Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Goals not Resolutions

by Velda Brotherton
We hear so much about what’s trending that we sometimes get in the rut of writing about the same subjects everyone else is. This time of the year it’s making New Year’s resolutions. But why not consider a terrific alternative. Let’s think about setting a few reachable goals.

The first thing I have to admit is that I stole this idea from a good friend who is an inspirational writer and speaker. The idea of writing about setting goals not making resolutions is hers. She writes that when we make resolutions we set ourselves up for failure, but when we set goals, we are constantly succeeding. Even if we don’t reach every goal we move forward with every step we take. The remainder of this blog is mine.

As the years catch up to me, I find myself wanting to finish more and more projects before I get too old to accomplish them. This year I will set goals that will take me toward finishing those projects. If we make lists of what will get done say in a day, a week, even a month we are more apt to achieve them. Tiny steps take us ever closer to achievement. Usually I don’t manage to complete everything on the list, but without that list I would not finish the majority of them. Probably wouldn’t even get started on some.

As writers, we face deadlines, and we’ve learned to meet them. Setting a writing goal becomes second nature. Butt in chair, keyboard under fingers, we work toward a daily goal. Some like to use time, say they will write for three hours a day. Others set a goal of so many words per day. That’s the way we write books.

A resolution is often an invitation for failure. Think about last year’s resolutions, if you made some. How many of them did you keep? By setting goals, we work our way toward fulfillment. There is no failure.

Some time back, while giving a workshop, I was told by a participant that she felt she was too old to begin a writing career. I urged her to set goals and not look back. Last week I took part in a book signing in which she participated. Her first book has been published by a prominent small publisher. She turned 81 this month. She has a publisher, has completed a long book signing tour during which she sold 90 books, and is working on the second book in her mystery series. This is a phenomenal achievement.

Setting goals is the secret to the success of most people, be they writers, sales persons, football players, or anything in between. It’s like climbing a mountain. Taking it in short spurts will get you there in better shape than trying to reach the summit the first day. Even if at the end of the day you are two miles from your first goal, you have made progress in trying to reach that goal. You have not failed.

It’s the same for anything we attempt. So this year, instead of making resolutions that can spell failure if you don’t keep them, set some goals that will bring about success, even if you don’t accomplish every one. You have not failed, you have accomplished something on the way to reaching your goals.


Monday, December 28, 2015

2016, Give Me Those Horns

I cannot count the number of Mondays I spent getting ready for work wondering, “Where did the weekend go?” Where did the Summer go? 2015 is done and gone, but the number of projects on my list of things I want to get done is not done and is not gone. So for 2016, I am going to take the bull by the horns and wrestle me down some time management skills.
Time management is a skill which can be learned by anyone but to be successful at time management, like any skill, you must practice it whenever you can. I have dusted off some old time management training manuals and reviewed the steps:
• Set goals
• Prioritize what you want to accomplish
• Manage interruptions
• DO NOT Procrastinate

Step 1 – Setting Goals
I know the important thing about goals is they should be specific not broad. The broader the goal the more difficult it is to accomplish. Cleaning the house on Saturday is too broad a goal. Vacuum rugs, clothes in the wash, dishes in the dishwasher and organize the book shelf, these are specific goals that are easier to accomplish. The end result is the same, a clean house, but one is accomplished by small steps. The same is true for writing. For 2016, if I am stuck on a scene and not seeing the big picture, I want to think about the small things: how are the characters dressed, what does the restaurant look like. When those fill in, so will the whole scene.

Step 2 – Prioritize
Prioritizing what needs to be done can be as simple as writing a list. Lists are great. Crossing things off a list as they are accomplished are even better. For 2016, I plan to have a rolling list of things I feel I need to do, blogs, talks, festival. When are they due, what needs to be completed for them to happen, what can I do ahead of time? Hopefully, this list will keep things in site rather than me saying, “Oh, was that last weekend? I must have missed it.”

Step 3 – Manage Your Interruptions
This one is hard. Interruptions are everywhere. In 2015, I would start out planning to look at my emails, then a few blogs, see what is on Facebook and then before I know it, it is dark and time for dinner and the afternoon has fluttered away without notice. Not in 2016. My plan is to have a timer. 15 minutes for email. 30 minute to read blogs. When the timer goes off, I am done.

Step 4 – Do Not Procrastinate
This I don’t find as hard as managing interruptions. The most important thing is to recognize when you are procrastinating. Are you doing low priority tasks over high priorities? Do you sit down to do something and then find a reason to do something else. Start to write a chapter and decide you need a soda, or to call your sister, or check the mail. These are sure signs of procrastination. The easiest thing is to flip it around and use those distractions as rewards.
When I finish this chapter, I can have a soda. I don’t get to talk to my sister until I write 1000 words.

These are my thoughts on how 2016 is going to be my friend. I thought I would share them with you in case time has not been in your favor.

I hope all of you have a wonderful and productive new year.

Friday, December 25, 2015

NaNoWriMo? Not for me—or is it?

I'm three days late with my blog post, but it is!

Never, ever have I been even remotely tempted to participate in NaNoWriMo. Not once. Not even part of once—you get the idea. I always figured that spitting out 50000 words in a month is just a bit silly, and that the focus on quantity over quality would not work for me. But something strange happened over the course of three weeks from the end of November to roughly the middle of December. I began writing a short story that I'd had in mind for years, and the story 'magically' grew into a novel. In three weeks! I was writing 3000 to 7000 words a day most days, and before the end of those three weeks I had a complete first draft that weighed in at 55000 words.

I'm not sure exactly how it happened, and I still don't quite believe that it did. The story was so much fun that I just kept going. There was no pressure to meet a goal because I had completed the original target of writing the short in two days. There's also the fact that I was in procrastination mode: I was supposed to be working on a paper on critical and cultural theory, which apparently motivated me to focus all my attention and energy—elsewhere.

So who knows? Maybe it's time for me to rethink NaNoWriMo. Seems I may have stumbled across a foolproof formula: 1. It must be a lighthearted, fun project, and 2. There must be something else of critical (pun intended) importance that I absolutely should be doing during that time instead of fooling around making stuff up. Now that I've figured this thing out, I might actually give NaNoWriMo a whirl next year.

Here's wishing the Novel Spaces community of writers and readers a very merry Christmas and a productive, healthy and happy 2016. Jewel Amethyst shared the meme below on Facebook and it encapsulates my sentiments for the season perfectly.

Lots of love and warm hugs to all!


Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Few Notes on the "Rules" of the Craft

(Marissa wrote an excellent column on lessons learned in the writing trade a few weeks ago. If you haven't read it, yet, you should. You can go ahead and do that now, if you'd like. I'll wait. My column this month is not so much a response to hers as a footnote.)

I am by nature contrary. Most of the interesting stories from my childhood begin with someone telling me I couldn't do something.

Early on in my career - as in before my first sale - an editor who had taken several fledgling writers under his wing (including, if memory serves, our own Dayton Ward) told us that how a story opens determines whether the reader (or, more importantly, the acquisitions editor) will continue reading past the first page. Among several tips on writing openings, he told us that we should never open a story with talking heads (that is, people talking with no sense of place,
context, or action), with the character waking up, or with a description of how bored and boring the protagonist is before whatever exciting, life changing event the story is about happens. Me, being me, proceeded to write nothing but stories that began with talking heads (which actually played to a strength of mine, more on that in a moment), the narrator waking up, or the character bored out of his or her skull wishing something would happen.

The first short story I sold opened with a talking head – a guy dictating his diary and random thoughts to a recorder. My second sale opened with the narrator waking up. My third with, you guessed it, one hundred and thirty-seven words of the lead character literally siting at his job wishing something, anything at all, would happen to end the monotony of his existence.

Do these three sales prove that rules are meant to be broken, or some similar bit of foolishness cosplaying as wisdom?
They prove that I'm hard headed. Over the three years it took me to sell those three stories, I wrote and submitted over forty more that did not sell. If I hadn't insisted on doing things my way – which is to say the opposite of what I'd been told – I almost certainly would have sold more stories and sold my first story sooner.

One thing my early mentor said that I took to heart immediately: The reader does not owe us, the writer, a chance. Or the benefit of the doubt. Or even one second of their time – we can't ask or expect the reader to bear with us while we get going. We owe the reader the best story we can write, delivered in the most engaging and entertaining way possible.

Here's the 'more in a moment' thing about talking heads:
Dialog is the heart of every scene (or monologue, if the person is talking to herself). I say that because I started out to be a playwright - which is all about telling a story through the words of people talking on a stage. My first, rapidly jotted draft of a scene is almost always dialog - quotes with an initial to identify the speaker and the rare note on scene or blocking or business. Later I fill in the specifics of where they are and what they're doing. More than one writerly friend who never aspired to playwrighthood has tried this technique and reported that by first going with the flow, the give-and-take of the spoken word helped them "see" the conversation/confrontation as it would play out—which in turn made it easier to structure the movements and setting of the scene.
That's my only original pro tip.

But I'll leave you with a better one:
Don't write what you know. Write what you want to know. Keep pushing yourself, keep growing as a writer.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Holiday Gifts for Writers: 2015 Edition!

We tend to receive a lot of wanted and/or unwelcome advice this time of year, about what gifts to get for family and friends. Gifts for kids, for parents, for significant others, the mail carrier, the guy who cuts your grass or cleans out your gutters, your kid’s teachers, and so on and so forth.

Last year around this time, I posted a (hopefully) humorous and helpful list of holiday gifts for writers. Well, as it tends to do this time each year, the holiday season is once again upon us, so I figured this was a topic worth revisiting.

So, what to get the writer in your life? Maybe you’re the writer in the lives of those around you, and you’re hoping they might see fit to give you something useful or desired as you chase your muse. Here are a handful of ideas, a few of which are carried over from last year's list. Most of them are know...real, though I couldn't resist a few "unreal" ones, as well:

Books! Every writer loves books, right? We all need to let our mind recharge after a long day at the office or a weekend spent pushing through to meet a grueling deadline. Leisure reading is still a preferred method of relaxation for many people, especially writers. One suggestion I’ve seen elsewhere is giving a book that has a special meaning to you. A cherished title—perhaps something you’ve loved since childhood—offers insight into your own reading tastes. Meanwhile, an autographed copy from the recipient’s favorite author is usually a guaranteed home run.

Books About Writing. These are always appreciated by serious writers, who are always students and never stop learning how to improve their craft. However, serious writers also tend to hate those plodding, pretentious tomes that spend too much time whining about how writing is art and it has to grow and suffer and be nurtured, blah blah blah. Writers want to know how to get on with the writing and finish what they’ve started so they can get on with writing something else, while figuring out how to repeat those first two steps as often as possible. They want books with titles like Get Off Your Butt and Write Right Now, which may not be the title of a book anywhere in the known universe except my head. Still, I figure there’s something out there following a similar theme.

Food. Face it: Writers tend to eat like crap, particularly if we’re neck deep in a story and all other considerations and priorities have been rescinded. If we’re not skipping meals, then we’re eating junky snacks. Feed us, for crying out loud. We’re writers, so we’re poor. Take us out to lunch once in a while. This has the added benefit of exposing us to social interaction with other members of our species, which works out for everybody.

Kale. Speaking of food, kale apparently falls into this category, and we’re all supposed to be eating it. I don’t know why. I don’t think anybody knows why. It’s healthy, or something. So, give some to your writer friends and perhaps nudge them just a bit off the Road to Death that is littered with empty potato chip bags and candy wrappers. I’m willing to give it a go. Maybe if I eat enough, my consciousness will see fit to escape the meat sack that is my body, leaving my intellect and soul to soar among the cosmos unencumbered by physical form. Hey, if it means never again having to wait in line at the DMV, I’m game. Since that’s unlikely to happen, you can probably just stick with that time-tested standby option, Chocolate.

Lounge Pants. Last year I advocated buying comfy sweatpants for that special writer in your life. Since then, I’ve discovered the unfettered joy that is hanging around Ward Manor in lounge pants. These things are glorious. They exist in that odd realm between pajamas, sweat pants, and yoga pants, which is good because while I think I make yoga pants look awesome, my opinion is almost certainly shared by precisely no one else on this planet who has functioning eyeballs or otherwise inhales oxygen. However, with the right pair of lounge pants, I’m only a tattered, stained T-shirt and a pair of flip-flops away from a run to Walmart.

Notebooks/writing pads. There’s something about good, old-fashioned pen and paper that almost always gets my creative juices flowing. Many a story has begun as a series of hastily scribbled notes on a legal pad or one of those composition books like we used in elementary school. I still use them today. Something a bit fancier, though, makes for a simple yet elegant gift. Oh, and they’re also handy for making lists, such as things to buy at the grocery store, or household chores you hate doing but suddenly find compelling when faced with getting some actual writing done. Tell me I’m wrong.

Story Cubes. How have these been around all this time and I didn’t know about them? These things are great! I found them at a small toy store here in town. Each set of Story Cubes contains nine dice, with each side depicting a little image. You roll all nine dice, and then attempt to tell a story using the nine images that are face up. It’s not really meant to be a competitive game, but more of a casual or party pastime. These sets are small and relatively inexpensive gift options, averaging under $10 per set, and they even have one for Batman! While all of the sets look to be appropriate for all ages, I must confess that I did wonder how the results might be enhanced by the inclusion of alcohol or other illicit substances. I know, I’m horrible.

Tea, Coffee, or other Favorite Beverage. Whether it’s black coffee, herbal tea, and/or hot cocoa, we all have our fuel; the special elixir that helps get the words moving. I’m partial to vodka, served intravenously, with the occasional diversion toward Monster Energy Drink if I’m really in the zone and want to keep typing until my fingers bleed. Whatever the nectar of choice, just start it flowing. We’ll tell you when to stop.

“Writer At Work” Sign. For those days when you’re taking up space at a coffee shop or bookstore cafe. Lean this up against your laptop and leave no doubt that you’re gracing the rest of the hipsters with your presence to push words in a totally forthright and professional manner, and that you’re absolutely not playing Solitaire or Minecraft. At all. Honest.

Writer’s Hut/Shed. We’ve all heard about these little sheds or shacks that we stick in our back yard or some other quiet space, loaded up with everything we need to get on with our writing, which we can then call our own while we wrestle with our muse.  The very mention of such an intimate refuge conjures images of George Bernard Shaw working in a quiet corner of the property surrounding his home. Granted, a gift on this scale is likely a budget-buster for most people, but if you’ve got a trust fund or just won the lottery, something like this would probably be one of the coolest gifts you could ever present to any writer:

Well, except me, I guess. I’m thinking I’d have better luck with something like this:

So, somebody get on that for me, okay?

All righty, then. What else makes a good gift for the writers on your shopping lists? If you’re a writer, what sort of gift would you most appreciate? Be you gift giver or hopeful recipient, do you have your own suggestions, sincere or otherwise?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

1,000 True Fans

1,000 True Fans
by Sunny Frazier

I stumbled across an article by Kevin Kelly, Senior Editor of “Wired” magazine. This piece has been circulating since 2008. Kelly's premise is that if you can acquire a thousand “true” fans, you can raise your sales and make a living off your art. The entire article is posted at

Kelly believes you don't have to have a hit to survive, or in writing terms, a bestseller. What you do have to do is collect a loyal fan base that will buy whatever you're selling. By pulling in one new fan a day, you will have your 1,000 fans in 3 years. The challenge is to create and maintain DIRECT CONTACT with fans. You will also need to nurture them, something not everyone is willing to do.

My problem with this article is the same problem I have with every “How To” article I find on the Internet. It's a good idea, possibly a sound one, but what I'm looking for (and I bet you are too) is the magic formula on how to implement this theory. Information is no good if it leaves you in the dark.

I have nearly 1,000 fans. I haven't tested to see if they are “true” fans yet, I'll do that when Black Opal Books reprints my entire series of astrology mysteries. For now, I'm creatively building my fan base. I'm going to explain EXACTLY what I'm doing and perhaps you'll pick up some ideas of your own.

First of all, readers are inundated with all sorts of come-ons. “Buy my book,” “Read my blog,” Watch my video.” I delete most of those and so do you. Instead, I offer fans something other than my own work. I entice them with what they want, which is free books. Oh, not my books—I refuse to offer my work for free. I write a monthly column for Kings River Life Magazine called “Coming Attractions.” I announce titles a month before they come on the market. There is always a drawing for about 8 or 9 books just by making a comment.

The column is nothing more than fun, quippy blurbs I concoct (for the latest column go to ) . I get the material from Amazon. Under the blurb are listed other books coming out in the future by the publisher. I also made a point of subscribing to Romantic Times Magazine which announces a variety of books two months in advance. And, a site called “Fantastic Fiction” lists every series an author has written plus books the author recommends  (if you aren't listed on this British site, get in there!) . I keep these on file and right now I can tell you books coming out in August, 2016.

I began collecting the names of people commenting and “friending” them on Face Book by thanking them for their interest. I noticed my readership was primarily older women wanting to win cozy mysteries. With that info I decided to gear my column to their tastes. I also regularly checked in on them and from their FB postings discovered the name of their pets and their hobbies. I “liked” their memes and soon they were “liking” mine as well.

I'm the type that knows there's a next step. I divided up my list of fans into those who read dog mysteries, cat mysteries and culinary mysteries. When a book of that sort is offered as a prize, I contact them individually and nudge them to enter with something like “Fluffy thinks you'd like this new dog mystery.” It works because I take the time to remember their pet's name and readers are flattered by the attention. I also post the link to Cozyville Cozies then “friend” responders from that site. When an author posted my column on her site, I hijacked 24 of her fans. And, by researching authors who write astrology mysteries, I've been stealing that fan base as well.

What I'm doing is paving the way for readers of my own novels. I haven't done the “hard sell” yet, I want readers to know me as a friend and one who has their interests at heart. Because I really do enjoy each and every one of them.

Anyone can copy me and do their own column, either through blogging or by offering it to an ezine or reader's site. There are plenty out there. I'd like to see someone do one for romance novels, historical fiction, thrillers, erotica, sci-fi and horror. Authors are more than willing to give away free books for free publicity. Two things are crucial: publishing the column on a regular basis and promoting it. Growing 1,000 true fans takes commitment and creativity.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Where to Write? Peace and Quiet - or Not

Peace and Quiet, or Not
This month's theme is on where we live, the good and bad points, and the writing community.  We live in the middle of a forest in northeast Texas.  That is, when we don't live in Mexico.  But first, Texas.
Our home is about twelve miles from a small town of 3,400.  We are surrounded by pine, oak and hickory trees and we overlook a small lake on our property.  All is peaceful and quiet. Except, four years ago, the Keystone Pipeline declared they had the right to run a pipeline across our property. Thus began our fight over eminent domain. A year later, they clear cut a path one hundred fifty feet wide and a third of a mile long across our property. Hundred foot-tall pines were toppled. Fifty year old oak trees went down along with large hickories.   For months we could hear the heavy machinery, even if we could not see it without a walk through our  woods.
That has passed, but it provided the genesis for Over My Dead Body.  In this mystery, Syd Cranzler also objected to his property being taken by eminent domain. He also lost.
The small town we live near is Winnsboro. It does have a small critique group and a number of active writers. Not far away, though, is a larger and much more active writers' group, The Northeast Texas Writers' Organization, or NETWO. It holds critique sessions, gives workshops and a great writers' conference each year, and sponsors both fiction and non-fiction writing contests.
We love our home in the woods. We have a lovely place we share with many deer and other wild animals, some more favored than others. It is very private. As our driveway is nearly a mile long, if we hear a car, we know they are coming to visit us.
At the same time, we are remote. And there are times when it would be nice to be "in the middle of things."
That's where Mexico comes in. We spend four to six months each year in Puerto Vallarta. Our place there is right in the middle of town, and there are always people, music, and activity close by.  Our condo is in a building with people who have lived and traveled all over the world. Conversation at a party here might center around any number of different countries.  A five minute walk can put us at a dozen world-class restaurants. No Dairy Queen here, though.  Rather than a small lake, our condo is ocean front. 

There is a writing club here, the Puerto Vallarta Writers' Group. They meet weekly and have  had an annual writer's conference for several years. While many of the writers are from the
U.S., there are also some from many other countries.

View from my writing space in Mexico

My next novel, due in the spring of 2016 and titled The Silver Medallion, is set half in Texas and half in Mexico.  You can guess where much of the research was done.
We love the activity, the different views people from other countries have, and the weather.  But, on the minus side, there is always stuff going on and finding writing time is more difficult.
Perhaps it is the great differences that make us love both places.  Contrast. Ah, and contrast is an important thing to remember for any writer.
James R. Callan

Friday, December 4, 2015

Craft, Principles, and other Lessons of the Trade

Over the past couple of decades, I've learned a lot about writing. Some I learned from attending classes, some from other authors, from editorial letters by talented publishers, some from trial and error through writing my own stories, some from reading other author’s works, and a whole lot from reading non-fiction books about writing. Two of my favorite books are On Writing by Stephen King, and Story by Robert McKee, which has been beaten up and scribbled on with love. I love the fact that Robert McKee says story itself is about principles, not rules, and that craft is an art.

As I write, many principles come to mind as far a dos and don'ts. The biggest ones for me are: 

Try not to begin the first sentence of a chapter by describing the weather right off the bat.

Don't repeat a word in the same sentence or paragraph. (She fled the scene and fled to Mexico)

Allow your characters to surprise even you.

Keep the drama going in every chapter but move it along.

Don't overuse character's names. (Sally said, or “Sally, why?”)

Practice the simple use of he said, she said.

Don’t use passive voice. (an editor taught me this years ago)

Delete words like just, really, quite, perhaps, that, so, well, unless totally necessary. Use your words as if each costs money. Make them purposeful.

Narration brings the story from A, to B, and eventually to Z, but don’t tell.

Description creates a sensory for the reader. It begins in the writer's imagination, but should finish in the reader's.

Don't slow the pace with too many descriptions. (a big lesson for me)

Dialogue brings characters to life through their speech.

Try not to tell the same information twice, even if a character is telling it to two different people. Change it, make it brief the second time. It is a waste of the reader's time. They already know it.

Show as opposed to tell. (BIG)

Research, but put it as far in the background as you can.

Let the characters do things their way. Be true to them, not you.

Listen to your characters as they try to talk to you while you're showering or trying to fall asleep. Take note.

If the chapter is in one character's POV (point of view), and the other person is on the phone, we cannot hear what the person they're talking to is saying.

“Beat” builds scenes, “scenes” build the sequence, “sequences” build the act, the series of “acts” build the story.

The first sentence and the last sentence of each chapter should be fire, just a beat above all that's in-between.

What does the protagonist want? What is his/her conscious desire? What stands in the way?

What is the inciting incident?

Get to the back-story ASAP.

Find an Ideal Reader to test read, and ask what bored them.

What is the crisis within the climax?

Curse if your character is one to curse.

The prefix for phone numbers should be 555.

Use clichés if your character would say those words. They will be familiar, relatable words to the reader, and the reader will not think you're lazy, or that you stole them. Try not to use them in narrative.

An adverb here or there never hurt anyone.

Read the first draft aloud. Revise. Print it out, pencil in hand, revise, and read it aloud again. Two drafts and a polished third draft.

I do fudge on some of these a bit, but not a lot. Like sometimes, I believe it is okay to briefly describe the weather at the beginning of a chapter, for purposes of setting. Still, I honor the principles, and more than anything, I respect them. They were hard learned lessons by those writers who created masterpieces before us. Yet along the way, we learn what works best for our design. We as writers are word architects, building our character’s story from the ground up, utilizing all of the tools necessary to transcribe what we see and hear. Stay true to those characters!

The craft lessons are indeed voices that we listen to as we write. They are voices that remind us what to do and not do, what to try and not try, what to delete or keep, like a wise and trusted friend.

Robert McKee said, “Talent without craft is like fuel without an engine.” We must study up, read up, write up, and write on!

Writers, are there any specific craft principles that ring consistently as you write? Please share.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Creativity or Marketability?

Did I mention I have a harem of WIP?  It’s a growing Harem. Every couple of months I add a new bride when the idea bug bites me. I am infatuated with that new bride and spend countless hours with her until life takes my attention away. Sometimes, like any good husband, I go back to my old WIPs and spend some time with them.  That’s just what I did last week. In spite of adding two new brides in the past six months, I went back to my old bride from almost a decade ago. What a ride!

That old WIP was written before I published. It was actually my third manuscript. I wrote it while receiving the many rejections of my second book, A Marriage of Convenience. You see, I have a policy: if publishers reject one manuscript, just keep writing. My first manuscript had already been rejected into oblivion, when I wrote my second novel. This old WIP was my consolation for the second round of rejections. But somewhere after 110 pages of writing, A Marriage of Convenience got accepted by Dorchester Publishing. My attention now diverted to edits and rewrites and deadlines, and promotions, this third bride was abruptly abandoned. I revisited it briefly a few years back, but it didn’t fit into a genre mold: it had elements of romance, but it didn’t fit the formula of romance. It didn’t quite fit neatly into any category that was hot on the market at the time. Consequently I abandoned it once more and worked on other “publishable” work.

As I read that old WIP I was amazed at the flow of my writing. It was raw and unpolished, yet it gripped me so that I couldn’t put it down. Back then I didn’t worry about POV. It was written in a God-like omniscient narration where the storyteller knew everything that every character was thinking, feeling. It was not written for a particular audience. It was written because I had a story to tell and I wanted to tell it. It was also written in discrete bits that left it up to the readers’ imaginations to fill in the blanks. It had a unique voice, my voice, and I loved it.

I picked up another manuscript that I had written after publishing my first two books. The writing was different. This one didn’t hold my attention as much, but it was polished and written to a specific readership. It had all the things I had learned going through the rounds of editing for my first two published books. It was marketable. 

Why was my writing before publication different from my writing after publication? You guessed it: the emphasis had shifted from creativity to marketability. I was now writing what I think could be published rather than what came out of me naturally. I had transitioned from writing as a hobby, to writing as a profession. Some things get lost in that transition. One of those things is creativity and sometimes even your unique voice. It can become formulaic. 

So what’s more important in writing? Is it creativity or marketability? For those professionals who make a living by writing the answer is obvious. For the hobbyists creativity is more important. But for those of us who are transitioning from writing as a hobby to writing as a profession it is an agonizing question we wrestle with constantly. And if you think that you don’t have to choose, just be aware that for publishers, even indie publishers, the bottom line is the most important thing that determines whether a book is published.

So for all reading this post, I pose a question:  which is more important creativity or marketability? Why?