Monday, October 26, 2015

Give Writing Collaborations a Try

Climbing the mountain to success
is easier with switchbacks. 
As I near the end of revisions on my second scripture-based fiction novel, my mind drifts to the next project. Actually, there are two. I've already begun the third (and final?) Book of Mormon fiction in the series and want a small break from it. A novella feels perfect. Plus, there are benefits to seeing which trail works best for climbing the mountain to success. 

When one of the critique partners in my group suggested the four of us each write a romance novella to combine into one book, I took immediate interest. Sometimes it's nice to have an idea fall into your lap. I'm ready for a change, ready to develop the romance genre further, and I enjoy the ladies in my group.

Unlike an anthology where each writer has a theme but the story is independent of one another, this would be a collaboration. The characters continue into the next novella and the time frame may overlap, but is sequential. Each writer must use consistent character traits and know how the stories intertwine. Therefore, either one person hatches the entire basic plan, as in this case, or they get together to plot it out. My group knows the major plot points throughout, but we have freedom to do whatever else we imagine. Sounds perfect!

There are some pros and cons to collaborations. Consider the following:
  • The team needs to be on the same page about what will happen in the story. Each member should be flexible, listen to other opinions, and not be afraid to kindly state their own. The member with the biggest head can ruin the plan.
  • Saying yes to a collaboration means you expect to complete the goals and do your part. Some groups find it necessary to draw up a contract stating specifics about productivity timelines, and so forth. The member who is a flake can ruin the plan.
  • Writers should have similar abilities in the craft so that all can be proud of the entire collaboration. The individual strengths and interests of each writer should still be celebrated and shine through. Members who support one another have more fun.
  • Start with some ground rules or expectations. How will this be published, marketed? Will there be any costs? Will sales be split evenly? What will you do if someone can't complete their responsibilities?
  • Collaborations often garner each writer greater exposure to new readers through their associated project. This alone can make the effort to be a team player worth it. Just be smart, flexible, and communicate.
I'm sure I haven't noticed every puzzle piece yet, but the timing feels good to me, and since I'm still waiting for my first published novel to release, I can afford the smaller investment into a novella. I'll let you know how it works out. In the meantime, if you have any collaboration tips, please share. Happy writing!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Unexpected Directions on the Writing Adventure Train

Switching Tracks - Commonplace?
You know how ideas snowball into something bigger? That's what has happened to my work in progress. Four months ago I typed a tentative THE END on the sequel to my Book of Mormon Romance, Secrets of the King's Daughter. As my critique group discussed a few loose ends, I wrote a prequel to better tie the two books together. After reading that, the snowball grew. A certain character took on a larger role, so I needed to add more scenes with him, fill new plot holes, and the prequel became the first chapter. Before I knew it, I'd passed the 100,000 word mark with not much to trim. I had some choices to make.

The good news is that, with the help of my critique partners, I realized that with a little tweaking, I already had a great place to end this sequel at 75,000 words, and the remaining scenes easily shifted into a third book. Looks like I'll have a series of three stand-alone scripture-based books. I feel better knowing I actually wrote the second book in less than a year instead of what felt like forever, and that I've already got a good start on the third.

The funny thing is that one of my partners pushed for my book to take this direction early on, but I wasn't mentally ready to hear about splitting the book in two. It felt like switching tracks near the end of a big project. It took the newly added scenes for my vision to align with hers. After some revisions, beta readers will tell me if it works for them as well.

Sometimes writers need a break from the genre or a set of characters. In fact, I plan to try my hand at a romance novella before going back to book 3. We don't always know what direction our writing will take us or when we'll choose an alternate path. It can get frustrating if you can't envision where the track leads. That's what makes it an adventure. Just make sure you have a plan, new or old. And perhaps a few good critique partners in your corner. Happy writing!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Reflections on Five Years of Blogging

Post #276. Five years ago I started this blog when another writer liked my edit of a book blurb, and asked if I had a blog. Until then, I didn't imagine I had much to share. She inspired me to consider doing what I had been hearing writers should do--have a blog to jump start your name recognition before publication. Maybe I could figure out something worthwhile to say and not feel overwhelmed if I kept it to a weekly post. There are differing opinions on the future of blogging, but for five years straight, I have stuck with it. That makes me happy.

My blog evolved over time. In the beginning, I searched other blogs as examples and for hot topics to throw my two cents toward. It's a sort of copy-cat phase, like when toddlers learn to talk. After the learning curve and slowly gaining a few followers, I needed to spend more time writing and less on using blogs like social media. Instead of blogs, I shifted to finding topics from author newsletters and googled my own questions. As my writing journey took a specific path, posts became more personal.

I'm not sure where it's going from here, but I'm considering doing a blog overhaul where I use this site more as a website with a page for my blog as well as other pages. You may be seeing some changes in the coming month--all for the better, I expect.

Here is what this blog has taught me:
1. It still feels risky to put my words and thoughts out there for public scrutiny.
2. There will be blogging ups and downs. Just when I wonder if I am reaching or helping others, someone leaves a comment, says thank you, or the stats show a jump in traffic. It takes time to get results.
3. It is a way to keep connected to the writing world, other writers, and keep myself visible.
4. Though stimulating to write, it has been a constant deadline scramble to get done. The majority of my posts were written a day or two before due. But, there is something satisfying about keeping up a weekly goal and routine for five years.
5. Blogging basics were learned: HTML code is less foreign, posts can be scheduled, etc. Always edit your post and view it in preview before publishing.

With more readers using tablets or phones, comments have drastically declined. If you have generally benefited from this blog, I'd love to hear about it or see a quick "Like". But I'm also happy with a little blip on the traffic source. Thanks for visiting.

Reflect on your own writing/reading goals this week.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Taking Calculated Risks in Marketing

An airshow demonstration pilot might appear to take radical risks when in reality, much training and precision is implemented. A solid foundation of scientific principles is at the core before calculated experimentation is tested. Authors take a risk every time they put their work before a critique group, an agent, or launch a book for public scrutiny. Getting noticed might take some out-of-the-box thinking. Start with common advice from trusted sources and branch out with your own experimentation from there.
In reading marketing tips, I've always skipped over one on the list that didn't seem to apply to me--until now. The TIP: Write an article on your book's topic of expertise for a magazine or newspaper. I don't consider myself any kind of expert and my LDS audience is considered a niche, so it seemed both pointless and out of my comfort zone. However, we never know when all the info we file away in our brains will make sense. I was thumbing through an independent bookstore catalogue and noticed that they sometimes include recipes or filler articles that go with a theme or advertised book. The aha moment came. My scripture-based fiction would be advertised alongside scriptural study aides and LDS fiction. I wrote a short article about that happy middle ground zone between study guides and pleasure reading, to go with my upcoming release of Secrets of the King's Daughter: A Book of Mormon Romance.

I revved up my bravery factor and tracked down the merchandiser to ask if I could submit a filler article for their catalogue. I learned that they tend to feature books from a different publisher, but if it was general enough, they would consider it. That chance was all I could ask for. Here's hoping. 

Or maybe a new aha moment will appear out the sky.