Platform is part of the process

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I love working with writers. Whether it’s during the process of plotting or even post publication, I love seeing how different authors minds work. I love the behind the scenes glimpses I get of those around me.

In the midst of the behind the scenes moments, a lot of talk about a writer’s platform comes up. (Probably because I am both a writer and a marketer…I doubt many writers feel the need to bring up their platform in random small talk scenarios…)

Most of the published writers I know are not too thrilled that they also have to do their own marketing. Confessing what I do for a living to a published writer usually starts a litany of complaints or confused questions.

And I get it, trust me I do. It can be really overwhelming to think about having to keep up a website and a blog and a Facebook page and an Instagram and a Snapchat and and and. It can be a lot.

Except that for a writer, platform building isn’t marketing. It’s storytelling. It is, in fact, part of the writing process.

Think about it this way: What good is telling a story that no one is listening to? What good is telling it if no one even knows you’re telling it?

Building your platform is telling the story of your story. And you get to tell it to those who care about you. You are not just shouting out unto the void, you’re telling your friends and family about it. And then they will tell their friends and family and your circle of influence begins to grow. You are telling a story that catches on.

Publishers only have so much influence when it comes to marketing a book. A book may be critically acclaimed, but that doesn’t mean it is read by the general public. Your personal connections—your friends, family, and co-workers—make a huge difference.

The leg work an author is expected to do in building their platform and marketing their book does not have to be extensive. Choose two or three things you can do well and begin to unpack your story—both the one you’re writing and the one you’re living. Those are the stories your circle of influence wants to hear.

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Living Life by the Word Count

photo-1434030216411-0b793f4b4173It is with great shame that I confess that I have been working on the same novel for seven years.

It’s not that it’s really taken seven years to write, I’ve just taken my own sweet time with it. And granted, within those seven years, I’ve completed high school, began and completed an undergrad, started a business, gave up on said business, joined forces with a friend’s business, got a practically full-time job to supplement my work with the business, moved a couple times…

I really can go on with my excuses.

But I got sick of the excuses and really have figured it’s almost time for a year of jubilee. I am ready to be freed from this project.

I still love what I’m working on, but it’s just time for these characters to have their story in total and for me to move on.

So this is the year. This novel will be written.

But how?

By keeping a word count.

I’ve blogged a couple times about writing in community and I cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am for those I get to do my work beside. and I’m so grateful for the small team helping me complete this novel. Because it does take a village some times.

At the start of this year, I decided I needed to have some skin in the game and get this book done. I have two close writing partners who will be holding me accountable this year. My goal is to have the draft completed by November 23, 2016. If it’s not done by then, I owe them each $25.

MyNovel timeline-Should I need an extension, I will be taking them both out to dinner in which I’ll need to spend the complete $50.

So that’s my “punishment” but how do I avoid having to pay it?

By sticking to a word count. I have committed to writing 1,500 words a week until June, when the word count will grow. I have three times in my week designated for writing. I am not allowed to leave the manuscript until my 500 words are written in each session.

It’s hard. Sometimes that 1,500 mark is a struggle. Sometimes I get only shit writing out of it. Sometimes there are plot holes, but I need to just keep moving and save them for the editing process. Sometimes I don’t make the goal.

But the goal stands none the less. And I’m encouraged week in and week out whether I make it our not.

The word count rules the day right now and there is fruit coming from the labor.

Have you set a word count for yourself? How do you motivate yourself to stick to it?

I’ve Got a Crush

Confession time:

I’ve had my eyes on a man for a while.

He’s not exactly my type…if I had a type.  Everyone I know has an opinion about him and not all of them are flattering. And I can understand that. He was kind of a scoundrel.

But there’s something in his brashness that speaks to me; fills in what I’m not, you know? He was an adventurer and trouble. The capital T kind. But he was also an artist.

Some would disagree, but I think he understood something about dealing with words that I want to grasp.

So yeah, I have a thing for Ernest Hemingway.

Seriously. The man was a fox.

Don’t judge. Not all of us are Dickens girls. Plus Hemingway is way better on the eyes.

If you’re a nerdy writer, I’m sure you have your own literary crush. Don’t pretend you don’t. There is that person who’s style differs from yours, or you aspire to be them, or their stories just do it for you. Ernest Hemingway is mine.

I read Ernest’s quotes often. (And yes, I call him Ernest because I like to pretend we’re on a first name basis…) Here are some of the gems I’ve treasured:

As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.

The first draft of anything is shit.

The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.

Live the full life of the mind, exhilarated by new ideas, intoxicated by the Romance of the unusual. 

When I’m not sure how to make words, I turn to Ernest.

Unlike me, Ernest didn’t dance around a hard scene. He just put it out there. I’m sure he, like any of us, struggled with getting what was put down right, but he didn’t disguise his troubled spots with flowery prose. He didn’t even know what flowery was.

No, he wrestled until what he wanted to say was simple, straightforward. There for the reader to figure out.

When I get stuck, I look to a sketch I keep at my desk made for me by a friend. (Inspired by my tendency to say “Hemingway was a fox,” she drew Ernest’s face on a fox’s body.) I let Fox Hemingway give me a stern look in the eyes.

My job is to tell my story honestly. And I’ve got his blessing for it to be shitty. But I need to put it down because if I don’t, then I’ve got nothing to work with.
And no, my style is not his style, Nor do I want it to be.
But Ernest knew what he was doing. And he’s taught me a bit on how to make the words.
It’s not dancing the night away in Havana with him, but it’s something and I’m a better artist for it.
Who’s your literary crush? Any writers in your world that have helped make you better from beyond the grave?
I’d love to hear about your influences!

Plotting the Course–How Do I Run This Thing?

Of all my favorite books, the ones that have really struck me are ones with complex, meaningful plots. You know the ones; everything that is described, everything that happens has a wonderful and intentional purpose. Not a moment is wasted and all the complicated knots of story smooth out to become a wonderful tale with an ending you did not see coming.

This is what I aspire to.

I understand that not everything can be a Christopher Nolan movie, but I love the ending you don’t see coming, but were totally set-up for. I chalk it all up to plotting. As an aspiring novelist, I love plotting. Dreaming up where things are going, back-stories, foreshadowing, twists, pitfalls, redemption–I love it! I have a notebook that goes with me everywhere. It’s a well-loved Moleskine filled with all my ideas–the majority of which deal with plotting. So here’s the rub:

I’m afraid to plot. When I come upon a story I’m moved to write, I usually have a rough idea of how its gonna shake out in the end. I have an end-zone in mind through the entire process, but getting there, I like to leave my options wide open. I feel that if the plum-line is laid, character will fill in the rest of the structure. I don’t want to become attached to a certain chunk of plot and sacrifice my characters or their journey.

What I usually do to safeguard my character-driven novel is only plot details to a certain point. This usually means I’ll only jot down detailed ideas in my idea notebook for future chapters and then compile them as I prepare to write the chapter they were intended for. I’ll look at what works, what progresses the story as well as the characters and go with what I feel is best.

This is my process, but there is no one way to plot. I’d love for all the fiction writers out there to weigh-in! Let me know what your process is and why it works for you!

If for whatever reason your comment is not posting, please email your thoughts to me and I’ll make sure they are posted at my nearest convenience. preppybohemia@gmail.com

In other news, my instagram account has changed! It was becoming too difficult to keep up one for the blog and my own personal account so the two have been combined. Please follow to see what’s up in Bohemia!

Enjoy the journey!

xo,
           –Lex