This is main title of book Diane Lunsford. Bunch of Diane Lunsford Books

Category Archives: Welcome

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What’s Next?

It is an admirable accomplishment to have written a book. However, it’s time to stop basking in the achievement and implement the critically important ‘next step’. Your book is now at Mount Everest base camp. Your mission is to enlighten the world it will be at its summit soon. Now would be a good time to don your (emotionally detached) marketing cap.

As you shift gears into marketing mode, a viable plan is foundational. How will you achieve sales? Amazon is an incredibly powerful vehicle and certainly a strong start. It is important to note, however, you are competing with millions of talented writers vying for that same piece of real estate on Mount Everest’s summit. Think back to the day you began writing the first draft of your book. Rekindle that commitment and channel your energies into developing your marketing plan. This time your end goal is exponential (and consistent) sales.

A writer writes what a writer knows and thankfully, that same writer already has a clear vision of his or her audience. You wrote your book for that audience. It’s time to test sales. Enlist beta groups, book clubs, local media (in print and on air), seek author interviews. Listen to readership feedback and use those accolades to advance your sales. Do book signings—a tremendous platform where you can talk up your story and elicit prospective sales. Social media is your virtual voice and is vital to your daily marketing regimen and perhaps the broadest net you have to cast. Do you have an author page? tweet? Website? Target your local community. Enlist the help of local business with a sound proposal of why your work was tailor made to showcase in their venue. Make a plan and stick to its concept, but remember to maintain flexibility. Even the best ideas are subject to change and improvement when put to the test. Track your results and discard what doesn’t work as you fine-tune what does.

In its infancy, you are the most important ambassador your book will ever have. As you gain a following, your audience will add to the enhancement and attraction. For now, however, either breathe insurmountable life into your book’s future or sit back, relax and watch it fade into the sunset before it ever had the chance to rise above the clouds.

-D. Lunsford

Ode to the Editor

While I’ve touched upon the importance of an editor in a previous post, I want to further emphasize the premise. My editor unrequitedly took a back seat to my spotlight. For a fee, she assumed the heavy lifting and rolled up her sleeves. She zeroed right in on dotting appropriate ‘i’s’ and crossing proverbial ‘t’s’ and had an inherent understanding that her role was to suggest changesShe was a strong and knowledgeable editor because she honed in on my style and taught me how to temper areas with too much description. Consider a painter and his pallet. One would venture that perhaps the end product of the Mona Lisa (most likely) had a few passes before its final masterpiece found its permanent home in the Musée du Louvre in Paris, Franceergo, the “artist’s mental editor”.

As much as a writer’s job is to write, embellish, emote, flower and (sometimes) unintentionally overcomplicate, it’s just as vitally important to use the business side of our mind. To have the privilege and make the connection with a superb editor who is trained to temper, de-fragment and tighten is vital to the success of the book. When we deliver our first pass (yes, first pass) of our manuscript over to our trusted editor, while we may sweat and obsess, we focus on the anticipation of the editor conference. We already know the story we delivered to this trusted soul most likely will not be the same when we get the suggested re-writes back. However, the beauty in discovering the perfect marriage between writer and editor is when that first pass is returned and not only has our body of work been trimmed of its unnecessary fat, it is one step closer to becoming the magnificent story we envisioned it to be…

Indeed, we bow to our editors. Just like writing is what we do best; our editor is there to make sure the world recognizes this as well.

D.Lunsford

Courage

Cour.age  (kur- ij):  …the ability to do something that frightens one…

I used to think the only definition for the word courage was ‘to be brave’. The writing life has broadened my perspective and understanding. This writer has had absolute moments of fear throughout the publication journey. There have been stumbling block doozies; but blue skies are usually on the horizon to cancel those thunderheads on most occasions. Courage is a necessity in the writing process. It’s the key to sustaining strength and conviction no matter the stumbling blocks to keep writing in order to become a better writer.  Perhaps the broader definition of courage is self-belief coupled with the act of providing constant nourishment for your absolute passion of writing.

More importantly, however, one must remember how to embrace one’s conviction. Stand up tall once again whenever you fall… the writing road ahead is a long one. It’s for those who have the courage to keep moving forward.

D.Lunsford

Don’t Throw the Words Away!

It is more than difficult at times to strike certain passages, conversations, scenes, AND pages. As I worked with my editor to prepare Echo Ranch for submission, I recall my first ‘head butt’ with her. It occurred when she suggested the opening to the story begin at a specific point (which would require a cut of the first 75 pages of the book). I was horrified. She was (and is) extremely patient and left me to it. After a few days of doing my own trial and errors of taking the pages out (and saving them in another file) and rearranging this paragraph and blending that scene; it occurred to me, she not only knew exactly what she was doing, but her suggestions truly made the story tighter and much more fluid.

My ‘first pass’ edits of Echo Ranch were in excess of 129,000 words. The next round brought the count down to 92,000+. It is currently in pre-release review (with a proposed release date of 1-14-14). I am proud to say the pre-release recipients will receive a beautifully bound book that contains a little over 70,000 words; thanks to the amazing precision and knowledge of my editor’s abilities. Her persistence taught me the importance of not only paring down the delivery; but how to do it without diminishing the story.

…as for those ‘unused’ words?  My editor also taught me to: ‘Never throw the words away!  Save them in a file for another time… it’s not that the writing is poor; it’s that they’re not necessary to complete the scene, conversation, passage, etc. … save them and perhaps you can use them again some day in your next  book…’

D. Lunsford

Does the Name Fit the Character?

Selecting a character name is foundational to enhancing story credibility. For example: If I were writing a Western, I wouldn’t name my trail boss (or any of my cowboys for that matter, ‘Winston’). I don’t recall ever reading a western novel where ‘Trail Boss Winston’ drove his 300 head of cattle across the open range.

Putting aside the mismatched name to the character, an unusual spelling of a character’s name could offer great interest to the story. For example, I came across an unusual spelling of Diane, my name, the other day which inspired me to apply my imagination. I thought about the fun I could have creating a character and scene around the unique spelling.

Given ‘Diane’ was spelled: D-y-e-a-n-n-e, I immediately envisioned a cocktail party scene.

The set up: Dyeanne would be dressed in a trendy little black dress—accessorized, of course, with her signature, 4-carat solitaire gently swaying from side to side as it dangled helplessly from its expensive gold chain around her skinny, bird-like neck. Dyeanne was intent on projecting fabulously beautiful confidence through her body language. Sadly, her stick-perfect, non-existent curvature was a complete contradiction to the flirty way she batted her devious see-through blue eyes.

The delivery: One thing Dyeanne had down to a science, however, was proud and perfect delivery when it came to explaining the spelling of her name: ‘…‘Dyeanne’; spelled with a ‘y’–like dye coloring–the ‘y’ followed by an ‘e’… and then the name ‘Anne’ follows the ‘e’ at the end of ‘Dye’, but there is no capital ‘A’ in ‘anne’

Does Dyeanne’s name fit her character?

-D. Lunsford

Patience

Practicing patience is arduous at best. Even though I completed the first draft of my novel in February, 2012, its fate today continues to lay in the hands of a prospective publisher.

That ‘first draft’ mentioned above is not the version sitting in the hands of the current publishing prospect. A large amount of work, fine tuning, polishing and applied patience needed to occur before the query. Hint:  The savvy writer solicits help and makes the sound investment (let alone, emotional detachment) of hiring a professional editor to collaborate with. Since February, 2012, I’ve thought on more than one occasion: “Writing a book is the easiest part in the overall process of getting it published.”

Sixty days beyond February, 2012 and having completed my read-through’s, edits—grammatical as well as substantive, it was time to find an editor. Once my editor had the manuscript, I took a ‘break’ and began the educational process of finding a publisher—traditional publisher. It is critically important during this phase of book writing, one is focused enough to learn (and practice) the art of patience whenever possible. The journey toward publication may seem never-ending; but it is a fascinating, constantly evolving and changing industry. The process commands undying commitment, stick-to-it-iveness and more than a heaping, daily dose of patience.

Tears will fall and those same tears diminish with each victory attained—no matter how miniscule. Determination translates to achieving one step closer to the destiny while on the journey toward publication. Learning patience is a huge contributor to the deliverance of the goals we seek to accomplish…

I believe there is a lot of truth to the concept of no guarantees as much as there are no coincidences in life. There is, however, a guiding force in the lesson of patience. While I am personally challenged by the premise daily, I recognize the concept is an integral part of the journey toward publication.

When one door closes, the next will open. As writers, it is our mission to stay the course; never give up and without question, continue our journey with more than a little patience as we travel down this writing road…

-D. Lunsford

Who Pays Who?

Whether the decision is to self or traditionally publish (or any derivative in between), it is the author’s responsibility to do the homework before signing on the dotted line. Speaking from experience, if things seem too good to be true, they are in fact, too good to be true.

In my own journey, one of the obvious conclusions I have come to is there is no shortage of aspiring authors. There is also a wealth of writers who are profoundly gifted. I’ve had the pleasure of reading (and reviewing) some of those bodies of work in particular. To we authors ‘aspiring’ to get published, it is imperative to have the wisdom to listen to your inner voice. Before you query, consider spending the time and money to have your work professionally edited. Remember, you are the writer. You may have built the story, but as a writer, we tend to be emotionally attached. If we cannot relinquish our work to a professional editor for its first litmus test, how on earth will we react when the only thing stopping the work from getting to print is the publisher recommended edits?

The romantic notion that a publisher is waiting for your arrival with a fistful of money is just that… romantic!  In turn, think long and hard before you consider delivering a bucket of money to a publisher (because it’s their requirement of their publishing process). Contrary to what one publisher may tell you that it is ‘industry norm…’ there are still entities looking to back a solidly written and viable story and newsflash: without the author plunking down the cash.

If you have been selected to advance toward contract, it is imperative you do your homework before you sign. Reach out to those authors already published by the house that is considering you. Delve into the company’s history (i.e., how long have they been in business; what are their credentials;  what is their success rate; what does ‘success’ mean to you… them… what is the royalty pay out… who owns the work…)  The only foolish question is the unasked question. When it is your time to sign, clarity will surface no matter the outcome. Remember, it is a journey and homework is a huge part of the process. If your inner voice speaks, listen!

What Sparks You?

When Place Your Words first launched in August, 2012, one of the initial pages created was titled “Spark Words”. My hope then (as it remains today), is to have its content flourish and grow with inspirational ‘spark words’. The further premise of this page is not limited to a word. Rather it is to encourage visitors to expound on his or her ‘spark word’. After all, while the ‘spark’ of one writer may leave another void of thought; think about how the ‘spark’ could ignite the flame and inspire that same writer to release the epic novel from within.

 As homage to the continued journey toward publication, let’s kick off 2013 with a spark word challenge: Write a story in a paragraph (or less) using your spark word. To get the ball rolling, I give you my ‘spark’.

 Spark Word: Horse

 “She lifts her head abruptly and pitches her ears forward. She listens with precise caution as she stands tenuously motionless. Early morning May awakens; winter  snows long-since gone. Her once wooly mammoth coat is now a sleek and glossy bay brilliance. Her dishy Arabian face exudes innocence—more than a contradiction to her mare ways. She is coming of age—a teenaged girl in the body of a horse. Satisfied there is no threat, she bends her head down to her foggy bottom field for another mouthful of sumptuous clover.”

 What sparks you?

Writing Groups

Shortly after finishing edits on my manuscript, I decided to join a writing group. I dove in and selected the first group I found; short-cutting my research and ignoring the prospect of what needs that group should fulfill. This is not to say they weren’t a welcoming gaggle of creative sorts; but they were definitely a group of people quite far removed from my intended audience. I discounted this important factor because I was all about convenience and they met mere minutes from my house. I further justified my means because we had a common goal. We aspired to get published. Sold! 

Each member’s job was to post our work to the member site. It would be downloaded weekly for peer review/comments. I decided to participate as an auditor the first week and contribute the next. Feeling confident after that first session, I couldn’t wait for the next.

We opened the following Saturday with comments on the co-founder’s work. Most of the group showered her with high praise and accolades. When it came my turn to contribute, my peers were less than enthralled with what I had to say. Rather, as their discussion evolved, I found myself defending every comment I had made. I suggested what I thought was the obvious. The writer had violated the rules (six pages maximum, 12-pitch font, double-spaced, one-inch margin all around). She had crammed so much type into those six pages, I had great difficulty deciphering what was written. I listed two examples: 1) the typeface was ridiculously small (possibly 8-pitch), margins were non-existent; and 2) the content had an endless flow of vague pontification between the two characters. It was so extreme, by the time I was midway through the first page, I had no idea who was talking with whom and just exactly what the characters were talking about. The general consensus of the group toward my input was to discount its worth because I didn’t have enough background on her story. Apparently, they had been discussing her work for several weeks by that point.

Uh-oh, my work was up next. The first person likened my work to ‘…a soap opera that was going nowhere…’  On the heels of his feedback, the next iterated ‘…the opening was somewhat vague and cited one particular analogy I used: “…anchor that had been set and once it was lifted, the unknown of drifting aimlessly began…”  She was stuck on the anchor. She took the anchor analogy literally and was confused because she didn’t get the connection between sailing and my story. I let that one roll off my back.

When the erotic/fantasy writer gave her critique, my blood began to boil. Before she began, she took a dramatic deep breath and condescendingly shook her head a few times. Her action made me think a wise sage was about to impart invaluable gospel. She told me with a great sense of authority that I had gotten my genre all wrong. Given the fact I had written the perspective of both adult and child in the opening, there was no way I could target the specific audience of young adult. Technically, she was right about the two perspectives. However, her delivery was hurtful and did give rise to my blood pressure. I shut down and began to mentally obsess about her work. Here was a person with a creepy affinity toward writing about the sadistic pleasures, joys and erotic Utopia of something half human/half beast arriving at the ultimate pleasure in life once it has consumed the innocent virgin bestowing her expertise on my novel. My story in comparison was no comparison!  My analogy:   I had written the equivalent of Pollyanna spending a summer in the mountains and was receiving comments toward its merit from the devil himself (or in this case, herself)! I gathered every ounce of strength to prepare and focus in order to receive the last person’s comments.

She was the founder of the group. She was the only member who had already been published many times over–a former journalist; had worked for a few newspapers; written several pieces for local and national trade publications and was working on her first novel. She too took a deep breath and simply said:  “…I like what you’ve written. I think it’s a great start and cannot wait to hear what happens next… you’ve done a terrific job in defining your characters and there is sound emotion resonating from the pages… I can hear your voice…” 

The world is full of critics who have a wealth of judgment to support their criticisms. Listen carefully for the useful nuggets of information and leave the rest behind. Constructive feedback fuels the journey as it further strengthens the writer.

 

 

The Critic Within

Arrest the critic within. Disallow it to seize what could be your best work. True, a writer must have a plan as to the direction he or she is going, but the story must first be committed to paper. I would venture to guess some of my best work has been compromised simply because I allowed my ‘critic’ to  re-write, edit, and re-write again to such a point of distraction, I had completely snuffed-out my creative connection. Structure is somewhat of an oxymoron when endeavoring to be creative; yet there has to be some sort of semblance. A solid plot is a good start. Sadly, we will never get there if we insist on manipulating the message (and meaning) at the starting gate; thanks to the presence of the critic within.

What comes to mind for me is Charles Shultz’ beloved character Snoopy. Years ago, I subscribed to home delivery of the Sunday newspaper. I admit I was particularly drawn to the Sunday Funnies. When I got to the Peanuts comic strip, invariably, Snoopy would be perched upon the roof of his dog house with his paws resting on his typewriter’s keyboard. There would be a thought bubble over his head that read: ‘It was a dark and stormy night…’  Week after week, that same thought appeared over his head. Clearly, his critic within had high jacked his creativity and was holding it hostage.

I’m much more aware of my own critic today than I was even five years ago. I’ve learned what a negative impact its existence poses on my own creative flow. There is no magic formula that spells out what the perfect blend of words should be. A writer is able to feel it when it happens. What I do know is when I get the compulsion to self- critique or self-edit, I shut the notion down. The experience of riding the wave of writing flow and paying word upon word forward in the development of a story is far more productive and quite fantastic as well.

Here is some food for thought:  Someone was once praised with the completion of his manuscript with the following sentiment:  ‘Congratulations!  You’ve just completed the first draft of your novel…’  The moral to this story is just that. When you finish your first draft, the critic within is allowed to participate in the second…

-D.Lunsford