Monthly Archives: February 2011

Borders, Publishing, and Platforms

Borders recently filed for bankruptcy and one of our local stores is closing. I’ve gone to the store for the last two weekends looking for deals. The bookworms have come out in full effect. Each time the store has been packed. I guess those everything-must-go sales will do that.

Last week, I spent most of my shopping time looking at writing books. This week I focused more on fiction. As I browsed the shelves, there were two books that really caught my eye.  I wasn’t particularly interested in reading either of them. In fact, I didn’t even crack the covers on them. What stood out was the authors’ names, Lauren Conrad and Snooki Polizzi.

Those names belong to two of MTV’s most popular reality tv stars. That got me to thinking about all the blogs I’ve been reading lately about why all writers should spend time building a platform. It makes you more attractive to publishers. Now, I’m not going to say anything about the talents of these two young ladies. (Though what’s the likelihood that they actually wrote those books?) I will say that I doubt either of them would have gotten contracts without the notoriety they gained from being on tv.

For those of us that aren’t fist pumping on Jersey Shore, that means we have to find other ways to build a following. Enter social media. Facebook, Twitter and the like have become the author’s way to connect, build a brand, and sometimes land a contract. I’ve known about marketing with social media for a while. I just never thought of it in terms of writing fiction. Now, I’m learning that how you choose to use social media could be a make or break decision for your writing career. Sigh.  So much to learn, but now I know and knowing is half the battle. 😛

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The Greyhound Goldmine

Last week, I traveled from Atlanta to Savannah to visit my family. It was a lovely visit, but what’s fresh on my mind is how I got there and back. I rode the Greyhound for the first time in my life. When my mom first suggested it, I was not happy at all. Ugh. I was very resistant indeed, but I knew it was the best way to travel under the current circumstances. So, I decided to suck it up and do it. I’m glad I did.

The Atlanta bus station was well, a bit dingy. I got there at nine in the morning and it was already packed wall to wall with people. I could barely move from one spot to another without sidestepping a person or their belongings. After picking up my ticket and checking my bag, I found myself a spot. Of course, no seats were available. I crammed myself into a standing space as close to my departure gate as possible. Then, I watched. And listened.

The round trip produced all kinds people. So many stories. So many character traits to use. I saw a woman in her pajamas shuffling two kids and three bags. A gay couple cuddled in seats across from me. Both men wore acrylic nails with faux diamonds on the tips. One had braids so old that the natural chevron pattern of the interwoven  hair had worn smooth. An older Australian couple had toured Savannah and took the bus to Atl to catch a plane. Another group discussed their probation officers and gave each other tips on how to avoid them. A trio of barely legal guys traded stories of sexual conquests from MILFS to threesomes, all of which sounded highly embellished.

All in all, the trip was more than entertaining. It was productive. I realize that the more I limit my own experiences, the more I limit my writing. You have to go out and interact with society. I am a natural introvert in many ways, and I am comfortable being at home. And though I’m not interested in riding the Greyhound on a regular basis, I am willing to open myself up to new experiences. You just never know when you’ll find that detail you’ve been looking for to make a character or story.

One of Those Moments

This is one of those moments. It’s been a long week filled with traveling and visiting. Busy, busy, busy. I just got home. Right now, I don’t feel like writing. I am tired. I just want to skip writing a post for this week. My mind is foggy. I can’t think of much I want to say. It would be easy just to let it go, to skip posting for just this one week. I have allowed such dalliances before, just a simple lapse, one I can rationalize my way around. I’ll just pick up where I left off next week. Or, I can just set a new goal to accomodate the infraction. I’m choosing not to do any of that . I’ve committed to one blog post a week. So, here it is. I’m still on track and damned happy about that.

Angry Motivation

I was alone in the kitchen, standing over a sink full of dishes. My hands moved automatically as I washed away the remnants of that night’s dinner. Then the shrieking started. My name called over and over. I ran down the hall into my roommate’s room. I found my bestie sitting on her bed with a book in her lap, Undead and Unwed by Mary Janice Davidson. She did not look happy.

“Let me read you something,” she said, spastically waving the paperback at me. I agreed and sat down on the floor next to the foot of her bed. She proceeded to read me a few pages. When she finished, she folded her arms and waited with an expectant look on her face.

She seethed, but I couldn’t tell what caused such a reaction. I had read three pages of the book in question myself, five or six if  you include the ones she’d just read to me. Admittedly, I find the main character vapid and utterly annoying, but nothing that pushed my buttons to that point. She was through waiting. “What do you think about that?”

The passage included a section that could be construed as racist . But neither one of us tend to respond to such things that way. So, I just asked what upset her so much. She harped on a particular sentence , one that she felt was a disclaimer of sorts.  She went on and on about the author inserting herself into the story. The rant ended with “This is crap! I can do better.”

And that was the bottom line. My bestie is a writer too. She was pissed to see something in print that was less than what she believes she could produce herself. She was completely fired up about it. In fact, I hadn’t seen her believe in her own writing so strongly before.

I just smiled. I had a similar moment a few years ago with Twilight of all books. I watched the movie and was left feeling a bit underwhelmed. So, I decided to read the books under the delusion that they would be better. Ha! I didn’t even make it halfway through the first one. I also tried to read Stephanie Meyer’s The Host just to make sure it wasn’t the storyline of the series that I was reacting to. Yeah, well, didn’t get very far into that book either.

It was Meyer’s writing. I hate it. But I will be forever grateful to the woman. If someone who writes like that can build such a humongous readership, then there’s nothing to stop me from doing it too. If someone like that can get published in the first place, then I need to start cranking out manuscripts. No disrespect to Stephanie or the Twihards of the world. It’s just not for me.

However,  Meyer’s work made me realize that I needed to get out of my own way. I had to stop talking about it and start writing. I let the anger I felt morph itself into drive. It became motivation to learn craft, motivation to work hard, and trust that I could it.  I hope that my bestie channels that fervor and new-found belief in her own ability into some great stories.