You Know You’re Famous When…

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I knew there was the possibility of it happening some day. I just never thought it would be last Tuesday.

Following a doctor’s appointment, Mom requested that my sister and I take her to a thrift store. After looking at furniture, housewares, purses, and games, we headed to the book section—Mom’s favorite.

She asked me to pull out a book for her. When I reached for the one she had pointed to, I felt the familiar softness of the cover…the exact shade of blue I’d chosen…Runaways   was written on the spine.

As I handed it to Mom, my sister exclaimed, “You’re famous!”

Heat crept up my neck and warmed my cheeks. My heart double-thumped as I stared at my first published book.

My sister took my picture with Runaways and then she bought it for $1.25 (it was discounted for senior day) even though she already has a copy. “Now I can loan it to friends and won’t have to worry if I don’t get it back.”

I’m not so sure success is measured by being on the bookshelf at Goodwill.

But, then again, who’s to say?

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When the Timing is Right

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Over the past few years, we have talked about HOW to write, discussing “rules,” trends, methods, etc. We have talked about WHERE to write to be most productive. We have even touched on WHY we write, WHO is called to write, WHAT topics we might write about, WHEN the optimum time of day to write might be.

We have covered a lot of ground.

Although we may have skirted around it a couple of times, at no time do I think we’ve talked about the timeliness of addressing certain topics.

In fact, there are some things that are best if left unsaid. 

While I may feel that I have valid thoughts to share on a number of subjects. (And, believe me, I DO believe in freedom of speech. This is NOT about that.) And even though I might even feel that some people might profit from hearing what I have to say—that some might even welcome my opinions or insight—the timing isn’t always “right.”

For example, an acquaintance of mine passed away this past year. She died from an overdose of prescription medications. Although I had some strong feelings about this subject, the timing would not have been good, if I had shared my thoughts when the minister asked those attending the memorial to come up to the microphone and speak.

Nor, did I feel it appropriate to get on Facebook and articulate my position…

Sometimes, feelings are just too raw, or the unfortunate incident still too fresh in the minds of the audience. Writers need to be mindful of the timing of some of their comments and consider how readers might be affected.

If you write BOOKS, a current event might have lost some of its painful aspects by the time a manuscript has been written, edited, and published. Ideas that were once raw and perhaps not completely thought out, may profit from this lapse of time. They may have germinated…and GROWN into more polished, fruitful, and expanded truths that will benefit a vast audience of readers. In some cases, they may even become movies or get adopted by a non-profit.

The question, then, is not, “Will you say it?”

It is, “When will you say it?”

Your answer may well be the difference between being insensitive and rude or acting as a thought-provoking visionary…a catalyst for change.  

The Right Words Are “Key”

businessman with a cup of coffeeAs we continue to take actions to drive sales to our sites, our discussion naturally turns to keywords.

Simply put, keywords are the words a prospective reader would type into the search bar in order to find a book on a topic or in the specific genre they are looking for.

If you have included these words into your headline, description copy, and your pages, your book will be “found.”

If you don’t include searchable keywords, the feisty little web crawlers will, in essence, crawl right on by and continue to search until they have discovered someone else’s website, book page, etc. Yikes!

The suggestion is that we narrow down a list of 5-7 keywords and insert them in our copy everywhere—and as often as—we can.

Some day, we may not have to do this. Some day, we may be famous and have a following–readers who require nothing more than typing in our names as they search for our latest books.

But for now, those 5-7 well-chosen words are key. 

I’ve Changed My Mind

 

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After a meeting, yesterday, the topic of how often one should write (every day? how many hours per day?) came up.

I listened as inexperienced writers eagerly listened to more seasoned authors on the topic that is as dear—and as often-debated—as toilet training is to young parents.

In one of my previous posts, I said that if you are researching for your book or article, or attending a conference, or viewing a webinar, that “counts” as your writing for the day.

Well, like I told the others after the meeting, I now know a bit more about the craft of writing and have changed my mind about what I advised a year ago.

There is no substitute for WRITING.

Here’s why:

You cannot learn to dance by reading a book or studying diagrams of nimble feet doing the Cha Cha.

You cannot learn to fish without baiting your hook and casting the line into the water.

There is no substitute for actually DOING.

We need to practice writing. All the reading and conference going—although worthwhile—cannot take the place of good, old-fashioned application.

Some people find themselves in such an endless cycle of “learning how to write” that they never actually sit down in front of the computer and try their hand at it.

They think that if they will just read one more book or watch one more webinar, then they will be ready…qualified…fully prepared.

All of that is well and good, but as my neighbor’s son studies his driving manual, I am reminded that he must also get behind the wheel and gain the experience of actually driving.

As a child, I heard my mother say, “Wishing doesn’t make it so,” many times. (Mostly this was in reference to having a clean room.) But, apply it to writing an article or book and you can make the connection, can’t you?

So, my conclusion is this: you must learn the skill of writing by writing, writing, and writing some more.

Every day?

Yes.

An hour a day?

At least.

Grab a partner and dance.

Bait your hook and cast your line.

Back out of the garage and get out on the highway.

Turn on the computer and let your fingers fly across the keyboard!

When I Forget the Words

Have you seen instances on television of celebrities, football players, and even olympians who don’t know the correct words to the Star Spangled Banner? Or, perhaps witnessed an interview of a person who got tongue-tied, searching frantically for just that right word?

As writers, we have it a little easier than that. Using our computers, we can write and rewrite until we get the words to flow “just right”. We can use a thesaurus and a dictionary to help us choose words and check on meanings.

I recently bought a book called The Describer’s Dictionary by David Grambs. I must confess I have just begun to use it, but to give you an example of how it works, say you want to describe the color black. The book gives these words: ebony, ebon, sable, jet, onyx, ink black, coal black, anthracite.  The book is divided into words for various Shapes, Patterns and Edges, Surfaces and Textures, Light and Colors, etc.

A book I’ve used a LOT, is The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. I truly believe no fiction writer should be without this book. It includes all emotions in an easy-to-use alphabetical format that is further broken down into Physical Signals, Internal Sensations, Mental Responses, Cues of Acute or Long Term experiences of an emotion, emotions that specific examples May Escalate To, and Cues of Suppressed emotions. I especially like the Writer’s Tip which is provided at the bottom of each listed emotion.

So, there are resources out there. I am slowly finding them. If you know of any others that writers might find useful, please let me know. One I’d find extremely useful would be substitutions for adverbs. If there isn’t one out there, already, maybe this would be a project you’d be interested in taking on!

Brenda