Tag: Writer

You Said Video Would Gain Exposure

Facebook algorithms favor video. Oh, and groups. So, to get the best organic exposure on facebook, post videos in your groups.

Sure. Whatever you say.

Who said it? People who know all about making your brand stand out. Professionals who are PAID to make videos that bring in customers.

But I’m an author. I’m not selling a class. And, sadly, I’m not selling many books either. But if I get my face out there, people will hunt down my stories.

Hey. No need to hunt. I’ll provide the links.

But, apparently, the quest is part of the excitement. Or something.

So I took a course about making videos to share my brand.

http://sharonleehughson.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/2143024042585774-record.mov

But one is never enough. In fact, once a week is probably not enough.

My unplanned videos got the best views.

When I tried to only post the video to my group, only two people watched it. Of course, there are only 20 members (maybe) in the group, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

http://sharonleehughson.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/img_0315.mov

So I went back to posting live on my author page. And my sister watched.

Of course, I didn’t really announce that I would be going live. I need to do that. Maybe more people would show up if I did that. Maybe I’ll do that next week.

If I wait until the evening when more people might be on Facebook, maybe that will get me more views, too.

Who knows?

All I know is that I fumble for something to talk about in these videos, and no one comments to give me any ideas.

http://sharonleehughson.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/img_0361.mov

So, here I am posting a video or three on my blog. Because a few people read that, right? Maybe they’ll watch the videos and leave me some feedback.

I wish building my brand and audience worked the way the “professionals” said it would.

If wishes were riches, I’d own a small country.

If you’re reading this, what do you wish an author would talk about on live videos? If you watched the videos, what would make them more engaging?

Another New Year: Another New Word

It’s January. Again. Another new year. And around here that means a new theme or focus word.
This year’s word blindsided me shortly after we returned from our Branson vacation. I kept seeing a form of this word and as I was working through the ramblings from National Novel Writing Month that became some of December’s blog posts, I was struck by it.
Transform. Transforming. Transformation.
But that sounded too much like Transformers (”more than meets the eye”) so I immediately put my wordy nerd brain into thesaurus mode.
What did I come up with?

Was 2017 Dauntless?

Maybe you forgot that I’d chosen to be dauntless in 2017.


Just choosing the word was like a double-dog-dare to the enemy of the soul.
No matter how much I tried, I could never find the mindset of fearlessness I needed to plow ahead.
Instead, troubles, trials, and transitions bombarded me until I sat down in a heap with my arms over my head.
Hardly the image of a dauntless author chasing the publishing contract she KNEW she would get in 2017.
All of that makes me leery of choosing something daunting again for this year.

Metamorphosis Defined

When I think of metamorphosis, I think of the change of a furry caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly. That’s probably why you’ll see so many butterflies in the next few months as I’m inundating myself with this word.
But, aside from the biological definition, what is a metamorphosis? Dictionary.com says it’s “a complete change of form, structure, or substance, as transformation by magic; any complete change in appearance, character, circumstances, etc.”
So what does that mean for me? Am I changing from human into something else? I don’t think so. And the only magic that will be used is the grace of God.
I’m hoping the make changes in a few areas of my life, though. The biggest one is right here in my writing world.
Maybe you’ve already noticed the difference in my website. I hope you like the changes, but they aren’t done. I’m working on making it “look” and “feel” more like me.
The other thing is that this year I will focus my writing—almost exclusively—on Christian markets. This is a huge change for me, and it makes me more than a tad nervous.
The biggest motivator of this change is the Kindle Worlds contracts. I have a minimum of three more novellas for the First Street Church in the works for 2018.
I’m still going to do at least two projects with my independent publisher—romances. They know I’m changing my focus, and they’re supportive of my decisions. It’s one of the things that I like the best about them.

How it will look in my Life

My metamorphosis isn’t going to take me from a size six to a size zero. Or in the other direction to a size sixteen.
I’m planning on being disciplined in my exercise and eating until I reach the optimal weight for my height and age, but it’s hardly going to look like a transformation.
No butterfly wings for this fluffy girl.
Since my focus in writing is becoming more spiritual, the area I expect to morph into something mega is in my spirit. I’ve got a planner that helps me align my thinking along these lines.
The two nonfiction projects I’m planning for this year are both Bible-based. It’s time I powered through the grief handbook once and for all. So that’s a priority for this year.
And I didn’t write a new study book in 2017. That’s the other project I’m requiring of myself. I’ve got tons of ideas (of course) but I need to narrow them into a single topic that can be dissected over ten to twelve lessons.
Your ideas are welcome, as always.
Do you choose a theme or word of the year? What was your 2017 word? What will you focus on this year.

Encouragement at the Right Moment

This morning, I woke up feeling alone. I wasn’t. My husband’s alarm had just blared, and a cat curled against either side of my body.

My heart gaped, a barren wilderness.

Why do humans experience this? Everything around us goes along like the Friday evening commuter train, but our emotions bottom out.

What’s worse: people have complimented me on my amazing marriage.

Ha! That’s what I wanted to yell this morning.

My husband and I are miles apart. I tried to talk to him about x and he kept watching the football game. When I asked him to do y with me, he was too busy cleaning out the garage.

And I want the garage cleaned out as much as the next person. Truly. While he watched football, I read a chapter or two from three separate books I’m plowing through at the moment.

It’s not like it was a life-or-death moment.

But it’s become the norm in our home, rather than the exception.

When Paths Diverge

Many years ago now, I experienced a similar feeling.

We were in a much different place. Our boys had both just begun attending school full-time (now they are college graduates). My husband had a job that required travel, and I was a volunteer at the school, still unsure what to do with time that had previously been dedicated to entertaining my preschool-aged child.

The only similarity: I was trying to pursue my writing dream.

I gave it up back then.

When I described this time to my cousin, I said:

“We’re on different paths. His is moving steadily away from mine. The only way to change things is to turn them toward each other. So I make the choice to abandon my path and join his.”

Those words replayed again this morning. And my immediate thought was, “Well, I changed paths last time so it’s his turn.”

Now you know the truth about how unselfish I’m not.

Love is a Choice

My biggest issue with romance novels and romance movies is they paint love as some intense feeling.

Love-is-a-decisionTwo people meet. They’re physically attracted to each other. Somehow one of them helps the other out of a jam (maybe they help each other). Hands touch and sparks fly. Lips meet and it’s an earthquake of epic proportions.

Reality is a bit different. Sure, it might start the same way, but once two people commit to a lifetime together, things change.

No matter how perfect someone is, they will eventually rub you the wrong way. Voices will raise. Words which can’t be unspoken will slash tender feelings.

Now it’s time for love to step in. Love says, “I forgive you.” It chooses to forget the hurt and focus on the positive things. It won’t hold a grudge-ever.

Did I feel like letting go of the anger? After all, I was RIGHT. He should have to say it (and we should write it down because it has happened only a handful of times in our nearly three decades together).

I choose to love. Love says, “My way is not as important as keeping the peace.”

I know, completely not what human nature wants to say.

But, when I’m not “feeling the love,” I can still choose to act in a loving way. Because love is a choice.

Encouragement via Email

I follow a few dozen blogs. Some of them appear automatically on my WordPress reader. Others show up in email form.

This Monday, two emails came from two different Christian authors I follow.

The first one, entitled Loving for Life (from Melinda Inman), got a scan. I mean, I didn’t feel like being reminded that I had made a promise on May 27, 1988.

But a few phrases made it past my stubbornness anyway:

“They didn’t mesh seamlessly from day one.”

“Every marriage has the potential to fall apart-all it takes is one of the two partners deciding they’ve had enough.”

But I wasn’t deciding THAT. I just wanted to bask in my right-ness for a few minutes.

So the next email says “The mechanics of love (this is not as boring as it sounds).”

I had to click through to read the entire post. I’m glad I did.

Not because Pastor Bubna said anything new. Nope. I’d heard it all before. Many times. I’d even said some of it when doling out advice.

I needed to hear it today. These two writers spoke straight to my heart.

Their encouragement landed in my inbox at the exact moment I needed it.

And I put my right to being right aside. Seriously. Who needs it? Wouldn’t I rather have a husband who is my best friend?

The little voice that whispered, “It’s the writing that’s the problem” got snuffed, too.

It isn’t the writing. In fact, the writing has the potential to offer the same sort of encouragement to a world of people who I will never meet face-to-face. Like the two emails did for me.

The writing is a gift from the Giver of Life, and He recently showed me a more perfect way to use it for Him. So, of course, the enemy stepped right up hoping to discourage me from moving in that direction.

Friends, choose love today. You might not feel like it, but that’s okay. Love is always the right choice – and rarely the easy choice.

Any of my regular readers have any experience similar to these? Share your lessons. Be the encouragement others need.

Welcome to a Writer’s World

Hello, reader. Welcome to the world of Sharon Lee Hughson, author of romance, young adult fantasy and women’s fiction.

I got side-tracked by Facebook when I sat down to write this post. It was a sad day when someone told me I had to join Facebook and start building an online presence.

I was comforted by this thought:

I decided to scan the images on Google for awhile and see if that would light the creative fire inside me. The truth is, I just needed to follow Louis L’amour’s advice:

Genius! I decided to use a bunch of these cool writer quotes and weave a post about what it’s like to be a writer. Isn’t that what all the readers wonder? If so, check out this post by author Jody Hedlund. A writer’s world might not be exactly like you think it is.

I immediately clicked on the quote that gives me permission to spend hours each day reading fiction books:

I adore reading. Not only does it get me out of rainy Oregon, but it crank-starts my own muse.

Then I came across this next meme. It explains exactly why I start a new project by writing the first scene and then the last scene.

I didn’t say they never changed. Most of the time, my beginning is the most rewritten, revised and edited part of every story I write.

Which is why this little quote jumped off the page at me:

Sure, you can call it genius as long as you don’t discount the hours of blood, sweat, tears, moods, frustration, and fears that motivated it.

And then there’s the idea that we like to live in a fantasy world. Ever wonder why? And it isn’t just because they know us there – or because it’s more fun there (even if both are true). How about because it’s a world of mulligans?

When I need encouragement to fight my way forward through another round of edits, and rejection letters keep filling my inbox, I remind myself:

Imagine that. I’ve typed several hundred words. What once was a blank blog post is now filled with life and color. It gives my lips reason to smile. So I do.

Because, no matter what else happens, one of my favorite Nelson Mandela quotes always rings true:

I sat. I wrote. What more is there to a writer’s world?

Am I a “real” Author yet?

Author at work

I’m coming up on two years as a full-time writer. I have spent hours writing words, days editing them and months submitting the resulting stories to appropriate markets. And still I wonder: at what point does a person feel like an author?

When the first acceptance letter comes? I’ve got two, and I still feel like I’m pretending to be an author most days.

When the first paycheck comes? Okay, I can’t really consider that minuscule royalty check a “paycheck.”

When someone asks for an autograph? I’ve signed a couple – for family and friends.

When they get an advance with their sold  manuscript?

When they see their book on a best-seller list?

When they must start a Facebook fan page because they have reached the maximum number of friends on their profile?

When they have 5,000 or more followers on Twitter?

When they say their name and someone standing nearby asks, “Are you the Sharon Hughson who wrote this book?”

I keep waiting for a magical moment. I always imagined there would be one. Doesn’t there have to be one?

I’ve dreamed of writing stories that people want to read for most of my life. I’ve been writing stories since I was nine years old (before then, I just told oral tales to my stuffed animals).

I imagined that I would spend my days at a handsome desk. Sunlight would pour over me from a nearby window. Words would spill from my fingers onto the page.

It's a beauty! Those Hughson boys can assemble a desk, I tell you.
It’s a beauty! Those Hughson boys can assemble a desk, I tell you.

I am living that vision.

The one where a bookcase behind me is filled with titles I wrote? Not yet. It’s only been two years. I do have the proof copy of my sole independently published title on my office bookshelf.

Why do I keep waiting to “feel” like an author?

I can’t imagine Brandon Sanderson waking up in the morning and wondering if he is really an author.

What makes a person reach a point where they consider themselves an author? Please, help me figure this out.

Road to Self-Published – Finding your Perfect Editor – Part 1

This blog is meant to attract readers for my published works. You know, people who like young adult fantasy or Biblical fictionalizations, or maybe even a little romance. Yet, here I am discussing my journey to being self-published.

Self-publishing still sounds like a dirty word to some people. However, in the past two years, Amazon and the popularity of eBooks has begun to alter that perception.

It’s a slow thing – change. Especially when people have rock-hard opinions in place. The number of independent (i.e. self-published) authors who manage to make a decent living writing and publishing quality books rises with each survey.

For me, I am seeking the traditional path with my young adult manuscript – for now. The Biblical fictionalization, however, appears in my mind as something that isn’t about profit. Why shouldn’t I self-publish it then?

Earlier, I posted about the necessity of hiring an editor if you’re a beginning writer. (Yes, you might be in your 40s with no publishing credits and still be a beginning writer.) In this post, I speak directly about the process I used to find a copy-editor for the manuscript I intend to independently publish in May.

Where I started

As a member of WANA Tribe, I started there. After all, I had superior luck finding beta readers by posting to those boards.

everyone-needs-a-good-editor2Specifically, I posted on the Christian Authors tribe’s board. I asked for referrals to any editors who had experience with Biblical fictionalizations. In my mind, I felt that the two super editors I know (Jami Gold and Marcy Kennedy) were experts in fantasy and paranormal romance. I wanted someone with a little bit of knowledge about this much different market.

With only a single response from that forum, I headed over to the Editorial Freelance Association website. A search narrowed the pool to 121 members. It took plenty of clicking through to learn the information I wanted, but I found two editors to email for more information.

What I found

The list of members on the ERA site is staggering. It can feel overwhelming at first.

Is my method of reading through the bios and checking out sites scientific? Not hardly. It did lead me to an editor I feel comfortable with, however.

I emailed the first two choices and asked for quotes. It was here I learned that many editors don’t call a line edit a line edit. If an editor offers to copy-edit your manuscript, that’s the same thing (they say, although Marcy Kennedy defines the difference on her site). One of the editors quoted me between 8 and 12 cents per word, based on how clean my manuscript started. The other quoted $45/ per hour.

At the ERA site, there is a list of appropriate prices for services. This is the editorial rates chart from that site: Editorialrates

As you can see, both of these first two quotes are above the specified guidelines. Even though I had corresponded several times with one of these editors, I went back to my search list to see if I could find someone closer to the suggested range.

On my next search, I only emailed one editor. Her rates were clearly listed on her clean and user-friendly website. At 1.4 cents per word, her estimate worked out to a rate that was at the high end of the recommended charges.

Check back next Friday to see how I finally found the editor for my self-published manuscript.

I will be running a series of posts on Fridays for the next two months (give or take) about my progress toward publishing – both the self-published track and the traditional path (since I have manuscripts in both).

First Draft Finish Line

In this journey toward becoming a published author, I’ve learned to celebrate the small things. Otherwise, a road that can stretch for five years AFTER the manuscript is complete gets to feel somewhat like the Sahara at noon.

Dry. Dismal. Another hill to climb that looked just like the last five dozen hills climbed. No end in sight.

You get the idea.first-draft-oconner1

Thus, when I recently completed two first drafts within two weeks of each other, I did a serious happy dance. I posted my exultation on Facebook. Tweets exist to document my joy.

Of course, I know that a first draft is even uglier than a rough draft. It is generally filled with plot holes, clichés and shallow characters.

So, I opened the three-inch binder that held the 320-page manuscript of Doomsday Dragon. As I’ve shared before, after setting the project aside for a week or two, the first step toward perfection is a complete read-through.

Image my surprise when I didn’t have to make tons of circles (more information needed) and question marks (is this scene necessary?) on this first draft. If you recall my initial reaction to the last manuscript I rewrote, my stunned delight was nothing less than a 180.

In the spiral notebook dedicated to this project, I turned to a fresh page and entitled it “Changes needed after first read through.” When I did this with Daughter of Water in February, I filled the front and back of a notebook page.

Even though there were only six problems, they were huge. Things like “add POV for Kale and deepen Ausha.” And “setting incomplete.” These weren’t easy fixes. They screamed that the story had some serious issues.

For Doomsday Dragon, I had three questions, a note to include additional descriptions of the volcano types and a note to cut two scenes. Five things. And none of them could be classified as a “problem” with the manuscript.

In fact, as I was doing the read through, I laughed aloud a few times. I reread lines of description because they were original and captivating. I posted a few of them on Facebook and Tweeted a couple others.

Like this amazing moment inside my character’s head. Her voice comes through loud and clear:

“Zi gritted her back teeth to keep the full-blown smile from breaking the tense moment. Going to climb Everest and awaken a dragon, but he would be careful. Hilarious.”

The biggest problem is that I’m not quite as great getting inside the male protagonist’s head. I need to spend some more time listening to him talk. My initial plan to help with this is to rewrite all the scenes from his point of view first and consecutively.

Yes, the book needs to be rewritten. Of course, there’s some stuff in this first draft I want to keep. Words I believe reveal exactly what I intended. But it’s hardly perfect or ready for any eyes other than mine.

I’m wondering if I’m getting better at writing first drafts. Or if I’ve lowered my expectations. If you know me at all, you know option two is highly unlikely. In fact, there’s more chance of a dragon landing on my front porch. Yeah, I need to work on that one. Still.

Any fellow writers reading this, have you experienced a similar phenomenon with your writing? Those of you whose interest is piqued about the story, submit your questions in the comments. I’ll be happy to post more teasers and sample lines as the writing process continues.

Amazing Book

I shouldn’t have been surprised to receive this “children’s book” from a librarian. The story concept connects as much with a librarian as an author.

In truth, anyone who loves books will love this story. After all, “It ends the same way it began…with the opening of a book.

See the award winning video here

Crushing Critique

“Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it,” Clint Eastwood’s character says in Heartbreak Ridge.

A few weeks ago, I was flattered and honored when a writer (and editor) whose work I deeply admire and respect offered to read five pages after I commented on her blog that getting worthwhile critiques seemed impossible.

I really wanted to send her the first five pages of my work in progress. After I spend five days scrubbing the vomit into a semblance of writing I would be willing to claim, I still didn’t feel it was ready for an editor’s eyes.

Instead, I sent her a short story (previously published here) that I submitted to the literary journal at SNHU. Of course, it had been rejected, but the reviews and comments were so contradictory that I had no idea what was really wrong with it.

Aside from giving me her brutal and honest critique (for which I’m grateful), Kristen also used my story for the basis of one of her blogs. Read what she had to say here.

My reaction was comical. I was afraid to read her comments. Then I saw the blog and became defensive.

“I had to write the story in less than 1200 words. I didn’t have time to set the stage.”

We’re great at justification, aren’t we?

The truth: my writing lacks depth. Even though I feel like I have a handle on basic story structure, I’m not able to convey that same sense through my story.

The worst thing was the redundancy. I literally cringed each time she pointed out “you already said that.” I do the same thing on student papers. How did I miss this flaw in my own writing?

Seriously. This story had been written, critiqued, re-written, graded, revised and re-worked, but I still missed the redundant use of words. What do I mean? For example, “ineffectual thrashing” is a phrase I used. Her comment: “Most thrashing is ineffectual.” Duh. What was I doing? Think of the extra words I could have used to set up my basic situation if I hadn’t been wasting them repeating what I already said.

I didn’t agree with all of her commentary because some of the repetition was for effect (but it must not have been very effective, so what did I do wrong?)

I’m glad to know some weak areas to focus on (in the rewriting stages), and I happily ordered one of the books on story structure Kristen recommended. Do I wish she would have liked my writing? Sure. Would having her compliment me have truly been helpful? Not in the least.

Thanks, Kristen, for taking time to give me the constructive feedback I’ll need if I’m ever going to improve my writing to a publishable level.

What is a Writer?

In the many years since I first began to form my thoughts into stories (age 9) and poetry (age 12), I’ve often vacillated between considering myself a writer – or not.

When I check out dictionary.com, I see there are five separate definitions for the word:

writ·er  [rahy-ter] Show IPA

noun

1. a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., especially as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist.

2. a clerk, scribe, or the like.

3. a person who commits his or her thoughts, ideas, etc., to writing: an expert letter writer.

4. (in a piece of writing) the author (used as a circumlocution for “I,” “me,” “my,” etc.): The writer wishes to state….

5. a person who writes or is able to write: a writer in script.

I obviously qualify under definitions three through five. I write my thoughts down, have written prose using first person and am able to write. I believe I even fit the second definition, since I’m the clerk for my church.

It’s that first definition that gets me. If it weren’t for the qualifier “especially as an occupation or profession,” there would be no doubt that I am a writer. I have written a few books, many stories and some articles.

Should the distinction be made at “author” rather than “writer”? I write, therefore I am a writer. Until I’m published, I am not an author.

What is the consensus from my readership? Does it take publishing to make you a writer? Or is that what it takes to become an author?