Are you able to read for pure pleasure, or do you think about craft as you read?
Well, first, I have to say that thinking about the craft is pleasurable. My logical mind loves breaking down story structure. I get a little kick every time I figure out a story’s plot points. But I’ll grant that thinking about the craft while pleasure reading is always more fun when the craft is well done. Even still, when I’m reading a poorly crafted story, there are always interesting things to learn about what not to do.
That said, I love it when a story is so amazing and I’m sucked in so deep that I’m not even conscious of the mechanics. Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series is like that for me.
Tips for writing multiple genres?
Read widely in both/all genres.
Don’t assume that just because you know how to write one genre, you automatically understand another.
But, really, the greatest challenge isn’t in the writing, but in the marketing. So, along those lines:
Make it clear to fans that you write multiple genres.
Distinguish clearly between genres via cover art.
Cultivate a fan base that will follow both/all genres, as well as fan bases for each individual genre.
You've produced an audiobook to help with writer's block--is this something you've experienced yourself?
I like to say I don’t believe in writer’s block—but that is, of course, a bit disingenuous. We all get blocked—either on small plot problems from day to day or majorly when burnout hits. The trick is not making a monster of it. It’s just a mental (and sometimes emotional) challenge to be worked through.
I’ve never experienced long-term writer’s block. I get burned out occasionally, but I take those times as opportunities to take a break and pamper my brain. It’s all part of the cycle of inspiration.
Why is a knowledge of story structure helpful to writers?
Stories that aren’t structured don’t work. The rise and fall of action is disproportionate. The story’s setup in the first act goes missing. The growth of character in the second act remains unconvincing. The personal paradigm shift in the third act falls flat. And the important plot points at the quarter mark, midpoint, and three-quarters mark are less than stellar (or just MIA altogether).
An effective tip for subtle promo?
Honestly, I think the best tip is simply “build relationships.” If you make your interaction with fans, on a daily basis, more about them than you—and, when it is about you, more about yourself as a person than yourself as a marketing machine—then they view your sporadic promo efforts as the announcements of a friend, rather than as an advertisement.
How do you balance writing, marketing, publishing, and reader engagement?
I’m a scheduling fool, so I manage to keep the different aspects of my professional life segmented in a way that balances their needs. Writing time (two hours a day) is sacrosanct. Daily social media efforts are scheduled, so I can interact throughout the day without getting sucked into time drains. And that generally leaves me with a few hours a day to focus on other big projects, associated with marketing and publishing.
How much do we need to engage with readers to increase sales...or is sales more dependent on visibility via regular releases?
I think it can work either way. Personally, I like to manage publication schedules to put out a book a year. With the big launches I do, it would be exhausting for me and wearying for my readers to do more. But those authors who are able to churn out several books a year also seem to have a great system. I engage with readers daily on social media, post tri-weekly on my blog, and send out a monthly e-letter. I try to stay visible throughout the year, so that when a book does come out, it’s not a blast from the blue.
Where can we find you and your books online?
They’re available on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, and my site. So pick your poison!
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The Writer's Knowledge Base is the search engine for writers. It contains links to the writing-related articles collected and tweeted by @elizabethscraig. The WKB is developed by Mike Fleming and powered by Hiveword which is his free web-based fiction organizer. Hiveword also hosts writing coach James Scott Bell's Knockout Novel program which will help you make your novel stronger via Jim's thoughtful guidance.
Elizabeth Spann Craig is a published author who blogs at Mystery Writing is Murder and tweets at @elizabethscraig.
Mike Fleming blogs about technology and writers and tweets at @hiveword.