Alycia Christine

Enchanting Tales, Intriguing Art

Tag: writing as a business (Page 1 of 2)

Writing as a Business: The Myths of Self-Publishing, Part 3

A few weeks ago, I began a new mini-series on my Writing as a Business blog outlining a step-by-step guide on how to self-publish a book. Before we begin the main guide, however, I wanted to prepare by writing several posts dealing with some common self-publishing myths that can cause stumbling blocks for those new to the game. If you haven’t read the first or second self-publishing myths articles, I suggest you do that before tackling the article today. For those of you who are all caught up, let’s continue.

Writing Myth #6: Getting It Right on the First Draft

No matter the area of expertise, the difference between a professional and amateur is lots of practice. Consequently, you need to prove yourself as a professional by putting in the work required of you. In the case of writers, this means that the first draft of a manuscript is never good enough to publish no matter who you are or how long you have been writing. Professional writers know that publishable material only comes after several drafts of a manuscript are complete.

In my case, I finish a rough draft and let it “rest” for at least a couple of weeks. I come back to it with fresh eyes, and rewrite a second draft of the manuscript. If the second draft meets my expectations of quality then I’ll send it to my alpha readers. I write a third draft based on their suggestions, send the third draft to my copy editor, and write the fourth draft based on her critique. With four drafts under my belt, I should be done, right? Wrong! Instead, I’ll send the fourth draft to beta readers and write the fifth draft based on their comments. If all things turn out well, the fifth draft of the novel goes to the proofreader and the sixth draft is the one that sees final publication. However, before I click that publish button, I have to oversee the manuscript’s formatting for multiple book additions including three e-book formats and, at least, one print version of the work.

What about the streamlined version of the writing/publishing process?

Sorry but what you just read is my streamlined version of how to take a manuscript from rough draft to publishable form. If I find plot holes or other inconsistences in the book at any point during the second draft revision process, it will require additional rewrites for part or all of the manuscript. Skinshifter, for example, required about eight drafts before it ever even saw my editor. Dreamdrifter only took three.

If this all sounds like a lot of work to you, well it is. I know other writers—independent and traditional—who are far less picky in their revision process and, quite frankly, their lack of effort shows. They may call themselves professionals, but their writing still proves them as amateurs because they haven’t revised their manuscripts enough. To put it in simple terms, they haven’t put in the amount of practice required to write on a professional level.

So how much practice is needed?

That depends entirely on the writer. I’ve heard estimates of five to twenty years before a writer can be considered a master of the craft. I’ve also heard the 10,000-hour-rule applied to writing proficiency. One writer, the popular blogger and author Hugh Howey, recommends that the amount of practice a writer needs to be adept at his or her craft can be achieved by writing five hours a day, five days a week, for five years. If you do the math on that you get: 5 hours x 5 days x 52 weeks x 5 years = 6500 hours total. This is considerably less than the rule of 10,000 hours of practice that I’ve heard from other sources, but I suppose it’s possible to write on a professional level after five years if the practice is deep enough and the writer adept enough in skill. The truth, though, is that writers never really master our craft because there is always more to be learned.

For me, that journey of discovery and learning is part of the joy of the vocation. I love learning and so I try to discover something new about writing every day. I’m always reading to increase my general knowledge and to deepen my understanding of writing. As I read and as I practice the act of writing itself, I grow in my appreciation of this incredible craft as a means of shared communication and artistic expression.

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better.

Alycia

~

The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

Books:
Skinshifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits | FREE STUFF

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

Writing as a Business: The Myths of Self-Publishing, Part 2

As I explained in my last blog post, I’m beginning a new mini-series on my Writing as a Business blog outlining a step-by-step guide on how to self-publish a book. Before we begin the main guide, however, I need to make sure that you are in the proper mindset when it comes to self-publishing. Consequently, the last post and this post deal with several self-publishing myths. If you haven’t read the first three self-publishing myths, I suggest you do that before tackling the ones today. For those of you who are all caught up, let’s continue.

Myth #4: If You Publish It, They Will Read

In the beginning of the self-published book gold rush during 2008-2011, tons of indie authors hit pay dirt just by writing books and clicking the “publish” button on Amazon. Now, not so much. The book market is flooded with tons of self-published titles now and that makes it all the more difficult to compete with your own work.

Indies’ saving solution to this problem is direct marketing and networking. Since self-publishing cuts out the middleman (publishers) between authors and our potential readers, it means that direct marketing is one of our best options to engage readers. Thanks to the internet and social media, authors and readers can enjoy a more direct relationship than ever before. Direct contact to readers allows authors the ability to find out what readers want and when they want it.

However, direct marketing gets tricky. The last thing most readers want is to be spammed with “Read my book!” every time they turn around. Instead authors need to use social media to build relationships with potential readers around common interests. That is time-consuming work, but part of being a professional author is being sincere and truthful with your readers in every piece of writing you create—whether it’s a novel or a text message. After all, readers are the reason writers exist, so they deserve our best efforts.

Again this is a slow-growth game. Since most authors—indie or traditional—start out with zero marketing power behind their names, we all have to rely on direct marketing and networking to reach potential readers. The simple act of being available on social media is the first step toward finding like-minded readers. Through natural discussion, we can build relationships with those potential readers. As with anything, we must prove ourselves to be trustworthy toward others. Only after we build that relational trust in ourselves, will we begin to see readers’ trust in our products.

So what does this all mean in terms of your writing and publishing career? It means that you must be prepared to make a monetary loss on your first few books because beginning relationships with your clients is more important than profits at this point. You need to be willing to invest money to insure product quality without expecting an immediate return on investment. You need use the quality of your books and the sincerity of your actions to build reader trust in your unique products and the brand that they represent: you.

Myth #5: Self-Published Books Don’t Have Much Value

In ancient times, the written word was hand-copied and distributed as tablets, scrolls, and, much later, leather-bound books. This painstaking process meant that books were scarce and therefore of high value and price. For millennia, only the nobility and the rich owned books and benefitted from their information. This began to change as advances in printing press technology and the rise of pulp fiction began to make books much more affordable for the poorer masses. Gone were the leather bindings and hand-tipped gilt pages in favor of full-color paperbacks. The downgrade in material quality paired with cheaper prices and wider distribution meant that more people of less financial means could read and, possibly, better their circumstances through the education gleaned through books.

Fast forward to today when the cheapest and most cost-efficient book format choice is e-books, which don’t even incur a cost for printing on paper. Now, anyone with a smart phone and an internet connection can read hundreds of books for cheap or free. Thus the once-prohibitive cost of education and entertainment via even paperback books has once again plummeted for readers. Does this mean that e-books are worth less? Not remotely. The gilt pages and hand-tipped illustrations may be gone from the pages, but what they leave behind is a great story. If I’m honest, I’ll admit that readers buy a book for the story or information that it holds, not the pretty frills that it includes. This is one thing that makes e-books such a powerful tool for indie authors.

Even more important than this, though, is the fact that e-books enjoy far greater distribution to a worldwide audience through internet distribution than any book in hardback or paperback has previously enjoyed. This huge customer-base and high demand means that what self-published books lack in price, they can make up for in sales volume. This means that my self-published books can be read by people I will never meet in countries whose names I might not even be able to properly pronounce. It means that a worldwide reading phenomenon like the success of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series can and will be repeated with more and more frequency as readership expands across the globe.

Even with the cheaper prices requiring bulk sales, I’d argue that the perceived value of a good book is a thing measured by more than just dollars and cents. After all, I can still remember the name of the book that first turned me into a lifetime reader as a young girl. I also remember the name and the author of the book that started me down my writing career path. Such books are almost as precious as long-time friends to me—as they are to any reader whose life they’ve helped improve. If written, edited, distributed, and marketed well, my own self-published books have the potential power to help someone else find hope and better education in the darkest and humblest of circumstances. That is a priceless fact.

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better.

Alycia

~

The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

Books:
Skinshifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits | FREE STUFF

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

Writing as a Business: The Myths of Self-Publishing, Part 1

At the request of a reader, I’m beginning a new mini-series in the next few weeks on my Writing as a Business blog. My dastardly plan is to give all of you a step-by-step guide on how to self-publish a book. I plan to start with a general overview of the steps I personally take to publish each book. I’ll then discuss each step in the process in more detail during subsequent posts. Depending on your feedback, I can change and add to the blog schedule as needed. Before we begin the main guide, however, I need to make sure that you are in the proper mindset when it comes to self-publishing. This means that this week and next week, we’re going to be busting several self-publishing myths.

Myth #1: The Ease of Self-Publishing

People think that self-publishing is easy and I can’t really blame them. Compared to the seemingly endless cycle of submissions and rejections that a single book manuscript can go through in the traditional publishing world, self-publishing a book looks easy. It isn’t. Self-publishing may be a simplified publishing process, but that doesn’t make it easy. Anyone who tells you differently is likely trying to sell you the literary equivalent of snake oil.

As I have little faith in literary cure-alls and have zero patience for their petty proselytizers, let me tell it like it is instead of wasting all of our time by sugar-coating things. Self-publishing is a slow-growth business. If you want to be an indie author, then you need to understand that you are in this for the long term. You as an indie author are a self-employed entrepreneur. And, like most starting, self-employed businesses, you won’t get rich quick. In fact, you may not get rich at all.

Myth #2: Getting Rich Quick

It’s rare that I meet an author—indie or traditional—who can make a full-time living through his or her writing. Those that do are usually the ones willing to do whatever it takes to put out the best-quality, more-professional products they can as quickly as they can. Full-time professional authors are the ones who have broken their backs writing and revising book after book. As I’ve said in a previous post, it’s usually the most persistent and persevering authors who win this race even over the most talented authors. Of course, those who strike it rich in this business usually do so because they have all of the talent, persistence, and luck on their side. To use a baseball metaphor, full-time authors are the major league players in our field. They are the fortunate few that spectators want to pay to watch even though there are millions of kids and adults who actually play the sport. To make a living as an indie author, I have to play harder, smarter, and better than many of the major league players hitting home runs in my genre.

The reason that getting rich as an author is so difficult is because book authors are the ultimate freelance writers. Unlike regular employees in any regular service industry, authors aren’t paid for the time that we work; we’re paid only for our end product. That means that we need a variety of products (books) to satisfy our customers (readers), and that we’re going to incur production, marketing, and distribution costs before we can ever see our product in the hands of our customers.

Authors get paid from the royalty off of every book we sell. For traditional authors, that royalty is usually 12-30 percent of every book’s sale price (not including any sales or vat tax). For indie authors, that royalty is often 30-70 percent. Indie authors get a larger cut than traditional authors because we do more work. Indies act as both the author and the publisher, which means that we are ultimately in charge of all aspects of the book. We deal with the writing of the book as well as its editing, formatting, legal protection, cover art, back copy/marketing description, retail distribution, pricing, and more. The extra royalty isn’t free cash for indies; every extra cent is well-earned.

Myth #3: The Small Cost of Self-Publishing

One of the biggest misconceptions I find among new authors is the notion that self-publishing costs less than traditional publishing. I never have understood that idea because when you self-publish as an author you are taking on the responsibility of publishing your own book in addition to writing it. This means that you will incur every single cost that an author and publisher will incur just to see your book as a finished product. Consequently, self-publishing costs more time, money, more commitment than traditional publishing.

If you are going to self-publish, you need to understand this high cost of self-publishing. While writing a book can be a hobby, publishing a book is never anything less than a job—complete with overhead costs, distribution deals, sales figures, taxes, and more. You as the publisher of your book will be in charge paying for the costs of editing, proofreading, cover art, marketing, and distributing your books. Note that I said books, not book. As I have previously said, a wise publisher knows that a profitable publishing business is built on a variety of products, not a one-shot wonder.

Such publishing projects can cost anywhere from $500-$10,000 per book. Depending on your individual strengths and skills, you may be able to mitigate publishing costs by taking on one or two of the publishing projects yourself; however, I caution you against doing things yourself or on-the-cheap unless you have a professional background dealing with the project in question. Remember what I said earlier about playing harder, smarter, and better than many of the major leaguers in the same genre? If your book’s writing, editing, cover art, or marketing copy can’t compete with the professional players, then you don’t have a prayer of stepping up to bat with readers.

Of course, my reasons for telling you all of this is not to discourage you, but keep you from walking into the role of an indie author blind. This publishing route is a very rewarding pursuit as long as you remember that it has its drawbacks just as traditional publishing does. I hope this helps dispel some of the misnomers associated with being an indie author. Next week, I’ll bust three more self-publishing myths.

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better.

Alycia

P.S.-I am happy to announce that I’m looking for beta readers for my book Dreamdrifter, the sequel to Skinshifter. If you’re interested, contact me!

~

The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

Books:
Skinshifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits | FREE STUFF

Artwork:
Birds | Bugs | Graphic Art | Flowers | Landscapes | Leaves | Mammals | Romance | Objects | MORE

The Judgment Trap

Skinshifter_Text_Banner_2-4x6Could someone please tell me what insanity I just strayed into? A few moons ago, I encountered a group of social reform advocates who are absolutely decrying the evils of Christian rock music. Specifically, they were bashing the large Christian rock tour called Winter Jam and claiming that its mission was the work of Satan because of the “loudness” of some the music involved in the tour. I’m sorry, but are you kidding me?

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a hard rock fan. No, I have never listened to Metallica and I could care less about AC/DC. I have never bothered with Korn, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, or any of the mainstream rock bands that have been popular in my lifetime. Instead I grew up on legends like Audio Adrenaline, DCTalk, Newsboys, and Switchfoot. Now I listen to bands like Fireflight, RED, Skillet, Superchick, and Veridia. All of these bands are varying degrees of “loud” and all of them are, incidentally, Christian.

My reasoning for listening to these bands is that their overall message is very good. For me, it’s refreshing to listen to the soaring riffs of an electric guitar without enduring the acrid lyrics about the superficial pleasures of sex and drugs that so often accompany it. It’s also nice to listen to Christian bands who don’t feel the need to preach to all the world about the sublime goodness of God every single moment. Instead these are bands talk about the facts that life is not always pretty, human beings aren’t always perfect, and our mistakes can be rectified through Jesus’s love and grace. These are songs about confronting the darkest parts of ourselves, conquering addiction, overcoming grief, and letting go of toxins like hatred and rage. These songs speak of spiritual warfare: the constant duel between darkness and light. Their lyrics are a constant reminder for me to be vigilant against the war within myself as a flawed human being. I don’t always choose right over wrong and when I don’t, evil wins and others get hurt.

For someone like me who has used to these bands and their messages both heavy and light to help myself overcome some of the darkest episodes of my life, the rants of this particular reform group struck a nerve.

I will grant that I am somewhat on the extreme of Christian music tastes, but so what? Whether we agree on music or not, my frustration with this group was not the fact that they didn’t like the same music that I like. My problem is that this group of well-meaning people passed judgement in their self-righteous pride on something that they have no right to condemn.

Let me be crystal clear. Judgement is not a bad thing. In point of fact, it’s a very useful tool that helps us humans categorize and organize our world. However, if I judge others from an attitude of pride, then I am wrong. If I judge others with an attitude of love and humility, then I honor God. I as a Christian am called to love God and others. I am called to live a righteous life that helps others. I am called to spurn sin in any form it takes so that I can live life truly free. However, I have to be very careful what I call bad and what I call good. Jesus gave a great test for this in Matthew 12:33-37 with his “rotten fruit” test. If a person’s actions produce rotten results then those acts are bad and I need to take steps to stop the damage. If a person’s actions produce good results, then I need to support and encourage those actions. It’s that simple.

This is why I have no problem with hard rock Christian bands. I don’t bolster them because of the “Christian” label; I support them because of the good fruits I’ve seen them produce in my life and in others’ lives.

The same can be said about writing. I once wrote an article about the Writing Comparison Trap and the fact that it leads to self-doubt as a writer and a creative. I think the Judgment Trap that I’m discussing today does something similar. Both situations give me an unhealthy dose of pride to overcome. So my best guess is that I should avoid both of them by focusing my calling and my mission as a creative instead of comparing myself as better or worse than others.

No one will perceive the world quite in the same way I will. Likewise no one will interpret life experience in the same way I will. I think the themes of love, loss, grief, hope which exists in my writing are universal enough to capture other people’s interest and to build common ground between us. However, I also know that my chosen fiction genre, fantasy fiction, will not appeal to everyone just as my favorite form of rock music will not send people’s hearts happily aflutter. And that’s okay. I am not trying to enrich the entire world. I am merely attempting to build common ground between people who are somewhat similar to me. My hope and my prayer has always been that my writing would encourage and inspire others. If my writing does that, then I’ve served my mission well. If my writing harms; however, then I need to reevaluate what I’m doing.

At some point, I know that I will probably receive quite a bit of flak from the fact that I don’t shy away from darker themes and that I use magic as a simple way to explain God’s and Satan’s power to people who have yet to recognize them. That’s okay, too. Those that decry me for the genres in which I write are missing the point. I’m honored to stir up controversy. After all, my own savior Jesus knew that his message of sacrificial love and grace would be controversial especially to those who were already perfectly content to judge others as worse than themselves. Jesus didn’t come to heal the self-righteousness. He came to heal the broken-hearted, down-trodden, and those who know that we’re just not perfect. He came to heal me. I find it rather amazing that he uses my major passions of music and writing to deepen that healing.

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better.

Alycia

~

The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

Books:
Skinshifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits | FREE STUFF

Artwork:
Birds | Bugs | Graphic Art | Flowers | Landscapes | Leaves | Mammals | Romance | Objects | MORE

Writing as a Business: Becoming a Panelist

"Bashful Flamingo" - Tap to enlarge or buy

“Bashful Flamingo” – Tap to enlarge or buy

The past three weeks have been so exciting! I turned Dreamdrifter into my editor on March 26 at just over 137,000 words. Once I delivered the book into the capable hands of my most talented mutilator, I prepared for AggieCon. This year marked a rather special AggieCon for me. After attending the con for ten years, I was invited to be a speaker on four different discussion panels. The invitation marks a promotion of sorts for me as a writer. Until now, I had always come to the convention to listen to the panelists and learn from the things they share. Now I find myself speaking as one of them. That isn’t to say that I don’t still learn as a writer, but now I’m at least in a place where I’ve practiced a few things long enough to be able to share with others what works and what doesn’t for me. It’s a welcome transition that has come through a ton of hard work.

Of the four panels that I helped run, the Self-Publishing Panel was by far the most interesting for me. The attendees had some excellent questions and some of those questions are what I want to address today. Since I’ve written quite a few articles about the business of writing, I wanted share several of my past discussions on the subject. Here is the list:

I hope each of these help you progress in your knowledge of the craft and of the business! Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better.

Alycia

~

The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

Books:
Skinshifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits | FREE STUFF

Artwork:
Birds | Bugs | Graphic Art | Flowers | Landscapes | Leaves | Mammals | Romance | Objects | MORE

Writing as a Business: How I Juggle Gorillas

"Monkey in Clock Faces" graphic art - Click to enlarge or buy.

“Monkey in Clock Faces” graphic art – Click to enlarge or buy.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me how it felt to finally have my book Skinshifter published. I told him that I felt like I had just hiked up to a mountain top only to discover that the mountain’s peak was actually just a base camp for an even larger mountain.

Writing a book is very much an uphill climb in which every step of progress I make is hard-fought. Put another way, writing is tantamount sitting at my desk with a blank screen in front of me and a snarling, 500-pound gorilla perched across my hunched shoulders. With each point of progress that I make when I write, a pound or two is removed from that 500-pound weight. When I finish writing the first chapter, I see two pounds subtracted. I breathe a little easier, but I still know that I have 498 pounds to go. Once I finish writing the book’s rough draft, it’s like having fifty pounds are stripped off of my back. A somewhat blissful smile on my face now that I’m left carrying only 450 pounds on my writerly shoulders.

To new writers, it must sound strange that a full rough draft of a whole book is worth only fifty pounds of gorilla weight in my estimation. However, more experienced writers will know that a completed rough draft is only the first step forward in the writing process. Revisions, not first drafts, are the key to great writing.

This brings me back to the 450-pound gorilla. After a couple weeks of much needed diversion, I can come back to my gorilla novel with a clearer mind and a less achy back. I position her back on my shoulders, endure her repeated attempts to comb through my eyebrows in search for edibles, and start editing all of the major blunders out of her. Are there plot holes to fix? Does that character’s arc make sense? Was I clear in my descriptions of things? When the second draft of the book is finished, I feel another twenty-five pounds drop off of my back.

Third-draft revisions help me iron out all of the language. How is my grammar? Is my punctuation up to par? Did I misspell that pesky homonym again? With two good revisions behind me, it’s time for advanced reader critiques and editor revisions. Am I explaining everything in a clear, concise manner to my readers? Are there any accuracy errors? Can readers relate to my characters? Did I really misspell that irksome homonym again? By the time I finish implementing the corrections from my advanced readers and the copy editor, I’ve shed close to 150 pounds off this massive gorilla of a project. Weighing in at just 350 pounds, she seems almost manageable now.

A final round of proofreading happens before the book is given a gorgeous cover, front copy, back copy, legal protection, and proper formatting. Now it’s ready for its publishing debut and I’m almost dancing under only 225 pounds of weight. Before I can get to the publishing date, however, I have to snag reviews from advanced readers and formal reviewers, wheedle blurbs from fellow authors, and garner any other publicity I can find. Then it’s off to the marketing races in which my book has to compete with every other book in the market that happens to be related to my genre for reader attention. Is it any wonder that commercial success in this business is hard-won?

I think I’ve become pretty good at navigating the first 300 pounds of each writing project, but I’m still battling the last 200 pounds. That being said, the whole process of book writing and publishing is a challenge that I absolutely adore!

Hopefully I’ll continue learning to navigate book marketing right along with book creating. For now though, I’m still grappling with 200 pounds of Skinshifter on top of another 500-pound gorilla that just climbed on my back. Meet Dreamdrifter, the 130,000-word-long sequel to Skinshifter. I know that you’ll absolutely love it once I get it refined and introduced in the more sophisticated parts of the world. For now, though, I think I’ll take a couple of pain reliever pills for my sore shoulders and keep writing.

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better.

Alycia

P.S.-For those of you read my last post, I have amazing news! Thanks to the incredible folks at DataSavers, about 98 percent of the data on my defunct hard drive has been restored! I couldn’t be more relieved or grateful. My entire photography and graphic design portfolio is back, so watch the website for new artwork!


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with fine art, love, speculative fiction books, and tea suggestions for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

Writing as a Business: the Controversy of Creative Influences, Part 2

VarianceACS3x5As I continue the second half of this top ten book list, I can’t help but think how controversial yet personal so many of these books are for me. Some of these books made me uncomfortable. One in particular left me outright offended. All of them challenged my preconceptions in some way. I like the challenge, but, more than that, I like the honesty that so many of these books bring. These books and their authors aren’t afraid to be real and that truly inspires me as a reader and as a writer.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I love Jane Austen’s writing. Her prose style is simply breath-taking. Her use of language, however, pales in comparison to her understanding of character conflict and romantic tension. Before the “love” scene was ever deemed appropriate in fiction, Austen was weaving plotlines with more subtleties and complexities of boy meets girl than most modern day authors could hope to achieve in ten books, let alone one. Pride and Prejudice is my favorite from her treasure trove of work. When I want a good love story, I turn again and again to Ms. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

While I’ve read all of the Harry Potter books multiple times, this book remains my favorite. Rowling’s world-building is so imaginative and fun, her characters are flawed and interesting, her humor is captivating, and her sense of mystery is phenomenal. Rowling’s plot twists astound me. *Spoiler Alert* I love the fact that the person we think of as the third book’s main antagonist actually turns out to be one of Harry’s greatest allies.

The Autobiography of Malcom X by Malcom X as told to Alex Haley

This book was, in many ways, one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read. Malcom X tried to paint himself in a noble light, but most of the time all I saw was a bitter man broken by his hatred toward his oppressors and himself. Malcom X was a self-admitted draft dodger, drug dealer, burglar, and felon until His conversion in the Muslim-based cult of the Nation of Islam in the early 1950s. The teachings of NOI leader Elijah Mohamed sowed a deep seed of hatred for Caucasians in Malcom and made him just as blind to the good in people of other ethnicities as many of them were toward people who shared his own ethnicity. Malcom railed against men such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for choosing to try to work with white and black men and women to solve the issue of racial prejudice in 1960s America, but I think Dr. King’s methods consistently proved the better method toward gaining racial equality. Eventually, Malcom himself recognized his own prejudices and left the NOI to seek a more moderate worldview. He was assassinated by three of the organization’s members about a year later.

What struck me most about this book was the fact that racial prejudice can be experienced by anyone from of any ethnic and economic background. The book also made me aware of some of the many inaccurate and accurate religious and political arguments on both sides of the racial equality issue.

The Shack by Wm. Paul Young

The Shack is one of those rare books that made me stop and really search myself for the reasons I believe certain things about life, God, and other people. The book, while deeply spiritual, didn’t feel like it bashed me over the head with religion. Instead it coaxed answers out of me through its protagonist’s troubled questions.

The book, while fiction, is beautifully layered with truths about God, people, and what our relationships with Him and each other are supposed to look like. It doesn’t answer all of the questions that it posits. Instead it asks as many questions as it can and leaves you and God to come up with the answers together. It is a book with enough depth to hold up to multiple readings during many different points of life and several different stages of grief. This isn’t a soft book, but it is a good book.

Skinshifter by Alycia Christine

At risk of seeming self-serving, I have included Skinshifter in this list for a very specific reason: Skinshifter taught me how to write a book. Since I am a person who learns my skills by doing them over and over again until I get them right, I had to write a book before determining whether or not I actually could write a book. Skinshifter was the first book that I ever wrote. It was also the first book that I ever rewrote. I started this book once when I was a teenager and once again while I was in college. I managed to write two whole chapters before I got stuck the second time. After another two years, I was able to write the third chapter and then I never looked back. I wrote most of Skinshifter over the course of two-and-a-half years from 2006 to 2009. Then I left it alone, so that I could began writing its sequel in late 2010. Skinshifter has been through seven revisions at this point and, by the time it’s published, the novel will be on revision eight. While the task of making this book something special has been long and arduous, it’s worth the effort. The other books in this list proved to me that I was a reader, but Skinshifter proved to me that I was a writer.

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

Writing as a Business: the Controversy of Creative Influences, Part 1

Red-Tipped_Clover-4x6_ACEvery creative tinkerer has artistic influences, both positive and negative, which help shape and define her work. I am no exception. In fiction, I look to several different authors for guidance when I write. Consequently, I chose a list of the top ten books which have changed my life and/or my writing in some specific way. Some of my influences are quite mainstream while others are more controversial. Strangely enough, some books on my list were once cause for controversy but now seem quite bland, while others that were once deemed standard fare are now widely criticized. I’m not sure what that says about the books or about me. Maybe it simply means that great literature is bound to irritate someone.

In any event, I have listed each book in the order I read it as well as the reasons why each holds such high impact for me. Because this discussion is so long, I’ve split it in half. Five books will appear this week and five will come next week. I hope you enjoy my selections, or, at the very least, that they provide you with an interesting new perspective on literature.

The Bible by God through various authors

The Bible is one of those rare books that I read constantly. I find that its stories of love, loss, sorrow, perseverance, faith, and joy constantly encourage and inspire me. Since I grew up in a Christian home, this was one of the first books ever introduced to me. I was taught basic stories from this book as a child to help me understand the value of living a wise and honorable life. As a teenager and adult, I began reading the full versions of those childhood stories and many others for myself. I cannot adequately describe how much my life changed once I recognized that Jesus Christ was the missing person that filled the void in my life. That first glimpse of true love and my deepening friendship with Jesus ever since then have been the two most amazing, fulfilling experiences I’ve ever known.

The Dragon and the George by Gordon R. Dickson

I was a terrible reader as a child, and so I hated books. To help alleviate my frustration, my parents enrolled me in special education classes to boost my reading skills and my confidence. During my homework hours, Dad would read my textbooks aloud as I followed along while Mom corrected my English papers side by side with me. The combination of those three things vastly improved my reading and writing abilities, however, it was my dad’s decision to read novels aloud to the family during our vacations that finally changed my attitude toward books. The Dragon and the George was the first fantasy fiction novel Dad had ever read to me and it made quite an impression. For the first time in my memory, I wanted to read a story. With this book and those in the series after it, reading ceased to be a chore and became an adventure.

Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey

I had read many books in McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series before I picked up Dragonsong, but something about this book’s main character Menolly grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. It was the first time I had ever encountered a character that I could really relate to despite the fact that we came from completely different worlds and family backgrounds. This story made me want to write a book of my own. In fact, my very first character, Lauraisha, was somewhat inspired by Menolly.

This Present Darkness by Frank E. Peretti

Peretti’s work influenced me in a couple of different ways. First, This Present Darkness, was the first fiction book that I’d ever read dealing directly with the sensitive subject of spiritual warfare. Namely, the book posed the ideas that God and Satan do indeed both exist, and that their respective allies, angels and demons, battle daily for control of humans’ lives. It certainly wasn’t a new concept when Peretti penned it, but the gritty way in which he depicted this hidden war seemed the most accurate of any portrayal I’d yet discovered on the subject. Much of the Christian literature I’d read up to that point was fluffy and sentimental, which in no way depicted my own walk with Christ. It quite was refreshing to read something that felt real for a change.

Secondly, Peretti was the first author I had ever known who didn’t always kill off his bad guys. His antagonists did indeed get punished for their heinous crimes, but they didn’t always die. Interestingly enough, there were times as I read one of his later books that I actually felt bitter sorrow when a specific antagonist did die. It’s a rare writer who can provoke that level of empathy in me toward a character I’m rooting against.

The Tragedy of Puddin’ Head Wilson by Mark Twain

While Puddin’ Head Wilson is one of Mark Twain’s lesser-known works, it’s impact on me was even more significant than other books like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Mark Twain was an astute student of the foibles of human nature and I loved the way he used his dry wit and thinly veiled cynicism to lay it bare. While Twain’s writing style proved weaker in Puddin’ Head Wilson compared to Tom Sawyer, his use of a fiction story to call attention to the social injustice and absurdity of slavery in America was absolutely brilliant. While it wasn’t the first time I had seen an author make an overt political statement through fiction, Twain’s lambasting of slavery remains one of the most entertaining.

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

Writing as a Business: What Writers Really Do All Day

Serpentine_Trails-4x6ACWriting fiction is a delightful hobby and a grueling profession. There is really no other way to explain it. I’ve run into many people who think that fiction writers must have the easiest job in the world because we get “to sit around all day and make stuff up.” Thank you, guys and gals, for that awesome assessment. It’s a sweet notion, it really is, but playing in the sandbox of my own imagination is only a small part of what I actually do on a daily basis.

The real truth is that while I deal in a form of written entertainment based on invented worlds and made-up characters, the business side of my profession is anything but make-believe. On the economic side, I need to know how consumer demand affects my book supply and the revenue stream that comes from the resulting sales. On the accounting side, I have to understand my company’s profit margins, gross income, net income, required taxes, and a slew of other things. On the organizational side of things, I have budget my time between making new product (writing story rough drafts), refining that product (rewriting my stories), quality control (copy editing and proof reading), producing the product (publishing books in e-book formats like .mobi or .epub and publishing print books in hardback or paperback versions), distributing my books online (through Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or even my own website), distributing in person (through conventions and writing events), and marketing my stories (in person at events and online through different websites and social media).

In the beginning of my career when writing was little more than a glorified hobby, I didn’t worry about most of this stuff. I just wrote and rewrote my work. I figured that economics, production, design, and book marketing were things that my publisher would always handle. Then I went indie. Now all of a sudden, my business model has expanded to include every stage of book production and all of the extra responsibilities that go with it. I love the challenge, but the amount of work has left me breathless more than once.

I am my own company. If something doesn’t get accomplished at my office, it’s usually because I didn’t do it. I do everything from the actual writing and rewriting of a book to its cover art design, its final formatting, publishing, and distribution. What I don’t do myself (for quality control and time-constraint reasons), I still oversee. I’m charge of finding the beta readers, copy editor, proof reader, and publicists for each book I publish.

As hard as I work, I simply can’t do it all. To make sure that each and every story I produce is the best that it can be, I need thorough, honest, dependable collaborators at every stage of the process. Good beta readers are just as essential to a book’s development as a professional editor. A savvy publicist is just as important to a book’s visibility as a wide-ranging distributor. And good writing is the beating heart of it all. This means that if I can’t deliver my very best, no one else can give their best either.

Are all of the time and work and money I put forth, worth it? I think so. The time I spend playing in the sandbox of my imagination has a high cost of admission no matter whether I’m an independent author, a traditionally published author, or a hybrid. That being said, I took on all of this publishing responsibility to make sure my time playing in the sandbox is as valuable to readers as it is to this writer.

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

Writing as a Business: Six Keys to Turning Your Goals into Reality

Available for purchase at http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com

Available for purchase at http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com

By the end of March, it seems that New Year’s resolutions start dying off in droves. Gym and club memberships are cancelled. Triple-cheese chilidogs are added back to the weekly menu. Magazines get buried beneath other magazines in the to-read pile. Creative projects get abandoned. And, through it all, we make excuses to try and help ourselves not feel quite as bad about our failure to conquer our goals. The fact is that no matter how hard we try or how persistent we are, many of us have a really hard time faithfully tending the seed goals we’ve planted in our garden of self-betterment long enough to see them blossom into reality.

This sad truth holds especially true for beginning authors. If we’re honest, most writers will tell you that we have at least one manuscript that has sat half-written in the bowels of a desk drawer somewhere for years. In my case, I have about 24 fiction pieces of varying lengths which are all unfinished right now. Of those 24 I plan to finish about half. Of the other half, well, I tried…

So why do we do this? Why do we kill our dreams through neglect before they can even bloom? More importantly, how do we fix the problem? I think that the answer lies in the method we use to plan our goals and in the ways we work to carry them out.

Maybe I’m the only one who does this, but I tend to start out each year with all of these grand goals I want to accomplish in my work and in my personal life. I’m so excited by all of the things I want to do. Two months down the road, however, I stare overwhelmed at the sheer length of my list and wake up to reality. I’m not sure what possesses me to write down too many goals, but I do. And so half the time I fail to accomplish my goals because I simply have too many. This problem leads me to our first solution.

Trim the Fat

Goals need to be large enough to challenge us a little, but small enough to still be attainable. In other words, we need to understand when a fantasy is too far from reality to prove practical. Case in point, last year my main goal was to write at least 75,000 words of fiction by the end of December 2014. It wasn’t a huge goal by professional writers’ standards, but it was larger than anything I had yet accomplished. This turned out to be a great goal for me because it pushed me to see what I could do without making me feel overwhelmed. Make sure that every goal you make does this. Also make sure that the list of goals you give yourself is large enough to push the boundaries of your comfort zone without making you panic.

Take Smaller Portions

Now that we’ve paired down the list and adjusted the size of the goals, let’s find practical ways of approaching them. Writers often spend so much of our professional time being creative that it just doesn’t leave a lot of time or brain-power for us to stay organized. This disorganization can cause a lot of disorientation. And that confusion is often the culprit that derails stories and sends them smoking down into the pits of writer’s block.

So how do we combat this disorientation? We organize the chaos by breaking it down into smaller pieces. For example, when I made my goal to write at least 75,000 words of fiction by the end of 2014, I didn’t just leave that as my goal and be done with it. Instead I broke down that big goal into tiny “bite-sized” goals. I set a small goal to write 300 words every weekday that year, so that I could meet my big goal at the end of the year. Writing 300 words a day was something I knew that I could do, so I pushed myself to reach that goal every workday and then I watched as that small work accumulated into something huge by the end of the year.

To further organize my progress, I also kept an Excel spreadsheet documenting my writing word count every single day. The spreadsheet worked so well to keep me organized and motivated that I made a new spreadsheet for 2015 with the new goal of writing 400 words a weekday for a total of more than 100,000 words for the year. If you want to use it, here is a blank copy of my Fiction Writing Tracker spreadsheet .

Do the Work

Of course, no person can call himself or herself a writer unless he or she, you know, actually writes. Being an author isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. It is a long-term career. Professional authors typically don’t have one or two books to their names; they have 10 to 20. Consequently writers who want to make a career from writing need to be prepared to write a lot for a long time. To be a writer, you must be willing to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from your experiences just as any professional does.

Rotate Your Workouts

No writer is perfect. In fact we all start out as illiterate. Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t the fastest writer or the greatest speller or even the best with plot points. If you stay persistent and determined, you can and will overcome your weaknesses through practice. Each story presents its own set of challenges and lessons. This is why the more you write, the more you learn. Writers never stop learning and that fact is one of the fun parts of the craft.

Play to Your Strengths

As in any profession, you must play to your strengths even while you’re bolstering your weakness if you want to make it to the top. Understand though that most writers won’t make it that high and that is okay. Some authors are meant to capture a wide audience while others write for a very small niche group. There is nothing wrong with either of these tracks because readers are served either way. Whether you are small or large, write well and write often. No matter what your passion is, write to the very best of your ability.

Budget Your Time

As awesome as writers are, we can’t do everything, so we have to learn how to budget our time and juggle our work to get the most out of every day. A professional writer has enough experience and self-discipline to write new material, edit old material, and market finished material daily. I usually manage to do about two out of three of these things per day so I am still learning. Some writers I know say that they prefer to spend 40 percent of their time writing new material, 30 percent of their time editing old material, and use the last 30 percent of their day marketing their finished works. This time division helps them to use small bites of time and work to accomplish huge goals. If you’re just starting out, focus 60 percent of your time writing, 20 percent of your time editing, and 10 percent of your time marketing. After all, you can’t sell what you don’t have. Whatever you do, work to stay organized and stay focused. It will give you less stress whether your writing experience is a sprint or a marathon.

I hope each of these suggestions help you better organize and maintain your writing. Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

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