About Michelle Griep

I hear voices. Loud. Incessant. And very real. Which basically gives me two options: choke back massive amounts of Prozac or write fiction. I chose the latter. Way cheaper. I've been writing since I discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. I seek to glorify God in all that I write...except for that graffiti phase I went through as a teenager. Oops. Did I say that out loud?

The Dreaded Synopsis

Writing a synopsis doesn't have to freak you out.

Writing a synopsis doesn’t have to freak you out.

“A synopsis is a cold thing. You do it with the front of your mind.”

~ J.B. Priestley, English novelist, playwright, broadcaster

Is it only me, or do you break out in a cold sweat just thinking about having to write a synopsis? I can write novels. I can write devotionals. I can even whip out a mean shopping list. But writing the dreaded synopsis brings out the idiot in me. Perhaps, indeed, I have lost the front half of my brain somewhere along the way.

So what’s my problem? Am I giving this too much importance? Am I trying to fit in too much information? Has there not been enough dark chocolate in my diet of late?

Regardless, there’s no getting around the fact that every writer must construct a synopsis in order to sell a manuscript. Think of it as the bones of your story, or if you like, the short story version of your novel.

3 WAYS TO WRANGLE A PLOT INTO A SYNOPSIS FORMAT

1. Introduce your main characters, focusing most on goals, motivations, and conflicts rather than on physical attributes.

Hint: Think back cover copy.

Example: It takes a thief to catch one, and there’s none better than reformed cat burglar (MOTIVATION) Officer Doug Harwell. He’ll stop at nothing to rid the Boston streets of crime (GOAL)—until the beautiful pickpocket Rhianna Davis enters his life (CONFLICT).

2. For the body of the synopsis, set up each paragraph with the actions, reactions, and decisions made by those main characters.

Example: Bob kisses Donna under the apple tree (ACTION).
He makes her forget she’s already engaged to Bubba (REACTION).
Donna decides to break off her engagement and run away to join the circus instead (DECISION).

3. Tie up the loose ends.

Never—ever—leave an editor guessing, no matter how cute you think it is. Cliffhangers are great for chapter endings, but not for a synopsis finale. You must include the resolution to your story.

There you have it. Put together your story idea into a two-page format before you dig into chapter one so that you have a road map to follow as you compose.

DO NOT LIVE AND DIE ON SYNOPSIS HILL

Are you prepared for the zombie apocalypse? I’m not. Shoot, I’m not even prepared to make dinner tonight. I’ve got more important things on my mind, like should I stick to my synopsis or deviate in a whole new direction even though I’m two-thirds of the way finished? Don’t smirk. This is a serious crisis.

What do you do when you suspect your storyline might be one of the living dead?

First off, don’t panic. I never do. Oh, I did on the first three or four manuscripts, but now I see a pattern. I get bored with my own story. Yeah, I said that out loud. And newsflash: If the author’s bored, the reader will be bored. It’s a valid reason to stray from your original outline, but there are a few other reasons you might want to consider when deciding if you should revamp your plan or ditch it altogether.

You might want to change your synopsis if:

1. You thought of a better idea for an ending.

2. A new character shows up and takes center stage.

3. You realized an angle to turn the story into a series.

4. You came across information that makes your original idea not only implausible but outright impossible.

Remember, a synopsis written before a story is finished is more of a guideline than a legal contract. It’s okay to change things up, unless you’ve already got a contract on the piece. Then you’ll have to clear it with an editor first.

So Many Books, So Little Time

278153_3301Do you have a TBR pile? Yeah, I hear you. Stupid question. Who doesn’t? In fact, I’ve got an entire TBR bookcase I like to call Storyland. It’s a magical place, filled with books I’ve promised to review, those I want to read because the back cover copy hooked and reeled me in, and a few that I feel obligated to plow through.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not whining. There are many more titles I’d add to Storyland if I had the money, but where would I find the time to read them all? Surely with so many books and so little time, the topic of reading outside your comfort zone is a moot point, isn’t it?

No. It’s not. I’m a big advocate of broadening your reading horizons even when—or especially when—your time is limited. Why? Many reasons…

1. It gets you out of a rut, opening your eyes to other possibilities that just might spur you on to greater creativity.

2. It demolishes prejudice. How do you know you don’t like a western if you’ve never read one? If story is king, the genre doesn’t matter. When choosing to read outside your comfort zone, choose titles that are classics or bestsellers (because there’s usually a reason they’re in that position).

3.  If you want to be a well-rounded writer, you must be a well-rounded reader. Don’t forget short stories, poems, and plays can teach and hone different skills than a novel.

4. You just might discover a new favorite author. It’s happened to me. Because I write reviews, I don’t always get to choose the books I read. I’ve come across some fantastic new authors this way.

5. There’s always something to learn, from a new time period, to a people group you’re not familiar with, or even scientific theories you’ve never heard of. Reading outside your comfort bubble is educational.

1207951_88385713Now that you’re chomping at the bit to try some new genres, here are a few you can check out:

Steampunk

Generally this is an amalgamation of the Victorian era with modern technologies powered by steam. Plus there’s an excess of spin-offs such as dieselpunk, atompunk, decopunk, and loads of others.

Metafiction

Put on your thinking cap because this one is a little tricky to wrap your brain around. Metafiction is a literary term describing writing that purposely poses questions about the relationship between fiction and reality using irony and self-reflection.

Urban Fantasy

Think elves or magical fairies roaming around the alleys of New York City. Better yet, how about dwarves in the sewer system? This genre is usually set in contemporary times and contains elements of fantasy.

Musical Fiction

This is a genre wherein music is supreme, both as subject matter and via the flow and rhythm of the prose. Music is manifested through the language itself.

Robinsonade

Search your memory banks way back to junior high when you read Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe and you’ve just about hit the bull’s eye. The success of that novel spawned so many imitations that the title was used to define an entire genre, more simply described as a “desert island story.”

So go on…nudge, nudge…step out of your suffocating little box. Fling a completely out-of-your-zone book onto your TBR pile today. You can thank me for it later.

Preferably with chocolate.

5 Ways to Tell if You’re a Writer

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Can you name this author?

Writers are strange animals. They’re solitary mammals, prone to long stretches of hibernation unrelated to weather conditions. Generally, they’re pale, usually require glasses, and for some reason I’ve never been able to figure out, tend to wear flamboyant hats. What’s up with that?

If you suspect there’s a writer gene in your DNA, here’s a surefire test that doesn’t require a blood draw or even a swab of the inside of your mouth. See if you relate to any of the following. . .

1. You kill off your imaginary playmates.

Authors invent people. You craft words to connect readers to your characters, pulling at their heartstrings, making them best buddies. Then all for the sake of story, you take those imaginary friends and ramp up the catastrophes. Bam. Bam. Bam. All leading to a horrific climax…

“Meet Susan. She’s blonde, friendly, the girl next door with good dental hygiene. Her freckles are endearing and she helps little old ladies across the street. Everyone loves Susan. Whoopsidoodle! A Mack truck just hit Susan. Her dog died. And now there’s a one-armed stalker with an eye patch that wants to drink her blood. Poor, poor Susan.”

2. Your skill at lying is only exceeded by those in Washington.

Writers get paid to tell whoppers, kind of like attorneys, only without the debt of law school. It’s an author’s job to convince others of the plausibility of their story, to pull the reader into a whole new world—one they can taste, touch, and smell. Remember Susan? Yeah. Enough said.

3. You’re an uber-frustrated control freak.

You sit around all day, controlling what your characters say and wear, manipulating how they act and feel. You are a god of your fictional realm. Nothing happens unless you make it so. Enjoy the feeling, minion, because when you surface from Storyland, you don’t get to control reviews, contracts, publisher advances, or book placement, and you’re at the complete mercy of the Amazon recommendation algorithm.

4. You long for a raging bout of tinnitus just to shut up the voices in your head for a while.

When you’re asked about where you get your story ideas, you respond with, “What…you mean you don’t have mega-plex screens playing inside your head?” At least that’s how you answer the first time. After you’ve been scarred by the horrified face twisting that answer receives, you learn to reply, “Oh, here and there.” But that does nothing to clamp the lips of the story sirens in your mind, tempting you to listen to quite possibly the best plot idea ever in the history of mankind. And don’t bother buying the sound canceling earbuds. They don’t work.

5. You fly your freak flag high.

Hey, if being nutty-nuts was good enough for Tolstoy, Hemmingway, and Poe, you’re all for it. Besides which, you know you’re not batty, bonkers, or berserk. You identify yourself as simply being eccentric.

Any one of these five gonging a bell in your head and heart? If so, guess what? Yep. You’re a writer. Don’t worry, though. In this day of political correctness, no one will dare label you a nut job for fear of a lawsuit.

But that wasn’t always the case…(cue shameless teaser). In  A HEART DECEIVED, the topic of insanity is explored in historical detail…

A-Heart-Deceived-front-coverMiri Brayden teeters on a razor’s edge between placating and enraging her brother, whom she depends upon for support. Yet if his anger is unleashed, so is his madness. Miri must keep his descent into lunacy a secret, or he’ll be committed to an asylum—and she’ll be sent to the poorhouse.

Ethan Goodwin has been on the run all of his life—from family, from the law … from God. After a heart-changing encounter with the gritty Reverend John Newton, Ethan would like nothing more than to become a man of integrity—an impossible feat for an opium addict charged with murder.

When Ethan shows up on Miri’s doorstep, her balancing act falls to pieces. Both Ethan and Miri are caught in a web of lies and deceit—fallacies that land Ethan in prison and Miri in the asylum with her brother. Only the truth will set them free.

So when you need a break from your story world, pick up A HEART DECEIVED, available by David C. Cook and at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and ChristianBook.

When Your Muse Takes a Vacation

wheeled-bags-143413_640It’s that time of year to start reserving your campsite or cabin or airline seats. Yay for summer vacation! But who’s got time for that?

Your week is slammed—chock full of appointments and meetings and paperwork that you don’t want to fill out in the first place. And, dutiful writer that you are, you realize you must make time amidst the chaos to write or it’s not going to happen. So, you whip out a crowbar and pry open a block of precious hours to work on your bestseller. It’s hopeful. It’s a handhold on your rockslide of a schedule and you’re looking forward to it.

Fast forward. The blessed time has arrived for you to lose yourself in the muse and surge ahead in your WIP. Java in one hand, laptop in the other, you cozy up in your favorite chair, ready to write and—

Apparently your muse didn’t get the memo. Your mind is blank and you are exhausted. Panic sets in. This is your only chance to write for the week and you don’t want to blow it. So you sit there with a crazed look on your face, whimpering.

Yeah. I hear you. I’ve been there. Frequently. Take a deep breath and read on because I’ve got a few tricks in my writerly bag that often are helpful.

470077_13483801Say What?

Close your eyes for a moment and listen to your characters. Just listen. Then open your eyes and write down what they’re saying. That’s right…I’m giving you permission to simply write dialogue. Don’t worry about attributes. You can go back and do that later. Simply start typing in a conversation between two of your characters (any two) and something magical will happen. You’ll get lost in the dialogue and pretty soon your word count will sky rocket.

Show & Tell

Open up to your collection of pictures that inspire your particular story. And if you don’t have any, then use this time to get some. What am I talking about? Well, I now keep pictures of each of my stories on Pinterest (here is an example). You don’t have to use that site, but you can look at my board and it will give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Pre-Pinterest days I simply opened a Word file and kept them there. Pre-laptop days I cut out pictures and tossed them into a file folder. Sometimes all it takes to get you writing is to physically look into your hero or heroine’s eyes.

1427476_92609932Slash & Burn

Go back to a previous chapter and edit. Even if your muse doesn’t happen to show up during that entire block of time, at least you’ll be making some kind of headway on your WIP and you’ll feel a lot better about it.

Mind Game

Release the pressure by telling yourself it’s quality not quantity. Focus on writing a single paragraph of description, either describing a character, a setting, an object…whatever. Make it a game by throwing out convention and using prose that’s crazy and you’ll find that one of two things will happen. It will either spur you into a creative new bent for the scene and you’ll move on in your story, or you’ll wonder what kind of drugs you’re on and snap out of it.

1439836_95143378Chocolate

Honestly, is there any situation that chocolate doesn’t make better? Go for the biggest brownie in the batch and see if that doesn’t put you in a better frame of mind

There you have it. Try one. Try all. Or go ahead and share with us other surefire ways you’ve tried to plead with your muse to pack up the suntan lotion and get home.

Five Essentials of Character Building

No matter the genre, every story has characters; otherwise you’d be writing a phone directory. Hold on. Bad analogy. I know plenty of characters in a phone book, and who in the wide, wide world of sports uses a phone book anymore anyway?

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Creating a memorable character doesn’t have to be daunting!

As I was saying, sans phone books, characters are an essential ingredient in a story recipe. There are lots of tricks to jazz up a character to make him memorable, but EVERY character needs some basic elements right from the get-go.

#1. FEAR

What makes your character scream like a little girl? Centipedes? The IRS? The threat of an alien abduction and subsequent probe . . . wait a minute . . . I’m scaring myself. And that, my friends, is the point. Everyone is afraid of something, fictional or not. Identify what terrifies your character so that you can use that fear to ramp up the tension.

#2. STRENGTH

I’m not talking six-pack abs here, though in the case of your hero, that’s never a bad idea. What sweet skills does your character possess? Is he a crazy freak with nunchucks? Can she hit a raccoon in the eyeball from fifty yards away with a slingshot? Maybe this character has x-ray vision and can see into people’s souls. Whatever. Give them something to work with. Even Charlie Brown excelled with his spirit of compassion.

#3. FLAWS

Perfect characters make readers want to punch them in the head. Nobody is flawless, so make sure your character isn’t either, even your super stud that swoops in to save the day and the damsel in distress all with one arm tied behind his back. This can be something as small as an inability to balance a checkbook, or feeding a gambling habit using stolen money copped from nuns. It’s not mean to give your character a flaw. It’s a necessity.

#4. A SECRET

Psst. Hey buddy. Come over here and I’ll whisper you some covert information because have I got something juicy to tell you! Are you leaning toward the screen? That’s because you want to know what I’ve got hidden. Secrets are like big, juicy nightcrawlers wriggling on a hook, irresistible to the reader fish. Characters with secrets reel a reader in.

#5. MOTIVATION

Everybody wants something. A brand-spanking-new Tesla. A mutton lettuce tomato sandwich. The stupid hangnail on your thumb to go away. Your character wants something as well. After you identify what it is, then dig a little deeper and find out why they want it. What drives them to go after their desire? That is motivation. I’m not saying you have to spell this out to a reader with a ton of backstory, but it’s important for you as a writer to know because it will show up in their mannerisms and even in the way they speak to others. Motivation manifests in attitude. What kind of aura do you want your character to portray?

These are the building blocks of creating a memorable character, someone who will stick with a reader long after they’ve read the last page of your story. What character haunts your head from one of your favorite authors? Chances are that the author used each one of these elements in his/her creation.

January Kick in the Writerly Pants

martial-arts-225397_640It’s that slumpy time of year. The holidays are over. Resolutions have hit the wall like a crash-test dummy on steroids. It’s Mars-cold outside and really…who’s got time to write when you’re working every conceivable hour to pay off the mongo credit card bill that’ll hit your mailbox at the end of the month?

Now that we’ve got all the whining out of the way, it’s time to buck up, little writing mongrels. Park your rear in a chair, stick your shnoz on the writerly grindstone, and get down to business by using a few of the following tips.

5 AWESOME WAYS TO CRANK OUT MORE WORDS PER DAY

#1. Kick your internal editor to the curb.

Newsflash: in order to up your daily word count, you have to actually write the words. If you muss and fuss over each one, you’ll end up with a total of about twenty-five words by the time the sun sets. At that rate, it will take you a bajillion years to finish your manuscript. So whip out some duct tape, slap it on your internal editor’s mouth, and pound away at the keyboard until your fingers are stubby little nubs. You can—and will—edit those words later.

#2. Pull up your pants.

At heart, I am a seat-of-the-pants writer. I don’t like to know what’s coming because hey, writing should be as much fun as reading, right? Nope. Not if you want to succeed at finishing a novel in a timely manner. If you come to your WIP without a clue of what you’re going to write, you will spend time thinking of what to write. Savvy? Map out your story. Write a general outline. And always make sure to end your writing time with a sentence or two of how you will pick up the plot when you return to it the next day.

#3. Put first things first.

Write in the morning, whether you’re a night owl or not. Psychologically, it’s a mental game of beat the clock. In the morning, you’ve got hours and hours ahead of you. If you wait until late at night, you’re more likely to nod off and give in to the siren call of Pillowland. Starting out your day by writing means you get to pass Go and collect $200.

#4. Write all day.

Before you start the tomato throwing and Hey-Princess-I-Have-A-Real-Job snarkiness, hear me. I understand. Life is all up in my business as well. But that doesn’t mean you can’t snatch and grab snippets of time throughout the day. Pound out a few words during your lunch break. Traffic jams sucking up minutes? Voice note a plot idea on your phone. Waiting for an appointment? Jot down a character trait you’ve been meaning to add in.

#5. Be a track star.

Mapping out a schedule sounds like a whopping nerd of a plan, but dude, it works, kind of like a food journal keeps you on track for a diet. Shoehorn in writing time on every day of your calendar for the next month and you’ll feel like a legit writer. Setting a goal on paper (or cyberly via keyboard) will keep you accountable.

There you have it. Tools for your writerly workbox. Which one will you put into practice today?

You Still Haven’t Fill-in-the-Blank?

1327383_64930133In case you haven’t noticed, it’s that holiday time of year. You know the routine. Parties and calories galore. Crowds and credit cards smoking from overuse. Getting together with relatives you haven’t seen for an entire year.

And—worst of all—having to answer the inevitable, “How’s your writing going?”

Oh, on the surface, it’s a harmless enough question. Much less in-your-face than a glitzy-gaudy Christmas sweater gone wrong. Don’t misunderstand, either. I’m not dissing the genuine interest that others hold in regards to the writing journey. In fact, the question shows care and concern from loved ones.

Still, why in the world do those four simple words, “How’s your writing going?” always drop me to my knees?

Because this question is like a bag of potato chips. You can’t have just one, folks. It’s the follow-up questions that sucker punch a writer into a drooling idiot . . .

“You still haven’t finished that book?”

“You still haven’t been published?”

“You still haven’t gotten an agent?”

“You still haven’t heard from Publisher X?”

“You still haven’t made it to the NY Times Bestseller list?”

The definition of insanity, according to Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting different results. This year, stop the madness. You know those questions are coming, so writers, let’s be proactive. How? Plan ahead.

Share an interesting bit of research you’ve uncovered.

An engaging tidbit of information oftentimes turns the conversation in a whole new direction. And who knows…you just may have found someone who can add to your knowledge base on a particular subject.

Prepare a fun and snappy comeback.

You don’t have to feel defeated because you “still haven’t.” Lighten up the situation with a quippy reply. Don’t just grin and bear it. Really yuk it up.

Flip it.

No, not your finger. Flip the question back to the questioner. Be honest and admit you haven’t whatever-they-asked, then ask them if they’ve accomplished one of their goals yet. Only use this tactic, however, if you really care. Otherwise, you’re going to come off as a sour grapes connoisseur.

Remember, ‘tis the season to be jolly, not crabby. Instead of cringing in the corner at the next holiday gathering, go out there and have fun!

Puppies, Unicorns and Dolphin-Shaped Balloons

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Have you heard of the term bait-and-switch? Yep. This is one of them, and for good cause. If the title had read “3 Reasons to Outline,” would you seriously have stayed tuned? Not only is the topic of outlining boring, it often causes big hivey welts to break out on some people. So if you need to slug back a few gulps of Benadryl, go for it, and let’s move forward with…

3 REASONS TO OUTLINE

1. To keep from crashing head first into the lack of confidence wall.

Yes, you can write an entire novel without drafting an outline, but the chances of losing steam and curling into the fetal position about midway through are pretty high. What you thought was a plot screeches to a halt. Characters wander around like zombies on steroids. Your narrative is a flaming train wreck of twisted words. Reaching this state of mind has a way of sucking all the confidence marrow from your bones. This is where an outline comes in handy. Think of it as a safety net and/or anti-zombie mega-gun. When you hit midway in your story, you can reach out and grab the outline rope to pull yourself up to the grand summit of a finale.

2. So you know where you’re going.

I’m not a huge map fan. I can’t fold the dang things. I know. I know. There’s this great new invention called MapQuest. Yeah. That’d be great if I had a smart phone—which I don’t. Even so, there have been a few family vacations where I’ve been awfully thankful for a map. That’s what your outline is. Writing a story is a lot like going on a road trip. Sure you can throw your bags in the car and hope for the best, but what happens when you hit construction? Or worse…road closed? That’s when a map is your best friend. Same thing with a meandering story. An outline will keep you on track to end up where you wanted to go.

3. It works out the kinks.

Don’t get me wrong. Writing an outline is not a magic pill that takes you to happy writer land (but if you could market that, you’d make scads of money.) Planning out the major scenes ahead of time, thinking through all the what-if-that-happens scenarios, straightens out your plot so you’ll be less likely to have to rewrite unnecessary chapters.

Convinced yet that outlining is the greatest thing ever? I wouldn’t be, either. Outlining sounds about as much fun as scrubbing the toilet—outlining as in Roman Numerals and sub-points and all that analytical falderal. I say it’s time to start thinking outside that no-fun box and reinvent the outline.

Newsflash: there’s no law that says you have to write a text-on-screen outline.

Maybe you’re a Pinterest type of person who creates story boards. That counts. Perhaps you love the smell of dry erase markers and get off on mind mapping a tale on a large whiteboard. Shoot, I even know some writers who adore 3M sticky notes and plan out a novel by decorating a wall with their scenes. Go ahead and get creative. That’s what fiction is about, folks.

One parting thought to shoot down the scare factor of outlining. You have my permission to outline only chunks at a time. If scribbling down the entire story totally freaks you out, just do the first third, then take a break and write the first chapter. Before you end the first third, however, you should plan the next third. Savvy?

Outlining does not have to steal the joy from your writing. Turn it around to enhance the joy of your writing…and keep from having a nervous breakdown halfway through.

What about you? Are you fans of the outline or more pantsers types?

Is One Really a Lonely Number?

solitaryRecently I Netflixed a National Geographic documentary called Solitary Confinement. Don’t judge. It’s cheaper than scrapbooking and far less carcinogenic than sun bathing. Bonus: it made me think…

Is writing really a solitary career?

There are a lot of myths surrounding the mysterious lifestyle of a writer, numero uno being that it’s a lonely existence. There sits Mr. Scrawny Writer, all jittery on java, banging away at a keyboard in a room devoid of humans, an alien probe his only hope of contact. Ever. Poor, lonely author.

What a fat lot of bunk. Writing involves a whole village of people right from the get go. Let’s take a peek at who lives in the grassy huts surrounding Mr. Writer.

Critique Partners

Think partners in crime. Usually a crit buddy is another writer who can point out your foibles…like using too many big words like foibles.

Agents

I like to think of my agent as a cheerleader. She looks great in a mini-skirt and whoa baby, can she belt out a cheer when I need to hear one.

Editors

Whether they’re wearing a macro, proofreader, or acquisitions hat, these people are a writer’s best buddies. Fact: a writer cannot see the forest for the trees—or is it trees for the forest—or…wait a minute. Is there an editor in the house?

Marketers

Steel-toed boots are nice and all, but how many doors of opportunity can an author realistically stick his foot in? These villagers are worth their weight in gold.

Reviewers

Seriously, who believes an author’s 5 star review of their own book? It’s a staggering number: zero times zero. Networking with reviewers is vital to credibility, plus they’ll sometimes take you out for lunch.

Bookstore Owners

Most writers already have a relationship with the nearest bookstore owner because guess what—writers read.

Librarians

While some authors shun cozying up to a knock-kneed four-eyed librarian because, hey, they’re lending books that could be earning a royalty, I say a librarian is beneficial to embrace. These are the frontline soldiers, able to shoot your book to the forefront of the public spotlight. If you’re a writer, feed, nurture, and love a librarian today.

Readers

Call ‘em your tribe. Think of ‘em as your audience. Your peeps. Homeboys, if you will. Yes, an author may be squirreled away for the better part of a year, diligently writing a story, but then for the rest of eternity (or as long as your contract allows, whichever comes first) these are the people who will become your lifelong fans…or enemies, depending. Still, readers let a writer know what they think.

And these are just a few off the top of my head. Writers develop all kinds of crazy relationships with their cover designers, conference speakers, the UPS driver, yada, yada. Now that you’ve been educated, next time you hear someone say writing is a solitary vocation, you can confidently shake your head and say “Unh-unh.”

Beyond Boring Bookmarks

bookmarksThere’s no way around it anymore. A writer has to market. You can flail your arms and scream like a little girl all you want, but other than scoring yourself some raised eyebrows or possibly a straitjacket, you will need to market your writing. Allow me to teach you the three most important words I taught my children. No, it’s not “please” and “thank you”…it’s “Get over it!”

Now that we’re past the lecture, let’s move on with some ideas to get your book out there that don’t involve the standard lukewarm fare of Twitter and Facebook. Not that I have anything against social media, mind you. It’s just that all the authorly Who’s from Whoville are already there, shouting their little lungs out.

Create a “Night Out” Event

This is a great way to cross-promote local businesses and your book. Look for small restaurants, clothing stores, kitchen gadget shops, whatever you can possibly tie into your book. Approach them with an idea to have a Women’s Night Out or Man Cave Night wherein you’ll offer to do a reading, or demonstration, or if you’re really confident, to be the chump in a rousing round of Stump the Chump for cheap little prizes.

Meet-Up Groups

Locate some meet-up groups in your area that might be interested in your book. Does your story have a sweet little dog as a character? Find a dog walking group. In my recent release, A HEART DECEIVED, I talk about the cook’s fantastic marmalade, so I’d go for a cooking group. Offer to speak to those groups for free (with a handy dandy book table at the back for afterwards). Need help finding a group? Meetup is the place for you.

Direct Marketing

Unless you live in Podunksville, USA, you’ve probably got a local company that ships products directly to customers. Ask if you can place postcards advertising your book in with their shipments. Obviously, if your novel is a romance, you probably don’t want a card going out with an order of hedgehog vitamins (not even kidding…check this out). Make it related in some way.

Sales Parties

Yes, Tupperware ladies are still around, but they’re not the only ones who do in-home parties. Pitch an offer to some reps to come along to one of their shows and do a short reading as an icebreaker. Sales people frequently love opening a conversation with potential buyers by talking about a novel instead of trying to do an immediate hard sell. It gets your name out there, and more importantly, gets people talking about your book.

BOGOMy latest scheme involves offering a BOGO (Buy One Get One) for my recent release. Since my book is set in England, I used the Keep Calm-o-Matic site to create my own poster. For one weekend, July 12-14, I’m offering to mail a signed copy to anyone who can show me a receipt for a book they’ve purchased. Details here.

Remember: the goal of promoting your work is to entice people to buy. Whapping them upside the head with BUY ME, BUY ME not only isn’t going to work, it’s going to annoy potential buyers to swerve way around your train wreck of a marketing ploy.

After all, one can own only so many bookmarks before the recycle bin is filled to the brim.