Back when I began my M.F.A., one of the first questions I was asked was, “What is your writing process? To put the words in my head down on the page, right? I just write what I think and then revise, revise, revise until it comes out, hopefully, to something someone will want to read. That was my writing process, or so I thought. But, I learned that there is so much more to writing, especially if you are undertaking a novel length work, and every author has their own way of doing things. There is no right way to create story. We all have to find the ways that work for us.
Some writers are plotters, and some are pantsters, just letting the story flow, so they can be surprised right along with their readers at how the story turns out.. Those who are plotters find fabulous and creative methods to work out their plots, from using a whiteboard, to taping note cards on the wall above their desks, to good old fashioned outlining. While some authors, like Barbara Chapaitis, who was my “Chatting with the Pros” guest last January, are binge writers, who get an idea and then locks themselves in a room alone for days on end until the story is written.
Some like to do their writing at night, some in the morning hours when their creativity is at a high. Some write with their favorite music playing, while others require quiet in order to write. Some writers write everything out in longhand, while others type it out on their keyboards. Still others, like Kevin J. Anderson and Martin L. Shoemaker in their book, which I reviewed this month, “On Being a Dictator“.
It is a subject that has fascinated me, and questions on the writing process are commonplace in my author interviews, because everyone does it different. In fact, back in 2018, when I was running the “Ask the Authors” series, I ran a segment on it in both rounds of the series, which is soon to become a chapter in the Ask the Authors book, scheduled to come out later this year from WordCrafter Press. I think it fascinates me because there are so many different ways to approach writing, and some of them are very creative.
Like many things, writing processes change and grow as we do. Back then, I carried a notebook and wrote stories out in longhand if a computer wasn’t handy. I just wrote from off the top of my head and let the words fall as they may. I loved to write while my favorite music played, and since there were others in the house, it was usually blasting into my head through a set of earbuds. But now… Now I carry my laptop everywhere and do a lot of pre-writing activities in my head. (The writing process begins long before the words ever hit the page.) I seldom listen to music while I write because I too often catch myself singing along instead of writing. (I’m seriously considering giving dictation another go, because many ideas are lost because I can’t get them down right away.) And I outline, especially for novel length works, but even a little on short stories, too.
What is your writing process? I would love to hear about your own unique approaches. Let me know in the comments.
My earliest years were spent in Westernville, NY. Right down the street was the beautiful Lake Delta, a place we visited frequently. My parents and I played on the beach. We walked the trails through the woods. One day my father mentioned that when he used to fly his plan over Lake Delta, he could see the foundations beneath the water. That puzzled me – why would there be foundations down there? Were they like the shell fossils we found in our backyard sometimes?
He explained that a village used to be there, but it was flooded to create the lake. My imagination went wild. He also told me that my grandmother’s house on the farm where we lived was moved from the lost village. That amazed me, and gave me my first glimpse at history. My fascination with Lake Delta continued, but we moved to a neighboring village and didn’t visit the state park as often.
One day, the Westernville Town Clerk, Mary Centro, spoke at my hometown about Delta. My mother and I attended the lecture, and we were enthralled. I wanted to write a story at once, but I didn’t know where to take it.
My parents moved back to Westernville and I met with the town clerk to discuss Lake Delta in more detail. She told me about walking the land while the lake is low and finding treasures washed up on shore. The next year, my parents and I walked the lake, but we didn’t find anything. Again, I felt the need to write about the lost village of Delta, but I didn’t know who my main character would be yet.
The town clerk wrote two non-fiction books about Delta and my dad bought copies. While visiting my parents, I looked through them, and then did some research online. I learned that one house hadn’t been torn down the first time they flooded the land. It wasn’t until later, when the water receded, that they demolished it.
That was my story. A little magic seeped into the tale, and Lottie came to life. You can read about Lottie in DELTA, my first historic fiction novella that is appropriate for teens and adults.
About the real Delta…
New York State decided it was time to expand the Erie Canal. Many of the ports along the canal were no longer being used, because shipping goods by train became the more popular method. Shipping by train was cheaper than shipping via canal. It wasn’t just the price, though, that encouraged manufactures to choose train travel. The modern barges that were needed to ship the goods couldn’t go on the Erie Canal, which was too small and far too shallow. The water level of the Erie Canal tended to fluctuate. By expanding the Erie Canal, the ports would flourish once again. Many farmers were excited by this. They would be able to transport their goods to cities elsewhere in New York State. Expanding the canal required the use of five reservoirs. These reservoirs would provide enough water to keep the level of the canal even. New York State chose Delta because they would only need to build one dam.
The village of Delta rested inside of a deep valley. This made the perfect bowl-shape to fill with water from the Mohawk River nearby. Flooding Delta meant that privately owned land would need to be seized by the government. Everyone living on that land would need to move elsewhere.
In 1903, surveyors arrived in Delta to measure the land and create maps. In 1908, New York State officially authorized that Delta would be cleared to make way for the reservoir. Blue evacuation notices were presented to the village’s five-hundred residents, forcing them to relocate. One hundred buildings were torn down and destroyed. Some, however, were dismantled and moved to other towns in the area, where they were rebuilt. People moved away and their village became a reservoir. The dam was completed in October 1912. Water first went over in May of 1916.
Despite the great expenses incurred in the relocation of the Black River Canal, it closed in 1921.
Jordan Elizabeth is a fantasy author who is obsessed with history and ghosts. You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com. The photo above shows Jordan on the shores of Lake Delta. You can often find she and her son enjoying the beach.
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“This is available at the library, right?’ I get that question a lot.
You should know that I talk about my books. A lot. I get excited and that passion spills over whether I’m at a book signing or conversing with a coworker. Some people don’t want to buy books. They might not like the book, so they don’t want to invest in the purchase, or they don’t want to have books cluttering their homes. Whatever the reason, libraries are perfect.
If I’m asked locally, then I get to say yes, my books are available. Other places…well…not so much. That surprises people.
Here’s the thing about indie books. Libraries don’t normally stock them. They need a reason to purchase a copy. This could be because you’re a local author, because you did an event there, or because someone requested it.
The best way to help out an author is to ask your local library to purchase a copy. This is a sale for the author and exposure. People are going to borrow the book, read it, and talk about. There is no marketing tool as powerful as word of mouth.
Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author. She’s often wandering libraries looking for something to spark her interest…or she’s squealing over a treasure discovered in a used book room. You can connect with her via her website.
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Lending libraries are the new craze. Basically, you build this little wooden box on a pole and stick it in your front yard. Most of the time, the little wooden box has a little glass window. People walking by leave a book and take a book. Lending libraries encourage neighborhoods to connect and read more. Plus, if you’re like me, they’re a great way to give away books and know they’ll go to a good home. The lending libraries can also be found outside of churches, schools, community pools, anywhere you might find a group of readers hungry for new books.
(For those who feel the need to DIY, here are some simple instructions to build your own.)
Lending libraries pull me in, and I’ve frequented quite a few. There’s one in Old Forge, Westernville, and New Hartford, all towns in Upstate New York where I live. Recently, I dropped off signed copies of my novels to the one in New Hartford.
Lending libraries, however, cater more toward adults than to young adults. Each one I’ve been to has never contained a young adult novel. I’ve seen some picture books for kids, but nothing in the young adult genre. The books are all well-worn copies of religious non-fiction, popular chick-lit or obscure fiction. I’m not knocking any of those genres, but let’s build up some interest for teenage readers.
The news is often talking about how teenagers aren’t reading enough. The news talks about how teenagers focus on their phones instead of getting out into the world. Lending libraries meant for young adults, or lending libraries with YA titles mixed in, would “fix” both of those issues. Teenagers would be reading more. They’d be introduced to more options. They would also be getting out into their neighborhoods. A great way to make lending libraries more interactive is to leave a note or bookmark inside the treasure you drop off. I like to include a thought about why I enjoyed the story. It helps to connect the readers, even if they live in a different town.
I’m all for dropping off a young adult title or two in the nearest lending library. Who is with me?
Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author. Her latest book, a post-apocalyptic novella entitled ROTHAM RACE, released July 14th fron CHBB. You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.
Normally Fridays bring you book reviews on Writing to be Read, but as often happens, life got in the way last week and I don’t have a review ready today. So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about the importance of reviews for today’s authors. You see a lot of hubbub on social media these days asking for reviews, and it’s one of the top goals for authors, in part because acquiring reviews has become one of the biggest difficulties today’s author faces. First, let’s look at how reviews can help authors, and then we’ll look at why they are so darn hard to get.
So, what’s all the fuss about? Why do author’s even need reviews? What good are they?
In the world of digital publishing, it’s not sales numbers that puts your book at the top of the best seller lists, but the buzz which surrounds it. Reviews drive books to the top, or not. But, even poor reviews are helpful to authors. I know that doesn’t sound right, but it’s true. Author and freelance writer DeAnna Knippling explains it well:
“Amazon’s algorithms are not human, do not have feelings, and don’t actually understand that you’ve just been torn in two by a critical review. What those algorithms see, as far as anyone can tell… is that someone read your book.
“In my opinion, indie writers should treat all stars as good stars. Total stars = success #1.
“Second, indie writers should worry about their average star rating. Higher average = success #2.
“Third, indie writers should worry about their average rating being too universally positive, an indication that reviews were either begged, borrowed or stolen. Variety of star ratings, (obviously heavier on the 4\5 ratings) = success #3.
“Forth, although maybe this should be higher, indie writers should be worried about reviewers going on to buy similar books to yours. If your book is bought and possibly liked by people who normally buy that kind of book, it will be shown more often to people who buy that kind of book. Also bought = success #4. ”
So, reviews not only boost your book up on the best seller lists, but they also direct the audience who views it, which theoretically, can boost your sales. That’s why I post my reviews, or at least a portion of them, on both Amazon and Goodreads. Amazon doesn’t always allow my reviews to stand because I’m not a verified sale. (I do my reviews in exchange for ARC copies.) However, Goodreads even allows me to include a link back to the original review here on Writing to be Read. If an author requests it, I will also post their review on Smashwords, B&N, or any other site that carries their book, if I’m able. After all, the reason I do what I do is to help out my fellow authors. The rules placed by the different sites on who can post a review and what can be posted can be daunting, but they can be worked around.
Something else I have run into is getting people to download my book, even when it’s free. I offer a free ebook of my paranormal mystery, Hidden Secrets, when you sign up for my monthly newsletter. I’m getting people to sign up, but for reasons I don’t understand, not many are claiming their freebie. I’m not sure why this is, but I know other authors who have experienced the same thing. If you can’t get people to read your book for free, how do you expect to get them to pay for it? And then, if you do get them to read the book, how do you get them to take the time to go back and leave a review?
To find out what problems other authors have in acquiring reviews for their books and learning what works, I did an informal poll of authors that I know, and here is what I found out:
Jordan Elizabeth: Getting reviews is hard. I don’t think I’ve only had 1 or 2 people ever leave a review after purchasing. I’ve tried blog tours, but haven’t had good luck. The best way for me is to seek out blogs and send a personal email.
Tom Johnson: It’s hard to get reviews. I sell a lot of books, but few receive reviews. Readers just don’t want to write them. The easiest way is to sign up for a Blog Tour (there are many tours available, but they charge). However, you will get reviews on the Tour. I review books, and would be interested in reading the first Oracle novel.
Amy Cecil: I have my own personal ARC TEAM, that starts the reviews when a book releases, then I have bloggers and the rest trickle in.
1) ask friends and people you have been in contact with lately and kindly ask them if they would read and review your novel.
2) engage with possible audience in social media and ask them for reviews in exchange for free giveaways.
3) contact students and people who are new in the area and ask if they would be willing to do it.
4) I have been advised and therefore passing it on “never buy reviews” – readers do know it’s fake news lol.
5) last but not least, patiently wait for surprises and if they do not come, keep no worries Shakespeare had no reviews as all the other masters (lol).
There doesn’t seem to be any clear cut answers. I can remember when the only people who wrote reviews were columnist, who wrote for the newspapers and magazines, and that’s the only place that you found them. But the industry is changing and now days customers want to hear from customers who bought before them before they buy, so that’s who writes, or doesn’t write reviews, and they appear on every book distribution site where they are available.
Although it sounds as if Amy Cecil might have something going with her ARC TEAM, many authors struggle as much to get reviews as they do to make sales. I don’t see anything wrong with simply requesting folks to read your book and write a review, but it appears this methods lends only minimal results. There are reviewers such as myself out there, but finding them isn’t always easy,
Something I’ve seen in recent ebooks I’ve read is an appeal to the reader at the end of the book, asking them to write a quick review before putting the book down for another. It seems to me that this reminder is strategically placed to catch the reader’s eye just as they finish the story, requesting the review while the tale is still fresh in their minds. It might just work.
As authors, we should be reading as a part of our pre-writing preparations, saturating our brains with whatever genre we plan to write in, as well as factual research for nonfiction or historical works. As authors, we also know that reviews truly are important, so take the time to write a review for every book you read. It may take me a while to get my reviews posted on sites in addition to my blog, but I do eventually get them there. Reviews don’t have to take long to write. A couple of sentences and a star rating will do. But write the review.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
Pangaea: Eden’s Planet, by Tom Johnson is a science fiction story that engaged me through to the last page, offering me food for thought in some of my own writings. It is well crafted with an entertaining plot and characters that I grew to like in the brief time it took me to read it.
On a routine mission to ready Mars for colonization, a space anomoly sends their spaceship back to prehistoric Earth instead. Stuck in a hostile land before the existence of man or dinosaurs, the crew does their best to make the best of things. But faced with poisonous plants and animals, along with huge and vicious carnivores, the crew is dwindling. How can they survive?
The third person omnicient P.O.V. is always a little off-putting for me, but Tom Johnson crafts the story well and really does a nice job of pulling this viewpoint off. While there were a few logic problems, they weren’t so severe that I couldn’t buy in to this excellent plot and story line. The only thing I couldn’t overlook was the use of varied dialog tags, some which were distracting, actually pulling me out of the story.
Pangaea: Eden’s Planet is an engaging tale crafted with thought and skill. I give it four quills.
Every year at this time I look back and so a review of what was published on Writing to be Read and my writing life. 2017 has been pretty eventful for both me and Writing to be Read, so this year I’m particularly excited about this look back. But, I’m also excited to get out my crystal ball and warm up my psychic abilities as we take a look forward that comes as we start the new year, because I think there may be some exciting things in store.
There were so many things that happened for me in 2017. In April, my western novel, Delilah was published by Dusty Saddle Publishing, which of course, is exciting. Delilah hasn’t done too bad on sales, but it didn’t make the best seller list. It has received some really excellent reviews, and is rated with four stars on Amazon. Although it may not be a huge success, for me it was a hard earned accomplishment, but the reward came the day I received my first royalty check. Yep, I’ve got royalties. Isn’t that the final proof that I’m a writer, at last?
I do have folks inquiring about a second novel, and for those who are wondering, Book 2 is in the working. My crystal ball tells me that it will be published sometime in the coming year, only this book, I may publish myself and skip the publisher as middle man. I’m having a time getting the sales data, and what I do have makes it appears as if what sales I do have, have been the results of my own marketing efforts, so I’m not seeing the benefit of sharing my royalties with a publisher, when I can do about everything they have done for me. In addition, mid-year the rather generic cover the publisher provided for the book was replaced by a cover that fits the story better, done for me by Sonoran Dawn Studios, which I am much happier with.
In addition I had two short stories published in 2017 by Zombie Pirates Publishing. The first, “If You’re Happy and You Know It” came out on August 1, in their science fiction anthology The Collapsar Directive. The story is a futuristic dystopian tale with just a touch of humor, in a world where productivity is high, but you’re only allowed to be happy on the weekend.
The second story, “The Devil Made Her Do It”, just came out the 15th of this month in their Crime Romance anthology, Relationship Add Vice. It’s a tale about the crazy things we do for love and a girl, Betty Lou Dutton, who leaves hereself open to be taken advantage of and ends up taking the rap. My fortune telling abilities see Zombie Pirates in my future for the coming year, as well. I submitted a little flash fiction story for consideration in their Full Metal Horror anthology. Wish me luck.
The really big thing that happened for me in 2017, or at least I think it’s big, is a landed an adjunct position teaching ENG102:Academic Writing at Western State Colorado University, my Alma Mater. Let me tell you, it has been a crazy ride. I got the position due to a last minute opening, when a scheduled lecturer was unable to teach for health reasons, which was unfortunate for the scheduled lecturer, but very fortunate for me. We got it all figured out and I was hired five days before classes started, so that’s how long I had to restructure both classes to be hybrid classes and figure out how to teach a method of writing I knew nothing about. It was a rocky start, and to be honest, I think I confused many of my students at first, because I was unsure myself, but as the semester moved forward, I gained more solid footing in the classroom, and the students began to figure it out, too. I have now successfully made it through a whole semester, teaching two hybrid courses and it feels great. I know I can do it and I have some experience teaching in a University setting, so I know there will be more teaching jobs in the coming year. My crystal ball is a little blurry in this area, but I know last minute stuff happens all the time, so who knows? Maybe I’ll end up back at Western.
As for Writing to be Read, I’ve had an exciting year there, too. At the beginning of the year, I my friend Robin Conley helped me do a total overhaul of the site, and in August my friend DL Mullan of Sonoran Dawn Studios helped to redesign it. The results are what you see here now, but they were a long time in coming. I’ve added my website right here on the blog and you can reach the different sections by clicking on the tabs across the top to learn about my published poetry and fiction, my westerns, my Playground for the Gods series, or Write it Right Editing. Writing to be Read also gained some great talent in 2017, Robin Conley with her Weekly and Monthly Writing Memos, and Jeff Bowles with his Pep Talks and his God Complex posts, and I am thankful for benefit of their content for the short time they were with me. Unfortunately, life carries folks in different directions and both of these fine writers are no longer able to share their expertise and wisdom with us and I don’t foresee them rejoining us in 2017.
What my crystal ball does show me, is that Writing to be Read has grown in readership over the past year, and I feel it is due to the great and consistant content posted not only by myself, but by Robin and Jeff, as well. Most recently, the content has been almost non-existant, because I’ve had to focus on the classroom and I’ve discovered grading essays takes a lot of time. I don’t think the drop in content from losing my team members or from my not having the time to devote that I should have hurt my numbers yet, but I do foresee such a possibility if the lack of content continues.
In this realm, my crystal ball shows me something very interesting. I see new members of the Writing to be Read team and really great content in the coming year. In fact, a call for action is going out with this post, right now. If you are a writer who feels you might have something to contribute and you’d like to be on the Writing to be Read team, I want to hear from you. Shoot me an email at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com telling me what type of contribution you would like to make and how often you’d like to make it. I’m pretty flexible, so let’s talk.
In years past, I have given a rundown of all the posts throughout the year and which were viewed the most or which got the highest numbers of comments or likes, however that makes for a very lengthy, boring post, so this year I’m only giving you the most interesting facts. For instance, over the past year Writing to be Read has had viewers from the across the globe. The highest number of views coming from U.S., the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Ireland, India and Mexico. It’s top referrer is Facebook, which doesn’t really make me happy, since I’m kind of peeved at Facebook at the moment, but I’ll take my viewers wherever I can get them.
The month to receive the most views was July, with my interview with writer, poet and cover designer Dawn Leslie Mullan being the hightest viewed post. Next up was a “Pep Talk” from Jeff Bowles, “I Think We Need a Break”, and third highest was my post, “An Adventure in Social Media Marketing“. The post that received the most viewed over the whole year was my post titled, “How Do You Measure Success?” which I wrote after signing the contract for Delilah. The second highest views overall were received by “Ah! Sweet Rejection“, which I wrote, oddly enough, after recieving a rejection for Delilah. The third highest was Robin Conley’s “Weekly Writing Memo: Word Choice is Everything“.
Looking ahead to 2018, my crystal ball says it’s going to be a good year. I hope it’s right. I guess only time will tell. So until then…
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