Last Thursday was a bad writingday. After lunch, I threw my hands in the air and suppressed a scream. I knew where the story needed to go, but I wasn’t sure how to get there. I had several scenes to write before my next “sure” scene. Everything inside me wanted to open a browser and get lost in Pinterest or Facebook or my Twitter feed, but that’s a no-no during my writing time.
I sat there. My eyes glazed over looking at the blinking cursor.
I will NOT have a soggy middle. I’m not going to write something boring just to meet my word count goal.
Soggy middles…I shuddered.
What could I do to tease the reader to continue reading?
What story questions remained unanswered?
I swiped a piece of scrap paper and jotted down all the story threads I hadn’t wrapped up at that point in the manuscript. There were a LOT of loose ends, but I couldn’t tie them up yet or the end of the book would be ruined.
So I popped a butterscotch candy in my mouth and thought for a while.
Real life is messy. We don’t always get neat answers tied up in a bow. Instead we make impressions based on information we gather. Why shouldn’t it be the same for my characters?
I quickly brainstormed ways to provide the characters with answers that weren’t necessarily true. Two scenes jumped in my head to introduce misinformation to one character while conflicting information was presented to the other one.
Not only were the scenes fun to write, they make the book more fun for readers. They know two different answers exist for the same story question, and they can come to their own conclusion. This teases them to keep reading…to find out if they were right.
If you’re slogging through the middle of a story and not sure how to get from one major plot point to another, think about the story questions you’ve introduced.
Can you make the characters think they have a problem figured out while giving the reader clues the characters are wrong?
If you answer one story question, can you introduce another immediately?
If you’re not ready to answer a story question, can you lead the characters to believe they’re close to having the problem solved even if they aren’t?
How do you tease readers to continue your book? And how do you combat the dreaded soggy middle? I’d love to hear your strategies!
Last weekend I was blessed to speak at Maumee Valley Romance Writers, Inc. Every January we have our annual goals discussion. The first half of my talk was about basic goal-setting: taking time to think about professional, health, emotional and personal goals for the year and deciding how and when to achieve them.
We had a frank discussion, and I was thrilled to learn we had writers ranging in all four tendencies. I was surprised to learn some of the solutions I thought would work for one type clearly wouldn’t. And I loved hearing these writers share what would workfor them.
If you’re not familiar with Gretchen Rubin’s new book The Four Tendencies, you can read about it HERE. Basically, Ms. Rubin studies human nature (she’s the author of several New York Times best-selling books, including The Happiness Project), and she divides people into four groups according to how they respond to expectations.
Upholders meet inner and outer expectations readily.
Questioners meet inner expectations easier than they do outer ones.
Obligers meet outer expectations more readily than inner ones.
Rebels struggle against both inner and outer expectations.
In other words, Upholders tend to get things done that are important to them personally as well as what others expect them to do.
Questioners tend to get things done that make sense to them. If someone expects them to do something they don’t agree with or see the value in, it won’t get done.
Obligers tend to get things done when someone is depending on them. They find it difficult to meet personal goals.
Rebels want to do things in their way and in their time. Standard advice for meeting goals does not work for this tendency!
*If you’re not sure what tendency you fit in, take the QUIZ (linked). It’s short and sweet.*
Here’s what I loved about having this discussion with fellow writers.
Upholders are planner geeks, and we (yes, I’m an Upholder!) love time management tools. We can be rigid and too-rule-follow-y, but we get things done and that’s good. Setting daily/weekly/monthly writing goals works for Upholders.
Questioners who struggle to meet their writing goals need to keep asking questions about the goal until an answer clicks in that makes sense to them. For example: I’m going to write for one hour every weekday morning before work. You might then ask, why the morning? and you’d remember your nighttime routine is exhausting. But what if I wrote right after dinner? But you already decided to walk on the treadmill at that time. Face it, my creative energy is gone by 8pm.
At that point, you see the value in dedicating an hour in the morning. But you might have to keep questioning why writing every weekday is important until you get to your gold.
Obligers don’t want to let people down. If you fall into this category, you might put off writing until a hard deadline looms. Sure, you know you need to write or you’ll struggle to finish the book, but you struggle to feel the urgency. In this case, an accountability partner or group can make a difference. If you decide to physically meet someone at the library or a coffee shop to write for two hours, you’re much more likely to actually write at that time then if you marked those hours on your calendar to write at home.
As far as the Rebels out there, I urge you to throw out all the “expert” advice about planning and goal setting and do your own thing. Experiment. Get creative. And keep trying new methods of getting and keeping your butt in the chair until you find what works!
I’d love to hear how you find success in meeting your writing goals! Please leave a comment!
One of the essentials of an author platform is establishing a mailing list. The easiest way to do this is to sign up with one of the numerous newsletter providers.
I confess I resisted starting a newsletter list for a long time.
When I was an aspiring writer:
I felt I had little to offer. Why would anyone want my newsletter?
There were so many newsletter providers to choose from. How would I know which one to pick?
I feared the entire process would be time consuming and nerve wracking.
I was wrong.
With so many great providers to choose from, there’s no reason not to start building an email list today–no matter how far along you are on your publishing path. Most newsletter services offer free, limited accounts. They also have easy-to-use templates, scheduling options, sign-up widgets for your website, ways to import or export subscriber lists, and segmenting capabilities.
I recommend looking ahead before signing up with a provider. Hopefully, at some point, you’ll have enough subscribers to move out of the free account. That’s why it’s important to research the costs involved when you’re just starting out.
Be aware that most providers fall into one of two camps.
They charge you based on your subscriber list and allow unlimited emails.
They charge you based on how many emails you send per month.
If you only send newsletters once or twice a year, you’re probably better off paying per email.
I’m writing a first draft. I’m not a fast drafter, and I’m not a revise-as-you-go writer either. I’m somewhere in between.
There are days when I have to glue myself to the chair in order to achieve my word count goal. I should have invested in superglue this week. Yikes. The first fifty pages are slow and torturous for me.
Each writing session starts with a review of the previous scene. Weaknesses glare at me. I tidy up the details before writing a new scene.
Here are the weaknesses I’m fighting in this book:
I could write this post today with no changes. These are still my essentials for author websites.
Here is a snippet:
Often I’ll see writers commenting on blogs, and I’ll click through their profile to check out their blog/website, leave a comment, or e-mail them. I add them to my social networks too.
That’s why I’m surprised when I see very basic “musts” (in my humble opinion, at least) overlooked. You’d be shocked at how many writers don’t include an e-mail address anywhere on their site. Agents and editors DO occasionally contact authors from websites. I contact writers from their websites. No e-mail? Missed opportunity. With the countless free e-mail services out there, I don’t understand why a writer would omit this.
What about failing to engage readers? I’ve wanted to respond to blogs where comments were either turned off or only allowed by team members. Again, this doesn’t make sense to me. If you want readers to connect with you, you have to provide them ways to do this.
Another problem? No spelled out reason for me to be on the site. If you’re a writer and you’re trying to build a platform, you need to be bold and tell everyone you’re a writer and what you write. Don’t make them guess!
January 2018 goals! Welcome to another year. Sure, 2018 is already ten days in, but it’s still pretty fresh. I’ve been using my new planner for over a week, and I love it. I decided to try the Day Designer this year. It really works with the way my brain is wired.
Here’s a peek at the monthly and weekly layouts.
It has a pretty cover, too!
I also use Microsoft OneNote to keep track of social media stats (important for author platform) and setting monthly goals. I thought I’d share my goals with you on the first Wednesday of each month, and feel free to share yours in the comments.
Jill’s January 2018 Goals:
Finish revising and polishing third book in Wyoming Cowboys series. Submit as soon as finished.
After manuscript is turned in, dedicate time each weekday on side project.
After manuscript is turned in, continue writing work-in-progress novel.
Continue health plan (exercise for 30 minutes 4-5 days per week, log calories in MyFitnessPal and stay within calorie range).
After I set my monthly goal, I take time to figure out how I can actually accomplish it.
Last Sunday I looked ahead and decided how I would finish revising and polishing book 3 in Wyoming Cowboys to turn it in on Friday, January 12.
This coming Sunday, I will figure out what time block to dedicate to my side project (it will be roughly one hour per day) and how many words I can write on the work-in-progress novel.
My daily word count goals depend on several factors. What other obligations do I have that week? Do I have any other deadlines or editor requests that take priority?
As far as my health goals, every day I log my calories, so no planning is needed there. However, I decide in advance what my exercise plan will be for the week and when I will do it. For instance, Tuesday and Thursday I have a Biggest Loser Boot Camp DVD planned for 8:30 am. Wednesday and Friday I have a yoga DVD planned for 9 am. It works for me.
I also plan coffee or breakfast dates with local friends in between my busiest times. Face time with people I care about is vital to my well-being.
Okay, I’ve shared my goals. What do YOU want to accomplish in January?
Welcome to Day 2 of the 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway!
Ten authors of Christian fiction joined together to shower twelve winners with gifts. In true twelve days of Christmas style, the prizes accumulate as time progresses. Yesterday, Liz Johnson kicked things off by giving a copy of her new release, Christmas Captive. I’m a huge fan of Liz’s Love Inspired Suspense novels–and every winner gets a copy! From today on, every winner will also receive a copy of my latest Love Inspired, The Rancher’s Mistletoe Bride! It’s the first book in my new Wyoming Cowboys series. Yay!
The prizes are building, and each day a different author will share the day’s prizes, so keep stopping back! The entry is below–super easy options!
Enter in the Rafflecopter giveaway below by following some of your favorite authors on social media and signing up for their newsletters. We draw a new winner every day, and on December 12th, we’ll give away a Kindle Fire HD 8.
I’m so pleased to have author Barbara M. Britton as my guest today! Barbara writes Christian fiction, and her new book Jerusalem Rising: Adah’s Journeyreleases December 1! More information is below. 🙂
How a Tech-Challenged Author Navigates a 21st Century Marketing World
I’ll be honest. Technology scares me. I grew up with carbon paper and copy machines. My typing skills are hunting and pecking on steroids. Woe to the registrar who put me in freshman biology instead of typing class. Who knew I would someday be an author in the world of social media. How do I get the word out about my books? I work within my comfort zone and rely on friends to help me with the rest.
Remember the world I grew up in? We had phones, but we didn’t have texting or instant messaging. I love to talk on the phone. I use that to my advantage. I call reference librarians in my area and tell them about my books. If the library is nearby, I show up—in person. A local author in the flesh. As a youngster, I went door-to-door selling Campfire Girl mints. If I could talk to strangers when I was ten, I can do it now.
With my limited graphic design skills, I create a simple information sheet about my book. This sheet includes my cover art, blurb, ISBN, distribution channels, publisher information, and a short bio about me. This sheet is something I can e-mail to a librarian or book store. I also carry them into places of interest. My sheet isn’t the fanciest, but it relays the necessary information about my book.
When I need swag (bookmarks, postcards) or advertisements, I hire my friends to create the designs. Some even do the printing. Does this take money? Yes, it does. I tell aspiring authors who have limited tech skills like me, to save those tax refund checks, or scrimp away funds for the day you will need some help. I wish I had the ability to change advertisement dimensions or place graphics and text on small bookmarks, but I don’t. The money I spend for awesome-looking graphics, saves me a technology meltdown.
Remember those Campfire mints I sold? My mom would wrap boxes for Valentine’s Day and take me to the BART station. We would sell chocolate to forgetful husbands. Did this increase sales? You bet. Today, I show up where booksellers and readers are waiting to hear about books. I find out about local book festivals or library conferences and reach out to see if I can show up and teach a workshop or talk about the publishing industry. We can call this skin-on marketing. Building relationships with people who love books is setting a foundation for future interactions—and possibly future sales.
I still engage in social media marketing, but I do the ones that I enjoy, and the ones that I have time to manage. After all, writing my next book is a priority. Staring at a computer screen, no matter how full of pretty pictures it is, eats away at my writing time.
Use the strengths God has given you to promote your stories. May you enjoy your writing journey and make new friends as you launch your books into this high-tech world.
Barbara M. Britton was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, but currently lives in Southeast Wisconsin and loves the snow—when it accumulates under three inches. Barb writes romantic adventures for teens and adults in the Christian fiction and Mainstream markets. She is published in Biblical fiction and enjoys bringing little known Bible characters to light in her stories. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Romance Writers of America and Wisconsin Romance Writers of America. Barb has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate.
Jerusalem Rising: Adah’s Journey
When Adah bat Shallum finds the governor of Judah weeping over the crumbling wall of Jerusalem, she learns the reason for Nehemiah’s unexpected visit—God has called him to rebuild the wall around the City of David.
Nehemiah challenges the men of Jerusalem to labor on the wall and in return, the names of their fathers will be written in the annals for future generations to cherish. But Adah has one sister and no brothers. Should her father who rules a half-district of Jerusalem be forgotten forever?
Adah bravely vows to rebuild her city’s wall, though she soon discovers that Jerusalem not only has enemies outside of the city, but also within. Can Adah, her sister, and the men they love, honor God’s call? Or will their mission be crushed by the same rocks they hope to raise.
Purchase Jerusalem Rising: Adah’s Journey now! Click HERE
Check out the trailer for The Tribes of Israel series–wow!
Do you consider yourself tech-challenged? What is your best marketing tip?
Have a terrific weekend!!
Reminder: I’ll Be Home for Christmas, the bestselling, four-novella collection of inspirational romance I contributed to, is only 99 cents! Click HERE to buy it!
I skipped blogging last week because I was pushing hard to finish the first draft of a new book. On Monday, I typed The End, and it felt so good! I’ve been running errands and doing laundry ever since. 🙂
Thanksgiving week is always busy here. This morning I’ll sip my coffee with a splash of Cinnamon Vanilla Creamer to make it special. Then I’ll get my tush in gear. Well, maybe I’ll have an extra cup of coffee… It IS a holiday week, after all.
I’ve been watching the original Hallmark Christmas movies lately. So far my favorite is Miss Christmas. Such a heartwarming story, and I thought the actress was adorable. I can’t wait to keep watching the other ones on my DVR.
Do you love Hallmark Christmas movies? Are you looking for heartwarming romantic stories to get you in the Christmas mood? If you answered yes to either of those questions, I have great news! Four multi-published authors of Love Inspired romance novels (including yours truly!) teamed up for the inspirational novella collection, I’ll Be Home for Christmas. You get four Christmas stories for one low price! Only $0.99!
Four best-selling authors of Christian romance bring you heartwarming stories filled with holiday cheer and romance under the mistletoe. Featuring A Hope Valley Christmas by Belle Calhoune, Sugarplums and Second Chances by Jill Kemerer, A Brilliant Christmasby Allie Pleiter and Seashell Santa by Lenora Worth.
For those of you who’ve read my novel, Hometown Hero’s Redemption (linked if you’re interested), you’ll be happy to know Sugarplums and Second Chancesfeatures Chase McGill, Wyatt’s father, and is set in fictional Lake Endwell, Michigan.
Sugarplums and Second Chances
Former NFL star, Chase McGill, invites his teammate’s widow, Courtney Trudesta, to spend Christmas in his guest cottage after her mother dies. Courtney faithfully wrote him letters every week while he was in prison for attempting to avenge the murder of the mother of his son, Wyatt. Chase wants to be there for Courtney the way she was for him. But there’s more to Christmas than sugarplums and wishful thinking. If they trust God’s plan, they’ll have a second chance at happiness…with each other.
This novella collection is available on Amazon for a limited time. It’s only offered as an ebook. If you do not have a Kindle and would like to purchase it, simply download the FREE Kindle App to your smartphone, iPad, tablet or Nook. Easy!