September 26

Pen Names, Pet Peeves and Publishing

wrong way my way right wayI’ve been toying with the idea of doing a blog post about pen names for a while, but, to be honest, there’s not much I can say that hasn’t already been said somewhere else about them. I will say that, when I was trying to make myself feel better about using one for my cozy mysteries, I discovered that some people hate them vehemently, while others assume that writers who use them have something to hide. I’d like to set the record straight on why I use them, and start a whole ‘nother debate about one of my other pet peeves, indie authors who argue amongst themselves.

I never set out to write books, at least, not at first. When I wrote my first non-fiction book about saving money by ditching cable television, I sold a handful of copies and thought I was hot stuff for writing a book that was probably 10,000 words long, if that. I used my real name, or at least my initials and real surname, because I was convinced that I was on my way to building a career as an internet marketer.

Later, I used my real name, no initials, on my children’s books, but linked to all the non-fiction books as well on my Amazon author page. I didn’t even consider things like Googling my name to make sure that nothing embarrassing came up when I typed it in, but lo and behold, I later saw some topless model with the same name as me, and I just hoped that if my children’s books became a hit, no one would confuse the two of us. (Though, to be fair, I’d kill for her figure, lol!)

When I decided to try my hand at writing grownup fiction books, I knew I wanted a different image and name for my books, so I set about choosing a pen name. My pen name, Ruby Blaylock, is my mother’s maiden name, and Ruby was just a name I liked that sounded sweet and southern. My grandmother’s name was Shelby, and Ruby always reminded me of that, so that’s how I landed on that particular moniker.

I know some people want absolutely everything they write to be under their one, true name, but I plan on crossing several genres, and to me, that wouldn’t be good business. I mean, would you trust a children’s book author who also wrote steamy romance or gruesome horror stories? Well, you might, you cheeky thing, but others might not. To me, some instances just call for a pen name, but I can’t fathom why some people get so wound up about NOT using a pen name.

I’ve heard authors say things like, “It’s more trouble than it’s worth,” and “it’s cheating or lying to the readers.” Um, hello…it’s not. For many authors, writing isn’t our only day job, and if bosses or coworkers were to find out about our writing habits, we might be called out or even lose jobs because of it. (For the record, I don’t have another job. I also have very little money, but that’s neither here nor there, lol!)

It just annoys me when indie authors bicker among themselves about best practices, like “you’re not a real author if you’re using a pen name.” And it irks me to no end when indie authors try to undercut each other, complaining about the way they do things.

I have had several other writers comment to me that they don’t feel ebooks are “real” books. They are so mired in the myth of traditional publishing, even though they self-publish, that they convince themselves that ebooks are just not worth it. Let me tell you, they most certainly are.

While it’s probably the dream of every indie author to see their books gracing the shelves of places like Barnes & Noble, the reality is, unless you are really good and really lucky, it’s hard to get noticed by these big bookstores if you are an indie author. For those of us just starting out in our journey, writing and publishing ebooks offers us a chance to grow and hone our writing skills in front of a “live” audience, improving with every book that we write.

I do offer my books in paperback, because I’m a sucker for a physical book, but the majority of my sales (and many other indie authors’ sales) are in ebook format these days. Ebooks are great for so many reasons, but I’d never stand up and say people are foolish if they choose to publish only physical books as an independent author.

I’ve begun to realize that this post is a bit of a long rant, so I’ll wind it up. I just wanted to remind you, my fellow authors, that we need to stick together. We’re all in this together, this storytelling lark. And we should be helping and encouraging each other, not bickering like my kids over whether cats or dogs are better pets. (And while we’re at it, we should stop bickering about things like which religion, sex, race or social system is better, but that’s a whole ‘nother set of pet peeves for another post, lol!)

So, whether you publish paperbacks or ebooks, use a pen name or lay it all out for the world to see, I invite you to comment and share your own links to your work in the comments section below. Let’s support each other and slowly make the world a better place, one word at a time.

August 6

3 Ways To Write A Book With (Almost) No Effort

3 ways to write a book with almost no effortThose of you who know me well know that I am a firm believer that there are no shortcuts to success. You have to put in the effort to reap the rewards, and writing a book is sometimes challenging, but never impossible. If you have always wanted to write a book, but thought it was too hard to do, here are three ridiculously simple ways to write a book that really eliminate all the excuses you could ever think of for not writing one. You’re welcome.

Use your blog posts

If you are a blogger and you’ve been blogging for any length of time, you probably have plenty of thousands of words worth of blog posts sitting on your blog. If they all share a common theme and are reasonably interesting and well-written, you can compile them all into an ebook. Don’t just copy and paste them, though. Take the time to add information as needed to make the posts flow like a real book, and not just a copy of your blog.

Write a few unique pieces and put those in your book, too. This will entice loyal readers to buy the book, since it has information not listed on your blog.

Use PLR to write a book

If you’re like me, you probably have a huge collection of PLR sitting on your computer, waiting to be used for something glorious. Providing the PLR is good quality, you can use it to make an ebook to sell. This is good if you want to write a non-fiction book, but there are some things you need to be aware of.

Don’t just copy and paste all your PLR into an ebook. That’s lazy, and Amazon won’t like it because it looks like you just plagiarized the crap out of somebody else. Instead, “freshen up” the PLR with your own personality, taking out bits that you don’t really need and adding in your own personal details and touches.

Again, add in extra information wherever you can. You really want to provide your readers with great information, and if you have a good personality, let it shine through. Add insights and observations, and before you know it, you’ll have a full-grown book baby on your hands.

Write it in little bites

Okay, so you have an amazing idea for the best novel in the whole wide world, but there’s no way you can sit down and write it all out. Oh, yes, there is. As I love to tell my kids, you can eat an elephant, as long as you do it one bite at a time.

Can you commit a measly ten minutes every day to writing your book? I’m sure you can. Stay off of Facebook for a little bit, turn off the television, and settle down with your writing implement of choice. Commit yourself to writing for just ten minutes, and write your little heart out.

The key to making this method truly easy is planning ahead, but you can include this in your ten minute chunks. On your first ten minute session, write a very brief, very general synopsis of your basic story. Then, spend a few sessions writing a more detailed outline of what will happen in the story. Get as detailed as you want, because the more detailed, the easier it will be to write your actual book.

I personally keep a notebook with me so I can jot down plot ideas throughout the day, but you might find using index cards just as easy, especially if you aren’t sure what order these plot points are going to fall. In every ten minute session, write a little chunk of your story. Once you have enough chunks, you can piece them together to build your actual book.

One method I like, but haven’t used personally, is the index card method. This really does help you simplify your plot points and put them in a visual order so you can imagine how your final story will come together.

One other mention

I know some people will say “Aha! She forgot to talk about using a ghostwriter!” No, I didn’t forget. Look at the title of this post again. It’s about how to write a book, not how to have one created for you.

I have nothing against using ghostwriters. I am a ghostwriter, so I definitely know how helpful it can be to have someone step in and help you craft your book. But, this post is aimed at those who want to write their own books, so although I mention using a ghostwriter, I think that most of you will feel more fulfilled if you write your book yourself.

So there you have it. Three more reasons why you should go write that book. Let me know when you’ve finished it. Heck, leave a comment below with a link to your book once you’ve gotten it published! And tell me what method you used to write your book, so other people can see how easy it really can be.

June 24

Funding Fiction: Three Ways To Pay the Bills While Waiting for Book Sales

writer at typewriter

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could just contact an independent publishing platform, tell them your amazing idea for your book, then accept a big, fat advance for your efforts, so you could spend your days doing nothing but writing your book? Wake up, dreamer, that doesn’t even happen to traditionally published authors anymore.  The truth is, it’s hard to break into self-publishing if you can’t work at it full time, because when you self-pub, you also have to do all your own promotion, sort out your covers, find an editor, format the book…I could go on and on.

This article is talking mostly to self-employed writers, because those of you with full-time jobs are probably making enough money to pay the bills and writing in your spare time, which is completely smart and a good idea, but if you’re like me, with no other consistent source of income, you’ll need to keep the bill collectors away somehow while you pen that bestseller. Here are three ways you can earn money to pay your bills while you’re focusing on fiction, or non-fiction, book writing and selling.

Freelancing

Okay, you knew I was going to open with this, didn’t ya? In my personal experience, freelance writing is nearly perfect for keeping the wolf from the door while you write your book. It allows you to practice, practice, practice while you earn, and it’s totally flexible, especially if you find some really great clients who understand the difference between high quality content and mass produced garbage.

If you’re new to freelancing, you might struggle to find your feet, but then again, you might not. Who knows. But I do know that if you put yourself out there, check the freelancing job boards regularly, and value yourself, you’ll be able to earn enough to get by while you create your masterpiece.

Get a job

Ooh, didn’t see this one coming, did you? Before you throw your hands dramatically up in the air and declare me a hack, just listen. Could a 20-hour-a-week job pay your basic bills so you could focus the rest of your time on your writing? Now, if I didn’t freelance, this option wouldn’t work for me, because I have three kids and a husband who works crazy hours to help keep a roof over our heads.

If I did seek a J-O-B, it would be online, maybe as a virtual assistant or possibly a transcriptionist, if I could teach myself to type and listen at the same time. There are actually a crap-load of online, work from home jobs with reputable companies that are hiring every day.  Customer service jobs from home can be a very lucrative way to finance your fiction, and your customers could provide plenty of material for your book.

Crowdfunding

This is becoming more acceptable as a way to finance your literary ventures, but it’s really not all that dissimilar to the old days of patronage. People support your venture (your book) by paying a few dollars or more into a crowdfunding campaign so you can focus on writing instead of worrying about paying your bills. Beware, this really only works if you know a LOT of people who are willing to fund you, or you are charismatic enough to convince complete strangers to support your venture.

It seems to help if you can offer some sort of reward to your donors, like a copy of your book once it’s finished, or tickets to the Superbowl. Check out Kickstarter for a lot of really good examples of how it’s done.

Now you have no excuse not to write, so get out there and write that book!

June 10

10 Reasons You Should Just Go Write That Book

10 reasons you should go write that book

I know  I write a lot about freelancing and content creation for websites, but there’s another passion of mine that surpasses even those fascinating pasttimes. I write books, and dammit, I love what I do. Do I make gobs of money from them? No, not yet. But, in my defense, I’m still learning. I didn’t let my lack of knowledge about things like marketing and self publishing get in the way of me actually writing the books, and neither should you.

Here are 10 reasons you should just go write that book. Right now.

1. You suck at writing. No, this is NOT an insult. If you are a beginner writer, and sometimes if you are a long-time writer, you are going to suck at writing. The only way to get better is to practice, and what better way to practice than to write a book and learn from the experience.

*If you want to read a great motivational book about overcoming your fear of writing, go read this.  This guy is awesome, and nails this “authorphobia” thing perfectly.

2. You aren’t getting any younger. Tomorrow is not a given, and you may never have a chance to get your story down if you don’t start now.

3. Who’s going to remember you when you’re dead? Wouldn’t it be awesome to leave behind something real and tangible, even a digital book, after you’re gone?

4. You might actually be good at it. Even if you’re not great, you could be good enough to have people actually want to read your stuff. Then, you might be good enough to earn money from your writing,  maybe even enough to do something awesome.

5. When people ask what you do, you can tell them, “I’m a writer.” Even if you’re a writer by night and a dentist by day, or anything else by day, you can still say you’re a writer if you actually write stuff.

6. You can kill people. Not in real life, of course, but if you really hate someone, make them into a character in your book and kill the hell out of them. Heck, turn them into a zombie so you can kill them twice. It’s better than paying for therapy or spending time in prison.

7. Everyone has a story, and you can help them tell it. Maybe you don’t want to write your story, but you want to write about someone amazing you know, or a character that has been inside your head for years. Stories are important, they can change people’s lives, make the world a better place, and teach people stuff. Do this by writing a book!

8. You need an outlet for your creativity. Maybe you’re the weirdest person you know, but you can’t really let your freak flag fly because people at the office would really be nervous around all that awesomeness. Whatever. Go write that book, let your freaky imagination run wild, release the creative pressure, so you don’t explode in a midlife crisis of glitter, gin and go-go dancing.

9. You can change the world. Your book could be the one thing that changes someone’s life, the one thing that stops them from doing something awful, or feeling so alone, or being such a jerk. Words. Make. A. Difference. Use yours wisely.

10. You don’t have to be perfect, or even interesting, to write a book. Look at all the perfectly boring non-fiction books out there that people read because they need the information inside of them. Look at all the poorly written books that still get great reviews because they struck a chord with someone on some level. Perfection is overrated. Just go write that book.

If you’re feeling at all inspired, my pal Trinity Ford, aka Tiffany Lambert, is doing a 30 day newbie fiction challenge starting from TODAY. We’ll be picking an idea, writing a short book, and publishing it, all in one month. Join in, I dare you, because you might just unleash something awesome. And, if nothing else, you’ll go write that book.

May 29

Pantsing Vs. Plotting: Do You Use An Outline?

pantsing vs plotting

There’s a lot of talk about writing fiction these days, and Kindle has made self-publishing a respectable option for people like me and you, who otherwise wouldn’t have the patience to write, submit, cry, resubmit, drink lots of wine to console ourselves, etc. the way “traditional” authors do. I’ve recently rekindled my romance with fiction writing, which has been harder than I expected it to be.

Normally, I’ll just get an idea, sit down, and write. There’s no planning, no outlines, just writing. The story develops as I write, with little or no thought about what comes next until it’s actually on the page. This is called “pantsing,” or writing by the seat of one’s pants. This is what I do, or have done, until very recently.

Plotting is the opposite of pantsing. It involves logical, planned-out events in your story, and is probably more efficient than pantsing because it can help avoid writing yourself into a corner or running out of ideas before you finish. Plotting is the practical twin, always knowing what comes next and in what order the story will play out.

Pantsing is the rebellious twin who refuses to bow down to authority and give up her secrets until she’s good and ready. Some could argue that she’s the lazy twin who can’t be bothered to plan ahead, but I like the first description better, because it makes me feel better about my methods!

I think that plotters have a slight advantage because there’s no lost time worrying about what bit to add in next or wondering what to do with the odd character that was introduced early on, but who needs to be done away with later in order to make the story “tidy.”

I’m trying to be a plotter. Or, at least, that is my plan. I am plotting to plot, but not in the book I am currently working on, at least not fully. So, I guess you could say that I’m pantsing the plotting in order to get through the first book, so that I can then plot the subsequent books and make life easier for myself.

Did you get all that? 🙂

I’ve looked around, and found some really good, and some really awful, basic outlines for story-writing.  You can find a few here, and also here.

So, tell me, are you a plotter or a pantser? No judgement here, lol, just asking! Feel free to share your tips in the comment section below!