Queen Anne’s Lace plants too late to blossom wave dried pods in meadows and along roads. More Goldenrod become dull amid remaining greenery. Creeping vine leaves are tinged with brown, exposing dead their host trees and stubs to the elements. An occasional Monarch butterfly flutters where hundreds gathered. Picked of most of its fruit, the last viable tree in the orchard offers rotting pears to squirrels and deer. Birds form back into flocks after months of carefree exploration
In a week the garden changed from generous colorful blossoms to petals dotted with brown specks, stalks of poppies, empty rose stems, leaves without flowers. Too tall decorative grasses or plants tower over shriveled annuals in pots around the porch. Acorns drop with abrupt, gently violent, sounds. Mushrooms claim their day of show.
Farmers markets offer piles of kale, squash, boxes of potatoes, onions and carrots. Remaining tomatoes have fewer days to be used atop store bought lettuce or spinach. Apples replace cherries, blueberries, raspberries. Pumpkins appear piled on wagons.
Summer left the land dragging with it a sense of promise and surplus. Fall took over acting all pragmatic, a combination of awesome color-splotched trees and clearing the earth of produce that can be preserved for the months when nothing will grow. When icy tree branches and drifted snow will be called nature’s beauty.
An author with five published novels and three book awards sounds like a safe choice when looking for something to read now that winter is at hand. How can an author supplement a publisher’s efforts to get that message to readers?
The pros say discoverability is key to an author’s success and active social media is a must. I’d like to believe that social media can also open two-way communications. Late this summer I wrote two blogs about pushing social media beyond Twitter and Facebook. A skeletal marketing/communication plan is the final entry in that series:
Since my publisher manages @c_kraack, I have opened a new Twitter account for personal use. Follow me @cmkraack and I’ll return the favor. @cmkraack is the Twitter handle to share observations about the world, vacation stories, friends’ achievements, and, because I am a writer, a few tweets about writing. I’ll continue originating more general daily personal tweets related to writing on @c_kraack.
There are many sites where authors can interact with readers. I hope to offer readers reason to visit more frequently by developing unique content weekly for my Facebook author page (Cynthia Kraack, Writer) and monthly for my Amazon author and Goodreads pages. I’m also exploring other book websites are more intimate and might offer more opportunity to connect with readers while doing my own search for new books and authors.
My blog began as a place to share my views on the writer’s life versus concentrating on the writing industry. I’d like to return to that strategy with new blogs every other week. If I have the time, I’d like to develop a new blog introducing people from the broader art world.
With video and visual content drawing high social media user attention, I have begun development of a small number of projects to enrich my website early in 2016 including one or two that will be posted on YouTube in late 2016. The Pinterest Book Community looks like a different way to participate in a more visual community. The High Cost of Flowers already has a presence on Pinterest thanks to a wonderful reader.
How to do all this is tricky. My most immediate project is developing an editorial calendar. Twitter is a daily activity. Setting aside one day a week for blog writing and refreshing other media is a heavy investment as well as an interesting journey.
These are the bare bones of a social media plan. Readings, speeches, guest blogs, blog tours, teaching and traditional marketing haven’t been addressed. Any advice?
For most of my adult life packing a suitcase, briefcase and computer bag for a business trip would be called work. So why is it easier to characterize packing a suitcase, briefcase and computer bag to go work on an unfinished novel a writing retreat?
There are obvious differences: This is my schedule and my decision. There will be no paycheck arriving while I am away. Except for revisions on a different manuscript sent to my publisher on the second day and a few meetings, no one is waiting somewhere for this piece of work.
The real issue may be that in American culture there is discomfort sharing the label of work with purely artistic efforts. If I were completing scripts for a client’s videos, others would say I went away to concentrate on a work project. If I planned to develop new curriculum for a college course that would be understandable. But to the majority of Americans who work regular hours doing tasks people recognize, finishing a novel that might not find a publisher or be published is different. In fact,it is necessary time away to catch up on work that has become increasingly more disorganized while satisfying other demands. Some might say it is a bit indulgent. More a retreat than a work trip.
It’s all semantics. Embracing the retreat concept, I’m building in time to read, visit with other writers, take walks, and get some extra rest. I’ll miss the daily presence of family and friends, a few social events, the convenience of my regular home and routine. Unlike vacation time, I have an assignment to return home with a three hundred page manuscript ready to market to agents and publishers. And that sounds like work. Work I’m thrilled to have this time to complete.
A sad tale of technology gone wrong—a favorite story turned into a novella was stored on a flash drive about seven years ago. The flash drive has now disappeared and all that remains is the original short story as submitted for a summer program at the Iowa Writers Workshop.
The thirteen pages in hand are okay, but flawed. The core story is good, but it is rather like finding blueprints for all the rooms adjoining the kitchen when thinking about a food prep area remodeling project. Good characters only carry the read so far.
Second sad tale in the process—researching pivotal elements of the story disclosed too many discrepancies with reality to make the story plausible. Is it possible to write the story if one character doesn’t die? If the main character moves to a Wisconsin farm instead of Europe? Is it time to walk away from the project?
Third (and last) sad tale—this story was supposed to grow into my first novel and couldn’t be pushed beyond a fifty page novella. So why was I attracted back to Ginseng Fields?
My electronic and paper storage systems (used in the lightest sense) have plenty of abandoned projects. Some are three hundred words, some are two thousand. Not being a writer who keeps every sentence ever written, I’m sure thousands of words have slid into the recycle bin as well. Knowing when to walk away from work that has earned a title is tricky. I was recently in a glassblower’s studio and felt awful about shards of a beautiful base pushed into a corner. The artist was nonchalant and said everything else he made in that batch turned out beautiful. Hold on to that thought.
Three sad tales do (hopefully) lead to a pleasant place. Forced to abandon parts of the original plot opened space to explore why I wrote the original story. Beyond being attracted to these odd net-covered fields in the Wisconsin countryside, why did I begin writing? Almost ten years later I can answer that question. When I began the story our family was dealing with the serious health decline of my mother. I thought I was writing about how people prepare for such a loss when I wrote about a woman whose father is dying of cancer. In retrospect I understand the real story was about the complexity of the father-daughter relationship and how that plays out in the woman’s selection of a partner. Now there is a story under the storyline. There is lots to explore.
Ten days and 8,600 words later the project is alive and strong. What was at the center of the story is now acknowledged. No one dies so there are no easy ways to resolve issues between the two main characters. They are more interesting, more developed. It’s refreshing to write a contemporary story.
It feels like the time to walk away from this story is past. Bringing it to an end worthy of the time invested is a different challenge.
If you claim to be in the arts and ignore the force of social media you can only stand to lose some possibility with that decision. Unlike an ad in your local newspaper or a poster pinned up behind the indie bookseller’s computer, online news about music and movies and books might be viewed by someone who lives on the other side of your town, your country, or the world.
Everyone is hurrying to blog or twitter, but this week I’ve been focusing on YouTube while creating the first in a series of book trailers in advance of the release of Harvesting Ashwood: Minnesota 2037. All the word work of writing must be captured in images and music. After proofing galleys and working on press materials, the trailer is a welcome opportunity to spend hours looking at pictures and videos while listening to many kinds of music. Between flipping through personal photos, free online sources, and places like iStockPhoto, days can slip away. Even knowing my own work, this visual process has revealed ways to think about the people and stories in Harvesting Ashwood. A former writing coach encouraged casting a book with actors as a way to develop realistic characters, but this is a deeper process than choosing Tom Selleck instead of Sam Shepard as a grandfatherly figure.
Of course the trailer is one part of a bigger marketing campaign assigned the task of attracting viewers in the crazy world of YouTube. Thirty to forty-five seconds with images changing frequently is not a lot of time to summarize 90,000 words. Since 20% of viewers click away in the first ten seconds and another 13% are gone by twenty seconds, the book trailer is not the place for a talking head (unless you have connection to someone like Stephen Colbert or Bono).
With Windows Live Movie Maker, it is possible to build and pull apart multiple projects. The final result will not in any way resemble the incredible “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” trailers, but my budget is less than what that production company probably spent on masking tape. My intention is to capture the attention of a few hundred people over the next eight weeks. What I figured out about Harvesting Ashwood while working on the series is a gift that will carry into the final book in the trilogy.
Watch for the first trailer the week of April 9. Think about building a trailer for your next creative project. It’s a good way to think out of the box about your own work.
In the Howth Yacht Club’s pub, we stood with arms crossed, holding hands, as an elderly man with a wonderful tenor sang a ballad to wish us safe travel. At five o’clock Wednesday morning, I hung out my window at the King Sitric to send a new friend on her way to the States. Three hours later, it was my turn for hugs at the airport and the journey home. Reality hits quickly–security, customs, the ubiquitous airplane chicken meal, turbulence and a long lay over. Sitting in JFK, looking like a traveling business person, no one would suspect that a deep thinking woman in black was actually weighing what to name refugees trapped in a future Paris society.
So what did Thursday in the Midwest bring? After unpacking the computer and reconnecting technology, there were bills to pay, appointments to schedule, book-related calls to make. The annual writing work plan has been pieced together and starts on Monday. Harvesting Ashwood ”Ëœs June launch has its own plan, the last Ashwood book needs a block of time for revisions, a handful of short stories should be submitted. This is writing life.
Already miss the intimacy of the work group in Ireland, but am excited about being in my own home, listening to music, talking with the dog, and the comfort of my husband’s voice coming from his office downstairs.