Thursday, July 7, 2016

Writing: It's a Piece of Cake

I don't know how many times I've heard non-writers say how easy it is to write. Some say we sit at home on our butts all day. Well, yes, I do write from home, and that does, in fact, involve a lot of sitting on my butt.

"Writing is easy. Anyone can do it." Well, I somewhat agree. The millions and millions of books on Amazon are proof of that. The act of writing is easy and anyone who has a computer, or even a pen and piece of paper, can do it. However, writing something people will want to read isn't so easy. It's the difference between making a box of brownies, which takes no skill at all, or as complicated as a whipping up a fresh-baked eclair. Just because I can make a mean box of brownies doesn't make me a master baker.

The reason I'm writing this post is to explain that I, as well as a lot of other writers, don't simply sit on our butts doing nothing all day, which I feel a lot of people assume if you're a big-name author. Aside from writing my tenth novel, I also have marketing to do; social pages to maintain and keep going, messages to answer and send, promotions to handle, and readers to (somehow) keep engaged until my next book release. Not only that, but I also have to stalk research agents and write query letters *said with loathing hostility* for those who I think might be a fit for me and my work. And did I mention the book events, both online and in person, I have to plan for and attend? There's always something I need to do. Even when I'm relaxing, I'm working, writing the next chapter in my head.

Writing, for me, isn't just a hobby, it's my career, which I work very hard to maintain and try to build. Unlike some jobs, my success and salary doesn't rely on my boss or my co-workers; it relies solely on me. If I fail, there's no one to blame but myself. If I don't work hard, I don't get paid.

Writing isn't just about writing; it's a business. 

Am I complaining? Not at all. I'm beyond blessed to be able to work from home doing something I love. However, the fact that I do work from home, or spend that time 'making up stories', doesn't mean I don't do anything all day.  

First off, writing isn't simply about sitting down and making crap up. One has to do research, make an outline, or at least a list of characters and scenes, locations, that sort of thing. Once that's done, the story has to be planned out. Once all the prep-work is put in, that's when the actual writing begins. However, even that is a process, since it doesn't always happen as freely as I'd like. For instance, I recently wrote and deleted the ending to my last manuscript, Your Worst Fears, not once, but four times. (Four times!) Deleting chapters is painful. I'm not only deleting words when I do that; I'm causing all the time spent on those chapters to be wasted. Ugh! 

Once the story is finally finished, the editing begins, which is a time consuming process, but is detrimental in the success of any book. During this time of transition, I'll start on formatting and cover design, which I usually do myself. These two things, alone, are enough to make any sane person rip their hair out.

What I'm getting at is that there's more that goes into writing than just sitting on our butts and playing on the computer. Like any other job, if I don't write and market what I write, and do both well, I don't make money. And the fact that I write from home doesn't mean I don't work. I don't have the usual 8:00-5:00 hours, but I do have hours--writers' hours, which may be day or night, depending on when inspiration hits me. There's been many nights when my husband ran me out of bed because the key tapping at midnight was driving him nuts.

I'm so thankful I was blessed with a vivid imagination and the ability to tell a story. I'm also thankful I can call myself a published writer, I just wish more people understood the process. Writing's not just typing words to make a sentence, putting them together to form paragraphs, which leads to a chapter, ultimately filling a book. It's a long, drawn out process that includes a lot of hours (sitting on my butt), hair pulling, growling (yes, I sometimes growl), worrying, and, when I'm lucky, celebrating when it's all over. If it didn't include all these things, then I'd know I wasn't doing it right.

Writing, for me, can be mentally exhausting and makes my eyes want to pop out, but I love every minute of it. Would I rather be a nurse, cop, or in the military? Heck no! Those are some of the toughest jobs there are, in my opinion. I'll gladly stick to writing stories that allow readers to get lost in another world for a small part of their day. Books, to me, are a gift--a free adventure I can go on at any given moment from wherever I happen to be--and I'm glad that I'm able to be a part of that.

So, when it's all said and done, is writing a piece of cake? Well, I guess that depends on your taste and pastry skills.

Until next time...

Friday, July 1, 2016

Wattpad for Writers

To Wattpad or not to Wattpad... that's the question.

In the book and writing world, there are many varying opinions regarding Wattpad. The ones that surprise me the most, however, are the ones that come from writers. After speaking on a panel at the Rocket City Lit Fest last year, an attendee said they thought Wattpad was useless and a waste of time for writers, since it was putting your work out there for the world to read for free. Well, I'm sure Anna Todd, now a NY Times best-selling author because of her After series, which was originally 'just a Wattpad story', disagrees. Her simple Wattpad story has been picked up by Paramount Pictures, so this is proof that Wattpad has its perks.

Why Wattpad?

The real question, in my mind, is why not? Firstly, you have the potential of gaining new readers who may enjoy your writing so much they become loyal readers, purchasing anything you write. Secondly, you get free feedback from readers who are (sometimes brutally) honest about your story and writing. This information is vital to authors and often gets sugar-coated by beta readers. Personally, I only have a handful of betas, but with Wattpad, I have thousands. 

Aside from the free feedback, there are many Wattpad stories, like After, that have garnered a huge following, not to mention a loyal fan base, and have gone on to be published, with some being optioned for film. Many literary agents and publishing houses are taking notice, as well. Why wouldn't they? Everything they want to know is right there; author's writing ability, story interest, established fan base. It's the perfect hunting ground for a possible next best-seller.

Oh, did I mention WATTPAD STUDIOS???

With all that being said, not everyone who uses Wattpad will become the next big thing, no matter how amazing your story is. The sad truth is that many stories get lost in the vast ocean of other stories, and a lot of those stories are even better than the ones that have gone viral with millions of reads. In the grand scheme of things, it seems to be the luck of the draw as to which stories get read and voted on and which ones don't. However, there are ways to help your stories get seen and establish a following.

Get Your Story Featured

Wattpad has it's own list of stories that are featured by category on their home page. This is the list all readers go to when they are looking for a new story to read, so you want yours on that list. The list is chosen by Wattpad staff, but you can request that yours be considered. For all the information you need on how to have yours considered, click HERE

Be Social

Wattpad is not only a reading site, it's a social site, so be social. When someone comments on your story, reply back to them. If they vote on a chapter, thank them for voting. Find stories you like in your genre, add them to your reading lists and comment/vote on them, as well. It's like being at a party; if you sit in the corner and expect everyone to come to you, you're more than likely going to be partying alone, which is never any fun.

Be Punctual

Readers like knowing when you're going to update your story, so make sure you update regularly, preferably on the same day each week. Not only do readers like this, but you will, too, since updating regularly seems to help with your story's rank, keeping the interest flowing. When your story is in the top ten, or reaches number one, it only draws in more readers. So keep that story hopping, jumping right up that ranking list, and update weekly. Personally, I like Fridays, but whatever day you pick, let your readers know. 

Share Your Story

No one will read your story if they don't know it's there, so make sure you share it. Share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and any other social site you use. One of the great things about Wattpad is the ability to share stories, including your own, right from each page. When using their mobile app, they have cool tools that allow you to easily turn quotes into shareable photos, which are great for Instagram. 

Aside from sharing new stories, you can share samples of books you've already published. My published books are all on there, but only the first few chapters, giving new readers a sample, which has led to book sales. If you decide to do that, make sure your publisher is okay with it first.

Still Not Sure About Wattpad?

Wattpad isn't for everyone. 

Some writers don't want to 'give their stories away for free', even though that may very well be what puts their story in front of millions of new readers, which could include someone who can take that book somewhere besides a slush pile or lost on Amazon. To remedy that feeling, I added chapters from alternating POVs to my most-read Wattpad stories once published, making Wattpad readers want to buy it for the bonus chapters, alone. 

Some writers don't want their work being seen among some of the frivolous stories that litter Wattpad, thinking it's more of a children's/teen's site. Yes, Wattpad includes some younger writers who are a bit, shall I say, *clears throat* immature. However, Amazon does, too.

There are also several contests, as well, including the world's largest on-line writing contest, The Watty's. Harlequin even hosts a contest where the winner gets a contract. So, as you can see, some of the contests can be lucrative to many writers. 

Who's on Wattpad?

I am! And so are some amazing, best-selling authors, such as R.L. Stine, Jennifer Armentrout, and Colleen Hoover, just to name a few. There are also several movie profiles, companies, and even musicians, not to mention publishers, such as Harlequin and Source Books. All in all, there's some pretty cool people on Wattpad.

My Wattpad Experience

Haunted was the first story I posted on Wattpad, which was just an idea I had while in a funk writing the second book in my For Always series. Once it became a featured story, reaching #1 in paranormal, I wrote Unleashed, which never became a featured story, however, it still reached #1 in paranormal. Haunted was featured on the Paranormal Activity and Sinister II movie profiles as a promotional story, and Unleashed was featured on the Ouija movie profile, which I found to be super cool, being somewhat of a para-geek. Despite the fact that Haunted was thrown together rather quickly, and is my lowest rated book on Amazon to date, it has over half a million reads on Wattpad and is still my most popular Wattpad story. 

Because of the stories/sample chapters I've posted on Wattpad, I've gained new readers, been a part of some great groups of people, have made some great friends, and constantly get feedback on the things I've written. Sometimes I get involved in other things and can't post every week, which has happened lately, but I'm still gaining followers and new readers, despite my temporary absence. 

Am I a Wattpad All-Star with thousands and thousands of followers? Or do I have publishers filling up my inbox with contract offers? No, or shall I say, not yet. With Wattpad, you just never know what might happen. 

Be active. Be consistent. Be a part of it.