What makes a good writer?

What makes a good writer?

Geneva Kelly

Are you a writer, or insane enough to love one?

Suppose you had the chance to sit down with one of your favorite authors. Who would it be, and what would you ask?

If you’re the writer chances are you’ll ask: What was your inspiration? How did you get your big break? How long did it take before your work got accepted? My question would be, “What do I need to do, to become a successfully-known writer?”

If you are a writer’s lover on the other hand, your question may be, “When will they stop questioning everything?” I’ll make that one easy for you by saying NEVER.The word Write on a cork notice board

Just the other day he called me dramatic—my lover that is. It’s not my fault my story was about him! I could blame it on his eyes. I could say he threw me into a frenzy of anger because loving him is painful. Or I could do what I did: tell him that I remember everything he’s ever said! Blame it on the writer— not the girl.

Over the years I’ve wondered when and where, why and how for just about everything imaginable. But the one thing I have never wondered is what makes a good writer. It seems to be the only thing that makes total sense to me.

Being a good writer means creating stories in the middle of doing something else, without even expecting it to happen. It means being in tune with the world; being able to laugh at it, when you want to throw your hands up and slap the shit out of somebody. It means being Clark Kent at your day job, just so you can pay your bills on time, while locking up bad guys at night with the strength of your pen.

It also means relating to pain with compassion, or total disregard; whatever works best for the story. It’s knowing that at the end of the paper you spilled your guts, no matter what the outcome. You had no choice but to get it out!

I’m aware that my writing comes from a place that sometimes has nothing to do with me. It comes from a place I’m unfamiliar with and don’t even care to question. I can’t say that about much of anything else in life.

You know you are a good writer if what you write moves others to places that make them laugh, and cry. But you also have to be willing to laugh at yourself. I believe honesty has a vulnerability that can break through steel. Writers are taught that good writing means more than telling someone you had the best day of your life; a good writer shows them what if feels like to jump out of that plane (even if you bump your head on the way down).

A good writer is an architect. She enjoys straightening out the lovely mess in her head and structuring the roles of the ten or more people living there.

On the other hand- if you are the one in love with a writer, there are a few things you should know. You should be:

  1. Crazy.
  2. Patient. There are times when you will have to be more supportive than you want. (Like when your lover stops you mid-sentence because something you said just gave them a new idea for a story.)
  3. INTERESTING. Writers just don’t do BORING very well.  Sorry for the bluntness, but at times we have to make something out of nothing and in order to do that, we need some inspiration.
  4. Good in bed. Ok- this could just be a personal opinion, but writers are liberated by passion. We breathe it, sleep it, see it when it barely exists; if you want to see our creative juices flowing- it’s simple: get them flowing.

After reading Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing, I thought it was awesome that he emphasized how his wife’s unwavering belief in him pushed him forward. He said, had she doubted him, he may have given up on himself. For me, this confirmed the importance of supportive people in our lives.

I am intensely against horror films, so reading anything from Stephen King would seem almost unheard of to someone who knows me well. Something about a man chasing me down the hall with a large knife and a crazy grin, just doesn’t do it for me. Though now, I am able to understand the writing behind it, and I’m intrigued by how this man has mastered the craft.

I never expected him to have such a sense of humor; never expected to relate to his writing either. But after reading about his life, he no longer seemed so creepy. After I finished the book, I even listened to the CDs. Hearing Stephen’s explanation of his story inspirations, amazed me.

I got a kick out of it when my son’s father questioned why I, (of all people) was listening to Steven King? While he (of all people) was listening to Pastor Joyce Myer (after my suggestion). I’m laughing because Joyce doesn’t care for horror films either. Though I’m pretty sure she would say, “Love the man, not his actions.”

There are plenty of things I say and do that I’m sure will warrant forgiveness. But I think as far as writing goes, I wouldn’t  forgive myself if I didn’t make it my business to share my stories with the world. Even with all my misspelled words, and failed attempts at punctuation; if I didn’t write, I would not know my purpose.

So I think that’s what makes a writer good. When you can’t think of anything else that you crave doing; when you have to make a story of something, nothing, anything, or—you know- your lover.

If plain yes and no just don’t work for you because all the details matter; or if you can describe the way something tastes, smells or feels, so that someone else can enjoy it just the way you did- then you know you are on the right track. And if by not writing, it feels like someone took out one of your lungs, and the only way to breathe is to write that breath back into your life- then you know you are a good writer.

     Oh man- I am dramatic!

March 2016

This month I have to rehash old business. Last year I told you how to get a searched link out for marketing to show Amazon that lots of people were searching for your book. As is the norm on the internet though, things are always evolving.

Amazon quickly got wise to this tactic and added a tiny bit of information to each search that now prevents this from being a useful tactic. There is actually a time stamp within the link now.

So! Long and short of it. Back to using the original link they provide you in your KDP account. It look like this http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B018TDAYHS Everything past the capital letters in the link is all excess and can be deleted.

If you took my advice and went and got a shortened link from bitly or another service, you can simply go change the link there and all your marketing is still intact with the new updated link.

February 2016

GoodReads reviews

Since Amazon owns GoodReads, the reviews on there hold quite a bit of weight with the eBook selling giant.

To get reviews on GoodReads though, you need to begin by giving reviews. Not in exchange, but to build a report with people, so when your book needs reviews you can politely ask if they might return the favor.

Always ask for honest reviews though. What is the point of getting a fake one? Do you truly want your book to claim what it’s not?

If you do get a lower review than what you expected, simply use the advice and revise your book to make it better. Then ask the same person to check it out again.

January 2016

To hashtag or not to hashtag…

This past year, the hash-tag became more popular and migrated from just Twitter to many other social sites.

Now though, Facebook has decided they no longer want to be a part of the hash-tag coop. They will give any posts that have a # a lower quality mark, which means it will be seen by less people.

So your January Market Tip, use it on Twitter and Instagram, but do NOT use it on Facebook.

KWIZZLES

Carl Megill’s second book has been published called “KWIZZLES.” It’s a word game I created that uses trivia, jumbles and quizzes all in one. There are Kwizzles covering many topics (music, tv, movies, sports, personalities and more). It’s perfect for that puzzle lover, or trivia expert in your family. You’ll find it on amazon and at my website www.carlmegill.com. I hope you’ll check out this new and challenging game.

Mike Fuller releases SINK RATE

Snowbird author Mike Fuller, who spends the cold months in Naples and the rest in frosty Pennsylvania, has released the first in his Sam Deland Crime Novel series, SINK RATE. Years in the making, re-making and, with the help of a cast of several, Mike has finally published his first novel. A good guy – bad guy story of double murder in rural Pennsylvania that puts Corporal Sam Deland’s state police squad on the hunt for big city shooters. Published by Rogue Phoenix Press and available on Amazon, Mike has written a careful and compelling tale of police drama told by a colorful and diverse cast of characters.

Visit Mike at:  www.mikefullerauthor.com

 

Illinois Library Project

Gator Bait-A Tennis Team Mystery by Jeanne Meeks has been nominated by New Lenox Library for the Illinois Soon To Be Famous Author Project.

September

In honor of last week’s National Punctuation Day (September 24), the following is important information for every writer: ALL commas and periods go INSIDE both single and double quotation marks. There are absolutely NO exceptions to this rule.

September

Traditional publishers and agents expect a full platform typically, before they even look at an author. Don’t you suppose, even if you are an Indie publisher, you should also have this set up?

So, what is a full platform?

To begin with, you need at least the top five social networking sites. (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram) Then, add in GoodReads which is specific to books, and while you are at it, you should add an Amazon Author Central account.

Once you have those, you need an author website, and all of these places should interact with each other automatically. That means if you make a post on Facebook, it will also appear on your website and other compatible platform areas. (Facebook will play with Twitter, although Twitter doesn’t play well in return.)

I know some of you have book websites rather than an author website. I want to caution you here though. If you write more than one book, now you must go build a new website and push lots of marketing there. With an author site, you can simply add the new book to the home page and continue marketing to the same site.

I realize you may not be inclined to do all of this, although I must ask you this. Do you want the kind of infamy that E.L.James has? She didn’t become an overnight success because she had a great book. She did so with the use of this technique. The day she published her book, she had connections through social media with thousands of people, to which she sent word to go buy her book. In her first month she sold thousands of copies. This was all done with the use of a well integrated and well used platform. Then, because she sold so many, so quickly, she received a traditional contract in a few short months.

So it’s time to bite the bullet and get out there. YouTube is a great place to learn about all these things. It is where I go whenever something new is on the rise.

My Archive – by Gary McLouth

My Archive
by Gary McLouth

The den, euphemistically called “the office,” is walling in on the 7 X 3.5 ft. mahogany writing table. Book shelves long overstocked sprout files and layers of borrowed and purchased reading, but there’s still some floor space, and I know the contents of each pile, sort of. My wife remarks how I’m turning the cozy den into a “rat’s nest.” Since I was born in the Chinese year of the Monkey, I respond with scratching and giggling.

The scene reminds me of graduate assistant day at SUNY Albany. The Associate Director of the just launched NYS Writers Institute, where I had a position, asked his Assistant Director and me to get his “damned office” organized so he could keep his academic course material separate from the anticipated onslaught of Writers Institute business. The afternoon should be time enough for the job, he assumed.

The room layout was awkward, crammed by two bulky desks butted end-to-end, squeezed into the space where one might have been able to get to the windows that overlooked the courtyard three stories below. Tiers of books and files leaned precariously from floor-to-ceiling shelves along all available wall space. Boxes and an assortment of shopping bags littered the floor. There was just enough walk-around area for a tightly choreographed dance trio. And, the room was cold.

We started where most reasonable do when facing someone else’s office stuff. Laughter, hilarious laughter. Then, careful not to break anything, we sifted through reams of notes, papers, and copies of copies. A random collection of novels, short story collections, medical and law tomes, Bibles and dictionaries got sorted. Texts marked by paper clips and match books were stacked. When we got down to the surface of the desks, gritty scraps of paper and ripped magazine pages waited: phone numbers and names, phrases, indecipherable messages. We liked, “call me.” Clearly out of date, the scraps got scrapped. We wiped the desks clean and started on the bags and boxes. Mistake.

What to do when confronted by the self-collected hagiography of a man’s live? Beginning with love poems from the 1700’s, we did our best to arrange the mess into a kind of chronology. Books first, manuscripts second, personal letters last. The method helped clear a path to the open windows which let in the cold. It also exposed an Oakwood pole rack in the corner; it was draped with several heavy wool overcoats and two hand-knit mufflers. In a crook of moth-eaten collars, a little bird sat silent on her eggs.

I remember a look of discombobulation on our mentor’s face. Some nervous laughing and a timid retreat from the “new office.” As we passed down the long hallway, we heard a plaintive moan. “Where’s my novel?”

Years later, his mother and a trusted friend scoured every possible redoubt for the novel manuscript. Nothing. Sometimes I wonder whether the novel my mentor was looking for was in that archive of a rat’s nest, or whether he was uttering a Jobian epithet of despair. I don’t really know, but as things pile up around here, I take comfort in believing there’re some stories in my archive.

***

Feel free to leave a comment about your thoughts. What did it make you remember of your own life?