budget. Wizard bought me books on writing for my birthday and Christmas. He became friendly with the managers of our local Barnes and Nobles and Waldenbooks because he asked them for suggestions on books for me. Soon they had his phone number and would call him if a good writing book came in. I know this because I met the two of them and they told me how he’d search for just the right book for me.
He supported my dream with actions. Best gift ever!
And when I finished my book, he read it. Every single page. I don’t think he’d read a romance book in his life, but he read mine. That’s love people, because let me tell you, that book sucked. I sent it everywhere and was brutally and soundly rejected. But he never told me it sucked. He told me the things he liked, the things he thought could use work, and he came up with a better title than I had. I rewrote it and it sucked less But I still had a lot to learn about writing.
I joined Romance Writers of America. Wizard zealously protected my one Saturday a month meeting. He made sure he was home with the kids, or he took them to sports or family obligation so I could go to the meeting. Our extended families soon learned that I would not be available that one Saturday because Wizard made it clear. I knew then how amazing that was, but looking back, it honestly chokes me up. Wizard always knew there was no guarantee I’d get published. But he knew I loved writing and loved being a part of the community. That’s all that mattered.
Finally one day I was fed up with rejection. I’d been writing historical romances because they were big at the time but it wasn’t working for my voice. I decided to write a book that was just for me. I opened a new document on my computer and started writing about someone I liked and that I thought was fresh, fun an full of imperfections. I fell in love with Samantha Shaw, a newly widowed woman with two sons and running a dating service.
Wizard saw my happiness and asked to read a chapter. First time he’d asked since that first book. I sent it to his email to read when he had time. He was hooked. It became a game between us. I’d get emails and phone calls. MORE! WRITE MORE! We talked about the book all the time. We argued about plot points. I finished the book and did the usual submission process.
And one day, I came home from taking care of my mom (she was seriously ill at the time) and Christmas shopping to a message on my machine from Amy Garvey at Kensington books asking me to call her. I was stunned.
I returned the call and got her machine. I have no idea what I said.
Then I waited. And waited.
And then THE CALL came. Amy Garvey offered me a two-book deal! I was ecstatic. It took eight years and five manuscripts but I was going to be a published author. A lot of credit goes to Wizard who believed in me, pushed me, supported me and challenged me.
Sadly, my mom passed away before the book came out. She’d knew all about it, of course, and was so excited. She was very supportive too. As you would expect, it was a hard time for me in the months after she passed. But I had to finish the second book in the series, Dying To Meet You. I had a deadline, but I was…well…floundering. Wizard saw this and said, “I know how much you miss your mom and she’d read your manuscript for you. Let me read it and help you.”
I never told him that, he just knew it, understood that there is special kind of support we get from our moms. And frankly, I was scared. Could I do it again? The stakes were higher now that I had contracts and deadlines, and the book had to be good. The pressure had mounted on me just as I was dealing with grief. I wrote that first draft from my mom’s side while caring for her. This was also when I got sick with RA and the pain was unrelenting. I could only write for maybe twenty minutes before I had to take a break and ice my hands and wrists. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it. Except…
Wizard. He read the first draft. And I thought, okay, he’ll do what he usually does and talk about it.
Nope. He surprised the hell out of me. Wizard wrote up a two paged, singled spaced critique, detailing exactly where I could flesh out scenes and add more mystery, humor or drama. I have no idea where he learned to do that, he’s an accountant not an editor. He’s never done it before or since, but that book…I needed him. I was floundering in grief, fear and physical pain and he stepped in to give me that extra support I needed. But it was more than that–he turned that book into something joyful during a difficult time. Every time I look up at Dying To Meet You on my shelf, I think of Wizard quietly helping me hold onto my dream while I struggled with grief and my own health.
So when people ask me, who is the biggest or most powerful inspiration in my life?
I don’t care if it’s corny or cliché, I answer with the truth–it’s my husband.
And that is what I wish for all of you, that you find your true inspiration.
Monday, March 21st, 2016
Thanks for having me, Jennifer. My name is Carrie Ann Ryan and I’m a NYT and USA Today bestselling author of over forty novels and novellas. I’ve also done all of that within four years, which, as some of you know, is a little crazy. Jennifer asked me here today to discuss a little about my process and how sprinting helps me get things done. My process happens to work for me for now, but I know that eventually I might need to alter it a bit.
To start, I’m a plotter. I know the titles of my books for each series, which character goes with each book, and the main plot of each one before I even put a word on the page. While that can change, having an idea of where I’m going helps me focus.
I’m also a mathematician and chemist at heart, so numbers make me happy!
I set myself goals for each day when it comes to writing, 3k, 5k, 10k for that day so I can slowly work on my book. If I think about each book in parts, it helps me relax. Rather than worry that I have five weeks to write 100k, I can work on things per day. I also know I can’t do things alone!
I’m in a Sprint Loop of ten or so romance authors where we not only discuss business, but do sprints. We use SKYPE but only the text part. There’s no need for video without coffee! We’ve done 15, 20, and 30 min sprints where we focus solely on writing for that time and at the end, report how many words we have. Its not a competition as everyone works at different paces, but it keeps us accountable. I can usually get around 900 words in 20 min, but I know that not everyone can do that. Sometimes I can only get 400 words, but I know that I focused for those 20 min and at least wrote.
Why do small sprints and not #1k1hr? (1000 words in 1 hr)
Well I can’t focus for that long. If I have to sit at my computer and try to write for 60 min, my brain wants to do something else. I’ll start moving in my chair, I’ll get distracted by a cat, or literally a bird outside my window. By doing it in small spurts, I can focus for a smaller amount of time with less distractions.
That doesn’t mean I’m perfect and won’t get distracted, but I do my best to focus for those 20 min.
After those 20 min, we usually take 5-10 min breaks for social media, talking to our spouses, research, or bio breaks. More importantly, we force ourselves to get out of our chairs and stretch. Many of us have joint issues from sitting for so long and other health issues, so doing a group stretch actually is working wonders!
Another thing I have tried recently is using my FOCUS app. I set it for 20 min and that counts as my timer. (I used to use my iPhone rather than a web browser so I wouldn’t get distracted by the internet!) The FOCUS App refuses to let me get on the internet yet still let’s me keep on my Skype loop. You’ll be amazed how many times you go to your browser for something once you hit a sentence that pulls you out of the story. My writing output has increased nicely when I started using it.
One more thing you can do is keep a record of your writing. I have a wordcount record for each month, book, series etc. I’ve always kept it because I like numbers and it keeps me on target for a deadline. However I’ve also been doing a hand written one for daily counts. It has what my goals are for the day in increments of 1000 words on the left side, and I write the time of day when I hit that goal. It gives me an idea of how I’m doing during the day and where I get stuck.
All of this though, sprinting, focusing, writing down word counts, all of it is so my brain can relax and I can dig into the story. It keeps me on track because writing is a business and I have commitments, and it lets me know when I need to push a bit and when I can breathe and work on a special project on the side.
I hope this helps you if you’re looking for a way to focus and if you ever need anything, feel free to email me!
Thank you so much and happy sprinting!
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan never thought she’d be a writer. Not really. No, she loved math and science and even went on to graduate school in chemistry. Yes, she read as a kid and devoured teen fiction and Harry Potter, but it wasn’t until someone handed her a romance book in her late teens that she realized that there was something out there just for her. When another author suggested she use the voices in her head for good and not evil, The Redwood Pack and all her other stories were born.
Carrie Ann is a bestselling author of over twenty novels and novellas and has so much more on her mind (and on her spreadsheets *grins*) that she isn’t planning on giving up her dream anytime soon.
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Monday, March 7th, 2016
It’s Business Monday and today I have a very special guest: New York Times bestseller, M.J. Rose is the author of sixteen novels, the founder of the first marketing firm for authors – Authorbuzz.com, and co-founder with Liz Berry of 1001 Dark Nights . Here, she shared her tips on marketing and publicity in the ever-changing publishing world.
No one can buy a book they’ve never heard of.
So, how do readers hear about books? Everyone likes to say it’s word of mouth, but it’s not possible to tell a friend about a book until you’ve heard of it yourself.
That’s where publicity and marketing come in. What’s the difference between the two? Marketing is paid placement on blogs, radio, TV, newspapers, etc. These show up as ads, advertorials, promotions, blog tours, and more. With marketing, if you pay for it, it shows up. You hire a marketing company and they buy the space. The attention is guaranteed to be there.
Publicity is the opposite. You pay a publicist to pitch your book to newspapers, magazines, blogs, TV, radio interviews, and reviews. You are paying for the publicist’s effort to get you some attention. A publicist’s rate of success is determined by the quality and quantity of her connections.
7 Marketing & Publicity Points
1. 85% of all books get less than $2,000 in marketing from the publisher. And more than 85% of all books sell less than 1,000 copies.
2. 95% of all branded bestsellers get more than $25,000 in marketing and PR, and often it’s upwards of $50,000. There are never more than two or three books a year that break out on a fluke with no marketing and PR.
When people say, “If advertising and PR worked every book would be a bestseller,” they are approaching it from the wrong direction. The real question is, “How many books have succeeded without any PR or marketing?” and the answer is: very few.
Advertising and PR can’t make every book a bestseller because not every book is good enough or appealing enough. It is much easier to write an exciting ad than to write a whole book. Not even the most brilliant PR and marketing can sell a book people don’t want to read.
3. Marketing and PR are both valuable, so I advise that if you have a big enough budget you should hire a publicist. Then for every dollar you spend with a publicist, spend two dollars with a marketing company. That way, even if the publicist can’t get reviews and publicity, you’ll still get exposure.
4. Exposure does work. If you take 100 books and look at the ones that had PR and marketing dollars spent on them and the ones that had none, you will absolutely see that the books that had PR/marketing outsold the others more than ten to one. The problem comes when you look at one book at a time.
For instance, I’ve done AuthorBuzz and blog ad campaigns where I have proof that over 10,000 people clicked through and looked deeper at the book, but ultimately the sales were less than stellar. What happened? We got attention for the book, but when potential readers looked more closely, they didn’t buy. I’ve also done campaigns where we did minimal marketing efforts and the book went back to press, which the publisher never expected, or the book ranked higher on a bestseller list than they expected or it simply sold through at a better rate than other books in the season/genre. What happened? It was a terrific book. It resonated with readers. PR and marketing can’t sell books. It’s worth repeating. PR and marketing can’t sell books.
PR and marketing can expose books to potential readers. The book—the words and the premise, the first few pages, the flap copy, the book cover—must entice, enchant, seduce. The book sells the book.
In advertising there is a saying: nothing kills a bad product better than great advertising. It’s true for books too.
5. What to spend? The advice I give everyone, and follow myself, is to keep your day job or a freelance job and spend as much as you can on selling your book. I’ve worked with authors who spend $985 and others who, between my services and other efforts, spend $250,000. One way to decide: if you are going to look back and regret spending the money, don’t do it. But if you are going to look back and say, “If only I had tried maybe the book would have succeeded,” then do it. Nora Roberts said you should spend 10% of your advance. For years, James Patterson spent all of his on advertising and kept his job.
6. If you are going to hire a publicist or marketing firm, don’t believe anyone who promises you specific sales numbers. No one knows how many copies of your book they can move and if they start out by lying, you’re going to get screwed. Make sure you look at their testimonials and recognize some of the authors/publishers.
Lastly, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably not true. People will try to get you to pay money to attend teleseminars on how to become an Amazon No. 1 bestseller for ten minutes. All that achievement actually requires is that you manipulate the system and get 100 friends to buy the book within an hour. Don’t pay anyone anything for advice like that.
New York Times bestseller, M.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed. She believes mystery and magic are all around us but we are too often too busy to notice… Books that exaggerate mystery and magic draw attention to it and remind us to look for it and revel in it.
Rose is the Co-President and a founding member of International Thriller Writers and the founder of the first marketing company for authors: AuthorBuzz. She also runs the blog, Museum of Mysteries.
With Liz Berry she co-founded and co-operates 1,001 Dark Nights and Evil Eye Concepts, Inc.
In 1998, her first novel Lip Service was the first e-book and the first self-published novel chosen by the LiteraryGuild/Doubleday Book Club as well as the first e-book to go on to be published by a mainstream New York publishing house, as well as published in more than 15 countries including France (where she is published as Melisse J. Rose).
Rose has been profiled in L’Officiel, Time magazine, Forbes, The New York Times,Business 2.0, Working Woman, Newsweek, and New York Magazine. She has appeared on The Today Show, Fox News, The Jim Lehrer NewsHour, and features on her have appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers in the U.S. and abroad, including USA Today, Stern, L’Official, Poets and Writers, and Publishers Weekly.
Rose graduated from Syracuse University and spent the ’80s in advertising. She was the Creative Director of Rosenfeld Sirowitz and Lawson and she has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.
Liz Berry has two passions. She is the executive director of International Thriller Writers (ITW), a trade group of over 3,000 thriller writers from around the world. Previously, she was the long-time director of Thrillerfest, the annual gathering of ITW, which happens in New York City every July.
With M.J. Rose, Liz co-founded and co-operates 1,001 Dark Nights and Evil Eye Concepts, Inc — an Internet marketing company that works to brand authors and expand readership within the romance genre.
Liz has a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Georgia and also studied at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. Both areas of study have allowed her to gain twenty-plus years of experience in the ever-changing marketing field.
She proudly serves on the Education Committee for the Smithsonian Libraries Advisory Board, and, with her husband, novelist Steve Berry, operates History Matters, a non-profit foundation dedicated to historic preservation. For more information, visitThrillerWriters.org, 1001DarkNights.com, and History-Matters.org.
Monday, February 29th, 2016
Today I’m welcoming author and friend Silver James to the blog to talk about how she juggles writing multiple projects, often working on several books at the same time. She has some awesome tips to share on how she wrangles her out-of-control muse into a creative process that allows her to write and publish an impressive five to ten books a year. So without further delay, here’s Silver James!
Multiplicity (Or How to Deal with a Muse Who Runs with Scissors)
This is my Muse. Her name is Iffy. She runs with scissors and is quite dangerous. She also runs in circles, loves chocolate and spends way too much time on stock photo sites looking at shirtless men. Her imagination is way too active and she delights in waking me up in the middle of the night, whispering sweet nothings about new story ideas in my ear. Back before I was published, this wasn’t so much a problem. Well, other than the insomnia-inducing whispering.
Then I sold my first book to a small press, quickly followed by five more. They didn’t schedule a book for release until all the steps had been met. While still pursuing a traditional publishing track, I also took the plunge into self-publishing. When I inked my first two-book deal with Harlequin Desire, I was suddenly faced with hard deadlines based on HQ’s schedule—books set for release before they were finished, plus promises I’d made to my readers on the self-published side. For a disorganized sort, this was my worst nightmare. No really. I had all these stories, all demanding my time and attention. I’d be working on a sexy contemporary for Desire (billionaire cowboys) and my military SpecOps wolf shifters would hijack my brain. I’d madly jot down that idea—usually resulting in a scene with anywhere from 250 to 2500 words. We won’t even talk about pesky vampires, dragons, fae, and the human FBI agent charged with wrangling them. Ah, the joys of being a hybrid author!
To clarify, I have five active series: Red Dirt Royalty for Harlequin, The Penumbra Papers (self-published urban fantasy), Moonstruck (self-published military wolf shifters), and the two off-shoot series in the Moonstruck world, the Nightriders Motorcycle Club, and Hard Target, another SpecOps team that has genetically enhance SEALs, along with wolf shifters and others.
To keep my business plan viable, I have to publish multiple books in each of those series each year. That means I have to write between five and ten books a year. Luckily, most of the books are shorter, category length or are novellas. That helps. So, you ask, how do I get it done? Organization.
First, I had to have solid bibles for each series. Iffy wrangling all the information and keeping it in my head was an exercise in frustrated insanity. FYI, for anyone who might not know, a series bible is like the Wikipedia of pertinent information about the books in the series:
♦ Main Characters: Names, physical descriptions, personality traits, backstory, cars, guns, pets, etc.
♦ Secondary Characters: All the same info
♦ Settings: Names (businesses, streets, places), descriptions, locations
♦ Worldbuilding notes: This includes special words, any rules (like magic, shifting, etc.), important groups, events, etc.
♦ Titles: Published books and blurbs
♦ Upcoming and prospective titles
I can’t even describe the Post-it Notes, white boards, bulletin boards, notebooks, journals, and all sorts of organizational attempts I made before discovering Scrivener. While I’m a huge proponent of this writing platform, it’s not for everyone. It works beautifully for me. Granted, in the beginning, I simply used it to write a book. Then I learned more about the capabilities of the program and got smart. Trial and error. But this is what I do now.
♦ I create a Scrivener project for each series.
♦ Within the project, I create a folder for each book.
♦ I have a folder for all characters—main and secondary, and I also have a character folder within each individual book folder, with just the characters in that book, for easy referral.
♦ I have a folder of settings
♦ I have a Notes folder that contains worldbuilding notes, special words—I have characters who use terms from their native languages so I keep those for easy copy/paste into the working manuscript.
♦ I have an Idea folder, where I can tuck any brilliant plots, characters, or whatever sweet nothing Iffy is whispering.
♦ For Penumbra, I also have a Playlist folder, because that’s part of the series, a playlist of songs for each chapter.
So, that’s the organization. With that in place, I can play the butterfly and flit between projects. And why do I do that? Two main reasons: Deadlines and my writing process.
♦ Deadlines: For the published author, deadlines rule our worlds…and our words. I’m lucky that my Harlequin editor is aware of my hybrid status and he wants me to set deadlines that work within both schedules. But HQ pays me. Advances when the contract is signed, upon acceptance of the proposal, and upon acceptance of the final manuscript. They get priority because…money. As much as I’d like to say I write for the art of it, writing and publishing is a business for me. I have bills to pay. I can’t base a budget on what I might make with my self-published titles.
Traditional publishing and self-publishing both have a rhythm. You set deadlines—finished MS, beta readers, self editing and revisions, professional editing, revisions, final edits and proofreading, release. There are gaps between those steps, and the smart author starts the next project as soon as a finished project is shipped off to the editor. This holds true no matter how you are published. I’m a firm believer that self-published authors need professional edits too. So, you finish your MS, and send it off to a critique partner or beta readers. Start the next project (or in my case, start/return to the next 3 or 4 projects—LOL) Now you learn to multi-task, juggling two or more projects. You’re writing one/more additional project(s), the first project hits your inbox, and you have to shift gears. Some writers drop the current project to focus on the original. Me? I set aside blocks of time so I can work on all of them. Mornings might be edits, afternoons new words on the new project. Or vice versus. Sometimes, I work in sprints—edit two chapters, write a chapter, edit, write. Everyone has to find their own rhythm because this whole process is very much like a dance.
Now, why in the world do I/can I have more than two projects going? Because I suffer from Author’s Attention Distraction Disorder. As things occur to me, I either make notes, or write the scene. Here’s what’s on the drawing board at the moment, including hard deadlines:
1. Moonstruck: Lies, the next compilation novel in final edits/proofing stage for a March 15th release (93K words)
2. Two Nightrider books, one with an October 12th release as part of a Kindle World, one with an April/May release. (25-35K words, each, both started)
3. A Moonstruck world novel with a proposal submitted to a traditional publisher and I’m working to finish it in case of a request for a full. (25-30K words, late April unless they ask for it sooner)
4. A Moonstruck Christmas novella, November (25K words, started)
5. Penumbra Papers #4 Summer/fall release (untitled, 65K words, started, plotted)
6. Hard Target #2 (untitled, 50-55K words, planning, no set release other than 2016)
7. Next three Red Dirt books waiting on a contract decision, all with 2017 release dates: #4 (started/plotted, 50K words), #5 (plotted, 50K), #6 (plotted, started, 50K). All three plots are percolating in my brain and I add to those projects as ideas/scenes pop up.
As you can imagine, the inside of my brain is a totally scary place! The deadlines are noted in big read letters on a white board next to my desk so part of my brain is always aware. That’s the role deadlines play. They’re the framework that nudges my brain—and Iffy—in the “write” directions at the right time. What makes all this work is my crazypants style of writing process. Do I write on every book every day? No. I work on the most pressing deadlines, with side trips as inspiration hits on the others. And trust me, inspiration hits far more than it probably should. *headdesk* So, let’s take a peek into how I write.
♦Writing Process: I’m a puzzler. When I begin a new book, I know who the main characters are, the beginning of the book, and usually, the end. I know the world. I have a decent idea of the plot and character arcs. That’s like working a jigsaw puzzle and getting all the straight-edged pieces put together to frame the puzzle/book. Then I find pieces and I put them together. Sometimes, they fit right into the frame (linear writing). Sometimes, the pieces clump together in the middle, a scene I know will happen but I’m not sure exactly when in the book’s plotline. I write the scene, tuck it into the correct Scrivener folder and move on. Yes, I have AADD. I can be BICHOK madly typing toward the current deadline and a scene from a totally different book will pop into my head based on a song, a word prompt, something on TV, or just out of the clear, blue sky. When that happens, I immediately stop, write it, tuck it away and return to the most pressing current deadline. Sometimes, I have to get a coffee refill, or do a little time on my gazelle, feed the birds, or pay attention to the fuzzy critters before I get back in the correct head space, but those breaks are likely to happen even if I don’t get distracted.
I should also mention here that I write fast and hard when I write. I’ve been known to do the equivalent of NaNoWriMo for several months in a row. I write full time, have no kids at home, though I occasionally babysit the grandson, and my husband is totally supportive so if laundry stays in the basket or dinner is late/extra crispy/fastfood, he goes with the flow. I know exactly how lucky I am!
Do I recommend this crazy load for everyone? Oh heck no! Run! Run far and fast! LOL Yet, with the fast pace of today’s publishing world, a working writer really needs to be able to multi-task with multiple projects. As I mentioned above, the path from blank page to release is a dance. Sometimes, it’s a waltz, sometimes a jive, occasionally the Argentine tango and the cha-cha-cha.
Know your deadlines—whether contractual or self-imposed.Get organized. Find a writing program and a process that works for you. Set a schedule. Don’t be afraid of letting your Muse (imagination) have a long leash. If you aren’t working under deadline, give yourself the luxury of moving to a new project if you stall on the current one. One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve received is, “When you get stuck in a scene, move on to the next scene you know is going to happen.” Doing that, I often figure out what wasn’t working and can go back, fix the stuck scene, and move on. Sometimes, that next scene is in a totally different project. New words are new words, as far as I’m concerned, and they all get me to the end of the dance and THE END.
To find out more about Silver and her books, visit her at these social media sites: Website | Amazon Author Page | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Newsletter Sign-up
Monday, February 22nd, 2016
It’s Business Monday! If you’d like to see previous Business Monday posts, here are the links:
Creating A Business Plan Part 1 Intro and Reviewing 2015 (Post Date 1/18/16)
Creating A Business Plan Part 2 Goals for 2016 (Post Date 1/25/16)
Creating A Business Plan Part 3 How I developed my project maps (Post Date 2/1/16)
Networking Tips (Post Date 2/15/16)
Today I’m going to share with you all my fairly comprehensive handout, plus notes to clarify points for this blog, that I used in the past when I gave a workshop on Romancing the Trope. Tropes have tremendous emotional power that readers connect with when they are skillfully utilized. In my original handout and workshop I have three parts, Conception, Execution and Marketing. Due to space limitations, I eliminated the marketing section. I’ll do that one in another blog. Please note that I designed this handout for the workshop, and added in some notes for this blog, so please don’t copy and share without permission.
Tropes, for the purposes of the workshop and blog, are recognizable themes used over and over because they hook readers. There’s a list of some popular romance tropes at the end of this blog, however some quick examples are: Billionaires, cowboys, secret babies, tortured heroes, best friend’s little sister and fish out of water are all themes/archetypes that are commonly called tropes.
I will be using examples from two of my books, HER TEMPORARY HERO by Jennifer Apodaca and THE PLUS ONE CHRONICLES by Jennifer Lyon as examples.
Romancing the Trope Handout
By Jennifer Apodaca / Jennifer Lyon
PART ONE: CONCEPTION
This is the stage where we come up with the idea. No matter what your process is—a plotter who does a fifty page outline or a pantzer who comes up with an opening scene and dives right in—identifying your tropes at this stage will help you focus the book. You want to know your tropes before you start because:
Tropes are your hooks.
In the HER TEMPORARY HERO my three main tropes are:
–Marriage of Convenience
–Baby on Doorstep
–Tortured Alpha Hero
I worked all three tropes into the opening set up when Logan Knight, a former Marine struggling with PTSD, comes home to his ranch to find a beautiful woman and baby hiding in his house. In that scene I reveal:
–Logan’s trigger for his PTSD is children, especially babies. He can’t ever have a real marriage and family because of that. TORTURED ALPHA HERO trope—former Marine hits the Alpha portion of that.
–He needs a wife by his thirtieth birthday to secure his land—land that he plans to build Camp Warrior Recovery for Veterans struggling with PTSD on. (MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE)
–Becky, the heroine, is desperate, on the run from an ex and needs a temporary hero to save her baby. (BABY ON DOORSTEP)
Choosing and Layering Tropes Gives Your Book Wider Appeal.
Layering tropes just means using more than one, and making them work together to deepen the story, widen the appeal and create conflict. In HER TEMPORARY HERO, a woman trying to protect her baby creates immediately sympathy for her, that’s the appeal. And for the conflict–Logan has PTSD triggered by children and finds a baby in his house. Instant conflict, what is Logan going to do? Throw out a woman and child? Not if he’s a hero of a romance book, and that creates conflict. How can he help this woman and child, and not destroy himself in the process? See how the tropes are working together?
For a bigger book like the THE PLUS ONE CHRONICLES Trilogy, I took it a step farther by choosing tropes and weaving them together in a way that creates a more complex storyline.
— Redemption is the over-arching trope running through all three books. The hero, Sloane Michaels must make a choice between Love and Vengeance, one will destroy him and one will save him. It’s an age-old trope, but very powerful and hooks readers.
More specific tropes in the books are:
–Revenge/Vengeance: The hero begins the story with a goal of vengeance, one that has driven every decision he’s made for years. He needs vengeance to forgive himself. I chose this trope because it’s timeless—stories of vengeance have been around as far back as the old testament. And because it forces my hero to keep a secret from the heroine, making it more compelling and interesting.
–Billionaire Alpha. Sloane is an ex UFC fighter who began a company and became a self-made billionaire. Wealth and power have always fascinated readers and people in general. Billionaires are a huge now, and I chose this trope/archetype because it worked really well for Sloane as it ties in with his goal for vengeance. This is the key to layering—make your tropes work together.
–Beauty and Beast. My heroine Kat is physically scarred on her leg, and has panic attacks—all from an attack that she really can’t remember. A physically and emotionally scarred heroine, especially one like Kat who is determined to overcome and get stronger, is a huge hook—she creates empathy in readers. Her ex-fiance sees her as scarred and broken, while Sloane sees her beauty and strength. It also plays off Sloane’s trope of revenge—while Sloane’s trope is violence based in seeking revenge, Kat’s trope as “Beast” comes from scars she got as a victim of violence. This puts my hero and heroine on opposite sides of the concept of violence—creating more conflict in the story.
–Amnesia Kat can’t fully recall the attack, but only has flashes that make her believe her ex fiancé isn’t telling the truth about what happened that night. This creates anxiety in her, ramps up the tension in the story as we realize that remembering may put her in danger. This trope invokes Sloane’s Alpha protective tendency.
—Losing a mentor/death This trope helped create a much BIGGER FEEL to the story than what a category length book usually allows for. It’s another timeless theme that invokes a strong emotional reaction. A final reason I chose this is that Drake, Sloane’s mentor’s is trying to stay alive long enough to keep Sloane from making the wrong choice between love and vengeance, which ties back into the over-arching trope/theme of redemption, and it also creates a ticking clock in the plot.
If you’re writing a category length romance, you’ll need to choose more traditional, romance-themed tropes to tightly focus on the hero and heroine’s love story. But if you are writing a bigger romance, you can bring in tropes that ramp up emotion and stakes while still supporting the romance.
Summary: Knowing your tropes gives you the hooks to capture reader’s attention, and layering tropes will add depth and widen the appeal to a larger reading audience.
PART TWO: EXECUTION
For tropes to have maximum impact, they need to be more than the external plot. What is your character’s greatest fear and why? (Their greatest fear, by the way, is often their Internal Conflict, which is key when developing characters and motivation. However I’m keeping it simple for the purposes of this workshop/blog)
Example from HER TEMPORARY HERO:
Heroine: Becky lost her father, brother, home and way of life to a house fire when she was six. Her greatest internal desire is a family, and greatest fear is losing her family.
Hero: Logan spent his first eight years with his mom, when his rich and powerful father suddenly decided he needed a son and fought for custody. Logan’s mother gave up the fight, choosing her career as a singer over her son. After that, Logan never really fit anywhere. His greatest secret desire is to be loved enough to fight for and his greatest fear is abandonment.
Now we use these two tropes; marriage-of-convenience with a baby-on-the-doorstep to:
Tempt them with their greatest, possibly secret or unrecognized, desires:
–Logan: To be loved enough to stay
And terrify them with their greatest fears:
–Becky: Losing her family.
–Logan: Abandonment, not being loved enough, and now is he so damaged by PTSD, that he can’t be loved?
False Moment when it might all work out:
–Becky tells Logan she loves him attaining her family
–Logan wants to try, believing that he might really be enough to be loved. He’s hopeful and just when he’s ready to commit, he’s called away to work.
Black Moment: It should involve one or more tropes. The secret is revealed and destroys everything kind of moment. I won’t reveal the black moment here and ruin HER TEMPORARY HERO for anyone who hasn’t read it. But I’ll say that it involves the marriage of convenience and baby on doorstep tropes:
–Becky comes face to face with losing her family again, and is worse off than when the book opens.
–Logan is faced with his greatest fear of abandonment and forced into action.
Payoff Bring it all together in a Happily Ever After. Payoff Scenes are the Reader’s Reward—that sigh moment when all the strife and pain is worth it. I have two notes on payoff scenes:
–Don’t make the trip from Black Moment to Happily Ever After too easy. Part of the payoff is that the character earns their HEA. Make them have to work for it, sacrifice something important to get the real prize.
–If you set up a trope in the book, make sure it has a payoff. When we set up a trope in a book, we make a promise to our readers to see it through. I’m going to go back here to THE PLUS ONE CHRONICLES as an example. I set up a trope of Losing a mentor/death. I did NOT want to see that through. I fought writing that scene all the way to last moment…right until one morning while cooking breakfast I told my husband: “I’m not going to put Drake’s (the mentor’s) final scene in the book. It’s too much. Too hard. I’ll just allude to it later.”
My husband stopped what he was doing and gave me some of the best advice of my career: “That’s the coward’s way out. You got this far along and now you’re going to pull your punch at the last minute? That’s cheating your readers and not fair.”
I listened to him and made myself follow through on what was essentially an implied promise to my readers and I’m so very glad I did. So remember, Don’t pull your punches and don’t cheat your readers.
FOR BIGGER BOOKS
–It’s the same thing, except you’re working with more tropes and emotions. Same concept just more layers.
Summary: For maximum impact, tropes need to be more than an external plot—tie them to your characters greatest internal desires and fears that lead to the black moment and be sure you deliver the payoff scenes, they are the reader’s reward.
List of Some Tropes:
- Accidental Pregnancy: forces hero/heroine to face their fears.
- Amnesia: hero or heroine has lost their memory temporarily or permanently.
- Baby on Doorstep
- Bait and Switch (Hero or Heroine form relationship with one person to get the attention of another but falls for the bait in the end).
- Beauty and the Beast: hero or heroine is physically marred.
- Best Friends Little Sister
- Betrayal: Heroine has intentionally hurt the hero or made a mistake in the past that has hurt the hero or vice versa.
- Business competitors: hero and heroine compete for high business stakes only one can win.
- Cinderella: rags to riches story.
- Class: a class difference sets a couple apart.
- Different Worlds/Across the Tracks
- Enemies to Lovers: Hatred turns to love
- Family feud: e.g. Romeo and Juliet.
- Fish out of Water (Big city person in small town, or visa versa)
- Friends to Lovers: a hero and heroine’s friendship becomes more.
- Kidnapping: hero kidnaps heroine or heroine kidnaps hero.
- Marriage of convenience: arranged/forced marriage.
- Masquerade: hero, heroine or both pretend to be someone else.
- Mistaken Identity: hero or heroine isn’t who he/she appears to be.
- One Night Stand:
- Opposites attract: good girl/bad boy or bad girl/good boy.
- Revenge: Often at the price of love
- Reunited Lovers
- Secret Baby: heroine falls pregnant but doesn’t tell hero about it.
- Secret: hero or heroine keeps a dark secret.
- Stranded: hero and heroine are forced together.
- Twins: hero or heroine has “evil” twin, hero or heroine masquerade as twin etc.
**list compiled from http://minxesofromance.blogspot.com/2012/04/whats-your-favorite-trope.html and various other sources.
As always I welcome questions or comments!
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