This Writer's Life, Writing

How Do You Define Success as a Writer?

success

We creative types have a tendency to dream big, and why not? If we want something badly enough, the sky’s the limit. Unfortunately, when we begin the hard work that is involved the get there we can feel as if we’ve been hit with the ice bucket challenge. This can be an especially daunting time for unpublished writers, like myself, yet we have an advantage over those already published – time.

During my university studies, one of the first subjects I undertook was on publishing and editing. One of the required readings stuck a chord with me and has remained ever since. It demonstrated the hard work that is required if we wish to succeed as authors (admittedly, though, some of it was rather extreme). This particular author did not discover fame, rewards or find himself upon the road to riches. He was, however, an extremely productive writer.

Born in 1907, Gordon Clive Bleeck is a relatively unknown author, yet he was one of the most prolific and successful fiction writers Australia has produced. He wrote in multiple genres, including crime thrillers, romance and science fiction. As well as writing under his own name, he also wrote under a number of pseudonyms – believed to number at around twenty-two (I told you that was extreme)! Some of these include ‘Brad Cordell’ for westerns and ‘Belli Luigi’ for thrillers and horror stories. In total, he wrote 250 novels or novellas – 150 of these were westerns, which were produced every month for nine years. What is also remarkable about Bleeck is that all this output was produced while working full time.

Admittedly, he may well have had a particular formula for some of his books, like the westerns for example, but so does Mills & Boon and we all know how successful they have been over the years. Regardless, it is still an extraordinary achievement and clearly he had an audience for his work.

As unpublished writers, we not only have time on our side, but we need to make sure that the writer’s life is for us. It’s not going to be easy, no matter which road we take, so we need to be prepared to be in it for the long haul. We become writers because we love stories, and like any other art, it pleases us when we see other people enjoy our work. To me, to become a successful author means writing my stories, getting them published and finding an audience that love what I do. If I’m extremely productive in this process, I’ll be very happy indeed.

How do you define success as a writer? Are you prepared to do what it takes? Are you making the most of your time as a ‘pre-published’ author?

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Authors, Horror, Movies/Television, Writers

At the Movies with Stephen King.

Monsters are real

Some time back, I had written a post regarding the influence of film when I was younger. It was watching movies that made me want to become a writer. Recently, I watched A Night at the Movies – Stephen King. As I had read some of his books when I was a teenager (and of-course had seen a number of those film adaptations), I found it interesting to hear what he had to say regarding the horror genre within the movie industry.

  • The first movie that ever scared him was ‘Bambi’ as he was terrified of the forest fire.
  • The terrifying thing about zombies is they won’t stop – death is not the end.
  • The ghost story that scared him the most was ‘The Changeling’.
  •  He believes the big films of the horror genre are ‘Psycho’, ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’.
  •  The ending of ‘The Blair Witch Project’ has no real explanation, which is where the real horror lies.
  • Favourite movie versions of his books include ‘The Dead Zone’,’ Misery’ and ‘Cujo’. He describes the movie version of his book ‘The Shining’ as ‘a beautiful car that has no engine’.
  • He still has a big affection for the monster movies – the B grade movies from the 50s and 60s.
  • If anyone gives us a run for our money in the horror genre, it’s the Japanese.
  • The reason he goes to see horror movies are to lay down his fears for a while and indulge some of his darker emotions. If the movies have supernatural elements to it, it’s a chance to exercise his imagination, to give it wings and let it fly.

These are just a few items that stood out to me – especially that one about poor innocent, Bambi. Who knew? That’s my favourite Disney movie! There are a couple of movies on his list that I still have yet to see, but I find it a fascinating insight into the mind of one of the greatest writers of our time.

Do you have a favourite Stephen King movie? What horror movie scared you the most? Do you enjoy watching movies that make you think? Do certain movies ‘exercise your imagination’?

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Authors, Writers

The Power of Words.

Colleen McCulloughLast week, both Australians and the writing community were saddened by the death of Colleen McCullough. Author of the bestselling novel The Thorn Birds as well as many others; she was regarded as Australia’s most successful author. Unfortunately, her passing has been marred by a piece of careless writing.

Within the opening paragraph of an obituary written in one of the country’s most prominent newspapers, The Australian, it stated:

‘Colleen McCullough, Australia’s best-selling author, was a charmer. Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless, a woman of wit and warmth. In one interview, she said: ‘I’ve never been into clothes or figure and the interesting thing is I never had any trouble attracting men.’

Yes, you read that correctly – plain of feature and overweight. Seriously, what has her appearance got to do with anything? It beggars belief that in 2015 we’re still having such discussions, but sadly, this level of journalism continues here in Australia and around the world. Understandably, there was a public outcry by both the media and social networks.

As a fellow writer and ex-University student, I know the importance of a good opening paragraph. This was an apparent oversight from those at The Australian in order to meet their deadline. An otherwise well written piece (that does go on to mention her many achievements) was in dire need of a good editor.

I’d like to look at that paragraph in a different way. Here was a woman that didn’t care less how she looked or what others thought of her. She was a warm, intelligent woman with a good sense of humour and men were attracted to her because of it. She was a neurophysiologist before taking up writing full-time. Her intensely researched, historical series Masters of Rome is indicative of that intelligence (yes, I struggled and anyone who has read them I applaud you). These books led her to be awarded a Doctor of Letters degree by Macquarie University in 1993. Colleen McCullough knew the power of words – sadly, a lesson those at The Australian have had to learn the hard way.

My dad had a saying: ‘We all come and go in this world the same way.’ It’s what we do in-between that’s important. Colleen McCullough was a strong woman who made a tremendous contribution to Australia and the publishing industry; her looks are therefore entirely irrelevant. May she rest in peace.

Have you ever been judged by your appearance rather than what you could actually do? Have you ever sent out work that you later wished you had more time to work on? Did you read the Master of Rome series or did you struggle like me?

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Blogging

Author Blogs.

There has been some discussion of late amongst writers on what content to have within their blogs. This is an issue I have been grappling with myself for quite some time now.

As an unpublished author, I have the advantage of experimenting with my blog to find out what works and what doesn’t. When we start out we naturally blog about writing, however there are so many blogs on this topic that the humble beginner can get lost in the crowd. Published authors also blog about writing; they know what they’re talking about and are well informed about the industry. I have read both Get Known before the Book Deal by Christina Katz and We Are Not Alone by Kristen Lamb, and both recommend authors blog on topic. With this in mind, I decided to take a step back to see exactly what other authors were doing when it came to blogging.  Here’s what I discovered:-

  • Authors blog about writing and the writing process.
  • Authors blog about their books – new releases, book signings, television versions of their novels, etc.
  • Authors review books they like by other authors.
  • Authors talk about the inspiration behind their books.
  • Authors discuss how they became writers.
  • Authors blog about social issues that affect them.
  • Not all authors blog.

I was beginning to see a pattern emerging; when authors blog, they talk about books in one form or another; they also blog about topics that interest them and therefore can inspire their writing. When I read books by an author I enjoy reading, I look them up on the internet to find out more about their books.  If I’m lucky, I can also find out more about them as people.  These days, people want to find out more about the personal lives of celebrities.  Fortunately, authors don’t seem to have to put their lives under the microscope, but it is always fascinating to learn about how they became writers and what inspired them. There have been biographies written about authors such as Jane Austen, the Brontes and Charles Dickens for example, because as readers we are fascinated about them as writers.

By undertaking this research, I have discovered a number of things. As writers it is only natural that we need to talk about our books (and those of others) and our inspiration behind them. This not only informs the reader on what our books are actually about, but also lets them know a little bit about our own personalities and what we are passionate about. If we are passionate about certain topics this will come through in our writing for both our books and our blogs.  I have recently discovered something that I’m passionate about just by undertaking this research – it has allowed me to dig deeper.

So where do I go from here with my own blog? Yes, I’ve been guilty of blogging about writing (I think we all have from time to time), but it is one of my passions.  Here are some of the things I’ll be blogging about:-

  • Books.
  • The writing process.
  • Specific locations of where my stories are set.
  • Topics I’ve researched.
  • Time periods I’ve researched.
  • The inspiration behind my stories.

Blog what you are comfortable with; write about your passions. The main thing to remember about blogging is to have fun! I’m looking forward to blogging in the future – what about you? 😀

Have you undertaken your own research when it comes to author blogs? What have you discovered? What do you like to see in an author’s blog? What don’t you like to see? Do you think authors should blog at all?

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Writing

Regarding Blogging & an Award.

There has been a fair amount of discussion lately regarding blogging.  I’ve been reading some of Kristen Lamb’s posts, including this one and through that post, I bought her book.  She believes that for fiction writers, our blogs should be based ‘on topic’ in order to gather our readers.  I understand this reasoning and it does make sense, yet I’m not too sure what to make of this.  I wonder if you write too much ‘on topic’ that it would eventually alienate readers, when after all, readers these days like to find out more about their favourite authors as a person.

Maybe because I am a writer, I like to learn how other authors deal with the writing process, rejections, etc.  Making friends with other writers would be in my own best interests, not only helping out in the writing process, but they would be my first port of call as readers.  If they thought my writing was good enough, this may then help spread the word about my books/work and therefore encourage my future (non-writing) readers.  I know I’d do the same for them.  As luck would have it, I read this post by fellow blogger, Molly Green, and was relieved to find that I was not the only one feeling this way lately.

Adding further to my blogging dilemmas, I had been reading this post by Meghan Ward regarding the expectations some agents have on the number of hits an author’s site should receive.  It is from reading such numbers as these, that one begins to feel a bit like Linda Blair in her head-spinning scene in the Exorcist!  Her post, along with this one from Jami Gold helps put blogging into perspective.  As someone pointed out in the comments, marketing should not be confused with platform.  In the end, I went back to a good old reliable source book, something tried and true – Get Known Before the Book Deal by Christina Katz.  This quote was the one that brought it all home for me:-

My opinion is that you should put the lion’s share of your energy into the work you do that earns you money and keep your blog growing slowly and steadily on the side.

So now, I’m not going to stress too much about blogging anymore.  I believe the best way to go is to find some sort of balance between being ‘on topic’ and what is happening with my writing.  I have seen published authors blog this way and it doesn’t seem to be doing them any harm.  I’ve been blogging for a little while now and I think it’s a case of blog whatever you feel comfortable with.  And by the way, if you don’t already have a copy of Christina’s book, I heartily recommend it.

Still on topic, but on a more happier note, many thanks this week to Jen at Jen’s Bookshelf for giving me the 7×7 Link Award.  Yes, my blog has been given another award! 🙂

Now for this award I need to list what I regard as some of my best within these categories:-

Most Beautiful:  This Spring I started putting up some photos for my Photo Friday posts, and this one Photo Friday – Rainforests seemed to have become the most popular, judging by the comments.
Most Helpful: Once again, judging by the comments, Conquer Your Fears seemed to create a healthy discussion.  It’s good to know that as writers we’re not alone.
Most Popular:  My first entry in the Writer’s Platform Building Campaign, My Sweet Imago – 2nd Campaigner Challenge not only generated some votes, but some wonderful comments.  To know that I had captivated my readers, and that they found it ‘entrancing’, ‘evil’, ‘vindictive’, ‘creepy’ and ‘disturbing’ makes me one happy camper!
Most Controversial: Well, I have to admit that this one Controversial Issues in YA Novels is the closest thing to a controversial post that I’ve written (at least that I know of).
Most Successful:  I would have to say that my post on the Writer’s Platform Building Campaign I regard as my most successful, only because by participating in this campaign, I have had more people visit my blog, comment and subscribe than ever before.  I have also met and made friends with some wonderful people I would never had done so otherwise.
Most Underrated: My post on The Business Side of Writing was created out of sheer frustration by a local business taking many months to fix our washing machine.  I decided to apply simple strategies on how to provide a top quality customer service when it comes to writing.
Most Prideworthy: To know that people do actually read my blog and appreciate what I have to say earned me My Very First Writing Award not once, but three times.  Thank you so much Elizabeth Anne, Lesann and Kerri – your kind thoughts, along with Jen for this award, has given me the incentive to stay within the blogosphere.
So now I hand over the 7×7 Link award baton to my fellow bloggers:- Lynda R. Young at W.I.P. It, Christy Farmer, Molly Green: Worth Becoming, Rebekah Loper, and of-course this goes without saying – Elizabeth Anne Stilborn, Lesann Berry and Kerri Cuevas!
Books

Controversial Issues in YA Novels.

There has been a fair amount of controversy within recent times regarding the subject matter in young adult novels.  Being both a writer and a reader of young adult fiction, I tend to find myself giving it quite a bit of thought.

I was probably about eleven when I read the controversial book Go Ask Alice.  Of-course at that age, I had no idea that it was controversial, but I remember it to this day.  Did I want to go out and try drugs after reading the book?  No.  In high school I was fortunate to be with a group of friends that never did drugs and in all honesty, we weren’t interested.  Did reading the book help prevent me from doing drugs?  I can’t be certain, but after having read the book twice, it certainly stuck in my eleven year old mind to stay away from them.  Mind you, my parents were completely unaware that I was reading this book, after having sneaked it out of my older sisters’ bedroom!  Lucky for them, I’d like to think that I had my head screwed on.

Recently I read Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson.  Yes, I found it disturbing, but at the same time I felt for Lia, as in my teenage years I was slowly working my own way towards anorexia.  The author evokes the reader’s sympathy; we don’t want Lia to slowly kill herself, nor does the young reader have to endure such pain themselves.  Without preaching, books can do what they do best – educate and entertain.

Way back in June, I read one of Lisa Mcmann’s posts regarding this issue and I completely agree with her.  Having two children of my own, it’s only natural I want to protect them, yet there comes a time when a parent has to learn to let their children find their own way in life.  It’s one of the hardest things a parent has to do, but it is necessary in order for their children to learn and experience the world around them.  Personally, I would much rather have my children deal with some of the realities of what life has to offer them through the world of books than face the alternatives.

What are your thoughts regarding young adult novels lately?  Have you ever read a controversial book that helped you make certain decisions?

Books

The Book Lives On.

A few weeks ago, in a discussion with my mother, she began talking about e-books.  Of-course she believed that the traditional book was ‘dead’, and since many people of her generation listen to talk-back radio, firmly believes that therefore, it must be true.  I should have known where this topic was heading; I’ve been there plenty of times before.  Never have I known my mother to be positive with any decision I make, so when she said ‘if the future of the book is dead, then we won’t need authors anymore’, I was speechless.  Here was a giant leap in logic.  E-books are still books; they are just in an electronic format, so surely, society would need authors to write these too?  They don’t just write themselves.

There has been plenty of discussion regarding e-books and the death of the traditional book.  I myself was a bit slow on the uptake in embracing this new technology, but since I now own a Kindle and have read some e-books, I don’t believe traditional books have ‘died’ at all.  When you think about it, have people completely stopped going to the movies because they can now watch them on DVD?  People still cook on stoves after all these years of having microwaves, just like they still hang their washing out instead of always using a clothes dryer.  Some of these points may seem a bit extreme, but you get my point.  Not everyone will always read e-books or buy a Kindle, so bookshops and libraries will still be popular.

We are fortunate that we live during a time where books have become more popular than ever.  Since the introduction of the Harry Potter series, children have become eager to read books, so too have teenagers become more willing to pick up a book due to the success of Twilight and therefore introducing them to some of the classics in literature.  The future of the book depends upon younger generations’ reading habits, whether it is in electronic or traditional format, and it is up to us as writers to create stories they will learn to love.

I know of no better way of reading to a child, other than by cuddling up with a book in its traditional format; it’s just not the same with an e-book.  If nothing else, that alone tells me that the future of the book is in safe hands.

Image by Debbie Johansson.