‘The Authors Spouse’ – a poem

The Authors Spouse

A poem

by Eileen Slovak

Do you imagine a literal life,

where you might be a writer’s wife?

What would your novel existence be,

lingering in the vast shadow of he?

When he railed and ranted at the world,

would not your sales too, be unfurled?

While he reposed in fanfare glow,

could envy seek to find you, lying low?

Whose wounded heart dare curse unkind,

the sound tornado in a swirling mind?

Linked to the muse no other can see,

while fixed in reality you’ll be,

Think gentle reader how courtships end,

mystery unraveled, romance paper-thinned.

Is ‘authors spouse’ title enough for you?

when the story has been scripted through.

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Does your story have a pulse?

heart_rate_pulse-wide.jpg

So, last year, I’m sitting in a room at a writer’s conference, listening to a panel of editors and agents talk about what they don’t want to see in a story.  Finally, some brave writer in the audience asked:

“Well, what do you want?”

This seemed to stump the group, but then there was some consensus:

“We’re looking for that next great story” and “we’ll know it, when we see it.”

Huh.

Plagued by this ever since while suffering through multiple rewrites, I think I may have finally cracked the code.

As writers we are constantly bombarded with advice on what to do and what not to do, but I think if you can answer the following question with certainty, you are well on your way to writing a story people will want to read.

Does your story have a pulse?  Even better,– will it get your reader’s pulse racing? 

I’m not referring exclusively to erotica.  Ask yourself the following questions:

1.  Is your manuscript barely breathing, gasping or inciting breathless anticipation? 

2.  Are your characters real people or mannequins? 

3.  Is your reader up all night, feverishly turning pages or did she just nod off?

This pulse theory also explains why some writers are able to break the rules and still manage to gain a huge following.

How often have we heard this advice?

  • You cannot kill off your main characters.  No?  George R.R. Martin does just that and often.
  • You need perfect prose.  Really?  The critics have been less than kind to E.L. James yet she penned one of the best-selling books of all time and a book of the year award winner.
  • Your plot must be fresh and new.  Isn’t every plot a knock-off of Shakespeare?  Stephenie Myers’ Twilight Saga is a modern-day Romeo and Juliet with a few vampires and werewolves thrown in.

William Shakespeare

Like anything else, I say, take advice in moderation.  If you want to avoid a visit to the book doctor, check your project’s health by taking your typing fingers and pressing gently on your manuscripts jugular vein.  Do you feel anything?  If not, do not hesitate to dial 9-11!

#Putting Some Win in Your Sales

Question for the week:  Can you sell your words without selling your soul?

If you directly show the desire to sell something or worse, call yourself a Salesperson, can you escape negative connotations? 

Slimy Salesman Image

The word Salesman calls to mind images of polyester leisure suits, used cars and telemarketers hawking something you don’t want, refusing to take no for an answer.

Funny how words work.  The alternate spelling of the word, sails, invokes much lovelier imagery:

Croatia Yacht Charter Sailing Catamarans

Is sales really such a dirty word?  As consumer’s we like to buy things.  So, are salespeople villains?

Is it because it seems so desperate to have to ask, “would you like to buy this?”

Or is it because we like to kid ourselves that we are not being sold to every minute of every day?

As Authors, we shudder at the thought of having to sell our books; it’s not just about book signings and readings anymore, subtle selling events.  At the mere suggestion of promotion, we cry out:  “I thought the Publisher did the selling?”  Maybe once upon a time, when Agents were more like Fairy Godmothers.

Fairy Godmother

The selling starts long before the story is even printed.  First, we have sell our manuscript to an Agent, then it’s (hopefully) sold to an Editor and Publisher.  If we are fortunate enough to find success, the expectation remains, we will do our part literally, to get the word out about our book and sell it to the public.

Even with twelve years in Sales and Marketing experience under my belt, it took a long time to come to terms with this fact.  I thought I’d escape selling by becoming a writer.  The jokes on me!

As a salesperson I preferred to view my job as educating people on a quality product.  I chose to offer a service or fulfilled a need.  Of course, in doing so, I was in fact, selling something. My sales improved when customers viewed me as likable or better yet, as possessing a sense of humor.

Can selling a book be so different from selling some other type of product?  How do you make yours the one people want to buy like some of the blogs turned books that sky rocketed to success:  Author Julie Powell’s, “Julie and Julia” or “Fifty Shades of Grey”, by E.L. James.

“Julie and Julia”, by Julie Powell, (Little, Brown)

With  416, 039 bloggers just on WordPress alone, and how many are seeking book deals, has this ship already sailed?

Okay writers, time to get creative!

In Writer’s Digest, September 2012 issue, Author, Laura DiSilverio used Pinterest to show the items in her character Gigi Goldman’s wardrobe, to promote her book.  Clever.

At the Unicorn Writers Conference, self published Author, Joseph J.   Bradley handed out bookmarks instead of cards, which included the book cover, a brief plot synopsis and all of his pertinent information.  Smart.

Candace Knoebel, a blogger/Author I discovered here on WordPress.com, produced a book trailer for the release of her new book, “Born in Flames”.  Inventive.

http://www.youtube.com/watchv=bu5qbaMXxh0&feature=share

I love this idea.  For me, writing is visual.

Small businesses have used t-shirts, magnets, direct mail campaigns, pens, pencils, golf balls and ball caps among other things to help promote their businesses for years.  Maybe your character likes to play golf?

Over the summer, I saw an airplane banner advertising wine.  It did make me a little thirsty.

Airplane banner

Skywriting would work, after all, it was a big hit for the Wicked Witch Of The West.

Skywriting Spells Out, “You Didn’t Fail”.

Writing the book it seems is only half the battle.  The challenge is before us to seek out  the next best way to sell our work without sacrificing integrity.

For now, my mission is to finish writing what I hope will be a quality novel that might fulfill a need to read, with hope that readers will find my characters likable and maybe even entertaining.

Thanks for reading and keep writing!

Writers Group Therapy

Thought for the week: If you can’t take the heat, stay away from the fire pit.

As an aspiring writer, I subscribe to various trade publications, my favorite being Writers Digest Magazine. The magazine offers solid advice, contest opportunities, author interviews and inspiration among other things. One piece of valuable advice I garnered from WD was the recommendation to create a writing support system by becoming part of the writing community, in other words make some writing friends. What a novel idea. This craft can be isolating.

My first step was to join a local writers group. I went to my favorite source of information, the local library, where a helpful librarian directed to me to a group that meets twice a month.

Naturally, I had preconceived notions of what the group would be like. I imagined people like myself, amateur stay-at-home Moms who wanted to reenter the work force by becoming writers. No egocentrism involved there. I assumed between chats about writing we would swap stories about our children’s sports events and share recipes.

As it turns out, my group is primarily male and filled with some excellent writers with varied backgrounds: retired teachers with advanced degrees, a journalist, a songwriter, a film school graduate, self-published authors and traditionally published authors of novels or short story anthologies.

This threw me, I was not sure I was either worthy or courageous enough to be in this group, not to mention, read my romantic suspense Novel in front of them. I wondered how my membership might enhance the group. I hung in because there was no question I would have an opportunity to learn something.

At the first meeting, I sat quietly listening to the others read their work. I had in tow, chapter one of my novel, Seeing Scarlet. At one point, the group organizer called on me to read. I shook my head furiously and refused. Very mature on my part, yes? If I could have, I would have slunk under the table and slithered from the room. I considered quitting but instead returned a few weeks later for the next meeting.

I brought the same chapter and after a few people read, summoned the courage to read. My delivery was akin to that of an auctioneer. I am not certain anyone could even understand me. The piece was entirely too long and halfway through, I could hear people shifting in their seats. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw them checking their watches. Okay, I may have imagined that last part. Then, the critique of my work commenced. The quotes are only as accurate as my own recollection and are unassigned to protect identities:

“There’s way too much back story!”

“Where’s the action?”

“All I could think about was Scarlet O’Hara.”

I felt as if my heartfelt narrative was a slab of raw meat and the wolves were all having at it. Then, my personal favorite:

“I was falling asleep over here!”

They liked certain parts of it and some offered more carefully formed comments:

“You’re obviously a competent writer. It’s good to know you can form sentences with some degree of ability.”

Finally, the statement that cut to the quick:

“You’re quirky. You have a story to tell and it’s buried in there somewhere.”

I was upset, although I am not sure what I expected. I went home, drank some wine while wallowing in self-pity and flipped through the television channels.

What do a bunch of men know about romance anyway? What makes them think they’re so great?

Ironically, I stumbled across the movie “Gone with the Wind” on TMC. Scarlet O’Hara, humph! In truth, I had never seen the movie or read the book. Instead, I secretly scoffed about it. I began watching. Hours later, at two in morning, riveted, with tears in my eyes, I shouted at the television and shook my fist, give ‘em hell, Scarlet!

I had always presumed it was a sappy romance, but Scarlet O’Hara was the Heroine of her time, strong, determined, smart, witty, beautiful and maybe a little manipulative, but what choice did she have? I would be proud to have a character like her in my novel.

Watching the film, I realized a few things, you cannot scoff at romance if you are going to write it and you somehow have to make people care about your characters, so they could not possibly fall asleep in the beginning of your story.

What had I written? What was my novel about? Questions I needed to answer, before the reconstruction of the story could begin in earnest. I realized that I began telling one story and then morphed into telling another because I was chasing the market. I had committed the worst offense in writing; I had lost sight of my story and set aside good writing in search of commercial success.

The next day, still slightly steaming about the comments from my group, I re-read my notes from the night before and realized they were not trying to mean, they were trying to help me become a better writer. I felt even more embarrassed for my reaction. If someone is willing to hear or read your writing, take it for what it is, a gift.

Of course, a small part of my Irish pride still needed to prove to them that I could do better. I rewrote chapter one, over and over and over. Each time it got a little tighter and more fluid. After all, writing is only the beginning, then comes rewriting.

As regards the group, I stuck it out and I like to think I am earning my stripes. It has become something to look forward to although it seems like an odd cross between AA and group therapy for writers, not that I have experience with either.

If you join one, think of the first reading as an initiation of sorts. Learning how to take criticism on your work is vital to survival. You may never learn to take it without insult, but your writing will benefit from it, by incorporating the suggestions that make your work more polished.

Ultimately, being an author is a weird sort of solo act with many support personnel helping and guiding you along the way but you have to know what is best for your story.

I have since received much stronger reviews from my group and I now feel as though my writing better represents who I want to be as an author of novels-still unpublished, but unwavering.

Thank you for reading and keep writing!

Yet to come: Momentum; Seeking Support: Surprises and Stumbling Blocks; The Benefits of Insomnia; My First Writers Conference & Query Letter Hell!