Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

As the year draws to a close I've finished the incredible Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

You've heard of a mid life crisis? Well, this book is the tale of a mid thirties crisis.

Loving Julia Roberts, but not yet seeing the film, I was intrigued to read the book to see what all the fuss was about. Now, after reading the story, I think Julia Roberts will play this part to perfection.

For me, the abundance of candor running through the story is at the heart of what makes this book so special. I can't speak for every female that ever lived, but the assumed way of doing things is to live our twenties to the max and then, once we hit our thirties, it's time to start thinking about settling down, getting married and having children.

"One woman's search for everything" ... that doesn't even begin to cover it! Who would have the guts to turn their life upside down willingly (and dive head first to get battered in a bitter divorce) in search of themselves? On the surface Gilbert had the perfect life - big house, married, great career, on the verge of starting a family - so why the hell did she throw it all away?

You could read the story and think "Selfish cow" or you could read the story and think "Courageous". There's no way to explain it other than some people just need more in their life and, with the norms becoming chains around the neck, conforming and staying put will eventually cause more harm than good.

Gilbert has an insatiable thirst for learning so she's not just telling a story, but teaching us too, mostly in spiritual things and also with her travels and the people and cultures she encounters. Don't be put off by this (who remembers those good old RE lessons back in secondary school) because she does it in such an endearing, thought provoking way that you can't help but be drawn in.

Starting her journey of self discovery in Rome, she eats her way through the city and socialises the months away. Then it's on to an Ashram in India where she meets a plain speaking, laugh out loud Texan man whilst scrubbing temple floors - and does a lot of meditating. Finally she ends up in Indonesia, sitting at the feet of a medicine man and helping another laugh out loud character, this time in the form of a Balinese woman called Wayan, buy a house amidst all of the traditions, superstitions and ceremonies of Balinese culture. She even meets a Brazilian and falls in love, but they vow to one another never to marry again, happy to just be in each others company as survivors of horrible divorces... until the bottom falls out of that plan, but that my friends is the sequel...

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Inspiration from the Bible

Since it's that special time of year, a post on finding writing ideas from the Bible feels very apt.

Whether or not you're a Christian, the Bible contains a wealth of stories, parables and lessons that can be adapted to a modern day setting and within the pages there are characters jumping out from every page - some surprising us, others falling from grace and then desperately searching for their redemption. Human nature hasn't changed; there's still love, humility, greed, hope, cowardice, embarrassment, jealousy and perseverance in this World.

David the hero - good conquering bad - and later his adultery / Job the persecuted having his faith tested to the extreme / Abraham about to make the ultimate sacrifice / Daniel and his friends surviving being thrown into the lion's pit / Moses killing a man / Peter ashamed to know Jesus / Judas's betrayal / Jonas's cowardice / Saul who became Paul and his radical conversion on the road to Damascus / the sisters Mary and Martha - one was too busy to listen to Jesus / the brothers Cain and Abel / Noah's absolute trust in a higher being to build the ark despite all of the ridicule...

Seriously, the list of intriguing characters and their stories is endless.

And then we have the parables and lessons. We all know about the prodigal son and the good samaritan, but what about the unforgiving servant, the rich fool, the Pharisee and the tax collector, the wedding feast and the fig tree?

All of these can be re-worked for the modern day - and there's no need to worry about the copyright!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Writing poetry

The English poet and literary critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge once described poetry as "the best words in their best order."

I started to take poetry seriously in my teens when I realised I could be rebellious with it - no punctuation... lines running into one another... no capital letters unless you really wanted to... It could be as clear as mud with multi layered meaning and significance, or as fluid as water.

I write poetry after an important event in my life has taken place, or something has moved me so much that I need to express my appreciation and gratitude, my sadness and sorrow, my happiness and elation.

I'm in no way an expert, but for me the precision of poetry is made up of picture creation in the mind and emotion in the heart. If those two things are achieved, you have a good poem. If you can also convey a deep insight into Life through those words, you may just have a great poem.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A mental block with Passed vs Past

Passed vs past gets me every time. It's one of those combis I'm never convinced I'm using correctly and the more I say the sentence aloud, the more unlikely either sound!

If you struggle with it as well, Daily Writing Tips has a great post here to help you out.

We passed through the town or we past through the town?

A good idea is to write the sentence in the present tense: We will pass through / We pass through... so "passed" is correct in this instance.

However, as the article points out, past would be used in this context: We walked past a shop on our way to the town.

Now that's where I get confused and often use passed!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Building traffic to your website and blog

To conclude this 3-part mini series, here are some ideas to build traffic to your author website and / or blog:

  • After a new update to your website or a new blog post, post them out on your social media profiles

  • Use your social media profile pages to link back to your website or blog

  • Put your website and / or blog address on all marketing and promotional material online and offline

  • Have a basic understanding of SEO - search engine optimisation - and use Google Analytics to see how people are arriving at your content, what key words they are searching with and what posts are viewed the most

  • Do something exciting on one of your social media platforms - be your main character for a day

  • Create additional content surrounding you and your books that you can offer exclusively to entice people to visit your website / blog

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Working to get your new blog noticed

Photo credit Shutterstock

As well as posting great content at least a couple of times per week, here's a reminder of what you need to be doing on a regular basis to get your new blog noticed:

By far the easiest is sharing your content on social media sites. Nowadays, you just hit publish on many blogging websites and immediately your content is out there.

Get to know other bloggers in your niche and, rather than view them as The Competition, offer to write a guest post for their blog.

I've talked about free content sharing writing communities before and this is another way to get your work in front of many different audiences. So go and "hang out" at these virtual gatherings and engage with people who really enjoy your content.

Monday, 2 December 2013

The purpose of your author website

So, next up a mini-series to check on two of the main components of your author platform and make sure they are working as effectively as they should be.

As we discussed in the Author Platform series, I am a strong believer in an author's website being at the heart of their online presence.

Here's how you can review whether your website is doing the job it should be. What are your answers to these questions? I know I have some work to do!

  • Are you blogging fresh content at least once a week for your audience?

  • Are you talking to your readers online?

  • Are you showcasing yourself as a professional?

  • Is it easy for people to buy your book from your website?

  • Do you have a fabulous book description?

  • Have you pulled reviews from various platforms - Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter - for your website?

  • Do you have a media page with your author bio, a cover image of your book, blurb and purchase links?

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Selling books with social media

Photo credit Shutterstock

In my last post I got you thinking about the 4 Ps of marketing and how you can use these in relation to your overall marketing strategy. I also advised that social media should not be the "be all and end all" of your strategy. To wrap up my Self Publishing series, I'm going to finish with a post on the smart way to sell books with social media without bamboozling your audience.

You need to grab their attention with creative blog content. Imspirational, enticing, entertaining - these buzz words should be loitering in your mind when you compose... People browse and skip about all over the place when surfing the web, often forgetting their original purpose for being there! If your content has great visuals and short, snappy bitesize chunks of information to draw the reader in - and more importantly so they remember you - then you're a quarter of the way there.

Once you've drawn them in and gained a following, you need to work to maintain and grow that readership. Spread out from your social media to a more personalised form of contact like having a sign up on your website for a monthly email newsletter.

If you don't already know it, marketing, like writing, is a long term project. You can't have a website and blog, even social media accounts and not use them for months on end if you're in this business seriously. You can never hope to sell any books if you don't first build, engage and maintain your readership over a sustained period of time (and I'm talking years!) You have to build a relationship with your audience so they get to know you, like you and trust you enough to want to invest their time in reading your work.

Social media is your platform to express yourself, not a platform to spam millions of people with "Buy my book. It's great!" You know why I love Twitter - because the mutual promotion is magic. I've heard it described as social karma. You take the time to promote others and they will promote you. Don't underestimate the value of word of mouth over social media.