Stories, news, writing tips & other fun stuff
I was recently asked about my writing inspiration. What inspires my ideas? My current series is about vampires, werewolves, and a little bit of magic. What authors inspired me? How do I come up with my titles? How do I come up with my story ideas?
That last question is probably the one I get the most, and it is one of the most difficult to answer. Why? Because I get my ideas from so many places, from books I've read and movies I've watched, and just random ideas that pop into my head.
When I was a kid first writing stories, they were all high fantasy written in 3rd person. Why? Because that's what I read! The first big book series that I read at age 10 was The Belgariad series by David Eddings. A big undertaking for a ten-year-old. After that I read anything and everything I could, but the books that really stuck with me were the Dragonlance books, particularly the original trilogy, and The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist. The Belgariad and Riftwar books both had a young boy learning magic and growing, all amidst war, politics, and a greater battle for good. The Dragonlance wasn't a coming of age story, but was still centered around a key group of characters doing their part, for the greater good. There's obviously a lot more to all those books than just that, but the key here is the characters. I loved all of these books not just for their fantastical stories, but for their memorable characters. And I'm not even talking about the main characters. Some of my favorites are those other characters (Jimmy the Hand from Riftwar and Silk from Belgariad, to name a few).
Needless to say, these books shaped my ideas of writing, even down to the style I wrote. As I grew older I read more and more books, and started branching out into other genres. That was initially a difficult concept for me, but I found I actually liked other genres. Someone introduced me to Janet Evanovich and I fell in love with her hilarious Stephanie Plum books. I read Harry Potter and Rick Riordan. Yes, I even ventured into YA with Twilight. I also found a love for paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Laurell K. Hamilton was my first discovery, but I quickly found Keri Arthur, Karen Marie Moning, Patricia Briggs and others.
The more I read, and the more I diversified the types of books I read, the more my writing changed.
While I tend to write darker stories (vampires are evil bastards) it doesn't mean I don't love a happily ever after (cue candles, flowers and romance). So, how do I get my ideas? Where do they come from? Life. Books. Movies. Conversations. News. Television. Dreams. My brain.
How do artists come up with their paintings or sculptures? How do designers get their inspiration? Writers are artists. We just use words to paint our pictures.
The entire event was four hours, and while business was much slower than in previous years I was told, I still learned a lot. Here are my tips to make the most of your book signing event:
Thanks for reading! :)
It's funny what people think writers actually do. Not all writers are able to write full time. While that is the dream of most authors, it is not the reality unless you have a name like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, for example. Even those high-profile authors had to start somewhere.
After I published my first book, I suddenly had all these people around me telling me about the stories they were writing. I had no clue any of them were aspiring writers! They were closet writers, like I had been. They wrote when they could, sometimes going weeks, months, or even years between writing. This was exactly how I had been! Only my family, and friends who had known me for years, knew the truth about my love for writing. I had kept it hidden.
Why? I'd been writing since 10 years old, but I'd been too afraid to put myself out there for the world. Sure, I'd entered some short story contests, and I'd done well in every one I entered, but I didn't tell people about it. I sent off a few short stories to magazines, and received my rejection letters very quietly, alone. Then one day, I pulled out an old story I had started five years prior. Why hadn't I finished it?
Writing had always been my dream. It was something I loved to do, but I didn't share my stories, my passion. So, I decided I would finish a full-length novel. I spent three months straight writing.
The more I wrote, the faster I got.
The more I wrote, the more confidence I had.
The more I wrote, the HAPPIER I WAS!
Then I finished book 1, with an entire series floating on my brain (and on a thousand sticky notes). After writing came the hard parts. Editing, cover design, marketing, publishing, etc. All of that took another three months. Then I still had fear holding me down. My book was done, but had my closest family and friends read it? No. I wanted them to read it first, but at the same time I didn't. What if even my family didn't like it? Even though I knew I was going about it all wrong, I decided to just click publish. Quietly. Secretly. Then I promptly ignored it for 24 hours. Fear held me back, again. After a full 24 hours, I looked on Amazon and I already had a review. A random person saw my book, downloaded it, read it, and reviewed it all in one day! And they liked it! Confidence level high, I made my Facebook author page, website, Twitter, etc. and told everyone!
Now when other aspiring authors come to me, I feel like I have some wisdom to share. I certainly have a lot more to learn, and I've made plenty of mistakes on this writing/publishing journey, but I will help how I can.
One of my favorite quotes is "Never let the fear of striking out, keep you from playing the game" by Babe Ruth. I've loved this quote since I heard it, but it didn't really sink in until I applied it to myself, and writing.
Write often, and set goals for yourself. Stick to your goals. Finish your writing project, whether its a short story, poem, or full-length novel, finish it. Then edit. And most importantly, let others read it!
While others are reading your stories, READ a lot of books! Write reviews- because authors thrive on them! Be honest and be helpful. Then write some more! And above all, have FUN!
To use Kindle Unlimited, or not?
I've read so many different takes on utilizing Kindle Unlimited. For my first book, Bloody Beginnings, I decided to enroll right away. For those who don't know, Kindle Unlimited is an Amazon program. For a monthly fee, people enrolled in the program can borrow enrolled books for free. Since it was my first book, I thought I should try it out to potentially reach more users.
You must sign up for 90 day periods, and here's the real catch... You can't sell your e-book on any other markets. You must be exclusive through Amazon.
As with any program, there are good things, and bad.
Sales- You have the option, during each 90 day enrollment period, to put your book "on sale", utilizing the Kindle Countdown Deals. This puts your book in an extra search engine, for those looking for these deals. During my first 90 day period, I utilized this, making my book $0.99 for the full 7 days. My results were less than satisfactory. While I did have a good jump the first day, my sales trickled in the rest of the time.
During my next 90 days, I decided to try the Free listing. You can pick any five days during your 90 day period to put your book free. The first time I made my book free, I had a HUGE jump! I didn't do any advertising outside of Twitter and my website, but the results were fantastic. I reached the best-seller's list for Paranormal Fantasy (top 100 free). Even after the sale ended, I had quite a few paying sales, but after a few days it trickled off once more.
A few weeks later, I tried the free day again. Sales were minimal. I did two more days, consecutively this time, and sales were slightly larger, but still nowhere near what they were that first time.
Part of the problem with the free days, is that your book leaves the paid category to go to the free category. When that happens, your sales rank drop drastically.
I'm coming to the end of my 90 day enrollment period, and I think it's time for me to branch out beyond Amazon. Amazon recently changed their structure with KU, and I find it fascinating seeing how many pages of my book were read instead of how many books were downloaded, but it isn't enough to keep me in the program. What am I missing by not having my book available for Nook or iTunes? With my second book coming out in August, I think this is the perfect time to branch out. Who knows what my results will be, but I don't want to be stuck solely on Amazon. If Amazon decided to change the rules, and get rid of the exclusivity clause, I would likely enroll in KU once again. Things are constantly changing in the publishing world, so there is bound to be something new and exciting to try in the future.
When I started this writing adventure, I had no idea all the other things it would entail. I am constantly learning, and trying to evolve with this ever-changing market. I'm just trying to keep up!
Here's a fun writing exercise. Write a story where the first letter of each sentence must start with the next letter of the alphabet. Even harder, write one where each WORD must start with the next letter. Oh, what to do with those silly Qs, Xs and Zs. Hmmmm...
Anabelle believes cats don't eat furry giraffes. Here I just keep licking mice, no, oranges! Possibly questionable results seen through universally vigilant writers. Xenon. Yes. Zero.
Okay, I'll admit I just wrote that in about a minute. Obviously! I think this is a good sign I need to get one of those Word-A-Day calendars, or just start looking up more X, Y, and Z words!
I like these exercises because they're silly, fun, and can sometimes break writer's block. Don't take a lot of time working on making them perfect. They don't even have to make complete sense. It's a lot easier to write a story where each sentence starts with a new letter. Again, don't over think it. Just let the words flow.
Arrogantly, Smith shook his head. Beyond his arrogant demeanor, Smith was truly scared. Can't let anyone see that though!
Detective Martin walked up to him, flipping open his notepad. Early morning light played on the police badge clipped to his belt. "First, let me clear up this timeline. George was scheduled to meet you at the bar at midnight?" He clicked his pen on the pad casually, but his eyes took in every detail of Smith's countenance.
"I said so the first time," Smith responded angrily. Just like a cop to ask the same question again with different wording. "Kevin relayed the message to me. Look, I didn't kill the guy."
"Mmm," the detective muttered in response. "Now, why exactly were you meeting as such a shady location?"
"Oh, I don't know! Please, just let me go home."
"Questions must be answered first," Detective Martin responded.
Ready to leave, Smith was growing impatient with the detective. "So we met at a bar, so what?"
"That's not just any bar. Uniformed officers saw you entering with a gun. Vinnie's Bar has a reputation with hit men."
"Well, you think I'm a hit man?" Smith asked, laughing to mask his anxiety.
"Zero chance you have hit man skills."
:) Wow, those darn X, Y, Z words struck again! I just threw together this little short story, as my own exercise. They flex the mind and maybe get unstuck when writer's block happens.
I'm sure you've all heard of the infamous "writer's block". Here you are, writing along just fine, and maybe you get to the end of a chapter and you just go blank. What now? Sometimes writer's block hits at the beginning of a story. You have this great idea, but when it comes to writing those first few lines, you stare blankly at the computer screen or paper.
Everyone has a different take on why writer's experience writer's block... and what it really is. I don't know that I'd say it was definitely a "block", just more a break in the flow of work. Some times words flow so quickly from my brain that my fingers have a hard time keeping up. Other times, I stare at the screen. Like now.
I had this whole list of blog ideas, but none of them jumped off the page and said, "write me!"
Stories are so different than any other type of writing. You mesh with your characters, feel for them, feel with them... even the villains. Sometimes though, the stories go quiet. Many times I find myself drifting back a few chapters, or even to the beginning, and thinking of things I need to change when I haven't even finished the book yet. When that happens, the story I'm writing might go cold... blank. Not necessarily a block, just a break in the flow of writing.
My advice for dealing with writer's block, is just to keep writing. Don't stop your story flow to worry about what needs to be changed in the past, or about grammar. Just keep writing. And, if you do get stuck, I have two main tips I use.
First, write something else very different. Several years ago I came across a website that had short story contests every few months. I only entered a few contests, but I loved the different types of stories that were asked in the contests. Flash Fiction was one of these, and it works wonders on a writer's skill. A couple other ones I'd suggest trying are trying to write a story in all dialogue. That's a difficult one, but can be fun! Also, try writing a story with each sentence beginning with the next letter in the alphabet.
Writing something else can take some time, but sometimes refreshes the creative flow. Usually though, if I get stuck, I do one thing: SLEEP on it! So many times this has helped me when I've had a story issue I was worried about. This works in writing, and in life. Just sleep on it.
So have fun and keep on writing. That's what I'm going to do!