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THE LADY WHO WRITES: Get over yourself, and start promoting that novel!

LadyWhoWrites_brandThe Lady Who Writes, Meagan Adele Lopez, is back today: we’ve missed her! Once again, she’ll be doling out practical advice based on her own experience for expats and other international creatives who are engaged in writing novels using some of the material gathered from their novel, shall we say, life stories. Meagan is a repeat expat in the UK (last time Bristol, this time London). Besides writing, her talents include acting, blogging, and crafting ads for social media.

—ML Awanohara

So—you’ve written the book, you’ve got the editor, your friends and family love it, you’ve done the Kickstarter to raise the money and your blog has a steady readership.

(Even if you have just written the book and don’t have the rest in that list, you’re a million times ahead of anyone who has just spoken about writing a book. You’ve DONE something.)

Don’t you think you deserve—no, the WORLD deserves—to get a chance to know it exists?

The fact is, most of us writers are a little afraid of self-promotion. But by the time you finish reading today’s column, I hope you will have gotten over that fear and are full of determination to plug your Great Work like crazy.

Excuses, excuses

You don’t have a manager? You don’t have a PR team? You don’t know a graphic designer?

All good! Even if you had all those things, you’d still be expected to do as much, if not more than, the promotional team, who are working on other books as well as yours. Obviously, having a group of PR professionals around you wouldn’t hurt. But c’mon! You’ve been preparing for this your entire life. You got this!

To quote Eminem—just because the song Lose Yourself never fails to get me pumped up to do really GREAT things:

Look, if you had, one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted, one moment
Would you capture it?
Or just let it slip, yo

Facebook’s (literal) wall

Now I want to tell you about the time when I took a walk through Facebook headquarters to pitch to Walmart and Facebook about why my team was worth their investment of millions of dollars. I noticed many inspiring quotes on their (literal!) walls, one of which really lept out at me:

"Done is better then..." on Facebook's literal wall, by Meagan Adele Lopez

“Done is better then…” on Facebook’s literal wall. Photo credit: Meagan Adele Lopez

Notice the misspelling and the comma in a weird place? It certainly makes a statement, doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong: it’s a great idea to comb through the final manuscript, edit the spelling mistakes and make sure your character arcs are outlined appropriately.

But how long have you been working on this novel? One year? Two years? Ten?!

Get it out there. Done is better than perfect. Done is even better than good—or as Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame says:

I want to make as many things as I can, taking on as many projects as I can possibly tackle. Each one exciting. Each one good enough. Each one DONE, to make room for the next, and the next, and the next…

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to live?

Take me, for instance…

This article is a perfect example, actually. I have written and re-written it about five times. Twice because my computer crashed, and three times in my head because I didn’t feel like I had anything relevant to add to this topic.

Wait, did I just say I have nothing to add? I work in ADVERTISING and MARKETING for God’s sake. How could I not have something to say?

All of our heads get in the way sometimes, and that’s OK as long as you don’t let it run you. I know this article is supposed to be about promoting your novel, but I think the most useful thing I can tell you is to get over yourself and realize that you are damn good enough to have other people read your book, now that it’s finished.

Regardless of what other writers on writing would have you believe, there are no secret tips to marketing and promoting your novel. Yes, there are the basics—advertising campaigns, blogs, newsletters, etc. But the most important thing is to refuel that passion you had when you were dining with your characters, when you were rehearsing your book trailer and reading every other author’s done works, and use it to drive your promotional efforts.

Set some goals

Thus I’m not going to give you step-by-step instructions on how to promote your novel. There are plenty of other google-able articles out there—for example:

But I will tell you to have goals. Do you want to sell 50 copies or tens of thousands? Do you want to make the New York Times Bestseller list, or do you just want your entire family to read it? Do you want to write articles or be interviewed for great sites like The Displaced Nation?

Once you’ve set some goals, how you go about achieving them becomes a lot easier.

What I can also say is that everything you write after you finish your book will be a promotion for that book. For example, at the end of this article is a little blurb about who I am and what I’ve written. Same for this interview I did in 2011 about publishing on Kindle, this article I wrote about taking the time to make change happen, and this article I wrote just recently for BBC America about combining British and American weddings (a version of which appeared two years ago on the Displaced Nation).

And now, without further ado, here’s Novel Writing Tip No 6 for International Creatives:

Once you write a book—everything you do will help promote it. So finish with the finishing touches, get out there and start talking about it!

* * *

Readers, what do you make of this final piece of advice of Meagan’s, which I take to be a kind of a kick in the pants (or trousers, if you prefer)? And do you have any further questions for Meagan, THE LADY WHO WRITES, before she leaves us? Please share in the comments…

Meagan Adele Lopez grew up in the U.S. with a Cuban-born father and American mother, and at one time enjoyed an acting/casting career in Hollywood, something you can detect in the beautiful trailer for her novel, Three Questions. Her day job these days is in social media advertising. To learn more about Meagan, go to her Web site.

STAY TUNED for next week’s fab posts!

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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THE LADY WHO WRITES: Your novel finished, it’s down, down, down into KDP Select Freebie Land

LadyWhoWrites_brandThe Lady Who Writes, Meagan Adele Lopez, is paying us her monthly visit today. Once again, she’ll be doling out some practical advice, based on her own experience, for expats and other international creatives who are engaged in writing novels using the material gathered from their novel, shall we say, life stories. Meagan is a repeat expat in the UK (last time Bristol, this time London). Besides writing, her talents include acting, blogging, and crafting ads for social media.

—ML Awanohara

Okay, Displaced Nation-ers who are also wannabe novelists. Let’s say you’ve followed all my advice up to this point. You’ve gone through the work of reading similar genres before you start writing—perhaps even started up your own book club. You’ve dined on a daily basis with your characters. You’ve rehearsed your book trailer and have opted to publish your novel yourself. (I will go through the steps of the self-publishing process in the next post.)

So now, what about marketing that baby to the masses?

At the top of your list should be a free e-book promotion.

Only, don’t follow my example.

Do what I say, not what I did!

I was told to plan 30 days in advance—I started planning the giveaway of the novel I wrote based on my own expat adventures, Three Questions, the night before.

Once you sign up with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select, giving Amazon exclusive rights to publish the electronic version of your book for 90 days, you have five days to promote your book for free over that period. Most people tell you to use just two or three days at most, your first time. I used four.

Some things I did right: I waited until I had some strong reviews of the book posted before offering it for free. And after the promotion started, I tracked the book’s rankings and didn’t give up until I’d reached my two goals:

  1. Earn a spot on the coveted Amazon Best Sellers in Kindle Store, Top 100 Free list.
  2. Break five figures (XX,XXX) in downloads.

But, to reiterate, I didn’t plan the freebie promotion; I did it by the seat of my pants. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure about the benefits of giving away my book for free. I was afraid the freebie would “devalue” my book—which was silly because it wasn’t selling more than a few a day anyway.

I also had to overcome my fear that I was giving Amazon too much power. However, my Barnes and Noble Nook e-book wasn’t selling at all, so in the end I figured I might as well enroll in KDP Select for three months, even if that meant I couldn’t make it available through any other outlets, including publishing extracts on my blog.

How to get that new novel of yours noticed

First, the hard facts: Amazon has 3,000+ new titles going for free nearly every day. The competition is tough.

As I fell down, down, down into KDP Select Freebie Land, I obsessively read every post I could find with tips on how to make it a success. (Hey, A for effort!) FYI: One of the best articles I found was on Novel Publicity & Co.: “KDP Select free days: Targeted advertising is the key to success; here’s a list of resources.”

Besides learning that I should have been planning the promotion a month in advance—giving “free Kindle ebook” websites at least three weeks’ notice about my intention to offer a freebie for a few days—I quickly realized that I would need to dedicate a LOT OF TIME peddling it over that period through every available avenue: my social media networks, family and friends, and some of the dozens of sites that announce free e-books.

I had missed out on the top site, Pixel of Ink, which requires at least 30 days’ notice. But I did manage to get listed on some of the heavy hitter free e-book blogs, with thousands and tens of thousands of followers—the ones that the majority of free Kindle seekers go to (they come up first in Google searches).

Here’s where I submitted FOR FREE:

  • Digital Book Today: They have paid and free promotional opportunities. I submitted my novel for free via the form on this page, which requires you have at least 10+ reviews with an average of 4+ stars rating. They posted my novel, but the site’s founder, book industry veteran Anthony Wessel, wasn’t too happy at my last-minute submission—again, please don’t do what I did!
  • eReader News Today: I was supposed to submit three days before the beginning of the promo, and in order to be considered, you have to have a high rating in your reviews for them to post it. My mom happened to notice it was up—as she subscribes to their Facebook page—and mine was the first on their daily listing!
  • Freebies4Mom: This site is under the radar compared to the others. It’s run by stay-at-home mom Heather Fernandez. She has over 300k fans on Facebook. That’s A LOT of mommy fans. I believe her site pushed my novel over the five-digit download mark.
  • Kindle Nation Daily (PAID): They offer a Free Book Highlighter Service (scroll down to the bottom). I took $30 out of my Kickstarter money to participate. It was worth it.

Here’s a few more sites that picked me up, which you might consider submitting to (should you follow my advice and plan well in advance):

  • BookGorilla.com: This is another site that sends daily email bulletins to subscribers listing free e-books in categories of interest.

Last but not least, these sites tweeted about my novel and might also be useful to you as indie authors:

  • The aforementioned Digital Ink Today (@DIGITALInkToday): This popular site has 30.2k Twitter followers.
  • Masquerade Crew (@MasqCrew): Site founder Mark Lee currently has 34.6k Twitter followers.

The all-important numbers

Before the book promotion, I was selling at my peak three e-books per day. I never reached higher than #300,000 on Kindle’s bestsellers list. The night before I launched the book, I was ranked about 1,500,000 in Amazon’s e-books—insignificant.

During the promotion, my book gained in momentum each day. Though conventional wisdom advises giving up after two days, I just couldn’t do it. The way I saw it, the more days I was ranking, the more exposure I was getting. To start again from ZERO in a few weeks seemed pointless.

At the end of the first day, I was already #57 in the Kindle store’s free Contemporary Fiction, but hadn’t yet ranked anywhere in the entire Kindle store.

The end of the second day, I was getting closer! I was now just under the top 200 within the entire Kindle store, and had climbed to #16 in Contemporary Fiction.

Over 3,000 people had downloaded the book so far.

But it wasn’t until the third day (a Friday) that extraordinary stuff started happening. This is when the websites started posting about my book, and the downloads became fast and furious.

When I hit #8 in Contemporary Fiction, and saw my name next to THE John Grisham—it was certainly a shock, and made me realize just how many people now had their hands on my novel.

I finally ended the promotion on Saturday night—with over 11,000 downloads just in the United States (the UK hit didn’t garner nearly as many). At its peak, my novel hit #28 in the entire Kindle Books and #6 in Contemporary Fiction—I had accomplished my goal!

The immediate aftermath—any sales?

The big question was, would I make any money after the promotion was over? I was, after all, giving the book away for free.

My ranking disappeared for a few hours, and when it reappeared, my novel was certainly higher than it had ever been. Three days after the promotion ended my novel remained within the top 3,000-5,000 paid Kindles. I sold more in those three days than I’d ever sold before in the same time frame.

On a side note, the day after the promo ended, I received my first negative review and a second great review. Unfortunately, the first reviewer didn’t take the time to read the entire book (that’s another blog post altogether—ouch, it hurt!); and the second reviewer pleaded with people to finish the book. YES, PLEASE!

Time to recap: What would I do differently?

With the benefit of hindsight, I would have

  • taken more time to plan, and put more thought into the audiences to reach out to.
  • jacked up the price the day before the promotion (value would have seemed better to those getting the free download).
  • seeded the community with teasers.

But overall, I was extremely happy with how it turned out, and highly recommend it to other indie authors. Hey, you never know, you might be able to turn those downloads into a book deal!

And now, without further ado, here’s Novel Writing Tip No 4 for International Creatives:

Heed (at least some of) the wisdom of writers who have gone before you and plan a freebie promotion campaign for Kindle a few weeks in advance, not the the night before; commit to working hard on the promotions, and tracking your numbers, for the duration.

* * *

Readers, what do you make of this latest advise of Meagan’s? Did you ever imagine you’d be giving away your precious novel for free? And do you have any further questions for Meagan, THE LADY WHO WRITES, any topics you wish she would cover in future columns? Please share in the comments…

Meagan Adele Lopez grew up in the U.S. with a Cuban-born father and American mother, and at one time enjoyed an acting/casting career in Hollywood, something you can detect in the beautiful trailer for her novel, Three Questions. Her day job these days is in social media advertising. To learn more about Meagan, go to her Web site.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s announcement of our March “Alice” winners!

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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THE LADY WHO WRITES: Even before you write the last word of your novel, start rehearsing the book trailer!

LadyWhoWrites_brandApril blossoms (and showers) are here, which means it’s time to welcome Meagan Adele Lopez, aka The Lady Who Writes, back to the Displaced Nation. Meagan is a repeat expat in the UK (last time Bristol, this time London). Besides writing, her talents include acting, blogging, and crafting ads for social media. In this monthly column, she is doling out advice to international creatives who are contemplating writing a novel about their novel, shall we say, life experiences.

—ML Awanohara

Hello again, Displaced Nationers. I wonder, how many of you caught ML’s interview with British screenwriter Tim John, posted at the end of last week? Tim spent seven years as an expat in LA chasing the dream of selling scripts to Hollywood studio executives and producers. Reading about his (mis)adventures got me thinking about my own Hollywood days—as well as about book trailers, a pet topic of mine.

Like Tim, I tried to make it in Hollywood for a time: first as an actress and then as a casting agent. I poured what I learned from this experience into creating Dell, the heroine of my first novel, Three Questions: Because a quarter-life crisis needs answers. As anyone who has read it will know, the novel is about the developing love between two young people who have only met each other once, by chance, on a night out in Las Vegas. The love interest, Guy, is from England, while Dell is from America. And the complication is that neither are willing to give up their life plans. Dell is on route to Hollywood to seek her fame and fortune, while Guy is heading to Africa in search of adventure.

Perhaps this portion of my background also explains why, the first time I saw a book trailer, I knew I had to have one for my novel. The trailer was for One Day, by English novelist and screenwriter David Nicholls. By my count, Nicholls actually created a total of four “One Day” book trailers. Here is one of them:

I had never seen a book trailer before, and this one made a strong impression on me. I thought: Gosh, this book I’m about to read is going to be turned into a film—and I’m one of the lucky few who gets to read it before the movie comes out.

In fact, when the movie did come out—with Anne Hathaway playing the female lead—it was a flop, even though Nicholls had also written the screenplay. (The consensus among critics on Rotten Tomatoes is that the movie “lacks the emotion, depth, or insight of its bestselling source material.”)

What the *&%$ is a book trailer?

Good question. A book trailer is akin to a movie trailer. It’s an advertisement for the book in visual form. I saw it as another way to reach my audience—another way to inspire and motivate potential readers to buy the book.

But now that I’m in the position to hand out advice to wannabe novelists, I recommend you start thinking about your book trailer even before you finish writing.

Many writing coaches will tell you to read your book aloud before submitting it to an editor for review. It gives you a sense of where you need to improve the dialogue, shorten sentences, change words, and so on. (See Joanna Penn’s post: “7 Reasons Why You Should Read Your Book Out Loud.”)

But I would add that acting out your book trailer in advance can also be helpful. Book trailers are generally scenes, or splices of scenes acted out from the novel. Preferably, the book trailer will end on a cliff hanger. If no one wants to know more, then what’s the point?

By the way, should you feel a tad peculiar acting out scenes from your novel, be sure to remind yourself that Charles Dickens, who was drawn to the theatre and dabbled in acting, had no qualms about acting out the characters he was writing in the mirror and then describing what he saw in his novels.

Should you actually make a book trailer?

Some of you may be nearly finished with your Great Work and wondering: what’s the ROI (return on investment) for a book trailer? “Investment” is exactly the right word. Your trailer will need to be high quality. If it looks like a cheaply made home video, no one will care to learn more. What’s more, they won’t share it with their friends, which is the way to best way to clock up more sales.

I did a lot of research but never found any studies that make the ROI case for book trailers. Similar to billboard advertisements or TV commercials, there is no solid way to measure why people bought your product or how many took action after seeing an ad. As one of my favorite author bloggers, Allison Winn Scotch, has written:

No one knows what the hell sells books.

In fact, I can’t see any demographic data (besides the country they are from) on the purchases made on my novel. (I wish Amazon would change that.)

In the end, though, I decided to spend $1,500 on my book trailer (used from the money that I raised on Kickstarter for turning my book into a film). I researched how much the big companies were charging compared with the indie companies, and got my number.

Perhaps because of my background in film, I knew that I wanted a book trailer as a marketing tool in addition to everything else I was doing: guest blogging (including on this site!), email marketing, social media marketing, book signings, giveaways (including on this site!), PR, etc.

I had a secondary reason for making one as well—I figured it would be a great way to get the eye of a publishing house or agent. All they have to do is click “Play” and watch for two minutes to see if the story intrigues them.

If I were measuring purely on book sales, I can tell you that my book trailer currently has 921 views so far. If every single person who watched the trailer bought my paperback book, I would have made my money back.

Perhaps it’s just another tool for making a book stand out from the crowd. Or maybe I just really enjoyed making it… But I should let you judge for yourself:

And now, without further ado, here’s Novel Writing Tip No 3 for International Creatives:

While in the process of writing your novel, ask yourself: Which scenes would go into my book trailer? And don’t be afraid to act them out, even if you have to play all the parts.

* * *

Readers, what do you make of this book trailer idea of Meagan’s? Do you see the value in having one, or at least in rehearsing as though you might have one someday? And do you have any further questions for Meagan, THE LADY WHO WRITES, any topics you wish she would cover in future columns? Please share in the comments…

Meagan Adele Lopez grew up in the U.S. with a Cuban-born father and American mother, and at one time enjoyed an acting/casting career in Hollywood, something you can detect in the beautiful trailer for her novel, Three Questions. Her day job these days is in social media advertising. To learn more about Meagan, go to her Web site.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s announcement of our March “Alice” winners!

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

Related posts:

THE LADY WHO WRITES: Wannabe novelists, prepare to dine with your characters daily

LadyWhoWrites_brandToday we welcome back Meagan Adele Lopez, aka The Lady Who Writes—a repeat expat in the UK (she now lives in London). Besides writing, her talents include acting, blogging (during her first UK stint, she kept the blog “The Lady Who Lunches”), and crafting ads for social media. In this monthly column, Meagan is doling out advice to international creatives who are contemplating writing a novel about their novel, shall we say, life experiences.

—ML Awanohara

Hello again, Displaced Nationers—especially those of you who identify as wannabe novelists, similar to my own situation several years ago.

Maybe you recognize the following scenario. You are sitting down to write the novel that you’ve been dreaming about writing for years, which will in some way be based on the exotic life you have lived as an expat or overseas adventurer. You know, the one that will win you the Pulitzer Prize, make you famous, and have some currently unknown actor playing a part that will change his life forever in the film version of your book. You know this because you’ve played it all out a gazillion times in your head.

I’m not here to tell you that won’t happen. Because it could, and dreams are extremely important to have. There are too many nay sayers out there, and I will not be one of them. If E.L. James, Stephenie Meyer and J.K. Rowling can do it, then why the heck can’t you?

What I am here to say is that you better love your idea.

No. Actually, you better be close to obsessed with your idea, and the world you’re about to paint, and the characters you are about to give oxygen to—because they will take over your life.

Hey, you’re planning on having sequels and a huge following? Then loving this idea is almost an understatement.

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”—William Wordsworth

I know too many authors who write what they think will make them famous; or what they think is really popular on the market right now; or about this newspaper article that seemed like it would make a good detective story.

And there are plenty of writers who make a living out of writing trendy stories.

In my opinion, it’s a waste of time. I don’t want to read from an author who isn’t interested in his own story, and why would you want to commit the next year of your life to something you’re only half-interested in?

If anything, it will slow you down, weigh you down, and potentially turn you off from the whole novel-writing exercise, never to return again.

Writing is laborious. Creativity is maybe 20 percent of the craft (and I am probably being generous here). The rest is hours upon hours of digging through your writing for discrepancies in the storyline, editing, and finding inconsistencies in character developments.

If this is your first novel, you would be lucky to have an editor who will do all of that for you (and I do recommend you hire one for the final cuts).

This will be your baby that you will need to make perfect before you send it off to any agencies, publishing houses, or even to your beta readers (if you decide to self-publish).

“If I were invited to a dinner party with my characters, I wouldn’t show up.”—Dr. Seuss

Displaced Nationers, I know how much you enjoy seeking out new food experiences on your travels, but how do you feel about your characters sitting with you at the table? You will be hard pressed to find a successful fiction writer who doesn’t eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with their characters, and then dream about them.

To sum up, here’s Novel Writing Tip No 2 for International Creatives:

Before you start writing your novel, ask yourself: Do I want to spend the next year eating breakfast, lunch, dinner and dreaming about these people’s lives you’re about to create?

* * *

Readers, how do you feel about Meagan’s notion of your characters accompanying you to daily meals? Do you relish the idea, or does it give you indigestion? And do you have any questions for Meagan, THE LADY WHO WRITES, any topics you wish she would cover in future columns? Please share in the comments…

Meagan Adele Lopez grew up in the U.S. with a Cuban-born father and American mother, and at one time enjoyed an acting/casting career in Hollywood, something you can detect in the beautiful trailer for her novel, Three Questions. Her day job these days is in social media advertising. To learn more about Meagan, go to her personal site.

STAY TUNED for next week’s fab posts!

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

Related posts:

THE LADY WHO WRITES: Wannabe novelists, before you write: Read, and read some more…

LadyWhoWrites_brandIntroducing…The Lady Who Writes, Meagan Adele Lopez—a repeat expat in the UK (she now lives in London). Besides writing, her talents include acting, blogging (during her first UK stint, she kept the blog “The Lady Who Lunches”), and crafting ads for social media. In this monthly column, which began yesterday with a self-introduction, Meagan is doling out advice to international creatives who are contemplating writing a novel about their novel, shall we say, life experiences.

—ML Awanohara

Hello again, Displaced Nationers! After my self-introduction yesterday, I’m happy to be back today to discuss my first topic: reading.

Yes, you heard that correctly: reading. Before you even begin to write, you really need to know how to read.

Reading is not just about absorbing the words on the page. You have to be as observant in your reading as you are in your own writing.

Perhaps I am telling you something you’ve already seen in book-writing manuals—but it still remains the best advice I received before writing my novel about an expat love affair, called Three Questions: Because a quarter-life crisis needs answers.

I was always an avid reader, but somehow got out of it once I finished college. By the time I’d decided to write a novel, I was shocked to realize it had been a few years since I’d read more than one book in a year.

Always one to kill multiple birds with one stone (that’s an awful phrase, isn’t it? I really would rather not kill any birds but, alas, the phrase says I must), I formulated a plan to read as much as I could before starting to write.

I would read books that would help me understand the rhythm of the sort of book I intended to produce, while also learning what my target audience was interested in.

And to do that, I would develop a sort of focus group of people who would give me honest and relevant feedback.

The Ladies Who Read

How did I create this? I started a book club for women. BUT this was no ordinary book club. Oh no! This was a book club with sass, spunk and activities, called the Ladies Who…(yes, I am fond of this moniker).

Our group would meet every month to tackle a different book and create some sort of experience based off the book.

One month, we were Ladies Who Cooked. Another month, we were Ladies who Karaoke-ed. Another month, we were the Ladies who Roller Skated. The topic didn’t always completely correlate to the book, but we did our best and always had a blast doing it.

And, although the novel I ended up writing—Three Questions—belongs to the “chick lit” genre, the books we read weren’t necessarily chick lit, and they weren’t just fluff. Some were literary, some were trashy but popular, and others were largely autobiographical.

“Let us read; and let us dance…” — Voltaire

One thing these books did have in common, though: my fellow “ladies” were interested in reading them.

Before, during or after our “Ladies who…” events, we discussed the book: what we liked about it, what we wished the author had thought more about, what bored us, what gripped us, the ins and outs of the character development—and I took notes.

To me, this was better than sitting in a classroom with fellow writers because I was getting first-hand knowledge of what the people wanted out of a good woman’s fiction novel.

The best part about it? One month it was my book that we did this to!

For me, reading before I started writing was immensely helpful. As I mentioned, being able to understand the ebb and flow of what makes a good narrative is extremely important.

I wanted to keep my readers always wanting more, never getting bored (I’m an actress, remember)—but also not jarring them by jumping from scene to scene. It’s a difficult task to accomplish, but reading other successful novels helps. For me, novel writing is not a science. It’s more of a feeling, an art form…

Notably, I found it more difficult to continue reading while I was in the throes of writing because I found myself subconsciously writing in the same style of whatever author I happened to be reading at the time. This caused my writing to become disjointed, confused and derivative, lacking its own identity. I had to separate myself from reading others’ writings during the course of my novel-writing for this reason.

Others might be different, but this was my experience.

Turning the page

Am I saying you must start a book club immediately in order to kill all those birds at once? OK, I’ve got to come up with a different metaphor. How about: “Throwing the baby out with the bath water”? (Ugh, equally as horrible, if not worse.) Actually, this is where the author must come up with her own! Writing your own metaphors, avoiding clichés and repeating phrases could be its own blog post entirely. I digress…

No, I’m not saying that you need to start a book club. What I am saying is for you to know your genre inside and out.

To sum up, here’s Novel Writing Tip No 1 for International Creatives:

Be the master of what you are writing about. Let no one else understand how to let that cliff hang, those lovers love, or that monster scare little children like you can. NO ONE.

* * *

Readers, any questions for Meagan, THE LADY WHO WRITES? What do you think of her book club suggestion? Zany, helpful—or both? Perhaps you have alternative suggestions? Please share in the comments…and let’s get a “Ladies Who Talk About Writing” club going. (Men, you are welcome, too!)

Meagan Adele Lopez grew up in the U.S. with a Cuban-born father and American mother, and at one time enjoyed an acting/casting career in Hollywood, something you can detect in the beautiful trailer for her novel, Three Questions. Her day job these days is in social media advertising. To learn more about Meagan, go to her personal site.

STAY TUNED for next week’s fab posts!

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THE LADY WHO WRITES: Expats, there may be a novel in your novel life!

LadyWhoWrites_brandMeagan Adele Lopez has always been on the move. By the time she was 12, she had lived in 12 places within the U.S. As a young adult, she moved to Paris and then Bristol, UK. She repatriated to the U.S. but recently crossed The Pond again to settle in London. Meagan’s talents include actress, blogger (she kept the blog “The Lady Who Lunches” while in Bristol), novelist and social media guru. And now, for the Displaced Nation audience, she will deliver advice on writing a novel. Introducing…THE LADY WHO WRITES!

—ML Awanohara

When ML Awanohara asked me to write a series of guest posts about writing a novel, I was a bit taken aback. Who am I to tell you lovely readers how to write a novelI’ve only written one, and it wasn’t a bestseller on the New York Times!

Then I started thinking about what I could contribute to the Displaced Nation, what I know I did really well, and what I know I didn’t do well. Surely the successes and learnings from any first-time author are worth a contribution of, say, a series of at least six guest posts?

After all, I did have 30,000 people download the book in the first six monthsthat’s worth something, right?

Plus, being an expat myself (this is my third try!), hopefully I will be coming from a perspective that you all know and understand. I was lucky enough to be able to write my novel, Three Questions: Because a quarter-life crisis needs answers, while living abroad in England back in 2008. I’m back in England again (London, to be specific) after living in Chicago for three yearsand, yes, I’ve started writing again.

The odd thing is that I found it difficult to write in my own country. My imagination isn’t sparked like it is when I am abroad, and out of my comfort zone. Living in America (where I’m from), I go through the motions of my day-to-day life without digging deeperand this, in my mind, makes my writing dull and uninspired.

When I’m in Europe, I question more, observe more, and simply write more because I have to in order to survive. My writing in Europe comes almost out of a necessity.

It’s more than that, though. For me, when I’m in Europe, I’m curious about everything around me—I am constantly walking around with a slight tilt of my head, wondering how humans are so much alike and yet so different. I question my own actions and why I do the things I do, because the Brits, the French, the Germansthey don’t act the way I act. Simple phrases I would say without thinking in an American bar, like “double fisting” (to carry and consume two alcoholic beverages simultaneously), can cause serious offense, or fits of giggles, in Britain. Saying my name in France makes people think of a car. Even walking on the sidewalk in England I don’t seem to do right.

When walking becomes a struggle, writing becomes a source of solace.

Do you feel this way at all, fellow expats? We all need inspiration in order to write, and for me that comes when I’m put in situations that are out of the ordinary.

So, this blog series won’t be about telling the musts and mustn’ts of novel writing in a step-by-step manner. We all have a different method, and there is no right/wrong way. Rather, this column will provide six things to think about before, during and after writing a novel that maybe you’ve thought about, maybe you haven’t. I hope you will find my ideas inspiring, and never boring!

I’ll be back tomorrow with my first suggestion, which has to do with READING, the first step to writing…

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Readers, any questions for our new monthly columnist, THE LADY WHO WRITES? Anything in particular you would like to see her cover in her series?

Meagan Adele Lopez grew up in the U.S. with a Cuban-born father and American mother, and at one time enjoyed an acting/casting career in Hollywood, something you can detect in the beautiful trailer for her novel, Three Questions. Her day job these days is in social media advertising. To learn more about Meagan, go to her personal site.

STAY TUNED for Meagan’s first piece of writing advice, scheduled for tomorrow!

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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