Blogs about writing are like my morning newspaper, they get my writer mojo. Each day, I wake up and read stuff on my phone while I’m still in bed, and into the coffee phase of waking up. I have a writing practice of using the first two hours of the day for my creative self — drafting new chapters, poems, story ideas, and editing works in progress. To get into the swim, I read about writing. More
craft of fiction
You’ve written a novel that’s been published — traditional, small press, or indie — HOORAY! And you launched. Now you’re watching the sales numbers and offering to do blog tours and readings. What else? How to build buzz for your debut novel? You look at author websites and see pitches for freebies and long lists of books. You see bestseller list mentions, excruciatingly gorgeous blurbs from famous authors, and you might feel a little perplexed as to how to promote your single, debut novel lacking those supports.
Build Buzz? A Catch-22
It can be a Catch-22 for debut authors. You can’t get on Bookbub unless your book is already selling well. You can’t get on a bestseller list as an unknown without a major publisher swinging some weight behind your debut. You’ve heard that the first few months of a book’s debut can make or break its success, but you’re counting on a slow build. So what’s a debut author to do?
- I have a two-word answer: LITERARY FRIENDS. Make literary friends. Make lots of them. Join groups. There’s power in groups! Become part of the writing community and contribute to the conversation, however you best can. It’s fine to be a newbie and simply be in a group and appreciate others’ wisdom. I’ve joined quite a number of authors and writer groups, and I love being part of them, but especially these:
Women’s Fiction Writers Association
Authors18 – Novelists with Debut books publishing in 2018
National Novel Writing Month
Build Buzz Through Groups
In my Authors18 group, we support each other’s book launches, promotional posts, book tours, events, and reviews. It’s a group of dedicated, supportive, and fun writers who are all excited and suffering over their first novels being published. This is not a journey to take alone! If you’re going to have a debut novel published in 2019, a group is already forming. And look for more groups of this kind. The social media book buzz alone is worth it!
My Women’s Fiction Writers’ Association is a true tribe. We write on similar themes, range from writers seeking publication of a first novel to novelists with many books to their credit. And that makes the conversation fascinating and diverse. We have several Facebook WFWA member groups, some focused on craft, some on publishing, and some on writing every day. Like NaNoWroMo, it can give you the experience of being surrounded by fellow writers who are friends and fans, who will see you through the dark days, help build your buzz, and cheer you on.
Build Buzz Through Promotions
Basics of Building an Author Platform
More on paid promotions in another post. For now, build your book buzz in good company of other writers, book reviewers, and readers! And let me know if you have tips on this. I’m still learning!
I’ve decided to launch from my Rocket Kid Writing blog into a newly titled blog, which will be integrated with my new website (stay tuned!) as The Writing Path.
It’s not an easy path, involves some hard pulling at times, some days of feeling lost in the woods, but for me, it’s a compelling path of self-discovery. I have to keep going forward. And though it often feels solitary, I’m surrounded by writer friends, whether we connect in person over a cup of tea or coffee, or on Facebook, Twitter, or through the marvelous nonprofit organization for writers of women’s fiction, The Women’s Fiction Writers Association.
Two great things I did for my writer self last year: draft a (nearly) complete novel during National Novel Writing Month, and join the WFWA, where I’ve met and learned from many wonderful novelists. More
It was quite a thing, writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I signed up telling all my colleagues I wouldn’t cross the finish line, that I had no intention of it. I wanted to write good words, not fast and plenty words. But guess what? I have a giant competitive streak in my nature. Every day when I checked my writing buddies’ progress, a few pulled ahead, of me. It got under my skin. I started writing faster, upping my daily word count. I suddenly felt I COULD finish this marathon, and wouldn’t that be a thing?
I began with a head start: a detailed outline and character profiles drawn from working with Lisa Cron’s Story Genius book on the craft of fiction. I knew the WHY for my characters, not just the WHAT. I knew what the two sisters each needed to achieve by the book’s end and what that was supposed to make the reader feel.
Armed with all that, plus a pre-existing 10,000+ words, I leaped in on November 1. My life, it should be said, was in no way ready for such a venture, and that’s why I had to do it. My beloved brother had just died less than a month earlier. I had new family responsibilities as a result. I had a play I’d written in rehearsal, and a novel I’d completed to get an agent or publisher for. I was behind on my client work, swamped with chores and errands left unattended when we plunged into caring for my dying brother, and I was in deep mourning.
And #NaNoWriMo2016 was the best thing that could have happened to me at that time. The daily exercise of writing sharpened my mind and my skills. It focused me in a world – La Spezia in Liguria, Italy — beyond anywhere familiar, except that I have once been there on the happiest vacation I’ve ever taken. And it gave me a reachable goal. I’m very goal-oriented, so that was a happy space for, reaching for a new goal.
As it turned out, I got my 50,000 words done by the skin of my teeth, and by dumping raw research into the body of the book, rewriting it, and then deciding to organize chapters later. And now I have two-thirds of THE ROMANTICS CLUB, a novel, roughly drafted. Some of the opening chapters have been polished to a high gloss. I did some editing while I wrote — can’t refrain from wordsmithing, as it’s my poetic pleasure to do it — and I did some organizing and LOTS OF RESEARCH.
In short, I recommend this for all you goal-oriented writers who are wondering how to tackle the next book. You don’t have to wait for November. Name your own novel-writing month and try to hit a 1,667-word-a-day pace. Or if you did NaNo, you can use January and February to do some goal-oriented editing, with resources from NaNoWriMo.
|National Novel Writing Month||http://nanowrimo.org|
Whatever you do, know you can do more writing than you think you can. That’s the message of NaNoWriMo. Go to the website and donate to support this wonderful program that empowers lots of writers — young and old!
In the spirit of the holidays now upon us, I’d like to offer some fodder for those quiet times you find amid the activities and social life. Reading for me leads to writing, so I often start my writing day by either progressing in a novel or reading several poems. Sometimes digging into a craft book. So here are some recommendations for feeding your head.
Story Genius by Lisa Cron. This is the one fiction craft book you have to have! She’s the story whisperer, the one who can help you dig into that beautiful plot and set of characters you have brewing in your brain, but which keeps stirring around in confusing ways. I following the “pantsing” way of writing my first novel, resulting in what Anne Lamott calls “shitty first drafts” — many of them. I know Anne recommends you give yourself permission to draft without editing, but as someone who spent years writing one book, I’d prefer a more sure-footed approach next time. Here’s one of my current favorite quotes from the book: “Don’t keep secrets secret from the reader.”
Emily Bleeker’s When I’m Gone is an engaging love story from a wonderful writer. It touches deeply on themes of loss, love, and emotional reconnection. While I undergo my own grieving process, I found this novel healing and uplifting. The portrayal of a marriage through the process of grieving its loss is poignant and beautifully portrayed. Bleeker is an author to watch and this novel is one that will keep you turning pages.
I’m in the middle of reading and reviewing The Uneaten Carrots of Atonement by Diane Lockward, poet and author of another craft book I love, The Crafty Poet. The color red sears the collection, the seethe of articulate anger and outrage over an undefended childhood and life’s assaults and unfairness. Whether she takes as her subject nine renegade monkeys escaped from a testing lab or the red dress (re-dress) of a child dreaming of freedom from abuse, the poet takes “quick, sharp steps like flint against steel” in every poem. Yet there is beauty in her boldness and defiance, poetry in the grieving and acceptance.
Hopefully something here will spark your creative juices and give you islands of quiet enjoyment through the hectic social season. Happy and Merry days ahead.