Guess what?

So many people walk around this earth with no idea
how to communicate their gifts to the world.

But you, dear writer, have already found your language.
Now it’s simply time to trust YOUR voice.

With love and total belief in you,
Marni Freedman

Welcome to The Feisty Writer!

Ummm, what is it exactly…

A New Blog for Feisty Writers Everywhere

What does it mean to be a feisty writer? Is it for me?

Well…

  • Are you ready to take your career into your own hands?
  • Are you looking for ways to improve your craft without being bored out of your mind?
  • Are you looking for new techniques that will actually get you to the page?
  • Are you seeking a writer-tested-and-approved method to complete your novel, memoir, screenplay, or play?
  • Are you a severe procrastinator with a fierce inner critic?

 

Guess what?

We are your tribe.

Writing Books

A drawing of a soup pot with pictures of books coming out of itMy husband, Mark, and I are writing books—he’s writing one and I’m writing two. So, our home has become a book-production factory.

By factory, I mean sweat shop.

Mark’s book is called “Serious About Retiring.” It’s a guidebook for people who are close to retiring or have just retired.

I’m juggling two books. One is a whimsical picture book about marriage—”Grow Old with Me.” The other book is a quasi-memoir about my late brother who was a war correspondent in the early years of America’s Vietnam War. I’m writing it in “collaboration” with him—so this book gives the term “ghost written” a whole new meaning.

You might think that writing is all about creativity and inspiration, that beautiful words flow off the pen (or word processor), and that when you reach 200 pages, you send it to the presses and you have a book. I wish it were so. Writing a book is hard labor.

Mark and I have been working on all three books for a very, very long time—I started the book on my brother almost three decades ago! All three books have gone through scores of incarnations.

It’s all about revising…and revising…and revising.

What if you were making a pot of soup the way you write a book? Let’s say you start out making chicken soup. You put in chicken, water, an assortment of vegetables, and various spices. But then you think—no, this isn’t quite right. So you take out the chicken and you lift out some of the vegetables. Instead, you put in potatoes and other vegetables. Then you think—no, this isn’t right, so you move those vegetables out and maybe put in some beef…

Finally you taste the soup and you say—this isn’t chicken soup, this is butternut squash soup. Should I add some chicken?

Of course, when you’re making soup, you can’t really take out and swap ingredients. But when you’re word processing a book, you can take stuff out and add stuff and do this over and over. Forever.

What this means is—when I write one book, I’m really writing 100 books.

The next time you’re reading a book, you might wonder—what happened to the 99 books that dropped out along the way?

*********

A photo of author, Lucy Rose FischerLucy Rose Fischer is an author and artist living in Minnesota.  Her most recent book is a whimsical picture book, I’m New at Being Old, which received a Midwest Book Award and an Independent Publishers Gold Award.

 

Photos courtesy of Lucy Rose Fischer

Write Like a Charlie Horse, Not a Charley Horse

Lisa walking the horse named Charlie through a pastureConfession: I’m impatient.

I like things to move and keep moving—quickly. I failed my first driving test at age 16 because of…you guessed it: speeding. (In my defense, test roads vacillated between 45 and 35 mph within a short stretch, and the surrounding traffic was flying.) Awareness of more serious consequences than a failed test has kept my lead foot in check since, but when I walk around lakes near my home, strangers comment on my pace.

Unfortunately, my need for speed includes writing. Like any Type A personality, I chase the satisfaction of completing projects and ticking them off lists, so I’m easily lured into treating the writing process as a means to an end instead of as the revelatory gift it is. My product-versus-process conflict reached its peak when I wrote my first book and discovered that the publishing industry moves like a sloth.

Then I met my patience coach: Charlie.

After my first few horseback riding lessons on Charlie, I dubbed him The World’s Slowest Thoroughbred (a horse breed known for its speed on the racetrack) and grumbled inwardly when assigned to ride him. His lumbering canter felt like riding an oil field pump. His name should be Charley Horse, I groused when my calves ached from the effort required to keep him moving.

“Wait for it. Wait, wait…” my riding instructor cautioned one Sunday morning as Charlie and I cantered toward a fence we aimed to jump.

“Nope,” she said when Charlie landed. “You anticipated, so you leaned forward and knocked Charlie off-balance. If the fence were any higher, you’d have been in trouble. Stop rushing! Wait until Charlie gets to the takeoff spot and go with him, not ahead of him.”

Easier said than done.

I had longed to gallop though jumper courses since I’d started lessons a few years ago. I discovered in the meantime that they are a test of skill, not speed, so they require a controlled canter.

The more I rode Charlie, however, the more I recognized his talent. Whether easing first-time riders’ fears or carrying advanced jumpers through courses in competitions, Charlie does it all well. The key to his success is his patience. He meets each rider where she is and stays with her as she progresses. He also takes courses one fence at a time—exactly the way successful riders approach them.

I’m learning to accept that too much speed can cause injuries in riding. Charlie forces me to practice patience and to appreciate process for its own sake, which I’m working to apply to my writing.

One of the first things Charlie taught me about patience is that allowing time to meander leads to discovering nuggets I would have missed if I had galloped toward a finished product in writing my book. Many of these nuggets grow into blog posts and essays, turning what seems like wasted time into published work.

One such meander led me to suggestions for preventing and treating a charley horse—a list that reads eerily like a manual for writers’ self-care:

Warmup

I’ll admit it, though I warmup when exercising and riding, I rarely do it when writing. I don’t do morning pages, and I dislike journaling. But there are a million things I can do when I’m not ready to leap into a big work-in-progress, like a book: research agents and publishers, follow writers on social media, look for opportunities to submit essays, scan image sites like Pinterest for descriptive details I can use in current projects. These often become the meanders that lead to a new image in my book or content idea for my blog.

Stretch

While I haven’t taken to morning pages, I have experimented with process by trying prompts and exercises found online. They perk me up when I’m feeling depleted.

Start Slowly and Work Toward Small Goals

Big writing projects can overwhelm, so I approach them the way Charlie approaches courses: one fence at a time. If I’m not up to working on my book, I tackle something manageable, like brainstorming for my blog, revisiting unfinished essays, or describing a recent everyday experience in exaggerated detail. Description sparks inspiration; it’s my way into every project.

Track Your Progress and Celebrate Successes

Like many writers, I keep a color-coded submissions spreadsheet to track what I have submitted where and whether it has been accepted, rejected, or ignored. What I’ve come to think of as “Ignored Gray” dominates but seeing bursts of “Accepted Blue” boosts my confidence. Rereading my blog does the same and supplies topics for follow-up essays.

Stop and Rest If You Feel Strain

It’s all grist for the mill, I tell myself when life interferes with writing. I’m still training myself to “walk the walk” when it comes to that saying, but when I succeed, I discover a wealth of grist. My concentration is sharper after time away from writing, too.

Be Patient with Your Body and Yourself

For me, this is the hardest lesson. When I feel rushed or get frustrated with slow progress, I tell myself, You want a Charlie Horse, not a Charley Horse. That means to not become hyper-focused on the finish line or push myself to extremes.

So, I keep plugging along: revising my book, drafting blog posts, submitting to contests, and researching agents. Riding Charlie assures me that I’ll jump publishing’s fences as they come—one at a time, using a moderate pace—and land more successfully for having completed my book’s jumper course at the right pace.

 

Photo Credit: Lisa Whalen

Don’t Wait to Get Advice on Marketing a Book

Pink hourglassI love marketing books. However, it’s inevitable—I hang up the phone after receiving a call from another prospective client, and the last words I hear before we sign off are: “I wish I’d spoken with you sooner.”

I hear this same lament over and over again. Mainly because a good number of the authors who are call (and often it’s their first call to any publicist) didn’t complete some of the crucial marketing steps that must take place before they release their books.

When It’s Too Late for Marketing to Help

In many cases, it’s too late for me to help them. Especially if the authors have already done one or more of the following:

  • waited over a year before trying to get publicity for a book already released
  • didn’t develop a social media platform
  • didn’t have their covers professionally designed
  • didn’t have their books professionally edited
  • signed publishing contracts without reading them
  • allowed publishers only to issue their books in hardcover
  • released their books late in the year
  • didn’t workshop their manuscripts before publishing
  • wrote a book in a genre that is overcrowded or difficult to sell
  • wrote a book that doesn’t have a newsworthy angle or point of view.

Arguing Doesn’t Help

When I mention that these situations that might make it difficult for me to help market their books, I inevitably receive the following arguments:

  • but I didn’t know that a book should be marketed within the first six to eight months after release
  • but I’m computer-phobic and don’t know how to use social media
  • but I’m a good artist and my friends and family like my book covers
  • but I was an English major and don’t need an editor. Or my publisher is going to edit my book (even though the publisher is most likely not a professional editor)
  • but the publisher told me that she or he would do ________ (so I didn’t read the contract)
  • but the publisher said that she or he would issue the book in softcover after I sold an (unknown) amount of hardcovers
  • but I didn’t know that releasing a book in late winter would make it difficult to promote because of the holidays and that most venues will be already booked for the year
  • but my cancer survival/parental issues/adoption story or memoir doesn’t have to be unique—everyone I know likes it
  • but the fact that I wrote the book makes it newsworthy.

Successful Authors Listen and Seek Advice Early

In many of these cases, the authors don’t like what I have to say. They try to convince me that somehow I’m wrong about these important steps. Some of them try to tell me that because a few reviewers liked the book, they feel they can somehow bypass the rules. And some of them don’t listen at all—instead, they call to tell me how important their books are and, thus, whatever I have to say doesn’t matter to them.

In the end, every author has the right to do whatever he or she wants with his or her book. But if authors (especially new authors) want to be successful at selling their books, they have to be willing to educate themselves about the selling process. And they must realize that marketing is different from what they learned (or, in many cases, didn’t take the time to learn) about creating a successful book.

Book Marketing Basics

What I end up suggesting to those who call me with these issues is the following:

  • educate yourself about the book industry. Know the statistics and requirements for your genre and be realistic about where your book might stand if your genre is difficult to sell
  • educate yourself about the promotion process: take classes, attend workshops, go to conferences, read books on marketing, and talk with other authors who have successfully published and sold their books
  • don’t wait to hire a publicist: make contact (preferably by email) at least four to six months before the book is released
  • don’t be afraid of social media—learn how to set up and manage at least one or two sites (I recommend Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads) and place your blog posts on all of them, including your website (get help from a social media consultant if you find this process too daunting)
  • plan to promote your book during the first six to eight months immediately after the book is released
  • don’t ever release a book that hasn’t been edited by a paid professional
  • never design your book cover
  • don’t sign a publishing contract without reading it word-for-word and, if anything is unclear, discussing it with a publishing attorney
  • don’t let a publisher talk you into only releasing your book in hardcover—hardcovers are too expensive for readers and booksellers won’t stock them. Insist on softcover and ebook versions, or pass on the opportunity
  • don’t release a book at the end of the year (any time after October is too late); instead, plan to release in either January or February. That way you have the entire spring and summer to schedule events, make appearances, and promote
  • don’t assume because you received one or two positive reviews that selling the book will be easy
  • don’t assume that because you have an interest in your content/story that others will feel the same way you do.

My Best Book Marketing Advice

Finally, my ultimate advice to all authors is to write the best book you possibly can. For most, this means workshopping the manuscript with a writing group and taking the feedback that is given to heart. I see too many books that should never have been published. Not only because they have been improperly produced, but because the writing level is not where it should be to compete in today’s crowded market. Educate yourself about the promotion process as early as possible. Make sure your book is truly ready to be released into the world.

 

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