Hello Fellow Writers,
Always remember that you are the first PR representative you will ever use and the most knowledgable expert on you that there will ever be. If you are not aware of that, then its time to get to grips with it.
This is a lesson I learned too late...
First a side note to create context: I compare my writing work structure with organic gardening: I plant the seeds where I want them to be, but relish the fact that I have limited control over how they'll grow. I understand that some plants will not grow well together, while others act as catalysts, and I expect I might have to move some of them into better growing conditions.
But… When I first started writing novels, I planted one seed, with no idea of what it was or how to cultivate it. What I ended up with wasn't exactly what I wanted, but it was the best I could do, with what I had. All novels written under those conditions are under my bed, waiting to be rewritten.
So, with that in mind...
Imagine you're at a friends birthday party; a barbecue in a park. There are people you know well, others not so much anymore, and people you've never met, but seem nice. You settle in with the friends you know, then find yourself with a stranger, stranded in the silence that follows introductions.
'What do you do?' you ask. It's a common icebreaker.
'What do I do?' they repeat, 'Well, I suppose I'm an electrician.'
'Oh! Right.' you are intrigued and probe for details. 'What sort of electrician?'
'Erm… Kind of commercial and sort of… A bit like doing stuff in houses.'
'O.K…' You're not sure how to proceed, are they an electrician or not? A better question might be… 'Are you working on anything at the moment?'
The supposed electrician seems embaressed. 'It's still in the planning stage. Bits are finished. Give me your email address and I'll send you some pictures of the things I've done. I could do with a bit of feedback actually. What was your name?'
'Erm…' You're unsure about commiting. 'What is it though, what… what's it all about?' you ask with controlled frustration.
'Imagine you go to work somewhere really hot and… OK, you've got a big family and so you need to do two big wash loads, lets say, twice a week and… It's a bit like you've got this massive building with loads of families like you but you all have to share only three washing machines and so they've decided to put a washing machine in every flat so… And they'll all need power so...'
'Sorry to interrupt you. I've just realised my sausages are going cold.'
That would be a strange conversation eh? Believe me when I tell you that this conversation happened. OK, most of the words were different, and it wasn't an electrician being vague about their chosen profession, it was me, the first time I felt it appropriate to answer the question 'What do you do?' with the words 'I'm a writer.'
I felt immature and unprepared, like I'd turned up at a black tie event, wearing a black tie. I had decided that I, if nothing else, had sufficient belief in myself as a writer to proclaim it… But I sounded like I was making it up on the spot.
Don't make the same mistake...
The determination to spend some years writing a compelling novel, that you will publish and promote while you write the next and the next is a life choice that deserves respect and firm handling. The first thing you must do, and it need only take a couple of hours, tops, is prepare the following:
A Mission Statement - It doesn't have to be long. A couple of sentences will do, though a paragraph would be great. Outline your plan. Here's mine (Keep in mind that I am 45)...
I shall draw on my experience as a hobby novelist and the training I have taken from the open university to write a series of Apocalyptic adventure books which I intend to publish and promote independently. I shall engage marketing and business training (as cheaply as possible) to help develop my marketing plan and, if nothing else, generate a retirement income from something that makes me happy.
An answer to 'What do you do?' - The path you've chosen isn't necessarily something to brag about, but it is something to be proud of. Have your punchy answer written down and ready to use. I say...
I'm a horror fiction writer; I write apocalyptic adventures.
An answer to 'What's it about?' - It's important to get this one right. Remember that what happens in your novel is not what it's about. If you don't already have a clear and concise answer to this question, I strongly suggest you stop writing and have a good think about it. You're allowed a little ambiguity. My response when asked what Day Two Dawns is about is...
The assumptions we attach to people we think we know, and what happens when they're proved to be false.
Lots of stories are about that, of course, but none will be like mine, or yours. Never fear that you're giving anything away when you reveal the heart of your tale. It is only a seed.
If someone is interested in what happens in the story, I recite whatever I wrote in the early stages of my writing plan, which I'll outline next time. For now though, show that you believe in your commitment to the writing path by doing the tasks above. Be your best PR representative...
Thanks for reading and keep writing.
If you would like to see my website and associated blog, click on the word here, here