Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Let's Talk: Author Platfoms

I thought I would write a quick (and unplanned) post about author platforms because it is the topic we are discussing in my Contemporary Publishing class this week. How fitting since I just started this blog. Any way, at the end of this week we are to have formulated a marketing plan for our platform and hence the book. This whole process seems so trite to me because I don't feel like I, a whole person, can fit into a teeny-tiny ideal platform.

Here is what I mean: When I work on my novel, I write gritty and intense. There is always something happening, someone is dying or being chased or chasing someone else and time is running out. However, when I write these blog posts or school discussion posts, I tend to be sarcastic and sometimes rude, as my mother told me. I also like to be sarcastic, ironic and silly in my YouTube videos (which will be up later this week). But the point is, I am two very different writers depending on what I am writing. How do you build a platform by being two different people? Oh and the worst part is I am a third entirely different person in real life. I am shy, quiet and the biggest push-over you'll ever meet. Starting to feel a little like Cybil. Oh, don't judge me you know you are weird too.

It actually makes no sense to me to try and be only one persona for three reasons. First, I feel like my writing would fall flat because changing my blog to match my fiction or vice-versa would feel wrong. It wouldn't be organic anymore but rather a marketing tactic and I know all of you would see right through it. Second, I would get bored. I'll admit I like other things. My whole life does not revolve around this one persona. I have many like: mother, wife, daughter, housekeeper, chef, student, seamstress, runner (ahem walker), zombie-lover, hop-scotch champion... You get the point. And finally, it probably is more beneficial for me to just be myself and let the chips fall where they may. Either you like me or not. And if not then I probably wouldn't like you either.

But all this talk doesn't help me with my marketing plan assignment. Any suggestions? Thoughts? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller... My assignment is due on Sunday, so I will post it on Monday and let you all know what I came up with as my answer to this conundrum.

If you enjoyed this post please feel free to subscribe or share amongst your friends with the various medias (is it strange that I am thinking in a British accent right now?). And like I said earlier I plan having a humorous YouTube video posted in a few days called "Why Becoming an Author was the Best Decision of My Life." I am super excited to share it since I finally figured out my video editing software. So stay tuned and thanks for visiting.

Bye Bye For Now,


-Jami Lynn

Monday, July 29, 2013

How to Write an Essay Part 1- Choosing a Topic

I am awesome. I mean just look at my hair. Classic.
After being in college for most of my adult life, or 7 of the last 10 years, I have learned one important skill: writing an essay. Not only writing an essay that just lets you pass but actually can knock the socks off a professor.  This is actually easier than you might think. Yes there is a formula and yes the essay is still totally BS. But good BS that makes you look like freaking awesome-sauce. Since this is such an important topic for many of you, I plan on breaking it down into two or more blog posts. The first being a break down on how to pick an essay topic that will allow the BS to just flow (appropriately) on the page. Let's get started.

*Note: I say professor here but if you are in high school or middle school, this process will still work for you.

Step 1: Take notes during class and mark topics that seem to excite the professor.

I am so sorry, but this is going to require you to go to class. At least some of the time. But I would suggest you do because professors will give you subtle hints as to what they want to see from you. For example, I took an American Lit class during undergrad. My professor was a nineteenth century American Lit guy (and I knew this) but the class was a survey class so we covered several centuries. We spent about half the semester talking about Emily Dickenson and Walt Whitman and about a week covering F. Scott Fitzgerald. But what did I choose for my final topic? Symbolism in The Great Gatsby. Face palm! I did alright on the paper, I passed with a B-, but had I followed this simple formula, I would have known to cater my paper to the professor grading it. A paper written in the exact same style about symbolism in nineteenth century poetry probably would have gotten me an A. So, take notes on what the professor talks about the most or does special lectures on because chances are that is what they love and will love to read about from you. Take a pen and write some crap down in a notebook or on your face or something. It will save you lazy bums a lot of trouble in the long run.

Step 2: Choose a few marked topics in your notes to do some further research.

Once the assignment has been given, look over your notes and choose a few topics that do not scare the beejeezus out of you. By that I mean a few topics that you could possibly have a friendly conversation about in public. Do not, I repeat, do not pick a topic that confuses you, that you know absolutely nothing about or has not thoroughly been covered in class. This goes back to step one, being present and alert in class gives you the best chance at choosing an appropriate essay topic. Now I know there are stories of college students never setting foot in a classroom and getting an A on the final. While there may be truth behind some of it, I can promise you they may have been able to get away with it freshman or sophomore year but after that, no. They now all work at a junk yard. All of them together. So, go to class, that is why you are there in the first place. Stupid is not cool.

Step 3: Go to the library or an online database and do a search of your topics.

Now this step is getting into the nitty-gritty of choosing your topic. Make sure you are using scholarly journals, articles, anthologies or encyclopedias. Most universities and libraries have databases full of articles you can search. No, Wikipedia does not count. What you are searching for in these databases are other scholarly articles that discuss your topics. Note and read the synopsis of as many as you think are relevant. You need to make sure there are several available for use. But you also want to make sure that your topic has not been beat to death by thousands of Ph. D's in the past 50 years, because I promise you will have nothing new or exciting to add to the conversation. This is why you chose several topics to research, toss this one out. Choosing an over saturated topic will make you look like a monkey. You know "monkey see, monkey do?"

Step 4: Read the syllabus or assignment rubric and compare your researched topics with the guidelines.

So, here is the scoop; you want to make sure you have at least one reference for every page or every 250 words. Do you have enough scholarly references not counting your textbook or a primary source like a novel or poem in original form ? If not, chuck that topic. The point of this step is to make sure that you have enough material to get you through the entire essay. So you don't have to stay up all night adjusting margins, font size and spacing just to make the required length. Not fun. And most professors can tell when you have done this anyway. You will also need to start thinking about possible thesis statements at this stage and if your resources can help you explain it. Thesis statements aren't totally necessary in this step but you may want to start thinking ahead. Look at you being prepared this time. Wink, wink.

Step 5: Make a brief outline with possible thesis statements for each topic.

By brief outline I mean super brief. Like list your intro with your thesis statements, then how many paragraphs of evidence you will have to support the statement and a conclusion. And no this is not a 5 point essay. I promise you will probably have/need more than 5 paragraphs. Worry about making your point, not fulfilling some crappy format that was beat into your brain in elementary school. An example of a thesis statement I recently used is as follows:

A deep analysis of these pieces individually reveals two commonalities: the portrayal of a heroic Christian protagonist and reminiscent pagan elements of theme, structure and perspective.

I then set out to prove this point with my evidence. If you are having trouble with a thesis statement go to the Purdue University Online Writing Lab here. Or you can link to it from my resources page as well. Know what you plan on talking about with each topic so you can make an informed decision. This makes the BS portions of your paper much easier to write and more believable for your professor to read.

Step 6: Ask your professor for advice on your topic choices.

I know this can seem a little bit of over kill, but if you really want to have a great topic and subsequently write a great paper, then you need to discuss the topic with your professor. Just stay a few moments after class or send an email and show him/her your topic outlines and thesis statements. Ask for advice. This is key because they will tell you where your outline is weak and what more you can do. Sometimes they even give you little hints on what they want you to write. Take notes people! They are practically telling you how to get an A on this essay, so make sure you listen. If you need clarification on some of their suggestions ask for it. I promise they want to help you. If they don't then they suck and you should go to your campus writing center or tutoring center. And give them a bad evaluation.

Step 7: Make your choice.

Thank heavens we are finally done. Make your stinking choice already! No seriously, look at all your notes and outlines and decide the single topic for which you are going to write your awesome essay. Choose the topic that seems the most interesting to you. The topic that you could write about and possibly enjoy it. Just know the more excited you are about a topic, the more interesting your writing will be. While this post may make this process seem long, it really isn't. This should just take a few hours max, if you know the formula. So, quit procrastinating and get it done. What are you still doing here? Go!

You're on your way! Today is your day! Go choose a topic for your essay! The next installment of this series on outlining your essay will be arriving soon. So stay tuned. And stay classy...

If you liked this post please take a moment to subscribe or share it on the various medias. Also feel free to comment below with questions, comments, suggestions or valid arguments. I look forward to hearing from you! Maybe.

Ta Ta For Now-

  
-Jami Lynn

Saturday, July 27, 2013

10 Things to Never Do as a New Writer

She looks too happy. She must not have started yet.
I decided to cover this topic because I have been guilty of each item on this list at some point in the past 5 years. I hope to spread some knowledge here and prevent you from spending your precious time and energy only to realize your efforts have been in vain. Trust me, it is not a fun day when you discover your manuscript cannot be saved or you receive a nasty rejection letter from an annoyed agent. You might say, "But why must I be concerned Jami, it worked out for so-and-so author..." and you might be right. But I can almost guarantee it will not work out the same way for you. So, here's my list of advice as I have experienced it personally.

1. Pitch to agents without a complete manuscript.

Unless you are a non-fiction writer, I repeat, do not pitch to agents with out a complete manuscript. I can tell you for certain, that they do not have time to wait for you to finish your manuscript. They do not care about your book and probably have 20 to 30 other manuscripts sitting in their slush pile that are complete. I don't care how awesome you think your manuscript idea is, just don't do it. It is unprofessional and if you do get called by an agent asking to see the full manuscript it is gong to be really embarrassing to tell them you don't have it or you give them a shitty rough draft. Just don't do that to yourself before you get started. I know it is easy to jump the gun on an exciting idea, but channel that energy into your draft. Agents will always be around, don't rush it. I promise it will be worth it. If not I will send you a stuffed animal from my collection to comfort you. Baby.

2. Self-publish with out a professional editor.

Take it from the Queen of self-publishing, Amanda Hocking, when she says to edit. And if you think you have edited enough, do it again. Or better yet, hire a freelance editor if you are serious about your sales. Because an e-book riddled with errors will not receive great reviews because it looks unprofessional. And how do your e-book rankings go up on Amazon? Good reviews. Don't shoot your self in the foot by being lazy or cheap. Look up freelance editor prices online at elance.com or offer a job for freelancers to bid on your project. Then you can get a quote so you know how much to borrow from the bank or your mommy or sell your X-box. But if your serious about giving your e-book the best chance, then get an editor and quit crying about it.

3. Not building an author platform before selling your novel.

I think this point is kind of a shock for writers, especially older writers. The reason you should do it is that the internet has given us such a massive advantage for building a following before a book is published, sold or even completed. Having a ready made audience is a great selling point for the publishing companies that are steadily losing profits with debut authors. Don't give them a reason to turn you down. Set up a blog and it doesn't have to be about writing. If you are a mystery writer follow and comment on court cases. Or if you write Sci-Fi cover space things or robotics or other hip geeky things I know nothing about. Whatever it is just find an audience that is interested in what you have to say. If you are not comfortable with blogging or vlogging then write a few short e-books related to your novel and publish them for free or cheap to start building an interest in your unique style writing. Just do something so that when a publishing company Google's your name, they find information other than a mug shot.

4. Work on multiple projects at the same time.

Now this doesn't mean don't work on work projects (homework) or a few short stories or even supplemental projects like I mentioned above. This means do not work on two major manuscripts at the same time. First, it can be confusing obviously, but it usually means you aren't committed or even stuck on the first novel. So, if this is the case then put the first one aside for a later date and finish the second manuscript. Just don't use multiple projects as an excuse not to finish a project. If you have an idea that is itching to get out, make note of it, write all the ideas down in a notebook or filing cabinet or .doc file and go back to the first project. For me, writing the idea down usually lets me get back to the original manuscript because I am no longer worried that I will forget an awesome idea. If you disagree with me here because you can write two frigging awesome manuscripts at the same time, then I bow down to you. You win.

5. Write about topics that you are not that interested in.

Sometimes great ideas for novels just are not topics that work for us as individual writers. We all have a niche, a comfort zone, a genre or sub-genre where we write well. That doesn't mean you shouldn't test your limits or the genre's limits every once in a while, but usually to write well, we need comfort. I'll give you a personal example here. I write historical/ contemporary mysteries and with a twist of romance and adventure, this is where I am comfortable. That doesn't mean at some point I won't add some supernatural elements like zombies. I love zombies. But I once started a YA sci-fi novel about teens with super natural powers brought together by an agency to fight demons that were taking over the world by hiding in humans and eating their souls. So, it sounds pretty cool, but it was way over my head not long after starting. I don't really read books like this too often, so I don't know why I thought I could write an effective novel. The point is write what you know. Feel free to steal the idea if you are into it. I won't tell.

6. Follow current trends.

This goes along with the previous section. Don't write a novel about a popular theme or topic because it will be completely saturated and old by the time you are published. Case in point: vampires. I can't tell you how many vampire stories I have read in writing groups and in my MFA classes. It is insane! Seriously, don't do it. Please. The literary world begs you. And actually zombies is headed in that direction as well. The problem is by following trends you are setting yourself up for disappointment because the most popular books about these topics have already been written hence their popularity. And it usually takes about 2 years for a published book to appear in bookstores so by the time your book will get out the trend is over. And you will look like a hack. However, if you are really into a current trend try writing some short stories for an e-book or a script for a web series.  Just don't write about vampires. Ever.

7. Not doing the research.

Writing requires research. Even in a completely made-up world you still have to figure out the land layout, the political and economical aspects, language, etc. The point is you have to be consistent by burying yourself in every aspect of the setting. Your audience will know if you are full of it. And many of them will call your bluff and make you look stupid. If you don't want to learn about crime investigations don't write about cops or murders. If you hate Regency England then don't write historical romances. If you don't want to create an entire realm then don't write sci-fi. I think you get the point. This is why your subject matter needs to be something you really enjoy because you will spend months there, and then you will spend years discussing it with fans. If you aren't your book's biggest fan, then who will be? Besides your mother.

8. Using devices of other well known books and authors.

As obvious as this sounds, I have seen this numerous times in my MFA program. What I mean by devices are the character quirks or setting or even background information that help explain and or move the plot forward. For example, I recently read a story that used several plot devices found in Twilight, like having the ability to calm people's emotions and having visions of the future. But the main device I noticed right away was the imprinting-like action where two characters become soul mates at first sight. While the story had nothing to do with vampires, it was obvious where the ideas came from. There were just too many. Now this is not saying that borrowing or being inspired is not okay because it is, but twist and develop the ideas further so there is no resemblance of the other book. Don't get caught stealing ideas because as a new writer it will kill your reputation. I mean like dead. Black-balled. Career over. It is much like lip-syncing at a live show and you don't want to be that person. Do you want to be the Ashlee Simpson of the writing world?

9. Lose faith in your writing.

This is so easy to do when you don't have fan club, agent or editor cheering you on. It is just you and you have to be your own cheerleader. No one is going to care if you don't finish except you. If writing is your true passion then you have to learn to turn off the Debbie Downers in your head that tell you your writing is crap. That you'll never get published. You will never compare to other writers and you'll never reach your goals. Questioning your abilities is normal, and even accomplished writers struggle with it. So, what do you do? I have been writing negative notions down and then writing a list of things to do to beat it. For example, one of my biggest negative thoughts is that I am never going to finish my manuscript. Mainly because I have been working on for quite some time and I have given up on a few others. So, to beat that thought I tell myself I have to write 1000 words a day or sit at my computer for three hours. Or which ever comes first. And they don't have to be great words. Just words. Revising comes later, so I try not to focus on quality just yet. So, see, you can do it too. Just be your own Superman. It's a bird! It's a plane! No! It's you!

10. Give up too soon.

Rejection is part of the game unfortunately. But don't give up. Not if you truly believe that your book is awesome (which you should). Trying to find an agent is scary and many of them are not nice. You may get your hopes up or your heart broken, but every published author has been down that road before. Just keep plugging away and start your second novel. Maybe you never sell your first novel or your second, but at least you have the opportunity to self-publish them down the road. Look at J.A Konrath for example. He had several titles that never sold and decided to put them on Amazon after he sold a detective series. He now makes $50,000 a month off e-book sales and has dropped his publisher in a favor of e-books. You see, don't give up just yet. give it a few more months or years. Just don't burn your manuscript or delete the file in frustration and burn the hard drive. I promise it's worth more than you think you crazy pyromaniac.

So, there is my advice to new novelists. Please let me know if you can think of other things I should have included. Or you want to start an argument over the validity of my list. I'm down. Bring it.

Also, if you enjoyed this post please subscribe for further awesomeness or share it with your friends on one of the many social media sites that I know nothing about. Just do it. Please. I'm a fun person, I promise. I'm just fun like The Grumpy Cat.

Let's talk later,


-Jami Lynn


Friday, July 26, 2013

Introductions

Welcome to my blog! This is my very first post on this site and I am excited to get started. First and foremost I want to introduce myself. Hi. My name is Jami (pronounced jay-mee like Jamie). I get that question more than what should be logical. What's yours?

Did that large picture of my face frighten you?
 
So, that's me. I am supremely awkward and rarely take pictures of myself but there you go. You can also find out some more information about me in the Bio section of my blog and probably also on Google. I haven't set up too many social media sites just yet, but if you have any suggestions as to where I should be other than the big 3 (facebook, Twitter, Google+) let me know. I am on Instagram and Pinterest. They probably aren't too relevant for this blog but I have no objections of you looking me up if you are interested.
 
Some things about me that you should probably know;  I am an MFA student in creative writing. I will have completed my creative thesis and graduate in March 2014. I have never been published to date, although I haven't submitted too much. I am sarcastic much of the time. I don't read literary fiction or award winning books and I don't know all the trade secrets or many authors by name (my brain just fails to remember author names, but your name I will remember and it will probably creep you out). What I do know is academic writing, fiction writing and screenwriting and I have done well in all of these. I currently have a 4.0 GPA. So, eat that if you don't think I know what I am talking about. Just kidding. Or am I?
 
Enough about me, let's talk about writing. That's why we are all here correct? Some things I want to talk about on this blog is student writing such as: essay writing, tips, topics, references, etc. I also want to discuss the creative writing process, frustrations, publishing, books, author branding and daily writing life. Lastly, I want to include things I have learned about teaching writing. However, I try to do this in a fun and interesting way because sometimes these topics can be extraordinarily boring. I also like to make fun of things, usually the things I do, in my videos. So, beware.
 
So, for now, I would just like to hear from all you internet people as to what sort of things you would like to see from me. What are you most interested in and/or what can't you find about writing online that you would like to know? I have no problem doing research for a question I can't answer. Leave me comments down below or message me directly. Thanks for visiting and if you enjoyed anything on my page please subscribe or follow me. And get excited because things are about to get real weird.
 
Ta Ta For Now!
 
 
-Jami Lynn