Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Hard Truth About Writers and Money #AmWriting


You wrote a book, now what? You start researching cover artists and editors and freak out about the costs. You say things like, "I need to know I'll make back the money before I shell out anything." Well, here's a hard truth for you: no one can promise you that you will make back the investment right away or ever, especially if you don't do your part with marketing (which may cost some money as well).

But the real question is, why do you think this way? If you have a full-time job and writing is your hobby, think of all the other people with hobbies who invest money on memberships, equipment, travel or what-not to participate in them. Do they ski because they want skiing to pay them back at the end of the day? No. Do they spend a day golfing and expect to be paid when they finish eighteen holes? No. Do rock climbers stress out about spending money on ropes and safety harnesses before they tackle the mountain? No. Even runners invest money on the proper shoes so they don't get shin splints, but do they expect to be financially paid back for those shoes just because they want to run? No. Why? Because hobbies reward you with joy, satisfaction, and an escape from your day-to-day life. That's why they are called hobbies. 

Nothing wrong with writing being your hobby--in fact, it's smart. But are you putting too high of expectations on your hobby? It's not a dirty word, you know--hobby. It doesn't mean your novel isn't good or that you aren't committed. Don't let ego sabotage you.
I've stopped associating with people who say that they can't make money writing because that very thinking is what's blocking them from succeeding.

Am I suggesting you shouldn't want to make money from your books? No, just the opposite actually. I'm stating that your expectations are a bit whacked and perhaps you need to take a moment to look at them from another perspective.

If writing is your full-time job and you're still bitchy about shelling out for editors, cover artists, and paid advertising, then I ask you: what kind of special snowflake do you think you are? All businesses have operating costs. All businesses invest in themselves to succeed.

The idea of being a struggling artist is limiting you--how about celebrating instead and enjoying the creative process? It's amazing what happens when you stop worrying and begin trusting.

If you're not earning enough as a writer to afford normal business operating costs, then you need to find a supplemental job to support you as you get off the ground. There's nothing wrong with that--it is simple common sense.  Many people work multiple jobs while launching their own business and don't quit until they are financially stable. It's called rocking the side gig. If you go to a restaurant in Los Angeles, for example, most of the waiters will tell you that the are actors waiting for their big break. But what are they doing in the meantime? They're working jobs to pay the bills, they're going on auditions, they're investing in head shots, taking acting classes--they are hustling and putting money into their dream! Does that make them less talented? No, it makes them smart.

Writers are the only group of people I have met who expect to make money without spending anything or who think their hobby owes them something. The hard truth is that your books owe you nothing and neither do readers. If you're blessed enough to know how to write, to complete a novel, to have been immersed in creativity, then it's your obligation to that gift to nurture it and invest in it--and to let go of all expectations after that fact.

The key to success in any creative profession is to keep moving forward at all times. Want to make money as a novelist? It's completely possible, but you need to keep writing, keep putting yourself in front of people, keep striving to be the best you can be, keep investing in yourself. You also need to lighten up about it. The idea of being a struggling artist is limiting you--how about celebrating instead and enjoying the creative process? It's amazing what happens when you stop worrying and begin trusting.

C'mon! Time to switch up your thinking. If it's not working for you, stop it. 

I've stopped associating with people who say that they can't make money writing because that very thinking is what's blocking them from succeeding. Normally, when confronted with this type of person, I'll ask what they do to market themselves. They usually respond with free things like Facebook groups or tweeting teams, things that are known to have very low return. If I ask about paid advertising, they always screech about wasting money. Same thing when asked if they hired a professional editor or cover artist--nope, they can do it themselves, they respond. But they are not succeeding in the way they want because they are not investing in it--and they won't because they are stubborn and determined to struggle.

Yes, I mean it when I say they are determined to struggle. They are getting some kind of satisfaction--even if subconsciously--from struggling, from complaining about being lost in the mix, from whining about book prices, or making excuses about the ever-changing publishing environment. Perhaps they see it as paying their dues or their curse as a storyteller or maybe struggle gives them permission to be mediocre because why try harder if they aren't making money at it--that's all nonsense.

In my mind, I can think of at least a dozen authors I know who are making over $10,000 a month. Are they famous? Not in the big scheme. What are they doing to separate themselves from the pack? Investing in their career and embracing the joy of being a writer. Not one of them can be heard whining about how hard it is or making excuses as to why they aren't a millionaire yet. They're doing the work, investing in ads, delegating editing and artwork to other professionals so they can keep working on their next novel, automating or hiring out social media marketing, and making money every single month.

Depending on whether writing is your hobby or full-time job, you need to understand that it owes you nothing. You were blessed with the inspiration and dedication to sit down and do the work of storytelling. That's your reward. Want to make money from it? Good, but are you willing to invest like every other artist and business owner in the world does?

The hard truth is that your books owe you nothing and neither do readers.

I'm not sure why writers are unique in this attitude, but they seem to be. I've known musicians who have CDs and play in the band on the weekends at gigs all over Colorado who never complain that they aren't making enough money to do it full-time. They don't stop investing, though. Neither do artists I know who spend money on tables at art shows and use their last dimes to buy supplies knowing that their return on investment will be uncertain. Yet I know far too many authors who cry at the price of an editor or a cover artist and won't spend a dime until they "are making money from their books."

And the irony? Most of those authors are listing their books at .99 or free to "gain exposure" while they lament that they are dirt poor. C'mon! Time to switch up your thinking. If it's not working for you, stop it.

The hard truth is: to make money, you must spend money. Yes, choose wisely on what ads to purchase and where and what editor or cover artist to hire. But if you're one of those who stubbornly refuses to do so, then don't whine about poor book sales or bad reviews. You were chosen by inspiration to tell a story--which is a gift in and of itself--and then you chose to drop the ball. There is no one to blame but you in this scenario.

And if you did hire an artist and an editor but then failed to invest in ads or put the time in with marketing, the blame is also solely on you. Not writing your next book until the first one pays out? That's a crime against creativity.

As we begin a new year, think about what you are willing to invest in your writing career/hobby, make a budget of both time and money, and stick to it. Stop making excuses and start seeing possibilities.


Write on!
Amber Lea Easton
http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com 



Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of nonfiction, thrillers, and romantic suspense. A professional editor and freelance journalist for nearly two decades, she created Mountain Moxie Publishing Services to assist authors in mastering the writing craft. Her memoir, Free Fall, is dedicated to spreading suicide awareness, has topped international best selling charts, and has been named by Dr. Prem as fourth on the "Ten Most Inspiring True Stories Everyone Must Read" list. Easton is also a speaker regarding parenting through trauma and suicide awareness. To discover more about Mountain Moxie Publishing Services, please go to http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com. For a list of all of Easton's books, articles and interviews, go to http://www.amberleaeaston.com.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Know Your Strengths and Admit Your Weaknesses #AmWriting

In the age of the internet, we'd all like to think we can simply Google something or look it up on YouTube to magically become an expert on all things. People now go to WebMd to self-diagnose or watch a how-to video and think they can be their own mechanic. I've been guilty of some of this myself so I get it. But there always comes a point where we need to realize that we may not know everything. 

Just like the defendant who represents himself in court instead of hiring a lawyer because he thinks he is smarter than someone who went to law school, a writer who believes they are a jack-of-all-trades is a fool.

Marketing? Oh, yeah, I can do that. Who needs to learn the ins and outs of copywriting? I wrote a novel so I can write persuasive marketing copy! Maybe...but maybe not.

Graphics? Oh, yeah, I can do that. I am smart. I can do anything! While I love a positive attitude--I sincerely do--a great artist can't be underestimated. Design is a skill. That's why there are schools for it and art courses and books on the subject. I can't draw to save my life, unless it's a stick figure drawing competition.

Editing? Even editors need editors! I'm serious. Too many writers think they can self-edit, but they are only looking for typos (which is proofreading, not deep editing). They think because they write in a genre where "crap" reigns supreme that they don't need to invest in an editor. Well, if you want to write crap and are comfortable with crap being associated with your name, go ahead.

But this is where you need to stop obsessing over yourself and start thinking about your competitors. Do they have stellar covers? Does their marketing copy snap and sizzle? Are their graphics spot-on? Do they have an editor that they are constantly thanking or talking about sending their work to? I bet they do.

Smart people embrace their strengths and admit their weaknesses. They delegate. They know they can't realistically do everything well so they choose to focus on where they excel and seek out experts for the rest.

Simply because it's easy to Google something or look it up on YouTube doesn't mean that you really are an expert. You may be smart--and I'm sure you are talented--and perhaps you can learn new things easily and quickly. But are you better than the pro who's been doing *insert the task* for a decade, who went to school for it, who is passionate about it? Probably not.

Let go of your ego. Be truthful with yourself about where you're an expert and where you're a novice. No money for a cover artist? Plan ahead and save for one. No money for a professional editor--or afraid you won't earn the money back? Plan ahead and save for one--and also save for a marketing budget. Not sure writing effective ad copy is your thing? Take a course or hire your editor to help you out.

At the end of the day, writing is a business. You are the CEO of that business. All good business owners know the value of hiring good people to help them succeed. All good businesses knows the value of marketing as well, yet too many authors whine that their books aren't selling even though they are doing little to nothing to promote it. (or they're doing the wrong things)

Which brings me to another service--Virtual Assistants. No time to market? Hire one. They seem to be everywhere these days.

Don't fall into the trap of excuses because, as I have laid out, there is a solution to every problem.

To sum up: you are not perfect. None of us are. Ask yourself what you're an expert at and cultivate that so you become the best you can be. With everything else, learn to delegate, develop a budget, and invest in your ultimate success.

Write on!
AL Easton
http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com


Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of nonfiction, thrillers, and romantic suspense. A professional editor and freelance journalist for nearly two decades, she created Mountain Moxie Publishing and Creative Services to assist authors in mastering the writing craft. Her memoir, Free Fall, is dedicated to spreading suicide awareness, has topped international best selling charts, and has been named by Dr. Prem as fourth on the "Ten Most Inspiring True Stories Everyone Must Read" list. Easton is also a speaker regarding parenting through trauma and suicide awareness. To discover more about Mountain Moxie Publishing and Creative Services, please go to http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com. For a list of all of Easton's books, journals, articles and interviews, go to http://www.amberleaeaston.com.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

15 Positive Things I've Learned as a Published Writer #AmWriting #motivation



I don't know what's up, but lately I've seen a barrage of blog posts on LinkedIn and Facebook about the horrible aspects of being an author. While some of them are true, I find the posts oddly disturbing. Why focus on the negative? How is that inspiring anyone? Yes, I like to vent, too. It's easy to start bitching about trolls who want to take you down or corrupt publishers who aren't paying their authors--but it's too easy and, at the end of the day, all it does is feed the fuel of doubt. So, to counteract some of that negativity, I'm going to share this list of 15 positive things I've learned as a published author and professional editor over the past decade.

  1. There are more good people than bad. Sure, there may be a few rotten eggs in the mix, but, for the most part, fellow authors genuinely want to help support each other. Find a good, positive group of fellow author who have your back, who eagerly offer to cross-promote, who are quick to say "good job", and you will have a quality peer group to help navigate the publising world. Creative people have a brilliant vibe to them. Embrace it. And, if you come across a few of those rotten eggs, disengage immediately. There are too many good people out there to put up with any of the negative.
  2. The more books you have, the better off you will be, so keep writing. If you have published only one book and are frustrated with sales, don't be. Write another. And another. Your best sales tools are a new release and a strong backlist. One hit wonders are as rare as wild flamingos in Alaska. 
  3. Diversify your revenue streams. Yes, Kindle Select is easy. Yes, people used to make a lot of money by being exclusive to Amazon, and some still are, but their latest shift in income distribution equals less than a cent per page read. Value your work. Upload to other sites like iTunes, IndieBound, All Romance, Google Play, All Romance eBooks, Kobo, etc. Some of these other sites actually pay a higher royalty to the author than Amazon does. In Canada, Kobo sells more books than Amazon. There are many, many options for authors. The world is expanding at a rapid pace, don't get left behind. The possibiliteis are endless! 
  4. Self-publishing is now the wise choice, not the last resort. I started off as a published author. I did things the "right way", followed the rules, snubbed self-publishing as the land of the lost--now I prefer it. Why? Because I make more money and do the same amount of work. My publisher did make it easy in some ways--they provided the editor and the cover artist, that's true. But all the marketing rested on my shoulders and I earn less per book through them than I do on my self-published work. 
  5. Quality editing is not out of reach or out of budget for the Indie author. With all the publishing houses that have gone under in the past few years, there are many professional editors who are now freelancing. Yes, you may have to dole out some cash for them, but it's worth the investment. Just be sure you're not getting some kid with an English degree who is cheap but doesn't know a thing about dealing with real world issues like market demand and how to work with writers. Experience matters. It really does. Quality is within your reach--the same freelance editor who may be working with you may also be freelancing with a publishing house as well. 
  6. You can sell books and make a living as an author. I'm so tired of hearing people whining that only big names can sell books and blah blah blah. That is not true. It's a lie perpetuated by the frustrated. I know many authors who are making money from their books. It's possible with a lot of hard work and perseverance. Tune out those whiney naysayers. 
  7. You can get a film deal. Producers are always scanning books for their next project. Whether they are on Goodreads or Amazon or iTunes--and they are avid readers thinking "next big thing." You never know when you could get your break. It's within reach. I know two people right now who have had their books optioned--legitimately. And guess what? Both are self-published authors.
  8. The writing lifestyle is worth a few sacrifices. FREEDOM! No, there is no steady paycheck and sometimes it may feel like you're flying by the seat of your pants, but if you wanted an ordinary life, you would never have chosen to be a writer. Risk is part of the job--and flexibility to live your life is the payoff. 
  9. You have all the power to succeed at your fingertips. In this digital age, you have the power to learn everything a publishing house knows and to become a marketing guru all on your own. It takes time on your part to learn these things, that's true, but there is no excuse not to become an expert when the knowlege is out there. I take a webclass a week on something new. It's amazing what's available and it usually only costs me 90 minutes of my time. There is no excuse to be uninformed or to feel powerless as a solopreneur. There are so many resources available--usually for free. 
  10. So many choices, and it's all up to you. As I mentioned earlier, publishing houses have fallen in the past few years and self-publishing has lost some of its stigma. Traditionally published authors are self-publishing now and authors who have been screwed over by some publishers have simply vowed "never again." More than that, though, there are more and more places that need writers. Big companies now have blogs and guess what? They need writers. Small businesses need websites--and they need writers. Supplement your books with writing anywhere and everywhere you can! The possibilities are endless. If you're set on being a "published" author rather than self-pubbed, for every big house that falls, a small one appears in its place. It's a dynamic and exciting time to be a writer--you simply need to be open to all the possibilities and realize that you hold the power to choose your path. Nothing can stop you except yourself.
  11. You're living your dream--and that takes some serious courage. Never discount the fact that you are a brave individual who had the discipline to write a full-length book--maybe multiple times--and put yourself on the world stage. That takes some balls! So many people like to say that they have an idea for a book or a blog or an article--but they fear rejection or public opinion too much to ever actually stand there in the spotlight. Writers are courageous. Sure, people love to tell you about their ideas or perhaps even try to diminish your accomplishments, but you need to stand firm in your courage--even if you are silent--and know that you are a warrior who dared step foot in the world arena, alone and vulnerable, there you stood. Fuck, yeah, you are amazing!
  12. Writers have a license to be weird. It comes with the territory. Once you are a published writer, it's socially acceptable to let your freak flag fly so go ahead and don't hold back. Celebrate your creativity every moment of every day. 
  13. There's nothing more satisfying than holding a paperback of your novel in your hands. This never gets old. Seeing your name on the spine of a book is immensely satisfying. You created that! Every word. Yours. Wow. That is very cool. And, if you're a freelance writer, the same thing can be said when you hold a magazine in your hands--a tangible thing with your name on the byline for the world to see--even if it is your thousandth article, it's always a rush. 
  14. Fans. Yeah, when I started getting fans on my author Facebook page, I hoped to hit 100. Then suddenly it was 1000, then 6000...and I started thinking, 'oh, my god, strangers are actually liking my author page'...which I understand is the point, but it was a surreal feeling. Now I have people from all over the world who email me and interact on my fan page and it is still like, 'this is so incredible!' It is incredible. Just think about it for a minute--all that work, all those hours spent alone with your story--then it's published which is already an awesome feeling, then eventually you have fans! When my first book published, I thought it would be cool if even 1 person read it, let alone thousands. Yeah, it's very cool to have fans. How many of your non-writer friends can say they have fans? 
  15. Speaking of fans, readers love authors. Why does that get its own bullet point? Because too many authors don't embrace things like book signings, email lists, newsletters, or readers' groups. Instead, they cling to writers' groups and put up walls between themselves and the public. Don't do that. Readers are a writer's best friend--be available, accessible, and authentic. Have fun! You're a writer! Embrace the perks of being one. 
 I understand that the publishing business is full of potholes on the road to success, but so what? What profession doesn't have some cons to it? You can either focus on the negative and find excuses to be miserable, or you can embrace all the goodness and celebrate the positives. It's your choice. All of it is. From the moment you sat down in a chair and decided to tackle that blank page to create your first story to this moment when you're reading this post, every step of the way has been under your command. Today I ask you to remember all the good things about being a writer and hope that these 15 reminders inspire to you do the most important thing of all...keep writing.

Write on!
Amber Lea Easton
http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com


Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of nonfiction, thrillers, and romantic suspense. A professional editor and freelance journalist for nearly two decades, she created Mountain Moxie Publishing Services to assist authors in mastering the writing craft. Her memoir, Free Fall, is dedicated to spreading suicide awareness, has topped international best selling charts, and has been named by Dr. Prem as fourth on the "Ten Most Inspiring True Stories Everyone Must Read" list. Easton is also a speaker regarding parenting through trauma and suicide awareness. To discover more about Mountain Moxie Publishing Services, please go to http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com. For a list of all of Easton's books, articles and interviews, go to http://www.amberleaeaston.com


Monday, April 25, 2016

Stop the NOISE #MondayMotivation #AmWriting

I'm in a decluttering mood. In the past few months, I've narrowed down my Facebook "networking" groups to just a few (3 to be exact), cut all non-personal connections from my personal Facebook page and encouraged them to connect with me via LinkedIn or on my author pages, and I've started enforcing office hours with an iron fist.

Why? I'm self-employed, aren't I supposed to be accessible at all times no matter what? NO!

Today I went through my email inbox and unsubscribed from all emails that aren't important to me. I love reading blog articles and sometimes I've needed to subscribe to finish reading the article; however, this has led to my email inbox being so cluttered that I miss clients' emails or authors who want to guest on one of my blogs. It's madness. If I haven't found an unsubscribe button, I've emailed directly and asked to please remove me from their email list.

I know we're all encouraged to build our email lists for marketing purposes, but some people take it too far with multiple emails a day or even multiple emails a week. Yes, I have multiple email accounts for business, author, and personal, but all of them have gotten out of hand. So, today I took the initiative to unsubscribe to all but a few that I actually seek out.

Your email inbox is valuable real estate as a soloprenuer. Take charge of it so you don't miss valuable messages that could be your next big deal! Seriously, I had to weed through it to find important messages from clients and that was the last straw. I pride myself on promptly getting back to people and don't want my reputation ruined because someone has yet another web class or blog post that I don't care about.

If you have a large email list, keep in mind that the recipients don't want to start feeling bombarded by you. Yes, those lists can be effective marketing tools, but if you are seen as pushy or 'spammy', you'll end up alienating your colleagues and prospective customers. Personally, I only email a newsletter once a month. This way, when people see something from me in their inbox, it's unusual and they're more likely to take notice than if they have seen my name five times a week.

Streamlining my contacts and social media has also helped me feel that I'm not wasting time. As a soloprenuer, focus is essential. I can't waste it wading through group messages that mean nothing to me, networking with people who really don't have a clue, or endless "do me this favor" emails that truly don't benefit my ultimate goals at all. Yes, I used the word "me" there a lot--and that's okay. This is my business and my productivity effects my bottom line. With every endeavour--every email list I subscribe to--I need to be conscious of whether this is propelling me forward or dragging me down.

Look at your business email inbox--is it filled with only the things that you need today to be effective? Is there useful information there that can help you in performing better? If not, unsubscribe. Now look at your social media, especially Facebook networking groups. Narrow it down to the top three and either quit or hide the rest so you can focus in on only those that lift you up and support you.  You will feel like a load is lifted once you take charge of the noise you allow into your space.

Write on!
Amber Lea Easton
http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com

Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of nonfiction, thrillers, and romantic suspense. A professional editor and freelance journalist for nearly two decades, she created Mountain Moxie Publishing Services to assist authors in mastering the writing craft. Her memoir, Free Fall, is dedicated to spreading suicide awareness, has topped international best selling charts, and has been named by Dr. Prem as fourth on the "Ten Most Inspiring True Stories Everyone Must Read" list. Easton is also a speaker regarding parenting through trauma and suicide awareness. To discover more about Mountain Moxie Publishing Services, please go to http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com. For a list of all of Easton's books, articles and interviews, go to http://www.amberleaeaston.com


Friday, April 15, 2016

Keep the Tension Tight #AmWriting



Have you ever watched a rocket launch with a lot of fire and gusto only to turn and plummet straight to the ground? After spending so much time revising the beginning of your book to propel the reader into a captivating world, the last thing you want to do is lose that momentum.

As my editing clients will testify, I spend a lot of time harping on passive voice, meaningless backstory, and the art of showing rather than telling. Why? The simple answer is that those things are boring and slow the pace. I equate them to lazy writing.

Let's face it—first drafts include a lot of lazy writing because our intention as writers is to tell the story, to rip it out of our hearts and bleed it onto the page all the way to the end no matter what. Fine.

That's the first step.

But do you maintain the tension after all has bled out? Or does some of it feel forced, as if you're just trying to get through this and that before reaching the 'good parts' again? It's okay if you have sections of this in your first draft, but not in the second or third or fourth. Readers will notice these sections and skim them, if not completely abandon the book. Have you ever read a book yourself and started skimming ahead? Those are the sections where the author dropped the tension.

Let's avoid doing that ourselves. We don't want our readers skimming over anything.

Tension does not mean having constant action throughout, which would become exhausting to both write and read. The art of maintaining tension involves making each scene, every word of dialogue, count. If it doesn't propel the plot forward, it isn't sustaining momentum. Period. It's that easy to determine.

Backstory

Oh, the flashbacks. Let's discuss these, please. Pages of backstory are not okay. If you're writing a suspense novel that is rich with action and suddenly your character is reminiscing over something from a decade ago—and it goes on for more than a few sentences—then you have completely taken your reader out of the moment. Bam! You've dumped cold water over their heads.

Introduce backstory through dialogue or in brief glimpses throughout the story, but not in huge chunks that go on for pages. You may feel that the flashbacks give the reader a glimpse into the character's past, which if fine, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.

Dialogue is the best way for a character to reveal their backstory. It is the most natural, especially if done in little glimpses during the story's development. Imagine having lunch with your character. He or she is sitting across from you right now. How is the conversation going? Is it one long speech or is there some give and take? Are they revealing a bit of themselves at a time, holding the deeper stuff inside until they get to know you better? Isn't that air of mystery appealing? Don't you want to keep the conversation going to learn more about this intriguing individual across from you?

As an author, that's how you want your readers to feel about your characters. They want to get to know them as they go, always wanting to know more than what you're giving them. The yearning for more will keep them turning the pages.

Another way to write effective backstory is to show snippets of flashbacks that the character may be struggling to hide from the other characters in your story—but this is also the most common mistake, depending on how it's handled by the author. Notice I used the word 'snippets' rather than pages.

He cringed at the sight of blood on her fingertip from the paper cut. Sounds of exploding bombs, screaming children, and machine gun fire overshadowed the present and transported him back to hell in the blink of an eye. He shook his head, forced himself to focus on the now, and held her hand beneath the flowing cold water. He watched the blood swirl down the drain, echoes of the past never far from the surface of his mind.

In the above example, we know this man has been in a warzone without having him actually go back in time for pages and without disrupting the scene.

Flashbacks can be a powerful tool in character development, but only when used with precision. Ask yourself what you are hoping to convey by implementing backstory. Character development is the correct answer---adding to your overall word count is the wrong one.

What if the backstory comes in the form of a dream, you ask? I have seen this utilized effectively, but even then brevity is why it worked. Keep it simple. Make sure it strengthens the storyline.

And if your editor tells you repeatedly that the backstory is boring and slows down the pace, then listen to him/her and rethink your strategy. Please.

Remember those skimmable scenes I mentioned earlier? You want to avoid those. If you feel those flashbacks are vital to your story, then find another, more creative way to express them either through dialogue or condensed into a few paragraphs.  

Have you ever watched a rocket launch with a lot of fire and gusto only to turn and plummet straight to the ground? After spending so much time revising the beginning of your book to propel the reader into a captivating world, the last thing you want to do is lose that momentum.


Showing versus telling

As an editor, I see this mistake happen a lot with writers who are also journalists or academics because they're accustomed to telling stories rather than transporting readers into another world. It's not a fault, per se, simply a different way of writing that works in journalism (or business or academia) but not with fiction or creative nonfiction.

Book readers want to feel the sun on their skin, taste the bitterness of the wine, see the sun reflecting on the water, experience the goosebumps shivering over their skin, and feel their heartbeats hammering inside their chests. Don't tell us we're scared—show us! Make us twist uncomfortably in our seats because we are experiencing the emotions and sensations of the character.

How do you the author do that? Eliminate passive voice where possible. Okay, what's passive voice, you ask? This is hard for some to recognize. A lot of people think if they simply search their document for the word 'was' they will identify it. Although this is somewhat true, I'm going to do my best to break it down.

Passive voice is identified in sentences where the target of the action is promoted to the subject. For example, "Jack is loved by Lisa." In this example Jack is the target of Lisa's love, but has been promoted to the subject. By simply switching it up to "Lisa loves Jack" the author is moving from passive to active. Lisa (subject) loves (verb) Jack (target of the love). One clue that will always identify a passive sentence is when the subject isn't taking any direct action.

I need to state that passive voice sentences aren't incorrect, but they usually aren't the best way to convey your thoughts. They can read as vague or awkward, becoming stumbling blocks in the reader's mind. Active sentences are tight, to the point, and drive the pace.

There are exceptions, of course, especially when writing a sentence where the subject is unknown (perhaps in a mystery novel) where you'd write, "the diamonds were stolen." In that case, the emphasis is on what is stolen (diamonds) because no one knows who stole them. However, as the author, it is necessary to know when it works and when it doesn't. Knowing how to identify both passive and telling is the first step in being able to judge if it's working for your story.

More examples:
The murder weapon was held by Jane. (passive)
Jane held the murder weapon. (active)

Ricky felt scared by the shadow in the hallway. (telling)
Ricky pressed against the wall, paralyzed and unable to breathe let alone scream as the shadow figure approached from the end of the hallway. (showing)

These examples are simplistic and somewhat exaggerated to show you the difference between the two. Both are easy to fix by forcing yourself as the author to step it up a notch. Rearrange the subjects of sentences so that they are doing the action to eliminate passive voice. Describe feelings and descriptions in a way that transports the reader into the mind and heart of your characters to avoid telling.

Backloading paragraphs

What?! Don't worry if you haven't heard of this literary device, but if you have, then you are a step ahead of the crowd already. I applaud you. For the rest, let's continue.

Backloading a sentence or paragraph with a power word is a subtle but powerful technique that gives your work that extra punch. Glance up the page. Notice the ending words on my paragraphs. Perhaps go back a few pages. Here's what I see:

Action
Pace
Story
Telling
See
Tension

A glance up the page of any well-written fiction or nonfiction book will show backloaded sentences. In essence, these are words that solidify meaning. They are strong nouns rather than weak adverbs or—gasp—prepositions. With fiction, it's doubly important to backload paragraphs for a powerful punch that maintains tension.

Readers subconsciously pick up on this technique and, when power words are used at the end of paragraphs and sentences, they absorb that energy. This is what elevates your writing to another level—to that page-turning-can't-get-enough-don't-let-it-stop category.

Again, for such an effective writing tool, it's easy to apply. Simply glance at your manuscript, look at the pages, and see how the ends of your paragraphs look. Then pick up one of your favorite author's books and glance up the pages. The more successful the author, the more you'll see that they've backloaded their paragraphs.

Weak writing will display weak words at the end of paragraphs—adverbs or prepositions, for example. Don't be weak.

Elevate your writing to another level—to that page-turning-can't-get-enough-don't-let-it-stop category.
Action steps for your manuscript—time to put the editor hat on again and be objective:

·      Analyze your manuscript for backstory. If you have it, ask yourself if it is necessary. If it is, how have you handled it? Is it concise? Does it stop the flow of the story? If it is more than a few paragraphs and you still feel it is vital, have you started the story in the right place?
·      Where can you amp up the story to eliminate telling and show the reader exactly what you want them to see or experience? Use descriptive words and nonverbal reactions to transport your reader into the world you've created.
·      Identify passive voice and change to active where possible.
·      Glance through every page of your manuscript and check for weak endings of paragraphs. Trust me, this really makes a difference in establishing and maintaining tension. Once you start to see it, you'll be amazed at the difference a word makes.

Write on!
Amber Lea Easton

 
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of nonfiction, thrillers, and romantic suspense. A professional editor and freelance journalist for nearly two decades, she created Mountain Moxie Publishing Services to assist authors in mastering the writing craft. Her memoir, Free Fall, is dedicated to spreading suicide awareness, has topped international best selling charts, and has been named by Dr. Prem as fourth on the "Ten Most Inspiring True Stories Everyone Must Read" list. Easton is also a speaker regarding parenting through trauma and suicide awareness. To discover more about Mountain Moxie Publishing Services, please go to http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com. For a list of all of Easton's books, articles and interviews, go to http://www.amberleaeaston.com


Monday, April 11, 2016

Who's Really Behind the Screen? Question Authority #AmWriting #Motivation

Writer Beware: That person pretending to be a guru 
in your on-line writers' group 
could be a wanna-be with a lot of false bravado.
Just like on-line dating, you need to beware of on-line writers' groups where people can easily hide behind a fake name and false credentials while doling out advice that sounds credible as they lead you down the wrong path. Worse than that, they might be ripping off your ideas.

I hate to sound like a cynic. It goes against my nature. Because of my instinct to trust first and question later, I've been burned. I'm not sure what it is about a writers' group that breaks down barriers quicker than a dating site would (for me anyway), but my normal boundaries became blurred under the guise of professional sharing and peer-group support in an isolating profession.

I believed people who sounded like pros only to learn later that they either hadn't published yet or had less experience in the business than I did. Oh, but they knew the schpeel. They knew the right words to say, the tone to set, the intimidation to apply to anyone who questioned their "authority." Because they say all the right things and appear to be in charge, people who join the group look to them as leaders without doing due diligence regarding qualifications. In a world where pen names are common and where you're dealing with professional storytellers, pretenders thrive.

If you're a member of a writers' group, keep in mind that you're representing yourself as a professional even if you're sitting at home bare-assed naked. Don't let your guard down. Be smart. 

That's the difference between a face-to-face writers' group and an on-line one. When meeting people face-to-face, usually at a networking meeting or local writers' gathering, it's natural for people to share their accomplishments and credentials. It's part of the game. However, online, such things are seen as self-promotion and are usually forbidden in the group rules or shut down immediately. We may click on their profile picture and read the "about" section where they can write whatever they want, but it's much easier to lie online than face-to-face. Why? Because face-to-face has body language, local accountability (my friend may know you or I may be your neighbor), eye contact, and a degree of personalization that an online cannot provide.

Sure, there are wannabes at the local face-to-face groups as well. I met a man I now call Scary Kerry at one. He presented himself as an award-winning screenwriter, a PR exec, and a PHd student---well, his screenplay did win an award in a small town in the middle of nowhere and his PR experience consisted of working concessions at the baseball stadium. So, yes, frauds are everywhere, but Scary Kerry was easily discovered because people who knew people talk and word spreads. His demeanor was off, he'd get shifty when asked direct questions--all things that are much more noticeable in person than when someone has time to construct a written response. Online groups are much harder to crack.

So what do you do? You work alone, spend all day in front of the computer, and long to connect to a peer group. Online is easy. My advice is to take everything with a grain of salt and not believe the loudest person in the group or the administrator or the one with the fanciest cover or even the one who seems the nicest--be a professional. Treat the online group as a collection of colleagues and keep your professional face on. If someone appears to know it all, check them out. It's easy to do if they are as accomplished as they claim. Check LinkedIn or Google, ask people you trust if they've heard of the person. I recommend those tactics because you can't believe everything you see on Goodreads or Amazon--anyone can slap up a page there, self-pub a book or two, swap reviews with a bunch of other shady authors--which happens all the time--and claim to be a bestseller because they cheated the system with a "box set" or "anthology". Unfortunately, I'm not being a cynic by saying that. Experience has taught me to be cautious.

In a world where pen names are common and where you're dealing with professional storytellers, pretenders thrive.

I was a wide-eyed optimist when I first entered the publishing world. I leaped at the chance to join writers' groups and soaked up as much as I could. But then I noticed that a lot of the leaders bullied anyone who had a difference of opinion or who questioned their credentials. Storylines of my published books were copied, and, when confronted, the thieves claimed things like "imitation is the highest form of flattery" and "yes, your work inspired me, I'm a fan, consider this fan fic."

I don't online date because I've always thought, "anyone can appear to be anyone on those sites" yet I readily accepted the credibility of leaders and members of online writers' groups. My bad! I admit my mistake. So, if you're a member of a writers' group, keep in mind that you're representing yourself as a professional even if you're sitting at home bare-assed naked. Don't let your guard down. Be smart. Make sure the person lecturing you actually knows what they're talking about and isn't thumb-typing from the pretzel stand at the local baseball stadium. (Yes, Scary Kerry, I mean you!)

Write on!
Amber Lea Easton
http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com
(I'm on LinkedIn, too...just in case you were wondering.)

Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of nonfiction, thrillers, and romantic suspense. A professional editor and freelance journalist for nearly two decades, she created Mountain Moxie Publishing Services to assist authors in mastering the writing craft. Her memoir, Free Fall, is dedicated to spreading suicide awareness, has topped international best selling charts, and has been named by Dr. Prem as fourth on the "Ten Most Inspiring True Stories Everyone Must Read" list. Easton is also a speaker regarding parenting through trauma and suicide awareness. To discover more about Mountain Moxie Publishing Services, please go to http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com. For a list of all of Easton's books, articles and interviews, go to http://www.amberleaeaston.com


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