As writers and authors, learning new skills, keeping ahead of genre evolution, trope changes and writing methods is vital for our continued improvement as a wordsmith. With the industry changing so quickly, we need to be ahead of the game.
The best ways to do this are:
Join a writing group
Read articles on the book industry
Take courses and workshops
Attend writing conferences
Subscribe to industry newsletters
How do you keep current with the writing industry?
This past weekend, I virtually attended When Words Collide and attended as many sessions as I could, while also being a co-presenter and panelist. Although, there was information I already knew, there were also those little nuggets of wisdom, insights and knowledge that made each session a gem. My notes were prolific and my follow up to action each gem will take several weeks.
There is always something to learn, whether you are just starting out on your writing career or have years of experience. We can have tunnel vision and ease into a ‘comfort zone’ so easily, when there are so many other calls on our time.
Some things can be scheduled monthly, such as updating your website or blog with current information. We don’t want a visitor to read upcoming events from 2018! Modify your bio to include your latest book, current WIP progression and appearances etc. Don’t leave your blog stagnant – post content regularly. (This can be once weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or even quarterly – just a known routine, so followers will know when to expect you to post).
We all have several social media accounts, so make sure they reflect the latest news, images etc. so they are in line with your current activities. This makes your author platform current. Also check links to ensure they are working properly or direct to a new site, if a change occurred. Refresh content and images so your platform doesn’t look dated or tired. Renew your copyright dates for all content across platforms on 1st January each year – this is one that can be missed very easily.
Can you share tips on what you do to stay updated and improve your writing skills?
When I unpublished these books, it was because I was embarrassed of the quality. But when I looked through them again, I realized my embarrassment had nothing to do with the quality of my work. It had to do with the fact that I wrote these books while I was still raw from my mothers passing. It had two years when she passed away when I started working on book 1. I had never written a novel before. I was a screenwriter at the time. I wanted to write stories without dealing with the competition. So, even though I thought writing a novel would be much harder, I switched to novels. Over time it became the format I loved.
As for why I decided to republish, it’s because I’m proud of every step I’ve taken to get where I am now and am excited for what the future holds for me.
Can you us tell about the stories and how the ideas came about for Unforgiven and All in the Family?
At the time the idea stemmed from my grieving process of my mother’s passing. Feeling as if my emotional state and process was quite different from my family. There is a scene in book one where the truth of why the family split up and kept Henry (main character) in the dark of the truth. My perspective of my family was rather negative and dark. Which is why I originally unpublished my work. It felt like I was using an outlet to deal with my frustration, anger, and morose state.
Somehow, as time went on, I saw these books as a much needed and healthy part of my past. That I dealt with my emotions in a creative and human way. Sure, the ideas came from a creative place, but at its core, it came from a tormented and lonesome place.
I believe our fears can create beauty.
On a more literal standpoint, Unforgiven is about Henry reuniting with his family. While questioning his life choices and how he will get himself and his family out of this chaotic mess. As for what the family business is, I will let that be a surprise.
Which genre do you enjoy writing the most?
Mystery. When I wrote book 1 of Boone and Jacque, I found joy in creating layers around the central characters.
Where did the idea come from to writer this fantasy series?
I wouldn’t consider this a fantasy series. It’s more of a thriller and suspense duology.
Do you have other books published?
Yes. My Urban Fantasy/Fiction series, Boone and Jacque. Book 1, Saddleton’s Secret, Book 2, The Brothers’ Odyssey are available on Amazon in paperback and kindle format. Book 3, Saddleton Haunting, will be out in Kindle format in early August. For paperback, sometime in September.
What is your writing background?
I did my Bachelor’s in Creative Writing at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Besides books, I’ve written several poems, short stories, and research articles.
Do you belong to a writing group?
On Facebook: Author Nation, World Poetry Café; Author/Publisher/Editor/Book Readers, Start in Screen – Canada, BC Writers, Authors and Editors, and countless others.
Has the pandemic affected your writing/promotion? If so how?
Not at all. Overtime I’ve certainly evolved as a writer and adapted to change in life. But how often I write and put my work out there hasn’t changed.
However, the pandemic did make me let go of certain fears. One being fantasizing about things I want to do. For example, acting. Starting in August, I’ll be doing a three monthacting program. I don’t know where it will take me, but I’m excited about it.
Which authors influence you?
Good question. It changes over time. Right now it’s Leigh Bardugo, whom wrote the Grishaverse. She is the first fantasy writer to envelope me in the universe she created since I read Harry Potter. I’m not sure why, but something about her style is quite inviting.
I still look up to Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Cormac McCarthy and Daniel Handler, but I’m expanding my horizons.
We have all felt disheartened as writers. It can manifest itself in a variety of forms. Lack of impetus, illness, stress, unrealistic comparisons, self expectations or stumbling over a particular section in a writing project. Some call it writers block. In truth it is just life.
Firstly, don’t beat yourself up, you are not alone. Every writer, whether novice or any of the top 100 authors, have doubts about what they are writing. We question ourselves – is it good enough, over and over. This can only spiral us downward into self-doubt. There are ways to give yourself a pick you up. I hope these help.
1. Focus on enjoying telling your stories. Do it to the best of your ability.
2. Remember you are building an inventory of your writing but also learning your craft.
3. Lessen your expectations, don’t be so hard on yourself. Yes, we all want a certain quality to our work, but with patience it will come. There is no quick fix.
4. Don’t compare another writer’s finished work against your in process drafts. You have no idea how many changes they made.
5. Remember you get to rule over your own creative process. You choose, shape, mold, and create whatever you want.
6, Your words will, in time, sway minds, move hearts, and touch the lives of dozens of people you will never meet in person.
7. Your words, your stories are your legacy.
8. Do not take rejection personally. Think of it as a learning tool.
9. Take a long-term view of your writing career – no-one is ever an overnight success.
10. Participate in supportive writer groups. Share your work with encouraging friends.
What have you found works for you when you are feeling disheartened?
Yes, we all know writing is a solitary pastime, however we do need to connect with others writers from time to time. In this virtual age many of us have connections across countries as well as in our own place in the world. This is achieved with local writing groups or through the wonders of the internet.
With our imposed isolation those precious moments of physical connection have been extinguished for the time being and ‘virtual’ has become the norm. We have all seen the virtual book readings, book launches and promotions. The greatest thing as far as I am concerned are the growing number of virtual writing groups.
I have such a group, who link up on Sunday’s for three hours of writing. We can see each other and there is a brief hello and details of what project we are tackling. Then it is heads down and write! At the end we report on progress and feel accomplished. We may not be ‘together’ but we are!
The added benefit is that we are accountable and that drives us to write. No matter the circumstances there is always a way to stay connected.
As writers and authors, we are formidable in our ability to create narratives but we also have to learn how to market the ‘end product’ of those many months or even years of creativity. We become a book business.
The first avenue many authors take is social media, which can be seen as a ‘soft’ option. After all we are not up close and personal with the public but at arm’s length. However, due to the countless sites available just choosing the ‘right’ one or two can be overwhelming. Then there is the matter of maintaining our ‘presence’ on each platform. We need to research which avenues of promotion will work best not just for our genres but also our ability to sustain them. Do your research on similar authors in your genre and see what they use (and of course ‘follow’ them).
2. Following selected authors, genre based bloggers, book reviewers, and writing groups allows you to gain followers but also to learn about your particular genre and gain a reader base. When someone is interested in your genre they ‘search’ for more posts, articles, links and books within that specific field. While you are doing that follow 10 ‘friends’ of friends on Facebook and 100 people on Twitter – this can gain a wider audience. However, in light of these two platforms losing participants also follow people on Instagram. (We have to keep up with the ‘in’ thing!)
3. Improve your author bio on all platforms to entice and inform as many followers as possible on all sales sites, your blog and social media platforms. Ask yourself – does it reflect you as a writer as well as a person.
4. Use hashtags specific to writing, authors, books, genre and associated links – look at what other authors use.
5. Then there is the personal touch, which means organizing or being involved in author readings, attending book events and participating in Q&A panels. Search your local area for book related events, get to know your local bookstores, inquire at your library, join a local writing group, the wider your reach the easier it will be to find avenues of sale for your book.
6. Merchandise is another way of promoting your book. It can be as simple as custom bookmarks to T-shirts with the book cover/main character on the front. Make up a prize basket for a contest to be collected at an event (good photo opportunity to use on social media) or create an online contest for a free autographed copy of your book.
7. An easy promotion is to leave five of your author business cards in local businesses, at the doctor’s or dentist’s office, or anywhere you visit on a regular basis. Many places have community boards too so pin some cards or a poster of an event you are attending there too.
Do you have any promotion tips you would like to share?