Please excuse any mess around here while blog is undergoing damage repair.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Secondary Shoes

My daughter only wears her dance shoes for about fifteen hours a week, but boy, they are important to her. She takes good care of them and loves the way they feel on her feet. They could never take the place of her street shoes, though. This is how our readers should feel about our secondary characters. In The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass spends an entire chapter on secondary characters. The bottom line is, they shouldn't overshadow our main characters, but they should be special. One way to achieve this is to show their impact on our main characters. What about them draws our protagonist to them? What makes our protagonist want to be around them, or not be around them? He suggests thinking about our own lives and who has been special to us. Who do we choose to surround ourselves with? This is where the fire comes in. This is where the passion comes in. Apparently, according to my beta readers, I've succeeded here. Yay, me! No, not really. One of my secondary characters seems to be more appealing than one of my main characters. I can't have that now, can I? I think what Mr. Maass would suggest is to make the secondary characters special to the extent that they are useful to the main characters. In other words, our readers should care (or not care) about our secondary characters as much as our main characters do. No more and no less. What do you think? How do you develop your secondary characters without overshadowing your protagonists? Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

These Shoes are Just Creepy!

Seriously, who would wear them? If the point is to scare, they don't accomplish it. They do nothing for me. Well, they do kind of gross me out. But other than that, nothing. In The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass discusses the antagonist, the villain, the doer of all evil. He says that in the work submitted to him, most of these mean-spirited characters fall flat. Why is that? Well, because they have no depth. He or she is just bad by default without explanation, and just really aren't that scary. Mr. Maass suggests that one way to fuel fire into our writing is by giving the villain some human characteristics and a reason for acting the way he does. He can't just be bad for the sake of being bad. The reader won't buy into it. Maass even goes so far as to suggest that we make him somewhat endearing to the reader. This adds great depth to a story. My primary antagonist is somewhat ambiguous and needs to stay that way, so this is difficult for me. I'll be thinking about it during my rewrites, though. In the mean time, I'll be applying it to my secondary antagonists. Is your antagonist just bad for the sake of being bad? Or have you given him some motivation for his behavior? Please share.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

These are the Shoes of Heroes

Yesterday, I mentioned that passion comes from within the author, and not from the plot, setting, characters or voice. That's not to say, though, that it doesn't manifest itself in these elements. In The Fire In Fiction, Donald Maass tells us how to channel our passion and breathe life into these areas of our writing. For the remainder of this week, I'll be talking about putting our passion to work through our characters, starting with our main characters. Mr. Maass discusses the difference between heroes and protagonists. Heroes are larger than life, while protagonists are everyday people. Maass points out that neither is bad, but both should be multi-dimensional. Otherwise, the reader won't care about them. If your main character is a hero, then give him some flaws to make the reader relate to him. On the other hand, if your main character is just an everyday guy, give him some strengths that the reader wishes he had. Mr. Maass goes on to suggest that this should be done in the first five pages. Aye! I really messed up there! My main character was a big, old, everyday wimp. At least until, oh I don't know, like the twenty-first chapter. During my revisions (um, I mean rewrites), this will be a huge focus of mine. So, tell me...who is your main character? Is he a hero or an everyday Joe? Either way, what qualities have you given him to make him endearing to your reader?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Where does the fire come from?

As I mentioned yesterday, last weekend, I read two books on the craft of writing by literary agent Donald Maass: Writing The Breakout Novel and The Fire In Fiction. Both were excellent reads, but I'm going to focus these discussion on The Fire In Fiction. In this book, Mr. Maass points out that there are no truly original ideas. "Every novel has antecedents. Every author has influences. It is impossible to be wholly original; even so, some novels feel fresh and shake us with their insight." So, if this is true, what makes the difference? Look carefully at that quote. Mr. Maass states that 'Every author has influences.' That, my friends, is where the fire comes from. It doesn't come from the plot, the characters, the setting, or the voice. It comes from the author's passions, which have developed over time because of life experiences. How do we find that passion within ourselves and transfer it to our writing? This is exactly what Mr. Maass answers in The Fire In Fiction. He talks about two types of writers: the status seekers and the storytellers. The status seekers start out with all kinds of passion, the main goal being publication. They settle for good enough. This kind of passion fizzles out over time. The storyteller, on the other hand, has one goal at heart: making his novel the best it can be, and each successive one even better than the last. This passion never goes away. I think, it's possible to be a little of both. Don't most of us writers dream of the day we will be published? Of course we do. But this can't be our only motivation. We have to strive to become better, stronger writers, and we have to be passionate about the art of writing, not just about the dream of publication. I'm guilty of being a status seeker at times, but I want nothing more than to be a storyteller. What about you? What kind of writer do you want to be?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Transformer Shoes?

Pretty cool, huh? If only we could make our writing amazing as easily as these shoes turn into transformers. Okay, I've got a couple of things to talk about here before I get into the whole transformation thing, but I promise, I'll get back to it. First of all, I'd like to thank you all for making K.M. Weiland feel at home here on Friday. In case you didn't stop back by after leaving a comment, you might want to pop back over here. She responded to each of you individually, so I'd like to give her a big thank you too. And, the lucky winner of the copy of Behold The Dawn is: Tamika. Congratulations, Tamika. Shoot me an email (smills1@att.net) with your address and we'll send it to you. Thanks for participating. Now, I want to talk about NaNo for a minute. I've been all over the blogosphere talking about how I'm going to participate this year. Well, I lied. Okay, maybe I didn't so much lie as change my mind. You can call me a chicken, or you can call me lazy (I wouldn't deny that), but after a great deal of soul searching this weekend, I've decided to skip NaNo. Perhaps I'll have my own version when I'm ready. (I could call it SuRoMiWriMo for Susan Rochelle Mills Writes Month.) You see, I'm just not ready. Which brings me back to the whole transformation thing. Most of you know that I've been hard at work on revising a manuscript. Well, last weekend, I had the opportunity to read Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction, both by literary agent Donald Maass. After reading these two extremely helpful books on the craft, I realized my manuscript needs more than just revisions. It needs a transformation. This is where my heart is. This where my focus is. So this is where my efforts will be. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be talking about my experiences during this process, along with my take on the information I learned from Mr. Maass. If you haven't read these books, I highly recommend them. And for those of you still participating in NaNo, I'll be cheering you on. So, where is your heart? Where is your focus? And where will your efforts be come November 1?

Friday, October 23, 2009

I'm Hanging Up My Shoes...Again! Day 5

This is the last day of my 'partial' unplug week, and I have one more word to talk about from my friend Kristen Torres-Toro. Today's word is: Travel. Since I don't do much actual traveling, I get my fix from literature. I love reading about other times and places. And what better place to travel than to the Holy Lands during the Middle Ages? I'm thinking Russell Crowe in Gladiator. (For my male followers, you can think of whatever actress played his love interest.) Who wouldn't want to go there? That's where we are going today. Author K.M. Weiland has so graciously agreed to interview here about her newly released Behold the Dawn. Please welcome her with lots of comments. If you comment, your name will be entered into a drawing to receive a copy of the book. So here it is: 1. What inspired Behold the Dawn? I happened to pick up a children’s picture book about William Marshall, the “greatest knight who ever lived.” He was a second-born son who had to make his fortune by competing in the tourneys—the huge mock battles which were the predecessors of the slightly more civilized jousting tournaments. Despite being repeatedly banned by the popes, tourneys remained wildly popular until high mortality rates forced the sport to evolve into the more familiar (and much safer) jousting tournaments. After a long career as one of the most renowned tourneyers of the age, Marshall finally hung up his spurs and headed for the Holy Land to seek absolution. I’ve always been drawn to the Middle Ages, and I was instantly intrigued by these gladiatorial battles and their juxtaposition with the Crusades. From there, my imagination just took off! 2. Who is your favorite character? Oh, Marcus Annan, my main character, definitely! He dominated every page and absolutely took charge of the story. He was one of those special larger-than-life characters who are definitive to a writing career. His strength, his courage, and his haunted past… he was a blast to write. In fact, he’s easily one my favorites out of all the characters I’ve ever written. And that’s saying something, because this story, in particular, gave birth to quite a cast, including Annan’s smart aleck servant Peregrine Marek, the fugitive countess Lady Mairead, a conflicted Templar named Warin, and a triad of very scary bad guys! 3. What does your typical writing day look like? Fast and furious! I get up at the absolute earliest I’m physically capable of dragging myself out of bed (which is *ahem* 7 o’clock), have my morning devotions for about an hour, work out for half an hour, eat breakfast and hit the shower, check email, then head to work (which happens to be just as far away as my own desk chair) and put in my time for the church ministry I work for part time. Around two, I check emails once more, then dive into whatever “extra” project I may be facing, whether it be blog posts, editing, critiquing, or cleaning the house. My official writing time starts every afternoon at four o’clock. I spend about thirty minutes warming up—scribbling in my writing journal and proofreading what I wrote the previous day—then I pick a soundtrack and dive into the magical world of fiction until six o’clock. 4. What’s the best review you’ve ever gotten on your writing? They’re all good—even the bad ones, since they let me know what I need to improve. But anytime someone tells me I made them laugh or cry out loud, I know I nailed it. Dreaming about my characters and not breathing during tense scenes are also special reactions. But I think the ones I tend to remember most are the ones that come on bad days, when I happen to be doubting myself and my worth as a writer. I got one of those earlier this year, when someone told me they’d added my book A Man Called Outlaw as one of only three books on their “must-read list.” That one meant a lot. 5. What’s next? I have several projects in the works. I have a completed fantasy, Dreamers Come (about a man who discovers that his dreams are really memories of another world) waiting for another round of edits. I also just started outlining my next project, a historical novel called The Deepest Breath about the passion, betrayal, and vengeance that dog two men and the woman they both love through the trenches of World War I, corruption in colonial Kenya, and the criminal underbelly of London. And I’m also working on a fun co-writing project that asks, “What if Robin Hood met Sleeping Beauty?” You can also view the trailer for Behold the Dawn here. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I'm Hanging Up My Shoes...Again! Day 4

Boy, this week is flying by. It seems like just yesterday, I explained that I was "partially" unplugging for the week and that I'd be blogging about the five words that my friend Kristen Torres-Toro gave me. I'm blogging about a different one each day. And here it is, already Thursday. Where does the time go? Anyway, today's word (or phrase) is: Caffeine Fix Well, that's easy. Coffee. No doubt about it. I have loved coffee since the very first time I tasted it (I think I was ten). I used to drink tea and diet coke, too, but I gave those beverages up. I could never give up coffee, though. It's a bad habit. I know. But I'm not pleasant until I've had my coffee. I did, however, give it up when I was pregnant (all three times), and I was fine. I had to be, you know, for the good of the child. So why can't I give it up now? This has got me thinking about my writing habits. How many of them are necessary? How many are all in my head? My worst habit when it comes to writing is editing as I go. It slows me down, and I waste a lot of paper, much to the chagrin of my eco-friendly daughter. With NaNo coming up, this just will not work. Why can't I just kick the habit for the good of my new baby (manuscript) and write, write, write, without editing, editing, editing? Do you have any bad writing habits? Please tell me you do so I don't feel all alone. Also, please pop in tomorrow for my interview with K.M. Weiland, author of the newly released Behold the Dawn. Now, I'm not trying to bribe you or anything, but there will be a giveaway.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I'm Hanging Up My Shoes...Again! Day 3

So, I've been given five words to blog about during this week of "partial unplugging" by Kristen Torres-Toro. Today's word (or phrase) is: Favorite Word. I thought long and hard about this, and considered talking about something really deep like 'GRACE', or 'FORGIVENESS', or 'LOVE'. But I think we all have our own convictions when it comes to those things, and anything I had to say about them would be redundant. So, I had an impartial judge decide what my favorite word is. I turned to wordle.com. I entered the last ten posts on my blog, and it spit out this collage of words. It was quite fascinating actually, and I tried to upload it here, but I couldn't for some reason (probably because I'm technically challenged in that way). It was in the shape of the sole of shoe. Imagine that. Anyway, according to Wordle, my favorite word, at least when blogging, is WRITING. That's a good thing, considering that's what this blog is supposed to be about. I was smiling for a moment, but then I thought about my manuscript. What word would stick out there? So I entered the first chapter, and my new shoe collage showed in huge print the names of my two male lead characters. But not much smaller than that was the word 'back'. Hmm? I suppose I might have overused this word. 'I turned back', 'I looked back', 'I glanced back', and my favorite, 'He placed his hand on the small of my back'. Aye! What about you? Do you have a favorite word that you overuse when writing? If so, how do you keep yourself from doing it?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I'm Hanging Up My Shoes...Again! Day 2

As most of you know, I'm taking a break from new shoe pictures this week to channel some of my creative energy into my writing. I'm still posting, and I'm still reading blogs, but I'm sparing myself from the task of searching out new pictures of shoes. While I'm partially unplugging this week, I've decided to do something I was supposed to a while back. Kristen Torres-Toro has given me five words to blog about, so I thought I'd blog about one of the words each day. Today's word (or phrase) is: First Job. My first job was at Tippin's Pie Pantry as a cashier. I was fifteen years old and loved working with money as much as I loved writing (which would explain why I went on to major in accounting, a thought I'm seriously reconsidering right now). Anyway, you may think that the best part of this job was the free pie. Well, that was good, but the best part was the people watching opportunity. You see, Tippin's was also a restaurant, and the waiting area for diners was right in front of the cashier station. I remember making up stories about the people waiting to pass my time on the job. Of course, it might have been great fodder had I remembered anything when I got home. I didn't, but it sure made working there a lot more entertaining. What about you? Have any of your jobs inspired stories? Don't forget about Friday's interview with K.M. Weiland. There's also a giveaway involved.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I'm Hanging Up My Shoes...Again!

As most of you know, last month I joined in on B.J. Anderson's unplug week. Well, I did partially, and by partially, I mean that I didn't post any new shoe pictures. It freed up my creative energy for writing, which I need to do now, so I'm going to partially unplug again. I will still post and read all of your blogs, but I apologize in advance for the lack of new shoe pictures for the week. Anyway, I have a few things to talk about today, so bear with me. I'll try to make it as short and sweet as possible. First of all, I need to announce the winner of last week's drawing. Please congratulate Janna Qualman who chose Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen. Congratulations! I'll be in touch with you. Second, I want to thank Shelli for the Lemonade Award, and Nicolette for the Head In The Clouds Award. Thanks, ladies! Third, I hope you can all join me on Friday for an interview with K.M. Weiland, author of Behold The Dawn. I'm thrilled she chose to stop by here as part of her blog tour for the book's release. I hope you all pop in to hear what she has to say. Now, finally, Kristen Torres-Toro has given me five words to blog about, so I thought that while I'm "partially" unplugging this week, I'd do one word a day. So, today's word (or phrase) is: RETREAT. Since it has been unseasonably cold here, my answer to this is: in front of the fireplace after everyone else in the house is asleep. It's quiet. It's cozy. And it's my time do whatever I want. I usually end up writing because I consider that a retreat in itself, but if I don't feel like doing that, I read or watch television. Either way, I feel like it is a part of my writing life. My spot in front of the fire is either used for writing or as a break from writing. It's a win/win situation. So, what about you? Do you have a spot that facilitates both writing and a break from writing? If so, please share.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Shoe Cake Anyone?

As many of you already know, I celebrated my 100th post a couple of weeks ago. I had deleted a few posts, so on record, it was only my 88th post. Well, today, it is official. According to Blogger authorities, this is my 100th post, and my side bar even says so. Because I love parties, and I hit 200 followers this week, something I never imagined possible and am so grateful for, we are celebrating again. This celebration is in honor of you, my blogger friends. So, kick off your shoes, grab a piece of cyber shoe cake, and enter my very first drawing ever. Just leave a comment telling me the title and author of a book you really, really, really want to read but do not already own. On Sunday, at high noon (I always wanted to say that), one of my little pests, who most people like to call children, will draw a name from a bucket. The lucky winner will be announced on Monday and will receive the book they named in the comment (as long as it's available and not some collector's edition that costs a fortune, that is). I want to say thank you to all of my followers, commenters, and occasional stopper-byers. You've made my blogging experience more than I ever expected it to be. I love you guys! Have a great weekend! And if you want to order a cake like that or some other novelty cake, visit cakecentral.com.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Time Factor

Note: This is part repost from August and part new thoughts added in. I have to admit that I could spend all day blogging. But I don't. Aside from the kids taking over the computer regularly, I have other things I have to do. I follow over 100 blogs. If I were to read and comment on every single one of them, assuming it took five minutes for each, that would take more than 500 minutes. That's over 8 hours, and it doesn't include writing my own posts or responding to comments on my posts. Would I love to be able to read and comment on every blog? Absolutely. Is that possible? Absolutely not. Thankfully, not everyone posts every day. That helps. But I also have my priorities. The most important thing (aside from my family) is writing. If I spend too much time blogging, I lose out on valuable creative time. You know those people we've been talking about who know all about networking for writers? (You know who I'm talking about.) Well, they all agree that the unpublished writer should spend most of their time writing. That's not to say they shouldn't do some social networking like blogging, but their efforts should be focused primarily on writing. I take this advice to heart. Several people have asked me recently how I manage my blogging time. So, I thought I'd post about it. I spend an hour in the morning blogging, a half-hour in the afternoon, and another half-hour or so in the evening. It's two hours out of my day, but I consider it time well spent. The rest of my day is devoted to my family and my writing. This is the only way I know how to handle it. No one should allow blogging to overwhelm them, so we each need to find a way that works for us and go with it. What about you? How do you manage your blog time?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

If You Can't Say Something Nice... (Repost)

The other day, someone (I won't mention any names) says to me, "Your hair really is getting gray, isn't it?" Now, I'm making a big confession here to all of you bloggers. I have gray hair. Well, I would if I didn't color it. On this particular day, it had been quite a while since I had done it. In fact, the box of hair color had been sitting on my counter for several days waiting for me to have a chance to use it. Did I know my head was starting to look like a skunk? Yes. Did my mother-in-law (oops...I wasn't going to mention any names) have to point it out? No, but she did. I've never encountered any rude bloggers, but I know of people who have, and I can't believe it. Someone might argue that if the world was a perfect place, everyone would be kind, but it's not, so as bloggers, we have to deal with it. I disagree. I think being part of a community like this comes with the responsibility of interacting in a positive and respectful manner. It does not come with the right to say whatever you want. What do you think? Have you ever come across any rude bloggers?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

To Follow Or Not?

Last week, my son received an invitation to a birthday party from a boy who he was not friends with and never had been. Convinced the boy had only invited him to get more presents, my son did not want to go. I made him, though, because I thought it was the nice thing to do. We'll never know for sure what motivated the boy to invite him, but my son ended up having a great time and making a new friend, too! This situation reminded me of the whole follower business on blogger. Yesterday, I talked about how much I like getting comments on my posts. Nearly everyone who responded admitted that they, too, love the comments. I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that you all also love followers as much as I do. We've been told time and time again by people who actually know what they are talking about how important it is to develop an online presence. These same people all agree that in order to build up your own following, you must follow other blogs. While this seems a tad bit on the insincere side, it is true. And, I'll admit, I have followed blogs with the hopes that they would in turn follow me. I've also followed blogs because they followed me first. Now, is this really such a bad thing? I look at more like the birthday party my son went to. Perhaps the boy only invited him to get more presents, but they both gained a new friendship out of the deal. In the few short months I've been blogging, I have developed some awesome friendships. I've found so many blogs that provide valuable information. I've found so many bloggers who are on the same journey as I am. I've found blogs that make me laugh, and who couldn't use a good laugh sometimes? My point is this: The following game doesn't have to be insincere. The key is to follow blogs because you find some value in what the person has to say, not because you are trying to build up your own following. Chances are, they will also find value in what you are saying and will follow you, too. Okay, that's my far-from-expert opinion on the matter. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, October 12, 2009

You Light Up My Life!

Many of you will recognize that this is a version of a post I've already done. Since we were on the subject of blogging, I decided to re post bits and pieces of a series on blogging that I did back in August. This shoe lights up. And so does my phone. When I have a new email, a flashing red light appears in the corner of my phone. I used to look forward to seeing this light because I hoped it would be a response to one of my e-queries. On more than one occasion, this light saved me from the typical refresh-every-five-seconds syndrome so many writers suffer from. Since I stopped querying three months ago, I now look forward to seeing the light because I hope it is a comment from one of my blogger friends. Every time it is, I smile. I've spent the last couple of weeks talking about the importance of maintaining a professional blog. Just as important, though, is the concept of sincerity. It doesn't matter how professional your blog is. If you aren't sincere in your interaction on it, no one will want to come back. Commenting on other's blogs is one way to show your sincerity. Your comments bring me joy, and for that, I want to say thank you! Is it just me, or does anyone else love the comments?

Friday, October 9, 2009

These Aren't My Shoes!

They are the shoes of the fabulous Shelli Johannes-Wells. And she has so kindly agreed to an interview on my blog. Please welcome her with lots of nice comments. Feel free to leave questions for her. She may stop by to answer if she has time. Shelli writes children's, tween, and young adult, and is represented by Alyssa Eisner Henkin of Trident Media. She is also a marketing consultant for several large, well known businesses in the United States. To learn more about her, please visit her web site or her blog. 1. Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. I think my readers could benefit from your marketing knowledge. But first, everyone would like to know if agents really visit the blogs of potential clients. Based on your numerous interviews with agents and editors, do you think they do? If so, what do they look for? YES they do! First of all, if you go to my blog and read my weekly Monday interviews with agents and editors on marketing, you will see most of them Google writers online and expect writers to have an online presence. I also speak at many SCBWI conferences and end up hanging out with faculty. I can't tell you how many editors and agents goggle writers and scour the Internet looking for information on potential writers. I have at least 5 friends who got "found" on their blog. I think they look for voice, personality, good ideas, and optimism. They want to see if they can connect to this author and work with them. You can tell a lot about someone's personality by reading someone's blog. I think they are turned off by boring material, negativity, and detailed reports of submission rejection. 2. Okay, now on to marketing. How important is social networking to marketing? And what role does blogging play in this area? Social networking is very important. Especially online. You can control the marketing of your book, but you cannot control the PR you or your book gets. PR is free. And that word of mouth comes from readers, friends, and your professional network. Blogs are just one way to network. As you know, we bloggers find other blogs we connect with and then somehow in a strange way become friends. Sometimes, I feel like my blogger friends know me better than anyone and that they 100% support me in my writing and journey to publication. I think and hope my bloggie buddies feel the same way about me. If you do not like to blog, find another way to build a network. You can use Facebook, Myspace, Ning, Xanga, Good Reads, Shelftalker, message boards, listserve groups, Twitter, or others. There are so many ways to network, so find a couple that work for you and do them well. 3. At what point do writers need to start considering the marketing aspects of social networking? Do unpublished, unagented writers need to worry about this yet? In my professional opinion, yes! I do think it is extremely important to build those relationships way before someone is selling books. It's no fun having someone push their book on you when they don't even know your name. Social networking relationships are like any business relationship. It is better to build them over time and with authenticity. Building a network has many advantages to unpublished authors: 1) You find out about other people's agents/journey, which can help your own 2) You have time to build up a relationship without jamming your book down people's throats. 3) It helps you stay connected in this crazy journey. It's nice to find like people who experience similar struggles and achievements. Many unpublished authors seem to think they cannot do a web site before they get published. That is not true - you can! Even if you don't have books published, you can pitch them on your web site. Why not? I am agented but not yet published. You can check out my web site and see how to do it. 4. Since teenagers don't typically blog, how effective is blogging as a marketing tool for the YA author? Wait - who says teens don't blog??? According to Pew studies, in 2008, more than half (58%) of all teens maintain a profile on a social networking site such as Facebook or MySpace, 27% have an online journal or blog, and 11% maintain a personal website. Girls dominate the teen blogosphere and social networks. 66% of girls have a profile (compared with 50% of boys), and 34% of those girls (versus 20% of boys) keep an online journal or blog. A lot of teens also review books on their blogs. I follow a few, and they are amazingly knowledgeable about authors and books. Therefore, I say blogging is effective - if you do it well and often. Now are you blogging for the teen audience prior to being published? Probably not. In the beginning, your blog targets other writers, bloggers, editors and agents. But later, when you are published, that audience may change, and teens may follow. Just look at Meg Cabot's following! 5. What is the best advice you can give in regards to using social networking as a marketing tool? Do it! Online Social networking is to writers what the after hours parties and team events are to businesses. You have to network to get noticed. Your writing should always come first, but you need to get out there if you want to be out there. :) Shelli, thank you so much for taking the time to visit with me. You've definitely given us all something to think about. Thanks for having me! Well, there you have it. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Marketing Madness

NIKE came up with one of the most memorable marketing slogans in the history of the shoe industry. When someone says, "Just Do It", we immediately think of NIKE. I've been talking about various aspects of blogging for the last couple of weeks, and you may be wondering what my sudden obsession is all about. Well, it isn't exactly sudden. I've been thinking about it for a while now. At some point, every writer is going to have to think about the marketing aspect of social networking. My blog has always been a means of connecting with other writers. I never considered it a marketing tool. And, why should I? I'm not published yet, so I have nothing to market, right? Well, according to a great number of people who know a lot more than I do, I've got it all wrong. It's never too early to start thinking about marketing. Just like we all recognize the NIKE slogan, we want people to recognize our name when we are finally published. I hope you all can join me tomorrow. I'll be interviewing fellow blogger and author, Shelli Johannes-Wells. Shelli is not only an author, but also a marketing consultant who has interviewed numerous editors and agents. She has spoken at conferences all across the country, and I'm sure she will have some great insight on this issue. What are your thoughts on marketing and social networking? Oh, and I want to thank you all for your input on my name dilemma. You guys are the best. I haven't decided what to do permanently, but for now, you will see the user name of Susan R. Mills in your comments. Good-bye, Lazy Writer!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Part 2: What's In A Name?

When I Google 'Converse', I get a zillion results related to the shoe company or the products they offer. When I Google my name, I get a zillion results related to anything but me. In fact, I discovered that there is another author named Susan Mills. YIKES! I can't have the same name as another author, can I? Yesterday, I discussed my user name, Lazy Writer, and how I thought I should change it because of the impression it gives. I want to thank you all for your feedback on this. I guess I've always known I would have to change it some day, and I think that day has come. Now, I have a new dilemma. What do I change it to? I could come up with another catchy name (many of you had some great suggestions yesterday), but I think it would be best to go with the name I intend to be published under. The problem is, though, I don't know what that is yet. Given the fact that 'Susan Mills' is common (not to mention boring) and that there is another author by that name, I've decided I need a pen name. What do you think? And what about your name? Are you happy with what you find when you Google it?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Part 1: What's In A Name?

My answer to this question is: A LOT! The name of this shoe store defines exactly what you are going to find inside--affordable shoes. I've been thinking about my blog user name, Lazy Writer. I chose it back when I had no idea what blogging was all about. The more I learn about blogging, the more I question this name. It doesn't convey what I'm about at all. For my newer followers, I posted here about why I chose this name. In summary, I'm not lazy when it comes to my writing. I'm lazy when it comes to other areas of my life because of my writing. I don't think that's the message it sends, though. If an agent or editor were to visit my blog (or any of yours that I comment on for that matter), I wonder what impression they would get. Although I am quite fond of the name, I'm thinking it needs to go. What do you think? What about your name? What do you want it to say about you?

Monday, October 5, 2009

I Knew Exactly What to Expect Here

When I walked into a Nine West shoe store, I knew there would be at least ten pairs of shoes I really, really, really wanted but couldn't afford. (Okay, I indulged, but only on one pair, not ten.) It's important for stores to be consistent in what types of products they offer. In much the same way, I think it's important for us, as bloggers, to be consistent with what we post about. Our readers need to know what to expect when they visit our blogs. That's not to say that we can't go on a tangent every now and then, but for the most part, we need to stick with the usual. That being said, the first thing we must do is determine the purpose of our blogs. If we are no where near the submission stage, our blogs might be more focused on building an online support community. Or, maybe, our blogs have nothing to do with writing at all and are more of an outlet, or they are personal and just for fun. Regardless, once we determine that purpose, we should post accordingly. I decided a while back that my blog would be about my journey as a writer. I've tried to keep my posts writing (or blogging) related. I often use real life experiences to develop a point, but I usually relate it to writing. That's what my blog is about. I follow many blogs, and I enjoy each of them for a different reason. I love the diversity of content out there, but I also like knowing what to expect from each one. Sometimes, I'm pleasantly surprised with a twist, which is great, but for the most part, I find satisfaction in the usual. (Kind of how I imagine Norm on Cheers felt when he walked into the bar every night.) I'm curious what you all think. Does your blog have a purpose? If so, what is it? And how important do you think consistency in content is?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Putting All Our Shoes Out There...

...might not be a good thing. I recently read an agent interview (don't remember which one, of course) in which the agent said that when she visits a potential client's blog, she specifically looks to see how much of the manuscript the writer has already made public by posting it on their on blog. She went on to say that bits and pieces are okay but not entire chapters. I've never been one to post samples of my writing on my blog, but I know many who do so successfully without giving too much away. I don't know what this particular agent considers bits and pieces, but I do know that it is something we all need to think about. We have to find that balance between enticing readers with sneak peeks and giving away too many details. My blogger friend, Robyn Campbell, asked a question yesterday about whether or not posting a pitch line on her blog for feedback was acceptable. My not so expert opinion is yes, it's okay. My gut feeling on this issue is that if something doesn't give away more detail than the blurb on the back of a book cover would, go for it. Again, I'm no expert, so I'd love to hear your opinion. How much is too much? And it's Friday, which means Silver Shoe of Sincerity Award time. Frankly, though, I can't keep narrowing it down to just one person. You are all such incredibly kind and sincere bloggers. I have to wonder why I ever subjected myself to having to make this weekly decision. That being said, and in honor of my 100th post (just keeping the celebration going here), a Silver Shoe Award for everyone! Feel free to pass it on now or to wait until someone truly touches you as being kind and sincere in the blogosphere. Or, don't pass it along at all. It's entirely up to you. You are all the greatest. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Okay, Now! None of That!

As writers on the journey, we often become frustrated and even angry at times, and no doubt want to kick someone. That's all fine, but should we do it on our blogs? I don't think so. If you haven't been here all week, I've been discussing what message our blogs convey. I veered a little off course yesterday with my 100th post celebration, but today, I'm back on track, and I'd like to talk about venting frustration. We are all at a different stage in our writing journey and, thus, have different goals for our blogs. But, if you are at the query stage, or close to it, you might want to consider what your blog says about you. As we muddle our way through our journey, it is tempting to vent all of our frustrations: How can Mr. Agent judge my work from one letter? Mr. Agent represents so and so. Why won't he represent me? My writing is way better than Mrs. Famous Author, and she got published. Why can't I? These thoughts, most likely, fly through all of our heads as we struggle in this publishing world. But blogging about it is not going to help us any. Agents/editors don't want to visit a potential client's blog and see a 'poor me' ranting of how everyone else is to blame. When they see this, they immediately think: this person will be difficult to work with; I think I'll pass. I'm no expert here, so what's your opinion?