Monday, June 29, 2009
I don't know who first said that, or even if I quoted it right, but I love the sentiment, the invitation to strive to make your dreams come true. Dreams are achievable for those willing to work for them.
Do you want to grab those stars?
The best way to nab them is to develop a game plan. Here are a two simple steps that will help.
Although the strategy is effective for any dream, if you're visiting this site, chances are you want to be a successful author. First, break your dream down into its components. Each component then becomes a goal.
As an example of goals for writers, consider these:
* Improve your writing skills (an on-going process).
* Write ________ words per day toward a book.
* Finish the manuscript within _______ amount of time.
* Finish your edits within _______ amount of time.
* If you haven't already, research the agents and editors who might be interested in your work.
* Develop the query letters and submission packets according to the requirements of the professionals you've researched.
* Send out your masterpiece to those most likely to help you succeed.
All of us have to factor "real life" into our goal setting. We have to divide our time among the many demands of our families and our obsessive love of writing. Make your goals realistic, but challenging. I'd rather fail to write 5000 words per week, than succeed at a goal of 2000 knowing I could've done better.
In the words of Monte Alkire, champion rodeo team roper and author of the motivational book, Rope Your Dream, "When you choose your goals, you need a clear understanding of whether you are going to try to jump over a picket fence, a clothes line, or a windmill." It's up to you to decide how high a leap each goal will be.
Second, measure your successes. If you want to know whether your writing is improving, enter contests and allow your scores to be your measurement. Join a writing group (I recommend christianwriters.com), submit your work for peer review and read the responses. Do they improve with each submission?
If you are in the writing or editing stage, make a chart that shows how many words or chapters you wrote/edited each day. Is your synopsis done? How many editor/agent letters did you write? As Monte says, "What gets measured gets done."
Once you've sent out your query letters, your dream is out of your hands. We long for immediate acceptance; we crave the quandry of determining which eager publisher is offering the best deal for our efforts.
Chances are stronger we'll cry over rejection letters. Wipe away the tears and study the letters. What advice is offered that will make you a better writer? Set new goals based on the advice.
Perhaps you're one of the lucky few whose work was accepted. From here on, you have an entirely different set of goals. Do you have a marketing plan? Have you begun building your platform?
Maybe you've already been published and have a book on the market. You're goals are different, too. Are you contracted to write others? Are you prepared for your book signings and promotional events?
Wherever you are in the process, the dream is the same: to become a successful author. Your idea of success may be to publish the one book that expresses all you wish to convey. You may measure success by contracts, dollar signs, and name recognition. "You know what you want, you set the goal, and you assess the results."-Monte Alkire.
This is where I stand in my dream:
My novel, Give the Lady a Ride, is finished (finally!) and ready to hit the publication trail. My tasks for this week are to research publishing options and develop my submission packets. By the end of the week, my goal is to have my query letters and synopses at least sketched out. I may be giving myself too much time, I don't know; but I have around twenty people coming July 4th, so between preparing for them and doing the research, I think I'll be lucky to have anything to show for my efforts! I'll give you an update and let you know whether I succeeded.
Do you know your dream? Do you have your goals set? Are you achieving them? Write me using the e-mail function on the right sidebar and let me know how you're doing, or just leave a comment below. We can encourage each other.
"Success is up to the individual. No one cares whether we succeed or fail; it's up to us." Monte Alkire, Rope Your Dream.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Huge thanks to Liberty Speidel of the Word Wanderings blog for awarding AuthorCulture the "Love Ya" Award!
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And now a little Trekkie wisdom on the writing process...
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
You can view the first three articles in this series here: The Making of a Book Trailer ~ Day 1, The Making of a Book Trailer ~ Day 2, The Making of a Book Trailer ~ Day 3.
Okay, we are plunging into our last post on how to create book trailers, for now. This post covers how to use the free Windows Movie Maker software, but at the bottom of the post I also mention Adobe Premiere Elements and do a little comparison.
On your computer you should have a free little program called Windows Movie Maker. It should be at Start/Programs/Windows Movie Maker (in XP). If you don’t have it already you can get it here. While I’m not really impressed with Windows Movie Maker, I'm discussing the use of it here since it is free.
Open WMM and in the left hand column click on ‘import pictures’. Then import your music and sounds from the ‘import music’ link at the same location. Save this collection under a recognizable name for future use.
Towards the bottom of WMM you will see ’show storyboard’ and if you click it it will change to ’show timeline’. Make sure you are on the timeline. Then select the music piece you want to use for your opening and drag it to the audio track. If needed, you can clip the track. Just drag the ends of the track to the correct point. (You can see more details of the timeline view by clicking the ‘+’ magnifying button.) Right clicking on the track will give you options for volume, fade in, fade out, etc. If you have a second (or more) piece of music that you want to use, drag it down to the audio track too and edit it to your specifications.
Now you can start dragging pictures to the Video track. (If you magnify your timeline so that it is as large as it will go, these next steps will be easier for you.) I like to have my pictures change on the beats of the music. This means that you will need to lengthen or shorten your picture duration to match your music. On the audio track you can see the pattern your music makes. This will help you to match the beats. Keep in mind that if you are going to add words to your pictures they will need to be visible long enough for people to read the words. So you may need to skip a couple beats to make this work.
Once you have your pictures approximately where you want them to be, you can start adding your synopsis. Select your starting picture, make sure that the menu under ‘edit movie’ is showing, and click on ‘Make Titles or Credits’. Select the appropriate option you want and enter and edit your text. Keep your written segments short and concise so that the end-viewer will not have trouble following your train of thought. Repeat this process for all pictures you want to add words on.
Once all your words are entered, you can start adding video effects and transitions. Have fun experimenting with these because they will add panache to your movie. These will slightly change your transitions from one picture to the next so you may have to do a little more editing on the length of your pictures to get them to transition at the correct time to match your music.
If you want to add sound effects you will need to finish your movie (as we will talk about in a moment) and then reimport it as a video. Then you will be able to add a second layer of sound to the movie.
To finish your movie click on Finish Movie/Save to my computer. I suggest you don't use the preinserted settings - some people will have trouble getting it to stream. Save it a little smaller.
WMM has a drawback, and that is that you can only add one layer of sound. So if you want a second layer of sound you will need to finish your movie, and then import the video into WMM and then you can add a second layer of sound. I tried to do this with my trailer, because I wanted the sound of water playing in the background to 'link' my two songs together. The problem with this is that when you import your movie, add the second layer of sound and finish the movie again, it has bad effects on the quality of your pictures.
Solution to this problem is to use Adobe Premiere Elements which is a much stronger program than WMM. You can put in several layers of sound right up front. The other great feature about APE is that it will connect right to YouTube for you and upload the video via FTP - all you have to do is input your YouTube username and password. The quality of APE is much better too. I bought a fairly old version of APE on eBay for around $30.00 - so you can get it for not too much. Below I'm linking to two versions of my trailers so you can see the difference in quality between WMM and APE.
Once you've reached this point, you are ready to upload your movie to YouTube or GodTube. On July 1st I will also be posting a list chock full of places you can upload your videos to.
I would love to see your trailer so please comment with a link to yours.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Of all the people I have personally "cyber-met," Lynn Mosher is one of the best at self-promotion. Lynn is everywhere-–Twitter, FaceBook, ChristianWriters.com, ShoutLife, among other sites. And her devotional blog, Heading Home, is on the rolls of most of the blogs I visit.
Let me tell ya, the woman gets around.
According to her bio in Twitter, Lynn is "a writer seeking to follow God’s lead in all things." So far, God has led her to be published in the 3.1.6 Journal, and on-line in Comfort Café, The Secret Place, Granola Bar Devotionals, Inner Fulfillment, and Christian Books for Women. Plus, she’s a contributor for We Used To Be You, Perpetual Magazine, Conversation Café, 4Him2U, Delve into Jesus, GEM Ministries, and The Life: Devotionals for Women. To say she’s a prolific blogger would be an understatement.
Lynn has fibromyalgia, a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain, tender points, and fatigue. Because of her condition, I was amazed that she could keep up with everything she does on the internet.
She explained, "Because all my children are grown and have left the nest, and because I have fibromyalgia, my days are all pretty much the same and my own…spent at home writing, reading, and trying to keep up. Since I have joined so many groups, needless to say, I don’t visit them all as often as I would like. One can only do so much to keep up."
I’m glad she agreed to take time from her busy schedule to be with us.
AC: I met you in ChristianWriters.com, but I’ve also seen you in Twitter, Facebook, and ShoutLife. How many on-line social groups do you belong to?
Lynn: LOL! This may sound like a strange answer but I am in the process of making a list of groups and sites that my husband would need to contact in case I leave this earth. I’m embarrassed to say how many, so let’s just say that it is over ten.
With so much happening in cyberspace and in the literary community, if you do not join at least a few forums or groups, you miss great sites and links that can be of enormous help to any writer.
AC: Books are written, courses are held, and blogs are designed to teach people how to connect as well as you have. Did you read/use any of them? Is your visibility part of a plan?
Lynn: When I joined ChristianWriters.com two years ago, I knew very little. Well, probably nothing!
I watched what others did and listened to the advice of experienced writers. While I haven’t taken any courses or read any books on networking, I have devoured what I could from others’ blogs or sites and anything or anyone that was linked to another site that looked useful.
Since the qualifications for becoming a published author have changed over the years, a writer must now have a platform, or presence/name recognition, which is of utmost importance. With my introvertish personality, this has been difficult. But I have pushed myself and what I have found is this…I am more interested in the people with whom I become connected than I am with my platform. If my platform is accomplished along the way, great! But I’m more interested in the people.
As for having a plan, it may be a loose one but having one’s name and photo in many places does help for recognition.
AC: Do you have a particular theme or general topic you promote in the groups you belong to?
Lynn: While some may carry through on a theme, I don’t think I have, except for one criterion: that it is Christian. Whether it is a writing site or just a social ning [a ning "is an online platform for users to create their own social websites and social networks"], I prefer it to be Christian. Since I believe that God has called me to write, the path where He has led me is within the Christian community…to be a benefit and an encouragement to Christians.
AC: While I was "stalking" you, I noticed you did very little in the way of self-promoting. With the exception of three tweets advertising your posts on different sites, most of your tweets on Twitter were personal messages to others. I went through the sites I knew you belonged to, and counted 2,443 total people who considered you a friend or someone to follow, although I’m sure many overlap from one site to another. Have you grown close to any of them?
Lynn: Holy moly! You know me better than I do! LOL! Well, let me say first and foremost, as for Twitter, I do not believe in garnering numbers of people just for numbers’ sake. I search out very few people but my "friends" list grows every day and it gets harder to keep up with all of them. I want to be acquainted with people, not just have a list of names following me.
I have become very close to a number of people, through the writers’ forum [on ChristianWriters.com] and especially through Twitter. I had the privilege of meeting, in person, one writer/poet that I met on Twitter. Her husband was born and raised where I live. So they visit here occasionally.
I was to meet another gal I met on Twitter when she came here for a business seminar but I wasn’t able to see her. There are a few others that I have almost met and hope to sometime in the future. It is great fun to put a face and voice with the fingers that type out the messages.
AC: What are the benefits of belonging to so many groups? Have the followers of Heading Home increased? Did you become a contributor to other blogs as a result of membership in these groups? Have you ever been asked to be a guest blogger?
Lynn: The variety of information that can be acquired from multiple sites is very beneficial. You can accumulate a wealth of links and advice.
Have my followers increased? Oh, yes. I have sitemeter installed on my blog, which tells me how many people visit my blog and, most of the time, their referral URL. Many come from Twitter.
I have been asked three times to contribute to other sites either on a regular basis or as a guest blogger as a direct result of being connected to people through these sites. I’ve been told that visitors increased for others’ sites. I remember one site owner reported a spike in her visits, but as far as a sustained readership for her site or others, I do not know. I believe my numbers have also increased, but, again, it would be hard to say if all of the readers have remained steady customers, though I don’t believe that my numbers decreased drastically.
Lynn’s final thoughts: "I have learned a great deal but I still have a long way to go. I am still in the process of learning and absorbing all I can. As things change, there is always something else to learn."
I have to admit, I had an ulterior motive for interviewing Lynn: I wanted to explore a theory.
Everyday, those of us involved in building a platform, developing that name recognition Lynn mentioned, are bombarded by others trying to do the same. Everyone is so busy singing their own praises that the truly praise-worthy go unnoticed.
Lynn’s popularity in certain circles is growing because she is more interested in the people than the numbers. Those people get curious and check out her site. They tell others, who also check out her site. Word of mouth–or in computer language, word of mouse–can go a long way. Numbers are great, but loyal fans are even better. And fans become loyal to those who spend the time to get to know them.
So, go out and pitch away. But don’t become robotic–all pitch and no heart. Get to know your fans.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
and The Making of a Book Trailer ~ Day 2
Okay, so you have your pictures and have a pretty good idea of where you are headed.
Now, I suggest that you sit down and write out the short synopsis of your book that you will use in making the trailer. Remember to keep it short! Your trailer should not exceed 3 minutes in length.
What is the tone of your novel? If it is humorous, try to highlight that in your synopsis. If it is literary then stay in that genre. In other words, no comedic trailers for a book with a serious tone and vsv.
You will need music to match the tone you want to set. Music, again, is many times copyrighted. But many pieces are licensed under various creative commons laws. Please be sure you look at the CC license of each piece, as some are not licensed for commercial use. That being said, here are a few sites that offer free music and/or sound bites. Also check out Stonewashed and Incompetech which both have some great music. Another site I found in my web-wanderings is: http://creativecommons.org/legalmusicforvideos/. Also, thanks again to Cindy for pointing out http://www.podsafeaudio.com/. If you come across any other sites that offer free music, please feel free to post a comment.
So, write your synopsis and download your music (to the same folder as you downloaded your pictures earlier) and next time we’ll put it all together.
The Making of a Book Trailer ~ Finishing Up
Monday, June 15, 2009
Whether you’re at the beginning of a new novel adventure or floundering somewhere in the middle of an ongoing project, following are five considerations about POV that may help you make the right choice for your story:
1. Choose the POV of the character who has the most at stake. Toward the end of my recently completed fantasy novel Dreamers Come, I needed to write a tense scene in which the hero reveals some tragic news to his allies. I struggled with the scene for several days, writing and rewriting from my hero’s POV. Then, suddenly, it struck me: I was writing from the wrong POV. My hero was not the character with the most to lose in this scene. Because I had already dramatized his discovery of the tragedy in a previous scene and because he had already come to grips with it, his POV in this scene provided nothing new. In fact, all my attempts to inject drama felt repetitious in light of the foregoing scenes. With that in mind, I looked around for the character who would be most affected by the news, and suddenly my scene took flight. All the tension, drama, and angst I had been searching for immediately came to the forefront when I switched to a character whose emotions were at a keener pitch.
2. Choose the POV of the character with the most interesting voice. The character you choose as your main POV will influence the entire tone of the novel. It’s often wise to take a look past the obvious choice of POV and see what your other characters have to offer. Several years ago, I very nearly burnt myself out writing and rewriting the first fifty pages of a World War II drama that refused to cooperate. I had my plot perfectly mapped out, I was completely in love with my characters, and I knew exactly the tone I was striving for. But I couldn’t quite achieve it. My innocent, naïve, and sweet-tempered heroine just didn’t have the chops to carry the narrative. After setting the manuscript aside for several months, I realized that perhaps I had been telling the wrong story all along. I switched POVs to the decidedly snarky, cynical viewpoint of an American reporter, who had been a minor character up to that point, and suddenly the narrative took off.
3. Select multiple POVs with care. It’s often tempting to share everything, that every character is thinking. But few stories (not to mention readers) can handle a plot that includes twenty POVs. Less is very often more. In fact, some of the most powerful novels are those that focus on a single POV. Additional POVs may alert your reader of additional details, but they can also water down the force of the main POV. It’s important to realize that readers don’t need (or even appreciate) knowing every little detail. Sometimes what you don’t say is more powerful than what you do. Plus, the fewer POVs you have, the less risk you run of either boring or confusing the reader.
4. Play around with voice and tense. Once you’ve mastered the basics of POV (particularly learning how to recognize and avoid the universal beginner’s habit of “head hopping”), POV becomes an exciting playground, full of all kinds of possibilities. Many writers find a niche in one voice or another and stay there. But don’t be afraid to play around. My first eight novels were all written in third-person past tense. Now, as I’m preparing to dive into my ninth novel, I can’t begin to elaborate how excited I am to be playing around with new narrative possibilities. First-person present tense is already promising to force me to stretch my writing skills in ways I’ve never imagined.
5. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope. It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in “the rules”—particularly when it comes to POV. But the truth is, once you’ve learned what the rules are, there’s no longer any reason for them to exist. Playing around with POV, bouncing off the ropes, and pushing yourself to new heights is challenging, exhilarating, and sometimes even earth-shattering. POV is a prime area for author experimentation. So have at it, and have fun! And please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear about your own experiences in choosing the right POV for your stories.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Okay, so hopefully you’ve had time to view a few book trailers and now have an idea of what you would like yours to look like. To see what mine looks like you can go here. (Ignore the "now available" info. 'cause it's not quite true yet. :) I put up the brand new trailer just for you all to take a peek at.)
The next step in creating your book trailer is to find the pictures. It will be helpful to you if you have a specific idea of what you are looking for. So take a few minutes to plan out your trailer.
When looking for pictures keep in mind that many of the pictures on the Internet are copyrighted. There are several sites where you can sign up for an account and buy pictures for a fairly reasonable fee. There are also several sites where you can get free pictures - but many of them you have to sign up for an account. Just do a google search for ‘free pictures’ or something along that line and you will get plenty of returns.
I would also like to say thanks to Cindy for bringing my attention to http://www.morguefile.com/. You can use images from that site with freedom to edit them and you don't even have to keep track of attributions.
Alright, you are ready to go! Have fun downloading your pictures. I recommend that you download more than you think you will use.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Creating a book trailer will be one of the most enjoyable aspects of your marketing experience. I had a lot of fun creating mine.
Before you launch into creating your trailer you need to decide on the style you like. So, first, go to YouTube and search for the term ‘book trailer’. Watch a few and get a feel for the type that intrigues you. You can also find several Christian ones on OakTara's website. I personally find an author yammering on in front of his bookcase about what a great book he’s written pretty boring. But, that may be just the kind that gets your attention and makes you want to pick up the book.
Keep costs in mind as you peruse the trailers - cost in time as well as money. When I started to create the book trailer for my first book, Rocky Mountain Oasis, I wanted to use video clips. This book is a historical romance, so I was looking for clips of cowboys and western themes. I found some and was very excited until I saw the cost! One short 20-30 second clip ranged from $1000.00 to $5000.00! That’s quite a lot of mulla when you consider that you will need several clips to make a movie. Now, if you have your own video camera you can create your own clips. But consider the time it will take, not to mention finding ‘actors’ to model for you etc. For this reason I chose to use still pictures. We’ll talk more about where to find them later. Once you’ve decided what style of book trailer you want to create, you are ready for the next steps.
I am going to talk specifically about how to create the movie-type book trailer using still pictures. But even if you want to create a different style, I’m sure you will be able to glean some tips from the next several posts. So I hope you will tune in next time to learn more.
The Making of a Book Trailer ~ Day 2
The Making of a Book Trailer ~ Day 3
The Making of a Book Trailer ~ Finishing Up
Friday, June 5, 2009
Most of us were brought up with the maxim “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything all.” But if you absolutely must insult someone, learn a thing or two about panache from the masters of wordcraft:
“A graceful taunt is worth a thousand insults.”—Louis Nizer
“I feel so miserable without you, it’s almost like having you here.”—Stephen Bishop
“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”—Winston Churchill
“A modest little person, with much to be modest about."—Winston Churchill
“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.”—Clarence Darrow
“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”—Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)
“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.”—Moses Hadas
“His ears made him look like a taxicab with both doors open.”—Howard Hughes (about Clark Gable)
“He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others.”—Samuel Johnson
“He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.”—Paul Keating
“He had delusions of adequacy.”—Walter Kerr
“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it ”—Groucho Marx
“He has the attention span of a lightning bolt.”—Robert Redford
“They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.”—Thomas Brackett Reed
“He inherited some good instincts from his Quaker forebears, but by diligent hard work, he overcame them.”—James Reston (about Richard Nixon)
“Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?”—Mark Twain
“A solemn, unsmiling, sanctimonious old iceberg who looked like he was waiting for a vacancy in the Trinity.”—Mark Twain
“His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.”—Mae West
“She is a peacock in everything but beauty.”—Oscar Wilde
“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”—Oscar Wilde
“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.”—Oscar Wilde
“He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.”—Billy Wilder
“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support rather than illumination."”—Andrew Lang