Monday, June 30, 2014

What's a writer supposed to do?

For fun and games last week, I decided to go to HAN (seriously not sure why) and I discovered sixteen of my old Silhouette Romances were released as ebooks. This floored me because they were sixteen of my favorite books I'd written. For years, I'd wanted these books released as ebooks so readers could find them ...

And then I sort of felt like somebody smacked me on the side of the head. Really? How WERE readers supposed to find them?

Discoverability is the devil.

I have enough friends who publish their books independently to know there are a few "tools" that help readers find you. The first one is pricing. That one's out of my no point thinking about it. Then there are reviews. But people have to read the book before they can review it which means they've got to find it so that's an endless cross that one off.

You can post on Facebook or Twitter but with everybody saying, "Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my book!" won't my cry just become one of the many?

And while I'm sitting here pondering how to get out the word that I have sixteen glorious titles on ebooks now...I'm neglecting my current WIP!

Worse, every day thousands of books are released. Indies, traditional publishers, small presses, rereleases, funnel into Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, and all the other outlets every day, making discoverability that much harder.

As I pondered this over the weekend, working on a book due far too soon for me to have split brain syndrome, I realized how very little control I had. Punching up dialogue and following character arcs through my story, I lamented how very, very small my name is in a very big publishing world.

Working on new scenes, I pouted over the possibility that maybe no one would read my words...words I considered next to poetic LOL!...and then it hit me. I ALWAYS read my words. I ALWAYS have to love my stories. Even if I'm only writing for an audience of one (2 if you count my editor :) ), I am writing to please myself. To tell great stories. To enjoy the rush of adrenaline that accompanies falling in love. And over the story, the rush of adrenaline, I have complete control. (Mostly...everybody needs editorial input.)

It's hard to sit around and try to figure out how in the name of all that is holy you're going to get someone to discover your book-- or lots of people to discover your book. Writing is a lot easier when you stop that and focus on your writing.

Especially since that's what brought us to this profession in the first place. The love of writing/storytelling.

That's not to say discoverability isn't part of our job. We need to get out there and make sure our babies are found and read. What I am saying is I want to be sure that if I find a few wonderful souls to read my work...they'll like what they read.

Happy Monday and Happy Reading

susan meier

Monday, June 23, 2014

Research Ain't What It Used To Be

I just read a letter from my editor that contained the "tweaks" I need to incorporate in my next Harlequin to make the story stronger. (No biggie.) But one of the comments she made about the book made me laugh. She loved the way I portrayed Barcelona, Spain. Loved it. In a conversation a few weeks ago, she'd asked if I'd been there and I had to admit I hadn't but I told her not to worry, that YouTube was very good for actually "seeing" a city because there are hundreds of different kinds of videos to choose from.

You can go pure tourist. That's somebody who's wandering around the city, filming as they walk. That's a good street-level view. LOL But there are specialists. Travel agent videos will "show" you what you will see firsthand if you book your trip through them. One video poster actually does what he calls "driving through" videos. You see the city speeding by as if you were driving through. That one came in particularly handy.

But I don't just rely on YouTube. Lots of people post blogs about their experiences in the cities they visit. I also go to the official site...and even though Barcelona's official site was not in English...I could figure out what they were trying to say. :)

I've visited a candy factory in my area for one of my books. I've spoken directly to police, lawyers, and even a funeral director (Hi, Mark) for HER SUMMER WITH THE MARINE.

I'm not the kind of gal who has the patience to read books on a "subject" but show me a video and I can watch it again and again and again. Or give me a chance to chat on the phone with someone who has firsthand information and I'm all ears.

My point is...Research is whatever you want to make it. You can read blog journals, make phone calls, read books, watch YouTube. So make it fun. Make your trip into a subject something that resonates with you so that the information you need sticks with you and you have the fact you need at the exact minute you need it.

Happy Monday...and Happy Reading...

susan meier

Monday, June 16, 2014

Writing the Ending First

Last week I realized I was seriously behind in word count. So, I looked at my story board, seeking the scenes I knew well enough that I could draft them and know they'd fit, and I ended up writing my ending.

The next day I wrote the chapter before the ending. The next day I wrote the black moment chapter.

Writing the ending when you're desperate to get some word count so you don't fall behind is a smart thing to do. When we fall behind we tend to get overwhelmed and when we're overwhelmed we frequently don't write. We freeze. And then we really get overwhelmed.

So it's a good time management tools.

But there are other advantages, writing advantages that you might not have considered...

1.  Unlike the race to the ending you usually experience when you write chronologically, you don't have any "I'm-running-out-of-words" fear, so you don't skimp. I even wrote a few "lush" portions...Not all lush. LOL Readers usually read the ending quickly, so you can't overdo on words and sweetness. :) But it's good to know there is no restriction on what you are writing so you can give readers the solid ending they deserve.

2.  When you write the ending before the middle, you see how many words you've used, so you know how much real "space" you have to write your middle. :) If you use more words for your ending than you thought you would need, writing the middle might involve combining journey steps or cutting out lackluster scenes .... OR ... re-outlining so that you have a tighter story. But, that might actually be good. LOL

3. And...most important...When you really know your ending, you know what you're writing to. You know what the hero will say to the heroine to win her for good (or visa versa). You know what funny or cute "prop" you've chosen to make the ending cute or funny or heartbreakingly sad, so you can work it in. And knowing exactly what's going to happen, you can write to it.

Now...I can't always write my ending. Sometimes the story needs to be told chronologically...but when I can...It's great. It's a tool. It's an advantage. And it's a great way to beat procrastination. :)

Happy Reading...

susan meier

Monday, June 9, 2014

Over the weekend, I gave a day-long workshop for the RWA chapter in Syracuse. Nice ladies... (and gentlemen) we had a lot of fun.

But it always amazes me when I'm teaching and I see something in my notes that blows me away. I think, you wrote that! How can you be surprised?

Bad memory? LOL

But the truth is, we go to so many seminars and workshops and take so many classes that sometimes we can be overwhelmed with good ideas. Ideas for organization. Ideas for coming up with stories. Ideas for capturing scene ideas. Reminders of what good writing looks like or how to raise the stakes or why you need twists and turns.

On overload, our brains quickly reject things that either aren't easy or can't help us right now, in the place where we are in our novel.

So what's the fix for this? Or better said, how do you remember to use all the tools at hand?

The simplest answer is to tell you to get a system. Everybody has "a system," even if it is a bad one. We have a process by which we figure out our story (albeit that some people do it by writing a draft). We have a process by which we come up with scenes or write scenes. And we have a process by which we edit. The trick is not being led around by your process but actually checking in with it every once in a while and refining it.

For me process is all about planning and then writing what I've planned. Midway through a book, my editor and I decided to change it...So what did I do? I wrote a new one-paragraph story summary so I'd have a guide or map that showed me what needed to be changed and what could stay the same.

So I plan. I come up with a story summary, a synopsis, a storyboard and then pages. The forms I use are tools like a could/might/must and should list, one of the various 1-paragraph story summaries, lists of twenty. Then I roll into storyboard, which is a "visual" of my scenes.

I know what to do, what forms to reach for, because I always use this process.

Yours may be different. (Yours should be different. LOL) But whatever process you choose, you should have a list of the forms or systems that help you. And every time you start a book you should refer to those forms so that you get your brain in the habit of working in the way that's most efficient for you.

Because success in life really does involve habit. Get your brain accustomed to working with things and it will eagerly go in the direction you need it to go. And suddenly writing won't be as much torture as a happy path you've successfully followed before!

Happy Monday...

Oh, and sorry I'm late. Yee Gawds I'm busy. :)

susan meier

Monday, June 2, 2014

Don't Shortchange Your Ending

I spent the week finishing up my new Harlequin Romance as we welcomed our first grandchild into the world. Have laptop, will travel. :)

I counted myself lucky to be at the end of the book through such a busy week because the end of the book is wrap up and wrap up is easy...

Or is it?

You still have to make sure every scene has a journey step and that the type of scenes you choose to manifest that journey steps that resolve your conflicts don't merely work; they're the best scene possible.

You don't want to rush. You still want to get in the details.

You most certainly don't want to shortchange the emotion of the ending.

This is the payoff readers have been reading for. You've been racing them to this ending, to the resolution of the mystery, to the declaration of love, to the saving of the world. You shouldn't say, "They found the bomb, defused it and everybody went home." Even if that's exactly what happened, readers want some detail...and some emotion. More than anybody else, Romance readers and writers KNOW there is an emotion to closure. :)

Your readers want to sigh with relief as your characters sigh with relief over the saving of the world, resolution of the mystery or declaration of love.

So though this is a short blog...there's a big point. Don't shortchange your endings. Don't wrap things up too quickly. Don't tell the ending. Show it.

Happy Monday and Happy Reading...

susan meier