Tag Archives: Authors

Changing the Way We See Self-Publishing

This morning my perspective on self-publishing shifted. I had always seen it as a second phase, either the space you reach when you cannot find an agent (at no fault of your own, of course…) or the choice you make when you’re already established and want to regain control over your profits. Sure, I had read all kinds of success stories, but I had also scrolled through the sea of titles, lost in the myriad of choices, uncertain of the quality and dissuaded by the prospect of reading on an electronic screen.

However, this morning as I sat over tea at my favorite French bistro with my uncle and my husband, I was swayed a different direction. Suddenly, self-publishing was the indie choice I loved all along without ever realizing it, akin to making an independent movie instead of waiting for a big studio with its formulaic tastes to discover your project. I adore many independent movies. I don’t know why I never made this connection before.

In fact, this past weekend, I saw an indie flick at Tower Theater in Sac, the kind of place you sit and revel at moviemaking’s past, the crown molding and neon sign making up for the struggling air conditioning and sagging seats. We watched Frances Ha, a movie which at first makes you wonder if you’re witnessing a slow theatrical train wreck but eventually blossoms into a genuinely funny and touching film. Indie movies may have their flaws, but they also bring you into worlds more refreshing than those where everyone has a shiny new car and drinks Coca-Cola with the label pointed outward.

I see my book as kind of the same deal. It may lack some of the sheen of a blockbuster, but there is enough beneath the surface to make it worthwhile, especially if you stick around until the end. Likewise, I recently read my uncle’s first novel, a book which marries Dan Brown’s ability to create suspense with Pillars of the Earth’s timeless heroes and villains. It is exactly the kind of thing I would expect to see on the bestseller’s shelf at the local bookstore, yet he has not been picked up by an agent. Proof the old system is imperfect, overlooking true gems in the ocean of submissions.

So, as I left our little book meeting, I could see my novel self-published with an indie charm, no less meaningful without the mark of a major publisher on its spine. I’ve always been an acquired taste, as my father likes to say. It only makes sense I would find a quirky world for my words to thrive, an audience who appreciates this sort of thing, the kind of people who go to sit in Tower Theater instead of always opting for the comfort of the megaplex. The gatekeepers may bemoan the changes in the publishing world all they like, but it is about time the indie book market follows in the footsteps of its movie-making big sister.

Part of my late embrace of the self-publishing model is also learning to experiment with e-readers. So far, the borrowed kindle kicks the iPad’s butt and I’m coming around to the idea of reading my own words on one of these screens.

Part of my late embrace of the self-publishing model is learning to enjoy e-readers. So far, this borrowed kindle kicks the iPad’s butt and I’m coming around to the idea of reading my own words on one of these screens.

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Writing to Write and Write Some More

Yesterday’s post about blogging for a bigger audience left me grateful for my existing readers and reminded me why I write in the first place. I don’t want to be one of those blogs that only writes about one thing. That’s not me, or at least not me right now. I appreciate my freedom to write about blogging, writing, teaching, travel, dogs, health, music, yoga… Life.

At a recent baby shower, the mother of the mom-to-be asked me what my blog was about. I responded, “Life.” Instantly I realized this might not be the most compelling marketing on earth, but it’s true. I write about everything and I don’t want to change this. Reading your comments and King Midget’s post about writing for a mass audience reminded me that I like what I have already, I just get lured into my fantasy of what it means to be paid to write. But, forcing it doesn’t work, I get that.

Over the past year, I have watched some blogs “take off” but also lose their charm/intimacy in no longer being able to respond to all their comments. I don’t want this unless it also means that some other part of my writing life is being fulfilled, (ie: my book is successfully published). I guess all this reflection has just made me realize it’s all trade-offs. Yes, I want to grow as a writer in my reach and experiences, but at the moment spreading myself thin trying to grow my blog won’t guarantee any of this and is not the most efficient use of my time.

Glad you could help me get that pesky need to impress strangers out of my system, (at least for today…).

Happy Sunday!

Speaking of baby showers, I'm becoming a pro. Been to three in the last month. Yesterday's was for one of my childhood best friends. Crazy how life flies by.

Speaking of baby showers, I’m becoming a pro. Been to three in the last month. Yesterday’s was for one of my childhood best friends. Crazy how life flies by, (see, I can’t focus on one subject…).

In other writing news, I'm reading Patrick O'Bryon's Corridor of Darkness-- so far a fantastic read and a great way to readjust my eyes to my own writing as well.

In other writing news, I’m reading Patrick O’Bryon’s Corridor of Dankness— so far a fantastic read and a great way to readjust my eyes to my own writing as well.

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Blog Mechanics: Give me your secrets!

Hey you– person scrolling through your reader, I need you to click and comment on this one, even if you usually scroll right past me. According to WordPress there are 160 of you who “follow” this blog. In reality, most of my clicks come from reposting on my personal or writing Facebook, (thank goodness for stats), so I realize followers don’t automatically mean clicks.

This morning I filled out an application to blog for Wanderlust Festival this summer in exchange for free admission. As I described my writing attributes, I realized my blog is no longer growing at the same pace it was a year ago, which is why I need your help. At some point, I stopped caring so much about building a platform and started writing just to write. I hit that sweet spot of enough regular readers to be happy with my little blog community.

However, the more I put myself out there in other writing forums, the more I realize the numbers matter to someone– you know, the people deciding who to blog on their behalf, the people willing to give me cool stuff and help me get out there on other platforms. While I may not need droves of readers for my own validation, I apparently could use them to help launch myself as a writer in other forums.

So, I want your insight–

What types of posts are you most likely to click on when I blog? (Teaching, writing, yoga, life…)

Have you noticed any similar patterns for your blog in terms of larger numbers of new followers in the beginning and then fewer as time goes on? Last summer I would get 1-2+ followers per day, now I’m lucky to get a couple in a month. I pick up more when I like/comment on new blogs, but I used to have people find me regularly on their own. Does WordPress expose you more in the beginning? It is possible my writing has changed over the course of a year, but in general I feel my content is pretty similar.

These questions may sound silly, I just want to understand what I am working with here. I notice frequently that other blogs don’t show up in my reader until much later, often causing me to miss posts, which makes me wonder whether the same thing happens to my blogs. Likewise, I notice many bloggers come and go, so I assume some of my followers are now abandoned blogs. At the end of the day, all that really matters is that I like doing this, but I would also like to better understand the dynamics of platform building.

Happy blogging and thanks for your thoughts!

Blogging for Wanderlust would be pretty amazing...

Blogging for Wanderlust would be pretty amazing…

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Writers: Finally a good use for Pinterest!

I know plenty of women who are obsessed with Pinterest. From teachers to moms to fashionistas, Pinterest appeals to pretty much every woman I know, (as well as some of the men, too, I’m sure). Until today, this excluded me. I signed up because I use it from time to time for visual inspiration or to find a picture for my blog, but I have never got into pinning things, (I already waste my valuable writing time in too many ways).

However, one of my big goals in revisiting my book is to anchor it with more specific visual cues. I don’t want to turn into Steinbeck with full page descriptions of meadows, but three words here, five words there can really shape what readers see. I want my book to feel more textured, more quirky, more unique. This comes from no one other than myself. I feel like many of my visual descriptions are too generic, even if my goal is to keep much of my description minimalistic.

So– I’ve decided to create a board on Pinterest for images that fit with my vision of the book. Before I revisit each chapter, I’m spending a maximum of five minutes pinning images that mesh with what comes next. I tried it with my prologue this morning and the story felt much more alive. I could see Kristen’s outfit more clearly, I could see Jake’s gift sitting on the kitchen table. Best of all, by the end of the book, I will have a board full of images from their travels, their choices, their lives. I love it.

Feel free to stop by and watch my story grow. And, if you create a similar writing board for your work, I would love to check it out.

Any other good writing uses for Pinterest?

Pinterest is full of so many images

I have always googled images while I write, but Pinterest gives me a way to keep all of the images together, creating a visual storyboard of my novel.

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My Triumphant(ish) Return to Writing

The last couple months I hid from writing. Sure, I blogged and wrote a few paragraphs here and there for various projects. I even wrote an outline for a new book and submitted some articles to blogs and online newspapers. I read about the craft. In short, I did enough to feel like I was still a writer even if I was not making much progress.

In reality, indecision and self-doubt paralyzed me. I could not decide where to focus my attention, on something new or old or in between. Forty-three queries left me uncertain of Expecting Happiness, the occasional agent nibble more confusing than inspiring. I considered shelving it and starting something new, but nothing flowed.

I felt stuck. Family members encouraged me not to leave Expecting Happiness behind, a fellow blogger did the same. So, this week, I opened up the document and did what I should have done before. I am polishing and reshaping again for the good of the book. People always warn me I could write the same book forever, but these changes need to happen. We know deep down where we’re cutting corners.

I will finish Expecting Happiness and be proud of it, even if the idea of being proud is counterintuitive to my intrinsic humility. I want to be confident in my writing. There is a lot more buried in these last couple sentences, but I’ll save it for another post. I just know it is time to stop hiding.

I blogged before about how I find myself wanting children but fear having children will keep me from writingAs I revisit the beginning of Expecting Happiness, I see so many opportunities to explore these feelings more deeply, even if they are distorted into fictional characters who do not write but still have other passions lurking beneath the surface. I know starting a family is such an incredible gift, but for me it also seems like a space to hide when I lose faith in my writing. A child would give me the perfect excuse to stop pushing myself.

This morning I woke up and read a post on Offbeat Families by a writer who has decided to have one child. I applaud her for her honesty about what is important in her life. While I will make no similar decrees, I appreciate her reminder of how crucial it is to stay true to ourselves. I see many women wear motherhood as their identities. I understand this biologically-driven desire but I also see that it would be hiding to use motherhood as a reason not to pursue my other dreams as well.

The past few months have felt frustratingly stagnant in various ways, but I am beginning to see there is a reason behind it all. Now is my time to write, untethered, to carve out the space I will someday covet as time stolen from other parts of my life. I’m laying the groundwork for a life spent writing, regardless of the outcome. I write because it helps me make sense of life. When I distance myself, I feel lost. I must keep going and Expecting Happiness must be finished.

My new goal: Try even if I might fail.

Yes, this probably means self-publishing.

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Writing Improvement Program: Which authors do you most admire?

According to The Art of War for Writers, “The idea is not to try to become an exact copy of the writer you admire. Rather, you are incorporating rhythms and possibilities into your own inner writing.” The book recommends copying down memorable passages and reading them aloud to feel the cadence of the words as part of your personal writing improvement program. I love this idea.

As my dream writing self, I would borrow the soulful honesty of Cheryl Strayed and combine it with the expert narrative weaving of Audrey Niffenegger and Jeffrey Eugenides, who both bring their stories to life through the eyes of unusual, but still relatable characters. Below you’ll find some quotes from their works that capture the gifts I would most like to cultivate in my own writing. Maybe there are better examples, but I always lend out my most beloved books, so I had to rely on Goodreads.

Which authors best embody your ideal writing self? I know the goal is to be unique, but there is something to be said for slowing down to examine what it is you most enjoy about your favorite writers. I’d love to hear who you admire. And, who knows, maybe you’ll inspire me to add a few more books to that growing pile on my dresser.

Stolen from Pinterest.  Not sure if that counts as stealing when it was already stolen, moral imperative I guess.

Some of my favorite Cheryl Strayed words… Thanks Pinterest.

Cheryl Strayed: Words that pierce your being.

“It is not so incomprehensible as you pretend, sweet pea. Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard. It can be light as the hug we give a friend or heavy as the sacrifices we make for our children. It can be romantic, platonic, familial, fleeting, everlasting, conditional, unconditional, imbued with sorrow, stoked by sex, sullied by abuse, amplified by kindness, twisted by betrayal, deepened by time, darkened by difficulty, leavened by generosity, nourished by humor and “loaded with promises and commitments” that we may or may not want or keep.” – Dear Sugar

“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.” – Dear Sugar

“Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.” – Dear Sugar

***

Audrey Niffenegger: Intricately woven narrative with love at its core.

“We are walking down the street holding hands. There is a playground at the end of the block, and I run to the swings and I climb on and Henry takes the one next to me facing the opposite direction. And we swing higher and higher passing each other, sometimes in synch and sometimes streaming past each other so fast that it seems we are going to collide. And we laugh and laugh, and nothing can ever be sad, no one can be lost or dead or far away. Right now we are here and nothing can mar our perfection or steal the joy of this perfect moment.” – Time Traveler’s Wife

“The hardest lesson is Clare’s solitude. Sometimes I come home and Clare seems kind of irritated; I’ve interrupted some train of thought, broken into the dreary silence of her day. Sometimes I see an expression on Clare’s face that is like a closed door. She has gone inside the room of her mind and is sitting there knitting or something. I’ve discovered that Clare likes to be alone.” – Time Traveler’s Wife

***

Jeffrey Eugenides: The world seen through distinct but somehow familiar eyes.

“We felt the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing which colors went together. We knew that the girls were our twins, that we all existed in space like animals with identical skins, and that they knew everything about us though we couldn’t fathom them at all. We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them.” – Virgin Suicides

“I was thinking how amazing it was that the world contained so many lives. Out in these streets people were embroiled in a thousand different matters, money problems, love problems, school problems. People were falling in love, getting married, going to drug rehab, learning how to ice-skate, getting bifocals, studying for exams, trying on clothes, getting their hair-cut and getting born. And in some houses people were getting old and sick and were dying, leaving others to grieve. It was happening all the time, unnoticed, and it was the thing that really mattered.” – Middlesex

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A Call for Inspiration to Keep Writing

The last couple months I have given myself a free pass. I’ve scribbled little notes in journals, written blog posts, but spent no time on any particular writing project, other than to send out query letters. I told myself that until my 50 queries ran their course, I would take a break. Well, 43 queries later, it’s time to write again. I have 7 more to send, and, yes, I will, but I also need to start something new.

It’s interesting where the end of a project leaves you. 43 rejections piled up on top of me. The ones that bugged me most were from the agents who asked for more. The others I could brush aside, but those who read more, really thought about my work, and then still said no, hurt. I get it. I expected it, but it still shook my writing confidence. Every writer wants to think the first book he or she writes will be successful. You write and edit and revise for a year or more, feel like a superstar for actually finishing, and then think maybe you really did it.

However, the reality is that good writing takes time, practice, repetition, and more than anything else, proliferation. I think this pyramid sums up the reality for most writers:

Inspiration. Credit: The Art of War for Writers

Credit: The Art of War for Writers

So, here I am, with a manuscript that most likely needs something, no idea what to do with it, tired of thinking about it. The solution, move on for now. I’m going to send those last 7 queries to meet my goal, (and because, of course, a little ounce of hope still exists that maybe I’m one of those authors who makes it after an inordinate number of queries…). I will come back to it again, either to revise or self-publish. I just need a little distance with some more writing under my belt until then.

This realization in itself is an accomplishment. Last weekend I felt completely stuck in what to do next. Over our family dinner on Sunday night, my relatives encouraged me to just keep writing. A journalist friend suggested I write and submit some articles to pad my resume. My husband bought Ruby Sparks for us to watch which made me smile because it captured so many little feelings of being a writer. My aunt and uncle bought me a copy of The Art of War for Writers, the inscription on the front right page telling me not to stop.

Great way to kick off a new season of writing.

I’m so grateful to my family for finding ways to keep me inspired.

Alright, universe, you’ve made your point. Time to move forward. But then, I spent the past week agonizing over how to move forward: an article, my unfinished NaNoWriMo novel, something new altogether. Then, I realized it doesn’t matter. I should just write whatever sounds like fun. After all, as much as I’d love to be paid to write, I still have growth ahead of me, so I might as well enjoy whatever is next instead of trying to predict which project is most likely to bring me success.

Thankfully, the first third of the Art of War for Writers has also helped me regain this perspective. Sometimes, as writers, we need to hear the same advice again and again, or slightly differently. My favorite takeaways so far:

  • Don’t obsess over numbers or reviews. This was geared more toward published writers, but sometimes I waste time analyzing my WordPress and Facebook stats. Write instead.
  • Create a “writing improvement program” with: 1. Passages you love from other writers, 2. A compilation of the outside critique you receive, 3. Areas of focus and notes on how to improve.
  • Set a weekly word quota. Mine is now 3,000 words. Any words count, including blogs, but the hope is that at least half end up in projects. If I write 3,000 words a week, no matter what, then I’ll write 156,000 words a year, which darn well better include a book. Definitely an achievable goal.

More to come on all of this, but for now, I am just happy my motivation to keep writing has returned, thanks in large part to all of the wonderfully supportive people in my life.

If you write, I’d love to hear more inspiration– favorite books on writing, quotes, routines, tips for staying focused. What keeps you typing?

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Big Dreams: Author Platforms, Twitter & Video Blogs (Oh my!)

Alright, I did it. I signed back up for Twitter. Maybe the third time is the charm? I still don’t completely get it, so if you’re into Twitter, you may have to give me some tips. You can follow me here. I’ll absolutely return the favor. To be perfectly honest, Twitter gives me a bit of anxiety.

I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it’s the constant stream of 140 character or less messages. Maybe it’s the porn bot followers I always end up with. Maybe it’s the threat of one more online outlet to monopolize my thoughts and time… I have to promise myself it will be a quick afterthought. You know, five minutes a day, not hours drained into the frantic declaration of short thoughts against a puffy, clouded backdrop.

What sucked me back in? The answer is a compounding one. First a fellow blogger swore by it for getting book and agent attention. Second a different fellow blogger wrote me an email to share her success in building a bigger audience. Third I watched this video by Folio Literary Management and best-selling author Brendon Burchard, which swears Twitter is a must for every aspiring author.

Fine.

I’ll give it another shot. But seriously, not sure why my blood pressure increases every time I think about it…

In other, non-Twitter news, that link above is great for anyone who writes books. Got me motivated to push myself out there a little more in this whole platform-building process. I have become a bit complacent in recent months, happy enough with my little blog community, not pushing to expand.

However, I get that if I really want to traditionally publish my work, I need to keep pushing myself out there… So, I’m going to do it. I’m going to keep pushing, without being obnoxious to my core readers, I hope. One other thing the video convinced me to try, videos on my blog.

Yikes.

That’s another one of those things I have resisted because it feels so… I don’t know… Self-centered? Like, look at me! Watch me talk, I have something important to say that needs to be delivered in a video instead of a regular blog! I guess all blogging is at its core somewhat self-centered, so I’m willing to let that go if putting my voice out there helps to build an audience.

So, my lovely, true readers, here are Sunday’s big questions:

1. Do you have any Twitter advice for me? What’s the deal with hashtags? Do I need to put them everywhere, or what?

2. Video blogs… I haven’t caught any of you making them. Why don’t you? Or, alternatively, what in the world should I make a video blog about? I’m giving myself a week to come up with something, since I’ll need natural light to make a decent one and, well, that won’t happen during the week, (like my excuse in delaying this whole jump?!).

Happy Sunday.

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Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award: The Golden Writing Ticket!

Okay, I must admit, I felt a little like a child waiting for 9:01 to roll around this evening. I was determined to make sure my Amazon Breakthrough Novel submission was counted as one of the first 10,000. No idea how long it takes for that number to be hit, but I have to say it took an awful long time for my browser to load Create Space… As I waited, I felt like one of those kids hoping for a tour of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

The good news, my submission is now complete! After a weekend of pretty much non-stop editing, I think I have earned a complete week off Expecting Happiness. Zero novel work will be done, which actually feels like a treat, (odd, I know, since I like writing, but the editing part isn’t my favorite).

What do I plan to do with all this time off, you ask? Sleep, yoga, weekend getaway with my mom. Read someone else’s book, perhaps? I feel like I’m on vacation even though I have to wake up for work tomorrow morning…

And, to top it all off, I have this lovely song stuck in my head. Fun for five minutes, annoying every second after. Wishing you good luck if you’re searching for that same golden ticket!

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Blog Birth Announcement: Patrick O’Bryon

It’s tradition around here to welcome new blogs with open arms. Tonight I want to share the blog of someone I hold near and dear to my heart, my uncle, Patrick O’Bryon.

Uncle Pat, as I know him, is a writer too. He recently finished his first novel, Corridor of Darkness, a book inspired by his father’s, (my grandfather’s), adventures in Nazi Germany. He is also an avid traveler and plans to post stories of his own adventures, as well as trip ideas for your next escape to Europe.

If you like my blog, (which I hope you do if you’re reading this post), I bet you’ll like his too. Show him a little love and go check it out!

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Hugs & The Incredible Shrinking Book

I’m down 4,000 words and not even half way through my revision. My inclination is to say yikes. Instead, I’m trying to embrace it. Words cut for the greater good of the book. Maybe I’ll put better ones back in…

I think that’s this month’s theme, embrace.

So many things in life we want to avoid or change, when really we need to embrace the lesson in each uncomfortable experience before we can move on. Isn’t that what they say in yoga all the time? Embrace instead of struggle?

With that logic, I need to embrace cutting words. I need to embrace teaching as a wonderful challenge. I need to embrace the limited time in a day and what this means for balance…

Seems simple enough, right?

At least it’s a one word reminder, embrace. And, it makes me think of hugs, which are nice too. Hug everything in life that’s challenging. I like that.

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Help me write a better pitch (Please and thank you)

Here is my revised pitch as it currently stands, (the old one can be viewed under the Expecting Happiness tab):

As Jake sits on the bathroom floor and holds his crying wife, he knows something needs to change. Stable jobs and a house are not enough. A child seemed like the answer, but Kristen lost the baby and now she locks herself in the bathroom to be alone.

Emboldened by their loss, they say, “Fuck it all.” They quit their jobs, sell their house, and embark on separate journeys. Separate because they want different things–

Kristen wants to face the world without Jake around to hold her up. She departs for Europe looking for independence but inches her way closer to an old friend living in Paris. His name is Gustavo and he makes her blush.

Jake, on the other hand, wants to find a place to start over, somewhere he can convince Kristen to begin a family. Of course, he also craves a little adventure. He sets off on a cross-country road trip but instead finds himself on another continent, a part of someone else’s family.

Even with new faces and changing scenery, life is not complete. Torn between the allure of the unknown and their unrelenting longing for one another, Kristen and Jake must ultimately choose which life holds the secret to greater happiness.

***

So, there you have it, months and months of painstaking tweaks… And still not quite right!

Here are a few questions I have grappled with:

Do I need to include physical descriptions of the characters and/or their ages? (Leaning toward no after my last post…)

Does my ending work?

How can I make this stronger?

If you have any thoughts, I would love to hear them. As long as feedback is offered constructively, I am very open. My goal, after all, is to make my pitch better and I know it’s not quite there yet. If you feel more comfortable offering input privately, feel free to email me at olivia@oliviaobryon.com. And, if you write, post your pitch and I’ll be happy to return the favor! (Cough, cough:: Kozo it’s your turn!)

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