Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Helpful Writing Blogs

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

I believe in life-long learning. Most of my learning, of necessity, deals with writing and the skills I need to forward my indie writing and publishing career.

I read a lot of helpful writing blogs so that I can learn new things. Then I gauge how or whether to adopt them into my life.

One of the most useful sites for me is The Passive Voice, an aggregated blog with partial articles and links to the complete articles. The host of the site is an attorney with an interest in authors, self-publishing, and traditional publishing.

Sometimes I will click a link to a suggested article and start delving into other articles on the site. That is how I found this post by author Toby Neal about writing a multi-book love story in any genre. Since I face challenges in writing a saga involving my fictional Owen Family, I thought I should have a look. I came away enlightened.

When I find a blog that offers sound advice, I usually subscribe to it so a heads-up on new posts will arrive in my inbox. I finally decided reading through emails was better than trying to chase down each and every blog by finding my bookmark for it. If I should happen to be on the wrong computer, I might be out of luck finding a bookmark.

Some of the blogs I follow are listed on this page at my blog under Indie Writer Resources. I have a couple more I need to add, though, such as Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blog, which I read every Thursday for her Business Musings. I usually focus on the Monday post at The Write Conversation, as it contains tips about effective blogging.

Go ahead, click on the page at my blog and try out a couple of new sites to increase your writing and/or business knowledge.

Then come back here and tell us in the comments about what you learned.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Trust the Process

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

For several years, I've been worried that I was not doing something all the books on writing said I was supposed to do in the process of writing my novels, but it seemed to work out okay anyway. Recently, I read a book about writing. Suddenly, lights flashed, bells and whistles blew, and I got a huge confirmation that I'm really okay with what I do. The book is Writing Into the Dark: How to Write a Novel Without an Outline, by Dean Wesley Smith. I'm a pantser, so I never outline anyway, but the truth is, I don't do extensive edits and rewrites, either. That latter fact is what had me so worried.

Smith explains the difference between Creative Voice and Critical Voice, and says we should not give in to the prompting to use the Critical Voice (editing) during our writing process. The job of our Critical Voice is to stop us cold from engaging in risky business, and writing is very risky business!

Instead, he holds to Heinlein's Business Rules:

Rule #1: You must write.
Rule #2: You must finish what you write.
Rule #3: You must refrain from rewriting unless to editorial demand.
Rule #4: You must put your work on the market.
Rule #5: You must keep your work on the market until it sells.

Smith gives tweaks of the rules if you are indie publishing. He also writes strange words like "practice," and "trust your process." That last one set off the bells and whistles for me.

I will say the book rambles a bit and could have been tightened, but despite its structural flaws, I found it very affirming to me. There is a bonus section in the back from another book, Killing the Top 10 Sacred Cows of Publishing. The chapter about rewriting was the whipped cream on top of the milkshake for me: his process is exactly what I've been doing all along. I write the first draft. The second draft is spell checking, then I send it to beta readers. For the third draft, I touch up the things the readers found. Then I'm done.


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Bookmarked Bargains is coming Monday!

Yes, it's nearly here. Dozens of ebooks in many genres by multiple authors will be available at super good prices for five days only, Monday, October 12 through Friday, October 16, 2015.

You don't want to miss this sale!

Friday, October 9, 2015

In Defense of WAS

by Marsha Ward 

[This post is reprinted from a post published in the Writer in the Pines Blog on June 17, 2007. The misguided cautions back then against using was are still around today.]

Lately, I've been listening to a lot of writers get hyper about the word was: how its usage in a novel surely marks the author as an amateur; how terrible it must be to have more than, say, 60 examples of was in a full-length novel; how we should all do a search in our manuscripts and root out the evil word was.

I demur.

No, I didn't misspell demure, meaning quiet and modest; shy, which many people think I am. Little do they know! I mean demur, to raise objection; take exception; object.

Yes, I demur. And now I'll digress a bit, too.

When I was in school, past tense had two forms: preterite (it can be spelled without the last e) and imperfect. Preterite is the simple past tense, like I walked. Imperfect has a helping verb, yes, often it happens to be the infamous WAS: I was walking. It could even be I used to walk.

Now that grammar is much fancier than when I was young, preterite is called simply past tense and imperfect has been split into two, maybe three camps, depending on which source you cite. These are my buddy the imperfect, past progressive, and past continuous. Some people call past progressive progressive past. That's scholars for you, always changing things to get their name out there. The most commonly cited camp of the old imperfect is past progressive, but I like "imperfect," so I'll go with that in my discussion.

Preterite or past tense is used to express actions that took place in the past. Bang! The action was completed. Done. Finished.

Imperfect denotes a past tense with an imperfect aspect. The action is incomplete. It's ongoing in the past, or happened regularly or continuously until it stopped. This might be expressed with a verb ending in "ing": Mary was laboring for fourteen hours. Trust me, that's continuous and progressive, both.

Sometimes you use both preterite and imperfect in the same sentence: As I was walking in the park this morning, I saw a red-winged blackbird. Saw, was, was, saw, hmmmm. [Sorry, I almost digressed again--really far afield. I apologize.]

I studied Spanish in high school and really learned it when I served a mission for the LDS Church in South America. You might say I was learning Spanish the whole time I was there. (Aha! Imperfect!) Spanish makes no apologies for using both past tenses. They each have their use.

Okay, back to why I demur about using the word was. Writers get told to use strong, active verbs to express their action. Yes. That is the best policy, and very handy to keep out passive voice. Most writers take this to mean they always have to use preterite tense.

However . . . when an action is not complete, when it is ongoing, you just gotta use the imperfect tense, which could mean you gotta use was. I maintain that was is misunderstood, misused, and misappreciated, er, unappreciated, and using it not always leads to the dreaded passive voice. All the popular novelists use was. I say you can too! Within reason. Also, with reason. Knowing why you're using it, and all that.

Agree or disagree? Tell me your side of this issue.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Advice for Aspiring Authors

You've got a book manuscript, newly finished or ripening with old age. You desperately want to see it come to life as a real book.

You've seen those ads, either on the Internet or possibly even sent to your email inbox. They sing their siren song, "Come publish with us. We'll make your book real. You don't even have to submit it to a traditional publisher. Just pay us a lot of money, and we'll make sure your book is on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in no time!"

Please, for the love of whatever you hold dear, stop up your ears. Do not heed that alluring come-on. Run fast and far away. That is not the way to self-publish!

These days, the old self-publishing is called by a different name: Indie Publishing. That is where you call the shots, by independently publishing your book yourself, through the miracle of digital and online resources and companies, and with the help of freelance editors, book cover designers, e-book and print book formatters, and other helpful people. It's not easy, but it is a ton of fun, and well worth the effort.

If you want to keep control of your work, and possibly make a little money instead of tossing it down a rat hole, you'll want to take this new direction. If you're willing to learn the ropes, you can go on a real "Indie Publishing" adventure. Most likely, you will be able to save a great deal of the money the vampires of publishing would like to move from your pocket to theirs.

You will need to educate yourself; that's a given. You will need to decide the best path for you to take, and whether to learn vital skills, or to pay experts for the skills they already have. In any case, if you choose to educate yourself, you're not going to jump at a rotten deal that will cause you to be out thousands of dollars and left with a bitter taste in your mouth in twelve-months' time.

Indie Author Hub has plans for Resource pages that will assist you in your journey toward indie publishing your book manuscript. While you wait for their appearance, go get a college education by reading posts over the last five years on author Joseph Konrath's blog here (frank language alert) or this brutally honest post about Indie Publishing by author Dean Wesley Smith here (don't get discouraged--read it to the end). Smith's tab for "Think Like a Publisher" is no longer found on his website, except for information on his book of the same name on this page, but the book is available at all booksellers. He also wrote Killing the Top 10 Sacred Cows of Indie Publishing (green cover), and the information on that book is also on that page.

Two more things: never let go of your dreams, and hold on, the light will come.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Looking for new books?

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Check out these recently released great reads from members of Indie Author Hub.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Why I'm a Dedicated Indie Author

by Marsha Ward

[This article is reprinted from the "Writer in the Pines Blog" of July 26, 2011, and much water has passed under the bridge since then. The world of indie publishing has changed in scope and names of products, so the article needed a light editing. While the author's covers may have changed since the original article came out, her attitude toward Indie Publishing has not.]

Indie Author = an author who publishes his or her work independently of traditional or "legacy" publishers, which work may take the form of either print books, electronic books, or both.

I have several writer friends who have done some variety of independent publishing, and more who are curious about what indie publishing can do for their bottom line. I thought I would share some facts about what a big change a few hours' work made in my life.

Long-time friends know why I started "self-publishing" several years ago, despite the bias against those writers who did so. For those who don't know, I had a serious health crisis, and didn't want to die with manuscripts unpublished. Therefore, over a span of several years, I put out three print books with iUniverse.

Then my books were such a resounding success with you fantastic readers that I couldn't stop to wait for a gatekeeper to accept/schedule/publish my work. Each new book being part of a series about my Owen family, that wasn't likely to happen anyway. Traditional publishers usually don't buy a series book in the middle of the arc. I am currently working on a fourth in the series I now have entitled the Owen Family Saga. [The fourth book was Spinster's Folly. The fifth book, Gone for a Soldier, came out in 2014. Both were not published with iUniverse.]

When the electronic book distributor came to town two years or so ago, I jumped on the ebook bandwagon, and signed up with my first two novels.

I decided to hold off on the third until I finished writing the fourth. A stupid decision, I discovered later, as I educated myself under writers J. A. Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, and other early electronic book authors. Smashwords delivers content to most of the big ebook retailers, including Sony, Kobo Books, and B&N--before they came up with Pub-It.* Smashwords has NOT been successful in getting distribution to Amazon, YET, and the head honcho, Mark Coker, advised us Smashwords authors and publishers to go over to the Amazon Kindle site and do it ourselves. I'd heard the Kindle preparation process was complicated and difficult, so again, I held off.

In the meantime, I had some sales through the Smashwords channels. Royalties in the two figures.

Then I decided I'd put things off long enough, added my third novel to Smashwords in late April-early May, 

and decided to see how hard it really was to format for Kindle. Astonishingly, with the free software Kindle Direct Publishing offered, it was easier than preparing a manuscript for Smashwords!

I uploaded my three novels to Amazon Kindle, and heck, just because more content is better, added several short stories and an anthology, which I also uploaded to Smashwords. I topped it all off with a Sampler of three chapters each of the three published novels, and a chapter from the forthcoming one. My prices ranged from $.99 to $3.99.


Now I had TEN ebooks of various sizes (let's call them units) going through both Smashwords distribution and through Kindle's three* stores: US, UK, and Germany.

Let me just say that I've had no, zero, zip sales through the German (DE) store. I understand a bit more now why that is, but it's irrelevent to this discussion.

After I uploaded my works, I joined a couple of Facebook groups, mentioned the works, and then got busy preparing for a road trip with a girlfriend. This took up most of May.

June. June brought me pretty low. I had emergency major surgery, and thus did no marketing for my books.

July arrived. I was beginning to feel like a human being again, and, curious to see if I'd sold any ebooks on Kindle, I took a look at my sales figures.

I about got my socks knocked off! In May I had sales of 90 UNITS in the US Kindle store ($209.03 royalty), and 5 UNITS in the UK store ($6.35 royalty).

In June I sold 94 units in the US and 3 units in the UK. Royalty figures were not available per month yet, but for the period of June 4 through July 9, the royalties from the US store are $287.09 and 63 pence for the UK.

In July thus far, I've sold 81 units in the US and 11 units in the UK.

Yes, I know, these aren't figures in the tens of thousands of sales or royalties yet, but ebooks have the advantage of the long tail. They never get swept off a bookstore's shelf after a month. They are FOR.EVER!

Remember, I've done little or no advertising that my work is even out there, and these are Western-flavored novels and stories, for the most part, not the more-in-demand romances (per se), mysteries, thrillers, dystopian YA novels, vampire tales, or zombie stories.

So, the big question is: Am I ever likely to send queries, try to get an agent, or nervously stand in line hoping for a gatekeeper to say I'm good enough to publish? I don't know. You be the judge.

*Name or number has changed since the original publication of this article.