James Scott Bell

10 09, 2012

3 Necessities to be a successful writer

By |2012-09-10T09:37:46-05:00September 10th, 2012|writer, writing|2 Comments

What does it take to be a writer?

Is all you need to be a writer pen and paper or a typewriter or an iPad or laptop/computer with a word processor? Maybe all it takes is the latest writing tool like this:

Or is there more involved besides having the proper writing tool?

Simple answer, YES.

A writer’s journey is a solo trip. A lonely trip and no two writers achieve success in the same way.

I think, to be successful, an aspiring writer must possess, at a minimum, these things:

  1. A PASSION
  2. A WILLINGNESS TO PRACTICE
  3. A DESIRE TO LEARN

On PASSION…

The most important trait a writer needs is the deep desire to write and a steadfast commitment to his passion.

“Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.” Hebbel quotes

Writers must write because, if we don’t, we are miserable. The desire flows with our blood.

On PRACTICE…

If you watched the Summer Olympics last month, you saw performances by athletes who had practiced and trained YEARS for the opportunity to compete in their chosen event.

A certain number of hours practice is frequently necessary to be considered proficient at so many things.

Think about airline pilots who must have a specific number of flying hours before they are qualified to solo. Teenage drivers get learner permits and must practice before taking a test to prove their proficiency and earn a driver’s license.

Writing is no different. Writing requires practice.

The exact amount of practice depends on your natural talent, how quick you learn the techniques of your craft and how much passion you have for what you’re doing.

Which brings up another question, how often should you write?

My simple answer: EVERY DAY.

But how much should you write? Does it matter?

According to James Thayer’s Author Magazine article “How Many Words a Day?” Jack London wrote between 1,000 and 1,500 words each day.

Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day.

Ray Bradbury, who authored over five hundred science fiction novels and short stories which someone calculated to be three and a half million words worth of stories, advises writers to “Write a thousand words a day and in three years you will be a writer.”

To succeed as writers, we must practice by writing something, anything every day.

On LEARNING  or STUDYING writing craft

Most people wouldn’t dream of trying to build an automobile without learning about auto mechanics. Unfortunately, too many people try to become writers without learning about the craft of writing.

An idea for a story strikes, and they start writing. They never consider story structure, POV, or any of the other skills embedded in every novel we read.

This, imo, is why so many aspiring writers fail so often.

Without learning basic skills, you won’t go far as an auto mechanic, no matter how many hours you put into practicing. Think about artists. They learn to mix paint, how to prepare a canvas and color theory at an art school. Aspiring auto mechanics go to technical schools.

Learning about basic craft skills requires time and study. To me, it’s the most important aspect of being a writer.

Sure, some writers succeed without study. With study, I believe success comes faster.

Even those born with great talent rarely go anywhere without equal measures of passion and practice. Mozart was a virtuoso of musical technique and artistry, but even he needed to learn his craft. He was full of passion for music, he practiced all the time, and he studied.

There are hundreds of great books on writing. I’m sure you have your favorites. On my website you’ll find a complete list of writer resources and some inspiring quotes. Below is a short list I recommend for every writer’s craft resource shelf:

  1.  Plot & Structure, by James Scott Bell
  2. Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass
  3. Break Into Fiction, by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love 
  4.  Story, by Robert McKee 
  5.  Scene and Structure, by Jack M. Bickham
  6. Getting Into Character, by Brandilyn Collins
  7. Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias
  8. The Power of Point of View by Alicia Rasley

Writing classes – on-line and at colleges and universities – also offer wonderful ways to develop writing skills. Too many classes, in fact, to list them in this post. I’ll do another blog with my recommendations soon.

Writing conferences offer yet another means to study writing craft with the added benefit of networking with like-minded people.

If you happen to live in or near Houston, Texas, there’s going to be a great writer’s conference next month—Northwest Houston RWA’s Lone Star Writer’s Conference featuring James Scott Bell.Yep—same one whose book is #1 on my recommended list.

The conference also offers a tremendous line-up of editors and agents. All for only $130.00. Check it out here.

Now you know what 3 things I believe are necessary to be a success writer so get out your iTyperwriter and GO, GO, GO.

YOUR TURN: What do you think it takes to be a successful writer?

5 04, 2012

Writer Branding Iron Symbols – What’s Yours?

By |2012-04-05T09:39:05-05:00April 5th, 2012|Judythe Morgan blog, Kristin Lamb, Uncategorized, writer, writing|5 Comments

Today I’m on the porch thinking on the idea of brand.

Probably too long-winded, but then it’s a lovely spring day to sit and chat.

Being a Texan naturally the first image of a brand that pops into my head is a branding iron symbol on the side of a cow.

CREDIT for photo on right: Fleischhauer, Carl, photographer. “Branding Iron [35mm slide].” Date Recorded 79/10. Buckaroos in Paradise: Ranching Culture in Northern Nevada, 1945-1982, Library of Congress.

Cows are products like a writer’s novels are products. Cowboys use a different, very specific iron brand symbol for each owner.

 Commercial product marketing teaches additional ways to brand products.

  • NAME: Unique and distinguishable
  • LOGO: The visual trademark that identifies the brand
  • SHAPES: Think the old Coca-Cola bottle or the Volkswagen Beetle
  • GRAPHICS: The dynamic ribbon is also a trademarked part of Coca-Cola’s brand.
  • COLOR: Owens-Corning fiberglass insulation is the only brand that can be pink.
  • SOUNDS: A unique tune or set of notes can “denote” a brand: NBC’s chimes are one of the most famous examples.
  • MOVEMENT: Lamborghini has trademarked the upward motion of its car doors.
  • SMELLS: I love the rose-jasmine-musk scent of Chanel No. 5.
  • TASTE: KFC special recipe of 11 herbs and spices for fried chicken.
  • TAGLINE or Catchphrase: “The Quicker Picker Upper” associated with Bounty; Verizon brand “Can you hear me now”

Writers and books are different animals than commercial products. Branding irons won’t work. But will any of the other product techniques work to establish our brand with readers?

Books as products lack common distinguishable trademarks unless you count genre. I’m not sure the average reader has any idea what we’re talking about when we say genre. They know the books they like or the author they like.

Plus in this crazy new publishing climate, genre lines have become as crooked as a roller coaster track and about as scary.

Take, James Scott Bell— #1 bestselling author of the writing book Plot & Structure, and thrillers like Deceived, Try Dying, Watch Your Back, One More Lie and many more—has a new series written as K. Bennett. A zombie legal thriller series, which begins with Pay Me in Flesh. Seriously. Paranormal elements combined with a legal thriller. How’s that for blending genres?

Stranger combinations are everywhere. So linking books by genres is not that clear cut anymore.

According to I’m Laura Stack, The Productivity Pro®  “You have to become your own number one product. You must be uniquely you.”

While titles and covers can and do link series. Mostly a novel is a stand-alone work and readers connect by the author’s name.

The other commerical product methods aren’t so easily implemented by writers. Smells, tastes, movement, graphics and/or shapes of product marketing to attract readers to a novel seems a bit daunting. There are some very clever writers out there so I’m not giving up on someone coming up with an idea.

Yet.

As an author, I’ve used the spelling of my name as a brand.  Every teacher, every college professor, every stranger who reads my nametag stumbles over the pronunciation. But they don’t forget the name or me.

For the full story on how I received the name, check my author website: Judythe Morgan

Next I’ve used the color green color for my website and Twitter. With a bit of luck, green brings happy thoughts and Irish to mind.

My blog and my FB pages tie together with the front porch. Lots of greenery in those banners too.

Green=happy thoughts. Porch=down home storytelling.

That’s how I write, that’s what I write—stories about ordinary events in ordinary people’s lives that end happily. Emotional stories about journeys of the heart.

Not straight romance, not straight women’s fiction, not simple love stories. A combination of those genres. See Bell’s not the only one who can blend genres.

My taglines also help readers remember me. “Voices and Views from the Front Porch” tag on my blog allows for a variety of blog topics and lets the reader  “know” me and my varied interests.

My website tagline of “Weaving Love Stories to Touch Your Heart” identifies the type of fiction I write.

Will these strategies work? I wish I knew.

In Kristen Lamb’s course, we learned that getting our names out there with samples of our writing builds our platform. But I have to admit advertising aka branding/author platform still baffles me.

When I had my antiques shop, I had a GREAT location-busy intersection in an active shopping center. My marketing plan was strong. I offered free cookies, lemonade and coffee to customers. A shop full of great merchandise, free cookies and coffee.The people came. Still…

antiques,Most of my customers admitted they came because someone told them about the shop.

So I conclude, a business marketing plan and a writer platform/branding plan are pretty much the same.

Word of mouth
Reputation
Name recognition

Book Industry Study Group’s ongoing Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading survey in February confirmed my conclusion.  “e-book buyers cite word-of-mouth as No. 2—just like their print book kin.” Read here.

People read a good book; they share the book with others. So a writer’s primary challenge is first to write the very best story they can and second to make readers recognize their name.

Branding is about communicating. Engaging readers.

I’ve shared what I do. Remember I am not a marketing major. My expertise is chatting on the porch, sharing my views. Don Block, founder of WeGrowMedia.com, is a qualified expert and he offers some other specific ways to maximize your branding here.

YOUR TURN: Are you branding yourself? How?