When Is A Writer Not A Writer?

I have been pondering this question on and off for some time now and recently it has been pushed to the forefront of my mind, thanks to two friends of mine who have started Facebook “writer” pages. Both are in the RNA’s  New Writers’ Scheme, as am I, and both have had positive feedback from the readings of their first novel. However, they are not yet published (although I’m sure they will be!) and apart from the fact that they have already started submitting to publishers and agents they are in a pretty similar position to me.

I have been afraid to call myself a writer after reading one professional author’s opinion on the subject. She was quite clear that unless a person makes their living from writing they should never have the audacity to call themselves a writer. So forceful was she in her views that I was quite chastened and scurried back under my rock, deciding that I wouldn’t call myself a writer until I had a proper contract and at least ten books published, and possibly a couple of film adaptations of my work under my belt.

However, when I voiced this doubt, one of my friends explained that she was advised to have a Facebook page as part of her “media presence” and therefore sees it as an essential part of the submission process. Getting your name “out there” is essential, and a Facebook page that can be read by all and sundry is increasingly seen as part and parcel of a writing career.

But still, a writer? Would I really dare to call myself that?

I have to admit, the idea of a Facebook page appeals. I have my ordinary Facebook account, of course, and I do love it. Sometimes, though, I do feel that I post an awful lot of writing and book-related stuff – links to blogs, books for sale, launch party posts, RNA pictures etc that a lot of my “normal” (hah!) friends have very little, if any, interest in. I am toying with the idea of using a separate page for all my book stuff and my writing stuff so that I can just have the usual general chat on my main account.

It could work, but still, a writer?

I think what’s made me come round a little is my own progress with my writing. Book One has been sent out to five beta-readers and this means that, including the NWS reader, a total of SIX people will have read my book! Six people! That is seriously scary stuff and I am amazed that I have made such a giant leap forward. I sent it out, heaved a sigh of relief and decided to put it to the back of my mind. I duly got back to Book Two and forgot all about my firstborn baby, until one afternoon this week as I sat at my desk at work, absently folding a pile of prescriptions, it suddenly occurred to me that I had written a sex scene and five people would be reading it! Gulp. It’s not exactly erotica and I’m sure they’re grown-up enough to cope but even so…That brought me out in a cold sweat, I can tell you.

But it’s amazing what a change the act of sending my book “out there” has brought about in my thinking. Now I’m really beginning to feel like a proper writer, with real readers and everything. I am no longer saying “if this book gets published”, I am saying “when this book gets published”, and I am researching all the different methods of publication with my serious hat on. (It’s purple with a huge feather, very impressive!)

I wake up early, I write every morning before work (except Mondays because I’m out of the house for half-past seven in the morning on Mondays and I’m just not that good) and I plot and plan and dream all through the day – I do hope my boss never reads this. I am constantly making notes of ideas that occur to me, characters that pop up, titles and new novel ideas. I scour old copies of  Writing Magazine  and Writers’ Forum for advice and information, I read how-to books, I search through blog posts reading other writers’ stories and how they got published. Writing occupies my mind almost constantly and feels more real to me than my “real” job, even though that’s the one that pays the bills.

So, does that make me a writer? Or is it wrong of me to call myself that until I’m actually making a living from writing? What if I never manage to make a living from it but just sell a few copies here and there while continuing my day job and writing in my spare time? Would I be a writer then?

How do you define a writer? And do you think a separate Facebook page is a good idea? Would love to hear from you!

Have a great week xx

The Character Couch

Today I have something different on The Moongazing Hare – my first guest! Tracy Tappan has popped over all the way from America (she must be exhausted!) to tell us about her rather unique venture, The Character Couch, a very unusual website which promises to entertain readers and help authors. Be sure to read to the end where you’ll find details of how you could win a free ebook!

Welcome, Tracy. Can you tell us about The Character Couch, what it is and what it involves?

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the action-packed movie “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” are a husband and wife who don’t know each other are assassins. The movie opens with these two sitting in front of a therapist, squirming with discomfort; we guess this is as much from the possibility of having to bare their souls—something an assassin can’t do—as from the idea of talking about a marriage that has obviously been filled with lies. Either way, it’s going to be entertaining. And, oh, yes, the therapist kicks off the session with a bang.

“How often do you have sex?” he asks.

“I don’t understand the question,” Angelina Jolie returns, dead-pan.

“Is this on a scale of 1 to 10?” Brad puts in.

“So is 1 very little,” Angelina continues, “or is 1 nothing? Because, technically speaking…zero would be nothing.”

So it seems that Brad and Angelina haven’t been having sex for a while.

We can hardly believe it.

The episode is funny, touching, and intriguing, which is exactly the tone of my new reader-focused website, The Character Couch (www.charactercouch.com), where fans can suggest their favorite romance couple to be brought into a therapy session. Yes, this is therapy, but these sessions are anything but angst-ridden. They are written in the same spirit as “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” drawing us in to be a fly on the wall and peek at something we normally wouldn’t be able to see.

Will there be amusing bantering in these sessions, a sense of firm, quiet resolve, poignancy? Sure. All of it. Every session is different, but always attention-grabbing.

Don’t you find that the best books always stick with you long after you’ve turned the last page, leaving you hungry for more? I know I go crazy waiting for the next book in a series to come out, and I figured other readers felt the same. So I came up with an idea that would combine my two loves—of doing therapy and writing romance—in a way that would provide innovative, free entertainment for fans.

So what could we expect to see if you had “Mr and Mrs Smith” on the couch?

LOL, well, I think first you’d see the therapist secretly getting cow-eyed over Brad Pitt! And could we blame her?

I created therapist, Regan Malloy, to be inputted into a multitude of romance sub-genres; she might be a middle-aged woman in one session, a young urbanite in another, a “medicine woman” in an historical, or a “seer” in something more futuristic. But she’s always single—so she can get a little moonstruck over our favorite romantic heroes, just like we do—and she’s never perfect.

In fact, in February’s session with characters Jack Carmichael and Pippa Taylor from best-selling UK author Hannah Hooton’s book, KEEPING THE PEACE, Regan makes a bit of a gaff when asking about their love life. Oh, I can’t say what she does… You’ll have to read it!

You’ve also got me intrigued about seeing this Regan Malloy in different settings. How does a reader go about suggesting another favourite book for a session?

Oh, that’s easy. There’s a Submit A Book button in the side banner of the website. Just click on that and make a suggestion.

For me, the Suggest A Book button on the website is the coolest part of the concept. Readers call the shots, you know; they control who shows up in session.

I’ve already had one Award-winning author use this concept in a clever way. She ran a contest on her blog, encouraging her followers to select books in one of her series to go up on The Couch. One lucky participant won a prize from the author, and the book that received the most votes is now slated for a session. I was very excited about this idea. Stuff like that keeps the site dynamic, and sure enough, it turned out to be a lot of fun.

So the site could be of great benefit to authors, too?

Absolutely. Especially for authors who write books in a series, having characters on The Couch for one novel will keep the buzz going for the next. Like with Hannah Hooton’s highlighted book, Jack and Pippa are the main characters of the first novel in her Aspen Valley Series, but these two are peppered throughout her next books, GIVING CHASE and SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE. By having folks fall in love with Jack and Pippa on The Couch, Hannah will draw people into wanting to see them in their next adventures, even if they’re side characters.

So, you see, author participation on The Character Couch opens the door for gaining new readership by providing a richer taste of a story and characters to prospective readers than a blurb might do. At the same time, The Character Couch gives readers an interesting way to find new authors and stories. It’s a win-win situation for authors and readers alike. I could keep going. The potential benefits are countless.

Have authors seemed excited about this?

More than I could’ve hoped! They recognize what an interesting, beneficial opportunity this is. There is a FAQ For Authors section of the website where I lay out how I work. There, I make certain authors know that nothing ever goes up on the site without their 100% approval.

When I gave Hannah her Character Couch session for preview, she came back to me and said, “I laughed through the entire session! Oh!” I broke into a huge smile. Because that’s exactly what I wanted to hear. When dealing with another author’s characters, I’m very careful to treat the couple like the beloved hero and heroine of the story they are. The man and woman will certainly have their trials and tribulations, but that needs to play out on the page in a way that assures readers that their happily ever after is secure. And if I can make people laugh along the way, too, more than better.

How does a session typically end?

There isn’t a “typical” with these sessions; that’s another fun part. Every month, it’s a new journey, and you never know where the surprise will pop out at you. In fact, this month, I suggest people watch the video on Hannah Hooton’s Current Session page on The Character Couch website prior to reading her session. You just might see something you weren’t expecting.

Like the ending to “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”

During the course of the movie, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have discovered that each other are assassins. With the truth out, there’s hope for their marriage now. They end up in front of the therapist again, recapping, still spouting off to each other, but in a way that makes us chuckle; we know they’re going to be okay. The therapist seems to agree, talking about how marriage takes work, but—

Brad interrupts to say, “Ask us the ‘how many times did you have sex this week?’ question again.”

“John,” Angelina Jolie scolds quietly, while Brad Pitt proudly flashes ten fingers outside of Angelina’s sight lines.

Oh, yes, expect fun surprises!

Thanks so much for dropping by, Tracy. The Character Couch sounds like a lot of fun!

*          *          *

CONTEST

Go to www.CharacterCouch.Com and comment on the session (downloadable to all eReaders), and one lucky participant will earn a chance at a free eBook from Tracy Tappan’s paranormal romance, THE BLOODLINE WAR, and another will earn a chance at a free eBook of KEEPING THE PEACE, the racehorse romance highlighted in this month’s session.

*           *          *

The second book in Hannah Hooton’s thrilling Aspen Valley Series, GIVING CHASE, is FREE in eBook form through February 4th.

See link below and don’t miss out!

*          *          *

After earning a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, Tracy Tappan enjoyed several years of doing clinical work before devoting herself full time to writing. She is founder and creator of The Character Couch, and is a multi-genre author of gritty romance, spanning paranormal, historical, and military suspense. During nearly a quarter of a century spent as a military wife, she lived all over the United States and in Europe, enjoying seven years in the diplomatic community overseas, first in Rome then in Madrid. She’s now settled back in sunny San Diego, California, with her husband, a menagerie of pets, and two children who seem to think they can come and go as they please.

tracy tappan

Her latest release in her dark paranormal series, THE BLOODLINE WAR, about an endangered breed of human who are kidnapping genetically enhanced women to save their race, is available now.  http://amzn.to/18XDygs Visit her website www.tracytappan.com to learn more.the bloodline war

 *          *          *

Hannah Hooton is the bestselling author of the Aspen Valley Series, novels where romance flourishes within the exciting world of racehorses. A UK native, Hannah worked in racehorse stables for years throughout Australia. Her hands-on experience deeply enriches her stories, making her racing sequences as thrilling as her love scenes.

hannah hooton

 

The second book in her series GIVING CHASE is available now at Amazon for FREE: http://amzn.to/1dLbn1N . http://www.amazon.co.uk/Giving-Racing-Romance-Valley-Series-ebook/dp/B00C4GN8O8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391414992&sr=8-1&keywords=hannah+hooton

The third, SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE, will be released in June of this year. Visit Hannah’s website to find out more about the author and her books: www.hannahhootonbooks.blogspot.com/

giving chase

The Fork In The Road

Happy February!

So, January, that longest and most depressing of months, is over. All right, I know it isn’t actually the longest month – well, not on its own at any rate – but it feels like the longest, doesn’t it? Having said that, it seems to have flown by this year. I can’t actually believe a whole twelfth of the year is done already. Why do I bother to put the Christmas tree away?

Anyway, with February here again I looked at my schedule – you know, the one I told you about in my Tick, Tick, Tick post. You did read that, right? Of course you did. So I looked at it and realised that I had scheduled February as the month in which I would finish editing my novel and send it off to a writerly friend to proofread, and also to a couple of other people who read novels in the same genre and who could give me some (hopefully) useful feedback.

The novel has already been critiqued by the NWS and I have been re-writing some parts to accommodate the changes that the reader suggested. I have also been trying to cut the length down. As regular readers of this blog will know (whoever you are, thank you so much!) word count has been a bugbear of mine throughout this entire process. When I sent the typescript in to the NWS it came in at just under 120,000 words. Now, the NWS seem to think that is acceptable as 120,000 words is their cut off point. However, I know from reading submission guidelines for various publishers that a more acceptable limit is 100,000 words, so I am now trying to be ruthless and cut, cut, cut!  It is far more difficult to do than I could ever have imagined and having got the story to the point where I am actually happy with it as it is I am struggling with this aspect more than any other.

I suppose that’s what got me wondering about the lengths of other books I have read lately, and that’s when I noticed how many of those books are actually not subject to any real word count limits from publishers because they have been self-published. Really, it was quite extraordinary when I looked back over my reading list to notice that fact. I have read at least as many self-published novels as traditionally-published ones over the last couple of years, and what’s more, I have thoroughly enjoyed them. In fact, every single one of them has been given a four or five star rating. Now, I may just have been very lucky there. I do appreciate that there are a lot of self-published novels that are truly appalling for many reasons, and I know that that fact has given self-publishing a bad name in some quarters. However, the fact remains, I have read dozens of them and found the vast majority of them  to be well-written with great plots, appealing characters and few, if any, typos.

Which brings me to my point. You knew I’d get there eventually, didn’t you? Should I even think about self-publishing? The truth is, I am a bit of a control freak – okay, I’m a lot of a control freak – and I can’t deny that the idea of controlling everything about my own novel is hugely appealing. To be able to decide on my own publishing timetable, choose my own cover, not worry about the word count so much (within reason, of course), and take charge of my own writing career seems highly desirable to me. I am quite drawn to the whole idea of it.

Obviously, there are downsides. There would be no publisher behind me helping me to get my book “out there” for a start. The marketing would be entirely down to me and there aren’t enough hours in the day as it is. On the other hand, my understanding is that even traditionally-published authors have to do a heck of a lot of marketing themselves. The technical side would take some grappling with, too. I wouldn’t know where to start publishing my book to Kindle, let alone getting it in actual print. Then there’s the cover. I can see that Amazon have a selection of covers to choose from, but traditionally published books have such amazing artists and cover designers and some of the covers I see are so beautiful. To match up with that would take a lot of doing. Then there’s the financial outlay. Publishing to Kindle may be free but a decent cover wouldn’t be and if I wanted to hold an actual paperback version of my novel in my hand it would cost a small fortune.

I can quite see the appeal that being traditionally-published has, too. It’s what we dream of, isn’t it? Getting “the call”, being told that your book has made the grade and you are going to see copies of it on the shelves! It’s what validates you as a writer, isn’t it? Surely, if a publisher accepts your novel then you have made it? You really do have what it takes to be a writer, and you can never get that same satisfaction from self-publishing. Or can you?

I don’t buy the argument that people only self-publish if they can’t get a traditional deal. I think more and more writers are heading down the indie route as a matter of choice, and some are making extremely successful careers for themselves. The question is, what’s right for me? And, at the moment, I really don’t know. As the month of February ticks on, I know I have some decisions to make soon. I can’t hang onto this book for much longer.

So, dear readers, what are your thoughts on this? Have any of you gone down the self-publishing route? Did you regret it or did it work out really well for you? What were your reasons for doing so? Are you a traditionally-published author? What are your thoughts on having a publisher behind you? Would you ever be tempted to self-publish in the future or are you very happy to stay as you are? Please leave a comment by clicking on the speech bubble at the side of the title.  This wannabe could really use your advice!

Have a great week xx