A really cool thing is starting to happen since the release of In The Spirit Of Love. People are starting to notice! They’ve purchased a copy of my book, either in downloaded ebook format or in POD print, and they’re letting me know what they think. Very cool, since the highest honor I can conceive of as an author is to have people part with their hard-earned dollars and buy and like my book.
When an author sits and writes a story, they really have no idea how it will be perceived by the outside world. I know I didn’t. I hoped that others would enjoy the story, and when my publisher, Karen Syed of Echelon Press said she really enjoyed it or she wouldn’t have signed me, it gave me a boost of confidence. But what about the rest of the world? What about my family and friends (some would be my toughest critics)?
Then I had my first newspaper interview, and it was a great success. I’ve now had a few, and each one builds my confidence, but also my experience in interview formats and questions. I’m still a new babe on this one, but I learned that each interviewer comes with his/her own agenda and lists of questions. Whether they email me the questions, or we do a personal interview, I’m really pleased with the in-depth, and sometime quirky, questions I’m asked. There are the usual ones, such as ‘where do I get my ideas’, and ‘how did I get started’, etc., but then there are those that really make me think and go ‘huh’?
An example of the latter type of interview question came from Kat of The Book Tart. Kat asked me a question I doubt anyone else ever will. She asked me to liken writing to camping. I really had to sit back and think about that one. My first thought was, ‘how is that relevant’? Then I really started thinking about it and, because we happen to do a lot of camping (my kind of camping anyway) at our mobile home trailer with our children and grandchildren, I had something to relate to.
It occurred to me that camping is fun, messy, and spontaneous. As I said in the interview, you can’t worry about whether the kids are going to get dirty, or what you’re going to do for meals. You just kind of go with the flow and ad-lib throughout the day(s). I think it’s why we love BBQs so much. I can always throw on a few more burgers or hot dogs, run up to the store for extras if needed, toss together a little more salad, or whatever the general concensus is. No muss, no fuss, and no fancy dinnerware. Condiments are placed on the table in their containers and it’s paper plates all the way. She also asked about s’mores. Well we love s’mores – who doesn’t, and again, they’re messy, gooey and you just can’t worry about it.
So what does that have to do with writing? Well, for me anyway, when I sit down to write, I don’t do a whole lot of planning with storyboards or plot lines. I just plant butt in chair and write. I start with a germ of an idea and let the story unfold as it may. In the first draft, I don’t worry about how clean and tidy it is, although I’ll admit I can’t handle spelling and punctuation errors, so might clean those up as I go when I find them. I really try to just relax and enjoy the journey the story takes me on, and if I come to a point where I’m stumped and don’t know what to write, I stop. Sometimes I’ll even stop for a few days and mull it over in my head until I’m ready to begin again. When I think the story has gone as far as I can take it (even when I plan to follow with a sequel), I stop.
It’s in the editing and re-writes that I get serious about clean up. Kind of like the camping analogy. I worry about full clean up after the day is over and/or everyone has gone home. You see, I don’t want to miss any of the fun by being anal about making it all perfect. As I said, that comes at the editing and re-writing stage. Of course once I’m in that mode, then it’s serious business and I’m as vigilant as the next writer. We have to be. We want to be.
So now my work is out there. People are buying it and reading it, and they have opinions. When they reach back and share those opinions, it really matters, because that’s what tells an author if he/she is on the right path with the story or with our writing. Even negative comments provide invaluable feedback. If a reader says she didn’t connect with the heroine as much as she’d like, I have to take it on the chin and ask myself why. Am I missing something, or is it just a matter of personal opinion? I can’t just fluff it off and pretend I didn’t hear it. I need to take heed and pay attention, not just to that review, but others as well. Is that opinion shared by other readers? If so, I’d better do something to ensure my characters are relatable and believable.
The positive, five star reviews are great though, especially in the beginning, since it’s our only validation. It lets the author know their work is hitting the mark, and it lets other readers know whether or not this is the kind of book they might enjoy. I love it when people put their name to a really great review, but I understand when they don’t. Some people just arent’ comfortable having their name out there for all to see, even when they’re giving positive feedback. I get that. I’ve even done it myself (long before I became an author myself). I figured the feedback was enough, and didn’t need to add my name. It is, and I thank anyone who has penned an anonymous review. It is deeply appreciated.
It occurs to me that, not only is camping messy, and sometimes the writing process, but so is life. It’s rarely all tied up in neat little bows or packaged with pretty paper. It’s hard work, it’s spontaneous, it’s lol crazy, it’s heart-rending, it’s everything and more. When I realized that, it was one of my aha moments. I love it when things come together easily and effortlessly, and yep, I love getting pretty presents, but when I’ve gotta get my hands dirty and just do what needs to be done, then I can do that too. You see, writing isn’t just a dream, or a passion. It’s sometimes just something ya gotta do. You can’t imagine not writing. Still, you have to have the confidence in yourself that what you are putting out there is worth other people’s time and money. You have to believe that it’s what you were put on this earth to do. But most of all, you have to be able to have fun with it. Worry about the hows, the whys, the what-ifs later. Be messy and just write.