Monday, August 21, 2017

Guest Post: How to Find Time For Creativity

You know how it goes. Keys in the door, shoes flung haphazardly into the entry way, and tired body plopped on the couch. You’ve got some writing to do, but one glance at your computer has you sighing in defeat. You have piles of homework, or work had to come home with you yet again, or your little ones gather around you, begging to be played with. Sometimes it’s even the business of writing that makes us put down the pen day after day—keeping up with social media pages, marketing, and responding to comments.

No matter what the particulars, it’s hard to be an author AND have a full-time life alongside it. But when it comes to the real heart of our writing, the thing that keeps us coming back to the grind day after day, how do we make time for that aspect? Today, I’m going to lay open three of the biggest time constraints busy authors face, and explore some ways that we can make time (during the time we do have to write) for that magical creativity of writing that all authors crave.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media is one of my biggest time constraints. I’ve found that the more I try to take on, the more sucked in I become. Before I know it, I’m spending hours of my writing time just checking my myriads of Facebook groups, or queuing up my Tumblr blog, or browsing my Twitter feed for the latest indie Kindle reads.

For me, I’m still trying to figure this out. I’m going to start eliminating social media sites that take up the most time and/or are not bringing any meaningful results or interactions. With what I’m left with, I’ll start culling the better sites and doubling down on those to try and reach out to my potential audience.

While social media is necessary for visibility and engagement, not all sites are created equal. Find where your particular genre audience likes to be the most, and focus the majority of your efforts there. By eliminating some of those self-imposed obligations, we enable ourselves to target our goals with a laser-like focus. And in doing so, we make more time for the actual creative work of writing.

REAL LIFE

Balancing real life and our growing businesses is a never-ending struggle. There are chores to be done, work to go to, social obligations to keep, children to be taken care of, classes to study for…and on top of that, we push ourselves to be at the top of our game in the authorial arena. I’d wager a guess that most of us don’t have a glorious amount of time to set aside for writing, if any. Some have to snatch 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there.

These minutes are precious, and it’s important to be disciplined with whatever time we do have. This is where being organized and knowing what needs doing comes into play. Try to make a daily or weekly list of the tasks you know need doing in regards to your writing. Then, when you find yourself with time, check that list and pick the most important thing to do.

If you have a set block of time, this gives you even more opportunities for streamlining your time. And if you are privileged enough to work from home, it pays to schedule certain tasks or certain projects on individual days when you know you’ll have the time for them. In being intentional and organized with our writing time, we can get more done in less time—and also have more time for real life, which leads to less stress and more enjoyment of the good things. (Note: This also contributes to garnering more ideas from our real-life experiences. When we’re running ourselves ragged, it’s hard to appreciate the beauty of the daily things.)

CONTENT CREATION

Creating quality content—for social media, blogs, and marketing campaigns— is a must for authors. But it can quickly become overwhelming when we look at our to-do list. Write a blog post that sparkles? Check. Make stunning graphics for Pinterest? Check. Come up with a genius poll for Facebook author page…and the list goes on and on.

If your brain isn’t spinning yet, maybe you’ve got this thing down pat already. But if it is (I know mine is!), there is a way to help minimize the time you spend coming up with great content that brings those valuable readers to your website or Amazon page. I call it “recycling content.” I’ve seen it used to great effect, especially with authors who have been creating content for a long time and have a stash of evergreen material that they can re-use.

Even if you don’t have the world’s biggest backlog of graphics, blog posts, or e-book freebies, you can still use this technique. For me, each time I sit down and write a blog post, I quickly create several different types of graphics for different social media sites. That way, I can post my graphics and a link to my post in many different places, expanding my reach without too much extra effort. This, in turn, gives me more time for creating the BIG quality content, my novels.

As much as we authors love writing, it does present its own set of challenges. Those challenges can become even more of a hurdle when we’re faced with the obligations of our business needs and day-to-day life. But with a few tweaks based on the time-management techniques and insights shared above, hopefully we can all find a better balance between life, the business of our writing, and the magic of writing—the art of putting pen to paper or fingers to keys and letting our ideas run wild.

How do you balance all these different elements in your own career? Feel free to share in the comments!

Aly Clark loves exploring deep, meaningful themes in her YA fiction books, and sharing her love for all things writing-related on her blog, alycatauthor.com. Her debut YA portal fantasy novel, Kingdom of the New Moon, is available on Amazon. When she’s not writing, you can find her singing, reading, bullet journaling, and drinking chai tea lattes.
Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share

Friday, August 11, 2017

Shifting Genre

Author Deborah Heal, former high school teacher, has had a successful career as an author with two popular series, five books in the Rewinding Time and History trilogy (book 1, Time and Again, is .99 on Amazon Kindle), Christian time travel. The series are interconnected and garnered hundreds of reviews. Now Heal is trying her hand at retelling biblical stories in contemporary times. The stories will be part of another series, Love Blooms at Bethel, and take place in America's Heartland. The first book is based on the Old Testament book of Ruth. Ruth followed her mother-in-law, Naomi, back to Bethlehem after their husbands died. In this modern-day trope, Heal recreates the beautiful story of redemption from the perspective of the lonely widow who didn't realize what she was missing until she helped her mother-in-law reclaim her life. We also experience the other side, Boaz, in the contemporary version aka Neil (read the book to learn his middle name) who really does know what he's missing after a bad experience.

How do Heal's fans like this change?

Within the first month of publication, her Amazon ratings remain high, in the top couple hundred, fluctuating for genre, and one point I saw in the 2K for sales. Out of 10 million, that's pretty good! But the reviews from paid customers says it best. More than one mention sticking with Heal after reading the time travel stories, even though romance wasn't something they'd normally pick up. One reviewer expressed some disappointment...but you know, if a reader wants to admit they don't read the cover or look at it, there's really not much an author can do.

Heal interacts with her fan base, and has a good system of pre-promotion, Her author blog is not overbearing and contains fun facts that go along with her stories. I hope she continues with the Bethel books. I have farming in my family history, but livestock and grains, not fruit farming, so I enjoyed learning something...even in a romance.


A modern retelling of the Old Testament story of Ruth—a sweet romance about courage, loyalty, and second chances.

When Julia passes through the small town of Coldwater, driving her screeching pickup with her mother-in-law and everything she owns in the RV they’re towing, all she wants is to get Helen settled on what’s left of the family farm and hurry back to civilization.

Julia’s still mourning her husband, and so romance is the last thing on her mind. But whenever Neil Ashe shows up, the attraction between them flares—even though his divorce has left him leery of city women. Neil, a distantly-related farmer, thinks it’s his job to make all their problems go away. Will Julia stubbornly go it alone, holding on to both her pride and the memory of her husband, or will she ask Neil 
to come to the rescue—and into her heart?

My review:

I was a Deborah Heal fan before I learned she was working on a series of Biblical fiction set in contemporary times. This story of Ruth and Naomi is a beautiful and timeless story perfectly fit for today. I learned a lot about the setting and fully enjoyed the characters as they played out the loyalty, despair and love that go along with making a forever commitment. I adore too-good-to-be-true heroes, even though they make me sigh into tomorrow and realize they're not perfect. That only makes them sweeter. We don't get to know Boaz's inner angst in the Bible, but the author of Holding On made an excellent and determined effort to show it.

No, it's not the time traveling adventure of her earlier series, but shows Heal's versatility, and you know...in a way, we do time travel here in this story that parallels the biblical romance of Ruth and Boaz. Recommended for teens and up. Told from multiple viewpoints.

3.99 eBook
11.99 Print

Buy on Amazon 
Buy on Barnes and Noble 
Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Copy Edits---the Ignored Necessity

A friend is doing a massive favor for me and the other authors of a collection we've already released. She's doing the copy edit we should've done to begin with.

Even though I had already edited the bulk of the stories included in the collection, our friend is finding a gazillion mistakes. She says she hates going in and editing after someone else has edited because she's afraid she'll offend the other editor.

Far from the truth. Actually, it shores up my contention that manuscripts need at least two edits prior to release.

I'm primarily a content editor. My friend is a copy editor. The things that I pay most attention to pertain to the craft of writing; the things she pays most attention to pertain to the mechanics of writing. The mistakes she's finding in our novellas pertain to the mechanics---things I tend to overlook as the first-round editor.

When it comes to sentence construction and punctuation, I tend to be more intuitive. I punctuate as I want the sentence read, because after all, that's basically the function of punctuation. Periods draw the reader to a full stop; commas provide a pause; semicolons offer a pause between two complete sentences---but are unnecessary, in my opinion, if the sentences are short; and dashes insert parentheticals much more casually than parentheses for the purpose of fiction. My sentence structure tends to be written as I hear it in my head, regardless of whether it follows the rules.

Does this mean the rules are not important? Nope. Whenever my friend corrects my work, I realize that, for the most part, she's right.

Although I'm not the "comma momma" that she is, I do know there are rules to punctuation, and I know how to find them. She's just better with them than I am. Considerably better, which is why she's the newest addition to my team. She catches me when I've hyphenated words that are supposed to be either two separate words or are actually one word (I'm learning to look up things more often now). She also catches sentence construction that is off and needs to be rearranged. She is exceptional at what she does.

Still, after she has edited one of my pieces, I go through and determine the revisions based on a simple concept: Does her correction coincide with the way I want my sentence to be read? The majority of the time, the answer is yes. On the rare occasions the answer is no, I have to decide whether her way reads better and/or provides more clarity. Sometimes I rewrite the sentence; sometimes I overrule her. I'm the author. I have that right. Sentence construction is part of what illustrates my voice.

I have certain peculiarities in my writing, techniques I use periodically to indicate how I want something to be read, that she's forever marking and I'm forever ignoring. It has more to do with the pace and rhythm of the work or the character's illustrated personality than it does with the correctness of the sentence construction.

But that doesn't give me carte blanche to ignore my editor. For one thing, my techniques are not to be used frequently throughout a piece or they'd lose their effectiveness and become a distraction. The second point is this: We are to write to our smartest reader, and that reader would not appreciate a piece in which the mechanics of writing are constantly ignored as if the novel were written by a first-grader.

The American population has slipped considerably from the use of proper grammar. If you don't believe me, just ask whomever is closest to you to determine the usage differences of "who" and "whom." But though we're more casual, we still have rules of writing. As is true with everything we write, we authors are blind to our own mistakes---including those a copy editor could catch. Even if we know the rules, we sometimes don't see when we've missed them.

Editing is the most expensive part of indie publishing, but it's vital. If you're a serious writer, you already know this. You plan ahead and save for it, or you suck it up and pay the bill outright. You can also make payment arrangements with your editor.

Or you can do as I did and network with professionals you can exchange favors with or at least earn discounts from. Best place to do that is in professional writers organizations. Each genre has its own group. Seek it out and spend the time and money necessary to join and participate. Gain friends and team members. It'll save tons in the long run, not to mention all the other benefits inherent in belonging to a professional organization.

Free advice: However you arrange to pay for it, don't limit yourself to one edit.
Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 7, 2017

12 Points to Consider Before Becoming a Writer

At some point in our lives, or maybe at several points, we're faced with deciding what direction we want to take with our profession or if we're ready to take on a second livelihood. We might be tied into a particular job for multiple reasons--great pay, pension, healthcare--and those are all legitimate reasons to stay. And if that job takes twenty hours of your day, each and every day of the week, perhaps you shouldn't be thinking about moving into another career, or side job, or hobby.

But if it doesn't or if you're considering a change in career, and if you feel the tug to be a writer, now or sometime in the future when the kids are grown, you're retired, or you just feel you have the time, then think about some of the following points to see if you're suited for the writer's life.

1.     If you think nothing of carrying on a conversation with the people in your head, you might be a writer. If you find yourself eavesdropping on those same people in your head, even if you're not conversing with them, you certainly could be a writer. While it might sound silly, it's a common practice for writers to rehearse scenes in our heads as we test dialogue, see how characters interact with one another, or just plot out a certain part of the book. It's as natural to us as practicing the piano is to a pianist. I imagine they sometimes rehearse in their heads; we're no different.

2.     If watching people around you, checking out their mannerisms, how they stand, sit, walk, converse with others, how they discipline their children or talk to their spouse or friends, is comfortable and natural for you, you could be a writer.

Smooth sailing toward my goal of successful author! Wait...
that's not me. That's a kite. An otter kite. And it's heading
straight for that tree branch on the right. Such an easy mistake
to make: author-otter. Yep. 
3.     If you see someone and think to yourself, "What a great so-and-so (name of character in your manuscript/short story/head) she would be!" then you could be a writer. Ditto if you run home and write down his/her description for future reference.

4.     If everyday events trigger ideas for a story, then you might consider becoming a writer. If you can't get through a day without coming up with story ideas, you could very well become a writer.

6.     If you find yourself taking notes (physically or mentally) while reading a book, you might have the stuff to be a writer. And if you find yourself correcting someone's grammar, punctuation, or other aspects of a book, you should think about being a writer (or even an editor).

7.     If you don't mind working by yourself for sizable chunks of time, you could be a writer. Yes, writing is a far less solitary endeavor than it was even twenty years ago, but for the most part the actual writing--sitting down at the computer and pounding out words--should be done while you're alone or with very quiet people... except for #8, that is.

8.    On the other hand, if you can concentrate well with chaos all around you--kids, pets, spouse, television, maybe the neighbor's kids--you could also be a writer. It depends on how much noise and distraction you can filter out while thinking clearly and actually writing something worthwhile. I spent many an evening writing my first manuscript with the ruckus of three teenagers all around me. In fact, for a while there it was difficult for me to write when it was quiet. I needed the background noise.

9.     If you don't mind starting at the bottom of the heap and working your way upward, paying your dues, working hard and taking direction, accepting constructive criticism (mean-spirited criticism should never be accepted), constantly straining forward to learn more, write more, accept rejection (because it will come), read, read, and read some more, and write every chance you have to get better and better at your craft, you might just have what it takes to be a writer.

10.     If you have a natural talent for writing, you should definitely consider becoming a writer. If you don't seem to have an innate ability, try taking some college courses to see if it can be drawn out of you or if you even enjoy it. A lot of writing, at least in my experience, seems to be intuitive. If you feel you have the ability to honestly view your writing as either good and in need of more work (and all writers, successful or not, have to keep learning and striving to become better), or hopeless and no amount of work will change that fact, it will take you a long way to making the final decision. A lot of what makes a good writer can be learned. Some of it cannot.

11.     If you can live with the fact that you probably won't be the next J.K. Rowling or John Grisham, you could be a writer. If you're bound and determined to hit the bestseller lists first time out you're either deluded, optimistic, incredibly driven, or ... right. You just might be right! Just because most of us won't reach the pinnacle of the bestseller lists on a regular basis doesn't mean you won't. Perhaps you'll be that one in a million. If you can accept those odds, go for it! (And that's not to denigrate those who won't reach the top of the heap. There's only so much room up there or else we'd all be there and there'd be nobody below us to keep those mid-lists warm.)

12.     If you think writing a book will make you rich and that's the reason you're doing it, you're fooling yourself and should probably drop the idea of being a writer. If, on the other hand, you want to write whether you make a dime or not, if you can't help yourself from writing, then you have what it takes to be a writer. A few of us get rich. Many of us write and eventually get published. Some of us, rich or not, make a mark on our fellow human beings. Frankly, as much as I'd enjoy making more money writing books than I do, I'd opt for influencing fellow human beings in a positive way any day of the week. If you can live with the idea that you might not make enough money in a year to pay for your internet access, but you have readers who love your work and tell you what a difference you've made in their lives, well, you're definitely writer material.

No two ways about it.


Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share

Friday, August 4, 2017

August 2017 Christian Releases

August 2017 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Action/Adventure:




Imperfect Lies by Elizabeth Noyes -- When another woman emerges from the past to claim Mallory Cameron's happily ever after, she cuts her losses and sets out to find a headline-worthy story to launch her journalism career. She embarks on a whirlwind journey that takes her across the United States, to the blue-green waters of the Caribbean, on to sunny Mexico, and deep into the dangerous parts of Africa where terror reigns. James Evers turned his back on a life of power and privilege to carve a place in the world for himself. Now that he's finally discovered his niche as a small-town sheriff and found the woman he wants in his future, a past indiscretion struts in on high heels and sends his newfound love fleeing headlong into peril. His mission: neutralize old enemies, defuse new threats, resolve past mistakes, settle family disputes, and—most importantly—find and rescue his woman from terrorists before the unthinkable happens. (Action/Adventure from Write Integrity Press)



Contemporary Romance:




The Bachelor’s Unexpected Family by Lisa Carter -- Young widow Kristina Montgomery moves to Kiptohanock, Virginia, hoping it will give her and her teenage son, Gray, a fresh start. She longs for the peace and quiet only a small town can provide. But her plans are thwarted by her new neighbor, Canyon Collier, a former Coast Guard pilot and a crop duster. Gray is instantly drawn to the pilot and his teenage niece, Jade—and Kristina's not far behind. She and Canyon are soon bonding over parenting their charges and their spark becomes undeniable. Could it be that the spirited pilot is just what Kristina needs to teach her heart to soar again? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])




Gift of the Magpie by Zoe M. McCarthy -- Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys has shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia, has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, Amanda’s heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high-school Valentine’s Day date. Camden may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy is she wrong. (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)




A Mother for Leah by Rachel L. Miller --It’s been ten years since Leah Fisher’s mother died in a buggy accident. But when Leah’s father shows interest in Naomi Yoder, Leah isn’t ready for a new mother. Will Leah be able to let go of her own ideas and realize that God truly does know best for her or will she allow love to slip through her fingers, destroying Samuel Fisher and Naomi Yoder's happiness at the same time? (Contemporary from S & G Publishing)



General Contemporary:





Freedom’s Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli -- An antique ring reunites a Boston Marathon bombing survivor with the man who saved her. Together they unearth the two-hundred-year- old history of a woman who suffered tremendous loss in the Boston Massacre, a woman torn between the love of two men – one a patriot, one a Redcoat. (General Contemporary from Tyndale House)



Fresh Faith by Elise Phillips -- Joy Abbott had been trying to start her life over for years -- and failing. Then a letter summoned her to Texas and everything changed. (General Contemporary from Desert Breeze Publishing)

Historical:





Enchanted Isle by Melanie Dobson -- In the spring of 1958, Jenny Winter embarks on a two-month adventure to a quaint village in England’s magical Lake District. With a new camera and an eye for capturing the beauty others miss, she can’t wait to explore the heathery fells and mystical waters. Adrian Kemp, a handsome and enigmatic local, makes the sightseeing even more beguiling. When Adrian shows Jenny his late father’s abandoned dream, a deserted island amusement park, she glimpses a kindred spirit in this reckless, haunted young man. Yet as she opens her heart to Adrian, the two stumble into a mystery leading back a generation to an unforgettable romance and an unsolved murder. As long-held secrets come to light, it’s left to Jenny and Adrian to put the past to rest and restore a lost dream. (Historical from Waterfall Press)



Titus: The Aristocrat by Katheryn Maddox Haddad -- Titus intends to become a famous lawyer in the Roman Empire. Instead, he is sent by Paul to arbitrate between arch enemies in wild Corinth, wilder Crete, and wildest Dalmatia. In each place he suffers. But, long before that, he suffers from guilt over the death of his mother when he was eleven years old. How does Titus survive it all? (Historical from Northern Lights Publishing House)



Historical Romance:





To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander -- With fates bound by a shared tragedy, a reformed gambler from the Colorado Territory and a Southern Belle bent on breaking free from society's expectations must work together to achieve their dreams - provided the truth doesn't tear them apart first. (Historical Romance from Zondervan)



The Second Chance Brides Collection by Lauralee Bliss, Angela Breidenbach, Ramona K. Cecil, Pamela Griffin, Grace Hitchcock, Pam Hillman, Laura V. Hilton, Tiffany Amber Stockton, and Liz Tolsma -- Meet nine women who each believe their chance for lifelong love has passed them by. From the girls who lost their beaus to war, to the wallflowers overshadowed by others, and the widows deeply hurt by their loss, the desire to love and be loved spans American history from 1777 to 1944. Experience the sweet pull of romance on each life and the blossom of faith that leads them to brighter futures. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)




The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman -- Anxious for his brothers to join him on the rugged frontier along the Mississippi River, Connor O’Shea has no choice but to indenture himself as a carpenter in exchange for their passage from Ireland. But when he’s sold to Isabella Bartholomew of Breeze Hill Plantation, Connor fears he’ll repeat past mistakes and vows not to be tempted by the lovely lady. The responsibilities of running Breeze Hill have fallen on Isabella’s shoulders after her brother was found dead in the swamps along the Natchez Trace and a suspicious fire devastated their crops, almost destroyed their home, and left her father seriously injured. Even with Connor’s help, Isabella fears she’ll lose her family’s plantation. Despite her growing feelings for the handsome Irish carpenter, she seriously considers accepting her wealthy and influential neighbor’s proposal of marriage. Soon, though, Connor realizes someone is out to eliminate the Bartholomew family. Can he set aside his own feelings to keep Isabella safe? (Historical Romance from Tyndale House)



Romantic Suspense:





Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason -- When a photo leads investigators in West Ireland to open a twenty-five-year-old cold case, Elite Guardians bodyguard Haley Callaghan's life is suddenly in danger. Haley knows how to take care of herself; after all, she's made a career out of taking care of others. But after she has an uncomfortably close call, Detective Steven Rothwell takes it upon himself to stay with her--and the young client she has taken under her wing. A protector at heart, he's not about to let Haley fight this battle alone. In a sweeping plot that takes them into long-buried memories--and the depths of the heart--Haley and Steven will have to solve the mystery of Haley's past while dodging bullets, bombs, and bad guys who just won't quit. (Romantic Suspense from Revell [Baker])



Plain Retribution by Dana R. Lynn -- Ten years ago while on rumspringa, Rebecca Miller and her friends were kidnapped and held captive…and now, living in the English world, she's nearly abducted again. One by one her friends who once helped send their abductor to jail are targeted, and she is next…unless police officer Miles Olsen can stop a killer. Deaf since birth, the only person on the force that Rebecca can communicate with is Miles, and he needs this case to redeem himself of past mistakes. When the relentless killer tracks them deep into the heart of Amish country, protecting Rebecca must be Miles's sole focus. Because a mistake this time will cost something worth more to him than his job—the woman he's falling for. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])



Cold Blooded by Anne Patrick -- Detective Gwen Jamison has the highest closure rate in her division, but a string of armed robberies is about to take over her life. Not only will her job be on the line, but the troubling case also wreaks havoc on her personal life. Lieutenant Ian McKean knew he would have his hands full when he took over leadership of the detectives unit. He wasn't prepared for the headstrong Detective Jamison, though, who quickly becomes a thorn in his side. If they can stop butting heads long enough they might realize they are more alike than either imagined. (Romantic Suspense from Anne Patrick)



Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

To Laugh or Not to Laugh: That Is the Question

I used to read humor every chance I got--Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry, in particular. I loved the belly laughs, the ways they expressed themselves, and the unforeseen twists in the stories they told.

Then I stopped. Not because I didn't still love humor, but because I started to write it. Maybe that's a mistake. I guess time will tell. I realized after I started to write that while I'd been learning from the masters all the while I read them (and I'll always be grateful for what they taught me), I didn't want to emulate them. I wanted my humor to be strictly my own and not something I borrowed from someone else. That might be misconception on my part. Maybe we can't "copy" humor; maybe funny is funny, and there's no way we can help ourselves from duplicating humor. After all, it's been said that, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV) (That comes from a darned reliable reference book too!)

Here's a little known aquatic creature known around these parts as the "Loch Ness Monster 2.0. The Alaska Version." People have been sighting this aberration for ... well, at least one day, I guess. Not really. That's a couple of swans in varying stages of head dunking. See what I mean? I could so easily have plagiarized that famous Scottish monster by simply adding 2.0 and taking all the credit myself. Shame on me, and shame on that ridiculous pair of swans. They don't look Scottish at all.
So why do I think it's okay for mystery writers to read mysteries, romance writers to read romance, etc., yet I hesitate to read humor? After all, while I consider my work to be humorous/inspirational, my books often contain a mystery. Am I not fearful of copying some other author's mystery? Nope. For one thing, I'd have to be pretty doggoned dense to copy a mystery and not realize it. There are so many facets of a mystery that to copy it would be plagiarism, not emulation. There are so many different things to consider in a mystery--the protagonist, antagonist, setting, circumstances, body count, etc.--that coming up with something different isn't difficult. That's not to say that someone hasn't taken an existing mystery, switched up a couple of things, and called it their own. I don't agree with that, but I suppose it's been done.

But copying someone else's humor is akin to stealing their mannerisms, speech patterns, thought processes. I don't mean it's more grievous to steal humor than it is to steal other types of writing, but it's a noticeable theft. A humorist (or any other kind of author) can write in a similar manner as another and might even be compared to one, but I think humor is as unique to a writer as his fingerprints. I want to convey humor through the lens of Deborah Dee Harper, and hope like crazy it approaches one-tenth of the laughing power of Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry.

So is it wrong for a writer to read in his or her genre? In my opinion, no. That's how we learn. We pick up, consciously or subconsciously, what works and what doesn't. We get a feel for the proper way to pace a story, how to flesh out our characters, and the art of dialogue. It's all an important part of our training, and although our learning never stops, that initial education is paramount to our success. It's just a personal choice of mine not to read humor, as much as I would love to, because I don't want my subconscious to pick up on something and lo and behold, have it appear in my next book.

How about you? Do you read in your genre? Why or why not?
   

Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share