Yves Brown McClain: Literary Fierceness

Posts Tagged ‘writing’

RIP, Wild Oats?

Posted by Dahlia on November 19, 2011

CEMETERY © D2xed | Dreamstime.com

So, I know I’ve been MIA for a while. (I see your eyes rolling and I hear you sarcastically mutter, “A while? You’ve been off the grid for about three months!”) Allow me to take a few moments to explain.

I’ve been having moments of personal reflection lately. And during this period, I wasn’t able to blog like I should. I felt that my direction was wrong, so I stopped rather than continue down the wrong path. In regards to my writing aspirations, I knew the talent was there, I tried to stay on top of industry knowledge, I set up my blog and social media accounts to build this platform. I even have a novel and novella under my belt. But it felt all my effort was for naught because every step forward I took, I got knocked back several. My novel’s release had been pushed back an embarrassing number of times. So, I took my issues to God and waited for an answer.

After some time, this is what was revealed to me about the novel:

“Be original. This story’s been told already.”

And I’m like, “Okay, but I’ve been working on this story for years! I’ve invested time and money on this novel. I have a cover for crying out loud. Do I just toss out all those years of work and go back to the drawing board?”

Again, “Be original.”

So, I thought about it further and I had to admit that my novel was feeling like a combo of a few of favorite TV shows: “Sex and the city”, “Girlfriends”, and “Single Ladies”.  I had identified chick-lit as the genre and my writing steered in that direction. So, if chick-lit isn’t my thing and all the themes that lie therein, then what should I be writing?

“Who said you had to be in a box? Be original.”

So what does it mean for the story “I” had deemed to be my breakout? I really don’t know. It hasn’t been revealed yet. But I recognize that “I” was trying to force it through.

As I continued to meditate, I realized that my proudest and most humbling moments are when something I’ve written has encouraged, motivated, empowered, or inspired someone. Perhaps with my novel, I have focused too much on the (mis)adventures of my MC, the jokes, the shoes, the drinking, and yes, the sex, instead of what the core of what the story was about. What initially motivated me to even write the story to begin with.  Healing a broken heart. Or, how do you mend a broken heart? (I know, that’s Al Green)

So, I find myself at an impasse. I can put this story in a vault, never to be seen or heard from again. Or just set it aside for awhile as I have a few other ideas that could not only entertain, but also do those aforementioned things and return to the story once it has been revealed how it shall be told. Or do I wait?

Decisions, decisions…but I think that just may have been my problem all this time. I felt the need to hurry and make a choice. So this time I won’t force it. I will be patient.

Advertisements

Posted in Books, Encouragement & Motivation, Purpose, Wild Oats, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Writer Wednesday: Teasers – To Post or not to Post?

Posted by Dahlia on August 31, 2011

I once lurked around a discussion board about writing and publishing. One poster mentioned posting an excerpt to a story she was working on. To say the discussion went bananas after she wrote it is an understatement, they went ape —-. So many of the writers said they would NEVER post a WIP (work-in-progress) on their blog or website because once it goes live, it’s published.  Once published, you’ll have a hard time snagging an agent. I felt so bad for the poster who made that statement. Poor thing, they had ripped her a virtual new one.

Last month, I bought a copy of We Are Not Alone The Writer’s Guide to Social Media by Kristen Lamb. The topic of posting WIP excerpts comes up in her book. She makes a compelling argument why it’s generally a bad idea to include WIP excerpts as one, some, or all of your blog posts if you’re not yet published. I’ll briefly touch on a few of them. (*start plug* if you want all the reasons and details, I recommend purchasing her book, it’s a really good read *end plug*)

  1. Difficulty getting an agent if you post too much
  2. The feedback may not be honest enough
  3. The feedback may be TOO honest or just flat out mean-spirited
  4. Frustrating the reader who wants to buy the book only to find it isn’t available yet

However, there have got to be exceptions to the rule (isn’t there always?). I managed to find a few. Established authors can get away with it. I recently read a few not-yet-published teasers on the Facebook page of an accomplished, published, and bestselling author.  Considering she has an agent, a book deal, six best-sellers, and a loyal fan following, I’m sure these teasers won’t hurt her a bit. They’ll only make her fans beg her to publish them not now, but RAHT now. Even if she doesn’t publish them right away, her fans will wait. I’m sure it helps that they’ve got six books to choose from to pass the time while they’re waiting.

The second exception is the self-published/independent author. This person has complete control of his/her work from the roota to the toota. He or she is his/her own agent/publisher/marketer/PR person. Sylvia Hubbard would be my example of Exception #2. Not only does she offer a few of her novels for free, she also does what is called a Live Story in Progress (LSIP), where she posts pieces of her story on her blog as she writes them. This method has been met with success. Her fans can’t wait for the next installment and are more than willing to buy the completed version once she formally publishes (I am one of the fans eagerly awaiting her most recent LSIP to be published). However, Sylvia has her own publishing imprint.

I would have to agree with the posters who slammed that poor lady on that discussion board and Kristen to an extent. If you don’t have an agent and/or not published, it probably isn’t wise to post teasers to your book. You never know what might change in your story (the title, the characters, maybe even a huge chunk of plot). It may seem innocent enough to give potential readers a taste, but in reality it can be a setup to fail and a setback for you. However, if you meet one of those two exceptions, then you may be safe to tease away.

Writers – Have you ever posted an excerpt from your WIP on your site/blog? How was it received? Do you think teasers for unpublished pieces are helpful or harmful?

Readers – If you read an excerpt on a writer’s site, do you expect for it to be published (as in the next few months). How would you feel if it’s a long way from being published? Do you still support the writer or do you feel you’ll get tired of waiting after awhile? Of course, this is assuming you liked what you read. 😉

Posted in Marketing & Promoting, Publishing, Writer Wednesday, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Blog Interview with Morgen Bailey featuring…moi!

Posted by Dahlia on August 30, 2011

Hi! Today’s post will be very brief. I just wanted to announce that I’m being featured over at Morgen Bailey’s blog today. My first interview…woot-woot!

Let me give you a little information about Morgen Bailey. She is a fiction writer out of the UK (so this means I just went international…BOOM!) Her blog is full of great information, such as blog interviews (such as the one I’m being featured on), author spotlights, guest posts, podcasts, writing tips, as well as her own work as a writer. Her blog interviews are open to any blogger/writer in any genre, so if you’d like to subscribe or even be featured on her blog, check out her Blog Interview page.

So, to check out my interview, please click here to go over to her page. Let me know what you think!

Peace & Blessings

Posted in Announcements, Author Interview, Marketing & Promoting | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Writer Wednesday: Killing Your Story Softly #2

Posted by Dahlia on August 24, 2011

Killing your story softly 

I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. However, I’m a reader first. I love reading books as much I enjoy writing them. I have found from both the reader’s and writer’s perspective that there are things an author can do to a book that could place it in urgent care, ICU, or just flat out kill it altogether. Based on feedback from both writers and readers the Killing Your Story Softly (KYSS) Series was born.  So, you ready? LEGGO!

 ***

KYSS #2: Cause of story death was determined to be lack of edit

Here is a re-enactment of a conversation an anonymous writer had with her friend who is also a writer. Writer A wrote a story, Writer B was acting as a critique partner. The dialogue isn’t word for word, but you’ll get the point.

–START SCENE–

Writer A: I think I’m ready to get this thing published.

Writer B: You’re ready. It’s a great story.

Writer A: Thanks. I think between your comments and my red sharpie, I’m as ready as I’m gonna be.

Writer B: Trust me on this. Don’t do it. You could shoot yourself in the foot if you don’t have it edited. I’ll give you my editor’s number. She’ll catch things that we missed.

–END SCENE–

Okay, I’ll admit that writer A was me. (Gasp!) If you go through previous posts, you’ll find how much I believe in NEVER editing your own work. So, why was I now taking this hypocritical stand?

Well, the piece I put together was short. Coming in at under 24K, I felt the word count was low enough that between me and my sharpie, the critique of Writer B, and my endearing Beta Babies that were doing a test read, I could circumvent the professional substantive edit.

Second, I was anxious. I really wanted to give “the people” (the millions of imaginary fans I’d envisioned downloading my novella in droves) something to read. Put a little literary gem into the universe while I completed revisions on my full-length novel and put THAT one through the professional edit.

Writer B was having NONE of that. Despite it’s length, it needed an edit. If not for typos and grammar, at least for structure and flow. Without proper editing, I was taking a huge chance that the gem I was putting out would turn out to be a cubic zirconia, not a diamond.

I once read an book by an author whose work I really like. But, the story wasn’t edited very well. She grossly misspelled a well known fashion label. I was able to move past it because the story was good but it was almost like that movie Showgirls where Jessi (I know that’s her Saved By The Bell character name) called the dress she was wearing “Ver-sayse”. Epic fail. The typos I remember about as much as the plot itself. Thing is, not every reader is as forgiving as me. For some, this can be considered a critical error. Critical story errors can turn people off and not only will they never read another book of yours, they’ll tell their friends.

Am I suggesting you run every piece by a professional editor? Not really. If you’re posting a flash-fiction piece, a poem you came up with at 3am, or a writing exercise on your blog or website just for fun or to give your readership a “lil’ something something”, just as long as you pull out your sharpie, read it aloud, and hit spellcheck, you can get away with it. Besides, at the frequency blogs are updated, there’s not a lot of time for it. And most of us don’t even have the resources.

BUT for work you want to publish AND/OR sell, skipping this step could be a shot to the foot or worse. Now will that editor catch it ALL? No. I’ve put the novel I’ve been working on through a professional edit before and she caught the vast majority of my mistakes. But, she missed a couple of tiny things, like a comma here and there. Stuff like that won’t kill you as it didn’t interrupt the flow of the book. However, cracks in story development, plot holes, typos, and tense-jumping might pronounce your work DOA.

So, I’ve been in touch with a few potential editors to go through my novella. So, while I’m not able to cross that published bridge yet, it’ll be worth it to wait because I really want this story to be known for its plot and characters, NOT for that major story flaw halfway through it or the little annoying things like redundant words or not being descriptive enough. Oh, and to Writer B? Thanks again. You saved my writing aspirations from potential death or brain damage from lack of edit.

***

Now it’s your turn. My beloved readers, what things have you come across in books that have made you scratch your head or just throw the book in the garbage? For my writer peeps, what pitfalls are you avoiding so that your work will be its best effort possible? I’d like to know. Perhaps your story pet peeve will make the “KYSS of death” list. Happy writing and happy reading 🙂

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Change the Game

Posted by Dahlia on July 28, 2011

Lately, I have been thinking of ways to expand my platform to get more readers. Like I mentioned before, I love the writers who follow me. Great relationships have been formed because of it, and while I know writers read, I really wanted to reach out to that reader that I’m writing for. And the majority of my posts haven’t been for the reader.

I subscribe to Kristen Lamb’s blog and get her updates in my email. For those who don’t know who this fabulous lady is, she is considered a social media expert. She has written a book titled We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and it’s all about platform building to attract a following of you guessed it, readers. Not even halfway (I was at about 22%) through her book, I saw that my strategy was wrong and I needed an overhaul of my blog. Simply put, with the imminent publication of my novella with a full novel to follow, I’ve got to change my game. However, I don’t want to lose the writers that have hopped on this journey with me. Supporting each other is
still important to me. At the same time, books generally don’t sell themselves,
especially if you’re going the independent route like I am. So, I’ve got to
reach my target audience and change the way I’ve been approaching social
networking.

So, here are the changes that I’m going to incorporate. **drumroll, please and thank you**

1. Blog title change

You may have already noticed this. I feel the new title is more inclusive of
not only this writing process but the content relevant to my genre and my style
of writing.

2. More frequent updates

No, I’m not going back to daily. I’m a writer who blogs, not a blogger who writes. I am pushing for three days a week. I want to dedicate my Wednesdays to my writer followers that have been hanging out with me since February. And since I like alliteration like that, Writer Wednesday is for you! Smooches!  :X

3. More reader friendly content

I write fiction. Specifically women’s fiction. Even more specifically chick-lit (and the occasional drama). My characters are predominantly African-American. So, my niche is African-American Chick Lit. So, I need to talk about things related to what someone reading African-American Chick Lit would read in a book: relationships (not just the romantic ones but the ones between parents and children, siblings, etc.), love, friendships, fashion, socializing, and maybe a little bit of drinking. Also included in this would be interviews from authors similar to me, book reviews of books in the same genre, etc.

4. A slight Twitter change

My original twitter handle was already ok. It was @ycbmcclain, but I felt
it was better to use my full professional name. It’s a part of branding. Unfortunately
@yvesbrownmcclain was too long, so I settled for @yvesbmcclain

I would HIGHLY recommend Kristen’s book to any writer trying to navigate the internet and all these social networking sites to engage readers. It can get overwhelming and time-consuming. The tips just make good common sense and can help you from spamming away your network. This is only the beginning of the revamp of my platform and I am very excited. You can get either the print or the electronic version. It’s so worth the investment in yourself, your brand, and your product.

Posted in Announcements, Marketing & Promoting, Publishing, Purpose, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Does not play nice with others…

Posted by Dahlia on July 6, 2011

Yes, that would be my computer that’s not playing nice today. So, a quick post via my CrackBerry.

1. My scheduled post for today was my first author interview! I got a chance to speak with Hannah D. Spivey (@bossladywriter on twitter) about her new novel, Ebony The Beloved. The book is set for release on July 20. It was great to have a chance to talk with her about her story and her writing. I will post as soon as I get my technical issues worked out.

2. My blog is available on Kindle. How cool is that? The thing is, it is a subscription service, but still available for the convenience of Kindle owners who want to read my nuggets of random info and rantings about this writing process. Whoo-hoo! I just got syndicated!

3. I’m still working on my short story. It’s going really well and I’m on pace to have my draft completed within the week (even with the computer setback, thank goodness for smartphones) My working title is The Tenth and it’s about how desiring something that you can’t have can lead to serious consequences…I plan to post a little “something something” for you soon.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Lazy Days…

Posted by Dahlia on March 14, 2011

Go hard or go home.

Come correct or don’t come at all.

I have to admit that I haven’t fully lived by those mottos/clichés/ sayings when it comes to my writing. Basically, I have been a lazy writer. My WIP has been “completed” twice, just to return to WIP. Why? Because I got impatient lazy. Impatience laziness caused me to rush to completion. Why? Because I felt the pressure to just be done with the darn thing already. “It’s been so long… just finish!” So I would finish, but would ultimately discover something wrong with it, and back to WIP the story would go.

The first version I finished was in 2007. I queried this version. It got rejected, which is to be expected initially. After some time, it got put on the backburner. Last year, I blew off the e-dust and decided to rework it. Decided that I would go rogue independent with its publication. Added content and took away content until I got to a version that I was happier with. I then said, “This is the version I will publish. No more changes. This is it. I love it.” I went on to have the MS edited and had my cover done.

I threw myself into the business side of the house. While researching, print dates vs. publication dates, blog tours, book reviews, and websites, I discovered crucial information about my content. The MS was still flawed. Because it wasn’t my best effort. Yes, I had made some newbie mistakes, such as relying too heavily on that prologue to info-dump and springboard the novel into action. Or I told when I should’ve shown. Or I explained away plot holes in a few paragraphs instead of properly filling that hole with plot, action, and dialogue. But mostly, I had repeated the mistake of the first completed version: Impatience laziness. This is unacceptable.

It’s unacceptable because at the end of the day, the work I put out will be mine. It’ll have my name on it (my real one, and not a pen name). I cannot, knowing what I know, be hasty to publish just to get it done and say I published a book. Besides, there are way too many authors out there like that already. I love what I do too much and it would be a disservice not only to me, but to any potential reader out there. I have been in positions when I knew it wasn’t my best and it never feels good to know I didn’t do everything I absolutely could.

So, I will stop being impatient AND lazy. I understand that it will never be perfect, but it needs to be my best effort. Regardless of phenomenal success or utter failure, when I do (finally) publish, I will know that I put my best foot forward and presented no less than my best work.

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , | 10 Comments »

To the Cloud! (part two)

Posted by Dahlia on March 2, 2011

Yesterday, I shared my experience with using Elance to find my copyeditor. Elance, like guru.com or Odesk, is a virtual network of freelance workers in a variety of fields (web design, marketing, programming, virtual assistant, writing/editing) seeking work on a contract basis. These contractors come from all over the world and compete for business by placing bids on projects for individuals and businesses that either have a temporary need or may not have the resources to hire someone on a permanent basis. If you are in need of a copyeditor, web designer, or any resource to assist you in your writing or marketing, it is worth considering using a source like Elance. Definitely do your due diligence first, so you don’t wind up losing money to a contractor that is inexperienced or a website that claims to match you up with a contractor but in actuality, will rip you off. Below are a few tips if you decide to go “to the cloud”.

1. You get what you pay for: There are some copyeditors out there that will edit your MS for a few hundred dollars. However, they will likely be inexperienced or just not that good. You can find a good copyeditor without breaking your bank. Just be realistic about your budget. Definitely be specific in your RFP (request for proposal) and ask the potential editor questions about their experience, turnaround time, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask for samples. The good ones will be more than willing to share, if they don’t already have it in their online portfolios.

2. Be mindful of language/cultural barriers: Once you submit your RFP, expect proposals from everywhere – America, UK, India, Australia, etc. While all are English-speaking, there are differences in wording and language. I had one bidder mistake my reference to a “two-story house” as a “second-story flat” and my sample pages were changed to reflect that.

3. Check his/her credentials: There are a ton of copyeditors out there, but not every copyeditor is the same. I had several bids from very experienced editors, however their experience was limited to textbooks or business editing. If you need a novel edited, make sure the person you choose has experience in creative writing and/or editing fiction. Basically, find the editor that will best suit your need.

4. Listen to your gut. I knew pretty much instantly when I got the bid from my editor that I was going to choose her. She was interested in the story, had the experience, and was within budget and timing. She connected with me and was very personable, even though we only communicated by email and the Elance workspace.

5. As always, read the fine print and make sure you understand the terms of the agreement you’re making with the person you’ve chosen. Most of the contractors will have contracts ready because like you, they need to protect themselves. One good thing about Elance is that they will get involved in dispute resolution if an issue were to arise between you and the contractor.

Finding a copyeditor in this manner isn’t for everyone. Some writers need to at least speak with the editor over the phone if not meet with them face to face. Some are leery of sending money through the internet. Elance, by the way, has a system called escrow – where you deposit the funds and it stays there until the project is completed (or whatever the terms of your agreement are with the contactor), then the money is released upon reaching milestones or completion of the project. Escrow isn’t necessary for every project though. However, it’s nice to know it’s there because you know the contractor isn’t paid until the work is done and the contractor knows that he/she will be paid because the money is being “held” in a safe, secure place. The other contract/freelance sites likely have a similar service.

Whatever route you choose with the editing of your manuscript, be it virtual or traditional, these tips should be of some help. Editing is a “must do” for the serious writer. It’s your story, so it is important to find an editor that will enhance your work and improve your writing.

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

I better get this copyrighted…before it gets stolen

Posted by Dahlia on February 24, 2011

As I indicated in yesterday’s post, I’m going to take part in the Catch Me If You Can blogfest. One comment I received back was the fear of a WIP being stolen. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this from a writer. There is a woman in the writer’s networking group I’m in that joined us a few months back. She was visibly nervous. She seemed scared to even talk about her book idea. She was afraid to join Facebook…come on, who isn’t on Facebook? Why was she scared? She didn’t want anyone to steal her idea.  Last month, the same topic came up to our guest speaker, who is a screenwriter. Even I have felt anxious about how much of the content to Wild Oats (my WIP) I should share with others or even if I should do an online story like 12 Days (which is another WIP). Even the thought of “What if the copyeditor I contracted takes my manuscript and tries to pass it off as her own work?” crossed my mind. Unfortunately, the fear of stolen work is on the mind of almost every writer at one point or another.  It’s not that we’re being irrational, it’s just that we’ve worked so hard and are so passionate about the story, it would be devastating if somebody had the audacity to take it.

However, I’ve learned that it boils down to this: Trust. At some point, writers just have to trust that another writer, editor, or agent won’t take it. The majority of us have pretty good morals. We don’t want that bad juju/karma to come back and get us. We don’t want to be sued.  So, in most cases, you can trust that you can share without fear of pilfering. And for those who are a bit crooked or shameless, then stamp your copyright ASAP. If you work with an editor, get a written contract. Make sure it has language about who the story belongs to. If your fabulous manuscript winds up on the Best Seller list or Oprah’s book club and your name isn’t in the byline, then you’ve got the paper trail (and probably a lawsuit).

Also, we need to understand that fear is a spirit that is not or should not be in us. It’s crippling and if you let it consume you, you won’t be able to write that story. Or, if you do finish, fear can prevent the world from knowing just how fabulous you are.  So, go ahead and join that critique group, hire that copyeditor, post a sample on your blog to tease your loyal following. Putting yourself out there is how you will discover your strength and weaknesses about your craft and can ultimately lead to a better story.

I dare you to try it…what’s the worst that can happen? Yes, I know it could get stolen, but do it anyway.

A few thoughts about fear…

You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.
— Mary Manin Morrissey

Fear is faith that it won’t work out.
— Sister Mary Tricky

FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real
— unknown

Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death.
— unknown

For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

© 2011 by Yves Brown McClain 😉

Posted in Encouragement & Motivation | Tagged: , , , , | 13 Comments »

Networking & Support: A Genius Combination

Posted by Dahlia on February 12, 2011

Networking is an important tool/skill to have. It can connect you to other people, aid in promoting, and lead to sales of your product or service. As writers, we need networking. Regardless of our route to publication (traditional, self, eBook, etc), it is mostly on us to market what we do. We are our own best promoters. Blogging is one tool for establishing yourself online and can be used for many purposes, be it book promotion,  a “brain dump” of various subjects, an outlet to showcase creativity, encouragement/motivation, or a combination. However, in order to gain a following, people need to know you exist.

As much as we can blog, tweet, Facebook, set up LinkedIn profiles, and sign up for the many sites for books, writers, and writing, we still need support. Writing is an art form that can be frustrating, daunting (at times), but also fulfilling, exhilerating, and rewarding. We need that push, that motivation, that group of people cheering us on to keep going.

So, when I saw a tweet about the Second Writers’ Platform-Building Crusade by writer Rachael Harrie, it was worth checking into. It combines the networking AND the support. It’s a brilliant idea for any writer/blogger who wants to connect with other writers and build an online presence.

So, check it out. And if you’re game, join the Crusade.

Posted in Encouragement & Motivation, Marketing & Promoting | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »