The Three R’s for Writers and Those Who Love Them by Miko Johnston

Miko Johnston is the author of Petals in the Wind.  
She first first contemplated a writing career as a poet at age six. That notion ended four years later when she found no ‘help wanted’ ads for poets in the Sunday NY Times classified section, but her desire to write persisted. After graduating from NY University, she headed west to pursue a career as a journalist before switching to fiction. Miko lives on Whidbey Island in Washington. You can find out more about her books and follow her for her latest releases at Amazon


FOR WRITERS AND THOSE WHO LOVE THEM
I plead guilty. Let me explain.
Writers may work alone, but we’re part of a community. In March I wrote a post about critique groups, which I consider a great way for writers to find the encouragement and support they need.  But there’s an even better way for us to help each other that is being virtually ignored. I call it THE THREE ‘R’s:

READ
REVIEW
RECOMMEND
READ: One of the best ways we can support our fellow writers is to purchase their books. Why not devote a bookshelf to their work. I put my colleagues’ books in a guestroom so visitors can be introduced to their writing and it’s worked brilliantly. If you worry about the cost or where you’ll put all those paperbacks, invest in an e-reader. A basic model is modestly priced and you’ll recoup the cost fairly quickly since electronic versions of books are often less expensive than print copies. You’ll also be able to buy books that are only available in electronic format. Then think of a clever way to get your friends to ‘sign’ your copy. If you’re in a writers group, suggest a book swap and trade a copy of your book for theirs. A signed copy of a book makes a great gift as well, so buy a few from the author for those last-minute occasions and offer to do the same for them.

REVIEW: “Readers always tell me they like my books, but why don’t they write a review?” Sound familiar? And it’s more baffling when the readers are other writers.
Reviews are the lifeblood of book sales and marketing. There is no better way for writers to support each other than by reading and reviewing each other’s work. We writers all know this, and yet…. How many reviews do you have from other writers, and have you posted reviews of their books?
Non-writers may not realize the importance of online reviews, perhaps more important than purchasing the book. Ask everyone you know who’s read your published work to leave a review on Amazon (also suggest Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and Smashwords). Then check to make sure the review is posted; Amazon removes comments for reasons other than ‘inappropriate’.
Do tell your reviewers to be truthful; while anything less than three stars counts negatively on Amazon, their algorithms are based on an average score, so a few low ones won’t hurt if you get enough good reviews. The key is to get enoughreviews. No one cares if you get five star evaluations if you only get a few; they’re meaningless because readers assume it’s your mom and BFFs writing them. You must be honest as well. If you feel you can’t praise someone’s book, and that happens, then at least tell that to the author – I wouldn’t want to post anything less than three stars for a writer I know. And keep in mind the generation gap when it comes to technology. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read this on Anne R. Allen’s blog –
One sweet woman in her seventies had been devastated to find out that giving a book “a gold star” wasn’t letting people know she liked the book. She thought one star was a good thing.
If Grandma is uncomfortable posting a review, have her express what she wants to say and let her ten-year-old grandkid post it for her.

RECOMMEND: We tend to recommend books we enjoy, but we don’t always include those by authors we personally know. Recommending is perfect for those who feel uncomfortable writing or posting reviews online, or who want to do more to help your writing career.
If they liked your book, ask your family and friends to recommend it to their family and friends, as well as their neighbors, fellow worshippers, volunteer groups, clubs, and co-workers (especially the ones who always ask them to buy the cards/wrapping paper/candy their kids have to sell for school!). If they have a blog or Facebook page, ask if they’d mention your book and include a link to your author home page. Suggest they buy additional copies, which you’ll graciously sign, for last-minute gifts. And advise them to recommend your book only to people who’d enjoy it – if cousin Flora’s idea of the great outdoors is a parking lot without lines, she probably won’t be interested in your camping memoir.
People outside our writing community who want to help need to be shown how.  And if we truly want to encourage and support each other, we all must make the effort to do it, in the most effective way. If we do, then ultimately we’ll all benefit. Isn’t that what a community is all about?
I confess to some failings – on how many counts do you plead ‘Guilty’?

I AM NOT A ROBOT…. by Rosemary Lord

Actress and author Rosemary Lord shares many characteristics in common with her character Lottie Topaz, including an indomitable spirit.  So, when she stepped off a plane from England the other night, her body was exhausted and jet-lagged, but her wit and determination were intact. She brings the Writers in Residence blog her thoughts on a topic that will cause many heads to nod in agreement as they read her latest post. Enjoy!


I AM NOT A ROBOT

Okay, so I have to copy that squirrelly lettering to prove I am a person and not a robot. I can do that. But the rest of all that trickery appearing on my computer leaves me cold. Well, more like frozen with panic.
            I am a writer. I like to write – and have done so since I was about 4 years old. I am most content with a large legal pad or exercise book, a selection of well sharpened pencils and a good eraser. From there I can happily write away the hours.
            So when our fearless WinR techie Jackie Vick sent our group a carefully written explanation of how to participate in the new blog, I almost had a case of the vapors.
            But I gritted my teeth and followed her instructions. And so, in those early days, for 1-2 hours every day I determinedly followed these instructions to the letter, attempting to send a literary contribution. But Google was one step ahead of me. “Not so fast,” it seemed to say. “Password not recognized” and other phrases that stopped me going further, kept popping up on my screen. I did as bid and changed my password so many times that many, many days later, umpteenth new password added, I ran out of ideas and used a rude word. Google was not shocked, and repeated “Password not recognized.”
            I considered chucking my computer through the window, but thought better of it and spoke with Jackie. My new un-techie system is to simply send my words to her and she does the rest.
            But why won’t my brain grasp this new knowledge? Why am I so resistant? Is it just me? Admittedly, my writing is usually of a world one hundred years past: quill pens and an abacus. Ah, that’s what I need – a quill pen and an abacus.  But I seem to have developed an allergy to this brazen new world of MAC versus PC, Twitters and Blogs, Excel Spreadsheets, Quick Books, Drop-Box and such.
            Now if one is writing a journalist piece with photographs, I can understand all that trickery. And I can actually do that stuff, too, from my journalism days. But it’s the submitting bits of text and the passwords and not really knowing how to get it there. And “what ever happened to that page I just spent 2 hours writing, that has now vanished from the screen?” that stumps me.
            Now I’m not a stupid person. In fact I have several GCEs and other clever things from my English Education at Tiffin’s Girls’ School (consistently in the top 3 best schools in England, my family remind me) to prove it – sort of. So I can’t be that stupid. But it’s all this new techie stuff that is my down-fall.
            “It’s simple,” my 18 year old Australian friend Maddi tells me as she taps away on my i-pad. “There: done,” she hands it back to me – and I am none the wiser. So I feel that I’ve become really stupid… “You’re thinking too hard,” Maddi tells me. “Don’t try to work it out – just do it.” Easy to say.
            But then, when I start writing about Hollywood one hundred years ago, or trotting out facts about my travels in various countries and my adventures through the years, I comfort myself with the recognition that I can do some things. Plenty of things. Just not the techie stuff. I really am not a robot – thank goodness…


The WinRs are Brainstorming

From Wikicommons, Bundesarchiv Bild 183-13800-0006,
Berlin, Frauen beim Selbststudium, Weiterbildung.jpg

Writers need to take time to regroup, restore, and refill their mental reservoirs! 


The members of Writers in Residence are off this week to do just that. We’ll be back again next week with a post from Miko Johnston!

Until then, keep your pencils sharp and your typing fingers limber.

Rewrites Are Like the Movie "Groundhog Day" by Jacqueline Vick

Every morning, Phil Connors wakes up in Punxsutawney, PA, and it’s Groundhog Day. He has to relive the same day over…and over…and over…until he finally gets it right. That’s the premise of the movie Groundhog Day.

When Phil first realizes that he has freedom from consequences, he does all the naughty things he’d never get away with if the day didn’t start over fresh at 6:00 AM the next morning, like pigging out on pastries…while smoking. This is the writer at the beginning of the project. Authors read the same thing over…and over…and over again, trying to get the right outcome so they can move on to the next project. When we’re fresh into the rewrites, we might come up with ideas that seem crazy, but we try them anyway.

Then Phil starts to seduce the women of Punxsutawney, sussing out their likes and dislikes day by day so he can bed them. When he finds a woman who is worthy of love, he discovers that he can’t manipulate her into a seduction. It fails every time, and it becomes an obsession until finally he despairs and tries to kill himself every conceivable way, only to wake up in one piece the next morning. In the writer’s next passes through the manuscript, we try to seduce the reader with just the right phrase, but as we work through to something worthwhile, all the manipulation becomes obvious. It reaches the point where we think the whole work is crap and we want to “kill it”and start over.

Phil finally accepts his position,  and he starts to do one thing every day to improve himself. He finds out where danger lurks, and he’s always in time to save the day. He takes piano lessons until he gradually becomes a great jazz pianist. He stops focusing on his wants and looks outside himself, and he becomes the great guy who wins the heroine’s heart.  Eventually, we writers stop working at being funny or pulling heartstrings or making a point, and we just let go and make it all about the reader’s experience, and that’s when things fall into place.

The journey isn’t always as fun as the movie Groundhog Day, but the results are worth the effort. Now if only we could figure out a way to skip the first steps… .