I’ve been bed-bound for over a week since a minor knee operation to repair a meniscus issue. I’m not going to whine about it! In fact, I’ve discovered that I’m the perfect candidate for this type of life.
Having neglected my website for years, I discovered a number of problems. Fortunately, I was able to find a great website person through Fiverr.com who is helping me. We have quite a bit to do yet.
(Frankly, I don’t know how authors who publish a book a year manage.)
An important part of getting my website more reader-worthy was setting up my Media page. Following the directions of Tim Grahl (see below), I learned to code my Media page so that high-definition images would be automatically downloaded with just a click. I’m fairly stoked that I was able to do this.
Also, on Fiverr.com, I found someone to turn the book cover of The Game of Hope into a 3D image (see above). For $5!
Easy Outreach with Tim Grahl
When it comes to marketing, I’m a fan of Tim Grahl, He’s experienced, down-to-earth and realistic. I’ve taken a few of his online courses, and they’ve always been worthwhile. Right now I’m following a new one he’s testing out, “Easy Outreach.” Basically, it’s about how to get interviewed on podcasts, but the detailed system he outlines would apply to any outreach: to blogs, vlogs, or podcasts, etc.
An important part of the process is to identify suitable podcasts and to study them before making a pitch. (I’ve discovered a number of wonderful podcasts in the process.) I’m kind of excited about putting this into practice. I ordered a USB Yeti mike, and already have one podcast interview scheduled for the fall.
I’m ready! Who knows where this might lead?
Finally learning Scrivener
I’ve promised myself that I would write The Next Novel on Scrivener. I’ve taken stabs at learning it before, but I’ve always ended up confused and frustrated. It’s a complex programme! I was on the verge of giving up when I came upon a Udemy Scrivener 3 course for Mac. It had excellent reviews so I went for it. It’s been fantastic. I have questions almost every day, and the teacher responds to every one. I take it bit by bit, and immediately apply what I’ve learned, so hopefully it will stick. I’m finally understanding why so many writers love it.
Additionally, I’ve been developing my next novel following the guidelines in Story Genius by Lisa Cron. Puzzling over how to get Cron’s scene card templates into my Scrivener project, I Googled “Story Genius Scrivener” and found a wonderful article by Gwen Hernandez on WriterUnboxed: Using Scrivener with Story Genius. Bingo! She even included a downloadable Scrivener template with scene card templates (and much more).
Watching movies, reading and listening to books and reading magazines …
And then, of course, there have been wonderful movies to watch: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Call Me by Your Name; and, last night, Lady Bird. All were simply great. Of the three, I found Call Me by Your Name the most enchanting, swooningly European.
And then, of course, books, books, books! In addition to books on writing, I’m reading The Burning Girlby Claire Messud and listening, on Audible, to an amazing performance of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
Ever since we returned to our winter home in San Miguel de Allende (Mexico), I’ve been working like crazy, getting ready for the sprint-revision of The Next Novel, which I’ve promised to send to my agent at the end of the month. (It was last due in May!)
I’ve recovered from the 4th draft conversion from 3rd person to 1st. That seems easy in comparison to the challenge now, which is figuring out an emerging important character and what happens to him. His story has evolved into a fairly important subplot (at draft 5!).
To help figure it out, I’ve laid out all the scenes on the big dining room table, puzzling over the flow of the story. (More than once, I groaned over the difficulty of writing a fact-based biographical novel.)
I’ve laid the cards out using the filmscript-writing structure proposed in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat — a short, punchy and tad corny how-to book that offers quite a lot of helpful plot wisdom. (Scriptwriting and novel writing are two different beasts, but there can be fruitful cross-pollination. More on that later.)
I laughed seeing this cartoon on Debbie Ridpath’s blog: I was wearing my noise-cancelling headphones at the time (over earplugs). You have to block out the world in order to allow the imaginary world to bloom.
The subject of the blog —Podcasts for Writers — is well worth checking out. A number of good ones are mentioned, including my personal favourite, Writers on Writing (shown as Pen on Fire). Writing is isolated work; it’s wonderfully comforting to listen to other writers talking about the craft.
I know I’ve mentioned before how I love to listen to Barbara DeMarco-Barrett‘s Writers on Writingpodcasts when I’m doing the dishes, or sitting in an airport, or driving long distances. During this last long bout of travel (the last for a bit, I pray!), I enjoyed a number, but one in particular stood out for me: an interview with NY literary agent Donald Maass. I’ve read Donald Maass‘ book Writing the Breakout Novel—and I wish I had it here with me now in my office in Mexico, because there are a number of interesting things he has to say in it.
Before writing the book, Maass made a systematic study of the novels that made the NYT bestseller list, wishing to identify what it was about a novel that made it outstandingly popular. I’m not attempting to be a Danielle Steels or Stephenie Meyer, but I do appreciate insights into what makes a story compulsively addictive. I like when a book has me deeply hooked: I love it … and that’s what I’m after.
Two things stood out in this particular interview for me:
One, that a compelling main character should be deeply conflicted right from the start: he or she must want two things that cannot co-exist.
The other thing he had to say that gave me thought was not so much about writing as about promotion: his belief that promotion and publicity isn’t what sells a book, that what sells a book is the book itself. I’d like to believe that, but I’m not convinced. I don’t think it’s an accident that the Josephine B. Trilogy sold very well in the countries that invested a great deal in promotion (and conversely).