Writers Are Everywhere

April 24, 2013

While driving home from a lacrosse tournament the other weekend, my husband and I listened to Mackelmore’s latest CD, The Heist. We’ve been listening to his music since before the widespread popularity of Thrift Shop, and he is by far our favorite “rapper.” His songs are catchy and creative. He’s also a masterful story teller.

I don’t remember when I stopped tapping to the beat and singing along in favor of really listening to the words. It’s been awhile now. Each time I listen, I’m struck by the brilliance in his words. He’s a writer. Like me. That’s cool.

There are writers everywhere. Just because their words don’t form an article or a book doesn’t mean we don’t share the same creative ups and downs. It’s a comforting thought. :)


Writing Short Stories

April 17, 2013

An opportunity arose for me to participate in an anthology, which meant writing a short story (5K-10K words). I realized I’d never written a romantic story so short, and I wasn’t sure where to begin. I did a little research on writing short stories in general, and ideas formed. But before I start writing, I want to read similar works. Can anyone recommend a romantic (non-erotic) short story that falls in the 5K-10K range? I’d very much appreciate any leads you can give. 🙂

Finding an Audience

April 10, 2013

It doesn’t matter what a writer writes. The key to success is finding an audience, but finding that audience isn’t easy. We write words we think have value. Maybe an editor has confirmed that belief by contracting the work. But it’s safe to say most—maybe all—writers measure their success on the size of their audience. Whether we’re blogging or selling novels, we can measure readership to a certain extent, and that’s a blessing and a curse.

I’m new to this published writer thing, so I have few tips to give on finding an audience. I suspect even with years under my belt my tips would be vague. I’m not sure it’s something that can be charted and replicated. If it were, wouldn’t everyone be following those steps to certain success? I’m open to suggestions, though. How did you find a readership for your blog, site or book? Is it simply a game of luck and long-term visibility?

I’ve been writing with publication as a goal for years now. Certainly other people have been at it longer than me. I’m no expert. But I thought I’d be more settled by now. With one book published and two more slated to follow this year, I expected to feel differently, more capable, more efficient. It’s pretty annoying to fall into old habits. I’m distracted by promotion. I’m letting my personal life get in the way. I’m worried my work sucks. I’m…the same writer I was before my book was published. Isn’t that a kicker? Publication isn’t a cure-all. It’s not some panacea for procrastination, fear, lack of focus and doubt. In fact, it’s no match for those things. Like it or not, those things are part of being human, and just like I had to learn to live with them as a child, I have to learn to work with them as a writer.

After promoting other people’s debuts here, it feels weird to be promoting my own, but here I am. Save My Soul: Book One in the Kemmons Brothers Baseball Series was released March 25. What I like most about this book is it’s not what normally passes as category-length, contemporary romance for me. When I wrote it years ago, I was heavily influenced by paranormal’s popularity, and honestly, I was in a confusing space in my life.

Rather than prolong this self-promotion, I’ll leave with this. Nicole said it best: “If you like vivid writing, sparkling sexual tension, and emotional reads check out Save My Soul.”

Save My Soul by Elley Arden

Buy it now at: Amazon and iTunes (BN.com to come)

For more about Elley and her books, visit her website.

Social Media=Noise

March 22, 2013

Sometimes it feels like we’re all shouting the same things at each other. Do you ever notice that? I mean, on social media we tend to follow like minded people. When something terrible happens, we’re all yelling our outrage. Agreeing and yelling and outraged.

And then, if we’re an author, we want to talk about our books and our accomplishments. If we’re agents or editors we want to offer helpful advice or tell people what not to do. If we’re a company we want to sell a product.

And then, if we’re a person of any kind, we want to vent our frustrations, laud our accomplishment, show off pictures of our kids/pets/lunch etc.

We’re all talking, but we aren’t always listening. Sometimes I spend so much time on social media it starts to feel like noise. This agent says do this while this editor yells to NEVER do that. One author you admire sells a billion books, and so does one author who’s writing you just can’t get into and you wonder…why?

You try to engage with someone who doesn’t want to engage with you. Someone who you don’t want to engage with approaches you.

You speak, and no one responds.

It’s all…noise. And mainly we’re not so much listening to each other as we are yelling louder and louder to make our voice heard.

And then, sometimes you are heard. And you feel like someone out there shares an experience with you and it soothes the savage beast or the crows of doubt or something for a little while.

Sometimes social media has the power to make us feel better, ease our hurts, share our joys, point us in the right direction.

Sometimes it is just a cacophony of discordant sound that pushes us further into our shell, further away from our dreams.

As a person, I’m struggling to navigate it all without it affecting my self worth. As an author with a recent release, I’m trying to do all the right things to make my book seem like something you’d like to read.

But as the characters in my WIP are currently figuring out about their own lives, maybe there is no right way. There is only doing the best you can do at any given moment, right or wrong. And, just like social media, sometimes that is a relief, and sometimes it is a terrible burden.


When I wrote and edited non-fiction, writing romantic fiction in my spare time was a release. My stories were made-up and barely plausible, and I loved them. My reading tastes were similar—the grander and more far-fetched the better (as long as the stories were set in present times and had a happy ending). My writing and my reading were an extension of my imagination—convoluted and lofty. *grins*

But then I quit my non-fiction job and started writing fiction fulltime. And the longer I wrote fiction and learned about the publishing industry, the more my writing “calmed down.” I strove for stories that would resonate with readers, paint a truer picture of interpersonal relationships, not alienate with too much wealth, power or beauty, and seem plausible. And damn, I struggled, because my brain doesn’t naturally work like that. Crazy things happen in there. 🙂

I’m reading a book right now that I suspect a few people will brush off because it’s a real stretch in the plausibility department. There’s no major angst and little heavy backstory and emotional scars. What’s there is handled without melodrama. And while there’s sexual tension, so far, deep into the 80,000-word book, there is no rush to hit the sheets. It’s a funny, flirty, far-fetched love story, and I ADORE it. I’ve missed books like this. Why aren’t we writing fiction anymore? (I say that tongue-in-cheek of course.) Why is everyone so broken and realistic?

Now, that’s not to say I don’t like a good meaty read with darker characters. I do from time to time. I understand the arguments for realism in fiction, but I happen to be one of those people who prefers to read about the impossible happening. (Maybe that’s because I don’t believe anything is impossible—but I’ll save that for another post.) And I don’t know…maybe this isn’t an issue in other genres. The bottom line is I worry the pressure on writers, especially new writers, to follow the trends and write to specific publishers and even people (editors, agents, other writers, friends) will sanitize the fiction pot. It sure as heck takes the joy out of writing for me.

It comes down to personal preference. It ALWAYS does. That’s why they say write the book you want to read. You won’t please everyone with it, but when it hits the hands of a likeminded person, you’ll make their day.


Because I was a public relations minor in college, I always figured PR would be the least of my worries when I finally sold a manuscript. As a result, I didn’t think much about marketing while I wrote my earliest manuscripts. I did sign on to various email lists and frequent writing/publishing websites, but I did so more to learn craft than to start the recognition ball rolling. Soon, I was reading emails and posts about getting a jump start on branding, so I scrambled over to Twitter and dipped a toe in. God, those waters were choppy. I had no idea what I was doing over there. And more than once I wondered if I was simply wasting my time. Shouldn’t I be writing?

Years later, I have a little hindsight, certainly not enough to make me an expert on the subject, but enough to share. As far as publicity goes, here’s what did and didn’t work for me at various stages of the game:

Before the manuscript was even finished…

• I worried too much about doing everything everyone else said they were doing. Twitter, tumblr, instagram, Pinterest. (How I avoided Facebook, I’ll never know. Lol.) I thought it was all so critical to building an audience, and yet I had no idea who my audience was. I hadn’t written enough, submitted enough and received enough feedback to know.
• I didn’t give enough thought to real vs. penname. I wasted a lot of time and squandered some publicity by switching names mid-stream. Looking back, I wish I’d spent less time being social online in an effort to build a brand I eventually changed TWICE.
• I wasted money on domain names and hours on brainstorming ideas for gimmicky branding that no longer fit by the time I actually sold a book.

Bottom line: At this stage in the game, writing is more than enough. Seeking to better your writing in the form of workshops and critique partners is the next step. You’ll get to know people this way, too. And knowing people is a big part of publicity.

During the submission stage…

• I really engaged in social media, hoping to find the key to who was publishing what and how I could get picked out of the slush. But instead of finding that, I ended up worried too much about doing everything everyone else said they were doing—AGAIN. (***This is a big pitfall of social middle.) She submitted here. I wanted to submit here. This one submitted there. I wanted to submit there. Read about an editorial call—Count me in! Contest announced—How do I enter? It was ludicrous. I got so damn confused I was taking 80K-word manuscripts and cutting 20K words just so I could respond to one of these impulses. Not only wasn’t I building a brand, I didn’t recognize my manuscripts anymore.
• On the other hand, engaging in social media meant I had other writers to commiserate with while I was waiting to hear back on submissions. These other writers have been a huge boost to my ego when it was flailing, and they’ve stepped up over and over again to help me promote my successes.
• I built a website, because, heck, why not? I was WAITING, and I hate waiting. Building a website seemed more productive than checking my inbox a million times. Of course, writing would have been most productive, so this one could go either way—positive or negative. I’ve had several incarnations of my website since I started on the publication path. That tells me I started with the websites too soon. And you know what? I yanked a site down when I settled on a penname, and I went without a website for many months. So what was the point of it all in the first place?
• I started this blog, another commitment that took me away from writing, BUT it also gave me a place to gather my thoughts and connect with likeminded people.

Bottom line: There were some positive marketing steps taken during this stage, ones I surely don’t regret, but once again, the best thing I did while I waited to hear back on works out on submission was write more manuscripts and work with my critique partner to polish them.

After I sold a manuscript…

• I built my current site.
• I joined another group blogging effort.
• I opened up to my friends and family in greater detail about my writing, including them in my publicity efforts. (I’ll talk more on that in a later post.)
• I ordered author cards (business cards with my name, genre, and website listed) and stickers to affix to the back of the cards. (The stickers have the book name, release date and location availability.)
• When my other group blog asked for authors to donate prizes for various promotional efforts, I ordered personalized items, like pens and post its, and I assembled “swag packs” to giveaway.
• I joined Facebook. (Gah! I’m soooo clueless over there.)
• I paid more attention to my Twitter account (that is, until I needed to finish the second book in the series I sold) and Goodreads.
• I accepted invitations to guest blog.
• I created a contest to run during my release month.
• And I’m sure there’s more and there will be more…

Bottom line: Nothing can really prepare you for the branding blitz that happens when you sell a manuscript. You can think about it. You can observe what others do. But until you’re ready to implement the plan, it’s all just speculation…speculation that takes you away from writing.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but if you’re early in the publishing game, don’t stress over what you should or shouldn’t be doing as far as publicity goes. You SHOULD be writing. 🙂

Save My Soul will be my first published book, but it was my FOURTH completed manuscript. Change My Mind, the second book in this series, will be my second published book (unless something crazy happens!), and it’s my EIGHTH completed manuscript. No rhyme or reason, huh? Just another reminder that writing is the name of the game, and nothing—not even building your brand—should take you away from that.


I realized as I sat down to write last week’s post that my journey to published has been filled with a lot of Debbie Downer stuff. Lots of waits! Adjusting to new editors! Expect more rejection! Wee!

And I realized I haven’t talked much about the good stuff. Like someone liking your book enough to acquire it and then read it many, many times in order to edit it. A reviewer saying it put a smile on their face. Knowing people are plopping over a few dollars to read what your imagination came up with.

This journey to being published and beyond is a hard one, and it is filled with sucky stuff. I tend to focus on the sucky stuff. I mean, my second book came out this month and what did I do to celebrate?

Start a new book. Obsess over submissions I have out. Torture myself with the “meh” reviews and watching my Amazon ranking fluctuate. I squeed on Twitter a bit.

This is not celebration. This is… recipe for being a whiny butt.

I’m not sure where this came from. I had a book published. By a reputable publisher who has bought ad space for my book, set up a blog tour. I’ve had good reviews along with the meh. I should be dancing through the house, but instead…somehow the bad stuff sometimes reaches out and grabs you by the throat.

I’m not patient. I’m goal oriented, but the fact is these goals take time. They don’t happen overnight, and not forcing myself to enjoy each little step to the major overall goal is kind of a waste.

There should be more celebration. There should be more happy and less I’m not there yet.

So, if you get a rejection with editorial feedback: celebrate. If you get an editor wanting to revise a manuscript with you: celebrate. Finish a book: celebrate. Sell a book: celebrate BIG TIME.

There are a million steps in a writing career. Wishing for the next doesn’t get it here any faster, but it takes some of the joy away from the here and now, and that’s something I really need to work on.


I’ve heard writers and editors say the key to telling the most compelling story is asking yourself what’s the worst thing that could happen to this character, and then making that happen. It seems like easy enough advice to follow, but I’m not sure I pulled it off until yesterday. Oh sure, I mess around with the idea…Will she get her theatre? Won’t she? Of course, in the end she does. I’ve never destroyed a character’s dream. I’ve never taken the one thing the character wanted and ripped it from his or her grasp never to be seen again. It’s agonizing—for the character and me.

In my life, I avoid negative emotion as much as possible. I will walk away, shut down and completely delude myself into thinking the worst case scenario isn’t happening. I’m a focus-on-the-positive kind of gal, and my writing reflects that. Therefore, I don’t suspect the rest of my books will involve destroying my characters. But, I’d love to know what you think as a reader…

Do you appreciate a story more where the characters are brought to their knees before they get their happily ever after, or do you prefer a lighter read, where there are bumps in the road, but nothing bad enough to cause an emotional wreck?