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Posts tagged ‘Hope Clark’

Housekeeping (after all, it is Saturday)

Since I’m not a fan of housekeeping, I procrastinate on the housekeeping chores that go along with having a website and a blog. On the website, I’m likely to let pages sit for a while without a constant supply of fresh material so that return visitors have something new to read. Here, I’ve uploaded quite a few posts, but didn’t touch the pages that display on the menu across the top of the screen for a long time.

Now, the website is looking better and I have two new pages–replacing two out-of-date pages–that I’ll try to keep current with excerpts and pictures.

My view of websites and blogs is that, other than talking about my books and related subjects, they are all about you rather than all about me. I wrote an article for a magazine for nonprofit organizations in which I said that many of them were missing the boat when they advertised events and exhibits. Like commercial advertising, nonprofit news releases which appeared in the newspaper should be about the reader, that is, showing him/her why the event would be fun, entertaining, and otherwise worthwhile.

Author C. Hope Clark, who sends out a weekly newsletter from her Funds for Writers website said that author newsletters seldom do much good because instead of talking about books and interesting subject matter, they often degenerate into monthly updates about the authors’ kids and pets. That’s not what the readers want to see. As Clark but it, they didn’t subscribe to be a buddy, they subscribed to find out about exciting new releases and, in some cases, book signings and other events the author would be attending. So, I try to use my website to show prospective readers why they might enjoy my books rather than having, say, a page about what my cats are doing.

This blog is a bit more relaxed. Since I’m disorganized, I’m likely to talk about anything here and sometimes it is about what my pets are doing.  Sorry about that, if you’re not a cat person.

At any rate, I hope you enjoy the improving website and the two new pages on this blog. And, if there are certain kinds of posts you want to see more of, let me know in the comments section

–Malcolm

Briefly Noted: ‘Writing Contests with Hope’

C. Hope Clark has been advising authors through her weekly newsletter “Funds for Writers” for twenty years. I’m a long-time subscriber and look forward to Fridays and the arrival of the newsletter in my in-basket because it contains nuts and bolts tips, writing ideas and inspiration presented with a positive can-do attitude, and lists of upcoming writing opportunities.

Clark, who is also a novelist (The Carolina Slade Mysteries and The Edisto Island Mysteries) brings the best contest-related ideas from her newsletter to Writing Contests with Hope that was released in paperback and e-book in February. “This book has been a long time coming, “said Clark. “It speaks of the myths of contests, and shows how amazing contests can be for your career.”

From the Publisher

Everyone loves winning, but nobody enjoys losing. Writers are no exception. Contests in the writing profession offer opportunity in many forms, but so many writers fear entering. Whether they fear scans, rejection, or being judged, they hold back. On the other hand, others throw caution to the wind and enter every contest in sight, likewise winning nothing. Contests are a serious venture. They can catapult a career if entered thoughtfully with serious intent. Yes, intent. Contests aren’t a whimsical endeavor. With planning, practice, and research, writers can enter contests and genuinely improve their odds of success. 

A lot of writers I know don’t enter contests. That makes sense in they’re busy finishing their latest novel or meeting a deadline for a magazine article. Otherwise, I don’t understand why they don’t do it. Hope understands: in the book, she discusses some of the usual reasons writers don’t enter any of the dozens of competitions available each year. If you have concerns about contests, take a look at the What’s Inside feature on the book’s Amazon listing. The point of view there may change your mind. If it does, this book will increase your odds of success.

–Malcolm

Be careful when asking for opinions about stories you haven’t started writing

“Hold off asking for opinion. The earlier you ask for feedback, the more likely you are to get deterred from what might be your best writing. The best judge of a good idea is you, but only after you’ve mulled it over for a long while, or tested it by writing a draft, or rewritten it three or four times. After you’ve read similar works to compare. After you’ve honed your writing skills to develop the chops to even write the concept.” C. Hope Clark

I can’t find the quotation now, but Hemingway once warned writers against talking their ideas away. That is, telling others the plots of stories they were about to write. After all was said and done, possibly at a table with several bottles of wine, the author would realize that in all the give and take about his or her prospective project, s/he had lost it.

In this week’s Funds for Writers newsletter, Hope Clark expressed similar reservations about rushing out and telling friends, fans, and other writers what you’re thinking about writing–all in hopes of getting feedback about its viability.

Personally, I don’t understand this at all unless, perhaps, you’re floating an idea with your publisher or agent about what you want to write next. Otherwise, early on, what the hell kind of feedback could anyone possibly offer? So, telling–let’s say–your usual beta readers that you’re starting a new series may elicit a lot of pats on the back with little useful feedback.

The more you say, the more likely it is that their comments and questions will derail the project or somehow change it into something outside the scope of what you want to do.

Personally, I don’t like or understand the concept of beta readers unless I’m writing nonfiction and am looking for an unofficial peer review of my approach before devoting too much time researching the project. So I never ask anybody what they think of a prospective story idea because any input I get is doing to be detrimental to what my muse and I are considering.

If you feel better asking for feedback, my suggestion is to wait until you have the first draft. At that point, you have enough of a story for others to understand your plot, theme, characters, and style. When you wait, you’re more sure of yourself and your story, including its focus and ending, and distracting and negative comments are less likely to derail you. Now, quality beta readers may, in fact, find holes in the story, inconsistencies, and other issues that fall far short of destroying your work in progress.

Malcolm

 

 

 

Writers, ‘If you want immediate money, get a job’

“Write because you enjoy it. Write for the long term. If you want immediate money, get a job. This writing career is about loving to tell stories. Readers want to hear about how great your story is, not how many copies you sold or how brilliant your promotion campaign was. Readers want to be lulled and drawn into a new world they love, not sold a popular fad.” – Hope Clark

If you’re on the staff of a magazine or newspaper, write news releases for a profit-making corporation or non-profit organization, write advertising copy, are among the listed writers for a television series, create computer documentation, or are employed in other positions that require you to create strings of words for pay, then you have a writing job and receive paycheck and possibly even have a benefits package.

However, none of those positions are on people’s minds when they dream of becoming a writer. They’re dreaming of the Pulitzer Prize or the Nobel Prize or the New York Times bestseller list or of seeing the words “based on a story by. . .”in the credits of a blockbuster movie.

As Hope Clark said in a recent Funds for Writers newsletter that for most writers, sometimes it seems like nobody’s out there because few readers write Amazon reviews or comment on writers’ blogs. So that’s why she advises dreamers to write because they enjoy it.

When we’re young, and don’t know any better, we see our current novel in progress as the next bestseller published by a major New York Publisher. Subsequently, we’re depressed to learn they don’t look at unsolicited manuscripts and that most of the agents who send work to those publishers also don’t look at unsolicited manuscripts.

If you’re a Hollywood star or even a famous serial killer, you’ll probably get a contract from a major New York Publisher because they think your book will sell 50,000 copies or more. Seems unfair, doesn’t it? But then, publishing is a business. Yes, that seems unfair, too, doesn’t it? Perhaps it will seem less unfair if we acknowledge that most people in other professions don’t start at the top. They work their way up. Other than famous people, I think the same is true of writers.

We really have to like what we do. And when it comes down to the words on paper, we need to enjoy putting them there and acknowledge those words are there for our prospective readers. Those readers need to find something that inspires them, takes them into exciting places with exciting characters, or provides a respite from a long days at the office.

Yes, it’s hard to know what readers might want. I think that means that we have to do the best we can as writers and hope we connect with somebody out there who enjoys reading our words. Looking at writing as a lottery where we might strike it rich usually dooms us to failure. If it happens, it happens. Until them, telling stories is what inspires us more than seeing our names up in lights.

Malcolm

Are You Creative? 

Writers question their creativity. They think it ought to be magic, something that travels down and strikes them out of the ether, when in actuality, creativity isn’t so esoteric. While we think it just happens, in reality, it is the culmination of our experiences, our education, and our willingness to let loose of the manacles of rules.

Source: Are You Creative? | FundsforWriters

An excellent post from author Hope Clark along with a very perceptive opening quote from Steve Jobs that you’ll have to click on the link above to see.

Hope believes we are more creative when we free ourselves from rules and other people’s logic and allow ourselves to see connections between things that weren’t obvious before. A lot of great fiction, great inventions, and innovations in many fields come from walking our own paths.

In fact, if there’s a path already there, avoid it, for it won’t take you to an undiscovered place.

–Malcolm

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:

Caution

  • 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.

Malcolm

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.

–Malcolm