Monday, September 4, 2017

Writing Like You Want to Be Read


One of the hardest things for many writers to grapple with, in my experience, is to shift their mindset from thinking of their book as a creation that expresses their artistic vision to thinking of it as a product that people will want to buy.

Novels: From Creation to Product

For fiction writers, this shift needs to occur after the first good, solid draft, the draft where all the plot points are in place and the characterization worked out — at that point, the writer needs to quit thinking so much of his artistic vision and to think more about the potential reader: what will readers need to get the experience the writer intends? Having a good editor will help an author hone their work so that it provides all the little incentives that a reader needs to keep reading: prose that flows smoothly, free of awkwardness of expression; realistic but well-crafted dialogue; adequate and carefully chosen description, etc. All of these decisions need to balance two questions: "What do I want the reader to experience? What's the best way to produce that experience?"

But the writer must also start thinking about how to find those readers once the book is finished: crafting compelling book descriptions, querying agents, pitching the book to publishers, etc., and generally thinking of a product that needs to be marketed and sold. In other words, the writer needs to start developing a marketing mindset, thinking of the book as a product that must be sold.

Nonfiction Book Proposal

Writers of nonfiction books need to start thinking about their book as a product much earlier in the process, because many nonfiction books find publishers on the strength of a book proposal alone — even before the book has been written. The book proposal is similar in form and intent to a business plan: the writer must describe what they intend to produce and convince the publisher (or perhaps just an agent) that it will be a marketable product. In other words, the author must "sell" the publisher on the idea of the book, before it's even written.

It's impossible to writer a compelling book proposal without the necessary shift from the writing to the marketing mindset. This article by Brian Klems describes the essential elements of a good book proposal, with emphasis on how to make sure you are selling your idea, rather than simply suggesting it. And you do have to "sell" — you must sell yourself as the ideal author for the book you are proposing, sell book as something that a sizeable number of readers will need or want, and sell the publisher on the idea that your book can help them turn a profit.

The USP

If you are writing, or thinking about writing, a nonfiction book for publication, here's a shortcut to developing this marketing mindset. The Unique Selling Proposition (USP) that will make a publisher want to publish your book can be summed up in three basic questions:
  • Why you? (What experience, background, and skills make you uniquely equipped not only to write the book, but to help promote it once it's written?)
  • Why this book? (Who needs to read this book? How will your book provide benefits not available from other books already in print?)
  • Why now? (What makes this book timely? How does this book fill a gap in a publisher's lineup, or in the market more generally?)

Writing a book proposal before you even start writing your book can be an excellent way to start thinking about your target readers, and the benefits you want your book to provide. Even if you intend to self-publish, a book proposal will help you get into a marketing mindset, so that when your book is ready for the world, you can be confident that there will be readers waiting to read it.
 
Taking a book from creative concept to marketable product is a complex task, and involves a lot more than simply sitting down to create in words. While it's easy to get overwhelmed by the demands of marketing (which many writers fear will suck all the fun out of writing), would-be authors need to keep in mind that the whole point of writing for publication is to produce something that readers will want to read. And, unless you intend to self-publish, it also means producing something that publishers will want to publish.

If you'd like some help with this complex task, find a good writer's group. The Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers Group welcomes writers no matter where they are in the process — struggling with a concept? Working to produce a good draft? Polishing, refining, revising? Or querying, publishing, marketing? We meet once a month, on the first Tuesday (details here) and welcome all comers. Our next meeting is Tuesday, September 5. If you have a piece you would like to have critiqued, bring several copies to share.

If you want to make sure you never miss a meeting, contact Nancy Ward  to get on the email list. You can also sign up to receive all blog posts by email. Just fill in the form in the right-hand sidebar.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

What do Catholic writers write?

Faith, fiction, memoir, devotional writing, all represented at our July 2017 meeting.

What do Catholic writers write? A better question might be, “What don’t Catholic writers write?” Not just the inspirational, devotional, or spiritual kinds of writing you might expect! Murder, anyone? How about close encounters with extra-terrestrials? Memoirs about demonic oppression or personal tragedy? Science, political philosophy, child-rearing, ethics. Children’s books, humorous short stories, tales of mystery, madness, and mayhem. You see, being a “Catholic writer” doesn’t necessarily mean writing “Catholic stuff” for Catholic readers; it often means writing about real, human problems that touch us all—but doing so from a perspective enlightened by the Catholic faith, telling tales of hope in a world that seems to grow more hopeless every day.

Look at those people in the photo above (taken at our July 2017 meeting), and you’ll see the whole gamut of Catholic writing represented, from faith to fiction. (Yours Truly, wielding the camera, writes both fiction and nonfiction.) Why not picture yourself, with your own blog, book, or article, in the gallery of Catholic writers? Join us at our next meeting, Tuesday, August 1, in far north Dallas, and share a bit of your own writing, offer helpful comments for other writers as they share their work for critique, or just gain a little inspiration. Find details of the meeting time and place here. We hope to see some new faces at our next meeting.

Elizabeth Scalia
You might also want to consider attending the Catholic Writers Retreat, Your Word is My Delight, sponsored by the Catholic Writers Guild, to be held this October 8–12, 2017, in central Michigan. (More info here.) Featured speaker will be Elizabeth Scalia, international speaker, award-winning Catholic columnist, and editor-in-chief  of the English edition of Aleteia.org, an online Catholic lifestyle magazine publishing in seven languages. Register for the retreat here.

If you want to make sure you never miss a meeting, contact Nancy Ward  to get on the email list. You can also sign up to receive all blog posts by email. Just fill in the form in the left-hand sidebar.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Next meeting: July 11

You may have noticed that Independence Day falls on the first Tuesday of July this year. We don't want to make you choose between celebrating our national holiday and enjoying the camaraderie and critiquing skills of fellow writers, so this month we will meet on the second Tuesday, July 11. Not our usual day, but our usual time and place (Here are the details of time and place). Hope we see you there!

And don't forget, there's still time to register online for the annual Catholic Writers Guild Live Conference, held this year in Schaumburg, Illinois, July 19-21 -- a  great opportunity to meet and learn from other Catholic writers from around the country.

If you want to make sure you never miss a meeting, contact Nancy Ward  to get on the email list. You can also sign up to receive all blog posts by email -- just fill in the form in the right-hand sidebar.

Monday, May 1, 2017

You're Invited to the CWG Conference July 19-21


Although the weather in North Texas has been cool in recent days, the heat of summer is only a few weeks away. By mid-July, temperatures will be blistering — a good time to get away to a cooler northern clime. Fortunately, that is precisely when the Catholic Writers Guild will be hosting their annual conference, this year in Schaumburg, Illinois, the heart of "Chicagoland."

Meet & Learn from Other Catholic Writers

Whether you are a member of the Guild or not, consider yourself invited to the 2017 Catholic Writers Guild Conference Live, July 19-21. As usual, the Guild Conference is scheduled to coincide with the Catholic Marketing Network's annual trade show, which means that conference attendees not only get the chance to mix & mingle with other Catholic writers, and to learn the crafts of writing (and marketing their writing) but also to pitch directly to publishers' representatives. If you have a manuscript ready for a publisher, this is an ideal occasion.

Everyone attending the conference will also have access to the Catholic Marketing Network trade show floor, where you can meet publishers, vendors and book store owners. It’s a great place to network. CMN is offering several events to CWG Conference attendees as well, such as pilgrimages and meal events.

The cost of the conference is very modest — just $75 for members, $45 for students, and no cost at all for clergy, seminarians, or religious. If you'd like to attend, but are not yet a member, you can register for $107.50, which includes a year's membership in the Guild. All attendees can also enjoy discounted group rates on accommodation at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel for $149 a night (plus taxes and fees).

Find more information on the Conference here. Online registration is being handled by the Catholic Marketing Network. You can register online until July 14; after that date, you may simply register on-site at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel. The Catholic Writers Guild Conference truly is a unique week of writing, fellowship and faith — highly recommended.

DFW Catholic Writers Meet Monthly


Meanwhile, our local DFW Catholic Writers Group continues to meet on the first Tuesday of each month (find the details here) -- next meeting Tuesday, May 2. You need not be a member of the Catholic Writers Guild to attend. We hope to see you soon!

If you want to make sure you never miss a meeting, contact Nancy Ward  to get on the email list. You can also sign up to receive all blog posts by email. Just fill in the form in the right-hand sidebar.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Evening meetings at the University of Dallas


It's easy to lose creative steam during the grey, gloppy days of a Texas winter. But I always find my writer's enthusiasm recharged when I attend one of our evening meetings at the University of Dallas. That's because many of the writers at these meetings are UD undergraduates, whose enthusiasm and creativity are infectious. You can find out for yourself if you attend our next meeting this Tuesday, February 14.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017: Write One Day at a Time

Happy New Year from Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers Group

The approach to New Year's Day sees a lot of people writing -- lists of resolutions for the new year, that is. Maybe your list includes resolutions to maintain a writing routine this year, or to get that book finished or that article published, etc. Me? I've given up on New Year's Resolutions — not because I don't want to change my life for the better, but for the opposite reason.

You see, I've figured out that grand resolutions are a recipe for failure. I actually get a lot more done by setting short-term goals that will inch me toward my larger goals. So I set daily and weekly goals — very specific ones — and I keep track of my progress so that I'm accountable to myself, if no one else. Since I began this practice a year or so ago, I find that I really am more successful than I was when I aimed at larger, more distant targets.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Do You Have a Writing Vocation?

Do you find you really want to write more, but have trouble finding the time? Perhaps that is because you still think of writing as an avocation, a hobby, rather than a vocation, a true calling.

Those who feel they may have a religious vocation enter deliberately and prayerfully into a period of testing that vocation. As aspirants, they begin to acquire the habits that will allow them to persevere in that vocation. Shouldn't those who feel they may have a writing vocation do the same?

Test Your Writing Vocation

Let's take this analogy a little farther: one thing that makes it possible to persevere in the religious life is an acknowledgment that one's time must be structured, so that it will be well-spent. Traditionally, for instance, monastic life has always depended on a well structured horarium, a daily schedule that makes time for work and prayer, as well as recreation.