Writing Prompts and Giveaway

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Have you ever been to a writer’s class where the teacher starts it out with a writing prompt? You get a few minutes to write something based on a sentence opener. A few brave students share their words. I hate it. Don’t misunderstand, I love writing prompts they get my mind engaged and the creative juices flowing.  I don’t want to share that initial mess with anyone. I always write poo my first attempt. There are moments I’m inspired immediately and the cleaver words flow onto the page. But that is rare.

The writing prompt isn’t designed to embarrass or prove what pathetic creatures we writers are. It’s a chance to loosen words from your brain. Like fruit trees the ripe ones fall to the ground first where they get bruise and rot in a short time. Later we get a ladder and pluck the ripe fruit by hand carefully placing it in baskets. The bruise fruit can still nourish as part of a pie or sliced so only the good parts show. But if they’d never fallen to the ground, we’d not have realized how ripe the fruit was getting. How ready we were to write those particular words. Creating something delicious for the reader.

Completing a sentence not of our own creation can open our mind to so many possibilities. A storyline forms, a call to action from deep in our heart takes shape or a long overdue belly laugh sets us in the right mood to open those neglected word documents.

Below is a list of prompts. Pick one.  No timer—just write. When you’re done reread it. How’d it turn out?  Did the exercise inspire? Are you ready to conquer those other projects?

Here they are:

Why is it Mildred always___________

 

“Harald, this is the last time______________

 

Willy raced ahead, his legs pumping hard on the pedals of his ten-speed. “Why ___________

 

“Pling, pling, pling water droplets beat against the pans covering the floor____________

 

Blood smears trailed along the kitchen floor to the back door where a large _______

 

Let’s make it more interesting

You can start with the prompt or put it anywhere within the paragraph or two or three or pages of words your imagination pours out for you. Have fun.

Anyone who is brave enough to share their creation (or a part of it if it goes beyond a few paragraphs) in the comments please do. If you prefer to tell me how doing this exercise help their creativity. Wonderful. All commenters will be entered into a giveaway.  I’ll send an autographed copy of Secrets & Charades to one winner.

If you’ve read Secrets & Charades I’ll send a copy of Writing in Obedience: A primer from Christian Fiction writers by Terry Burns and Linda W Yezak as an alternative.  So, enjoy the prompts. Write away and comment. The drawing will take place next Tuesday the 25th.

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Why Narrow Your Audience Focus

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Whose your audience.

No matter how I asked, “What’s your audience?” The author I was speaking with insisted “my books are for everybody.” This from a conference attendee who’d heard from the podium and in the classroom many times—you need to narrow your audience.

I write Historical and Contemporary romance. And everyone knows women are the biggest audience for romance. Some men read romance. But the focus audience is women.

I can say Secrets and Charades audience focus are people who love historicals. Or those who love inspirational fiction. Adding those demographics, I have narrowed my audience more.

We need to define our audience to market to those most likely to read our books. Boys do not read girl books. They don’t. But girl’s read boy books. Whether the main character is male or female, a girl will read it. This is why there’s a huge need of middle-grade boy’s fiction.  Harry Potter is a boy’s book series read by people of all ages around the world. Most boy’s books stay within the demographics of boys and girls between the ages of nine and twelve.

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It is important to narrow your audience even on non-fiction. This same conferencee insisted everyone needed to read the miracles God wrought in their life and the devotional would impact everyone. Although everyone might benefit from reading these books, everyone will not read it. The category everyone does not exist in marketing. Although everyone should read the Bible, it is still catalogued under religious. And as powerful as the words of a non-fiction writer may be there still needs be a baseline for your audience. The Purpose Driven Life was marketed to church people but has been read by the unchurched.

I saw two wonderful devotion designed for middle schoolers. The author had written two versions reaching both boys and girls. There were places to doodle. It’s unique to that age. Not my idea for personal devotions but I have one friend who has always doodled when she listens to preaching. It helps her process. Although she is a grandma, she might use these devotionals.

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Having a narrow focus can draw all those who love your subgenre. It can also draw those who don’t. Mom reads my historical and tells her teenage daughter a bit about the story. She decides to read it then tells her friends. Statistically, most teens are reading Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I may find a new fan base with other-world readers. History is another world. However, most of my sales come from romance readers.

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An audience focus that is too broad is like a play marquee that reads A Play. Your audience may not buy a ticket.

Limiting your audience focuses your writing before you get started. Your vocabulary and jargon must fit your audience. This makes it easier to market your book when it’s finished. Defined readership helps when you write your proposal and during appointments with agents and editors at conferences. It sparks more interest in your writing if your marketing audience meets a need of their house. “My book is for everyone” is a novice response. And no matter how much you believe that, it won’t aid you in getting a contract or even self-publishing sales.

Anyone have any tips for narrowing your audience focus? Please share in the comments.

Learn What You Don’t Know

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Marketing tip #4 Learn Stuff

To quote Leroy Jethro Gibbs (NCIS) when he tells his agents to investigate. “Go! Learn stuff!” They need to do interviews, research facts, and revisit the crime scene and evidence. This same directive applies to marketing. When it comes to marketing “we don’t know what we don’t know.” And for me, there is a gob of stuff I don’t know.

I just spent time building my author page on Amazon. Once you get in there it is a step by step process. Clear instructions and examples helped me put all the components in place. Then I came to the part where I could add my blog address. I know my URL. It’s http//www.jubileewriter.wordpress.com. But the site asked for my RSS. Without it, my blog post would not be part of my author page. What is an RSS and how do I find it? I didn’t have time to email a friend and ask for instructions. As I pondered this, the words of a young member of my critique group came to mind. You can find anything on YouTube. Thank you, Erin. So, I googled “how do I find my blog’s RSS.” Voila! I clicked the first reference. A blog about it with a—wait for it—YouTube link at the bottom to find your RSS for WordPress blogs. The RSS for WordPress blogs is simply—feed. You add a forwardslash and the word feed. Other blog servers have different RSS that must be added after your URL. I didn’t bother to learn those. Sorry! I’m sure there’s a YouTube video for those as well.  So, my URL with RSS looks like this. http//www.jubileewriter.wordpress.com/feed. I learned what I needed to know.

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Learn what you don’t know

Educate yourself about any social media you don’t know. I’ve used Facebook for years. Twitter is fairly new for me. I’ve been reading blog posts about hashtags to figure out how best to mark my posts. Twitter is an awesome place to market because your tweets go out live to every one of your followers and on feeds that match your hashtags i.e. #amwriter. You can retweet the same thing often because unlike Facebook people usually don’t go back once a week to scroll through what they missed.

I accidently got a Pinterest account. How can you accidently sign up for one? I needed a picture for my blog. Signing up gave me access to all those Pinterest pictures from various boards. Now I have Pinterest and their admin constantly emails me boards I might like to pin to my site. I need to learn more about Pinterest and create some boards myself. It is easy to use. My sister loves it. Other authors swear it is an awesome tool.  That brings me to the next point.

Make time to learn stuff early on

The learning curve for new things for some of us is long. I do better if someone talks me through steps while I do them. But I can follow step by step instruction, it just takes me longer. Learning how to create a blog site and figuring out how to reach more people has been a big learning curve for me. Blogging is part of my marketing toolbox. I have been using it for a few years. Years before my novel got a contract. Years before my novel is due to come out. This is key. Don’t wait until your book is out to learn stuff. That is like reading about CPR while your spouse is having a heart attack. Your novel may die before it has a chance to be part of many reader’s libraries.

 

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Be proactive

Ask marketing questions and do what can be done long before your book is published. I couldn’t create an Author page on Amazon or Goodreads before I had an ISBN number for my novel. But I could create a reader page on Goodreads and post lots of book reviews. Goodreads is a great place to engage with other readers. My Facebook friends who are avid readers follow me on Goodreads. Now I’ll build an author page on Goodreads and those same readers may follow me as a writer.

Pay for what you don’t know or don’t want to learn

There are wonderful people out there who can design bookmarks, flyers, and postcards for advertising in no time. Then there is me. I would rather pay for someone to do it for me than do it myself. As I journey through marketing my novel, Secrets and Charades, I will pay for others to do some of the work for me. Research which marketing people are right for you. Ask around for referrals. Learn stuff.

Share what you know

Gibbs always gathered his team for a briefing. Each agent shared what they found out and all the pieces were put together. Share the stuff you learn. Even if it’s little. There is always someone who doesn’t know what you know. Don’t be a negative Nellie. Be sure the things you bring to the cooperative marketing idea table are truly helpful. And if you must warn someone of a bad experience, package it in carefully chosen words. The right attitude may set the stage for you to be offered an opportunity to share stuff in a speaking or teaching venue in the future.

Tell me what you’ve learned about marketing along the way that made a difference for you? What services would you rather pay for? How do you learn stuff? I’m anxious to hear your answers.

 

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