Thursday, August 21, 2014


Okay, this is going to be a writer’s rant. So let’s get ranting.
The publishing world is undergoing enormous changes. Writers need to find themselves, their particular place, within the fluctuating industry. You’ll hear advice from everywhere. One popular piece of advice is, “create your brand”.

I disagree. I’m a human being. I am not a brand. My books are not products.

Branding and the whole inglorious myth behind it starts with the idea that the internet is not primarily a place of Community, that it’s The Marketplace,

that people are Consumers and we authors should get out there and make products for the Consumers to Consume the same way they consume hamburgers.

I do understand the importance of knowing what I write, the importance of creating stories that speak to readers personally and make them want to read more.  But steering my storytelling by determining what sells and/or what the audience wants is backward. It stifles new ideas and pares tales down to products.
Branding turns creative ideas into cattle.
So I’m having a cow here.

Part of the problem with branding is the limitations it creates for authors. I can see how it works for genre authors. Someone like Agatha Christie who wrote only mysteries. Then again she also wrote six novels which she could not publish under her own name. So they came out under the penname  Mary Westmacott.

Some authors write picture books, fantasy for young adults and adults, and historical fiction. Yes, some authors spread their wings that wide. What kind of "brand" aside from prolific author, could a writer like that use? Should they never write for adults because they also write for children? Should they only write for one age group of children, ditch the picture books or the young adult books so they can clearly define their "brand?"

Suzanne Collins wrote a fantasy series and was well established as a children's fantasy author before she branched out and wrote Hunger Games (listed under Sci-Fi in her website). What if her "brand" as a children's fantasy author limited her vision? What if she decided not to explore the plot idea because sci-fi wasn't her brand?

I think it's terrific for authors to write series, to stay within a genre they love. Yes to all of that and to the readership that loves their books. What I'm worried about is that moment when the same author also wants to write other kinds of books, books that might be radically different, books that express something new.

 I am not a brand.  My books are not products. They are stories.
C.S. Lewis said that each story has a best way of being told. So rather than say, I’ll write a picture book that really sells or I’ll write a young adult fantasy that fits my "brand." I start with a compelling story idea – one strong enough to wake me up at night and chase me around during the day.
In short, a story idea that nudges and haunts and makes a nuisance of itself until I agree to write it. I don’t start stories with sales figures. I don't determine genre by brand. I start by asking 3 questions. What does this story want to say? What’s the most interesting way to structure this story? How old is the central character? Answering those three questions naturally shows the type of story I’ll write and what age group will eventually read it. 
Then it’s my job to develop the plot, tweak the twists
infuse the characters with hopes, burden them with hardships, and write the very best book I can write, one that will touch a chord, and hopefully resonate with readers.
Branding is about sales and product and web presence, but if you start with story as your root, you might find your place in the world wide reading and writing community. You might find fellowship. You might also find a unique web presence which grows naturally from the types of tales you write.     

Note: I read Maureen Johnson’s marvelous manifesto post  after drafting this one. It encouraged me. If you like my rant, swing by and read her manifesto.
Until next time Dreamwalkers, walk well

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Write in Private or Write in Public?

Dreamwalkers, are you a Write in Private type of author or a Write in Public type?  I think of myself as a Write in Private sort of person.

Maybe it’s because I laugh out loud when a character says something unexpected, tear up in poignant moments, or need to jump up and physically act out a scene to get un-stuck. Do I want any of these behaviors on public display? Hardly.  

Or maybe it’s because I’m always trying to capture the illusive magic

But yesterday (drumroll please) I did something Bold! I met with fellow author Justina Chen

to Write in Public at a local coffee shop.

After a delicious conversation with Justina on life, writing craft—hashing out plots and twists, and writing  careers—her newest brilliant YA novel A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS is coming out next week J, we opened our laptops and got down to business.
I discovered something there. Having to shut out the hissing, spouting, belching espresso machines, the nauseating overhead music, the conversations at the nearby tables forced me into uber-concentration. I dove into the scene and fell out of time and space right into the book.  It was . . .


Yesterday I saw for the first time how the distractions forced me to Focus. Is this why many authors love to Write in Public? I have a sneaking suspicion it is. How about you? Which do you like best?

Until next time Dreamwalkers, walk well