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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

To Indie Publish or Not: Author Interview with Bonnie Blythe

You’ve written numerous books. Tell me how your writing story began. When did you publish your first book?
I've been writing for close to 20 years and have one novella traditionally published in 2005. After that I had an agent, attended writers conference, and networked like crazy, but to no avail. It wasn't until Amazon opened up indie publishing that my manuscripts moved from my computer hard drive to being up for sale. I now have 15 titles for sale (some are collections) and have found an audience for my work. One great feature about being an indie author is that I can move easily from one style to another. Before that I tried to write what editors said they wanted--and got rather frustrated in the process. 

When did you decide to start writing a novel? How long did it take you to write it? How many rewrites did you do?
I first started in 1993—it was some story set during the jazz age. There may have been a saxophone. Luckily it's long lost even though I spent a year on it. LOL Before that I had read several Christian romance novels and thought 'how hard can it be?'

I found out just how difficult it was--especially when I got into a critique group. Ouch! But between critique partners (who've become long time friends) and reading lots of books on writing (especially Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Browne & King), I learned to write better. I average 2 or 3 rewrites per manuscript, with even more editing in some parts. I don't think anyone ever really 'arrives' at writing. It's a life-long learning and honing adventure. 

Did you ever want to just throw in the towel and say it’s too much work to get
I did quit a few times--raising a family helped with that. It got very discouraging, especially as I did 'everything right.' But no matter how many rules I followed, or continually editing my works according to others' visions, I couldn't seem to get any traction aside from getting a novella published in a collection. I was eventually able to sign with a wonderful agent (via networking at a writers conference) who liked my work and shopped it for years, but without success.

I don't think my writing was the problem, it was most likely my 'voice' wasn't what editors at publishing houses were looking for. Since I've published independently, I have found there is an audience for my voice (and I believe that exists for every writer!). I've sold enough books through Amazon to hit the Number One spot in my genre several times over (even if it was just for a few hours!).

Who encouraged you to write? Are you active in any writing groups?
My husband has been very supportive--working overtime to fly me out to conferences--and the friends I made through my critique groups have been tremendous. I'm not active at present in any writing groups--most of my spare time goes to marketing. 

How long does it take you to write a book today as opposed to your first novel? Do you have a word count goal daily?
I can definitely write faster now that the learning curve has smoothed out somewhat. I think I spent a year or so per book in the past, but now can go from start to finish in about 6 months if I'm disciplined. I don't usually get to write daily, but cram it in on weekends. I use the week to think about the story line, do editing and research, then hit the ground running Saturday morning.

How many times do you rewrite a chapter or do a full edit?
I try not to get bogged down in heavy editing early on. It's more important to get story flow going. I'm somewhere between a 'story-boarder' and 'seat-of-the-pantser.' I have a good idea of what I want to write first, doing heavy character dossiers, and writing out my characters' goals, motivations, and conflicts (see the EXCELLENT Goal, Motivation, and Conflict book by Debra Dixon) before I ever form the first paragraph. But at least half of the scenes are driven on the fly, and sometimes my story goes a different direction than I ever imagined. That's part of the fun. 

Is writing your full-time job or is your writing habit supported in another way?
Unfortunately book sales do not support me. I'm still at hobby level, pay wise, though there were a few plush years in there :) Since the indie publishing wave has crested, there are less 'overnight sensation' stories, and my writing income is pretty much back to 'fun money.' Darn it. LOL

What tips do you have for author self-promotion? What has worked best for you?
Do target marketing. Just like there's an audience for every voice, there's also a blog or readers group who'd be a great fit for your book. You just have to find them via the usual search engine efforts. :) Facebook is loaded with niche groups and is another great place to start, along with sites like Goodreads. Read their rules about promoting books and never spam! Also building cordial reader/author relationships online. If a reader writes to you, write back, and with an offer of a free read. With the millions of choices readers have to choose from, it's wonderful when they choose you. Let them know you respect their time and money by being kind and responsive.

What do you know now about writing, that you wished you had known earlier in your writing career?
I wish I had not spent so much time trying to shoe-horn my writing into pretzels (how's that for a mixed metaphor?) to please the elusive desire of what an editor *might* want on any given day. I'm not referring to constantly honing a skill, or being open to constructive criticism. I mean going against ones' own creativeness. Not that you can't write to a trend, or edit for an interested editor, but writing against my voice just made me frustrated beyond belief.

I'm really only able to write what I want because of the opportunities of indie publishing. If I was still dependent on the traditional publishing model, I honestly can't say whether I'd still be writing. Well, I would eventually yield to the voices in my head demanding release, but it wouldn't be as much fun :)

What advice would you’d like to pass along to other aspiring writers?
Find you voice, find your niche, study what works, be open to criticism that takes you forward--not crushes you--and have fun!

That’s it for today’s interview. I really appreciate what Bonnie said about being true to your voice and honing your skills. Hope you’ll take a look at her books and maybe buy one or two.

Kindle books:

If you’re looking for ways to improve your craft, here are some of her favorite books that can help you along the way.

Goal, Motivation, and Conflict book by Debra Dixon
Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Browne & King
The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes by Tami D. Cowden

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