Ups and Downs of the Writing Life

Quote from Sandra Brown
Quote from Sandra Brown

When we sit down the first time with either pen and paper or in front of a computer, we’re not fully aware of what the beckoning calls of the writing life hold for us. And if we haven’t availed ourselves of the vast published books on writing, we need to do so.
The ideas were fermenting in my heart and mind long before I ever set one word down. I knew I had a story to tell, and I wanted to tell it. I made several assumptions about writing a memoir:

  • I knew the story inside and out. How hard could it be to write it down?
  • The characters were real, living and breathing human beings, my family. How difficult could they be about my writing this story?
  • Little or no research would be needed making it a faster process. HA!
  • I loved writing, but everything I had written had been a short essay or some project at the office. I knew nothing about writing a book.
  • And I could give you a longer list, but I don’t want to bore you.

Here I am nearing completion of a manuscript. I’m thinking about titles, beta readers, editors, marketing, publishing. I have many questions tossing and turning in my head:

  • Is my platform strong enough?
  • Traditional vs. self-publishing?
  • Digital only or digital and print?
  • Have I made any egregious errors in my story?
  • Will I be sued by an irate relative?

And yes, there are more. [tweetthis]Bottom line is the writing life is a sacrificial existence requiring hard work.[/tweetthis] Without the support of an online writing community and my encouraging and Head Cheerleader, Husband Bob, I wouldn’t have made it this far.

Last week I asked you to take part in a short survey about title options. You responded, and soon I will share the results with you in a larger and more detailed fashion.

Via Google Images
Via Google Images

As a result of the survey results, I face one of those up and down rides of the writing life. You see I thought I had the title I wanted, and then many of you responded with such great comments about another of the three possibilities, I am now confronted with a decision about my memoir’s title.

The strongest showing turned out to be a title I had not anticipated at all. As I think about this twist, I now perceive another way to present my story but it means some rewriting. It means a rearranging of some timing issues and placement of sections of the story.

Do I take the time to do this to make sure I have an engaging title which will attract more readers?

Do I go with the title I’ve had in mind for years now and have written around and chance losing some marketplace splash?

Do I assume that those of you who wrote such clever responses to my questions are experts on title choice?

More questions to add to those in my first list above. What’s a girl–er, writer to do?

Faced with a potential change from your original working title, what would you do if you thought it changed the structure of your story and how it reads from beginning to end? Inquiring minds, or at least this one, want to know.

Choosing the Title for Your Memoir

Many of you have been through this process, and you have traversed it with great success. For those of us who are first-timers, the journey to a title is a bit more cumbersome.

Via Pixabay.com
Via Pixabay.com

How do you decide from all the ideas?

Everyone seems to have a suggestion, but do they fit? Unlikely at best.

Do you flip a coin? Heads or tail? This never worked for me.

Ask your followers online? They support and encourage you. Perhaps this is the best place to start.

I have a list of three potential titles for my memoir. Now I’m down to this short list that started with several more. The only advice I’ve sought until now has been from my husband and a couple of avid reading friends.

Now I want your input! Here’s a short, very short survey asking your opinion. If you receive my newsletter, you may have already taken it. Forgive the duplication. If you don’t receive my newsletter, here’s your opportunity to weigh in:

Survey no longer available.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post and take the survey. If you have any card tricks or suggestions for finding the right title for a book, please let us all know by leaving comments below.

9 Tips Learned in Marketing Workshop

Via Pixabay
Via Pixabay

As I draw nearer the point at which I hope to have my manuscript in the hands of editors and beta readers, the more nervous I get about various topics: publishing, marketing, sales, book reviews, and the list goes on.

A few weeks ago, to stem the tide of nervousness, I attended a two-hour marketing workshop presented by PDX Writers, a local organization committed to helping writers do their best. The guest speaker was John Sibley Williams, a local writer and literary agent, with years of experience in both areas.

Did it help?

Well, the most important thing I learned is that two hours is too little time to cover all you need to know about marketing and selling your book.

I left the workshop feeling overwhelmed, underequipped, bombarded, discouraged, ready to toss my draft manuscript in the circular file and never look back. Did I mention I also had a headache?

I am not blaming PDX Writers or Mr. Williams for my emotional response to their presentation. It is obvious the hands on the clock moved too quickly.

Despite my spewing above, I did come away with some helpful tips and handouts, not to mention good contacts made:

  • Have a good business plan and strategy;
  • Prepare a budget and maintain a budgetary spreadsheet;
  • Create realistic marketing and branding strategy;
  • Consider methods for earning direct income;
  • Have active presence on social media, including your blog and/or website;
  • Develop local network with libraries and bookstores
  • Gain exposure by a variety of methods (that’s another post!);
  • Think of and incorporate means of saving money;
  • Learn all you can about query letters, self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, agents, editors, press releases, etc.

Like I said, a large amount of material was attempted in this workshop.

However, I now have a conceptual view of what life will be like depending on a number of decisions I need to make about my book in coming weeks and/or months.

If you have published a book, what one thing would you recommend a writer to make his/her priority as they reach the point of finalizing a manuscript? What one thing would you do differently? Please help out by adding your comments below.

Return from Lenten Leave from Social Media and a Visit from a Social Media Guru

Google Images via treecommunicacion
Google Images via treecommunicacion

On February 16th I announced my intention to honor the Lenten Season by stepping away from social media. I began my “leave-taking” on February 18th. I returned last week having been away for a total of seven weeks. Here’s what I can share with you:

  • I do not regret one minute away from social media.
  • I breathed easier, wrote more, spent more time with my family, and found rich blessings in everything I saw and heard.
  • I missed my social media connections, and I found myself thinking about taking a “peek.”
  • I enjoyed a few days writing in unbroken time and solitude at the Willamette Writers Writing House; more about this in a future post.
  • I delved into books dealing with the legal aspects of the writer’s life, the intricacies of grant and fellowship application writing, traveled the writing journey of William Least Heat Moon in his new book, Writing BLUE HIGHWAYS: The Story of How a Book Happened, and finally read Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.
  • Together, Bob and I focused on the Lenten message in our morning devotionals.
  • Bottom line, I relaxed a lot.
Frances Caballo
Frances Caballo

And then one day I stepped outside my usual box called “Comfort Zone” and emailed my friend (and probably yours too), Frances Caballo, the mastermind behind Social Media Just for Writers. My email had one purpose behind it. Ask Frances to help me!

I have always stumbled along creating my blog, creating accounts on several social media sites, attempting to understand what I’m doing on each of those sites, and questioning if my blog was as user-friendly as possible. One of Frances’s many talents and services is analyzing social media profiles and pages and providing you with a written assessment and the next steps you should take. I knew I needed Frances to work with me to improve.

Frances looked at each of my social media accounts and my website, within several days provided me a typewritten assessment with suggestions about social media and my site. Her tips were outlined with clarity and the benefit of technological experience I don’t have. I am a happy social media camper and blogger now. Because of Frances, I’m moving through my postings to each account with ease, scheduling using HootSuite and Buffer, and I’ve updated my blog. Here’s a testimonial from me on Frances’s site.

And now here’s a word from Frances:

I can take a more in-depth look at your social media. For $297, I will examine your social media profiles and pages closely and write an assessment and next steps for you to take.

Your audit will include a complete review of:

  • Your Facebook page posts and About Section
  • Keyword placement on your LinkedIn profile and a general review
  • Analysis of your tweets and tips to improve engagement
  • Suggestions on how you can get more out of Google+
  • A review of your Pinterest account with suggestions for new boards
  • A review of your website and blog with ideas for improving them

Perhaps you already have someone like Frances working with you on these issues. However, I am so pleased with the work Frances did I could not help giving her a shout out on my blog.