Take our characters into your hearts, minds, souls and worst nightmares

“Publishing is hard. No doubt about it. But sometimes authors get so caught up in the publishing aspect of the profession that we forget the reader doesn’t give a darn how the book was made, researched, written, published, or promoted.” – Hope Clark

 We really don’t want to tell you all that because why would you want to know that any more than you want the details about how your prospective new lawnmower was made? Instead, we much prefer you knowing that we hope you’ll enjoy a good story and then take our characters into your hearts, minds, souls and worst nightmares.

Hope Clark wants to be persuaded a book has a story that will probably interest her more than that it’s cheap or free or the author’s hard-fought debut novel. I feel the same way.

On the other hand, unless a writer is well known and can fill his or her blog with news about upcoming book signings, conventions and other appearances, or–perhaps–the progress of a feature fill that’s being made from one of his/her books, the rest of us don’t have bookish information to provide in a weekly blog.

So, we talk about the subject matter in our books hoping, for example, that people who love mountain climbing will read a post about it and then see that the author has written a novel with a mountain climbing theme with a plot sounds interesting and a story fits within one of the genres the individual likes. The gurus say that if an author writes weekly posts–or even tweets–that say nothing but “buy my book” s/he is spamming his/her own readers. I agree.

That leaves us with talking about the subjects and genres we love and hoping that our posts attract the kinds of discerning readers who are will see possibilities in our books. However, I’ve learned a few cautionary things about this idea:


  • Murderers don’t read mystery thrillers about murder and mayhem unless the novelist includes how-to-do-it tips.
  • Using a lawnmower in your story line doesn’t attract people who mow yards or sell lawnmowers.
  • If you whine to prospective readers that writing your latest novel made you insane, they will be too superstitious to buy it.
  • Footnotes attached to everything in the novel you researched (cited with sources) or experienced (cited with names of witnesses) do not “ramp up” your story’s appeal. (I know, Lincoln in the Bardo breaks this rule.)
  • Forget about the idea of committing a sensational crime and then writing a based-on-a-true story novel about it. Most jurisdictions have laws that won’t let you profit from the bad that you do unless you only imagined it.)
  • If you put spells or subliminal messages in your books that force your readers to buy more of your books, it’s probably best not to mention it.
  • Saying your novel is just like the novel of a famous writer will cause (a) more people to read the famous person’s novel,  and (b) people to ask why your novel isn’t also on the bestseller list and the well-known review sites.

When it comes down to it, I don’t even know why I read what I read, much less how to write something that somebody else will read. My reading habits are all over the map, so how anyone would include me in their target audience is beyond me. Most advertising/promotion software has probably figured out by now that the words “free” and “cheap” really turn me off. I suppose it’s possible that the NSA/CIA/FBI track the books I read and sell that information to publishers. If so, thanks for spying because I keep coincidentally finding plenty of wonderful stuff to read.

As for my own writing, I write about what interests me and hope that I’m not the only person on the planet who finds such stories fascinating.


Since so many people love fast food, I based my latest e-book short story, “En Route to the Diddy-Wah-Diddy Landfill While the Dogwoods Were in Bloom” on fast food. So far, McDonalds hasn’t agreed to included a copy with each Happy Meal.



Why or Why Not?

“I read a piece in Marie Claire titled “I Published My Debut Novel to Critical Acclaim – and Then I Promptly Went Broke.” And I caught my head nodding in agreement with the writer. http://www.marieclaire.com/career-advice/features/a22573/merritt-tierce-love-me-back-writing-and-money/

“About once a year I find myself at a crossroad in my writing. I love freelancing, and Funds for Writers, and novel writing. I wish I could do just one of them, but the fact is these days you cannot just do one. You must diversify and spread your name (and talent) around to reach all the pockets of readers out there. It takes diversification to earn a living.” – Author Hope Clark

You would think, wouldn’t you, that if an agent accepts your novel, sells it to a big New York publisher, and the book becomes a bestseller, you’d be ready to work as a full-time author of fiction everybody wants to read. Hope Clark and I read the same article and, as she said in today’s newsletter, she does several things to maintain her income even though she wishes she could pick one of those things and work on it full time.

One way or the other, we need to ask how we can diversify and make it all work. A lot of writers teach. That’s their full-time job and, like most regular jobs, it provides the health insurance and other benefits. Well known writers can make money with speaking engagements. Others work for magazines, newspapers, corporate public relations departments, and other places who need writers. Many, of course, work full-time at some a job totally unrelated to their fiction.

If you have a family, your time is even more limited whether the children are in pre-K and grade school or are in high school or college. Having a family is a joy, if it’s meant for you, but it also carries a lot of time-consuming responsibilities. If you’re working full-time and then coming home to maintain a household and chauffeur your kids around to activities, your writing time during most weeks might be slim to none.

I worked as a technical writer, a job that’s not so much in demand any more. What I liked about it was that–except when my company was kicking off a new software package–the job seldom required overtime hours. On the other hand, when I worked in corporate communications, I always had to contend with deadlines that extended my working hours, or that involved after-work activities.

When a full-time job and one’s family take up most of one’s time, it’s very easy for the writing to fade away. For one thing, assuming you publish anything, it’s probably not going to bring in enough money to justify spending multiple hours a week away from your other chores. So, if you want to write books, the challenge is discovering why you want to and how to manage those reasons into why you want to (or have to) do the other things on your plate.

Simplistically, keeping up with fiction writing often means staying home when everyone you know is at a party, ball game, concert or outing at the park. It probably means that when the fall TV schedule begins, you won’t be able to watch all the new shows. So what are you going to do? Watch this season of “Survivor,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” or slog it out on a novel a few hundred words per evening? And, as most writers discover early in their marriages, the spouse is likely to be unhappy if you sequester yourself in your den every night instead of doing something together whether that’s watching a favor TV show or cleaning out the garage.

So, why are you writing? Perhaps wanting to write isn’t quite enough. Yes, I know, a lot of writers say during their first interview, “I always wanted to be a writer.” When they first started feeling that way, they probably thought they’d pay their dues by writing for pennies, then nickles, then dollars, and then ultimately have an agent and a big publisher behind them helping ensure a steady income. This is like every kid who plays sandlot baseball thinking they’re going to be accepted by a major league ball club. Chances are slim to almost none.

Maybe we don’t know why we write. We just do it because we have to. Okay, that might be enough as long as we understand the realities of the money side of this business. Or, perhaps you have a more complex reason and that lends itself to your involvement in multiple kinds of writing in addition to novels, or in work in businesses and groups that relate to the WHY of your writing–justice, the environment, law, politics. Perhaps that WHY is the foundation for a diversified income that fits hand-in-glove with the time required for writing.

Let’s hope we all find what that WHY is so that we can make our careers work.