I Had My Characters Do What?!

A bit of fun today with some friendly writerly advice sprinkled on top.

We writers are sometimes caught up in our stories and gloss over the exact details of what we’ve written for our characters’ actions. If we’re lucky, readers skim over those details without stopping to think about the literal meaning of our words. But more likely, they’ll see them and have an unintended reaction. We don’t want that.

Good agents and editors should highlight these potential gaffs and ensure we fix them. But with so many writers going the indie route, the lack of serious quality control can be glaring. Good writers should identify and correct these problems before querying their manuscripts or directly publishing the books.

Thank heaven I caught these no-nos before I ask anyone to beta read the revised Summer at the Crossroads. Continue reading

Do Real Readers Read Unpublished Writer Blogs?

Psst. Over here. I mean you, real person—not that spambot in the corner, or the SEO guru sneaking into the room, or the flamer, or the troll, or whatever insider term I haven’t heard yet. I mean those of you who enjoy picking up or downloading books and reading them.

Can you help? You see, there’s a lot of blogging advice out there for unpublished writers like me—what we should blog, how to network, how often to blog, how to drive traffic to our blogs, how to establish our unique brand.

Here’s the kicker, though.

As we all work on the next great American novel or create the newest Harry Potter wannabe or try to launch the zombie-probing alien vampires who channel Jane Austen craze, we read all of this advice. And it says we have to build an audience before we even publish a book.

I thought YOU packed the probe. And wasn't Gortz supposed to bring "Pride and Prejudice?"

Does that make sense to you? Isn’t that like saying a band has to have an audience before it performs in public in order to get a recording deal? But every agent and editor and writing magazine and book tells us we must do this.

So we suck it up and start a blog (along with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and other time sucks social networking devices). A lot of us are here at WordPress. And you know what? We find each other.

Unpublished writers are good at finding each other’s blogs. And we follow each other and support one another as we try to finish our works, edit them, rewrite them, polish them, and hopefully make our way out of the slush pile and into a world where we can call ourselves published authors. Don’t get me wrong. That’s great.

But experience and blogging advice articles tell me many of us are bad at attracting readers—real people who read books and might someday read ours if we get them published.

Oops. That’s, um, like one of the main reasons we’re supposed to blog, right? To attract a reading audience?

So what do we do? We obsess think about this. We read blogging advice articles. We write posts about it. We make sage comments on each other’s posts. We ask what we should do.

But most of us don’t have good solutions. Well, maybe they are good, but they don’t often work. Why? Because most readers don’t have all day to read blogs. It’s hard to attract real readers to a writer’s blog unless the reader already likes that writer’s works. So unless you’re friend or family to an unpublished writer, that means you visit blogs of your favorite published authors when you have time. For the rest of us, it’s a chicken-and-egg thing or a Catch-22.

This wasn’t a problem for writers like Stephen King, Sue Grafton, or even a relative newcomer like J.K. Rowling. They were all successful authors before anyone even invented the idea of a blog. When they started blogging or any other social networking, hey, guess what? The audience was already waiting in the theater—stamping the floor and chanting their names.

What am I getting at, you ask? Well, you see, I’d love to get your ideas on how to improve unpublished writer blogs. What would interest you? Would you skim or ignore posts about writing hints or writer’s block but stick around for samples of a book-in-progress that sounded interesting? What would you like to know about the writer?

Sigh. But here’s the problem, of course. How many of you are even reading this post?