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Life in Missoula, Montana.

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Posted by on in Fiction

Okay you've written your novel, short story, or poetry collection. You've poured your heart into it, proofed it, edited it, had other people look it over. You tears and sweat are in it. it's all finished except for a title. Now you're stumped. How can you distill all that thought, all that work into a few words?

Coming up with a title can be one of the hardest things. First, it may be hard to distill all your work into one concise (short) statement. Second, maybe you have more than one theme going on. Which one makes the best title? Last of all, how do you select specific words that will convey what you're trying to say and still spark the interest of a potential reader?

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Posted by on in Fiction

Since I released my first book (Strange Hunting), I have had the good fortune to meet and correspond with a number of new, independent authors. Most of us are all in the same boat: We love to write, we have taken the time and effort to produce novels or short stories, and we now are in the position of having to promote and sell our books without help from a publisher. It's a tough job. Yes, writing a novel takes hour upon hour of writing, proofreading and editing. It's sometimes a difficult process, getting concept, plot, characters, and description just right. But for many, promoting a novel and getting sales is even harder.

Many writers are not great self-promoters. Some are just not comfortable with it. Others find it is a new skill set to learn when all they want to do is write, but this is the world we live in. Most authors, even those with established publishers, have to do a great deal of their own promotion. So, we release books, then we try to promote them. We do book launches, join facebook groups, online book clubs, we send books to bloggers, reviewers. We measure success in shares and likes. We join writer's groups and reader's groups. We blog, we post. We go from being writers to being people who beg for reviews on Amazon. If your book has no reviews, people probably won't give it  a second look. If you have a handful of reviews, all five stars, readers assume those are from your friends and relatives. So we try hard to get people to read the book and to post honest reviews. We try to find ways to reach more readers, to find a wider audience.

We end up connecting with other writers who are going through the same things that we are. In the past year or so I've had the good fortune of meeting several authors and connecting with countless others on social media. Many are nice people, most are pretty interesting (they're writers, after all). They write because they love to write. All of them are just trying to get people to read the books they've worked so hard to create. The following highlights six of those authors  and the books of theirs that I've read. I urge you to check out their work. A review posted on Amazon, Goodreads, etc would mean a lot to any of them.

1. Ken Grace - Blood Prize

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Blood prize is a thriller with lots of intrigue and suspense. Tom Fox is a man on the run, trying to survive, and trying to find a relic that would change the course of history. It's well written and moves at a good pace. If you like action, thrillers, and international intrigue, it's well worth a read.

His website is kengracebooks.com

Blood Prize is available in paperback and Kindle formats (at this link) from Amazon.com








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Posted by on in Life In General

Missoula is a great place for writers. First off, a lot of great writers have lived here: William kittredge, Richard Hugo, Patricia Goedicke, James Lee Burke, Norman Maclean. The University of Montana has a great Creative Writing Program, and there's also a well-known writing collaborative. We have an event called Festival of the Book each year. Missoula is a great place for anyone who loves books.

I decided to be a writer a few years ago and I'm still transitioning in that direction. I've written ad copy for years, and written articles and other pieces, but now I'm trying to devote my time to fiction. I started to read all the books on writing that I could. I found a lot of online resources by writers for writers. I went to events and conventions where writers spoke and answered questions. As I said, Missoula has a lot of resources for writers. I tried to soak up as much info. as I could, and of course, i started to write.

A lot of books on writing focus on writer's block. On how difficult it is to sit and look at a blank screen and trying to write. Where do you get ideas? How do you get past the block? How do you silence that inner critic who tells you that none of what you do is any good? Luckily for me, writer's block has never been my problem. Stories write themselves in my head when I'm doing other things. Characters evolve. Plot points occur to me when I'm out hiking. When I sit down to write I often have to catch up with myself. More often than not, my problem is having to quit writing and work at one of my other jobs. Anyway for me, putting words on a page hasn't been a problem. Granted, I'm not writing The Great American Novel. I'm not writing timeless literature. I'm writing sci-fi, adventure stories, and a zombie novel, but at least I'm writing. I figure start with genres I can handle and strive for higher literature as I improve.






Missoula, Montana

In any case, I've written some short stories, one 'test' novel, and another that's on its second draft. I've learned a lot about characters, plot, setting, viewpoints. How to construct a sentence, how to edit my work. I've learned about how to think like a writer, and how to come up with a system that works for me. And I learned that I have a lot to learn.

The most important thing I've learned is that writing takes time. Lots of time. First there's the actual writing. I can squeeze in an hour on a busy day, but what really works for me is to sit down for two to three hours, at least, and just write. The more I get into it, the more easily things flow. One scene leads to another. Plot threads are easier to track. Viewpoints and dialogue are consistent. Three hours goes by fast. But the actual writing is only part of it. If you write, you're going to soon have a finished draft: short stories, flash fiction, entire manuscripts. You'll have to edit, and edit, and edit. Then you have to start looking for places to publish your work: web sites, magazines, e-publishing, actual publishers. You need a system for submitting your work to people and you need to send things out in very particular formats. Even writers who work with major publishers have to do a lot of their own PR and marketing. Then there's social networking and maintaining a blog. On top of this, I'm still looking at other people's blogs, still reading books and articles on writing, still trying to learn and refine the process. And don't forget to read a ton of books. The best way to learn about good writing is to read it. If you want to write in a certain genre you need to be reading what's current. And let's not forget that while you're doing all these other things you still need to write, or the whole process grinds to a halt. 

I've learned that writing takes a lot of time. Good writers need to have a lot of skills, not just the ability to describe a scene or tell a story. It's a process, like anything, and it has a lot of moving parts. To be good, you have to be a pretty good juggler and keep a lot of balls in the air. So why do people do it? Well, that's the most important thing I've learned. People do it because they love it. People do it because they can't not do it. An awkward sentence, I know, but there's no better way to say it. I write because stories weave themselves in my head whether I'm looking for one or not. They are going to evolve and progress whether I write them down or not, so I'd better sit down and capture them while I can. The stories entertain me, and even if no one else ever reads them I'm glad to set them to paper. To polish them up store them. I love the process of watching a story evolve, and I understand now why writers write. Now, if you'll excuse me I need to go write.

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