Michele Sayre offers an insight into the process of writing a short story and the components that vary from writing a longer piece. Please visit Michele on her blog for more great articles and stories. https://michelesayre.com/
The Written Road – Behind the Story: Maybe It Was Memphis
Yesterday I cross-posted a short story I wrote for the Facebook group I am a group administrator for, Writers Unite!. First, I want to thank everyone who read it and shared their kind words about the story. I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Now I want to take you into the writing of the story to try and illustrate a creative process for me that’s something I don’t really think about in words too often.
The story ‘Maybe It Was Memphis’ came from a prompt. A story prompt can be anything, such as a picture, a topic, or anything chosen. In this case, the prompt was a picture of a front porch swing.
Now with prompts there’s usually other requirements to work within, mainly the length of the story. This is to help writers focus their storytelling skills in order to tell a story that doesn’t wander all over the place or doesn’t go nowhere at all. For me, this front porch swing got me thinking about a song I’d heard years ago, “Maybe It Was Memphis” by Pam Tillis. The song mentions a front porch swing and is about a young woman meeting a young man sitting on the front porch swing of her mother’s house as the song goes. This first meeting gave me the starting point of the song.
Most of the time, coming up with the beginning of a story isn’t hard for me. Occasionally I have a hard time finding where to start the story but in this case, the opening scene you read came to me pretty quickly and I ran with it. And as you can see, I don’t write out a plot or an outline with my fiction. My writer’s brain does not work from outlines and such because that part of my brain thinks that if I outline a story then I’ve written it and that’s it. So I start from ideas and bits and pieces of scenes and lines of dialogue then go from there.
With a short story, one big thing that kept me from writing them for many years was the issue of plot. Then I realized in a short story the plot line has to be linear. By linear, I mean the plot has to function as a straight line with no off-shoots, or sub-plots as they’re also known. With this story, my plot line became how do I get these two characters together in the end when one of them is going off to war? Five years pass by in a thousand words or so and I’ve never written anything like that before.
The original mid-section actually got deleted and completely rewritten because in my first draft I had Carolyn’s brother killed in combat and John coming home and he and Carolyn bonding over that. But then I thought that’s been done before and it’s much more complicated to do therefore I deleted it and started over. Then two things brought me to the ending of the story: John realizing he saw no future for himself after the war was over, and Bryce (Carolyn’s brother) talking about a woman who referred to herself and him as ‘The River and the Highway’. Because in a way, John and Carolyn were a river and a highway in that they had their own lives halfway around the world from each other but they felt a connection with each other and Carolyn had promised to wait for John no matter what. So with that, I had the ending in place: that connection even in an uncertain future.
Another thought that came to me with the ending of this story was how soldiers have a tremendous amount of difficulty adjusting to life at home after being away at war for so long. In my story, when it came to the end of war, John just didn’t see a future other than hopefully with Carolyn. Now Carolyn understood that John would need time to adjust and figure out his path in life. Carolyn’s way of thinking is to just take things one day at a time and figure out as you go along, which is how I feel about life in general. That patience and understanding are what bring John and Carolyn together in the end.
To add here: since I didn’t kill off Carolyn’s brother Bryce I will be writing his story for this month’s prompt with my group Writer’s Unite!. It will be how he learns to understand what his lady Christie means when she describes their relationship as the river and the highway. So far all I can tell you is their story is a road-trip with an overnight stay. It’s about two people together with nothing else to do but talk things out. That’s the basic idea anyway. Now all I’ve got to do is just write it and figure out what they’re going to say and how they’re going to say it, and work things out.
Check out Michele’s story and other stories written for the May 2022 prompt in the Writers Unite! archives.
ANTHONY PORTER, a Professional Athlete on American Ninja Warrior! -and Wildlife Expert and Science Education Host from California joins host Paul W. Reeves to share all of his unique experiences in life – all of which will hopefully one day lead to more nature-host opportunities on television.
FROM HIS WEBSITE:
“As an expert in Outdoor Survival, Wild Animals, Nature Conservation and Science Exploration, Anthony Porter takes you through our amazing world with a fun and optimistic perspective.
As a professional educator for the better part of a decade, Anthony has explored 20 countries, and has taught people of all ages across the United States.
As a professional athlete, rock climber and certified backpacking guide, gain access to our world off the beaten path.
In this era of uncertain futures, you can count on Anthony Porter to bring hope, optimism, and inspiration to audiences across the planet.”
Admin Note: Welcome to our newest source of information for authors. “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” radio program on Impact Radio USA offers interesting and entertaining interviews of authors who share their writing journey as inspiration for all writers finding their way. Dr. Paul also interviews individuals who are successful in education, finance, conspiracy theorist, medicine, self-help, motivation, musicians, artists, and more. These interviews give insight into various careers providing writing research and possible character ideas.
Look for additional Dr. Paul’s author interviews in the coming weeks on the page found on the menu bar. Enjoy!
Impact Radio USA
Welcome to IMPACT RADIO USA, where we strive to provide the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Our goal is to keep you as the most informed and entertained Internet Radio audience.
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The spiral staircase prompt from March led to an exciting collection for the month. Thanks to all who wrote and all who read the March stories.
Thanks to the writers who submitted a story and to the readers who enjoyed them. We appreciate your participation in Write The Story!
Now on to the April prompt!
A reminder: WU! created this project with two goals: providing a writing exercise and promoting our author sites to increase reader traffic. We ask that you please include a link to the Writers Unite! blog when you post your story elsewhere. By doing so, you are also helping promote your fellow members and Writers Unite! We encourage all of you to share each other’s stories to help all of us grow. Thanks!
Write the Story! April 2022 Prompt
Here’s the plan:
You write a story of 3000 words or less (minimum 500 words) or poem (minimum 50 words) based on and referring to the image provided and post it on the author site you wish to promote. Don’t forget to give your story a title. (Note: You do not have to have a website/blog/FB author page to participate, your FB profile or WordPress link is fine.)
Please edit these stories. We will do minor editing, but WU! reserves the right to reject publishing the story if poorly written.
The story must have a title and author name and must include the link to the site you wish to promote.
Please submit your story by the 25th day of the month.
WU! will post your story on our blog and share it across our platforms— FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. The story will also be available in the archives on the WU! blog, along with the other WTS entries.
We ask that you share the link to the WU! blog so that your followers can also read your fellow writers’ works.
The idea is to generate increased traffic for all. It may take some time, but it will happen if you participate. The other perk of this exercise is that you will also have a blog publishing credit for your work.
Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support!
Tower of Possibilities
Diane’s breath came in fast, raspy gasps, and she stopped for a few minutes to rest and look around. The spiral staircase went up a long way, and her footsteps echoed in the tall, empty chamber. She shook her head and tears stung her eyes. Grief threatened to overwhelm her again.
She had just lost Robbie yesterday. He had been shot and killed in front of her, and it was her fault. How could she not have seen that coming? She should have prevented it. Damn!
They had been crouched behind the sofa during the agency’s operation, hidden for the moment. The bad guy had entered the room from the left side. She knew the snipers would get him. Finally. This was the moment they had all prepared for. She held her breath.
And then Robbie started getting up. She grabbed for him, but he got up too quickly. The sniper fired. The bullet hit Robbie.
She gasped again at the memory, a deep aching wave of grief flooding her as she choked on a sob. No!
Diane resumed running up the stairs. It was a great place for both exercise and working off emotions, but it was not helping today. Would anything help? She doubted it. Not only had she been there to protect Robbie, but she had fallen in love with him, and he had recently moved in with her. He was the world to her. And now he … he …
She picked up the pace and continued up the stairs. As she ran, she noticed doors every now and then along the stairwell. Where did they lead? From what she knew, there were no rooms off this tower.
Glancing as she continued up, she noticed numbers on the doors: 1952 … 1964 … 1975 … The numbers struck her as years, but that made no sense. What was happening?
Stopping at the next closest door, she looked at the number — 1989. After hesitating for a few moments, she slowly opened the door. She found herself in a round chamber with twelve doors arranged around the circular wall. Each door had the name of a month on it. Confused, she stared at them as a shiver ran up her spine. She slowly backed out, entering the stairwell again. What was that room for?
Shaking her head, she continued up the stairs, and the doors kept appearing. 1996 … 2004 … 2012 …
Finally reaching the top, panting and out of breath, she saw one last door. The current year. Why?
She opened it and entered the round chamber. Peering around the room, she saw twelve doors, each with the name of a month on it, just like the previous chamber.
Feeling drawn to the current month, she slowly opened the door, hearing it creak as it opened into another round chamber. This room contained numbered doors — the days of the month. She rushed to yesterday’s door. Maybe she could change what had happened. Is that what the doors were for? Was she being given that chance to change what had occurred? Was that even possible?
Opening the door with yesterday’s date led to another round chamber containing rooms with the hours on their doors. Her heart pounding in her chest, she raced to the door with the hour before Robbie was shot.
Slowly opening the door, she peered inside. The room where it had all taken place opened before her. The sofa. Robbie. And there she was as well, crouched behind the sofa next to Robbie, her back toward her. Sweat broke out over her scalp.
Without thinking, she felt herself pulled into the room. She now felt whisper-light and floated toward her crouched body. She felt herself gliding through her back, drifting into her body.
She put her hand on Robbie’s back, feeling the warmth of his body. She focused, alert and vigilant. Footsteps sounded in the room. The smell of an old cigar. She immediately knew the bad guy had entered from the side. It was going to happen. She knew the sniper was ready. It was about to go down.
Robbie shuffled and started to rise. No! She grabbed him and pulled him back. He fell against her with a thud.
The bad guy’s voice rang out. “What —”
A shot pierced the air. A gasp and then something thumped to the floor. She peeked around the sofa — the bad guy lay on the floor, eyes open in shock, a red stain widening on his shirt in the middle of his chest. He had been hit by the sniper’s bullet.
And Robbie was safe. Baffled, but safe. Relief flooded her system. She did it!
She felt herself drifting out from the back of her body. Looking back, she saw her body still holding Robbie. The bad guy was there sprawled on the floor …
And then she was back in the stairwell. Did that actually happen? Had she saved him? Was this just a wild fantasy? Was she hallucinating?
Her mind ran through her recent memories … This morning he had made scrambled eggs for her. But no, that couldn’t have happened — she remembered making cold cereal by herself, and she was all alone … what was going on? Nothing made sense.
Excited and hopeful, she turned and ran back down the stairs, trying not to go too fast. Nervous and jittery, she rushed and suddenly missed one step. Skidding, she fell hard on the next step. She stood, brushed herself off, and then continued down the stairs a bit slower, careful not to trip again.
New feelings flooded her. Fullness … love … mixed with a tinge of grief. She no longer knew what was real or what to believe.
Tears streamed down her cheeks. This was impossible. It could not have happened. She was delusional. It all had to have been a figment of her overactive imagination.
As she rounded a curve in the staircase, a wispy white cloud floated in the stairwell. Thoughts immediately filled her mind. We have allowed you to make this one change, as it was needed to save thousands of lives in the near future.
The cloud dissipated. What was that? Another idle fantasy? None of this was possible.
Her muscles straining, feeling sore and fatigued, she continued down the stairs and finally reached the bottom of the tower. Sweat beaded on her skin and she gasped for breath. Exiting the tower, she blinked in the bright sunlight. How could any of this have possibly happened? She must be simply having a wild fantasy. There was no way any of that could be true. It was all a wishful illusion, nothing more.
Shaking her head at her absurd fantasies, she rushed home. She had to get a better grip on what was real. She needed to face reality and what actually happened. She had lost Robbie yesterday. That was a fact. She refused to be lost in a delusion.
She slowed as she approached her house and hesitated at the front door. Her hand shaking, she opened the door slowly, as fear, desperation, and hope warred inside her.
Entering the house, she froze and then looked around. Her heart pounded and her throat constricted. It was quiet. He must not be …
“Diane?” Robbie’s voice called out.
“Robbie?” Her voice was barely a whisper.
“Hi, honey, how was your run?” He came out of the kitchen and his arms opened to embrace her.
Gasping and sobbing, she fell into his arms, feeling his warm body against hers. She buried her head in his neck, inhaling his familiar scent. He was here!
“I love you,” she murmured into his chest.
Robbie laughed. “Hey, I love you too. And that must have been some run today.”
“You have no idea,” she whispered, tightly hugging him.
I started toying with the idea of doing a how-to writing book around the same time as “Breaking Radio Silence” and “Stand or Fall” with some personal experiences mixed in. But then I had a thought one day:
My relationship with writing is complicated.
And as I asked myself why that was, I fell down another rabbit hole like with the other two books and had to take a whirl around the demented Wonderland of my past to answer that question. One answer that jumped out at me and knocked me back hard was this:
Did my father try to use writing to deal with his untreated mental illness?
All my life my father told me he had been diagnosed as manic-depressive, now referred to as bi-polar depression but had refused treatment. I can’t independently verify that diagnosis (as my father is dead and he had no proof to show me when he was alive). But after reading about bi-polar depression… let’s just say he would have checked pretty much all of the boxes for symptoms and behavior.
I was about eight years old when my dad blew an ulcer and in recuperation started writing. He wrote at first on yellow legal pads then hammered away on a typewriter in the bedroom next to mine late into the night. He was obsessive and a major pain the ass about his writing at times especially to my mother (who he raged at in incredibly-horrible ways). And when I began writing when I was about ten years old, I put myself in a precarious position of not wanting to be an asshole about my writing like he was but wanting to pursue it with the same passion like he had.
I’m sure people who knew my father, and even others who didn’t, won’t be comfortable with me referring to him in the ways that I will. But my father, and my mother (both of my parents are dead, by the way), would be the first ones to tell you they weren’t perfect. One thing I’ve read about bi-polar illness is the extreme mood swings people with that illness have and my father had those in full-blown stereo. But my writing journey is about me but he will be along for the ride just like my mother is along for the ride with my ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ project.
I was around twelve years old when I decided I wanted to be a full-time working writer. In junior-high I wanted to be a songwriter/lyricist but I couldn’t find an Elton John to my wannabe Bernie Taupin. Then I wanted to be a journalist, then a screenwriter, a filmmaker-director, then a novelist. When I graduated high school I just wanted to write and my dad went to bat for me with my mom (though my mom only agreed to let me live at home and write if I did chores and errands, which I did without a second’s hesitation). Then my dad had his first heart attack when I was nineteen and my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was twenty-one. But all throughout my twenties when I was living at home and taking care of them (and later working part-time then full-time), they supported my writing. They paid my writers’ group dues, conference fees, and made sure I had time to write. This wasn’t a popular decision of theirs with other people in my life at that time but my parents asked me not to say anything and I stayed silent to keep the peace. But the damage was done (and a lot of it you can also read about in my book ‘Breaking Radio Silence’).
In the years since my parents died, I didn’t fully pursue my writing and creative endeavors due to the extreme bullshit of my twenties that twisted me into a huge knot of fear. Luckily I’ve worked through that shit and un-knotted that fear and am now pursuing my writing with a passion and determination like never before.
Most of all, I have never taken writing for granted and it’s never felt like a grind to me. And I will never let anyone try to make it a grind for me, or shit all over me for writing. Despite all the bullshit I’ve been through and the time away from it, writing has always been there for me. And yes, it’s been a form of therapy for me, too. My father kept journals that he destroyed shortly before he died so I have a feeling that writing was his therapy, too. Mine is just more public than his, and I’m also not prone to huge mood swings and raging paranoia like him (just anxiety I’ve learned to gain a significant measure of control over).
So I would say ‘The Written Road’ is a memoir of my own writing journey, a conversation with my late father, and any writing how-to I can work in.
About the Author:Michele Sayre
Michele is a writer from Texas who has been writing since she was twelve years old. She writes fiction, non-fiction, poetry with the goal of self-publishing her own works someday. She’s also a single mom to a dog and a cat, and is saving up to buy a van to travel and write in someday.
Of all the issues today’s writer faces, marketing is the trickiest and probably for most, reviled. No one likes it and yet it is essential. That beautiful work of inspiring prose will not reach an adoring public or put a cent in your coffers resting there in your Documents folder, read by your mother and a few Facebook or Twitter friends.
I don’t know the Secret. I am constantly searching and trying new options. I have had some limited successes but to tell you the truth… The differences and similarities in what writers are using these days included in this article, caught me by surprise. There are great ideas in here. I will be trying several of them in the future. We should get together and talk about this more often!
One of my responses showed his frustration when he said, “I’ve spent lots of time and money on marketing my debut books—and then realized that no amount of advertising can save them because they are not marketable. So, the lesson I have learned is that first, you need to research the market and then write a book that fits the market and meets the readers’ expectations.
Also, splurge on the cover, as it is the first thing a reader will see. You can have the world’s best story, but if the cover sucks and if the story doesn’t hit the right tropes, the book won’t sell. Ever.” P.C. Darkcliff,Author of the Deathless Chronicles.
Next, storyteller and songwriter, Mike Turner has this to say. “I’m convinced that “marketing” is the true “dark art” of the writing world! I rely heavily on social media, primarily Facebook and Twitter – I try to take advantage of every opportunity, in posts and comments, to mention my book and how to obtain it. I’ve also begun approaching local independent bookstores about carrying my book on a consignment basis – be aware that many bookstores are resistant, if not hostile, to books published/marketed on Amazon, whom they see as their direct competitor (I don’t understand that mindset – if they don’t carry my book, they don’t get to make any money from its sale, and they need to deal with the reality of Amazon in the marketplace). I also actively pursue opportunities to do video/print interviews, guest blogs (like The Writers’ Journey Blog), podcasts, library reading/signing events, and the like, always looking to reach new audiences as potential readers, fans, and purchasers.”
I found Celestial Echo Press (Gemini Wordsmiths) to have an interesting and informative opinion on getting out there with your work. I had not thought of conferences in the context of marketing. (Not now, but maybe post Covid I will definitely consider this option)
“Each day thousands of books hit the market. If you are one of the lucky authors to complete and publish, now you’re ready to sell. Your novel has to stand out from the crowd. You have to market to achieve that stardom. And successful marketing comes in many forms.”
We at Celestial Echo Press employ several strategies. Aside from social media and tapping reviewers, one marketing tool we use is making appearances at conventions such as Philcon, the longest-running sci-fi convention in the country.
In fact, that is where we hawked our latest publication, TIME Blinked, a time-travel baseball novel written by George W. Young. We held a book launch and signing because attendees at the con were the target audience for this genre of novel…. Ann Stolinsky & Ruth Littner Celestial Echo Press
Steve Carr ofSweetycat Presswho supports the #WritingCommunity on a consistent basis says, “Marketing is the least fun I have as the publisher of Sweetycat Press. I primarily publish anthologies, so marketing works best when both I and the authors work in tandem to promote an anthology. I encourage the authors to announce to their networks (friends, family, local writing groups, Facebook groups, and other social media sites they belong to) that the anthology is available for purchase, almost always on Amazon.com. Since any extra money earned above that which pays for the publication costs, advertising, and website fees, is used 100% on publishing the next anthology, the more anthologies that everyone sells, the better. It’s a team effort.
The problem with marketing anthologies is that there is no way to know who has purchased an anthology unless an individual tells you they have purchased it. I’m very careful not to spend more money on advertising (on Facebook or other sites) than I think I can earn back through sales. It’s all about watching the bottom line. Financially, I underwrite everything I publish, so watching the bottom line is really important. But, even so, a lot of my marketing strategy is based on gut feeling and a sense of what sells and what doesn’t. Some more experienced publishers have it down to a science. I’m still in the learning how to use a Bunsen burner phase.
For anthologies, and probably all books, the first key essential in marketing is choosing the right cover. I’ve been extremely lucky with having great covers designed by Priti J, David Harms, and one upcoming anthology cover by Norbert Somosi. I get almost immediate feedback about covers once they are revealed. No cover is going to please and delight everyone, but if a cover gets a lot of negative reaction, then I know I need to make changes to it, but as I said, I’ve been lucky with who designs my covers, so that hasn’t been a big problem.
The other thing about marketing is that it’s a lot like getting a short story published (something I do know a lot about). Just like an editor who reads submissions for stories and is looking for well-written content, if the contents of an anthology are good, then readers will be pleased, and word-of-mouth will generate more sales. For some reason, there is a general reluctance by people who buy books on Amazon to write reviews. Other than asking everyone to do that, which usually doesn’t solve the problem, you have to publish a book or books that get people talking. Hands down, having one individual influence another individual to buy the book is the best marketing tool out there.”
The more I read my fellow writer’s thoughts on marketing, the more I realized everyone seems to be walking the same high wire without a proverbial net and at multiple heights. Here are some of their thoughts!
Marketing Strategies by P.A. O’Neil. “I’m not exactly what you call “tech savvy,” so the majority of my marketing has been by word-of-mouth or Facebook posts. I have used their advertisement feature, it is very low costing, but other than getting my name out there, I don’t know how they relate to sales of my book. I have tried going the News Release method but that has never panned out. The most promising thing I have ever done is create Facebook Page just for my book, Witness Testimony, and Other Tales. On the page, I thank people who have sent me a photo of them with the book, as well as share background information about how the stories were inspired. There are almost 300 members who, in turn, will share those posts on their page. That, along with the over 15,000 followers of my P.A. O’Neil, Storyteller, has created a worldwide marketing campaign.”
Deborah Ratliff. “With my first mystery novel scheduled for release this spring, I am constantly searching for helpful marketing tips, and one thing stood out to me. As part of a large writing group, I noticed authors tend to market heavily to other authors. While those who write do read, we often forget to look for reading groups, book groups, especially those dedicated to our genre. The ‘writing experts’ tell us to write to the audience we want, but do we market to that same audience? Our best readers may not be in the marketing areas that we choose, and it is vital to the success of any novel to find a way to reach them.”
Christy Miller. “I reach out to my target audience. Groups on Facebook are a fabulous wealth of help and advice. If I’m going to write an Arabian horse book set in the middle east. I reach out to breeders in that area and get them involved, including their animals as characters, and even they can be an inspiration for my stories. The people I contact are going to buy the books, tell their friends and create a fan base and niche market. It is much more special to people if they are included in the process.”
Dawn Debraal. “Marketing is a tough nut to crack. I don’t have the first idea of what to do, so I will be interested in what the other authors say. I have friends give books away in exchange for a critique. I’ve been bombarded with ads on Facebook, which makes me think this is not the ideal marketing tool. Don’t tick the people off that you want to sell a book to. I purchase other authors’ books and read them, critique them, and then when my book comes out demand, they do the same! Luckily, I only have one co-authored book which comfortably lives in obscurity because I don’t know how to lift it up.”
This Is A Marketing Plan? by Jack Mulcahy. “My marketing efforts consist of establishing a presence, mostly by using Facebook. I have a fairly large number of friends, and I also belong to nearly twenty writers’ groups. As for group participation, I mostly post links to markets and share articles from various other writers’ blogs. I’ve created two blogs, but only one is still active. I don’t have any readers, have no idea how to attract readers, and don’t know what to blog about. Several other writers, more successful than I, have told me just to keep writing and submitting, and not to worry about a blog.”
Ann Christine Tabaka – poet & author. “My marketing strategies are pretty much that I do not have any. Oh, I tried purchasing ad space on various Literary Websites, and in Literary Publications, but … I never noticed any sales following those ads. I spent money and got nothing in return. Mostly I use my Social Media Sites to advertise my books. I enjoy making fun memes/ads and posting them on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Twitter. I cannot say how much success those ads have brought me, but I do sell a book or two most months. I am sure it is mostly my friends who are supporting me. I doubt that I ‘grab’ any new customers since I am not a well-known writer/poet.Where I live, there are no venues nearby where I could do readings, etc. Our small local libraries do not host readings or signings for local artists. I have had two book signings at our one small local bookstore. Again, only my friends who came purchased books (and very few of them did). I am uncomfortable reading my work, and mess up terribly when I try to.
I am always asking [on social media] for people that have my books to leave a review on Amazon, but it does not seem to do much good. I get very few reviews, and when I do, I still do not see any increase in sales. For me, it comes down to this … I am not well known, and do not have a lot of experience in hawking my books. I have come to look at my publishing as a hobby. I spend money and do not make money back. But if I played golf as a hobby, I would be paying greens fees and membership dues, replacing equipment, etc. So, in the end, it is what it is.”
Amrita Valan. “When my debut collection of poems Arrivederci was published in May 2021, I tried to promote the poems by raising overall awareness of them on social media. Any open mic that I participated in I read out poems from the collection. I also posted excerpts of a few poems I liked best on my wall, page, and groups. And when my book went online, I plugged it as much as I could in 20 odd groups and inboxed a few who were interested in further details. I keep channels of communication open and humbly request reviews from editors and publishers as this all goes into creating awareness. I realize I should also request reviews from friends who bought my book. And perhaps get them to share my book on their walls. I am daily learning how having good friends over social media groups helps, as they promote your book for you as well. This is something that I am eager to work towards. Other than that, accepting any opportunities to be interviewed so I can talk about my book or post the links also is another option to market my books.”
Jim Bates. “Unfortunately, I would give myself a D – when it comes to marketing. I read with interest what others are doing to promote their books, like a friend of mine, Paula Readman. She’s in touch with Amazon and frequently runs ‘specials’ on her eBooks. She does videos and puts them on Facebook. She stops in local bookstores (she lives in England) to offer them her books. She brings books to events she attends on the off chance she will talk to someone interested in purchasing a book. She promotes her books through her local paper and radio station. I envy her creativity.
My first book was published last year. The publisher Gill James promotes my book and all the other books she publishes through her newsletter and other postings. She’s very active in that regard and I truly appreciate her for doing that. For me, what I’ve done is pretty pathetic. I’ve listed my books on my blog. I’ve started to link to Facebook whenever a book of mine (five, now) gets a review. Just to get the word out. I’ll also continue to do something I started last year, which is to once a month promote one of my books on my Facebook page. Again, to get the word out.
In the future, I’d love to attend a book convention, but Covid stops me from feeling comfortable being in large public gatherings. I’d love to do a book reading/signing but have yet to find a venue here in the states to do that.
So, I will keep muddling along. One of these days, I plan to quit spending so much time writing and really delve into the market side of this endeavor. Until then, I’m afraid I’ll still be an incredibly poor participant in this essential part of our business.”
Justin Wiggins. “The way I go about marketing, whether it is promoting my books, my friend’s music, books, businesses, publishing companies, or podcasts, is through Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, and by word-of-mouth when at work, out at coffee shops, bookshops, restaurants, pubs, writer retreats, or at a literary gathering with friends.
By doing this, I have found great joy in cultivating an artistic community globally, cultivating my craft as a writer, promoting what my friends do, expressing great gratitude and joy to my community, and to all the people who have taken the time to read something honest and hopeful I wrote for people of all worldviews.”
There you have it! I hope you got some good ideas and enjoyed the post. If nothing else it lets us all know that we are not alone in our pursuits. Thanks for reading.
The original article can be found on the Writers Journey Blog.
I came across an article that focused on the reasons not to listen to advice from Stephen King. I wondered, why not? Stephen King is a highly successful author and the author of a popular book on the writing process.
When reading articles such as this one, I always remind myself that there is advice and there is opinion. In our quest to improve, writers should always read both to obtain a broad base of information to utilize in our writing.
The author of this article isolates three of Stephen King’s “rules” and proceeds to show how the opposite of his rule can be appropriate. Of course, writing passive sentences or using an adverb or a “five-dollar word” as the author describes can be effective—in the proper context.
What this author fails to mention is that you should use these rule-breaking exceptions in moderation. A plethora (see what I did there?) of passive sentences will eventually bore your readers, too many adjectives, and you create “purple prose,” writing that is too ornate.
As for those “five-dollar words,” I prefer to call that an extensive vocabulary. In the author’s example, her use of complex, long words was entirely appropriate. When writing an educated character or one from the aristocracy, formal dialogue and those “five-dollar and change” words add realism and depth. The same terms used by a character who is uneducated or from a lower socioeconomic level would not feel authentic to your reader. A book laden with too many complex words becomes a textbook and will be difficult for most readers to follow.
This author ends by saying that writers should write anyway that they feel comfortable and break the rules if they are skilled enough.
It seems as though I have heard that advice/opinion before. That statement is what writing is for all of us. We develop our style based on what we have learned and how we arrange words on the page.
I have authored articles on the rules and my opinion of the writing process. However, I want to stress that writers should read everything they can about this art of writing. Take away those ideas, rules, and suggestions that suit your style of writing. This author inferred that if you follow Stephen King’s rules, you will write just like him. No, you won’t. The rules are not his style. How he uses words to convey emotion and create tension is his style.
I offer only one piece of advice here. As I said above, read everything you can about the writing process, read books, and glean from those sources what you need to become the writer you want to be. Always learn the rules first, then you can break them.
In the words of the infamous fashion icon Tim Gunn: Make it work!
I’ve decided to talk about two different subjects this time, although they are connected.
Here’s a strange situation.
I’ve written, revised, and edited an episodic novel and three anthologies of dark urban fantasy, science fiction, and horror, with more than one genre and sub-genres often blended into a single story. I have another five collections I’m still working on.
The thing is, publishers and agents, keep telling me that anthologies and story collections are on the way out; no one is interested in either publishing them or reading them, they say. In fact, I ended up writing a space opera novel in an attempt to break into the publishing market. I’m still trying to find an agent or a publisher for that, too.
And yet, I have had eight short stories accepted for seven different anthologies (plus one for a podcast) in the past nine months. Six of them have been accepted in the past four months.
As I see it, there are several advantages of anthologies:
They allow multiple writers to present their work to the public. Getting your name out there can be very difficult for people starting in their writing careers. Anthologies from publishers can be a great way of getting yourself noticed. Writing and publishing credits are extremely useful for showing agents and publishers that you are serious and that you can write.
Even if the anthology has a single author, each story can be an experiment in changing style, viewpoint, structure, etc., allowing the writer to entertain in various ways. From drabbles (100-word stories) to novellas, each story is complete, even though they can also be part of an overarching tale. Think of A Game of Thrones, the first volume of the all-embracing storyline of A Song of Ice and Fire.
They can be specific, where the subject matter of all the stories has a common thread: Cthulhu, Mermaids, Lesbian Ninja Cats, whatever. This “limitation” can be a source of great creativity, I’ve found.
For the writer, it means that you can narrate a story without having to expend huge amounts of thought, time, and effort on plot and character development. You can concentrate on a single event or series of connected events, telling a simpler story. The characters might never appear again, or they could make cameo appearances in other stories, or even be the Main Characters in most or all of the stories.
For the reader, a shorter read can be a great experience. When you’re commuting (remember doing that?), a quick 10-15-minute read is exactly what you want. You don’t have to remember where you are in a novel, and you needn’t go back to the previous paragraph or page to get back into the flow of the story. And you have the satisfaction of reaching the end of the story and experiencing its resolution.
So please don’t tell me that anthologies are on the decline.
The second theme is what I consider to be the limitations of genres.
Many agents and publishers insist that stories stick within the framework of a specific genre and even a specific sub-genre. And this is where I have a problem.
I write self-help, science fiction, space opera, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, magical realism, horror, fairy tales, fairy stories, slipstream, interstitial, noir, detective fiction, action, thriller, humour, YA, and children’s stories. I sometimes blend more than one into a single story.
For instance, I have a story with a police detective (detective fiction) who is both a psychic and magician (paranormal/urban fantasy) and a cyborg (science fiction). In which genre should it be pigeonholed? Especially since the preceding story is a noir/magical realism blend and the following one an urban fantasy/action blend.
And all of them are part of an urban fantasy/horror/science fiction episodic novel (again, think A Song of Ice and Fire), which also has flashes of horror, humour, and straight fantasy.
How am I supposed to define the novel-length book? Urban fantasy? Science fiction? Speculative fiction? Something else?
A humorous children’s science fiction story? Done it. Lovecraftian humour? Written that, too. A twisted fairytale with a Carollian quirkiness? Yep! These are all from anthologies based in the same narrative universe as the novel.
And, as all of us know, life isn’t neatly sliced into categories. It’s messy and overlaps, blending and merging, splitting apart and diversifying. There are no blacks or whites, merely uncounted shades of colour and grey.
And then there are the crossovers and mixes; Twilight has vampires and shifters (werewolves), for example, which I’ve been told repeatedly are two genres to be kept distinct from one another. People love stories that blend and blur, no matter what the agents and publishers try to sell us.
And that is how I write.
To get around this, I focused on a single sub-genre and wrote the YA space opera science fiction novel I mentioned earlier. Even there, the genre-loving agents and publishers bite me in the backside. One said that my language was too adult for the proposed audience, while another told me that it was too young and infantile a few days later. Go figure.
And remember, these genre divisions are artificial, devised to allow agents and publishers to pigeonhole things so that they can determine whether they will make any money from them.
Sorry if I sound as if I’m ranting, but I’ve just received my 189th rejection since the beginning of this year, from a total of 287 submissions sent during the same period. That’s a rejection rate of 65.9%. It’s only that low because 92 submissions are too recent to have been rejected.
Mind you, as I said at the beginning, I’ve also had two short stories published last year, and another six have been accepted in the past four months. I’m getting noticed, just not as quickly or extensively as I would like.
I’m a ‘Pantser’ (aka ‘Discovery Writer’), meaning that I write ‘by the seat of my pants’.
In other words, I have no idea what I’m writing until I’ve written it. Give me a picture or a writing prompt (a sentence, a phrase… heck, even a word will do) and let me loose. I can come up with something in twenty minutes, 400-500 words to create a new story. I don’t stop there, of course. Those few words can turn into four or five thousand, or more. The next day or week, the Muse will strike again, and I’ll finish it off, creating something weird, wonderful or just plain odd.
Once I’m done, then comes the hard part: turning it into something good. I’ve had to learn that what I wrote initially is only the beginning. Read, revise, edit, wash, rinse, repeat. And repeat. And repeat… There are some stories I’ve gone over dozens of times, and I’ll still find something to improve, on occasion.
So it is that I’ve self-published a self-help book, written dozens of short stories, completed a novel, and am still working on two more. My genres cover science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, humour (very dark), noir, detective fiction, fairytales and fairy stories. Often more than one in a single tale… Oh, and there’s a second self-help book in the works, too.
I came to writing fairly late in life, but that ain’t going to stop me now. As Harlan Ellison once said, “A writer is some poor schmuck who can’t help putting words on paper.” That’s me, because I’ve already written over a million words since I began. I’ll be done when they peel my cold, dead fingers off my keyboard.
Mind you, given the kinds of stories I write, that will probably be because one of the monsters I created finally finished me off…!
Location is vital in all facets of our lives. Comfort, convenience, commute, and community are essential considerations when selecting where we wish to reside. When writing, it makes sense to consider the impact of where we have our characters live.
Location can be more than the physical terrain in which we set a story, although some places can take a back seat to the plot. However, the setting is another tool in the author’s arsenal to add depth to the story. The choice of locale sets the period of the story, when and where it takes place. It affects how the characters behave, speak, and reflect on the society where they live. More importantly, when needed, the setting can become another character creating a mood and emotional tone.
A few inquiring minds have asked me what is so appealing to me about New Orleans and why I set so many of my stories either there or in Louisiana, where my upcoming novel, Crescent City Lies, is set. After all, I’m from South Carolina, a beautiful state with its own vibrant culture and uniqueness. It also has faults, as do all places, and those faults in a community can also add depth to your story.
When deciding on a setting for a story, the flavor of Louisiana draws me into its spell. Nothing like the sultry summer heat in the south, when life slows down, and the humidity rises. The spicy aromas and comforting palate of Cajun food and the smooth sounds of New Orleans jazz are alluring and set a mood that seems to touch my writer’s passion. Wicked antagonists, flawed heroes, and enticing strong women seem to belong in the bayou or the French Quarter.
In reality, I love the beach. Ribbons of sand lapped by waves, air tangy with salt, majestic pelicans soaring against a cornflower blue sky. My heart lies on the shore, rejuvenated by the sun’s heat. My soul rests in the bayou.
I am fortunate to live in an area that some people call paradise—if you consider heat, humidity, sun, and ocean paradise. I do! As the photo above shows, expansive sky, lush vegetation, a body of water, and a bench to enjoy the quiet beauty sets a mood just outside my door. Not to mention, there are ducks, sea birds, and two resident alligators to add to the ambiance.
I suppose we choose where we want our stories to unfold for a myriad of reasons. Genre certainly plays a role and can dictate the amount of world-building necessary to create the foundation you need. A cozy mystery often occurs in a small town, a detective murder mystery in a city setting, but let your creativity decide what works for your story. How descriptive you should be depends on how important the location is to your storyline. For instance, a city with the ambiance of a New Orleans, New York City, San Francisco, or San Antonio becomes a character within the story, adding depth and mood by using the uniqueness of the environment to enhance the plot. The same for small towns that can provide coziness and character to the story.
My thoughts always seem to be on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, the Battery in Charleston, or an Atlantic beach in Florida, all locations which spur my muse. Let those places you love inspire your muse and your stories.
This is for all those creative souls who wander around in their own universe bringing light into the darkness.
One of my Twitter friends started a storm in my brain yesterday. I just kept wondering how many people out there are like me. Unconventional and a little different… (Shout out to the #writingcommunity)
I am a lover of moonlight, magnolia blossoms, and soft southern rain on the roof. Spring days that smell like sunshine and the vague scent of honeysuckle floating on the air.
I love the roll and flow of city traffic. The noisy chaos and smell of the city and the night skylines.
I love history. The plight and resolution of all that came before. I am a daydreamer, a believer… A person who will tell you “Half empty or half full doesn’t matter… Just fill the damn thing up again. It works that way.”
I am a mother, well pleased with the result of her hard work and sacrifice. I am a grandmother. I am a writer, a journalist, a seeker of knowledge.
I am a writer. I allow myself to absorb these things and enjoy the aura they leave behind in my spirit.
I am also obsessive. I want to finish the whole book tonight! Breakfast is highly overrated, coffee will do. Boiled eggs and cheese for lunch and making dinner is an unnecessary interruption. I wait so long, it is a race to the restroom. Crazy? Perhaps, but I have found there are a lot of us out there…
The science is in and all agree that creative people think differently than the accepted mainstream of society. Some of the traits we share are awesome and some… not so awesome and there’s the rub.
We are always redefining what is possible. We question everything. While it satisfies most people to take things at face value, creative people are always questioning those accepted norms and are not at all afraid to place their own perceived value on what is important and what is not.
Creative people are sometimes introverted, preferring the authentic company of the few over the chaotic normal social gatherings and atmosphere. Especially today when the world is at our fingertips and we can quench the thirst for knowledge with a stroke of the mouse, and the tap of a keyboard.
There are periods of productivity. I call my personal times, “on a roll.” When I am on a roll, I want isolation. I don’t answer my phone. I am alone in a world of my creation and it is always the most magnificent place to be. A place I am reluctant to leave, even for a moment. A place I must struggle to return to, once I have been interrupted. I love these days, they are what gives me a passion for the craft or maybe my passion for the craft gives me these days. Either way, the result is the same. Wonder.
Then there are downtimes, procrastination… Days where the magic won’t come and no matter how hard you reach for it… it is elusive. I believe both states are probably essential to the creative mind. It is almost like an inevitable cycle that winds itself again into the thralls of the creative flow. I read that ‘creative flow’ is the most addictive state. I don’t know about that, but I know these moments cannot be explained to someone who does not experience them. These moments must be lived.
Creative people are intuitive, focus intensely and feel deeply. They are sensitive souls and experience the world through a different lens. Like the eyes of a child, many hold onto that sense of wonder, always learning, always questioning the world around them. In a way it sustains creativity. Refills the well when it threatens to run dry in a world in which they don’t function as others think they should.
Yet, some writers are very pragmatic. Approach everything in a concise and structured way… and that works for them. Some excellent storytellers are of this guild. We are individuals with different echelons of creativity, different tastes and different ways to manage. There is magic though, and we see it. We chase it and we bring it to the world.
Sometimes relationships are hard. It takes a special person to love and support someone who lives much of the time in their own minds. Creative people are often struggling on the edges of joy and sorrow. They have a hard time believing in themselves and the same people are at times super confident in their abilities and opinions. In the long run, it doesn’t matter, they’ll risk it anyway.
Life is about experience, mystery, and adventure for them. Creative people perch high on that ledge, work in bursts, live in a world of their own and they are in love with it!
“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.” – Ray Bradbury
My personal favorite because I love Albert Einstein…
“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” – Albert Einstein
Write Every Day!
About Elaine Marie Carnegie
Elaine Marie Carnegie, a Paralegal, and PI worked as a Newspaper Journalist for many years, then a part-time history and foodie columnist for a decade before accepting a publishing partnership; then opening her own SPPublishing and Author Services. She worked with both the FBI and Texas Rangers, has written for Discovery ID, and works for the PI in a consultant capacity today. Her articles have been used in the Texas Legislature, utilized in regional Texas school systems, published in both print and online venues, magazines and anthologies as well as in charity and collaborative projects. She is a published short story author and poet. Her first novel is in the works, “The Path of Totality.” Elaine makes her home in the idyllic East Texas Piney Woods… on a private lake, doing what she loves and living her best life!
Please visit Elaine on her blog and check out her great blog series A Writer’s Journey-Write Everyday where authors reveal their path to this creative journey called writing!