Irma is a buzz-kill

You might think that a writer would have a lot of productive writing time during a hurricane because she’s stuck inside and needs entertainment. Nope. Hurricane Irma is still 24 hours away from me, and I haven’t written a word since Tuesday. So much preparation goes into surviving a storm like this. We don’t even live on the coast of Florida, and yet it could be a category two or three by the time it gets to us, and it is expected to bring 24- 48 hours of rain.

What will I be doing all that time? Watching the Weather Channel and fretting. Because. I’ve already watched Jim Cantore hustle here and there around Florida, trying to be where Irma makes landfall. A lot of times I just turn off the sound and pay attention to when they show the maps. Because all the rest is just talking.

The Vikings didn’t get much warning about storms. How would you like to brave a North Atlantic storm in a small open boat? Sound appealing? I don’t think so. A lot of ships were lost. What’s amazing is that some weren’t. In the tenth century, Eirik the Red left Iceland with 500 people and 25 ships on his way to Greenland. Only 15 ships made it.

That’s a lot of loss of life and property. If you were on one of those ships, you’d have at least a 40 percent change of dying en route. If we sent a mission to the moon, that would be an unacceptable risk level to start with.

You think about these things during the lead up to a hurricane.

The latest

If you don’t recognize this website, it’s because it’s brand new! I’ve migrated my old blog (Subsequent Chapters) over to a proper URL that corresponds to my name. It’s the thing to do in writerly circles these days.

I’m hard at work on revisions of my novel, At World’s Edge, and hope to be finished sometime this century. The good news, I’m closer to a publishable product than the last time you visited my blog. It is very slow going, but made easier by my editor, Mary Ann de Stefano, who has meticulously gone over my manuscript and left me little notes all over it. At this point, after I’ve read my manuscript ten thousand times, I think it’s much more exciting with her little notes.

Will I ever be done? At this point, I have learned not to answer that question, not to make promises I end up breaking, and not to get too excited about writing that last word — because there is no such thing as “done.” There is only “I’m willing to part with it, to launch my baby out into the world.” Because it will never be perfect. I believe this even about John Grisham’s books, because I found a typo in one of his the other day. I felt better about my novel after that. Surely I won’t have typos in mine once it’s published, because I’ve spent the last five years looking for the single remaining misspelled word and haven’t found it.

The only thing I can say is that I am very close to the point where I will be satisfied with it, and I cherish your support as I sprint to the finish line. If you make a habit of reading this blog, you’ll be the first to know.

How to Help Your Writer Friends

Originally posted in June 2012

Some readers like a book — or a writer — so much that simply reading books is not enough.If you are such a reader, you might be interested in ways to help your writer be more successful in the publishing world.

1. Buy the writer’s book. This seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? But this is the single best way to help a writer. It not only provides royalties, but will demonstrate to other people that you want to read a writer’s offerings. In addition, traditional publishers often want to know that a writer has a substantial following before they commit to publishing a novel. Having previous sales from self-published books or short stories is one way a writer can show that s/he has that following.

2. Recommend (or lend) the book to a friend. Word of mouth is a great way to promote a book or story. And here I’m talking about using your actual mouth, not your keyboard. “Hey, I just read this great book by John Smith, and I think you’ll like it, too!” If you own a Kindle, you can lend a book to another person if you have an email address. How do you do this? Log on to Amazon, and then go to “Your Account” in the upper right corner. Then choose “Manage My Kindle”. The author’s book will appear as part of a list. Hover over the “Actions” button to the right of it. If the book is lendable, one of the options will be “Loan This Title”.

2. Write a review on Amazon or Goodreads. When you’ve purchased something on Amazon, how many times have you read one of the reviews that are listed on the product’s page? Those reviews drive (or drive away) sales. Even if the book or story already has a lot of reviews, yours will help other people decide to buy it. Likewise, mentioning or reviewing the book on Goodreads can also generate buzz for it and drive sales to Amazon. (It goes without saying that if you are a book blogger, writing a review on your blog could be a great help as well.)

3. “Like” the book on Amazon. When you see the book’s product page on Amazon, there might be a small button at the top that says “Like”. If you press this, you’ll be registering that you like the product on Amazon (not on Facebook). While this is not as helpful to other buyers as a review is, every little bit counts.

4.Tweet about the book. Tell your Twitter followers how much you liked the book or story, and include a link to the product page on Amazon. There is a large and active community of readers on Twitter, and tweets like this do encourage readers to buy. Consider including a hashtag to help people find your tweet, like #Kindle or #reading.

5. Write a post on Facebook.This might be the next best thing to real word of mouth, and this time you don’t have to use your actual mouth. Your writer friend likely does not know all of your Facebook friends — even if you are the writer’s identical twin! — so sending a post out with a link to the book’s page on Amazon might be the only way your friends hear about it. And who knows? One of your friends might share it with their friends, as well, multiplying your effect.

It takes a lot of readers to make a book or story successful. Most writers are even more interested in reaching readers than in the royalties they will accrue from book sales. (In fact, if royalties were the only factor, most writers wouldn’t write at all.) Helping your friend get the book into readers’ hands will be a great gift and show of support.

Habit: Fake it till you make it

Originally posted Aug 6, 2012

A friend in my novelists’ group recently said, “Creativity is a blend of imagination and self-discipline.” So often we forget about the self-discipline part — myself included.

Having a novelists’ group has been a great reminder of this for me, because even if the members don’t say it outright, I often have a sense of, “So where’s your submission for the meeting on Saturday?” It’s not a big deal if one of us doesn’t write, but I think of it as a wasted opportunity. Here are these three other women, ready and willing to read what I’ve written, and several times in the last month I’ve thrown that chance away. It’s not that I don’t value their feedback, it’s just that I’ve been “stuck” at a place in my novel that is difficult to navigate.

I’ve always said that working to create a daily writing habit is essential for most writers, including myself. The times when I haven’t written daily have been times when I’m most discouraged about my writing. It’s difficult to know what comes first — the discouragement, or the lack of writing. When I don’t write, I’m also not availing myself of the opportunity for connecting with readers (whether in my group or elsewhere), which is itself a big reward for writing. And without that sense of connection, I sometimes lose my focus. It’s the proverbial vicious cycle.

How does one break out of the cycle? In my case, it’s a matter of breaking the habit of not writing. Habit is the key word. And to break that habit, I have to believe in myself enough to know I am capable of replacing it with a habit of writing. In addition, I have to believe that people will want to read what I’m writing.

With this post, I’m making a resolution to change my beliefs as a means of changing my habit. It’s a fake-it-till-you-make-it sort of thing. I’m going to act as if I believe I’m capable of making a habit of writing, and as if I believe that people want to read what I write.  And when I “make it” after faking it for a while, I’ll let you know in this space.