Writing Lessons Learned

Last night, I went to my first local writer’s group meeting.  I had a lot of fun and met some really nice people.  I talked with one girl, who was from Barcelona, for hours about Harry Potter.  She asked me if it was true that American girls like British guys.  I told her that all a lonely British guy has to do is come to America, say “Hello,” and he’ll never be lonely again.

She also asked me how I learned how to write, and to be honest, I really didn’t have a great answer for her.  I’ve been thinking about it, and although I did take short story, poetry, and even screen-writing classes in college and grad school, I’m not sure it’s really something that can be learned.  Writing is just one of those things that has always come naturally to me.  Like my sister and singing.  I had to work and train and listen really hard just to learn how to carry a tune.  My sister has a natural ear and quite near perfect pitch.  She’s taken lessons, but she’s never really had to work at it like I did.  As far as writing goes, however, I just decided that I wanted to write a book one day and that was it.

That’s not to say I haven’t taken advice from other authors.  I read Stephen King’s entire book On Writing and it had some great pointers (Duh, he’s Stephen King).  One of them was to use adverbs sparingly.  I like adverbs.  I use them all the time.  But any writer will tell you that it’s better to show than to tell.  It’s something that my high school English teacher called “pics.”  Paint me a picture with words.  Don’t tell me.  Show me.  That was honestly some of the best advice I ever received on writing.

Another bit of good advice that I’ve tried to keep with me, I learned from an author I met at the Renaissance Faire of all places.  She was there, signing books, and I told her that I was working on my first novel (this was at least a few years ago), but that I couldn’t seem to get past the first couple of chapters because I kept going back, rereading, and changing them.  She told me to stop doing that immediately, or else I would never move forward.  This may have been the best piece of advice I could have received.  I’m by no means a perfectionist, but I do want my work to be the best it can be.  However, it won’t matter how good it is if I never finish it.

For me, the creative process has always seemed like a leak in a dam.  I believe everyone has creativity and stories and paintings and music all stored up in their brain, but sometimes, it gets trapped.  For those of us who write and paint and compose in our day-to-day lives, that little bit of creativity that leaks out is like a trickle in a dam, and if we keep working at it, eventually a trickle becomes a wave until the entire dam bursts.

One of the guys was asking how another author and I keep going through writer’s block.  The only answer either of us had was “keep writing.”  Make something up.  Do something you had no idea you were going to do.  It always amazes me how, when I sit down to write, I’m never 100% sure what’s going to happen.  The other night, I was working on one of the stories, and one of my characters just kept spouting out stuff that I’d never even considered before.  It’s amazing how the words and thoughts and emotions that you never knew you had inside of you flow so freely and so honestly through your fingertips, and often times, spoken through the mouths of others.  That’s one of my favorite parts of writing.  I can have an idea of where I want the story to go, but deep down, I’m not totally in control.  In writing, you have to be determined, but you also have to keep an open mind and be willing to make changes, because you never know where the story will take you.

Finally, the last piece of great advice I received was from Josh Groban.  Sadly, he was not talking to me one on one.  My sister and I were at his concert a few years back (Fantastic, by the way.  He sounds better live than he does recorded!) and he started talking about his training and everything he learned.  He said, “The only advice I can give, and it’s the best piece of advice I ever got, was to never stop learning.  Always be a student.  Be humble.  Be thankful.”  In other words, don’t get too big for your britches.  Unless you’re JK Rowling, in which case, the size of your britches don’t matter one bit because you created Harry Potter.  But for most of us, it rings true, no matter what line of work you’re in.

As for me, I need to just sit my butt down and write.  This is the busiest time of the year, and I’m thankful that I have stuff to do!  But I really want to finish my first draft of the Cemetery Tours sequel by the end of the year.  I think I’ll make it.  I just have to sit down, concentrate, and write.  It’s not that hard, but at the same time, it is so incredibly easy for the creative mind to get distracted.  To be honest, I blame my  mother.  She brags all the time about how she gorged herself on Twinkies and Ding-Dongs when she was pregnant with me.  I’m like, “Well, that’s great for you, but did you ever think about the effect all that sugar had on my brain while it was still developing?”  Clearly, it was not a positive one.

And with that, I’m off.  Please enjoy my feeble attempt at holiday humor/shameless self-promotion.

Cemetery Turkeys

My cover designer is going to kill me.

Just Keep Writing

One of my main objectives in attending last weekend’s Indievengeance Day book-signing at Half-Price Books was that I wanted to see what I could learn from independent authors who had once been where I am now and who have made it.  Of course, I ended up spending more time talking with them about what all authors tend to end up talking about: books.  I did get some advice, however.

Just keep writing.

While marketing and advertising and getting the word out there is a HUGE part of being an independent author, every one of the authors I met told me the same thing.

“You have to keep writing.”

It’s a good thing to remember.  It’s so easy to get caught up in how many people are (or are not) buying and reviewing your book.  You want to tell the world your book.  You want to fall to your knees and beg everyone who’s read it to write a glowing review that will inspire other readers to buy it.  You want to market and advertise until your limbs fall off.

But here’s the thing.  Independent authors are so much more likely to be successful if they have more than one book out, especially if those books are in a series together.  The only way you’re going to get more books out is if you sit your butt down and write them.

I’m finally making some real progress on the Cemetery Tours sequel.  I’d love to have the first draft finished by the end of NaNoWriMo (November for those who’ve never heard of National Novel Writing Month).  I’ve always wanted to participate, and I hope it’s not cheating that I’m already nine chapters in (and will hopefully be at least halfway through by the time November actually gets here).  The funny thing is I’ve known what would happen in the sequel much longer than I knew how I would even begin Cemetery Tours, so theoretically, this book should be a lot easier to write.  Unfortunately, sometimes when you’ve built something up in your head for so long, when the time finally comes around to write it, you’re afraid that you won’t be able to do it justice.  I’m pretty happy with the first nine chapters though, and I’m looking forward to what happens next, so I think I’m doing okay.

Something else I’ve learned after having just published my own book exactly one month ago is that while writers will always want to write (it is what we do, after all), we also really like to take time to kick back, relax, celebrate a little, bask in our accomplishments, drink wine, and so on.  However, when it comes to being an independent author, you are doing all the work yourself.  You do ten times the amount of work as an author who signed on with a fancy publishing agency and guess what?  You’re barely making any money for it.  What I’m trying to say is it’s good to celebrate and feel good about yourself.  An accomplishment like a published book is something worth celebrating!  But amidst the fun, keep one foot on the ground.  Stay focused.

I usually do most of my writing at night.  I’ve always been a night owl, and even though I wake up early every morning for work, I’m always up until at least 1 or 2 working on my books (or my blog).  Most of the marketing and advertising I’ve done so far has been online.  That’s a little tricky, however, because of how many distractions there are online.  You can use Pinterest to plan out your next book or to plan out your wedding to that guy you haven’t actually met yet.  You can use Facebook to get people to “like” your book, or you can use it to creep on the all the drama-mongerers whom you haven’t talked to in years but whom you secretly like to keep tabs on for entertainment purposes.

You get the idea.

I guess I’m writing this post for myself more so than anyone.  I’ve been trying to figure out recently how to get (and keep) people interested in Cemetery Tours.  It’s easy to get discouraged, but the thing that every independent author needs to remember is that you have to keep going.  You’ve been swimming against the tide for this long.  You might as well keep going.  The journey doesn’t end with your first publication.  That first book is just a stepping stone.  A pretty awesome stepping stone, but a stepping stone nevertheless.  The only way to succeed in this business is simply to keep writing and keep trying.  Never give up.

I’m pretty sleepy now, because I just got back from a Bon Jovi concert.  For the record,  Jon Bon Jovi is an awesome guy.  Great performer, very charismatic, and fun to watch.  However, I would like to add just one more image so I can actually use the phrase “Superwholock” in the tag section below.

Goodnight, all!

Supporting Indie Authors

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I am an absolute Pinterest addict.  I’m more addicted to it than I ever was to Facebook.  It might actually be something of a problem.  

However, I am trying to use this affliction to better myself, my writing, and my newfound life as an independent author.  For example, several of my boards are actually accumulations of ideas for stories.  For example, I have a “haunting” board.  Guess which book that one’s for?  😉  

Anyway, after all the fun I had meeting other indie authors from all over, I decided to make a Support Indie Authors pin board!!!  

I realize this is not a very enlightening or important post, but I’m really excited about my new board.  

Enjoy!  

Also… HUGE shout outs to Jeanne Marie at http://womenwhothinktoomuch.wordpress.com and momshieb at http://momshieb.wordpress.com, both of whom have purchased Cemetery Tours!  Thank you both so, so much!  

Indie-Vengeance Day

The other day, I took a trip to the Half Price Books near my house.  I wanted to talk to them about maybe selling a few copies of Cemetery Tours to their store (they agreed!).  Afterword, I got online to research more stores.  On the Half Price Books homepage, I noticed a link down at the bottom of the page. Image You can read more about it here:   http://tracyjamesjones.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/indie-vengeance-day-weekend-begins/ Needless to say, I decided right then and there that I had to attend.  I will confess, however, that I went to a party last night and was so tired, that for a short while I considered taking the day off today.  However, when I woke up this morning, bright, alert, and ready, I knew that I needed to go. I am so glad that I did. I had the most amazing time talking with these people who traveled from all over the world to greet readers and sign their books.  I expected to go, meet a few people, and maybe get some tips on marketing or any advice on making it as an independent author in general.  I thought, perhaps, I might buy a book or two. I ended up leaving with ten books, two ebooks, several business cards, and more respect for all of these wonderful authors than I ever could have imagined.  Of course, I already had a lot of respect for them, knowing all that they’ve accomplished just by writing and being published, but getting to talk to them about their books, their work, their interests, their backgrounds… they are all just amazing, fascinating, and wonderful people. Ever since I made the decision to self-publish, I’ve been wanting to make more connections in the Indie world.  That includes reading and reviewing their works.  I am thrilled to have so many new books to read.  Sadly, I couldn’t purchase all of them, but I did find most of them on GoodReads, so I thought I could at least share them here and then review them later. Image Scott Morgan is a professor at Collin County Community College and he has written several books on writing.  This one, I think, was written for his class that he teaches. http://www.write-hook.com Image Ben Ditmars was one of the first authors I met today.  I’m a downright lousy poet, so I’m really looking forward to reading his work! https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5132689.Ben_Ditmars?from_search=true Image I didn’t get to talk to Amber Jerome-Norrgard for very long, but I very much look forward to reading her poetry! https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5815310.Amber_Jerome_Norrgard Image Lynn Hallbrooks was a sweet woman and the story of how she and David McKoy collaborated to write their novels was fascinating. https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4950577.Lynn_Hallbrooks?from_search=true Image Tracy James Jones was absolutely one of the sweetest people I’ve had the privilege to meet.  I didn’t get to talk to her very much about her work, because she had several fans surrounding him, but her romance novel definitely sounds like a good read! http://tracyjamesjones.wordpress.com Image M.E. Franco was the first paranormal author I talked to at Half Price.  She was very enthusiastic about everything vampire, ghost, magic, etc…  This was the first book I purchased at the signing. She also penned a cowboy romance novel which, as a true blue Texas girl, I really want to read. 17343857 http://mefranco.com 18455717 Another paranormal/vampire novelist I met was Melissa Zaroski.  I purchased her novel too.  I actually haven’t read any vampire stories since the Twilight series.  I’m interested to see how these new paranormal books will compare. https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7255267.Melissa_Zaroski?from_search=true 18520901 I talked to Sydney native Ciara Ballintyne for a while.  She was absolutely delightful as she told me about her novella, Confronting the Demon, a combination of deep fantasy and paranormal.  We also had a lot of fun discussing other books we’d read. https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6591156.Ciara_Ballintyne?from_search=true 13626269 I love dragons, so I picked this book up almost immediately.  I am really looking forward not only to reading this, but also its sequel.  Dionne Lister was so lovely and I think I’m really going to enjoy her work! https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5824220.Dionne_Lister 13108920 18482365 Melissa Craig and Charity Parkerson are Australian authors too.  I didn’t spend quite as long talking with them as I did others, but they were both lovely women and very funny.  They had with them selections of their works, mostly erotica.  I have nothing against the genre, but it’s not my favorite. https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5307783.Melissa_Craig?from_search=true https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4506281.Charity_Parkerson 17559388 James Peercy was just a fun guy to talk to, and I’m especially curious to read his book, The Wall Outside, a work of fantasy set in modern-day Washington.  I love fairy tales and fantasy, so I’m really interested to see how it will work in our world. http://www.jameswilliampeercy.com 18366887 Sreya Bremtin is a photographer as well as a poet.  She had a book of photographs as well, but as someone who really struggles in the poetry department, I was a lot more curious to read this. https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7233499.Sreya_Bremtin 15745432 Meeting M. A. Rogers and talking to him about zombies was a lot of fun.  I’ve probably mentioned before that I am a new Walking Dead fan and that zombies absolutely scare me out of my wits.  For some reason, that means I love watching them on television and reading about them in books.  I’m often told that I am loud and awkward, but M. A. Rogers told me that my enthusiasm made his whole day. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15745432-chivalry-is-undead 13640184 Sandcastle is a collection of short stories by Justin Bog.  I haven’t read a book of short stories since about the eight grade, so I was more than eager to purchase his book.  A cool fact about this book is that his father painted the picture on the cover.  I thought that was so incredible! https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5832178.Justin_Bog 17451049 17885027 Julie Frayn is a Canadian author and I ended up purchasing both of her books.  Well, technically I purchased one on Kindle and she gave me a free download for the other.  Not only to both stories sound totally awesome, I absolutely love her cover designs. https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6967128.Julie_Frayn 17166676 The last author I met was a poet named Susie Clevenger.  She was so sweet.  I had run out of cash by that point, but she handed me a copy and told me to write her a good, honest review, and I intend to do just that! http://www.susieclevenger.com Everyone I met today was so amazing and wonderful and I hope I’m lucky enough to connect with all of them in the future.

A Few New Cemetery Tours Photos!

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My college buddy texted me this picture the other day.  As far as I know, we have no connections on Amazon, so I think it’s pretty neat that Amazon is recommending Cemetery Tours to readers… especially with Stephen King!  

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Love from my office.  🙂  

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A picture from one of my youngest readers!  

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Love from San Francisco!  

My sister, who is a freshmen in college, has been recommending Cemetery Tours to new friends she meets on campus.  Apparently, one of them approached her the other day and demanded to know if there would be a sequel!  So exciting!  And yes, in fact, there will be a sequel!  It is being written at this very moment.  🙂  

Cemetery Tours Release Party

Last night’s release party for Cemetery Tours was a huge success!  We sold all of the books, ate all of the cake, drank most of the wine (I still have one bottle left over for me!), and all in all, had a fantastic time.  I have so many people to thank for that, but mostly my mother.  She really helped me put it all together, thought of everything that I forgot, and hired a fantastic interior decorator to help set everything up!  My friends, Bill and Brittany, bought the most amazing cakes with the cover of the book printed in icing.  I’m guessing they were delicious.  I didn’t get to eat anything!  I did get two glasses of wine, though, and probably ended up making a total idiot of myself.  Oh well.  It was my party, I could drink if I wanted to.  And I did.

Here are a few of the pictures!

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I just love how the spine turned out!

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My family ❤

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The Wind Trail Publishing Team! Author and Graphic Designer, Benjamin Durham! I can not thank him enough for the amazing job he did on the cover design!

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Me and Jessica! One of my favorite people in the entire world!

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The cake! Isn’t it awesome?!

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High school friends and our band director! The tall guy with the dark hair is my author friend, Stephen Harrison. You can check out his book here: http://www.amazon.com/AcaPolitics-Novel-College-Cappella-ebook/dp/B00607KPD4/ref=la_B00699W1VC_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380945238&sr=1-1

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Declaration of Independence

As an independent author/publisher/what have you, I really like to support other independents.  Not only writers, but musicians, actors, artists, etc…  One of my friends is an independent model, actress, graphic designer, and singer/songwriter.  She has already released quite a few songs on iTunes, and on October 22, she is releasing her second album.  She has put a lot of hard work, time, and money into bringing this production to life, and I have to say, I respect the heck out of her for doing so!  I know how hard it is to write and publish a novel independently.  Even with as many awesome and amazing people helping out as I had, it was still took a lot of hard work, time, patience, and dedication!  But as much work as that was, I can’t imagine all that goes in to creating an album!  Seriously, it was all I could do to figure out how WordPress worked.

So, if you have a chance, please stop by and check out my very talented friend, Giselle Grayson.

Website: http://www.gisellegrayson.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gisellegrayson

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GiselleGraysonPage

If you’re an independent artist of any kind, actor, musician, writer, artist, etc… please leave a link to your page in the comments section!  I’d love to see your work as well!!

Things that Happen Once You Become a Published Author

1) You start going out to eat.  Like, a lot.  A lot, a lot.  I have at least three or four scheduled meetings/dinner/lunch plans within the next few days.  It’s kind of insane, but in a really good way!  Not so good for the Party Diet that I’m trying to stay on for the book release, but good in the sense that I get to eat a lot of great food! 

2) You become so desperate to conserve whatever money you have left in your bank account, that you actually start carrying around your gigantic bag of collected loose change to be able to pay for things.

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Exhibit A

3) As paranoid and confused as you were about taxes before, it increases by about a million percent.  That brings me to another discussion point.  I learned plenty of stuff in high school.  I learned about the Pythagorean Theorem and a lot of physics crap that I don’t remember and something about organic chemistry and I might even be able to tell you that the integral of e to the xy looks like the word “sexy,” but boy oh boy, I did not learn one thing in high school or college about how to do your taxes.  Maybe they tried to teach it and I tuned it out or something, but the point is… I am a 25 year old woman with a published novel and a Master’s Degree and I don’t know how to do taxes.  This life skill completely evades me.  But you know what?  I don’t blame the school system.  I blame the government for making it so ridiculously difficult!  Seriously, I hate feeling like if I don’t understand and I make some kind of stupid mistake or error, I could end up being fined or arrested or something!  I’m pretty sure that won’t happen, but it’s still something I worry about.

(I received a letter from the tax office today… can you tell?)

4) You start realizing that you’re not actually good at explaining your book out loud to people. 

5) You have to set limits for yourself on how many times a day you can check your sales record.  You sill actually drive yourself crazy trying to figure out if your book is actually selling or not. 

6) Your new found sense of confidence inspires you to think about things that before, you’d never consider. 

7) Instead of taking your day off to play around on Pinterest or stalk people on Facebook, you actually have to run around and do grown up, author things, like sending two copies of your book to the Library of Congress and writing up miniature press releases and biographies and announcements.  There is basically no such thing as a day off when you’re an independent author/publisher.  There is always something that you can be doing. 

8) Your brain get like, ten times more cluttered than it was before.  I’m just glad I managed to wear matching shoes today. 

9) You realize you like the fact that you have a million things you could be doing, even though you’re scared to death that you’re either going to forget something or screw something up.

10) Everyone thinks you’re really cool for following your heart and accomplishing your goal, and you think that of yourself, too.  It’s a really neat feeling.  I highly recommend it. 

11) You start advertising everywhere you can.

Go buy my book! 😀

http://www.amazon.com/Cemetery-Tours-Jacqueline-E-Smith/dp/0989673405/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1379715106&sr=8-1

 

Back to the Start

Now that Cemetery Tours is out, I sort of expected to feel like this huge stage of my life was coming to an end.  You know, taking that huge step from Unpublished Writer to Published Author.  I thought there would be some sense of finality, or a feeling of closure.

Not even close.

Cemetery Tours is published, it’s true.  But the real work is only just beginning.  It’s not enough to make a book available to the masses.  Now, I have to sell it to the masses, and let me tell you, I am not a good salesperson.  I can recommend stuff, sure, but I really suck at telling people what they should and shouldn’t read.  “I want you to read this book because I wrote it and I think it’s really good!”   Yeah, that probably won’t cut it.  I’m pretty sure every person who has ever written a book believes that.  After all, they wouldn’t want you to read it if they didn’t think it was good!  Heck, they probably wouldn’t have bothered to write it if they didn’t think it was good.

In the days to come, I will be coming up with more marketing strategies and reasons that people should buy and/or read Cemetery Tours.  I think GoodReads will be a really good place to start.

For today, however, I’m going to take the day off, enjoy my triumph of finally being published, and read The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks.  It also came out today, which is really cool, since I was reading a Nicholas Sparks book when I realized that I wanted to be an author (Just a note – my books are not at ALL like his!  Not that I don’t love him, but I am NOT a romance author!  I’m not really sure what I am… A general fiction author I guess!).  And yes, I am fully aware of all the “white people almost kissing” jokes.  I think they’re hilarious.  And very true.

I still love his books though.

I also checked out The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (not to be confused with S. Morgenstern who “wrote” the Princess Bride – Haha, William Goldman… you really fooled the eighth grade me).  I’ve been wanting to read it for a while now but what’s funny is that suddenly, all my friends are reading it and recommending it!  I’m definitely looking forward to it!

Anyway, aside from selling and marketing Cemetery Tours, I’m also going to need to start working on my next book!  I finally finished chapter seven of the CT sequel.  I do not know what it is, but somehow, I ALWAYS get stuck on chapter 7!  No matter what I’m writing, chapter 7 always ends up being this awful literary brain block!  Maybe it’s because often times, chapter 7 is sort of a transition chapter.  You know, no longer the introduction to the book, but not quite the exciting stuff just yet either.  Necessary filler, if you will.

And on that note, I’m off to read The Longest Ride.  I hope there are no random, heart-wrenching deaths, but considering it’s Nicholas Sparks, I’m not holding my breath.  As long as the horse doesn’t die, I think I’ll be okay.

PS – Be sure to check out Cemetery Tours on Amazon!

http://www.amazon.com/Cemetery-Tours-Jacqueline-E-Smith/dp/0989673405/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1379394029&sr=8-10&keywords=cemetery+tours