Author Interviews, Fiction Blog

New Interview + Send Me YOUR Questions

rayaan writer

A few months ago, new author Rayaan reached out to me on Instagram to say that he’d enjoyed my creative writing prompts booklets and ask for an interview. Obviously, I said yes!

He asked some fantastic questions about my thoughts on writer’s block, advice for aspiring authors, and who I would cast if Desertera became a movie. It’s one of most fun interviews I’ve had in a while, and I hope my responses are helpful to anyone looking to write.

Click here to read the interview on Rayaan’s website.

And while we’re on the topic of interviews…

ask me anything

If YOU have ever wanted to ask me anything (literally), your chance has arrived! Each month in 2018, I’m recording Ask Me Anything videos, in which I’ll answer your questions on Desertera, writing, the Parallel Magic Podcast, and (almost) anything else you like.

To see how it works, check out my January Ask Me Anything video.

I’ll be recording the February video this coming weekend, so submit your questions in the comments below, via the Contact page, or on your favorite social media site.

As always, thanks for reading, and I look forward to chatting with you soon!

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Author Business & Publishing, Musings & Bookish Things, Writing & Publishing Articles

Why Do You Write? (An Idea Revisited Two Years Later)

If you’re reading this, I assume you want to be or already are a writer. I also assume that there’s a decent chance you want to be a full-time author. So, if that’s you, let me ask you two difficult questions: Why do you write? And why do you want to be a full-time author, when there are hundreds of easier career options?

writing and coffeeNow, your gut instinct is probably something like, “Come on, Kate! Writing is my life. Those questions are so easy!”

But do me a favor and really think about it. I’ll give you a personal anecdote while you ponder your own situation …

After my recent move from New Haven to the Bay Area, I’ve had a difficult time getting back in my creative groove. I have a lot of perfectly valid excuses: organizing the new place, adjusting to a new work and household routine, exploring new shops and landmarks, to name a few. But, I think I finally understand the real issue.

Whenever I meet new people, I introduce myself as a writer. I include my novelist side, but I always admit, with a twinge of unnecessary shame, that my books don’t pay the bills. I’m “really” a copywriter for a wine marketing company (which has actually helped my fiction writing). It sounds super-sexy on paper, and while most of the time I just stare at a computer screen like every other office worker, it is a great job. Though I’m still the lowest rung on the company ladder, I could make copywriting/marketing a long-term career. And I think it would make me happy.

It would be SO. MUCH. EASIER. to just let go of my author ambitions and relax into the 9-to-5 life. I’m NOT saying every 9-to-5 job is easy, and I’m definitely challenged at my work, but giving up the author stuff would relieve me of several challenges. I could stop spending nights and weekends at the computer. I could stop heaping guilt on myself when I don’t meet my creative goals. I could stop spending hard-earned, harder-saved money on editing, cover designs, and marketing expenses. I could stop all the other nuisances of indie authorship and still call myself a professional writer.

Live your dreamBack to you: your situation is obviously much different from mine. Maybe you’re working a job you loathe. Maybe you have tons of extra money to shower on self-publishing. Maybe you view writing solely as a career and aren’t bothered by any of the emotional, passionate aspects.

Still, I ask again: Why do you write? And why do you want to be a full-time author?

(If you’re a fan of the Sterling & Stone trio, you can probably guess that I’m a big believer in Sean’s “Know Your Why” mantra, which this insightful article discusses more eloquently than I can.)

While contemplating this question, I remembered a blog post I wrote over two years ago. It lists the reasons why I write, along with some great additions from fellow writers in the comments. They all still hold true, but they don’t answer why I want to write fiction professionally and not just as a hobby.

After giving it some careful thought and seriously evaluating my larger personal/life goals, here are a few of my reasons:

Writing is my greatest passion.
Writing is my most employable skill.
Creative satisfaction means more to me than conventional success.
I want to be my own boss and set my own working hours.
I want the freedom to vacation when and how I choose.
I want to work be able to work from anywhere in the world.
I don’t want to regularly manage other people.
I don’t want to give up my dream to help someone else achieve theirs.
I love storytelling.
I want the opportunity to make my daily work meaningful and valuable.
I want to entertain, inform, and educate others.
I want to make a difference in the world and provide a source of escape for others.

Conclusion? Being a full-time writer both satisfies my creative passions and provides several practical benefits that “regular” jobs cannot.

If you’re in a similar situation to me (and I know at least one of my friends reading this is), do yourself a favor and ask these questions. You might realize that writing is just a hobby for you — and that is 100% awesome. Or (more likely, I bet), you’ll realize that full-time authorship is really the career you want. If that’s the case, you’ll be armed with a list of reasons to keep you motivated when the going gets tough. And trust me, it will get tough.

But, if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s also wholly, completely, utterly worth it.


Leave your reasons in the comments and cheer on your fellow authors. If you’re already living the full-time dream, I’d love to hear whether your “why” remains true now that you’ve reached your goal. 

Author Business & Publishing, Writing & Publishing Articles

How to Handle Book Reviews: Good, Bad, and Ugly

read-1702616_640.jpgBook reviews are the lifeblood of books. A healthy rating encourages potential readers to buy, makes an author eligible for merchandising from retail sites, and improves a book’s overall ranking on those sites. However, if enough readers read your book, eventually you’re going to get a bad review (probably several). Those dreaded one-star ratings are the cost of exposure.

After hearing a few author horror stories on the subject of reviews, I wanted to provide a public service announcement of sorts. Sure, several other authors have written on this topic already, but just in case mine is the first you read (or you want another opinion), here is my advice for how to handle your book reviews: good, bad, or ugly.

First, it is important to remember that you are not your book. Reviews are a subjective reaction to your creative work and not you as a person. (We’ll get to the 1% in which this is not the case in a bit.)

Personally, I try not to read reviews (good, bad, or ugly). This is not to say that I don’t try to cultivate them, or that I do not appreciate them (Seriously, if you’ve reviewed one of my books, thank you!). However, I know myself. A bad review can temporarily shatter my confidence and ruin a whole writing day. That’s not worth it to me, my work, or my readers.

My solution? I have my husband check my reviews for me (once a week or so). If there’s a good review, he lets me know. If there’s a bad review, he distills it down to only the constructive criticism (and leaves out any rudeness), so that I can learn from the review, without being upset by it.

You have to decide what’s best for you. If you’re a sensitive soul like me, try getting a spouse, friend, or family member to be your review buffer. If you’re a tough cookie, read all you want. As long as reviews don’t over-inflate or deflate your ego, there’s nothing wrong with reading them.

So, that’s my general policy. Now let’s drill down into the specifics. For the purpose of this article, “good” reviews refers to positive reviews, “bad” reviews refers to critical reviews, and “ugly” reviews refers to hateful or personal reviews.

five-stars

Good Reviews

Good reviews tell you two things: what readers like about your book and who likes your book. When you get a good review, take note of the reader’s praise and try to keep those themes in your writing. Also, do a little research on your reader. What other books have they liked or disliked? From their profile, do they fit within your target audience? These will tell you if your book is reaching the right market and give you an idea of where to advertise or how to promote your book in the future.

When I published my first novel, I checked my reviews often and responded to the positive ones (That’s all there is when only your friends and family are reading your book!) with a ‘like’ or comment on Goodreads. Now, I don’t respond to any positive reviews. It’s not that I don’t appreciate them (Again, I totally do — thank you!). It’s that A) I don’t want to offend anyone by accidentally skipping or not commenting on their review, B) it sets a precedent that I might also respond to neutral or bad reviews, and C) I really don’t have that kind of time. Note to my readers: if you want to have an actual dialogue about my books or receive a personal thanks, just shoot me an email via the contact page.

It’s worth noting that I have never responded to any reviews on Amazon or another online retailer. As a social network, Goodreads muddles the line, but on retail sites it is clear: do not respond to reviews. It’s unprofessional and the retail sites are likely to frown on it.

one-star

Bad Reviews

We all know these. They’re the ones that make us want to crawl under the covers or throw the laptop out of the window and never write again. But bad reviews can be good. Beyond providing you with constructive feedback, they tell other readers what this person did or didn’t like about your book, so that they can better judge for themselves. Your target audience can be persuaded by bad reviews (Is it full of cursing? Sounds up my alley!), and your non-ideal audience will be warded off (Sex? No way!), thus preventing another bad review in the future.

It is my policy to never respond to bad reviews. First off, I respect the reader’s right to their own opinion. Second, they’ve already “wasted” enough time with my book, they don’t need me saying anything to them.

Some authors make exceptions for this. For example, some will jump to defend a concept the reader clearly missed that could change their perspective of the book. Others will respond if a reader makes a factual error in the review. My professional opinion is to stay silent. Most times, you will only irritate the reader more, or never receive a response to your rebuttal anyway.

Here are a few other ways to react to bad reviews:

Remember, you are not your book. The conception of bad writing (or actual bad writing — let’s be honest, it happens) do not make you a bad person or unworthy creator. It just means you have more to learn. We all do.

Take comfort in that even the best books have bad reviews. This may come as a shock, but there are people out there who hate Harry Potter. I know, but it’s true. Go to the page of your favorite author and check out some of their book’s most scathing reviews. If they can survive it and have their work admired, so can you.

Go read some of your five-star reviews. Or social media comments or emails or whatever. Focus on the readers who get and love your work. They’re the ones that really matter.

Really need to respond to that disgruntled reader? Write a response and destroy it. Do this by hand so there is no temptation or possibility of posting it online. Craft your elegant defense or your childish slew of insults, then rip it up and throw it out. You’ll feel better without doing any damage to your professional image or online relationships. Venting to a trusted friend — NOT in online writers’ groups or forums — is another idea. Seriously, though, don’t put your gripes online. A) It can be found by readers. B) It still makes you look bad. C) Negativity will just bring other writers down. Don’t be that person.

If all else fails, I like to get existential. You are only certain of this one life. Is one person’s dislike going to keep you from pursuing your passion? I didn’t think so.

troll

Ugly Reviews

These are reviews that make personal attacks on your character, threaten you, or which are given to your book because the reviewer has a personal vendetta against you. Luckily, these are super-rare, but they can happen. Again, I strongly encourage you not to respond. Instead, contact the website administrator and ask for the review to be removed. If the review is not about the book or makes explicit insults or threats, this should not be a problem. It cannot prevent the reviewer from repeating the attack from a different account, but it is the safest and most responsible course of action.

No matter what praise or criticism, your books receive, remember that you are not your books. Their success or failure does not reflect your character or personality. While writing ability is very personal, it can be improved over time with patience and practice. Whether in book review responses (don’t do it!) or anywhere else online, always be respectful and courteous to readers. And most importantly, never let anyone else keep you from writing. 


How do you handle the different types of reviews? What are your best practices for authors? Share your advice in the comments.

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Is it REALLY Writer’s Block? Three Writing Myths that Make You Doubt Yourself

writer's blockWriter’s block is a heated issue in the writer community. I’m not really sure why. Okay, the cynical side of me has a theory.

That theory is that those who believe in writer’s block adamantly defend it, because if it doesn’t exist … then they don’t have anything on which to blame their lack of writing progress. At the same time, those who don’t believe in writer’s block prefer the idea that it doesn’t exist … because if it’s fake, then what separates them from the non-writing ‘writers’ is a matter of character.

But again, that’s just cynical, jaded me.

For the sake of this post, I don’t give a flying hoot whether or not you believe in writer’s block. What I want to know is what you believe about the act of being a writer.

You see, if you’re struggling with your writing, you may not have writer’s block at all. Maybe, you’re just judging yourself by the wrong standards. There are a lot of romanticized (and outright ridiculous) myths about what it’s like to be an author. And if you’re holding yourself to them, it’s no wonder your creativity is suffering!

These are just three of the limiting beliefs you might harbor.

1. Writing should be easy for me.

As Hemingway famously said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” While some scholars believe he meant it sarcastically, the literal interpretation implies that writing is a simple matter of sitting down and poetically spewing your thoughts — as natural and effortless as blood flowing through your veins.

The truth? Most days writing is not easy. In fact, it’s damn hard. Sure, you may get one or two golden moments of seamless eloquence, but don’t count on it. If writing is difficult for you, that doesn’t mean you’re blocked. It means you’re like 99.9% of your fellow authors.

The treatment? Write anyway. Eventually, it will get easier. Not easy, but easier.

Just a friendly reminder...it's not the end of the world.
Just a friendly reminder…it’s not the end of the world.

2. Writing should be difficult for me.

The last word of that Hemingway quote is bleed. Because that’s what we have to do as writers, right? We have to toss and turn in restless fits, pull out our hair, rip out our guts. If you’re not slapping your soul onto the page, you’re not writing.

The truth? You can enjoy writing. You don’t have to play the struggling artist. You don’t have to bemoan your tortured creative soul. Just because you don’t feel like your writing is ‘gritty’ or ‘painful’ enough, that doesn’t mean you’re blocked. It means you’re not a cliche.

The treatment? Write anyway. Even if writing is — gasp — fun!

3. My writing should be good.

First off, this is just ridiculous. Literature is subjective. My favorite novel might be viewed as trashy dribble by another person. There is no 100% accurate and objective measure of ‘good.’ And if you’re just writing for passion or pleasure, ‘good’ doesn’t even matter so long as it is satisfying.

That being said, if you want to make a living with your writing, then yes, it needs to be ‘good’ in the eyes of several people. But you know what? You can take as long as you need to learn, rewrite, and edit your writing to ‘good’ status. Your first draft doesn’t have to be ‘good,’ and neither does your first novel, for that matter. I’m not advocating mediocrity. I’m simply saying: think long and hard about what ‘good’ means to you, then be kind to yourself and allow yourself to get there one step at a time.

The truth? Someone in the world will love your book. And someone else in the world will hate your book.

The treatment? Write anyway. Don’t worry about what others will think. Do your best, learn what you can, and always keep improving.

I won’t belabor you with more examples. More than likely, you know what myths or problems are holding you back. Often, we can identify them, but we quickly cast them under the “writer’s block” umbrella, thus making them a faceless enemy. Don’t do that. Drag your excuses into the light and look them straight in the eye. Approach them with a potent mix of logic, defiance, and humor. Most of the time, you’ll discover that it’s really just self-doubt lurking in a less personal costume.

But no matter what is dampening your creativity, there’s only one way to move past it. Prove your excuses wrong and write anyway.


What beliefs about writing or writers make you doubt yourself? What other problems keep you from doing your creative work? Share your tips for beating them or seek advice in the comments!