Tag Archives: Self-publishing

Help! I Don’t Understand ‘Target Audience’

Readers, I need your help. I’m always after new ways to try and better my writing. To fine-tune it. But there is one term that comes up a lot when reading about the craft of writing and I can never grasp its purpose. I don’t understand “Target Audience.” I understand what it is, I don’t understand the purpose of it. So many websites and books preach that you must know your target audience to be successful.

I know that there is a different in writing for yourself and writing for the industry. I’m a firm believer in writing for yourself. I think you should write the book that you want to write and if someone isn’t happy about it, screw them! Not every person is going to like every book. I’ve read insanely popular bestsellers and hated them. I’ve always read popular books that I love. I read some Stephen King books that I love and some that I can’t force myself to finish because I found them boring. You can’t make everyone happy. So why have a target audience?

Are target audiences wrong?

I feel like so often they are. The Lord of the Rings had a target audience of 9-year-old boys… do you realize how hard that book is to get through as an adult? Regardless, it took the world by storm anyway. So did Harry Potter which had a similar target audience. So why to authors continue determining their target audience?

Who is my target audience?

Anyone who wants to read…? At least that’s always been my answer.

I would love for everyone to post in the comments below, their thoughts on the term “target audience.” Do you understand it? Are you like me and feel like you’re missing a point? I feel like I’m missing some bigger picture or perhaps I’m just looking at it from the wrong perspective. Please let me know.

-RB

 

A Call to Action: Free Stories for Reviews

Hello readers! Today’s post will be short and sweet. As a writer, I both have confidence in my ability to write but also think my work is crappy at the same time. As odd and contradictory as that sounds, it seems to be pretty common among writers. In past years I have confidently published short reads to Amazon, only to lose faith quickly and take them down a month later. Luckily, Amazon allowed me the freedom to do that.

Though taking them down may have hindered me more than helped me. Instead of keeping my neck out there, I pulled it back like a turtle, to protect myself. After all, when creating anything and showing it to the public, it’s sort of like baring your soul to the world. It can be embarrassing. It can be unnerving. No one likes to be judged. Yet, that’s what we long for. We long for opinions of our readers to drive us forward, to tell us where we could improve or to tell us they loved it. We even long for them to tell us they hated it as long as they tell us why.

But the world is not always so kind.

A very small percentage of readers actually leave reviews. And many negative reviews can be written in such a way that it keeps the creator from trying to ever create anything every again. In a recent tumblr post I came across, I saw one of the best things I’ve ever read about writing reviews. Here is the screenshot:

As a writer, I have definitely experienced this in the past. I think we all have. Those kinds of reviews give us what I’ve heard referred to as “art scars” or “creativity scars.” However, that is not what I’ve come here to talk to you about today.

A Call to Action

In the past few days I have revisited and revised my dusty GoodReads account. I noticed that two of the short reads that I had published and then unpublished had received ratings. Positive ratings. It was only one or two but it was enough of a push in the right direction to prompt me to re-publish them. I thought, “We are often our own worst critics. I may not think it’s my best work and it probably isn’t…but someone liked it. Someone got value or entertainment from it and that is all that matters.”

Dear readers, I ask of you a favor. This weekend I have three of my short stories taking part in a free book promo with Amazon Kindle which means that they are free to download and read. Two of them will be free from today until Tuesday of next week.

The other will be free from tomorrow (Saturday) until Wednesday of next week. I ask that should you wish to download them for free, that you please leave a review. After all, reviews help writers sell more books and stories.

I will also be publishing a 100% new, never before published short story this weekend. So please be on the lookout for it! You will be able to see it as soon as it’s published from my Author Central Page. Thank you for being readers!

Happy Reading!

-RB

Top 10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Writing

Hello readers! In keeping with this month’s blog challenge of writing a new post everyday for the month of July, I am finding it difficult to stay ahead but I will keep pushing through. Now that we have sailed into the doldrums of week two, that primal energy of week one has faded, leaving some of us to splash and flail to keep from drowning. I am one of those and it’s only the beginning.In order to not bore you with a long intro, let’s get straight to the point. Here are the top ten things I wish I knew before I started writing.

1) Don’t let others tell you what your book should be about.

You will come across people who want to dictate what you write. Sometimes these people are other writers, sometimes they are not. The ones who are not will never be able to comprehend why you just don’t listen to them and their great ideas for a fiction masterpiece. Yet instead of trying to write anything themselves, they feel the need to try and pull your puppet strings. Don’t give in.

Write the story that’s in your gut. It’s okay to listen to feedback from others but that doesn’t mean you have to follow every single things others say. Stay true to your vision.

2) The mind is a dark place. You don’t need to stand in your own shadow.

Self-sabotage is real and we all have done it at least once in our lives. Many of us do it on a daily basis. Stop talking down to yourself. There will be enough other people doing that for you. Some of them will be “friends,” others will be family.

3) The inner editor is a quiet drunk.

I don’t drink as much as I used to but I’ve noticed a single shot of anything is enough to quiet that pesky inner editor. It’s the fastest and most efficient way to shut it up.

4) You get out what you put in.

If it were easy, every one would do it. Don’t expect it to be a road of rainbows or double rainbows. Writing is challenging. No matter how skilled you are, it’s always a challenge. Put the work in. You have to just like a workout routine. Put the work in for a great body, get a great body and a better quality of life. Put the work into your writing, become a better writer and produce more material. It’s a simple equation.

5) “What if?” is not an evil question.

I had an English teacher in the seventh grade who refused to answer a question if it started with the words “what if.” For a long time after that I grew up thinking that “what if” questions were some kind of bad. “What if” is the creator’s greatest question. Always ask, “what if?”

6) “There is no magic hand.” or “I’ll write that someday.”

No one else will do this for you. Even if you hire a ghostwriter, it won’t be your voice. It won’t be you. Only you can write your story. This “no magic hand” quote I often saw written by self-made millionaire, Amanda Hocking. She often says that she realized this shortly before she kicked her butt into high gear.

Also, I’ve been a firm supporter of the whole, “I’ll write that someday” or “I’ll finish the book one day.” Guess what? “One day” and “Someday” are not days of the week. Saying that means it will never get done. Set a date. Get ‘er done!

7) Everything you need is already inside of you.

Yes, I love traveling and exploring and being inspired. Who doesn’t want to be inspired? But what you need to write your story is really already inside of you. You don’t NEED anything else. You already have it. It’s called sorcery.

8) Writing is not a sprint or a race. It’s a marathon. Community counts.

In high school, I ran cross country and distance track. Like writing, running can be very solitary. After all, every run is usually about competing against your previous run. Being alone, training in the middle of the woods, I never felt alone. I had a team with me, scattered along the trail.

Writers have communities. Find yours. Even though you’re not competing with them, you need their support and encouragement. It’s a long journey. Let your team help you along the way. Let them help you across the finish line. Propel each other.

9) Education is priceless. Read all. Study all.

Okay. I did just say in a previous point that everything you need is inside of you, which is true. But I wished I would have paid more attention to the opportunities given to me through my education. Instead, I was always in a hurry to grow up and get out of school. Slow down. Stop and smell the roses. Literally. They are lovely. Absorb everything. Take it in.

10) Only other creators understand the creative process no amount of explaining will do.

I am cursed. Every day I walk into a day job where no one reads or writes. No one creates. No one understands. I didn’t think it would be possible to find this many book-haters in one place. But it exists. I work in a place of rigidity. Or rules, regulations and procedures. It’s a prison for me and I’m surrounded by enemies. I’m surrounded by people who mock the artsy or ignore us because “we’re weird.” Don’t waste your breath on these people.

“Work hard in silence. Let your success be your noise.” -Frank Ocean.

Happy creating!

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The French Scene: How to Break Your Fiction Into Smaller Bites

No. A french scene is not when one character sticks their tongue into another character’s mouth during the scene. It was a term we used in the theater department to break a play into more manageable parts. Allow me to explain.

Having been a theater major in college as opposed to an English major, has given me a different outlook on writing fiction. I’m not sure what all goes on in those fiction-writing classes but I’ve never heard an English major (or any other writer for that matter) talk about French Scenes. Nor have I heard them mention Triggers, Heaps and Beats but that is another blog post! Studying fiction from an acting and directing perspective, has broadened my understanding of storytelling. In the end, I think English majors could learn a thing or two from us theater folk especially when it comes to writing dialogue.

Now I’m not a master of the craft (who is?) But I’ve noticed that when writing a first draft or editing later drafts that larger chunks of work can be overwhelming. It’s daunting – looking at a 7,000 word chapter and knowing you need to break that shit down. So I’d like to introduce to you the concept of a French Scene.

What is a French Scene?

By definition, “A “French scene” is a scene in which the beginning and end are marked by a change in the presence of characters onstage, rather than by the lights going up or down or the set being changed.-Wikipedia

So basically, anytime a character enters or leaves a scene. You may have some french scenes which consist of three lines of dialogue, and some which last more than a page. Granted, this doesn’t work for every work of fiction. In Emma Donoghue’s Room, a large part of the story consists of dialogue between Ma and Jack. The french scenes for this work would be very long. However, there are other ways to break up chunks of fiction.

Some elect to edit page by page or even break their editing up into paragraph by paragraph. I find that when I edit this way, my fiction is clunkier and doesn’t flow as well. Instead, treat each new thought or topic of conversation as a character entering or leaving the scene. This way, you’d still be utilizing the french scene method.

What is the Function of a French Scene?

I first came across the term during a Stage Management class during my sophomore year of college. It was one of the most fascinating and influential classes I took during my college career. The stage manager, much like the author of a novel, is the god of the play’s production. They keep track of EVERYTHING for that production from the stage lighting cues in the script to each actor’s audition papers.

There is even a specific short-hand language and way of writing that we had to learn so that should something happen to the stage manager during a production, someone else can easily replace them. Seriously, we had an entire assignment on the quickest way to hand write (with instructions on how to write every letter of the alphabet, capitalized and lower case) in the least amount of pen strokes.

Please let me know in the comments below how you break down your fiction. You never know when your pearl of wisdom just might help the next greatest writer tackle their work.

Further Reading

If you’re interested in learning more about stage production, Angela Mitchell has a fantastic series of blog posts on the topic. I highly recommend checking out her work.

#NaNoWriMoBlogChallange #NaNoBloCha
NaNo Challenge for the day:

It’s July 4th. Blow something up. It’s what our Founding Fathers would have wanted. ‘Merica!

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6 Ways to Find Creative Motivation

In a world full of distractions, it can be difficult to find motivation to write. If you’re like me, you have millions of creative ideas and you spend a great deal of your free time thinking about them but not actually putting the fingers to the keyboard or the pen to the paper. Maybe it’s the entitled millennial in me but sometimes I think that modern day creatives should receive awards for not allowing themselves to be distracted by their smart phones for long enough to record an album or write a book. The late, great writers of old had their own problems but they didn’t have Netflix, YouTube, smartphones, and in some cases, electricity!

Most times in order to get myself to write, I have to be bored. This is why when my friends suggest I get into this new show on Netflix, I frequently deny the invite. “But it’s so good. You’ll love it. The writers do a really good job…” I’m sure they do which is exactly why I don’t want to get sucked into it because it will distract me from my own endeavors!

I’ve written a few posts regarding productivity and finding motivation as a writer but somehow I feel that those posts still don’t cover everything. There is so much to say about the subjects of motivation and distractions. So I sat down and composed a list of my top 6 motivators for you. I hope they help you, fearless creative, to go after your own dreams!

1. Grant Faulker’s 52 Pep Talks for Writers

I love this book. In the author’s introduction he writes, “Stories remind us that we’re alive, and what being alive means.” An invaluable resource if you’re looking for motivation, Faulkner’s Pep Talks include, “Finding Your Muse,” “The Art of Boredom,” “Overcoming Creativity Wounds,” and “Pull Yourself Out of the Comparison Trap.” Seriously, picking out just four titles right now to share with you was a challenge because they are all so inspiring.

As the Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Faulkner has the right frame of mind to help encourage us to push forward as adventure seekers and write. I constantly read and re-read this book, picking specific articles to read depending on what I’m struggling with most. In doing so, you feel a bond to the author. Sometimes hearing or seeing what other authors have to say about this solitary craft, makes you feel like it’s not so solitary after all. Though many of us prefer the isolation, it’s nice to know we aren’t alone.

2. Be Held Accountable, Set Up a Patreon Account

It’s immensely difficult to hold yourself accountable to your own deadlines. It’s even easier to become discouraged when you don’t meet them. And again, if you’re anything like me you create impossible deadlines for yourself. I’m a huge culprit of this. However, things become so much easier when you break the work into smaller, more manageable chunks AND get other people to hold you accountable.

Not only has my partner promised me a trip to England when I publish my next novel (because he knows that I’ve ALWAYS wanted to go there), but having followers who are interested in your work will prompt and encourage you to write more.


Recommended Reading: The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer. Also, check out her TedTalk here.


3. Struggle More

Sound strange? I’m a firm believer that struggle is helpful. It’s amazing what people can accomplish when they are fighting to survive. Unfortunately (and it makes me sound ungrateful to say this), I had a very normal childhood…overwhelmingly normal. I grew up in a middle-class working family and was spoiled. I never learned what true struggle is and so when I went out into the real world, I expected things to be handed to me. Lack of struggle taught me nothing.

After being out on my own for a while, I had racked up a substantial amount of debt. By now I’ve paid some of it off but not all and I’m using what is left to help me struggle more. How? I’m throwing every penny I can spare at that figure. We’ve cut back on vacations, fancy dinners and all of the other things I was allowing myself to be spoiled with. Even something as simple as cooking in 6 nights a week and only getting delivery once has been an adjustment. To some, this is their normal life but I had some learning to do.

It’s been a wake-up call. Telling myself no grocery shopping until everything in the freezer and pantry is gone has shown me just how much food is in the house! I’ve realized that we’re not starving here and that what I consider “struggle” is actually nothing close to. While struggle can mean different things to different people, consider where you are and where you want to be. Cutting back a little to gain big later on makes the “struggle” worth it. It’s very motivating that I know I won’t eat sushi if I don’t meet my goals for the week…

4. Weekly To-Do Lists

This is a big one. I’m a huge fan of to-do lists but for the longest time I was doing it all wrong. As stated in my previous post regarding productivity and the Right Way to Create Routine,  having too rigid of a schedule can hinder you. I used to make my to-do lists by the day. Now, I make them for the week. This way if I slip up one day or don’t feel well, I’m not automatically behind.

What’s on my to-do list this week? Here’s what it looks like.

-Write Monday and Thursday’s blog posts

-Finalize Mortis Book 1 Chapters 1-6 Final Drafts

-Create two public Patreon Posts

-Create two Patron-only Patreon Posts

It’s important not to overload yourself. Once I finish this post, everything on that list will be 50% complete and it’s only Sunday! But I have no idea how the rest of my week is going to pan out. Life happens. Leave room for it. You might have to work late one evening, or have a sick family member, or have to pick your kid up from his overnight stay in jail for an underage DUI…there’s no telling! You can always add more if you finish everything early. Keep it simple. Don’t hold yourself to doing a certain thing on Tuesday because let’s be honest, Tuesday might be shit.

5. Read In-Progress FanFiction.

This one might sound a little strange but I swear it works! I am not ashamed to admit that I’m a huge fan of FanFiction. And there is nothing more exciting than reading a work in-progress and seeing that “new chapter” notification show up in your email inbox. Recently, I’ve been reading a dark and graphic Harry Potter FanFiction called “Not the Same Girl” by Emmaficready.

The author does a good job of making things worse and worse for the main character in every chapter. So why is it motivating? The author also posts a new chapter about twice a week. Though the chapters are never long, they always progress the story. It’s a great way of seeing that sticking with a story, chapter by chapter, turns it into a novel-length tale. It helps remind me that I don’t have to create Rome in a day. I can work with smaller scenes to construct a larger story. So thank you to Emmaficready and other Fanfiction authors who update regularly!

6. Remember Your “Why”

If you’re writing for the sole purpose of becoming rich and famous, you’re in the wrong business. Writers are in this for the story telling. Think about why you want to create. How are you adding value? Today’s society is saturated with advertisements that constantly tell people where and how they should spend their hard-earned money. What makes your work so special?

The truth is that no matter how bad the world gets, people need creatives. Whether you’re making music, painting, taking photos, writing books, you’re adding value to someone’s life. Artists provide a way for the world to escape its harsh realities. I believe it was Anne Lamott who once said, “A writer paradoxically seeks the truth and tells lies every step of the way. It’s a lie if you make something up. But you make it up in the name of the truth, and then you give your heart to expressing it clearly.”

As writers tell lies to speak truths, we also record history and capture moments with words instead of pictures. We evoke emotions, we create kingdoms and tear them to the ground. In a lot of ways, it’s playing the role of a god. We torture characters then we save them only to kill them in the end. Artists add value by providing a special place for people to get away from their lives… their soul-sucking jobs, their abusive and toxic relationships, their war-torn countries, etc. Writers create safe-havens. We send people on missions and adventures.

We are the silent leaders.

Lead away!

Happy Writing!

-RB

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