Monday, June 27, 2011

How to Sell It

     As many of you know, I am always reading to improve my writing. Writing is my passion, but I want to convey my material in the best way possible. Whether I am writing an on-line article, a blog, or fictional novel. The internet is a great free and easy source to continue improving and learning.
     But there has been this prevelant message spreading throughout the on-line community that has been very disheartening. The message is to manipulate your content for best re-sale. Whether focusing on SEO as a blogger, writing generic articles that will appeal to the masses, or finding the fictional story that will become the next Twilight or Harry Potter; the message that I am seeing over and over is that we are to write with the mind of selling.

      How does that mindset and attitude produce good content? If I am writing about what people want or need because they want or need it, not because it matters to me; how will my work be any good? I suppose it is possible to do this. But it feels very... wrong.

     These promos make me feel less like a creative individual and more like an ad salesman. I have a degree that would let me do ad content. If I wanted to do ad content, I wouldn't be here. I have always believed that writers should write what they love and what they care about and that passion will bleed through to the readers. I have never believed that writers should shape their content to what they think will sell best. But with all these articles telling people to do just that, I was beginning to lose heart.

     Then I read The Writer's Manifesto By Jeff Goins and my faith in the writing community has been renewed. If you want to be a writer then you need to read this book. Whether you want to write on-line articles, blogging, or any form of creative writing; this book is meant for anyone who plans to write for others to read. Jeff is giving a free copy of this e-book on his blog when you join his e-newsletter (also free.) And I highly suggest that you do! It's a small e-book and a quick and easy read, but it is powerful and inspiring. When I am doing my research and start to feel a little down from all the sell, sell, sell content; I pull this little manifesto out to bolster my writing spirit.

    The message this week is that you as a writer have to stand for something. Don't follow the "money" as they say. Follow your passion and your heart. If you write about what you know and love, the people who are interested in those same topics will appreciate your content more. Sure, you may not become the next Twilight, but then again... you just might. Some of the best writers out there don't write to sell. They write for their passion and that passion is what sells.

     Keep these thoughts in mind as you pursue your writing dream. Rick Riordon, Author of the Percy Jackson Series, wrote the books as bedtime stories for his children. Now thousands read them to their children at bedtime. Stephanie Myer created the Twilight series from a dream she had. JK Rowlings was a teacher who wrote Harry Potter on the side because she had a story she loved and cared about.

      Not one of them said to themselves... "What will sell?"

So, tell me what inspires you to write? Leave it in the comments section.

Thanks for reading and hope you have an inspired day!!


Monday, June 20, 2011

Erasing a Stigma

People think of writers as free spirits who get struck by a Muse and are consumed with writing to the neglect of all else. And conversely who, when not struck by the Muse, don't work for days and weeks at a time. I have always found this perception a little offensive. I'm not sure where people got it in their heads that writers were this way. Perhaps because most people "can't make a real living writing". Many writers have believed this myth and so they only work on writing in their free time.

Or perhaps it is because there are so many people who fancy themselves writers because they clacked away at the computer for a few days and created an alternate reality based on something they saw on Star Trek. Yes, writing is a funny game, because unlike say... a doctor, anyone can say they are a writer. There are no credentials required for people to believe you.

And so any person with even a remote sense of interest in story telling becomes a "writer" and all those people who have no aspiration beyond the idea of being famous get lumped in with those of us who are serious about writing. And unfortunately those who want to be famous tend to get a little more attention than us studious types who are too busy working on our next project to brag about being a writer.

But it is time that those of us who are serious writers stand up and let people know who we are. We are committed to our work as much as any part-time job. We devote time and energy, not just sit and twiddle our thumbs for a little free time. We need to produce good content, not re-hashed predictable stories and we need to treat what we do with pride, not hide it in a closet.

We need to show the world that writers are very serious people and that we work just as hard, if not harder than other people in "real" jobs. I took the leap almost a year ago to work from home. It has been a tumultuous journey. I have a spoon in a half dozen different pots and I work an average of fifty hours a week on writing, editing, crafting and marketing my work. I have pushed myself far beyond any "real" job I have ever had and I have made some amazing progress. I am proud to call myself a writer. I can point to articles I have published and I can say "Look writers do work hard!"

So if you work hard honing and crafting your skill. If you are proud to be a writer and can help change that stigma about writers, tell someone this week. Someone from your church, someone that you are just casual friends with, someone you barely know. Show them that writers do work hard and that we are professionals. Help erase the stigma!

Share here in our comments section and let people know what you are doing that makes you a writer!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Keeping the Creative Juices Flowing

     Many writers are not full-time writers. They have "real" jobs (you know, the ones that pay consistently) and follow their passion on the side. Until recently I was in the very same boat. One of the major complaints for these on-the-side writers is that it is hard to maintain a writing schedule. Sometimes you are in-between projects and  just take a break... and four months later realize that you have not written anything creative. Creativity is sort of like riding a bike; and for those of you who haven't done that in a while, go try it. It is not as easy as the old adage makes it seem. When you hop back on a bike the motions are awkward, remembering to adjust everything to your height is difficult and when you are done you are sore. Going long spurts without writing can cause the very same thing. Writing doesn't just flow from the pen (or computer keys), adjusting your writing style to the new you is awkward and when you read back over what you have done... sometimes it is intensely painful! But this does not mean that you have lost your muse and that you need to throw in the writing hat. It does not mean that you are no good and you should give up this silly fantasy.

     No, it means that you have not used your creative "muscle" in a while and just like any muscle, if you do not use it, it begins to break down. And just like any other muscle, you can build up your creative "muscle" by working it regularly. I have always been a proponent of spending at least an hour writing most days. Now, that doesn't always work for some people. But the longer you don't use it, the harder it is to get it back. You should write like you should work out, at least three times a week.

     But what should you do while you are in-between projects? Poetry is a good way to keep you fresh with words. Writing short stories keeps you on a similar format as your novels and could lead you to inspiration that may become your next project. Orson Scott Card, a famous Sci-fi writer, came up with the concept of The Ender Series based on one little short story he did in school, called Battle School. Years later Ender's Game was published. You would be amazed where inspiration comes from!

     Join a writing club. Even if you are not working on a particular project, helping others with their projects and playing word games or writing challenges will keep that creative juice flowing! Read. I know that seems to be pretty common sense, but it amazes me how many writers I am meeting who do not read! It is more than a little terrifying actually, but that is a topic for another day. Point is, if you write sci-fi, you should read sci-fi. If you write paranormal stories then you should read paranormal fiction. If you write blogs, you should read blogs! This keeps you fresh on the material that is being produced, it will be a surprisingly big help when you decide to pitch your book to an agent and you may find inspiration in those pages for a different story on the same topic! How would you feel if a doctor didn't keep up on the latest medical advances? Right?

     So, keep those creative juices flowing. If anyone has any other great tips on how you keep your creative juices flowing, please feel free to share in comments! We all would love to hear your suggestions!

Monday, June 6, 2011

To Be or Not to Be.... a Writer

I was very torn by several topics to write on this week. One involved a wall street journal article about young adult novels and the word "banning" comes up in discussion. The other was on shorts (specifically Flashing My Shorts, a very fascinating book about writing and we may come back to that!) and the final topic was about a summer program that I have been invited to participate in. Since I have a meeting right after this post, I think I will talk about the summer program.

I live in a low-income urban development area and every summer the neighborhood association, with the help of the city, puts on a summer program to keep the kids off the streets. This year my lovely mother volunteered me in my absence. I am all about giving back to the community, so it wasn't really a big deal! But she was telling the city coordinator about some of my talents and since I have so bravely left the paying work force to pursue my writing recently, this was my mom's main focus. Which led to the director wanting me to be responsible for the journaling part of the program because she had read somewhere that journaling and creative outlet reduce gang participation and illegal activities in young socio-economically challenged youth. I don't know anything about that. But I do know that anyone can teach someone to journal and it doesn't take more than an hour... and they are wanting me to do this for an hour a day, five days a week, for six weeks.

Now I could take the low road and give her exactly what she wants. Tell the kids about journaling, give them some notebooks and set them to it. I could. It would save me time and while they were journaling I could be working on writing. I could, but at the same time I can't. You see, I want to make a difference in the world. That is part of the reason I write. I want to make people think. I want to share some of what I have learned about myself and about people in general. And now I am going to have this amazing opportunity to teach these young children about how they can shape the world. That is an awesome and humbling experience.

We are the leaders of tomorrow all grown up and today it is our responsibility to help shape the leaders of their tomorrow. Do we want them to idolize rappers, gang bangers, drug dealers, professional athletes and actors? Or do we want them to learn to love themselves? It is our responsibility to share what we know, but also to share how we know it. The Chinese proverb about giving a man a fish feeds him for a day, but teaching a man to fish will feed him for a life time is so true. Have you shared what you know? Have you taught others to find their passion? If so, tell us about it in the comment section.

Also, if either of the other topics I mentioned above appeal to you, let me know. I may be coming back to them!

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