The winner of Becca Fitzpatrick's CRESCENDO (Hush, Hush) is: Heather Hawke
Our bonus winner is Anonymeet, who will get a copy of Jennifer Brown's BITTER END.
Ladies, please email me your smail addresses so I can get these out!
And the TWO books up for grabs today are Cinda's THE GRAY WOLF THORNE and Kelly Keaton's DARKNESS BECOMES HER. (U.S. and Canadian residents only). To win, just comment on this post. I'll pick the random winners tonight and announce them in the morning. Good luck, everyone!
An Interview with Cinda Williams Chima
Well, looming deadlines and the prospect of having to give back an advance helps keep me on track!
I find the “wandering in the wilderness” stage of a first draft the most difficult. Almost anything seems more appealing than staring at the blank screen. “Maybe I should go out and see if there are any Japanese beetles on the roses,” I say. Or “Maybe I should check Amazon to see what my rank is.”
I find that moving off-site helps. There’s something about a new location that says, “Time to work.” Plus it removes me from the temptations around home. I’m not talking about a full-blown writing retreat (though I have done that.) I often walk down to a café and write there. Or go to the library.
I limit time online. The best system for me is to write all morning, and then do online business in the afternoon. If I get on in the morning, I’ll suddenly realize that three hours have passed and I haven’t written a word. It’s important to figure out what your best writing time is, and spend it writing, not self-Googling or watching Dancing with the Stars.
Setting word-count goals helps. When writing a first draft, I’ll set goals for an entire month. I’ll call it March Novel Madness, or Marathon in May. I keep a calendar and keep writing til I get my thousand words or 1500 words or whatever. That has the dual benefit of keeping butt in chair while turning off the editor in my head that says, That’s crap. It may be crap, but it’s 500 words.
It’s hardest to remain motivated when no one is waiting for your work—when you’re either pre-published or writing a work on spec. I found it helpful to belong to a writing community. It’s a place to be in context, a place to escape questions like, “You mean you haven’t published that novel yet? What’s taking so long?”
If you belong to a critique group, not only will your writing improve, but somebody will be waiting for that next chapter.
As a published writer, do you feel pressure to balance your creative writing license with what the audience wants? If so, how do you balance the two?
I think there’s more audience pressure these days than ever before, because of social media and email. And readers feel free to tell you what they think. After I killed off a character in one of my books, a boy wrote me a single-line email: “Epic fail, Chima.”
I do listen to reader feedback—sometimes to a fault. My critique group had to intervene. “You can’t keep reacting to what everyone says—you’ll make yourself crazy,” they said. And it’s true. It’s my book, and my name is on it, and I have to accept that not everyone will like what I write.
What advice would you offer writers to build their marketing platform before they become published?
Many, if not most writers have day jobs and families, so they have to be realistic about what they have time to do. Until three years ago, I had a demanding day job and was publishing a book a year. I was getting up at 4 in the morning and falling asleep with my face on the keyboard at night. If you have to make a choice between writing and promotion, the writing has to come first. Trying to promote a bad book is like rolling a boulder uphill.
That said, think about what you’re good at, what you’re comfortable with, what resources you have access to, and what will have the biggest payoff for the time invested. It makes sense to connect with the local and national reading and writing community. They will be cheerleaders for you when you succeed. You can meet them at conferences, on book blog sites, at libraries, and in writing organizations.
At the very least, set up a blog. Regular posts will exercise your writing muscles and connect you to people all over the country. If you write nonfiction, become a known resource and expert in the area you’re writing about. That will give you a great platform from which to market your book(s.)
Unless you are comfortable doing it yourself, I’m don’t think the expense of creating a website is necessary prior to publication. A blog can take the place of a website, at least before you’re published. It’s an online presence where opportunity can find you.
Speaking of, be professional online. When you submit work to agents and editors, it’s common for them to do a search. Anything tagged with your name can be found. Make sure your online persona will help—not hurt your chances.
How much do trends influence your writing?
If you want to publish your work, you have to be aware of what else is out there, what publishers and readers are buying. Publishers want to know that you’ll be a savvy partner for them in marketing your book. I read as much as I can, especially young adult lit, which is what I write.
That said, I think chasing trends is a mistake. Writing is hard enough when you believe in what you’re doing. If you’re just going through the motions, I think readers can tell. Plus, by the time you submit your manuscript, likely agents and editors are being overwhelmed by books about vampires or zombies or dystopian novels or whatever the latest flavor is.
I say, write from the heart, but keep an eye on the market. Ideally, you can start a new trend, a la Harry Potter or The Hunger Games.
Cinda Williams Chima has authored two best-selling fantasy series: The Heir Chronicles (The Warrior Heir, The Wizard Heir, The Dragon Heir) with two books forthcoming; and the Seven Realms series (The Demon King, The Exiled Queen, and the newly-released The Gray Wolf Throne) with more forthcoming. You can find information about her tour for The Gray Wolf Throne and other upcoming events here http://cindachima.com/Events/events.htm.
More information and excerpts from each book are available on her website, http://www.cindachima.com/. Help for writers can be found under Resources/Tips for Writers, including a document called, “Getting Started in Writing for Teens.”
Chima blogs at http://cindachima.blogspot.com//, where you’ll find rants, posts on the craft of writing, and news. Visit her Seven Realms http://www.facebook.com/Seven.Realms and Heir Chronicles http://www.facebook.com/Heir.Chronicles pages on Facebook.