“Faking” It

Last week, I said I would publish the titles of my most popular blogs from the last six years. However, I have been learning a lot about pen names in the past few days, so I have decided to share that with you instead. (I’ll get back to previous blogs at some point in the future, I assure you.)

I have long been thinking about writing in a different genre from Christian Fiction and when I heard that authors who decide to change genres often change the name under which they publish, I started to dig for information.

Most authors are already aware that a pen name is one which an author chooses to use in place of using their real name. Often called a nom de plume or pseudonym, the author’s real name is likely not known to the public.

For a host of reasons, authors may want to keep their real identity a secret. This is especially true when they want to write in a different genre than they normally do, targeting an entirely different audience. 

You may be interested to know that it is perfectly legal to use a pen name and there is no cost to do so. All major publishing houses allow the use of pen names. 

Something to consider:  If you are trying to keep your identity secret, you must remain incognito at events, festivals, conferences, in press releases, and so on. 

**Want to know more about Pen Names?  Next week’s blog post will delve deeper into the subject. 

Writing Opportunities

I am always looking for new writing avenues, so I Googled 2021 Writing Opportunities and came up with this short list of the most popular and “available” opportunities for authors: Movie and television scripts, grants, magazines (most popular: poetry, relationships, parenting, and personal stories.)

There is a breakdown in each of these categories on www.medium.com. I have no further information on this website except to say that it is fairly new and already has thousands of followers. You may want to check it out. 

**Next week’s blog post will be a list of the Top Twenty of my most-liked blogs from the past six years! I’m due for a walk down memory lane. How about you?

When Is An Author Like a Mosquito?

We’ve had more rain than usual this year in Arizona. And that means mosquitos.

So, I went online to see just how long these pesky critters might be hanging around—and making my life miserable. 

I googled Life Expectancy of the Mosquito. From what I read, it looked like they might be around for awhile.

But that got me thinking …

What is the life expectancy of an author? I’m not referring to the number of years they might live. Just how many years they will write… the total number of years they will practice the craft of writing?

I went to Google. I found information on how many books the average writer reads per year, how long it takes for the average writer to write a book, how much money the average writer makes per year, the average daily word count for an author—in other words, all kinds of information. But I didn’t find any information about how many years they write, on average.

So, I can only speculate that authors write as long as it is profitable for them, as long as they have interest in the craft, until they run out of ideas, as long as the circumstances of their lives don’t change and require their time to be spent differently.

Asking a few authors this question, most said one of these:

“As long as I can.”

“As long as people keep buying my books.”

“As long as I keep waking up each day with a fire within me that can only be quenched by writing.”

“Until I no longer enjoy writing.”

 As for me?

 Like the mosquito, I just may be hanging around for awhile.

You Say I Can’t Use Adverbs?

New authors are taught lots of rules. One of the most notorious—and most resisted—is NOT to use adverbs in our writing.

There are actually some situations where an adverb might be the best choice. When writing a back cover blurb or anything else that has limited space, adverbs may be preferred.

But, when they are used as a crutch instead of choosing a more specific phrase or showing emotion, they should be avoided.

Most adverbs end in -ly. Loudly, sadly, angrily. You get the picture.

Or, do you?

How about showing balled fists and clenched teeth, rather than using those -ly words?

Remember: a good book is like a movie shown with word pictures.

Painting WORD Pictures

En-route to the FICTION section in my local Barnes & Noble Bookstore, the cover of one of the children’s books displayed on a table caught my attention. The art work was breathtaking. I picked it up and flipped through page after page of mesmerizing illustrations. 

In my humble opinion, it is often the Illustrator (and not the author) that should be credited for the success of some of many of these so-called picture books.

I am not a Children’s Author. However, I have read many such books to my kindergartners over the years. And I realized as I stood in the bookstore that one of the things I liked most (and the students responded to) was the VISUAL.

But, writing FICTION, as I do, requires the ability to  paint the VISUAL of my stories with rich vocabulary… to use language to give readers that other dimension necessary for limitless enjoyment.

So when they browse the pages of my books, they too will be mesmerized with the VISUAL that only an author’s words can paint.

Fashionably Late

The last line in one of my chapters said “Snow began to fall.” However, it was raining in the next chapter. Big trouble. I had to rewrite a little to make sure the weather in those two chapters was identical. 

In your writing, if your character is wearing a T-shirt and shorts, then the next paragraph cannot have him shrugging off his coat.

You can save yourself a lot of work if you will plan these things out down to the minutest detail before you write. 

It won’t be just a matter of substituting one word (rain) for the other (snow). No, what about the character’s physical and emotional reactions to the weather (He shivered…) or the fact that he/she probably wouldn’t be playing tennis in the snow?

I found it to be, quite literally, a house of cards. Maybe dominoes resting on each other would be a more accurate description. Just one tiny push—one small mistake—and it all comes tumbling down.

It is embarrassing to look at a proof and see gigantic mistakes staring right back at you. (I have literally hit my forehead with the heel of my hand more than once and said, “Duh!”) 

If I need to slow down and miss a deadline, then so be it. Better to be late than produce a book riddled with mistakes.

You may think, “I’ll just leave these things for my editor to sort out and clean up for me.”

From my experience, that would be a big mistake. I had my book edited twice and I still found mistakes on my twelfth read through!  

That’s right. I had competent editors, about eight months apart, go through my manuscript. Still, content mistakes were found as I read through them later.  Part of the reason, I think, is that they don’t—and will never—know the story like I do. Or, maybe they just get caught up in the story and forget what they are supposed to be doing. I’m really not sure. 

But, the point is this: Ultimately, it is your book. The buck stops with you. 

So, be diligent. Be a perfectionist. Make it the best it can be.

Even if, like me, you end up being fashionably late.

Go Ahead and Say It

We authors are all about words, aren’t we? Saying things in just the right way to elicit emotional responses from our readers… creating perfect visual pictures… producing tension and suspense…

The things we fail to say accurately can be just as important in producing that next Bestseller.

They are often little things. The season, the weather, time of day. Perhaps a current event (911 for example), a famous place (Grand Canyon), even an address (1900 Pennsylvania Ave.)

The exact moment is crucial in a book I just started to write. In this thriller, if I fail to leave out a detail that is important to the plot, readers are likely to let me know about it. And I certainly want them to have the best reading experience I can provide.

Keeping our facts straight is important. The best way I have found is dedicating a spiral notebook to each story. I allow six to eight pages per character. On them I list physical characteristics, occupation, emotional ties, personality traits, age, and so on. I refer to it often so I don’t alter important facts.

I have tried charts and pictures, but found they can take up too much wall space. Clutter makes me nervous. I just don’t write well when my space is in disarray. The important thing is not the method you use to keep track of details as much as that you do use something to help you avoid these common pitfalls. 

What’s the Deal???

In the “Deals in Kindle Books” section of the Kindle Store, you can find many different kinds of  “deals.” 

If you want your book to be a Good Deal or a BIG deal,  check these out:

Kindle Daily Deals-  These run for ONE day and get maximum exposure from Amazon. Usually, authors running these deals see a huge spike in sales/downloads.

Kindle Monthly Deals- These run for a whole month, but get much less exposure from Amazon.

Kindle Exclusive Deals- A grouping together of daily and monthly deals for books enrolled in KDP Select and those made available to Kindle Unlimited readers.

Kindle Countdown Deals- Only KDP Select authors can run these deals. They can be run on any given book every 90 days. Kindle puts a clock on the book’s product page which counts down until the deal is “off.”

**There are several other “Deals” which are limited time promotions . They are invite-only from Amazon’s editorial team. These are the most lucrative for authors—offering the most exposure online, so watch your IN-BOX.

A Little Advice

Did you miss my blog last week?

There wasn’t one because my computer died.

It was sudden. It felt no pain.

But I sure did!

My computer had asked me to update my system. I clicked “OK.”

It froze at about 90% and remained that way for 24 hours. That’s when I called for help from Apple Care. Hours on the phone resulted in an in-person appointment at the Genius Bar and leaving my computer with them for two days.

When I heard back from them, they informed me that all of my data was lost and gave me a couple of options for what I could do–going forward. None sounded good.

No data? No memory? Years of work gone?

I consulted a man I consider to be a computer guru. Turns out, he is a PC guy. However, he did give me a phone number to call. My “best chance” at recovery.

I followed his advice and took my computer to The Apple Exchange. They guys are trained in data recovery. And they didn’t disappoint.

After several more days–and many prayers–the good news of data recovery came.

I was amazed, grateful, and praised God and Charlie (the super-hero technician) who helped make this all happen.

So, here’s the advice I promised. Always have a back-up system THAT IS WORKING. Check it once in awhile to make sure it is really backing up your work.

I had an external drive (Passport, it’s called). However, I had purchased a new computer about two years ago and simply plugged the old Passport into the new computer and went on my busy way, ignorant of the fact that it needed to be reconfigured for the new computer.

The result? I have been working/saving for almost two years without backup. (Yes, there is the CLOUD and TIME MACHINE, but somehow these problems became interrelated when I did system updates…)

My point is this: don’t take anything for granted. Ask questions if you don’t know how to do something. It will save you time and a lot of headaches.

I was fortunate, but some glitches cannot be fixed. Some memories cannot be restored. And so they become just that…

distant memories.

What Energizes You?

We writers have been told to write every day—no matter what. I would agree with that, but I think it really doesn’t matter what we write, as long as we stay in the habit of writing.

Letter writing, blogging, answering emails, writing Thank-You notes, and so on. Let’s not forget the occasional magazine article or Letter to the Editor. The important thing is not to get lazy. Writing is just like any other habit. If it isn’t cultivated, it dies on the vine.

The only way out of the forest is through the trees. And the only way to get a book written is to write!  

I’ve formed the habit of writing in the mornings, taking a break for lunch and a short walk, then coming back to my computer in the afternoons. I switch gears completely on the weekends by helping  my husband with his renovation projects. It rejuvenates me and gets me ready for another week of writing.

Care to share what energizes you?