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    Whenever ~ Smokey, Mighty, Eerie and Wicked

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8 Reasons to be an Indie Author

Girl and Dog

  1. You have control over your own cover designs.

 I remember going to a writing conference where the author said she cried when she saw  the cover designed by her publishers. She’d written (I believe) a historical romance, but the cover looked like it was for an action movie.

It took me awhile to get covers that I love. But now that I have them, I’m beyond proud. And as an indie author, I didn’t have to settle on what someone else wanted for my book.

  1. You get to create your own timeline to finish your work.

I once heard a very popular writer speak. It was surprising when someone asked her about how she was able to write so many books. She said she was given deadlines by her publishers, and whether or not her books were always well-written, they had to be turned in by a certain date.

I’ve had periods of time when I could write a lot, and other times when I had no time to write. And when I’m not yet making a living wage off my writing alone (like most authors), it’s nice not to have to follow someone else’s timeline. It is also really nice to not have to publish subpar work, just for the sake of meeting a deadline.

  1. You can monitor your sales on a daily basis.

I check my author KDP sale’s page at least a couple times a day. It is beyond thrilling to see, right away, what is selling and how much is selling. When The Sea Goddess first came out, it wasn’t uncommon to see ten downloads in a day. Now, most days, I see an average of two sales. Then, almost randomly, I’ll suddenly see a huge spike in sales. Realm of Goddesses is purchased less often, but it costs more. To Kill a Wizard sees the least sales (at $2.99), but because it is on KDP Select, I see profits from pages read. That is so cool! When a person picks up my book and reads the entirety of it in three days, I feel awesome! And as an indie author, I can see exactly how many pages my readers read each day.

  1. You can write according to whatever inspires you that day.

Everything I’ve published is in the young adult fantasy genre, but I’m currently writing in a number of genres. I’m almost finished a new adult short story for an upcoming anthology. I’m working on an adult fantasy romance. I finished an anti-utopian new adult short story. And recently, I wrote up an idea for a sci-fi romance. As an indie author, I’m able to write whatever I want.

  1. You have the ability to work with other authors on different projects.

I work with several different authors, who write in different genres. Our first anthology will be coming out soon, but I predict there will be many more anthologies in the future.

  1. You can choose the different platforms to make your work available on.

I’ve used Smashwords, which makes my work accessible on: Apple iBookstore, Sony, Kobo, B&N, Aldiko, and others, as well as (of course), Amazon.

  1. You are able to price your work the way you want.

Making my first short story free has led to a number of sales on my other two works.   I’m sure a lot of traditionally published authors wish they could do the same.

  1. In other words, you have almost complete control over your work.

From covers, to hiring your own editor, to following your own timeline, indie writing offers you the control to complete your work just the way you want. So that project you’ve spent weeks, months, or years writing, can be handled just the way you wish.

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Critique Groups

critique group

A critique group can be defined as a lot of things, but to me, it’s simply a group of people who get together to go over their writing. If you are a writer and you aren’t in one, I highly recommend either joining one or creating one. I spent years writing on my own, working my hardest to reach my goal of becoming a published author. Yet, it wasn’t until I joined a critique group that I not only grew a lot as a writer, but had the confidence and knowledge to become a published author.

But what makes a successful critique group?

  • The most important thing is that all the members have personalities that work well together. If everyone can’t get along, they can’t work together.
  • Trust is equally important. If you don’t trust the members of the group, it’s hard to accept and give critiques. The whole experience leaves you pretty vulnerable, which means you need people there you know want the best for you.
  • Depending on your groups goals, the members should always be thinking, “what can we do to improve their story so it can be published?” If the members are just trying to tear apart your work, the group isn’t helpful for anyone.
  • Keep the group small. More than ten members would make it very difficult to have time to read and review people’s work (well). I actually think five or so members is plenty.
  • Meet regularly. Every two weeks seems to work well for me, but each group will have different needs.
  • Submit each meeting. The only way you’ll see a lot of growth is if you have regular feedback. Each meeting you’ll try to apply the comments from the last meeting so that your problems change and minimize. This really helps your growth as an author.

I asked my fellow critique group member and friend Aeon Igni her thoughts about the benefits of a critique group, and I think her response was brilliant:

“If you’ve ever read Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, you know that much of business success comes from individuals grouping together to accomplish greater tasks than any one person could accomplish alone. A good writing group gives an author this power. With several minds focusing on their process, product, and career rather than their single mind, it is almost assured that the end product will be exponentially greater than what the author could create without this feedback.

Critique groups share information, techniques, tips and tools of the trade, as well as powerful brainstorming sessions and constructive criticism. We can see the power of critique partners and critique groups among published authors today – many authors I follow reference each other on social media and post pictures of themselves dining out or taking cruises together. 

For me personally, it is comforting to know that I don’t have to go it alone – that there are others to turn to when I am struggling or need advice. Even a simple text with an article to read or asking how my writing is coming along can be powerful motivation to keep moving forward. I expect that I will always be part of a critique group, and I can’t imagine a writing life without one.”

So if you aren’t in a critique group yet, find one or created one. It may be the single most important thing you do as a writer.

When is Enough Enough?

I’m trying to do the final read-through on my novel, but I’m constantly stopping to fix things. But when I do, I read the lines again and can’t tell if they are better than before, or just different. The truth is, I love this story. I’ve edited and re-edited it so many times that I think it might truly be done.

But how do I know when enough is enough?

Some writers spend a lifetime on the same novel. Sometimes at the end, they’ve created a masterpiece, while other books might be tucked away, never to see the light of day.

Other authors publish great books every six-months and keep on going. But how do they stop themselves and move onto the next piece?

I’m on the cusp of something exciting and new… and, truth be told, a little frightening. Every book I’ve “finished” up until this point didn’t survive all these edits, without being put down. This book I’ve managed to stick with. To fall down, to get discouraged, but to get back up again. This book is so ready to be sent out into the world, thinking of it sitting in my computer keeps me up at night.

But so do the questions.

What if there are still mistakes? What if I missed some terrible flaw? What if I put it out there, and people hate it?

I want it to be flawless and well-received. But the truth is, I can only do the best that I can do. After that, I guess I just have to take a deep breath and be prepared for whatever response I get, good or bad. I can’t just edit forever, too afraid that someone, somewhere, won’t like what I created.

Got Plot? #AmWriting #AmPlotting

Business man writing plan ABC
When I first decided to try to make a living doing this thing I love called writing, my first step was to learn as much as I could about anything writing or publishing.

One of the biggest helps  when I was starting out were the online workshop/classes hosted by RWA, among others. Authors teaching authors. This community is kind, helpful and always willing to share knowledge 😀

After a ton of blog reading, I settled on my first topic to study and improve.

Plotting.

I still enjoy the book, 20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias (I have the 2003 edition, there’s a new 2012 edition now). Even Tobias states, though, that no one knows how many types of master plots there are (his guess is not 20, he only gives you an overview of different plots such as Revenge, The Quest, Adventure, Love, ect.)

Okay, I thought. *I think* I can work with that, LOL.

 

Next step, plot elements.

Free Rollercoaster Track Royalty Free Stock Photography - 6322557And this is where it got really interesting.

 

3 Act Structure

5 Act Structure

 I even heard of doing an 8 Act once.

 Spider web plotting

Storyboarding

Snowflake plotting, and on and on.

 

Yup. I read books and/or took classes on them all.

Guess how many worked perfectly for me?

ZERO

 

But it was definitely worth it. Because I took away so much information from each and every step, that I was able to form a mutt-mix bastardization method of elements from them all into my own questionable path to plotting.

Since I’m at the beginning of creating a new world and series for the first time in a couple years, I decided to revisit some of them.

It’s always interesting what new information I find, now that I have more writing under my belt.

 

So, my Q4U: How do you plot? Or, how do you pants it (no pre-story/outline writing)?

 And, how did you learn or decide on your method?

Finally, I’m Finished!

My young adult fantasy novel was “finished” more than six months ago, maybe a year ago. Since then, I’ve been editing. Giving up. And editing some more. Last night at a ridiculously late hour, I finished.

Finished!

I am elated beyond belief. The next week or so I plan to go through and just read it as a reader, while still keeping an eye out that my changes have been implemented well.

Then the next step: sending it to my writing group.

In the last few years, I’ve read a handful of completed novels from my writing buddies. Every time, I feel a strange surge of pride and envy that they’ll actually finished something, that all their work is there in front of me. And now, finally, I’ll have something to hand over to them.

I know there will be more work to do after they give me their feedback, but I’m excited to focus on my next step. Even though, they’ll be lots of new questions I’ll need to figure out the answers to. For example:

If I go the self-publishing route:
• Should I create my own cover or pay to have one designed?
• How in the world do I create my own blurb?
• And then the even shorter/more difficult tagline?
• Do I hire a copy editor or hope that after a handful of eyes have reviewed it, it’ll be clean?

If I go the publisher route:
• Do I go to an agent or directly to a publishing company?
• What angle should I take with my query letter?

There’s a ton of other things I’ll need to figure out, but I’m so excited to be taking this next step. Wish me luck!

Multitasking to the Extreme

Right now I’m working on several things. Jumping between projects is either going to keep me focused on my writing, or drive me absolutely nuts, but I decided to shake things up a bit.

One night last week, I had a great idea for a short story. It started with an idea to create a character who lacked one of the five senses, so I’d have to push myself further with her other senses. Then, I created a “world” in which lacking this sense was actually safer than having it. From there, I tried to write a short piece with high tension. I have no idea if I succeeded, but I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when it was done.

During the week, I’ve been working on my “completed” young adult novel. The first forty-percent makes me so proud. The rest of it… well, I’m still editing… slowly making my way through it. The major things I’m still trying to work out are to make sure the timeline works, the romance makes sense, and still keep the tension high.

In the evenings, I’ve been working on my urban fantasy romance. I’m new to writing in this genre, so I’m excited to be trying something different. This is also a novella, which adds a new challenge. I’ve got to create a world, characters, and a fascinating plot with high tension, all in around forty-thousand words.

Now, I wish I could say I’m just one-hundred-percent focused on my writing, but I’m not. Life, my family and friends, still always comes first. I’m just trying to cut out a few minutes here and there whenever possible. I realized a long time ago that I’m a lot happier when I take this “me” time to get my ideas out on paper.

But all of this has made me curious; do you work on one piece at a time or multiple pieces? And whatever you do, why do it this way?

Writer Driven Writing

Last night I stayed up ridiculously late writing a short story. When I was finished, I felt a huge sense of relief. Sometimes when I get an idea, it takes months to finish, which can be stressful. I’m left with a constant sense of a story still waiting to be told.

This morning, however, someone asked me what the purpose of the story was and what point it was trying to make. I froze. There wasn’t really a purpose. Just an idea. A character. A world.

I re-read the story and still enjoyed it, but started wondering what a reader is looking for when they pick up a short story. Do they have the same expectations as when they read a novel? Are they just hoping to be entertained for a shorter period of time?

Honestly, I have no idea. Some short stories definitely send a message. They leave you wondering for days. While others keep you on the edge of your seat. And when you’re finished, you put it down feeling strangely satisfied.

But after a morning of reflection, I came to a startling revelation. I didn’t really care. When I started out writing the story, it wasn’t with any other purpose than wanting to get my idea on paper. And, I think, sometimes when I focus too much on my readers, the story I want to tell gets lost in what I believe others want to read.

So, my new plan is:
• To make sure everything I write is for me first
• To try to drowned out the voices of others, so my voice isn’t lost
• To write with no other purpose than to write

I hope that by keeping these goals in mind, my writing will be stronger, but also I’ll keep enjoying writing. No one wants their dream job to start feeling like a nightmare.

Back to school anyone? #AmWriting

Back to schoolYup, its that time again.

School supplies, school clothes, school schedules… (x 4 kids) LOL

It also means days that are more open. Time to get back to BICHOK.

(Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard)

And this summer, I’ve finally accompished finishing/organizing/setting up my office space (See HERE). Back to my writing goals.

So, my Q4U: Do you enjoy the hectic rush that is back to school, or does the calm later in August seem too far away? 😀

~ Amber Kallyn

My Fumbling Attempts to Write Erotica

I had an idea for a great story. Isn’t that always the way it starts? In between a busy day of almost non-stop responsibilities, I forced myself to type up a short summary (because I couldn’t get it out of my head). As the day wasted away, I finally got to sit down and start the actual story. For two weeks, I was obsessed. This, I thought, is good.

And then I let a couple erotica pros read it.

Consensus: not good.

Feeling crushed, I re-read the story. How had I gone wrong? Strong characters. Interesting world building. Great (if amateur) sex scenes. This was what a good story was all about. This was me stretching myself as an author and exploring something I’d never written before. So why did it suck?

The Short Answer: I don’t read erotica. Other than a couple of pages once or twice, I’ve never really picked it up.

Why’s that a problem?

This took me weeks to figure out, even though it should have been minutes. This genre, like all others, requires an author to understand it and its readers.

But when did I finally realize this?

I sat down with a friend who walked me through some of the big issues that I just didn’t completely understand. I’d been told of these issues, but it didn’t click. The first one was that there was no emotional connection between my character and the man she sleeps with. So, I thought, a one night stand is still hot to read about. And it is, but even a one night stand has to be more than sweaty bodies pressed together. There has to be something that draws the characters together, even if it is just a sexual magnetism. But what comes along with that is the feelings of the two people. What are they thinking and feeling as they see one another? What fantasy does the man or woman awaken in the other?

I hadn’t thought of this. But still, my main problem didn’t really click.

Then, she walked me through some of the erotica “sins” I’d committed. Every time she mentioned one, I died a little inside. This is a good story, I thought, doesn’t that count for something?

And then one of my erotica goddesses handed me a giant-ass bag of books on writing erotica, as well as, collections of erotica short stories. As I carried them home, I felt a strange sense of empowerment. Now, now I had the tools to figure out what I’d done wrong.

I started one book at random. It gave a short autobiography on the writer, then moved on to a section basically encouraging writers in this genre. When I finally put it down, (not finished yet), I still didn’t know a thing about writing erotica, but I looked at it through new eyes. I felt the same way I did after leaving an English class in college where somehow the debate had turned to feminism, and the many ways we were still fighting to be seen as equals. Erotica, I felt, was a genre that was still fighting to be recognized as an equally respectable genre.

Then, finally, I did the one thing I’d been putting off. I picked up the collection of erotica short stories.

There is something dangerous about reading this genre. About knowing you can be reading a sentence, only to come across words you’d never read in any “polite” book. It is almost like walking down a shadowy alley and wondering if something unexpected is going to jump out of the shadows. Only, you know it is going to happen. It is more about the when.

Most of the stories were not my cup of tea, so to speak, but I learned something about them all the same. It doesn’t matter what the reader is into, it is about drawing the reader into your fantasy. Things I would never find sexy, I still found intriguing and interesting. When something is written well enough, it almost doesn’t matter the content. You can appreciate it. And that’s what I did, I read. And studied.

And finally, I got it.

There was no way I could write erotica without reading it. Without studying this genre. Without embracing and appreciating it for what it is.

I’m excited more than ever about venturing into this genre, as well as, many others. I feel like the only way I can become a really great writer is to constantly push myself to try new things. Not all of them may work, but at least I’ll learn something in the process.

Why?

“Because I said so.”

I never thought I’d be the parent to speak those words. But it turns out, I was wrong. At least fifty times a day, I’m asked why. And most of the time, I manage to answer patiently. But sometimes I honestly don’t know what else to say. All I know is the question makes me grind my teeth at the end of a long day. I even swear the word why haunts me even when I’m alone, especially when I’m trying to sleep, and trying to write.

But asking this question also helps improve my writing. These are some frequent ones that pop into my head:

Why does this matter?

Why does she love him?

Why does she react this way?

Why does this motivate her?

Why is she afraid of this?

Asking these questions, and others like them, are a great way to dive deeper, to make sure I understand my characters on every level. My readers might not know the whys of everything I write, but I want to make sure I do.

What are some other great why questions that help you as a writer?

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