Story Mastery with Michael Hauge #michaelhauge #rwaus16 #amwriting

Love stories offer most powerful tool for creating character arc and taking reader on journey

What a thrill to attend Michael Hauge’s story writing workshop at the recent RWA conference. Apparently, we were the biggest audience he’s ever had for a presentation on writing – and we loved it!

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For those of you who don’t know much about Michael – he’s a screen-writer and writing/screen coach who works in Hollywood and has consulted on many of the major HW films in the past decades.

Michael covered a lot in our all-day session. Starting with some clips from some movies he used to illustrate his messages. So what were some of his messages?

Some of those that resonated with me were:

You need to create an emotional experience for your reader or watcher

You need to transport the reader/watcher into the world you’ve created

Your goal as a writer is to elicit emotion in the reader

So how do we do that?

Michael went into a lot of detail about main characters, their outer motivations and their inner journey. I will cover more about that in my next few blog posts as there’s a lot to take in. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with another of my favourite quotes from the workshop

Stories are a participatory experience. People read novels not because it is interesting to see what happens, but as an emotional journey to experience for themselves.

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Coming out – Empowered and inspired by my first @RWAus conference #RWAus16 #amwriting #writers #emerging

Look out world – here I come!

Ain’t Love Grand was the best conference I’ve ever been to.

“Why?” I hear you ask.

I’ve been to conferences before – quite a few of them – I’ve even presented at some. History, Heritage, Architecture, Sustainability, Management – even Fossils. And there have been many with outstanding speakers, good networking, lots to learn and lots to think about. But for me, the recent RWAus conference was far more than just enlightening. It was transformational.

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I felt I changed on so many levels. Of course I learnt plenty of new info about writing and publishing. I also met lots of great people – and I think that’s where the transformation really set in. Because I’ve been a ‘closet novelist’ for years – have sat at home writing away, crafting stories, finishing books, self-publishing a few of them, building networks online and learning about the writing craft and the fraught world of publishing and marketing books, finding readers, etc, etc…. And have felt overwhelmed and alone, at times. Started to lose momentum and wonder whether I could continue existing as a writer in a parallel world that wasn’t really a reality… And then – BAM! – I meet dozens of other writers who are just like me, and suddenly it all becomes real.

So, some of the key things I learnt from attending the conference: –

  1. I am not alone. (That’s very reassuring.)
  2. Other writers are generous and inspiring – I already knew that, mostly, but now I really believe it
  3. Anything is possible, and you won’t know if you don’t try
  4. Writing is hard work and you need to treat it like a job. Take yourself seriously and give yourself permission to write.
  5. Don’t be ashamed of writing love stories – Love makes the world go round.
  6. And so much more that I’m going to need a few more blog posts to express it.

So now I am officially ‘OUT’ as a romance writer. I will tell any of my colleagues at work who are interested, and any of my friends and family. I will set myself writing goals and work towards them with gusto. I have made myself an electronic Calendar dedicated to all the work I need to do as ‘Emily Arden’. I am making this real, and I will succeed.

Stay tuned for some more posts on what I learnt from the conference, and may you achieve your dreams, or at least, always feel empowered to chase them.

 

My first year as a self-published author: Blogging #amwriting #blogging #indie #author

blog-wordleThis is the second in a series of posts about my first year as an indie author publishing and marketing my books… I’ll be analysing different parts of the journey and will let you know the things that worked and the things that proved a waste of time.

This post is all about blogging.

Learning about blogging has been a steep learning curve for me. I started by designing a very pretty Blogger blog in February 2013 and enthusiastically posted some posts about my writing journey. And what happened? Zilch – nada – not a thing. Everything I did just seemed to get lost in the ether – no followers, no likes, no comments… That was very disheartening. It wasn’t until the middle of 2014 that I decided to start again.

It was my teenage daughter who put me onto WordPress, and within a few days of starting the blog I already had a few followers. So that felt much better.

Here is my first blogpost

I knew what I wanted to blog about – my writing journey and all that I was learning along the way. I wanted to take people with me on that journey, to learn with me as I explored the world of writing, self-publishing, staying motivated and productive. I wrote about the things that seemed interesting or important to me in that journey. I also sometimes wrote about my books. I guess I am fairly modest so I have found it hard to promote my own work, it’s something I hope to do more of in 2016.

blogging-is-goodFinding some of the great writing blogs and following them was a great way to learn more about blogging and about my writer’s journey. There are so many inspiring writers out there, and best of all, writers tend to be extremely generous with their advice and information. They’ve all been there – unknown and unpublished. They know how hard it is to get started. That is very reassuring for those of us starting out. I have learnt so much from authors such as Joanna Penn and motivators such as James Clear. So much. Generally I would have to say that blogs are the best source of information about becoming an indie author that I have found. Because there is such a range of perspectives and info out there now – more than you can get from reading a book on the subject.

I decided that I was more attracted to blogposts with a picture than not, so I started to add a picture to every one of my posts. It seemed to help. I also learnt about adding hashtags to the title – that way they’ll come up in twitter searches (given all my blogposts are automatically sent as tweets). My daughter helped me to add feeds to the margin, and I am now pretty happy with how my blog is working.

The stats are still pretty modest, still, at least they are slowly growing. I have over 100 followers now and over 1,000 views. Something to build up more in 2016.

So in summary – what has worked?

  • Changing my blog platform from Blogger to WordPress
  • Be clear on what your blog is about. Who is the audience? What do you want to cover? In my case – it’s all about writing and being an indie author. There is so much to learn, and I want to share the best of what I discover.
  • Finding other inspiring bloggers to follow and learn from
  • Posting more often (where possible)
  • Re-blogging other great blogs and sharing the joy plus creating links with other bloggers
  • Commenting and interacting with bloggers and readers
  • Making sure every blog has a picture
  • Learning what works and what doesn’t from the stats (such as best days and times to publish, and most popular content)
  • Make sure you link your blog to other social media sites such as facebook and twitter so that every post is shared through each platform. A quick way to ensure you are posting regularly to all three places and reaching a wider audience (plus reducing effort – always important for busy authors!)

What hasn’t worked?

  • Using the ‘Blogger’ platform – don’t bother.
  • Blogging less frequently (you tend to fall off the radar if you blog less than once or twice a week)
  • Blog posts without pictures
  • Blogging at the wrong time of day (generally, thinking about US time is more useful than Australian time)
  • Not sure how well the feeds on my blog work? I have added quite a few (facebook, twitter, goodreads, etc) but haven’t seen much traffic between. Something to look into more in 2016…

What will I be concentrating on in 2016?

  • Scheduling regular posts – I’m hoping to aim for two per week, plus re-blogging other posts I find inspiring or helpful.
  • Linking my blog into my website – watch this space
  • Providing more info about my actual books. What is happening in my story at the moment? What motivates the characters? What motivates me? I did a few posts on this in 2015 and they were generally well received. I need to do more of them and stop being so self-effacing about my books!
  • Finding new ways of interacting with followers, such as competitions, feedback loops or inviting guest bloggers onto my blog
  • Running a series of posts exploring an interesting theme.

That’s enough to be going on with! If you have any comments or questions, I’d love to hear from you.

18+, 15+ – should we use age-limit ratings on sexy books? #ratings #books #sex #amwriting #hotromance #agerestrictions #adultsonly

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Call me old fashioned, but when I write a hot sex scene in one of my erotic romances, I don’t want my mid-teen girls reading it. Or anyone’s mid-teen kids.

It is written for adults.

So I am surprised that very few romances seem to have any kind of age warning on them. I have read some that have pretty explicit sex scenes in them and no warnings. And I wonder whether something should be done about that.

So I have included an age rating on all of my books. It is probably a bit conservative by today’s standards, but that’s fine. If my book says 18+, I think it helps people to know what to expect. And if people prefer to avoid books with lots of sex scenes/adult themes/erotica, then they can avoid the 18+ books. Some of mine are 15+ (sex scenes, but less strong adult themes) – so again people know what to expect. I am also currently working on a few books that I will rate “G”. They are what would be described as ‘sweet’ romance. (eg. ‘Lady Sophie’s Dilemma’)

I have been discussing this issue with some of my network, and many say things like “Why would you put a rating on your books when you don’t have to?” Or “No one else is doing it.”

My answer is – I may not have to do it, but I feel I should. And just because few other people do it, is no reason for me to just follow the pack.

I figure that if films and TV shows all have ratings and warnings, there is no reason why I can’t base my own ratings on those. This will give my readers a clear idea of what to expect. After all, I don’t want people to read my books if they are not going to enjoy them, and I appreciate that some readers don’t like sex and erotica. So my books will have ratings, and I am also including ‘warnings’ on the copyright page where appropriate, such as “This book contains sex scenes and adult themes”.

Some of my books in particular will need to be read with caution (even if I do say it myself). ‘The Secret Life of Eloise’ is about a woman who loves sex and uses it for her own ends. In some ways it is an anti-romance, and some of the scenes are quite extreme. So that will be 18+, and I hope those who read it will feel prepared and not get too shocked by Eloise’s antics. I could not publish something like that without some sort of warning… (I am not saying everyone else should feel the same, I just believe it is something I need to do).

So there it is – I would be interested to know what you think of this.

Tips for achieving your writing dreams #writing #inspiring #Joannapenn #writers #career #indie

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Just read a great interview with Joanna Penn. Her work and career are inspirational. She is on the seventh year of her writing journey, and has been building her indie writing business to the extent that she is now achieving many of her goals. She took the plunge to leave her day job a few years ago and is now earning a comparable income, plus she has just managed to hire her husband out of his job. She is focused and hard-working and loves being writer…

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2015/07/23/changing-careers

Unlike Joanna, I am not in a job that makes me miserable. I consider myself fortunate that I enjoy most aspects of my day job – the technical challenges, being able to use my professional expertise, and the people I work with. But I also have a strong compulsion to be creative. There is not much opportunity for creativity in the public service, and writing is one of my top favourite things – especially making up stories. Nice to get away from the need to always tell the truth 🙂

So much of Joanna’s story resonates with me – it took years before I could admit out loud that I am a writer, and more years before I started telling my friends and family. I knew that many of them would not understand or be all that interested, and that was a block for a while. But I am ‘out’ now, and that has been a big step.

Now I am on the incremental pathway of trying to do a bit each day, to write as much as I can and keep learning about the ways I can improve all that I am doing – from marketing to writing.

I understand the whole ‘incremental growth’ thing. I built up a youtube site for my choir, which went from one clip and a few hits a day in the first year, to over 700 subscribers and 500 hits a day five years later. It just builds slowly, brick by brick, with new content being added whenever I can.

Now it is writing which consumes me, and I am very grateful for all the help and inspiration I have been getting from posts like this and Joanna’s wonderful website and books. I hope you enjoy it too.

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2015/07/23/changing-careers

Have you finished your book? Really? Here’s a checklist… #writing #novel #book #finishing

FinishLine

One of the hardest questions to answer when you are just starting out as an author and you have been struggling with your book for months/years is: “But how do I know when my book is ready?”

The answer is complicated. Firstly, it depends what you mean by ready. If you want something that is absolutely perfect and as good as it could be, then it will probably never be ready. Because I don’t think there is any such thing as ‘perfect’ when it comes to art. There are just different levels of quality, and some of it is in the eye of the beholder, and some of it comes down to the basics… Is it free of grammatical errors? Is it properly laid out? Does the story make sense? Does it engage the audience it is aiming for? Etc, etc.

I thought this checklist by Chris Robley was worth reading. Some important points to remember. I have been using this for my books, at least trying to! http://blog.bookbaby.com/2015/01/how-to-know-when-youre-done-writing-your-novel/

One of the ways I know that my book is finished is when I finally stop thinking about it and trying to add bits to the story. Sometimes you just know…

The editing and beta reading is also crucial. You need more than one set of eyes to look at it to get some perspective.

Good luck with finishing your books!

Tips for running a great author newsletter #writing #author #newsletter #mailinglist #JaneFriedman #email

newsletter

Once I have released my new website (mid July), I will be building my mailing list and planning the best way to connect with my readers through some sort of regular update (a ‘newsletter’).

I want to make it count – we are all too busy to waste time reading (and writing) material that is not really of interest, so I want to target the topics and types of information that will interest my readers. Which means being clear about what the newsletter will be providing from the time that people sign up. It is all interlinked.

So how can I plan the best content for my newsletter?

I found this Jane Friedman article both informative and inspiring. http://janefriedman.com/2015/06/09/email-newsletters-for-authors/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+JaneFriedman+%28Jane+Friedman%29

There is lots to think about.My favorite tips:

  • keep it short and punchy
  • be honest about what you are providing from word go
  • clear headings to make it easy to scan (if it is a longer newsletter)
  • keep your material personal and interesting. Bring in perspectives from your readers.
  • Consider whether you could provide some material in installments (perhaps a free story)

And as for using email to share information – I liked this quote:

“It’s easy to pigeonhole email as a very practical (even boring) communication, but it can be used as a creative publishing medium that’s easy to read, share, save, and later repurpose into something else.” (Jane Friedman)

I am looking forward to doing more of this!