An Author by Any Other Name

When is it worth publishing under a pen name? That’s what I’m asking myself this week. Soon I’ll have two novels published under the women’s fiction category and one under romantic comedy, but my next novel is neither.

If I published under a pseudonym, I’d proclaim authorship on this blog with a dedicated page and the cover displayed in the sidebar, but the book wouldn’t be linked to my other books on my Amazon or Goodreads author pages. And search results for readers of my other books wanting to know what I’ve written lately wouldn’t include the book.

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Some authors use both names on their covers such as Nora Roberts did when she started publishing in a different genre as J.D. Robb—Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb. Now, she doesn’t need to do that because her pseudonym is well established. Then again, Nora Roberts was already a big author name when she chose to write under a pen name.

I haven’t established my real author name yet. Unless the literary gods choose to pluck one of my books from the masses and shoot it to the top of the Best Sellers list, I’ll have to establish my name by writing more and more and more books. So, at this point, can I afford to “lose” one to pen name?

My next book, besides High Tea & Flip Flops, will be a dark story with a little light at the end. I’ve described it variously as psychological suspense, supernatural suspense, and even romantic horror. No vampires or zombies, but an evil spirit is a prominent character. There’s some violence, but there’s also a lot about love and marriage and family. Here’s a quick description:

Tom and Julie Cogan’s marriage of twenty-three years is in crisis, but it’s not cliché when Tom becomes attracted to young and beautiful Annie. Not when they were lovers in a past life. Not when the orchestrator of this renewed attraction is an evil spirit with a lust for revenge nursed for over two hundred years. Not when the odds of surviving this grudge match are slim—for Annie and Tom, certainly, but for their loved ones as well.

So, yes, that’s definitely not romantic comedy or even women’s fiction. But is it different enough from what my readers might expect to warrant starting over with a new author name?

Do you have an opinion on when it’s best to use a pen name? If so, please share in a comment.

Linda

Can’t see the end from here

Nearly half the month of January has passed, but for me it’s mostly done so in a dull blur. On New Year’s Eve, I started getting sick, but we still had a houseful of visiting family and our biggest dinner of the year ahead of me, so taking to bed was not an option. I muddled through. Two of my sons were sick too. One was leaving on vacation the next day, the other flying home in a few days. Fun times in the Lewis household. Now, tons of medication and boxes of tissues later, it’s time for me to get back to work.

year_roadTraditionally, in the beginning of a new year, we assess the past year. So how well did I reach last year’s writing goals? Well, I declared 2014 to be a year of writing, not publishing, and so it was. Yet I didn’t end up exactly where I hoped I would.

This time last year, in the midst of working on my third women’s fiction novel and revising a paranormal, I started a writing experiment. I decided to write a romantic comedy—a novella, I thought. So I set aside the revision and alternated work on the novel and novella.

But then I got so invested in the romantic comedy, that I set aside the novel and replaced it with revising the paranormal. Luckily, my deadlines are my own making.

As usual, after getting a little feedback on the first draft of the romantic comedy, I realized it was far from done. In revision, it grew and grew to novel length. And after getting a little feedback on the paranormal, I realized it had a few glitches to work out. Work on my poor women’s fiction novel had completely stalled.

I’d hoped to have at least one novel ready to publish this month. I have none. If I’d focused on one of the three projects exclusively, most likely I’d be gearing up for a new release right now. But my jumping-bean brain didn’t cooperate.

Still, I do expect to see both the romantic comedy and the paranormal published in the next few months. I also expect to finish the first draft of the women’s fiction and take it through editing, feedback, and revision this year. Can I have it ready to publish by the end of 2015? I hope so, but who can say?

I’m looking forward, but I can’t see the end of the road I’m on for 2015. All I know is that it’s going to be an adventure. Here we go …

Linda

Formula Writing

In certain genres, some successful authors appear to write to a formula. Certain, some, appear … could that sentence be any vaguer? But it also contains the word successful, though success can also be interpreted in many ways. In this case, I mean those authors sell a lot of books.

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Part of our goal as authors is to create fans of our work, readers who anticipate and buy our next books. So I imagine those successful authors who write to a formula are not selling each of their books to a new and separate set of readers. No, they have fans who buy all of their books and happily read them.

I’ve heard it said that some of these books are so formulaic that little more than the character names and the locations are changed. I expect that’s exaggeration, but I’m not going to waste my time searching for such books to find out. That’s not the kind of formula I’m seeking for my own writing, anyway.

The basic structure that most novels adhere to is a sort of formula. That structure is intuitive to many writers. Not to me. Knowing that I’m going to have to push, pull, squeeze, or stretch the story I’m writing into that 3-act (or whatever) structure haunts me during the first draft.

I probably shouldn’t be thinking about structure during first drafting, but I can’t help it. I haven’t even settled on an estimated word count for the WIP I’m currently working on. Will it be a novella or novel? That’s one of the reasons I love writing in Scrivener. I go ahead and write the disconnected scenes when they come to me and keep them in a designated folder. When I reach the point where they fit in, I’ll drag them into place.

But I write soooo slowly. I follow a few indie publishing blogs and forums and most of the authors hoping to establish their name (build a fan base), talk about releasing new books every six months—or less. I’ve been working steadily on this WIP for four months and have only 35,000 words written. At that rate, figuring in the writing, editing, revising time, I’ll be lucky to have this book completed in ten months. Add to that a couple of months to prepare for publishing and my start to finish schedule is one year.

I have no ‘day job’ or children under my care, so I can’t complain that I don’t have enough time to write. I do have a health problem that sets me back, but usually only for a day or three at a time. So why am I not more productive?

That’s why I’m wondering about formulas. But I think confidence in my storytelling ability is the formula I’m seeking. If I had that, I’d spend less time stuttering and stammering along in getting that first draft done. And I guess that confidence only comes with time and experience. Which means, I should get back to work. Now.

I wish for all you writers a river of words this week. For you non-writers, I wish for you a week full of whatever you need most.

Linda

Sanctioned Daydreaming

Whether you’re reading fiction or writing it, what you’re actually doing is daydreaming. I’ve always been a daydreamer. Fortunately, I was smart in school and very competitive, so I got my work done fast before letting my mind wander. I also had artistic talent, so I was allowed extra time to create. And though neither of my parents was a reader, they usually allowed me plenty of time for that–except at the dinner table.

girl_daydrmThen, from the ages of twelve to fourteen, I was sick and spent loads and loads of time alone—ideal daydream time. In fact, I suspect that isolation changed my personality from medium to deep introversion.

I’ve begun reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. It’s a book that Michelle D. Argyle brought to my attention in a blog post. I’m only a couple of chapters into the book, so I haven’t discovered what “power” I have, but I’m hoping to learn ways to make my introversion work for me.

Actually, I do know one advantage: the ability to go quiet, to go deep inside and create story.

I love being quiet. And to keep my energy level up, I require a lot of time alone. Alone and quiet is good for writing, but only if you don’t care to share your work with more than a few people. Like family and friends. If you have them. And if they happen to like reading the stuff you write. After all, no stranger is going to knock on my door and ask to read what I’ve written.

So I know a bit about the disadvantages of being an introvert in the writing and publishing world.

Yet, I’m obsessed with putting my daydreams down on paper. Maybe I’m doing it for myself. For when I lose my short-term memory and can pick up one of my own books and find it’s a brand new story to me. Or if dementia robs me of the ability to daydream, hopefully I will retain my ability to read the daydreams preserved in writing by myself and others.

May we daydream forever, one way or the other.

 

Linda

Why I Don’t Want to Be a Professional Writer

Earlier this month I blogged that “I need to focus on what I CAN do, who I CAN be, and … that means I must STOP comparing myself to other writers.” Today I’m going to expand on that. For a while now, I’ve wondered why I’ve been so frustrated and discouraged since I published my first novel. I finally realized the reason: I’d lost the enjoyment of writing because I didn’t have a clear picture of myself as a writer.

whoamI.jpgWhen I first started blogging, I found the blogs of several other writers who hoped to be published one day. I followed their links to literary agents’ blogs and learned about querying. I set my sights on getting an agent because I believed that was the only way to get published. Later, I started following bloggers who were self-publishing. And when circumstances in my life changed, I decided to stop querying agents and publish my own book. But I was still reading the blogs of these successful self-publishers who were apparently selling hundreds of books a month, so I became dissatisfied with my trickle of sales and searched for tips on how to rocket my books to the top of the Amazon charts.

I wasn’t long before I realized it took more than writing well to have a book in the top 10—or even the top 100. I tried many things before I accepted I didn’t have the resources (money and influence) necessary to compete as a self-publisher. As for the advice to write, edit, revise, and publish three or more books a year? Why sure. You want me to bring peace to the Middle East too?  Two and a half years of trying to do the impossible left me frustrated, angry, jealous, self-pitying—a whole bucketful of stinking mess.

So last fall I returned to my first plan. I’d have to get an agent, who could sell my books to a big NY publisher who did have all the resources. I set off to write another book with the goal of dazzling an agent and editor. At times, I heard that still, small voice of reason, but I pushed it away.

That voice kept trying to tell me to look at the other side. To pay attention when I stood in Barnes & Noble watching a friend give a presentation at her first book signing and knew I’d faint dead away if I had to do that. To pay attention when I saw writer friends embark on blog tours, doing interviews and guest posts every day for weeks and felt my heart pound at the very idea. To pay attention when I got stressed out just thinking about having to meet, Skype, or even have a phone conversation with an agent or editor. To pay attention when my writer friends worried about meeting deadlines for their 3-book deals and I knew that my “Muse” would shut down under that pressure.

Finally I listened. I gave up the idea of being traditionally published. And then I hit rock bottom. I felt like a failure. I quit writing. For a month.

That’s all I could stand before my fingers itched to get back to the keyboard. I kept hearing lines of dialogue. I kept envisioning scenes. I had characters waiting to finish telling their stories. I started writing again, but I didn’t know why I bothered. Then I came across this post by Anne R. Allen. She defined me as a hobbyist writer. But then I read this response by Jami Gold and I liked her term better—an artist-author. Both women pointed out that being a hobbyist/artist-author rather than a professional author doesn’t mean my writing is necessarily of lesser quality. Jami said:

In fact, what Anne is talking about are the two paths for authors who do care about quality. The major difference instead is whether we have a business mindset …

I work as hard and edit and revise as earnestly as the professional author. I just don’t have a business bone in my body. I’ve stressed myself into illness trying to become something I’m not suited for. Enough of that. Sure I’d like to make more money doing what I love. But if I quit focusing on that goal and spend more time writing, maybe I will. No one knows the future.

But I know who I am now. I’m a woman who loves to write stories and who loves to study the craft of writing so she can write even better stories to share. That’s what I’ll be doing the rest of this year. And then I’ll publish those books and, judging from past experience, some people will buy and read them and some of those will say good things about my writing and I’ll be a happy artist-author. Being an artist-author sounds like a great gig, doesn’t it?

Tell me: Do you see yourself as an artist-author or a professional-author?

Read Anne R. Allen’s definitions.

Read Jami Gold’s definitions.