As an author, I've learned publicity goes with the job description. Book touring, blog touring, book clubbing, Facebooking, Tweeting, Skyping, e-newsletters, contests...I'm game. But I've also learned that the publicity part takes a whole different set of muscles from toiling in isolation at your desk with your gin & tonic.
For six weeks now, I've been on the Bootylicious Book Tour for SECRET KEEPERS, my second novel. I've visited brick-and-mortar indie bookstores--where I left boot planters behind to be raffled off or displayed. I hit the virtual road with a WOW-sponsored blog tour-- guest posting or being interviewed at dozens of blogs for the month of June. Topics for my guest posts have covered not just writing and books, but the importance of book covers, photography as a stress-reliever, travel, to-do and to-be lists, and how to certify your yard as a wildlife habitat. In a word--whew! Time for some shady R&R.
But it's great fun to talk and correspond with readers--it's a real pleasure. People are so generous. The emails from readers are wonderful. I put them on my website. All I have to do is read them in dark moments, and I feel a surge of gratitude.
Which leads me to the month's BQ [Big Question]: What advice would you offer aspiring writers?
When I started my first novel, I wrote on weekends because I was a single mom for a number of those years, and I worked full time. I found that by writing 5 or 6 hours on both Saturday and Sunday, and one weekday morning or evening, I could keep a momentum going. A novel is a marathon. Someone once told me that, and it's true. So, when people ask my advice about writing and finishing novels, I tell them I find it helpful to do a couple of things:
- Set up a schedule. Write at least three times a week for two hours or more each session. Commit to this schedule.
- First Draft: Think Flow. Have a daily word count goal for the first draft--1,000 words, for example. And while you're writing the first draft, don't get up from your desk until you've met that goal. Even if it's wild sentences, or you find yourself on a tangent, write your 1,000 words, and don't judge just yet. You'll develop a habit of writing on schedule, and you'll at least have something to revise down the road. After 4 or 6 months, you'll have a big, baggy monster of a first draft...and you can put it aside for a while, and then jump back in to figure out what the story is, and cut away and revise, revise, revise. Think FLOW with your first draft. Keep the portal open.
- Save polishing for later. Resist the temptation to re-read and polish those opening pages. Some writers may work this way, but I think for many of us pushing through to the end is the best way to handle a first draft. You will be resistant to changing the opening if you invest too much time and energy in it. That first chapter or two will be reading better and better, but the fact is, the opening may eventually need to be discarded or moved.
- Find a group of fellow writers. You can read each other's work. Here's why: You'll often learn a great deal about your own writing by closely reading and critiquing a fellow writer's work. It's amazing how this helps! [Of course, be gentle...point out what works. Knowing what works in a piece is so helpful.]
- Consider Contests & Apply for Grants. Something I love about entering work in contests: the deadlines. Sounds funny, maybe, but consider two important points: 1. You have to prepare and submit something by a certain date—which can motivate you to finish or polish. 2.You’ll find out whether your manuscript made it or not within a certain time frame. Even if your work didn’t make it this time, take heart. So often when you submit a story or article for publication, you wait a loooong time to find out if it was read, much less accepted. At least in contests, you’ll know for certain if your work was considered or not. Poets & Writers has an excellent calendar and listing of contests. You can find them at bookstores and also online.
- Read widely and deeply: all genres, all kinds of books, on subjects that enthrall you and on topics you don't know much about. Feed your head.
THE GARDEN ANGEL took 8 years from the idea--an image of a crumbling, beautiful homestead-- to publication. I didn't work on it every day in those years--I was learning HOW to write a novel, and that took patience. I would finish a draft and put it aside for a while, or have readers give some feedback, then revise. Figuring out the structure--how to tell the story--that I pondered, worked on, revised.SECRET KEEPERS took about four years from start to finish. I'm hoping the next one will take two years. Half-life, you know, like in nuclear physics. Now that's a subject I know a lot about!
Mindy Friddle's first novel, The Garden Angel, was selected for Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers program in 2004 and was a SIBA bestseller. She was awarded a Fellowship in Prose from the South Carolina Arts Commission in 2008. Her second novel, Secret Keepers, was published in May by St. Martin's Press. Join her on Facebook and Twitter.To read excerpts from the novels, visit her website www.mindyfriddle.com and her blog, Novel Thoughts: Musings on Writing, Reading & the Earth.