Saturday, July 28, 2012

The New Book Marketing

This summer, I learned that all those clich├ęs that made me afraid of marketing were way off.

The following myths can be true, if you want them to be. They are valid perspectives to take, and some of them aren’t bad at all. I just happen to not like them. Because of my personality, they won’t describe my approach to marketing.

The alternatives I explain after each aren’t the only way to do things either. They’re just the ways that I want to do things.

Obviously, all of this is easier said than done . . . but if I’m determined enough to get them done, I think I can follow through. The strategy behind marketing is just as important as the various methods you use. This is mine.

Myth 1: Sell yourself.

This implies that it’s all about me, that I’m going to focus all the attention on myself and what I’m writing so everyone can make me famous.

When, actually, really good marketing is about other people and what their needs and wants are. It’s about having more opportunities for me to deliver on those needs and wants. When you choose to look at it that way, it’s less about promoting yourself and more about serving others.

Everyone I’ve talked to about marketing mentions that with the rise of social media, readers want to feel a personal connection to the authors they love. Writers who think it’s all about them will post irrelevant, self-focused ramblings and will probably come off as arrogant. Writers who understand the relationship aspect will be much more successful.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Really Annoying Writing Habit

Do you want to be secretly despised by the other writers in your critique group? Are you dying to pick up antagonistic quirks that traditional writing magazines just don’t teach you? Will you be the voice in your generation that rises to greatness, while everyone who knows you personally wishes you would sit down and shut up?

Well, friend, today is the day your life changes forever.

That’s right—you! I’m talking directly to YOU.

We here at “Just the Fiction” can make all of this happen. Follow this easy tip, and you can enter illustrious circle of the Obnoxious Writers Hall of Fame!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What I Learned On My Summer Vacation

Despite the fact that this sounds like a second-grader’s back-to-school report, I promise you that it will be full of deep insights and life lessons.

Or maybe not. But it should be entertaining at least.

Tomorrow is my last day at my Focus on the Family internship. It’s been a great seven weeks, partially because of the cool stuff I learned. Here are some of the individual stuffs, broken down into bullet points to distract you from the fact that I just used the word “stuffs.”
  • The quickest way to the heart of a conservative Christian ministry is by distributing free cinnamon rolls along with extra cream cheese icing to spread on them. I have no idea why people promoting a credit union were doing this. But I am fully in support of it.
  • I used up two full pens writing letters and journaling, and one red pen editing. That means that I’m twice as creative as I am critical.
  • The following conversation was great: “What’d you do this morning?” “Fought Nazis. You?” “Oh, I crushed children’s hopes and dreams.” (Referring to fixing plot flaws in a kids’ book about WWII and judging entries for Odyssey’s “Get in the Show” contest, respectively.)

Friday, July 13, 2012

God Does Not Need Me

Have you ever noticed that sometimes we race past the familiar?

For me, this especially happens with Bible stories. I was zipping through John 11 this morning, skimming the story of Lazarus—“Oh, quit blubbering Mary and Martha, he’s going to be alive again in about three paragraphs”—when I was stopped by something surprising: a new observation.

Here are the verses I read, part of the wrap-up of the story where the Sadducees and Pharisees get really angry and start planning to kill Jesus: “Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.’” (John 11:49-50)
I’ve read these verses before. I’ve even thought about how ironic it was for Caiaphas to say this, since Jesus really did die to save the whole nation from perishing—just in a different way than Caiaphas was thinking. It’s not a very original thought, since John goes on to explain that little plot twist in the next two verses.
But what I never thought about was this: God doesn’t need Christians to say really profound things about Him.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Survivor and Stuff

Recently, several of the Focus on the Family interns have been watching an old season of Survivor. Before I started it, my perception of Survivor was some island where people ate bugs and did obstacle courses and stuff, which didn’t seem like my kind of show.

So imagine my surprise when I started to really get into it. Yes, shouting at the TV, making predictions, dreaming that night that the interns went on Survivor and someone put scorpions in my sleeping bag . . . it was pretty bad.

I finally figured out why I love the show so much. Once you look past all the drama and manipulation and backstabbing and lying, it’s really just a strategy game.

Well, actually, if you look past the drama, manipulation, backstabbing, and lying, you miss most of the strategy. That’s because it isn’t a clinical kind of strategy game where you objectively move pawns based on set rules. You’re dealing with people, and people have emotions and personalities and complexity that a black-and-white chessboard doesn’t.

In Survivor, you would think it’s all very clear-cut. There is one goal: outlasting the other competitors to win a million dollars.

But so many things complicate that goal. And the contestants themselves do most of the complicating. That’s why reality TV works—because people are interested in other people, and this gives them a chance to see a group of real-life characters as they really are, playing a game with high stakes when they’re tired, hungry, and stuck in the middle of nowhere.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Learning the Hard Way

Sometimes, lessons you learn are obvious, timeless, and can be woven seamlessly into a brilliant allegorical narrative.

Other times, you just have to go over there by Qwerty and talk about what you learned today. Some lessons might not be very clear from just the story itself, so you have to spell it out. Which is what I'll be doing on Qwerty, the name I just gave the computer I'm working on.

Qwerty is not my computer. And this is not the blog post I intended to write.

The real blog post for today is sitting quietly on my hard drive, safe and sound . . . and out of reach. It was written several days ago and has been proofread twice, all set and ready to post.

Until a seven-year-old threw an exercise ball at my computer and cracked the display.

Just a typical day in my life with my host family here in Colorado. The poor kid ran away and hid from me the rest of the night. Which is a real shame, because he missed admiring the splintered cyan-yellow-and-magenta glory that is my computer screen.

You would think that there wouldn't be a lot to learn from this (except for the obvious "don't-make-kids-mad-by-doing-homework-on-your-computer-instead-of-playing-with-them"). But this one has more moral-of-the-story potential than a contrived sermon illustration or one of Aesop's fables.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Five Hate Languages

Not going to lie, the first time I was asked which of the “Five Love Languages” I expressed the most, I immediately thought I should be choosing between Latin, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, or French.

Romance languages. Love languages. They’re similar, okay?

I soon found out that the actual love languages are Quality Time, Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Gifts, and Acts of Service. Then I was talked into taking an online quiz (with such subtle, soul-searching questions as, “Do you feel valued when people affirm you?” or “Do you enjoy receiving gifts?”).

Apparently I enjoy spending time with people and having them say nice things about me. Which I never could have figured out apart from this invaluable assessment.

All that to say, in my humble opinion, the Internet doesn’t need another Love Language quiz. So, I decided to put my own twist on this topic. I call it, “The Five Hate Languages,” and it will help you figure out how you (or a fictional character, if you’re a writer) react to people or situations that hurt you.