Sunday, March 16, 2014

Most asked writing questions part 2 - Welcome to the Jungle

Once upon a time, young writers typed up a great book, sent it off to a publisher and became a world-famous, best-selling authors.

Okay, so that's a total lie. The truth is that once upon a time, authors had to rely on the acceptance of a (sometimes dubious) publisher in order to even get their foot in the door of a traditional publishing house. The idea of entering this magical world - which only accepted an elite few - seemed as likely as being allowed to roam freely through Buckingham Palace and taking selfie after trying on some jewel-encrusted tiaras. In other words, sure it was possible but highly unlikely.

You can chase down an agent, try to woo a big time publisher or you can say fuck it and just go out on your own as an indie author. And to be honest, the latter is becoming extremely popular. Why? Perhaps because writers are growing tired of playing the game and simply want a chance to get their work out there and who knows, it might just be a hit. After all, you are only limited by your own beliefs.

Anyway, a couple of years ago, I gathered together a list of questions that I was frequently asked and answered them. It was an okay blog, I guess, but this time I want to take a different approach and talk about what is important, what advice you should forget and what should be your focus.

First thing is first, don't ever lose focus on the most important thing here and that is your writing. Having a website, social media, a blog, etc are all important, but your first concern should be your creativity. Of course, it's important to build up your brand (which is you) and in the beginning, it's probably a good idea to have at least one reference point for people to find you. So if building a website seems overwhelming or expensive, you could go to a FREE build-your-own site (which tends to be pretty easy), create a blog on a site like the one I'm using now or even something as simple as a Twitter account or Facebook page. It doesn't matter which option you choose, it's really just a reference point that allows people to find you as you build your brand. Everything else will come later on.

Now back to the writing. In my opinion, it's important that you follow your passion and more importantly, follow your instincts. People can sense when something is close to your heart because they connect with it - so if you are getting bored with your characters and plot, chances are your reader will too. If you can predict the ending by chapter five, then an avid reader probably can as well. Don't be a formula writer - we already have way too many of those and need writers who keep us on our toes!

Characters are also important. Some of my favorite books, television shows, and movies consist of some amazing characters. Breaking Bad - need I say more? For those who aren't a fan, the point is that you should put down a book, turn off your television or leave the movie theater and still be thinking about that one character that totally grabbed you - it's the same character who you relate to, connect with and seems so real that you actually kind of wonder if the writer may have modeled them off an actual person - that's what you want in your book. It's about quality, not quantity.

People often ask me about agents. I personally don't have one and although I have contacted many in the past, they aren't the fastest people to get back to you (one way or the other) so sure, an agent would be nice, but at the end of the day, if you sit on your hands and wait for one, you could be wasting valuable time and holding back from your potential fans. To be honest, I'm not sure that having an agent necessarily helps to determine your success. I'm a big believer that sometimes it is the people who don't have a regular marching band and cheerleaders following them around that end up being the most successful artists. I mean, these are the people who kind of sneak up on you when you least expect it and blow your fucking mind. So sure, if you wish to seek an agent, I think you totally should but don't let their opinion of you (or more likely their lack of professional courtesy to even reply to your emails) effects or slow down your career. Just cause someone isn't introducing you at a party, doesn't mean you should hide in the corner.

Promoting yourself may seem tedious for new authors and I've had a lot of people ask me how to get your name out there and sell some books. Hey, this is something I am always learning, but I recommend that you follow people like Nathalie Lussier, Maria Forleo or Kate Northrup who are fantastic at giving out great business advice. Once again, you are your brand and your book is the product. These ladies are pros at telling you how to jump online and get people's attention. I've certainly learned lots from all three and find them very enjoyable and fun!

At the end of the day, be yourself. Wave your freak flag. Wave your character's freak flags too. Pay attention to what is going on in the world around you and put it in your writing. Keep learning, keep exploring and find your path. Most importantly, don't listen to anyone's rigid ideas about the writing world or what you can or cannot do because there will always be people throwing their opinions around. Surround yourself with positive people, with other artists and focus on the those who you most admire - pay attention to their ideas, attitudes and actions cause they are where you want to be.

Your high school  teacher who said you'd never be a great writer,  the disgruntled ex who called you a loser and the close-minded relative who insisted you needed to be 'realistic' (we're writers, we aren't into 'realistic') may not have necessarily had your best interest at heart and if they do, maybe they are trapped in a very small, limited world - don't let them limit your world too! My advice is to stomp on all them all and carry on;-)

Canadian author Mima is known for her complicated and diverse characters, a dark style and for never shying away from controversial topics. To request an interview or if you are interested in doing a book review, please send requests here  

Mima is the author of Fire and the prequel, A Spark before the Fire, as well as The Rock Star of Vampires  Her Name is Mariah and Different Shades of the Same Color. Join Mima on Facebook, TwitterG+ and Goodreads also, check out her Amazon Author Page

For some reading, check out her blogs – personal or writing

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