The sewing machine hummed and buzzed and Gloria bent closer, watching carefully as she fed the fabric past the flashing needle.
“There!” she exclaimed in relief as she held up the child size dress. All she had left to do was the hem, and it would be finished. The old clock on the mantle dinged, announcing that she didn’t have time to waste, so she folded up the dress and tucked it into the box by her feet with the others. This was the last dress for the package going to the homeless shelter in Uniontown, and once she hemmed it, she could concentrate on Christmas sewing.
“Christmas pageant…” she muttered under her breath, worrying again about the upcoming gathering.
She'd heard talk that Smithville was considering a pageant to earn money for a new community center, and she was sure she’d be asked to make costumes. Although she loved sewing, it would definitely take a huge bite out of her own Christmas sewing time, not to mention shopping, card making, and baking time.
“Who am I kidding,” she huffed, knowing full well that she wasn’t bothered by the time it would take. It was the other women at the meetings that had her on edge...
My latest book, Love on the Line, is the story of Andy, a woman who chooses to work building a pipeline in the rugged mountains of West Virginia. Why did I write about this? I wrote it partly because I was inspired by the experiences of my own daughter who entertained me with many of her personal experiences as a pipeliner. But I also wrote it because I too chose to work in a male dominated field back in the day. Some of the struggles of women in these fields are upsetting, but many are inspiring and funny, thus perfect material for the kind of books I love to write. Just because not many women choose to do it, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done, right?
More than any time in recorded history, women are choosing to work in male dominated fields. Every day you come across a woman truck driver, firefighter, or pharmacist. And even though it’s become commonplace, many fields stick with their traditional titles such as policeman, draftsman, and even garbage man. Given this plus the infamous glass ceiling, why would a woman choose to spend their entire career fighting an uphill battle? There are a million reasons, but overwhelmingly, the answer I find is “because I want to” or “because the job appealed to me,” or “My dad and grandpa did it, why shouldn’t I?”
When was the idea planted for women to take the jobs they wanted, even if they were traditionally considered only suitable for men? Some would say with Eve, but both folklore and history are filled with women who not only worked at the jobs they pleased, they ruled societies: Joan of Ark and Cleopatra, to name a few. In Victorian times, women who wrote were forced to use a male pen name or work without recognition. But the women of my grandmother’s generation were forced to work at jobs considered appropriate only for men during world war II. They worked everywhere from factories to the fields. Sadly, after a taste of the liberation a paycheck affords a person, these women were expected to quietly step back into the kitchen once the men came home.
My mother’s generation, were blessed with not only their mother’s experiences, but all manner of modern conveniences which allowed them to clean and cook and generally care for their families in a fraction of the time it took their mothers. Many of these women took it upon themselves to “have it all” and step out into the working world, and not just as nurses and schoolteachers. Their bravery gave the women of my generation the encouragement and conviction that we too could plan a career. However, we quickly learned that we couldn’t be super mom and have a demanding and time consuming career without a shift in attitude, and this shift had to come from the men. The change had to happen not just because of the aforesaid glass ceiling on the job, but because we needed help at home.
Do I think only women who work have value, and somehow women who don’t work away from home are lesser somehow? Of course not! In my lifetime I have been a stay at home mom, a sick in bed mom, a full time student mom, an employed full time mom, and a retired mom. All of those words we put on women are pointless when you realize that we are in this together, and we should be supportive and understanding, no matter what roll you chose.
So, take a moment this summer to grab a copy of Love on the Line. Then curl up in a corner with a cup of coffee and prepare yourself for a heartwarming story filled with feminine strength, challenge, bravery, friendship, and romance.
Do you like romance novels? If so, do you like the story line where the poor sweet heroin needs to be rescued or saved by the handsome hero? I’ve read my fair share of these books, and sometimes they’re fun; especially on a hormonal day, or if you’re feeling vulnerable. but on the whole I want a story that feels bit more realistic.
Okay, granted, it’s a romance novel, so realistic isn’t going to happen per se, but I want to read about a woman who could be real. Someone I’d like to have coffee with, not a woman that wants to go in the dark basement, alone, with a killer on the loose. Nor do I want to read about a woman who needs (or wants) a man’s money.
Having said all that, what makes a female character in a novel more realistic? I’d say, first of all, she has to be at least a little bit moody, because lets face it, as women, we are a moody group. Not in a bad way, but in a keeping-things-interesting kind of way, right? And this woman needs to be able to change her mind for no sane reason, just because things aren’t feeling right. Then if she wants to, she can change it back!
Next, I like a woman with a plan. A lady who knows what she likes and needs, or at least thinks she knows. That is the fun part, because when it comes to romance, most of the time we are attracted to men who are not what we think we want or need, am I right?
And finally, I like to read about a woman who has to make allowances and let herself fall in love. She has to consider changing her career plans, or her financial goals, or she has to realize she has some hang-up that she needs to get over. Because let’s face it, that’s how love really works for women in this day and age. We have to face the fact that we will never fall in love with the perfect guy, at the perfect time, on our way to the perfectly planned ending. Love is messy and confusing and painful, in the most delicious sort of way. Love for ladies in the new millennium is gut wrenching, and tedious, and as wonderful as ever.
So here’s to romance novels with leading ladies who saves themselves, so they can ride happily into the sunset with a man they’ve never dreamed of!
As I prepare to launch my new romance novels, The Girl Power Series, it’s given me the opportunity to think about what it means to be a woman in the twenty first century. Women now days have endless lifestyle and career options, thanks to the strong and ingenious ladies of centuries past, but what do all the opportunities open to us really represent? How have the changing times altered women’s perceptions and concerns?
In the last two or three decades women face different obstacles than generations before, or do they? Surprisingly, I see my daughters struggling with some of the same issues that I stressed about. How can I afford to further my education? What types of work do I enjoy? What are my careers options? What type of relationships do I want? Do I want to have children, if so when? How will I manage birth control? Will my baby’s father/my partner stand by me and be a good provider of love, support, and time? Will I be able to manage relationships and my own needs? How will I manage a work schedule and family/relationships? Will my career path interfere with my relationships? I’m not sure if my mother or her mother worried as much about career options, but this meant they must have been much more stressed about their relationships and how the men/partners in their lives supported them and their children. Girls way back in my day were taught to have a career as a plan B, just in case things went south with their husband’s career. Now our careers are plan A.
If we have more possibilities these days, how has that affected us? Once again, the answer is a bit surprising because, from what I can see, one of the outcomes of having so many options seems to be added stress. Sure, I now have the ability and opportunity to become a neurosurgeon, but how will that choice cascade down through all my other concerns about relationships and family? Will I be accepted in that field as woman? Even though women now realize, and even envision, being better educated, well traveled, and making far more money than our mothers or grandmothers may have dreamed, that doesn’t make it any easier to do so while balancing the demands of a family. Plus, as we are learning, women’s health is a big part of being successful. And due to our unique and finely tuned balance of hormonal and feminine needs, it takes time, money, and effort just to stay healthy.
With all this in mind, I started writing The Girl Power Series. As with my other books, I like to find the humor we encounter along the way as we plod through life, career, family issues, and love, but I also enjoy writing about ladies who are learning about themselves as they go. Oftentimes, we women are our own biggest enemies when it comes to falling in love. Add the fun of dropping a strong-willed leading lady into a rewarding career that is still managed by the good-ol-boy network, and watch the sparks fly!
Enter Andrea, the main character in the first Girl Power novel Love on the Line. She can’t stomach even one more day of graduate school. She’s not sure what her problem is, but she knows she needs to get out of the classroom and into the world. Her estranged grandpa Buck as offered her the opportunity to join him engineering a pipeline through the mountains of West Virginia, so uncharacteristically, she takes the bait to try her hand at working in the untamed forest, also snagging the chance to learn more about the grandfather her mother despises. Follow Andy as she finds hidden inner strength, finds family secrets, and earns the respect of her coworkers in a wilderness where few women dare to venture. Laugh at her silly mistakes and cheer for her successes, as she finds her way in what has always been considered a man’s job. And I dare you not to fall for the cocky, handsome, hardworking-hunk of man who draws her eye.
Looking forward, I plan to continue the series with more stories about women finding a way to make their mark in unexpected places. If you have ideas of better yet, personal experience that would make a great story line for a book in the series, please send me a note. I’d love to create a fabulous and romantic tale based on how you survived and thrived in an ever-changing world!
Love a good romance novel? Me too! Let’s take a look at those of us who buy, read and maybe even write romance novels, and see what makes us tick.
According to sources such as Romance Writers of America, Nielsen Books & Consumer Tracker, romance novels are a multi-billion-dollar industry, holding over thirteen percent of the literary industry total sales. Think about that for a minute. Cook books, self help, travel books, non-fiction such as biographies, current events, and history, crafting, religion, how-to books, all of those books and yet romance stands strong as an established market in the literary world. There must be something magical about a great romance to be so competitive, but then we knew that, didn’t we!
It probably comes as no surprise that eighty-four percent of romance novels are bought and read by women ages thirty to fifty-four, but it may surprise you to learn that fifty percent are still sold in paperback form, followed closely by e-books at forty percent. Or maybe it would shock you to learn that sixty-four percent of those ladies read more than one romance novel each month. Maybe not. I know most of my readers read my books within just a few days. We can all agree that nothing is as fun as a fantastic page-turner that you just can’t put down.
What are the top romance subgenres we love to read? It appears that no matter whether you like your books in print format or e-book, suspense is a key factor. We all want a happy ending, but we want a little anticipation as to how that will happen. The most popular subgenera type appears to be contemporary romance holding around fifty percent of the market, followed by a relative tie between historical romance and erotica. Paranormal, young adult and Christian romance hold their own as well, in the twenty to thirty percent range.
According to studies, we like to read about friends turned lover, soul mates facing their fate, second chance love, secret romance, and first love; in that order. We also want to read stories with strong hero and heroine leads, reunited lovers, love triangles, and of course, sexy billionaires. Again, no big shock there for those of us in the romance world.
What other types of books do romance reads like to buy? It appears that we also have a taste for mystery, general fiction, and cooking/food books. Want to feel old? Stats broken down by age show that a majority of older readers buy mysteries, and younger readers buy young adult and erotic fiction. Once again, not too shocking, especially for those of us inching up there in age, it just makes sense.
In this age of Amazon Prime, how do most romance readers purchase their books? According to the stats I found (some were admittedly a few years old) most of us still find books in bookstores, but more and more ladies are beginning to buy books online. Many of us still us the library, and a growing number of women are downloading books in e-book form. Some of us trade books we love with friends, relatives or book clubs, while some busy ladies are reading books on their phone. When I was a young mother I belonged to a book subscription and got books in the mail each month. That was always a happy day, followed by several days of ignoring housework. Now days we have the option to subscribe to e-books or audio books as well.
What makes us choose one book over another? According to most stats, we love a romance with a good story, followed by reading anything by our favorite author. Price and reviews come into play next, followed by reading books because they are a part of a series. The trailing reasons we select a book are the back cover blurb, cover art, social media recommendations, bargains, and endorsements.
What do you think is a fair price for a book? Pre e-book, the only free books I ever read were from the library, but now free books are everywhere. Even books that are normally priced, are sometimes offered free or for less than a dollar in e-book form. According to sources such as Amazon and Neilson, most of us consider six dollars a fair price for a romance novel. I know my novels are priced under five dollars in e-book format, but due to the price of printing, my paperbacks run closer to ten dollars. These days it’s hard to be competitive in the print market unless you are a traditionally published, well-known author.
So there you have it, the world of romance novels according to statistics. Does this agree with your preferences? How do you find good books and why do you choose the ones you read? I’d love to hear from you!
What makes a romance novel enticing? That is the million-dollar question.
Is it sexual tension, the act of love, the battle of the sexes, or the sweet tingle of attraction that draws your attention? The answer, of course, is as varied as the people who buy romance novels.
So how do you write a story that will appeal to the widest audience possible without leaving some readers wanting more, yet offending others? The answer is simple. You can’t.
Writing romance is all about finding a balance of passion and tension, and for most of us that means writing what we’d like to read. My first few novels were much steamier than they are now days, and I’ve wondered why that is. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and most of the heat I feel these days is hot flashes. Or maybe it’s because I know my mother will read my books. Either way, I’ve toned down the sex to focus more on why the characters are feeling attracted, charmed, or conflicted.
Let’s talk about those three issues, attracted, charmed, and conflicted. Of course most romantic relationships contain all three, but let’s break it down.
We all understand attraction. We feel it in the bakery at the grocery store and watching a commercial on TV. What is different about romantic attraction? First there’s the whole instinctual need for sex. That topic is universal and well documented. Some romance writers simply go with that. It’s real. It’s easy to tap into and describe. Some readers thrive on reading about it over and over. But there are other, deeper, reasons people are attracted to each other.
Having a basic understanding of human psychology helps nail down why one person may be attracted to another. I enjoy visiting my elderly neighbor because she reminds me of my mother. Is that attraction? Yes, but it’s not romantic attraction. It has been documented over and over that women may be attracted to a man because he either reminds her of her father and she misses that stability and love, or on the flipside, she is looking for the father figure she never had. This type of romantic relationship is fraught with turmoil because it’s unlikely that a woman will find the unconditional love and support of a father, from a lover.
Sometimes people are attracted to another person because they feel comfortable with them. This one idea alone can be a big enough conflict for a whole novel, because what is considered “normal” by some, may actually be violent, or neglectful to others. The relationship may not feel good, but it does feel like the relationships they are used to, and trying something different feels awkward. I personally like to write about overcoming that discomfort and finding a healthy connection, but many popular and angsty books have been written about unhealthy love affairs.
So what about charmed? This is also one of my favorite topics in romance. Charmed is fun, inspiring, and different for everyone. Some folks are charmed by humor, some by thoughtfulness, others by verbal communication. The book The five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman, gave me inspiration for about a million love stories. For example, what happens when two people are attracted, but one is charmed by considerate actions like loading the dishwasher after dinner without being asked, but the other is fulfilled and delighted by lengthy deep discussions. Both are healthy desires in a relationship, but how do your characters find balance? One is busy in the kitchen to show their affection while the other feels neglected and bereft back at the table. Another example: A man spends an hour at the flower shop selecting the perfect mix of flowers to show his devotion, but when he comes home late, his lover is displeased that he was too inconsiderate to call and let her know. These healthy conflicts that are centered around the actions that delight and charm a character, to me, are perfect fodder for a great romance.
Last but not least is conflict. As discussed, both attraction and charm cause conflict, but some writers choose conflict alone as the basis for a love story. In some classic love stories the relationship is perfect, but the lovers are kept apart because of war, financial status, or family disapproval.
I chose to write about couples who are kept apart because of emotional reasons that they must find, confront, and alter. The realization and practice involved in this type of conflict is fun for me to twist and mold. I know from personal experience that realizing you have an issue, doesn’t fix it. You have to alter your thought processes and actions and work through changing in order to find a solution. The discomfort and confusion involved with altering your life is conflict enough for me.
To review, what do you find enticing about a love story? Is it the attraction of the characters to each other, the flutter of emotion and charm they find in the company of another person, or the conflict keeping them apart? Or like me, do you love all three?
I write romance novels. Sounds clear-cut enough, unless you’ve ever shopped for a romance novel, then you know better. Right off you notice that there are multiple sub-genres to consider, such as contemporary, western, erotica, gay, paranormal, regency, the list goes on and on. Perhaps the best place to start is a simple definition, so what does the word Romantic mean?
According to the dictionary, the word romantic is defined as everything from dreamy and impractical, to adventurous, dealing with sexual love, and down right imaginary. Sound vague enough? With a definition like that, who could possibly pin down what makes a book romantic? The answer is, of course, that romance means something different to everyone.
So why would an author want to spend years creating a novel that is likely to be considered “drab” by some and “complete trash” by others? Why open yourself to that kind of rejection and ridicule? Because romance is… irresistible. No matter your frame of mind on the subject, everyone loves a little romance.
To some people, romance is a quiet dinner in flickering candlelight, but to others it’s a modern sculpture that requires a tilt of the head and one’s imagination to sort it out. Some may crave the romance of a spectacular view including forests, or ocean, or mountains, while another may consider a cozy corner with a cup of steaming coffee and a cuddle with their cat romantic.
Perhaps the real question for any romance author is, “what do I find romantic?” Is it the touch of fingertips on bare skin? A whispering breeze? Goosebumps that follow a tender kiss on the neck? Roses delivered in a box? Riding on the back of a new lover’s scooter through the winding streets of Paris?
Once an author pins down what romance means to them, can they put it into words? Do I, as an author, want to express my most precious desires to the world, knowing my work will be reviewed, and most likely reviled by many? What am I willing to share?
For me the answer came down to relationships. Not just relationships between people, but how people relate to their environment, their jobs, and their situation. Most of my books are set at a transitional point for my leading ladies. A change is shifting their world, and as they struggle with the uncomfortable feeling of adjusting, I add a man to the mix. After all, isn’t that when the best romance finds us? When we least expect it, or even want it?
I decided early in my writing career that my heroines would never be saved by a man, but they would be strong, intelligent, capable and successful women in their own right, who are not at all sure how to fit a man into their life. So what’s romantic about that?
I’ve come to believe that romance can also be defined as that spark within us that is lit by something sweet, different, or intriguing; a puzzle, a moment that captures your full attention, a brief space of time where you feel something outside the norm. What could be more unsettling than thinking you have your act together, only to find your world tilting on it’s axis? These moments in life fascinate me, make me want to hide away with my laptop and tap furiously until a story is born. Perhaps romance, to me, is… writing.
Like most writers, I write because I’m drawn to put my thoughts on paper. Okay, these days it’s more like converting thoughts into digital data, but you know what I mean. We as writers have something inside that we want to share.
For some of us, it’s a spirit of adventure we want to communicate to our readers, a mystery or thriller that’s been rattling around in the back of our minds. But for me the desire to write is a combination of exploring experiences and outcomes while living vicariously through a fictitious character. My characters are free to travel through events I survived, but they will be far more intelligent, less dramatic, more diplomatic, and all around handle it better than I did. Through my stories I can put my characters into settings I struggled with, then I can manipulate them and the conditions to come up with a far better ending.
Even more fun is to have the characters get opportunities I wish I had been given, and to live through their eyes as they get to do things I may never get to do. I get to explore what would happen if a personality were presented with the conflict and excitement of moving outside their comfort zone and into situations of success and triumph.
Writing gives me the opportunity to travel another road and walk in another’s shoes. So what happens when you come across someone who has actually lived the experiences of a character in your book? My mother used to say “truth is stranger than fiction” but when it happened to me and my work, I was caught off guard.
In my novel Hometown Girl After All, Julia moves to a small town to start over when her life in the city has become unbearable. She finds a love of gardening, which builds her confidence and she eventually opens a flower shop. Imagine my surprise when my daughter sent me a link for an article she read on boredPanda.com that reminded her of my book (link below). The brief article featured a florist’s Instagram feed, filled with photos of her beautiful flowers. The post said Erin had given up her life in the city to live in the country and through planting a few flowers her grandmother had loved, she found she had a gift for growing flowers. The photos in the article were exactly how I had pictured Julia’s flowers in my novel. And the way my daughter had envisioned it too, evidently.
Immediately, I had to follow the chain of links to find who this woman was. Erin’s blog Flower Farm Journal is truly lovely. One of the things I love most, is that the whole front page is devoted to promoting other women who are florists, farmers, and photographers, like herself. What a refreshing view in this day and age of never ending self-promotion! And it keeps getting better from there. As you click through pages of Erin’s site, you find tutorials on how to grow beautiful flowers for yourself. I could spend hours reading these pages filled with brilliant photos.
As I read the story of Erin’s farm for the first time, I felt as if the spirit of my book was coming alive. Julia’s story in Shabby Chic after All is one of recovery, unexpected friendship, love of neighbors, and healing. I was thrilled to read the following quote from the “Our Story” tab of Erin’s Flower Farm Journal web page.
“Years ago we left the hustle and bustle of city life and moved to the Skagit Valley to pursue a slower, simpler and more intentional lifestyle for our little family. We dreamed of eating fresh vegetables from our garden, tending a flock of chickens and planting a small orchard. Shortly after we moved in, a generous neighbor brought his tractor over and tilled up a new plot of ground so that we could plant a garden. His kindness that day offered a glimpse into what country life would be like.”
In my novel Julia finds healing through the growth of her garden as well as love and friendship as it draws people to her. Here is another quote from Erin’s page.
“…word got out and someone ordered a jar of flowers for a friend. I’ll never forget that day as I nervously knocked on her door and awkwardly thrust the bouquet into her hands. Surprised, she buried her face in the flowers and tears immediately welled up in her eyes. She was instantly transported back to her own childhood summers, to a time of great happiness and to her own grandmother’s garden…right then and there I knew I had found my calling.”
I’ve personally have never had the opportunity to move to a small town in the country and start a flower shop, but in my mind it felt lovely. It seemed like a scenario that would be healing and promote friendship and confidence. I couldn’t be happier to see, at least for one woman, this has been a real life experience. Erin’s business has grown far beyond anything Julia ever dreamed in the novel, bravo Erin! But who knows, maybe Julia will return someday in another novel, and her dreams may have burst their seams as well.
Thank you Erin for being an inspiration to many, and for living your dream. I encourage you all to check out her blog and enjoy the gorgeous flowers and photos that she creates. And never stop dreaming!
(Posting your book for sale)
This blog post will discuss how to distribute your book. Distribution sounds ominous, and I was worried about it myself, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Distribution basically means posting the book files online so your customers can buy the book. If you want to have your books available to be ordered in brick and mortar stores like Books a Million, you may need a self-publishing firm to help you get you book into Ingram or other big distribution companies, but this blog will focus on managing distribution yourself and at little cost.
I personally use two simple account types to distribute my eBooks and printed books to Amazon for sale, 1) Kindle Direct Publishing, and 2) Create Space.
To sell eBooks on Amazon you need to create an account with Kindle Direct Publishing. It will walk you through all the steps to upload the eBook files and cover file. You can save as you go and log in multiple times to finish setup. You will do this at https://kdp.amazon.com There you will have a dashboard where you can see each of your eBooks for sale. To complete this process Amazon has a few requirements. You’ll need an EIN from the IRS. (You can do this online at https://goo.gl/u9CfaA) You will also need a bank account so that KPD (Kind Direct Publishing) can direct deposit your royalty checks, and the bank account must be in the United States. The KDP process is paperless and you can log into your KDP account anytime to see your sales. Depending on the options you select when setting up the book, you can sell eBooks on Amazon worldwide this way. Be advised that payment to you may be based on the number of books sold, the way you set up sales, and a minimum dollar amount reached.
For printed books you can create an account with Create Space. Create Space is owned by Amazon and manages the printing and shipping of your paperback book. Thanks to print technology called print on demand, authors have the ability to sell printed paperback books affordably. Create Space posts your paperback book seamlessly with your eBook on Amazon. When the reader purchases the printed book online, the files are downloaded to the printer and one copy will be printed and shipped to the customer. Since the printing process has been simplified from old fashion movable type to digital files, it’s much quicker and cheaper than it was back when they had to print hundreds of books at one time to be cost effective for setup time. You will pay a portion out of each sale for this service. It cuts down on your royalties, but it saves you from the need to pay in advance to print and ship a bunch of books you may never sell. Be advised that this process can take up to three weeks, so if you plan to advertise your book for a holiday or to friends for a birthday etc, allow time for the printing process. You can also order copies for yourself, to sell or give away.
I found the process of uploading files to Create Space simple. It walked me completely through uploading the print layout and cover files needed. They also have 24 hour phone support, which was helpful. Once the process was complete they sent me a sample of my printed book. What a thrill it was to finally hold my first book in my hand! Note that you will need a bank account for this process as well, because the royalties of sales from your printed books will come through Create Space.
Create Space also offers services such as editing, formatting, cover design and more. You can find more info at www.createspace.com
If you don’t want to deal with distribution, most self-publishing firms will charge you several hundred dollars to distribute your book, then take a portion of your royalties, and be advised that they can take a big portion. When I went through my first publisher in Canada they charged so much that the price of my book was inflated to the point that it was completely out of whack with the competition, and I got only a few cents per book sale. Book Fuel is the only company I’ve found so far who will charge to distribute your book but then manage your royalties for a low flat monthly fee, not a portion of each sale. If you choose to have a firm distribute your book, you will most likely log into their system to check sales and you’ll get a check from them, not Amazon or Create Space.
You can also upload your book to online sellers such as Barnes and Noble (Nook for eBooks) and Books a Million online. Each bookstore company will have different requirements. My first two books were available for two and a half years at every online book seller possible, yet 99% of my sales were through Amazon. I’ve chosen to keep it simple and sell only on Amazon, in order to focus on writing rather than managing multiple online accounts.
More and more options are becoming available to help authors get their work published. Do your research to find the option that is best for you. Distribution is only the beginning of the long hard road to market your book, but that’s another story. Don’t let the complexity of the process get you down. Write and edit your book, get your files created, and get your work published!
The other day someone said to me “Are you an author or a writer?” For a moment I was taken by surprise and didn’t know how to reply. I asked what they meant and the reply left a sting. Their answer was: “Have you published a book? If you have then you are an author, if not, you’re just a writer.” Just a writer? I nodded politely and walked away, not being big on confrontation with strangers, but true to my usual form, about two hours later I came up with exactly what I wish I had said.
I should have said that anyone who scribbles a note in order to remember a thought, even a shopping list, is an author.
Sticky notes have become an office staple, after all. We leave notes on a regular basis in the form of texts, posts, and tweets, even many of the alarms we set on our phones are a way to push an intention into reality. So what exactly is this thing we call a writer? Is it as easy as jotting down an inspiring thought and sticking it by your mirror, or is it more than that?
Maybe the difference between an author and a writer is form. Whether you write poetry or greeting cards, if you want to develop your writing from sticky notes or notebook scribbles into a recognized format, there is a process. Step one for a novel? Give your work a name! I tend to have a title I use to refer to each work, then I have a plan B and C in mind. Sometimes a story develops in a surprising way and the title no longer fits, but give your thoughts a title and start referring to it as a book. (For the sake of using correct terms, a novel is a work of fiction, so if you’re writing is historically correct, it won’t be a novel)
Once you’ve decided you’re writing a titled book, what comes next? I wrote two complete novels based on personal experience; trips, relationships, etc., where I changed a few names to protect the stupid. (Usually me) The plots of these stories rambled and meandered, as real life often does. I once asked a friend to read part of one such diatribe. I was particularly proud of the amazing job I’d done telling exactly what had happened, blow by blow. When my friend finished reading, he looked up and said it was okay, but it would never really happen. I was flabbergasted. Due to embarrassing content I didn’t want to argue that indeed it had, but I’ve since spent much time contemplating what makes a story feel “true”. We all know that truth is stranger than fiction, but where had I gone off track with the storyline? Of course many authors love to write about things that have never happened and never will, thus science fiction etc., but in my case I wanted the story and the characters to feel plausible. The content was real, but somehow I’d lost the reader and he couldn’t relate.
One thing I’ve come to realize is that most people have expectations when they pick up a novel. You certainly do if you have a favorite author. What all is wrapped up in the anticipation that causes someone to buy my book over another? I write contemporary romantic comedy novels, so I had to spend some time to understand what people who buy contemporary comedy romance novels expect. Of course I have the option to write my story how ever I want, but at some point I had to decide that instead of writing a wandering story of my choice, I wanted to create a story that would feel like a romantic comedy, thus meeting the expectation of my readers.
At first I balked against the rules of story development, feeling that it would somehow limit my story. After all, I’d once read that all I needed to do was put my characters up a tree, throw rocks at them, and get them down again. Yes, I thought I was somehow gifted enough to flout the rules and create from scratch, a wonder of literature. But once I swallowed some pride and tried to follow story development guidelines, I found that I was forced to write a much more complete and well-constructed story.
The guidelines I speak of are as follows: Stasis, trigger, the quest, surprise, critical choice, climax, reversal, and resolution. The truth is, if you can construct a story around these eight story arcs, you can form a good solid story. Using this format, the plot will keep moving forward and come to a unswerving conclusion, which most authors know can be challenging. If you find that you have individual storylines wandering off into space that can’t be resolved, consider giving the side stories similar rules, or even their own book. There are many ideas out there on story development, but do some research into your genre and consider following good advice.
Remember that the general idea of a story is to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. If you keep getting bogged down or tangled up in the middle part, consider using some guidelines to help find your way out.
Next time we’ll talk about some of the tools you can use to keep track of your well-constructed storyline, but for now, keep writing!