How To Earn $1 Million on Your First Book… or NOT!

Jackie Houchin

bag of moneyI was going to write this post on “how to make $1 million on your first book” and follow the story of paranormal-romance writer Amanda Hocking who actually sold 1.5 million eBooks in 2010 and made $2.5 million. “All by her lonesome self. Not a single book agent or publishing house or sales force or marketing manager or bookshop anywhere in sight.”

Following tips she’d gleaned from the blog of JA Konrath (an internet self-publishing pioneer, who boasted of making $100,000 in three weeks), she also uploaded to Smashwords to gain access to the Nook, Sony eReader and iBook markets.  “It wasn’t that difficult. A couple of hours of formatting, and it was done.”

Then… she got a $2 million contract from St Martin’s Press and… yada, yada, yada.   Here’sHerStory

Today the self-published book market is flooded with books, and unfortunately a lot of them are inferior in quality in one way or another.  Authors in a rush to publish don’t take time to write a quality story, edit, format, proofread, and design a cover professionally. And less than half of them make even $500.

So what’s a newbie author like me to do?

I’m currently working on a middle grade children’s book manuscript. It is a collection of twelve stories from the POV of seven kids who are the children of Missionaries in Africa. The kids take turns writing emails to their friends back home, telling of adventures, mishaps, mysteries, and lessons learned. In the process they reveal amazing bits of African culture, as well as showing how kids anywhere can use the Bible to help them in life.

Because it is unabashedly a Christian book and might be difficult to market, I decided to self-publish.  I’m also determined to make it the best possible book I can.

Okay. No problem.

I’m a journalist and a reviewer. I’ve written tons of stories for my granddaughters over the years. And these twelve stories have been “kid tested” to more than a dozen children at my church. (They loved them.)

So all I have to do is a minor rework so they fit together smoothly, check for typos and grammar errors, and ask a friend to help me upload it to Kindle and Createspace. Right?

WRONG!

IMG_3243As I began to read blogs about self-publishing and downloaded PDFs like “Checklist for Publishing Your Book” and “Which Format Should I Choose” and followed marketing blogs with tips on using  social media, launching your book, advertising, newsletters, and websites, I discovered there’s a lot more to consider.

How to self publish your bookI bought and read “How to Self Publish Your Book” by Craig Gibb, which details about titles, pen names, and blurbs, as well as editing, cover designs, formatting, promoting and marketing options.

Word by Word Editing“Word by Word, An Editor Guides Writers in the Self-Editing Process” by Linda Taylor describes in detail the process of content and copy editing, proofreading, formatting, and all the front and back matter I would need to write for a complete “up-loadable manuscript package.”

 

My take away, if I am determined enough to do it:

  1. Write/rewrite my stories so they are polished to a mirror shine and have a kid-compelling first chapter.
  2. Get my manuscript professionally edited. (I sent in a sample 750 words to be edited free to one publisher, and was aghast at all the track changes suggested!) A proofreader is also high on my list.
  3. Get professional help in formatting my manuscript for the various eBook and print options. (There are just too many things that can go wrong, and I know from a dear friend on this blog that the learning curve is steep.) This is especially important because I want to include photos or illustrations.
  4. Get a cover designer/illustrator who can format for both eBook and Print, and who can portray the vision I have for the stories.

How much is this going to cost me?  A lot.

Can a middle grade children’s book with a Bible slant recoup that in sales?  Only God knows. I’m really NOT out to earn $millions. Any profit I make will be channeled back into the Africa ministries that I love.

But… I DO have a person who has promised to read the book and write a foreward for it. He’s worked with Wycliffe Bible Translators and travels the world as a Partnership Facilitator. He’s been to Malawi many times.  Who knows where THAT contact might lead.

And YOU might even know a 7-12-year-old who thinks it would be fun to grow up in deepest, darkest Africa!  And want to read my book.

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Ghostwriter

Jill Amadio, guest blogger

Ghostwriting2Many authors need a day job until our books earn enough royalties and renown to quit working for someone else. One day job that grew and grew into an almost full-blown career for me began with a ghostwriting stint. It also led to writing my own mystery series.

I first turned into several alternate personae when a magazine editor informed me that a reader was looking for a ghostwriter to churn out a business book.

“A whole book? Impossible,” I said. “Too many words.”

“Imagine each chapter as an article,” she suggested. After she told me the average payment I was hooked.

Since then, I’ve ghostwritten more than a dozen memoirs, autobiographies, and business books that required transforming myself into a U.S. ambassador, a Las Vegas croupier, a Texas oilman, a Las Vegas taxicab fleet owner, a motivational speaker, a triathlete, and sundry others. I also ghosted two true crimes. For two of the books I was promoted to co-author half-way though.

Eventually a friend referred Jonathan to me to ghostwrite a crime novel. It turned out during my initial visit to his Beverly Hills mansion that he had always wanted a book with his name on it to display “right here,” he said, patting an enormous Italian marble coffee table. His dilemma was that he had no idea how to write. Reminded me of the time I was at an airport shop in Indonesia and picked up President Sukarno’s biography, a heavy red leather hardcover akin to a family Bible only to find it full of blank pages (he was still living at the time).

Initially, Jonathan envisioned a family drama about a typical insurance scam of which his father had been a victim. A little tame, I said, and persuaded him we should add a couple of murders to spice up the story. He agreed and said the characters must include his parents, two brothers, six ex-wives, four mistresses, and three daughters. I told him, No, no, far too many. I would take three wives, two mistresses, and two daughters, all the while struggling to explain to him that in the book they’d be fictional and would not resemble the real people. He stopped complaining when I asked which of his family he’d like to be the killer.

Occasionally during the writing my client threw a spanner into the works such as calling from Belize or Paris and asking me to add even more murders to the mix now he’d got into the swing of things. Luckily, he was pleased with the various twists and turns, especially when I included thugs from a Bel Air branch of the Russian Mafia (honestly, it really exists) as part of the plot.  I gave the murderer my great-grandfather’s revered Scottish name for some inexplicable reason, honored Keats by sprinkling quotes throughout, and withheld adding Cornish cuss words although sorely tempted. Instead, I saved them for my mystery series that features a younger Miss Marple from Cornwall.

I enjoyed creating a fictional forensic accountant on someone else’s generous dime and planned to develop the book into a series. I had grown fond of the sleuth but Jonathan owns copyright so my brilliant idea died an early death.

An inveterate traveler on both business and pleasure, Jonathan was absent a lot. In fact, most of the time. He told me to basically just carry on, and he’d read the book after it was finished. As it turned out, he preferred me to read it aloud to him, which I did, leading to another unexpected part-time career in voice-over and narrating audiobooks.

Jonathan pronounced himself satisfied. But then he said his third daughter was going to be very upset that I’d left her out. He insisted on her inclusion. Fearing my final fee in jeopardy I had her join the Peace Corps in Chapter One and whisked her off to Somalia, never to be heard from again.

However, when it came time to querying agents Jonathan refused to spend longer than two weeks on the search and quickly self-published with an expensive hardcover POD press. For which I was grateful, nevertheless. Even though I had to watch him signing my book, my bank balance was healthy,

We soon had a book signing at Dutton’s. Jonathan was having a grand old time chatting to the two hundred or so friends and neighbors he’d invited to congratulate him. As his eyes kept darting to the door to see who was arriving I just knew he was hoping for a Hollywood producer, a director or an actor who’d slap an option offer on the table within the next three days. He’d begun to like this author thing. I decided to phone a film producer friend and invite him over to put Jonathan out of his misery.

“Hi, Brandon, how about coming along to a book signing right now? It’s not far from your place”.

“Who’s the author?”

“Oh, no one you know”.

“So why would I come?”

“Well, I wrote it”.

“Why didn’t you say it’s your book signing?”

“It isn’t”.

He snorted and hung up.

Since then I have continued to ghostwrite books, present how-to workshops, and assist other writers in entering the field. In fact, Kelly James-Enger wrote a book on ghostwriting and spent weeks interviewing me. Happily, she credits me for each quote spread over five pages, and thanked me in the Acknowledgements.

I like helping someone realize their dream of creating a family history so that their descendants can learn of their heritage. The joy on their faces when they hold that published book in their hands almost matches my own.

 

gunther (1)My biography of a World War II pilot, “Gunther Rall: Fighter Ace and NATO General” was a bestseller and is an eBook on Amazon and Smashwords. I have ghostwritten 14 memoirs and other books for clients including a true crime and a thriller.  jill valle book

I co-authored the Rudy Vallee memoir, “My Vagabond Lover”

 

 

 

Capture (1)About the Author

Like Tosca Trevant, the amateur sleuth in her crime series, DIGGING TOO DEEP and DIGGING UP THE DEAD, Jill Amadio hails from Cornwall, UK. But she is nowhere near as grumpy or unwittingly hilarious as her main character, a younger Miss Marple. Jill wrote two true crimes, and ghostwrote a crime novel. She has written 14 biographies.  She was a reporter in Spain, Thailand, Colombia and the United States.  She wrote for Rolls-Royce Magazine, the London Sunday Dispatch, Conde Nast, the Los Angeles Times, the Westport News, and was a reporter and syndicated columnist for Gannett Newspapers in New York. For 12 years she wrote a column for Entrepreneur magazine. Jill writes a monthly column for the UK-based MysteryPeople ezine, and freelances for My Cornwall magazine.

Visit Jill Amadio at:  jillamadiomysteries.com

Mystery books by Jill Amadio:

Digging too deep_533x800-e1383673499772   Digging Too Deep

DiggingDeadCover-375x600  Digging Up The Dead

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This article by Jill Amadia was posted by Jackie Houchin.

BACKPACKING WITH A PITCHER

By Heather Ames, guest blogger

lemonade unbornWhoever coined the phrase “making lemonade out of lemons” must have had an acerbic wit. As a champion receiver of citrus, I’ve always tried to look at each situation as a challenge instead of a mountain of acidity, despite the after-taste.

51NyNyt9s8L._UY250_My most recent pitcher of lemonade appeared last year, when I finished Book 2 of the “Indelible” mystery/suspense series and contacted the publisher of Book 1 to find out how much of the completed manuscript they wanted to see. After two attempts, I was told to send “whatever you want.” I sent a partial and waited, then waited some more. Much more. Months.

I then emailed the editor-in-chief, who said she had just returned from an extended hiatus. She told me to send the entire manuscript immediately, which I did. The contract came. I signed it. The CEO signed it. I breathed a sigh of relief. Then the momentum, which had built to its normal level, ground to a halt as I waited for my editor to be assigned. And waited.

A sense of foreboding crept over me. Bushels of lemons rolled onto the horizon and waited, poised to roll into my lap. I tried to ignore them. After all, progress had slowed one time before. They were probably just running behind due to the EIC’s absence.

But then it came…an email from the publisher, returning my rights due to their poor quarterly returns for the second quarter in a row. I wasn’t their only author to receive that email, the EIC assured me. She said the staff was upset about the situation. I found little comfort in that knowledge.

There had been other signs that the publisher, despite its growth and a propensity to purchase smaller competitors, was itself in trouble. One huge misstep resulted in all titles from one of those buy-outs, including one of my own e-books, suddenly disappearing from Amazon. Apparently, when the old site was pinged without success, Amazon believed the publisher had closed, not that the titles were in the process of being moved to their new home. A year later, despite an email from the publisher that explained all the titles would be reloaded “in a lengthy process,” that still hasn’t happened. Perhaps they are busy making lemonade, too.

A Swift Brand Of justiceI couldn’t afford to sit around waiting for my two year contract on “Indelible” Book 1 to expire before offering both books in the series to another publisher. Readers had been asking when Book 2 would be available. Since it had already taken me close to 3 years to get Book 2 out of the starting blocks (including the 9 months wasted over that abortive contract,) I decided there was only one way out of my dilemma, and that was to self-publish “Indelible” Book 2, “A Swift Brand of Justice.”

Self-publishing has become more accepted during the last few years. Many popular authors have departed their small publishers, taken back their rights and chosen that route. Financially, it makes more sense for them. They already have a fan base, and their back-listed books have all been edited and formatted. All they need are new covers. They no longer have to share their profits with the small publishers, who find themselves, as a result of this exodus, left with newer and less well-known authors. Their piece of the pie has become much smaller, and their bottom line has suffered as a result. Many of them have folded and others are in financial trouble.

For those of us who find our books orphaned (and there are a growing number of us,) “DIY” has morphed into an acceptable solution. I know of several other writers who have had to move their series from the original publisher. I will be another. After I complete Book 3’s manuscript, I hope to find another home for my series. If I don’t, then I know I can continue self-publishing and growing my brand, instead of waiting months, even years for a contract.

Night ShadowsI just self-published a second book. This one is the stand-alone suspense, “Night Shadows,” I was working on when my rights were returned for “A Swift Brand of Justice.” In order to retain and grow my readership, I need to offer new material on a regular basis. That won’t happen if I’m marking time while I wait for responses to queries, partials and even full manuscripts, or unexpectedly have my rights returned again.

I would much prefer the support and expertise of a new publisher. But if that doesn’t happen, and I need to self-publish again, I know I can do it. I still need to build my support list. Finding reasonably-priced editors is one challenge I haven’t yet mastered. But I’m getting better at designing my own covers, and the learning curve isn’t as steep or as angled as it was before those lemons rolled into my lap.

I’m keeping the pitcher handy as I write the first draft of “Swift Retribution,” Book 3 of the “Indelible” series, but I’m not resigning myself to using it yet. Hope springs eternal, but this time it’s couched. The publishing industry as a whole is in a state of flux, and these days, writers need to be ready for anything. Even a fresh bushel of lemons.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

my big picHeather Ames knew she was a writer from the time she won first prize in a high school novel contest. An unconventional upbringing gave her opportunities to travel extensively, leading to nomadic ways and an insatiable desire to see the world. She has made her home in 5 countries and 7 states, learning a couple of languages along the way. She is currently pitching her tents in Portland, Oregon, and after a long career in healthcare, made her dream of writing full-time come true.

Heather is a current board member of the Harriet Vane Chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of Toastmasters International. She moderates an online critique group and a local book club.

Visit her website at www.heatherames.com 

 

 

Posted for Heather Ames by Jackie Houchin

A Library By Any Other Name…

by Jackie Houchin

Mention “Valentine’s Day,” and instantly visions of  cute or sentimental greeting cards, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, and bouquets of red roses come to mind. You may even dream of romantic dinners or diamond bracelets.

But it was none of these things that Kristin Molloy of Mission Viejo, California, wished for last year for Valentine’s Day.

“I love books and libraries,” she said with a smile. “So do my kids. We love to go to our Mission Viejo library to check out books. Growing up, everyone in my family had a book to read around the dining room table. I wanted my own library!”

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From left to right: Jenna Brown, Kaitlyn Schisler and Astha Parmar take a photo with the Little Free Library, a book kiosk at the Lake Forest Sports Park designed by the three from Cadette Girl Scout Troop 1859. Contractor Bradlee Rodecker helped in building the house-like kiosk.

Her husband, Kevin Molloy, a fireman, knew exactly what she meant. Earlier that year while visiting the Lake Forest Sports Park and Rec. Center they spotted an amazing tiny wooden library on a pole. Designed and built by three Girl Scouts with help from the Park staff, the cheery blue and white painted Little Free Library is a house-like box of books. Visible through two Plexiglas doors are perhaps 30-40 books for all ages. Anyone can take a book to read…free. After reading it, they can return it or bring back a different one. The organization’s motto is “Take a Book, Return a Book.”

Kristen thought her own Little Free Library would be great for their neighborhood.

IMG_2702Kevin drew plans and constructed his Valentine’s Day gift, painting it to match their house. He checked with city regulations (though not all the Libraries I visited did) and sunk a post into their front lawn three feet from the side walk and about 24 inches from the ground. Three small flagstone steps invite kids to visit. He attached a mailbox flag which is extended when new books are added.

Kristin loved it!

(The height of the Libraries is a personal preference. I saw ones sitting on a base at 3 and 4 feet high.)

The family says they have quite a few kids & teens stopping to choose books on their way to/from a nearby park. The couple’s children, Georgia and Ryan, enjoy sharing their own books as well.

Check out the organization for information on buying or building your own library, and to see an amazing variety of Little Free Libraries, including some that look like a church, schoolhouse, caboose, or English telephone booth! https://littlefreelibrary.org/faqs/

Of course, right away, I had my hubby build a Little FREE Library for ME for THIS Valentine’s Day, and paint it to match our house. (I’ll let you know how it goes in a later post, if you are interested.)

Other Little Free Libraries in Mission Viejo.

IMG_2676      IMG_2705

 

Now let me tell you about some other things to LOVE and to GIVE on February 14th, and these are especially meaningful to us writers of books.

I love a libraryThe 14th of February is also LIBRARY LOVERS DAY.

Here are some things you can do to celebrate:

  • Visit your local library and check out a book or film.
  • If you know someone who doesn’t have a library card, encourage/help them to get one.
  • Volunteer time at the library (shelving, tutoring, reading to kids), or donate money and/or a few of your books.

Without the library, you have no civilization.” ― Ray Bradbury

“Libraries really are wonderful. They’re better than bookshops, even. I mean bookshops make a profit on selling you books, but libraries just sit there lending you books quietly out of the goodness of their hearts.” ― Jo Walton

“The library is like a candy store where everything is free.” ― Jamie Ford

“Libraries made me – as a reader, as a writer, and as a human being.”  –Laurie R. King

 

book-giving-day-bookmark-original-copyThe 14th of February is also INTERNATIONAL BOOK GIVING DAY.

Here are some ways to participate:

  • Share your favorite book with a friend.
  • Give books as gifts to your own children or to those of friends.
  • Donate books to children’s libraries, schools or charities.
  • Leave books in places where they’ll be found, such as doctors’ waiting rooms, train or bus stations, or airports.

“Give a Book” is a UK based charity with the sole aim of giving books where they will be of particular benefit including prisons.  http://giveabook.org.uk/

“Give a Book” works with Ellie’s Friends, a charity who helps women who are recovering from Cancer. They send a monthly mixed selection of light reading to be enjoyed. Each bundle contains ten titles and is delivered to a different recipient each month.  https://elliesfriends.org

“Give a Book” also works with First Story, a registered charity which places published authors in schools to hold weekly workshops on creative writing. At the end of the program, the students’ pieces are published in their own anthology.  https://firststory.org.uk/

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TWEETABLES: 

What else can you do for your Sweetheart on February 14th? (Click to Tweet)

Library Lovers Day & International Book Giving Day share February 14 with Valentine’s Day. (Click to Tweet)

Creating Seasonal Articles*

Christmas sugar plumsby Jackie Houchin

Does reading all those December magazines with their holiday stories, recipes, tips, traditions, and inspirations make visions of sugar plums, er, I mean, ideas for articles to dance on your head?

“Oh dear! I so wanted to write an article about those fun games we play for identifying Grandma’s tag-less gifts under the tree!” (Family Circle Magazine?)

“And how I wished I’d shared my Mom’s Christmas fruitcake recipe from her recipe box (that I inherited this year when she died), and told all who read the article why they really should try fruitcake again.”  (Reminiscence Magazine?)

But, I forgot to write them.

And now it’s too late – WAY too late.

At least for this year.

But not for next year, if I plan ahead.  Many magazines need seasonal articles. But they need them long before the pub date. Articles with a “time-tag” are a good way for new writers to break into print (or seasoned writers to pick up some pocket money).

It’s all in the timing

Start by picking up Chase’s Calendar Of Events and look ahead to see what holidays will be celebrated in six months to a year. Or you can check the guidelines in the new The Writers Market Guide for specific publications you hope to write for.

Send a query letter with your idea ahead of the suggested time. If you get a go-ahead, be sure to deliver your article on time. And be patient. If it isn’t used in 2018, it may be held till 2019.

Low-profile holidays

Brain storm ideas for the less popular holidays, such as Arbor Day, Grandparents’ Day, Flag Day, Patriot Day, Friendship Day, Bastille Day, Poppy Day, or even…. Cookie Baking Day! (December 18)  Also think about back-to-school and summer vacation themes.

Your special “slant”

If those “sugar plum” ideas aren’t already dancing away up there, then:

  • Leaf through old magazines (yours or at the library).
  • Think about experiences you’ve had during holidays.
  • Write a short biography of a person linked to a holiday.
  • Research a holiday custom.
  • Remember anniversaries. (What happened 5, 10, 500 years ago?)
  • Interview a teacher, a parent, a coach, a Macy’s clerk.
  • Write a holiday short story or poem. (Some magazines are still open to them.)

Christmas funny poem

Before and After Tips

Start an idea folder with clipped articles from magazines or newspapers. Jot notes about ideas on each. Not all will be usable, but many will work. When you’re looking for a certain seasonal theme, these may trigger an idea.

After the original-rights sale, look for reprint markets for next season. Make a list of potential ones and their lead times, and keep your original article with them.

Open a new bank account!

Christmas bank accountJust kidding!  You won’t get rich from these sales, but you will get “writing clips.”  And when magazine editors discover your timely, well-written articles/stories etc., they will approach YOU with their needs.

Okay… do you need some ideas for NEXT Christmas?  Check out these:

  • Favorite Christmas books, movies, musicals/plays (pastiche or true likes)
  • Christmas mishaps (humorous, or coping skills)
  • Christmas trees: cutting your own, uniquely decorating (we knew friends who lit live candles on their tree!), a special nostalgia ornament
  • Family traditions (oldies, or how to start your own)
  • How to make homemade gifts (food, ornaments, clothes, home decor)
  • Holiday baking (how-to, tastes & smells, shipping)
  • Holiday traditions from other countries (foods, decorations, activities)
  • Or…. interview someone with over 3,500 Santa Claus decorations (Hint: I can give you her name.)

Take away

After all the gifts are opened, the holiday meal is eaten (and cleaned up), the kids are playing with new toys (or the boxes), and the older “boys” are watching football, go grab a piece of crumpled wrapping paper, smooth it out, flick open that new expensive gold-plated pen, and start writing up your holiday impressions, experiences, and ideas while they are still “dancing in your head.”

Christmas garland

Merry Christmas &  Happy New Year !

 

*Inspiration for this post came from Jewell Johnson’s article, Writing Seasonal Articles in the Christian Communicator, Nov-Dec, 2017.

Winning and Worrying

by Jackie Houchin

In my last post (August 30), I wrote about The Write Practice and their Fall Writing Contest which I entered. It was the first contest I’d entered in 20 years. The theme was “Let’s Fall in Love” with the emphasis on FALL and LOVE.

AutumnGold paintingFrame2.I wrote a 1,500 word short story titled AUTUMN GOLD about a couple of young artists having a hard time making ends meet when a huge “windfall” arrives (literally) at their feet.  What they conspire to do about it is the gist of the story, with the climax happening on the first day of fall five years later.

If you wish to read the story, I’ve posted it here:  http://bit.ly/2vUvLTS

With over four hundred entries I had no thought of winning, and indeed placed the story in yet another contest. It was a good experience and I’d gotten some valuable help in crafting a good story.

Autumn-Gold, SFB cover photoTwo weeks later I was informed that AUTUMN GOLD was among the five Honorable Mentions (after first, second, and third places).  I was totally surprised.  Wow.  A week later they featured it – with the other winners – in their online magazine, Short Fiction Break with a jacket cover that, well, didn’t quite show what I had in mind, but which brought many readers and good comments.

So, I basked in the light of that glory, amazed still at the story winning anything, until their WINTER Writing Contest was announced. Eagerly I jumped on board that wagon.

A week later I had brain freeze and not from eating ice cream. Suddenly I had doubts of ever writing another short story let alone writing one good enough to win.  How do authors write book after book after having a good seller?  Are they freaked out with trying another story?  I think maybe series book writers may have an easier time, but maybe not?

Have you ever been in that place?  How did you overcome the fear and despair of ever writing something new that might be as good as a former book?

The theme for the new contest is “Countdown” and presents all sorts of possibilities of a suspense story, a heart-pounder, a page-turner.  What could be so desperate a deadline that a character would die or die trying to meet it?  A terrorist attack? A terminal cancer deadline?  A race to save someone from imminent death?

The only thing I could think of was a countdown to a wedding.  (My #2 granddaughter is getting married in two months.)  But what could be heart-stopping about that deadline?  The invitations got lost in the mail? The cake or flowers didn’t arrive?  The groom didn’t arrive because of traffic, an accident, an abduction?

wedding dress - dualWhat I came up with is a story with two points of view on an upcoming wedding ceremony. One person gleefully anticipates the event, thinking the time drags at a snail’s pace, while the other person desperately dreads the act and sees the time flying by way too quickly.

But oh, dear!  What could the climax be? What could happen when the time ran out for both people? What dynamic finale could I imagine when they came together before the clergyman?

At sat at my keyboard and wrote the story in almost one sitting, with very few changes. The ending shocked even me. Whoa!

And now I face a conundrum.  The story is due to start work-shopping in my contest Group on October 30.  After others read it and comment and I make any changes, the story must be submitted to the judges a week later on November 6.

All’s good, right?

No. Because the ending of UNTIMELY BRIDE does not sit well with my heart or my convictions.  I’ve been told this story could be another winner (see my ego puff up?)  and I fear that if I change it to ease my conscience that the story will lose its impact, become too soft to even be considered in the run. I’m reluctant to even try a rewrite. Or, I could always pull the story before November 6.

What to do? Leave it and remain uneasy, conflicted? Try to change the ending and be left with a milk-toast story? Write something entirely new… AT THIS LATE DATE?  Pull the story and simply enjoy reading and critiquing the other stories in my group in this contest?

What to do?

wedding dress - question

A Boost Up!

By Jackie Houchin

Boost up2“A boost up”….when someone holds their clasped hands together next to a horse, and you put your foot in like a stirrup, and they propel you upward into the saddle.

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Sometimes a beginner (or lazy) writer needs a boost up into the writing saddle.  That’s where The Write Practice came into the picture for me. (I’m one of those lazy ones!)

The Write Practice

”If you want to become a better writer, you need to practice,” says Joe Bunting, creator of The Write Practice organization and blog. What’s involved? Fifteen minutes a day, five days a week, practicing with fresh writing prompts, unique lessons on technique, and getting feedback from a supportive community.

There are over 1000 practice exercises and lessons on the blog in such categories as; better writing, genre & format, characterization, grammar, journalism, plot & story, writers block, inspirational writing, publishing, and blogging. And it’s free.  http://thewritepractice.com/about/

I’ve attempted two lessons so far in the Short Story category. The first lesson was to read at least six short stories from the many magazine links supplied. The second lesson was to free-write for at least 15 minutes, post what you wrote in the comments section, read three of what other people wrote, and give them brief feedback.  Simple as that; practice writing and give feedback. It’s really the basis for everything Bunting does.

I wrote a short ditty on ‘Pig, Porcupine & Pineapple.’  It was totally fun!  Now to see with my fellow writers say about it

The Becoming Writer Community & Challenge

 If you are ready to go to the next level and start writing finished pieces (and get published), then the Becoming Writer community is the next step. Bunting compares this with what the “Inklings were for Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, the expats in Paris were for Hemingway, and the Bloomsbury group was for Woolf.”

I discovered Becoming Writer because membership in it (yes, it does cost a little) was a requirement to submit to The Write Practice’s quarterly short story writing contest. But what you get with membership is a lot more than the contest.

Like the free practice lessons above, you share your writing with a community of writers to get and give feedback.  Actually giving feedback on another’s work helps you when it comes time to edit your own piece.

The Challenge is to write ONE piece EACH WEEK, submitted on Fridays.  It can be a short story, blog post, poem, essay, or a chapter in a book.  This is what us “lazy” writers call accountability.

And finally, besides actually finishing your pieces (Yay!), you get opportunities to submit to magazines like Short Fiction Break, Wordhaus and others.

The feedback on my first piece, an essay I wrote about Africa, brought a suggestion for submission to a specific online magazine. I submitted it and am waiting to hear.  http://thewritepractice.com/members/join

The Fall Contest

This is what caught my attention at first, a writing contest that promised cash prizes, free books, and publication. The theme was “Let’s Fall in Love.” Stories had to contain the two elements FALL and LOVE and be no longer than 1,500 words.  I told myself, “I can do that.”

The name “Autumn Gold” sprang to my mind and I quizzed my writer friends on Facebook as to how a girl with that name might look. The first answer – a stripper – caused me to cringe because that’s not what I had in mind. But when another person confirmed what he said, it left no doubt.

The story I eventually wrote keeps the title “Autumn Gold,” but the girl’s name is Audrey Gould.  I wrote an outline of sorts, showed it to a friend for her opinion, and then pounded out a story about LOVE that takes place in AUTUMN. It was 1,948 words. Lots of cuts and edits later, I submitted it to the Becoming Writer Contest community.

For the contest (548 entrants) the community is divided into ten groups, A–J, with about 40-50 writers in each. I landed in Group D. There are 46 of us, and we’ve become a close-knit group.

I’ve gotten about nine feedbacks on “Autumn Gold,” and I’ve given at least many more on other stories.  Some are VERY good! Others will need some work.  Reading my story’s feedback and the feedback on the other stories has opened my eyes to what works and what doesn’t, and what readers “get” from what you write, even if it’s not what you intended.

Invaluable!

I’m considering rewriting the ending and running it past them one more time. The final deadline to submit the story to the judges is September 4.

Other Programs

The Write Practice offers other programs for writers and authors on building a platform, publishing & marketing, Twitter, and the 100 Day Book challenge.  http://thewritepractice.com/products

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Now I’m up in the saddle. I’m trotting around and loving it. I can’t wait to press my calves against my steed’s sides and rise into a canter.  I needed that boost up.  Do you?  Perhaps you should consider a writing community.

I suggest The Writing Practice. Take advantage of the discipline and the getting and giving of feedback.  Pick the lessons you are interested in and go for it. They are free! You might also consider Becoming Writer.

Or join a critique group and begin giving your work over to new eyes and opinions.

Get up there and get galloping!

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Currently the Becoming Writer and the 100 Day Book programs are closed until next semester.  Future contests in Becoming Writer will be on Flash Fiction, Essay writing, Novels, and Poetry.