Peeling the layers:  What I learned from Scott Dikkers, co-founder of The Onion, about publishing

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“Ready, fire, aim.”  Don’t be a perfectionist.  My problem is that I spend way more time writing than I do editing, so my project this summer will be to finalize the edits on my novel, Because of Mindy Wiley (https://sarahleastories.com/because-of-mindy-wiley/).  This will mark my seventh time editing it. I’ve put off finishing it for years–partly because I wanted to wait till I had a Master’s in English, but also because every time I went back to my book, it was like reconnecting with an old friend.  Since I never read anything I write (once it’s in print anyway), I think a part of me feared parting with it forever.

Publishing e-books for Kindle on Amazon is worth it.  The large publishing houses take 70% in royalties while Amazon takes only 7%.  Of course, with self-publishing, you have to do your own marketing, but all you need for that is an internet connection and an online presence, and I’ve already been branding myself for years (it’s the whole reason I started a blog)

Don’t skimp on the cover.  If you’re not familiar with InDesign, you’ll want to hire a designer to create your cover and lay out your book.  (Now I wish I had taken the time to learn how to lay out the newspaper while I was on The Corsair.) I will either have to wait till I get my degree in graphic design or wait till I can cobble together the money to get my book professionally done–whichever comes first.  Of course, there’s always Kickstarter.

Don’t spend the money getting your manuscript professionally edited.  I had seriously considered doing this through Writer’s Digest or inquiring my professor friends to see how much they would charge.  Dikkers said he caught all his mistakes just by reading his book aloud–only 225,000 words to go!

If you want people to notice your book, you need to have popular keywords in your book’s description (and don’t forget to test those keywords).  It’s basically the same principle as a hashtag. You get seven of them, so use them wisely (and remember that each word can be more than one).

Send press releases of your book to blogs.  There are many online tutorials that show you how to write in this medium.  I’ve thought about writing a mock press release as a blog feature.

There needs to be “reader magnet” in the book, such as a free first chapter, novelette, novella–basically, a hook to get your reader to buy your next book.  I already have visions of a prequel dancing in my head.

My book goals:

⦁ To sell enough copies to not only get on the New York Times Bestseller List but also enable me to fund a recurring creative writing scholarship at my alma mater.

⦁ To be turned into a TV-series for HBO.

⦁ And finally, the best of all:  For my name (or the title of my book) to be the answer to a “Jeopardy” question (or a “Wheel of Fortune” puzzle).

 

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Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #452: Game

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For the Non-Gamer

She watched “Wheel of Fortune” to make herself feel smart,
“Jeopardy” to humble herself,
& “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” to realize that anyone
could be one.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-452

For board game lovers:  https://sarahleastories.com/2017/12/04/mondays-will-be-different-sweet-little-nothings/

For “Wheel of Fortune” lovers:  https://sarahleastories.com/2015/09/02/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-321-theme-gripe/

For “Clue” lovers (or “Cluedo,” as its known in the United Kingdom):  https://sarahleastories.com/2015/05/01/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-30-theme-bury-the-blank/

 

2016, A Year in Review (and a few resolutions, too)

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Twenty-sixteen was my best year yet when it came to writing (not so much the number of words, but the number of finished projects, publications, and contest wins).  I’ve decided my minimum is 300 words (Stephen King’s is 2000, but unfortunately, I’m unable to write for a living yet).  If I want to go over that, that’s wonderful, but the overage won’t count towards the next day.  I have to keep myself accountable.

I have several New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Get more organized.  This will waste less of my precious time.  I have spent part of the last day of the year clearing out my favorites, deleting e-mails, organizing my USB drive, transcribing my notes that are scattered from pillar to post, polishing the drafts in my blog account so I can either “plush or slush” them (this I’ve done over the last week, explaining my prolific posting).
  2. Do more, and by that, I mean trying different things (especially physical ones, liking biking, climbing, etc).
  3. Plan meals so that I never have to wake up needing to cook.  (I hate cooking in the morning; I’d rather have fish for breakfast…and I have.)
  4. Write something using dictionary.com’s “word of the day”.  This will help me remember it far more than simply memorizing it.
  5. Don’t start writing any more books until I’ve finished (and edited) the ones I’ve written.  (This will take all year.)
  6. Keep coupons in the car or purse.  I am just too forgetful.
  7. Don’t respond to outlandish status updates on Facebook or you will be expected to post one.  I’m sorry, but these really piss me off.  Just like the ones that say “If you love Jesus, you’ll share this”, and others of its ilk.
  8. Include, in my daily to-do list, all the activities I want to do with my daughter.  This includes not just reading stories at bedtime, but other books during the daytime.
  9. Make at least one video of my daughter a week.  I’ve slacked on this as it’s harder to edit videos (or take good ones) than it is a photograph.
  10. Wear less black and gray (yes, it’s slimming).
  11. Do different things with my hair (it’s one of our greatest accessories).  I dug out my old crimper (I’m an eighties girl) and got many compliments on my new look; got a snood for Christmas and if you don’t know what that is, look it up.
  12. Work on Christmas gifts all year long (which would include trying a new recipe weekly).

And that’s just the beginning, but it’s a start.

~

One of my proudest moments this year was winning first place (in the same contest I placed in second twice last year) for my story, “The Punch Drunk Potluck”, about what happens when a saucy girl brings pot brownies to a Mormon Church party and spikes the punch.  Let’s just say everyone’s spirits were lifted.  (I will post the link when the online newspaper editor has it up.)

first-place-short-story

I was also published in Bella Grace magazine, for which I wrote a narrative poem about the magic of childhood.  The magazine seemed tailored just for me, with its almost “Pollyannish” take on life (Pollyanna being one of my favorite movies).

I also got published in the anthology below.  This site, http://writingcareer.com/, has been a great help to me in finding places to submit.

I wrote for the student newspaper this fall semester, am writing still for a parenting blog (https://getconnectdad.com/?s=sarah+richards&lang=en), and help write and design the newsletter for a local veteran’s organization.

As far as my personal writing goals, I got on a blogging schedule, where I only have to create new content once a week (the Writer’s Digest Wednesday Prompt); for the months of April and November, I successfully produced a poem a day.  My Monday and Friday posts come from what I’ve tweeted out, which I artfully compile.  I’ve started a Facebook page with writing tips and truths (https://www.facebook.com/sarahleastories/), also of which will someday end up on this blog (waste absolutely nothing you write).  All of these things have helped me become a better, and more confident and prolific writer (and it all counts towards my daily 300).

Though I’ve enjoyed this year immensely, I am never sorry to see it go, because every year just gets better and better:  I learn more, I become more.

Cheers!

Sarah Lea

Poem-a-Day 2016 Writer’s Digest Challenge #1. Theme: Foolish

door-1229144_960_720.jpgThe Foolish Person:  Modern Proverbs

The foolish person is he or she who sits,
and waits for opportunity to knock,
rather than knock on the doors of opportunity.

The foolish person is he or she who spends years,
waiting for the right person,
rather than being that right person.

The foolish person is he or she who tries to outpace others,
rather than first try to outpace themselves.

The foolish person is he or she who complains about the poor,
rather than count their blessings.

The foolish person is he or she who complains about the rich,
rather than focus on trying to become rich themselves.

The foolish person is he or she who believes that if something doesn’t make money,
it has no value.

The foolish person is he or she who sees all activity as accomplishment,
rather than some as entertainment.

The foolish person is he or she who doesn’t understand the laws of cause and effect.

The foolish person is he or she who chooses to compete when they are given immunity.

The foolish person is he or she who votes on emotion, not fact.

The foolish person is he or she who confuses anger with passion.

The foolish person is he or she who posts on social media while drunk.

The foolish person is he or she who buys an unnecessary vowel,
calls a letter that has been called,
and rushes to solve the puzzle
when they have no money.

The foolish person is he or she who believes that reading for pleasure is a waste of time.

The foolish person is he or she who believes that we can have freedom without security.

The foolish person is he or she who believes you can be healthy at any size.

The foolish person is he or she who believes that anyone can be an entrepreneur.

The foolish person is he or she who believes that it is wise to change God,
rather than have Him change them.

The foolish person is he or she who does not ask questions,
for fear they will not like the answer.

The foolish person is he or she who complains about the South,
but chooses to live there.

The foolish person is he or she who threatens to leave the country,
but never does.

The foolish person is he or she who makes hay,
but never bales.

The foolish person is he or she who complains about rich celebrities
or wealthy athletes
but go to their games and see their movies.

The foolish person is he or she who spends time trying to learn
gender-neutral pronouns,
rather than another language.

The foolish person is he or she
who sees only one answer
to every problem.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2016-april-pad-challenge-day-1

 

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #321, Theme: Gripe

So my husband and I are fans of “Wheel of Fortune.”  We even play the Xbox game, and it can get heated (especially if I “buy time” by buzzing in like I know the answer and take the full 70 seconds to figure it out).  He says it’s cheating–I say it’s smart.

I chose to gripe about the most benign show in existence–“Wheel of Fortune”–the game show that makes you feel brilliant after watching “Jeopardy”.  (Btw, a “fickle wheel” is how AT&T describes the show in their synopsis.)

The Fickle Wheel

Buying unnecessary vowels,
calling letters that have already been called–
it’s not using your noodle, is all.

Listening to the host without the most,
who holds the female contestants’ hands to the Bonus Round,
makes me want to wash my hands and whiskey-wash it down.

Contestants who jump up and down after every triumph,
who use flowery adjectives to describe their significant others,
who rattle off all their kids’ silly, pretentious names,
are just a few of the many gripes I have about America’s game.