jacquelineb: (lonely Lawrence)
Branding iron in a coal fire

Branding – a bit extreme for this writer?

Sorry to disappoint any of the folks who are looking at the title and thinking I’m going to be discussing branding as a kink. No, I’m going to be looking at this idea of the author brand.

The idea of having a ‘brand’ is an oft-discussed topic online – particularly in reference to the blogging world, and no where more so these days with more and more writers joining the internet to self-promote, because that’s the way it’s all going these days, isn’t it? The basic idea is that you have something distinct to market your writing, something that you can pinpoint to to find the essential kernel of what makes it your work.

For me, I’ve always been a fraction resistant to this, and a little suspicious. One, marketing still feels a little strange for me (the tension between doing it to reach people and doing it for financial gain bodes uneasily). Two, and perhaps more importantly for me, I really had no clue what my author brand is or feels like. (Note, I think I have a bit more of a clue now.)

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Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

jacquelineb: (macaroons)

This past weekend I had hoped to write. Truly. I had hours to spare, and the story idea I wanted to focus on. The thoughts of that story turned like wheels in my mind.

But it didn’t happen.

I was blocked. Which, even though there are days where I avoid writing like the plague, was a very strange feeling. It was like the very idea of me opening up a word doc or a text file or anything to just start writing was just. un. bearable.

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Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

jacquelineb: (angelica fanshawe)

Why do I write?

I haven’t asked myself that question for a little while now. Or, more to the point, given it serious thought. If you were to ask me directly, I might say something like:

“Because I have to.”
“Because it’s a compulsion I can’t shake.”
“Because the alternative is unthinkable.”

Pretty dramatic answers, when put down on the page like that. But true. So very, very true.

The trouble is, lately, I’ve been forgetting that reason when I approach my writing.

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Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

jacquelineb: (lonely Lawrence)

A regular reader of Writing Anxieties asked if I would talk about the fact that there are just too many books to read. I will. But not today. ;) Instead, I’d like to focus on a related issue, one a bit more pertinent to the fears of a writer. And that is the over-crowded market.

For me, it’s why I don’t like going into a book store, or these days, browsing titles online at places like Amazon (the same applies to libraries and second-hand stalls at markets). For right in front of you is the constant reminder of all the other people out there who a) have had something published, b) are trying to make it too, and c) are vying for the same attention as you are.

Well, not always the same attention. I can’t say I’ll ever be in competition with the writers of flower manuals and books on deep-sea fishing. Even in fiction, I’m not really in competition with the likes of Jane Austen or Charles Dickens, or the other classics that have been around for years (me and Homer have no quarrel… or comparison. Anyway…). Children’s picture books, religious texts, tracts on thermodynamics are, likewise, no cause for concern. There are whole shelves of the store, in real life and virtual, that I can safely browse without the slightest anxiety bubbling up in me.

That leaves the rest of them. The popular fiction writers, the literary fiction writers, the other erotic writers, the speculative, the mystery… each of these I look at think ‘well… shit.’

There are a couple of things going on. One, the gnawing feeling of ‘why aren’t I there yet?’ Two, the overwhelming sense that there are so. many. names. that you just haven’t heard of, and the fear is that ‘well, even if I make it to publication, what if I become one of those names? And ‘also ran’, the one that maybe a handful of people read but is just not, well, read all that much?’ (To my mind, at least – one might hazard that these writers must have readers in order to have more than one novel out.)

I suppose there are a couple of tricks to this. Learning to be happy for the success of others, perhaps – but I think I’ll save my generousity for those I know personally, rather than Jane Doe, writer who I’ve never heard of but dang namit, has gone and managed to get herself out there. Another way of thinking about it is that it takes some of the awe and mystery out of publishing, that it turns out, rather than being something only a veeerryyy special select few can do, there are more people at this game than you might realise – so if they can do it, so can I.

In terms of getting the attention of a J.K. Rowling or a Stephen King (or in erotica, an E.L. James)… not sure with that one. On the one hand, having a name with that kind of impact would be awesome, but I’m slowly getting drawn to the appeal of not having that kind of following. Of having my name know by a few people, enough to keep me writing, enough people who appreciate it, and that’s it.

Of course this is all pie-in-the-sky stuff – need to actually get a novel, you know, finished, before any of this becomes relevant. But it is the kind of thing that can threaten to overwhelm a writer, and worth watching out for so it doesn’t ruin what should be pleasant experience, that of browsing and looking at and enjoying books.

Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

jacquelineb: (stark raving sane!)

When I say ‘this’, I don’t mean this post in particular. It seems I have at least a few readers for Writing Anxieties; I was delighted, and surprised, by the number of likes and reblogs the cross-post of last week’s entry got on Tumblr, and the productivity post generated some great discussion its GoodReads cross-post.

What I am referring to is the general question that, even if you finish a piece you are working on – be that a short story, a novel, a poem, a blog post, a script – one that you love dearly, or even just have a passing fondness for, will you have readers for it? Will people, after you unleash it onto the world – however that may be – take the time sit down and read it?

Without a reader, a writer can feel very bereft. It’s like shouting into a tunnel and only hearing your own voice back. There is something gratifying about hearing the amplification of your words, but the same sound repeated back, over and over, get a little dull, and kind of lonely.

I noticed this from the very first publication. When Filament came out, I held the hard copy in my hands, saw my name in print, and smiled…and silence followed. Granted, I’m not sure if that piece is the best thing I’ve ever written, so I doubt it would compel someone to seek me out for feedback and praise because they loved it so (or hated it – see my post from two weeks, but it was interesting to realise how much I had gotten used to near-instantaneous feedback from my days in fandom.

It was easier to get a sense of readership when I was still doing fanfiction on a regular basis. You post something, and very quickly, you had feedback. What I love about Archive of Our Own is that you see the hit counts for your work, and also, if people don’t want to leave a comment, they can leave ‘kudos’. It’s the closest approximation of a ‘like’ button you can get. That’s the thing I really adore about the like buttons. It’s the internet equivalent of the non-verbal signals you get in real life conversation; the nod, the understanding expression, the smile (or the applause). Because online, no one can see you smiling, or hear you laughing, if you don’t make it known that you are. Sometimes this can be hard to do because of that wonderful shield of anonymity the internet gives you is broken a little when you do that. But it’s also a nifty way of participating without the fears of putting down your thoughts for all to see.

But I digress.

These days, and from here on in, I suspect I’m going to have to prod people into giving me a response for my work (and lest anyone is sitting there thinking this post is intended to guilt-trip them into leaving feedback, that’s not my intention. I understand if you’d rather not or don’t know what to say or are unsure of how to say it, that’s totally fine). The trouble is, there is that fear I might be putting them on the spot. What if they don’t like it and are just being polite when they smile and hand it back to you? What if they aren’t shy about saying they think it was shit and give you a point by point breakdown of why they think it was crap? (Granted, this latter part isn’t a bad thing all the time and would in fact show they cared enough about the piece to have such a strong reaction, but hard to take at the same time). In my case, it’s that I write erotica, and not a lot of people I know in real life are that keen to read erotica (or as far as I know…feel free to disabuse me of that notion folks!) so I don’t really want to be flapping work under their noses that will either make them feel uncomfortable or just plain doesn’t interest them.

In a way, it’s easier with strangers. Or indeed the internet. With erotica, I know the circles I can go and post something in and probably get some response from it, be it criticism or praise. With the blog, I can at least register that people are reading along; I just pop over to Google Analytics and see the hit counts for the day (and yes dearies, there is a correlation between blogging consistently and site visits – who knew! ;) ) And people have been reading along, and commenting, and taking interest, and that is very assuring to know. I may worry that hordes of people won’t read this, but I figure if I don’t write it, no body ever will. So thank you folks. It’s nice knowing that you’re there. :)

Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

jacquelineb: (stark raving sane!)

Writers trade in words. We use them, play with them, manipulate them, use them to make sense of the world, to express ourselves, to obfuscate, to distract, to amuse, to affect. Words are the very root of our trade. Some might say that our true root is storytelling, but that is the remit of a narrative writer, either fiction or non-fiction. Words connect the novelist to the poet to the journalist to the screenwriter to the technical writer to the blogger to the cook writing up recipes for publication. We express ideas through the medium of words.

So why are they an anxiety for me? (Well, to be honest, it’s more of a general worry than a deep anxiety, but I’m curious to hear how other writers deal with it.)

Several reasons. I look at my work, and I see repetition of words, often in the one piece. ‘Oh look,’ I said on the second glance over a short story recently, ‘how many times have I managed to use delicious? Crap.’

I have fall back words too, the ones that keep cropping up not matter what I write. This could be when it is erotica in particular – ‘press’, and ‘against’ are two I notice. Let’s have a ponder why I could possible rely on those ones…

I worry that for a writer I don’t have a large enough working vocabulary. It’s not that I don’t know the meaning of lots of words – I’m not running to the dictionary with every page of literary novel, for instance. It’s more a matter of using them in my own work, and using them naturally, for at the same time you don’t really want to write a piece that looks like you’ve scooped out the contents of the thesaurus and dumped them on the page. I was criticised for this recently in something I did, and the critique-er wasn’t entirely incorrect – at the time I was writing, though, I did think it was necessary though because there are only so many times you can say ‘shiny,’ for instance. The smart thing, though, would be to recall that it’s a matter of selecting the right word for that precise moment.

A further thing I noticed is that I have a problem with little words, the filler words that are a symptom of first drafts. ‘still’, ‘then’, ‘just’, ‘even’ (actually, ‘even’ is very much part of how I write. A stylistic tic, maybe?) It’s like the apocryphal story of Mozart – instead of too many notes, too many words. This does get better with practice, and is a symptom I think of beginner writers, the need to overstuff a paragraph to make it absolutely clear what you mean, but in doing so, lose the overall effect; just as a four line caricature sketch can convey loads of personality, the correctly chosen four words can create an immediate, powerful image.

What helps me through this? A few things. One, to remind to myself to read more, and widely, to see how people make use of their words. Two, that I’ll probably get better the more I write and the older I get. Three, the Find function in most word programmes is very effective in weeding out repetition. ;)

Any other thoughts folk on words, words, words?

Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

jacquelineb: (lonely Lawrence)

I recently had an unfortunate fall out with a friend. Well, ex-friend now. I won’t go into too many details, but the blow up was sparked after this person having made a couple of comments that made it clear they did not like that I wrote erotica. In amongst the many things that were said (and there were many, many things said, on both sides), the idea came up that I don’t handle criticism well, and was defensive about the writing that I do because, deep down, I wasn’t sure that I really believed it was ok to be writing erotica.

It got me thinking about the different kinds of criticism that people involved in creative pursuits, if they take them seriously, have to deal with. And, of course, how I handle it.

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Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

jacquelineb: (beanstalk)

My writing anxieties post earlier this week was very pertinent to this article that I’ve just read:

Writer’s Cramp: In the E-Reader Era, a Book a Year Is Slacking

Got there from this post at Writer Unboxed, though, and this is worth remembering for sure!

Respecting Your Natural Rhythms

Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

jacquelineb: (stark raving sane!)

In April I made huge plans to write 5-6 new pieces and submit them. It felt like a challenge, but doable, sacrificing only a little bit of sanity. Unfortunately, I was knocked somewhat sideways by a small blow up in my personal life, and that took its own toll on my ability to sit down and write. I got some work done after I went on leave (am back at work as of today), but not as much as I’d hoped or planned.

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Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

jacquelineb: (autumn cliff)

(Really must not try update wordpress between 10-11pm – seems to slow right down and eat half my posts! So this is finished off from last night.)

There are benefits of a tight deadline you are determined to meet. For one thing, it focuses your energy and thoughts onto finishing it, everything else, the peripheral distractions, dropping away, or otherwise you figure out how to use those distractions as a genuine break from your work rather than as a time-sapping way to avoid doing your work. In the midst of writing this latest one, I was getting into Memrise, and it was a very nifty way of taking time out from the story, being both fun and productive and only taking up a little bit of time.

Trouble is though, that deadlines pass. Once they are gone, then so does my focus. I know there are other projects to do, I know there are other things to write, but after that extreme, tightly focus, almost forced energy, there is also the desire, and dare I say, need to have a break. Well, break-time is well and truly passed. True, I have finished reading one of the dragon books I’ve been meaning to for a while (review to come soon I hope), and yes, I have managed 700 words of a new story, but that one is irritating me as I have the crux of the sex scene, but I’m still figuring out the character dynamics, which are not coming easily. There is time before that’s due and it is only allowed to be short, so that’s something, but still, brain is trying to decide between that and half a dozen other projects I could be getting on with and it’s starting to bug me. Trouble is the simple ‘pick a direction out of a hat’ thought doesn’t really seem to have worked in the past, so that’s going to be a joy in itself finding the next one to really get my teeth into.

It worries me because it relates back to an earlier post I made about finishing things. If you can’t focus on one thing, or even two things, at a time, how can you possibly hope to get stuff done? Yet I know it’s doable, with a deadline breathing down my neck. Perhaps the thing to do is wait until a week before the next deadline?

Yes, you’re right – stupid idea that. Ok, off to work where maybe something will inspire me in the right way.

(On the bright side, I’ve had a big clear out of my Firefox bookmarks. That’s something, right? Right?)

Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

jacquelineb: (Default)

They say to beginner writers that the first, hardest step is starting, putting pen to paper, fingers to the keyboard. That to take that first bold stroke is what separates you from those who write and those who don’t.

I’m going to call bullshit on that. Because frankly? Starting something is easy. It’s the seeing it through and finishing it that’s the hard part.

It’s the same thing in other parts of life as it is with writing. Half begun projects of arts and crafts varieties litter many a house. Schemes of various corporations, think-tanks, universities, schools, and the rest of them, grand ideas that ultimately go no where.

Exactly the same with writing.

Ideas are easy. I can sit of an afternoon and have half a dozen, and even come up with a decent plot in the confines of my head. But it’s the putting it down on paper, structuring it, making it coherent to someone who is not you…that takes time.

What often happens with me is this: have idea. Put aside current work-in-progress that I’m slogging through. Type up notes for idea. Get into idea, and decide that it is going to flow brilliantly and smoothly and the process for this is going to be perfect and amazing and will work out so much better than any other project before. Keep writing. Hit wall. Freak out that this is not in fact the most perfect and amazing process of creating a piece. Assume this means there’s something wrong with me as a writer. Put work aside…or get distracted by another idea. Repeat.

And you can see what happens as a result. Work doesn’t get finished. And as much as any writing can be practice, the act of seeing something through to the end is part of that. I learned that when I properly won Nanowrimo a few years back. Two years before that I pounded out 50,000 words of what I now call draft 0.5 of the Dragon Novel, and while that large amount of words was an accomplishment, there was still a sense of not having quite made it. It was only in 2008 when I actually finished the story itself in 50,000 words that I felt that sense of having made it. Of course, it was a flawed piece, and needs a massive amount of revision, and may ultimately be a ‘trunk novel’ (I live in hope it will not be), but still, it was a sustained, complete story.

I’m still trying to get into the practice of finishing things. Getting better with it, but still, there is that anxiety of all the works in progress sitting in my writing folder. That I wonder will I ever finish all the works I have there, will I get back to them, will the work I’ve put into them before mean something. I am starting to learn that an unfinished work isn’t the end of the world, and that some ideas don’t just work as well as others, and that perhaps I did learn something while I was working on a piece that ultimately lead to no where. But it’s finishing stuff in the meantime too that needs practice. It can be like punching through concrete, or waiting for your forehead to start bleeding, but after that, the feeling is way better than the fretting over the unfinished.

Then I think about that really great idea I had while at work…

Mirrored from Edge of Genre.

jacquelineb: (Default)

As a writer just starting to get work published, though one whose been writing for a long time, this seemed like an appropriate place to start.

Will I succeed? It’s a thought that plagues all writers at some point. Even the most arrogant, because unless they are actually delusional, those who are so full of themselves and sure of their talent have their moments of doubt too. Trust me on this.

The thoughts that go through our heads on this topic are vast and numerous. Will I succeed, we think, as we read about the latest book deal for thousands of dollars or pounds for that awesome debut novel that everyone in the publishing industry is talking about. Will I succeedd, when the print and online media, writing blogs, publishing blogs, and off the cuff twitter remarks declare how hard it is to get published in today’s world, how the whole scene is changing with the uptake of eBooks and eReaders. Will I succeed, thinks the script writer, wondering who the hell amongst the people they know might have a line to someone who can get films made or plays produced, because it’s all about connections, don-cha-know? Will I succeed, when we look at the top ten best-sellers and wonder if our work just doesn’t fit any kind of marketable mould that could be sold.

Then we open up our word documents, stare at the blank page, and the fear of not succeeding, that all our efforts will be for nought, that we could put years and years of work into this and get precisely no where…and it paralyses us. (Or me at least.)

And that’s just the question of publication and production. Getting that first foot in the door is one thing, but then after that…you begin to wonder what actually counts as success. Am I successful, for instance? In some people’s eyes, yes. I’ve been published. And that is a really wonderful feeling. But then other questions come up. Will I be read? Will people remember my work in a long time to come, or will it just be a flash in the pan? Am I successful if the critics love me but my books sell poorly, or if I make piles of money while the critics groan and wish I never put pen to paper? Which of those counts as ‘success’?

Then we make a cup of tea/preferred hot beverage and contemplate these deeper questions. We wonder what our options are. Should I go for the traditional path of agent/publisher/print book? Do I try follow in the steps of eBook success stories like Amanda Hocking? Do I try for short stories, do I focus on my novel ideas, do I seek out network connections before my work is even finished? And what’s this social networking thing over here…

So many questions…but the answers will not come. Because I won’t really know if I am successful until, well, I am. Sure, I may have some predefined set of criteria that mark success, and I’ve hit the first one of those (publication), but will I be satisfied with just good feedback from people but no monetary gain? Will I be content to rake in the dollars but also the contempt of intelligent folks I respect? Will any of what I do matter?

All I can do is keep writing, keep trying to get work published, and hope.

And try not to be so anxious about this question. ;)

Mirrored from Edge of Genre.

July 2015

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