Trying new things often means riding the roller coaster of the learning curve. I’ve recently experienced the dips and climbs in self-publishing. At first, I thought the technology part of it shouldn’t be too difficult, I am a relatively tech-savvy girl, but Murphy’s Law came into play at every step of the journey. If you know what Create Space formatting gibberish, right-justified super-stretched sentences, or Kindle nonsensical formatting aberrations are, then you’ve likely felt my pain. If you haven’t, never fear, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
The good news for me is that my self-publishing journey is nearly done. I feel like I’ve been trapped in a cave without light for weeks. I’m not sure if I’ve talked to people or had a proper meal in some time. Now I’m ready to step out, blink against the light, and stretch out my hand to shake the hand of an old friend or wrap it around my long-lost family.
You may wonder, what is the point of sharing my struggles and humiliation? (You know there are those people out there who will claim that the process was a cake walk and make you feel like a moron!) It’s so other people who go through it know that they are not alone and they will survive. Self-publishing is a process, like writing. Also, like writing, when you think you’re almost done, you realize you’re not! Eventually, you will get there, just maybe not on the timeline you thought.
Soon it will be on to the next step… encouraging people to buy it!
When you hang out with writers, you recognize the signs of a writer going through the “marketing” experience of self-publishing. They talk incessantly about social media, blogging, Amazon sales, and finding high-quality reviews. Yep, you’ve got it; they are in the marketing phase.
For most writers, this experience means lost sleep, gray hair, and various signs of outward stress. Sure, there are writers out there that love selling their wares, but you and I aren’t one of them! For us, it can feel a little like selling your soul. We’re writers, not sales people.
The truth is that if you want to sell your books, you will have to be part of that process (unless you are an all-star author). That means putting in the time to build a platform, finding internet spaces to shout about your book, and handing out the occasional “bookcard” or bookmark.
I know, you’d rather be writing. I feel your pain! For me, balancing between a writing project and the marketing side is what keeps me sane. If I had to do all marketing at one time, it would dry out my passion for writing.
So, if you see the signs, help a fellow author out. Take them to coffee, listen to them rant, then brainstorm the next book idea.
A few weeks ago, my family and I went to one of those splash places. I don’t need to name names, but the kind with slides, a lazy river, and other indoor water activities. After my energy wore away, I sat down and watched my children romp around and eventually I watched other people. This is what people in the Midwest call people watching. Now let me make sure we are clear what I mean here. I don’t mean being the fashion police or passing judgement in any way. I mean observing. Carefully.
Sometimes people will catch my eye because they remind me of someone in a book that is presently percolating in my brain. Other times, something about how they move makes me think of specific emotions and I contemplate how I would show that emotion or movement with words. Maybe they have an interesting physical feature that I wonder how I would describe. Then my mind starts to bounce around in a land of imagined characters. I have to be careful, I can get lost there!
If you haven’t already, try it sometime! While you watch, think of words that describe the way a person looks and how they move. What words would paint a picture for the reader of his/her lips, face, neck, or eyes to give people a strong visual of what you see? Are their movements graceful, quick, or laborious? Go one step further and imagine a life for them. What character traits do you imagine for them? Maybe you notice a person who reminds you of one of the characters in your next novel. Think about how the visual that you offer adds to the character that you’re creating.
The same can be done with settings. Take some time soaking up different settings that you have visited. What words would be best to give someone a sense of the place? What did it look, smell, and sound like?
The next time you’re sitting somewhere public with a free moment, put the phone down, and take a look around. Let your imagination wander with your eyes. Now, don’t get caught staring too long at people or someone will sound the stalker alert, but at times it’s important for a writer to spend some time engaged in observation. Just be careful not to get caught!
How do you explore character or setting and ways of describing them? What helps feed your creativity?