Thursday, August 29, 2013

"On Being a Writer in Today’s World," by Dina von Lowenkraft

I love writing. I love creating new worlds and discovering multiple aspects of the characters that inhabit them. But writing is a solitary endeavor. And it’s easy to feel isolated. A network of peers, not only to help each other on craft, but to support each other through the ups and downs, is essential. There were days when I’d
get depressed. No one wanted my manuscript(s). All I’d get - if I got anything at all - were form rejections. A friend got a contract. I was happy for her, but wasn’t my manuscript good too? And then I’d read a book and couldn’t understand why it was a best seller. But my manuscript didn’t even get a request for a partial. Why? It took me a long time to accept that I’d never know. And that I had to stop looking for an answer.

That’s also when I discovered that peers can help since they have felt the same way. And there is something reassuring in knowing that we have all had those same feelings. But how each person deals with it may very well determine if they make it as a writer or not. Depression, or jealousy, helps no one. Figure out why you feel as you do and move beyond it. Your manuscript didn’t get any interest? Write another one. You don’t like a best seller? Analyze it. What was it that made it compelling enough to sell so well? You don’t have to try to emulate it, in fact you shouldn’t - if you don’t like it, it isn’t your style - but it never hurts to understand what made it successful.

Even before I got a contract for Dragon Fire, I knew I needed to build an online network of writer friends. Using social media, both for networking and building a platform is part of the reality of being a writer today. However, it is up to each person to decide where to put the boundaries. I chose to have separate accounts for my ‘public’ author profile and my private family life. As an author I use Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest and Google+. Privately, I use LinkedIn and Facebook with my married name. This choice has allowed me to network with strangers without worrying about who would see where my kids go to school. I still post about my family on my public profile, because I think it is important to show my ‘other’ life, but I don’t tag them or even name them. Building a network with only my crit partners to start with was very difficult and took many months of perseverance. But it has been worth the effort it took and I now spend more time on my writer profile than on my private one.

I have found that attending conferences and workshops is one of the best ways to network while learning more about the market, the craft of writing, agents and editors. Researching the internet to try to get a feel for an agent or publisher is a great start - but hearing them speak in public (or better yet getting a one-on-one) is a hundred times better. You learn so much more about how they are as people when you meet them than when you just read an article or interview - and often when an agent or publisher says ‘yes’ it’s a question of personal taste (as long as the book itself is well written, of course).

And keeping the contact with fellow writers after meeting at a conference is always easier than starting a new relationship online. Although not every contact turns into a crit partner or someone with whom I will develop a real friendship, some do.

Since getting a contract for Dragon Fire, I have realized just how important it is to reach out to readers too. In today’s world, every author, whether published by a major imprint, indie published or self-published, will have to market their book. In fact, an author’s ability to reach out to the reader can be decisive in how well a book will do. And besides, chatting with readers about your book has got to be one of the best parts of being a writer.

Writing is a longterm commitment you make long before you are published. And once you are published, you will have to spend a lot of time doing other things than writing. I no longer have the freedom to spend as much time as I want writing my next manuscript, as much as I’d like to. It’s all part of being a writer in today’s world: balancing the creative process with the business of being a writer.

Enjoy the journey!

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Born in the US, Dina von Lowenkraft has lived on 4 continents, worked as a graphic artist for television and as a consultant in the fashion industry. Somewhere between New York and Paris she picked up an MBA and a black belt. Dina is currently the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Belgium, where she lives with her husband, two children and three horses.

Dina loves to create intricate worlds filled with conflict and passion. She builds her own myths while exploring issues of belonging, racism and the search for truth... after all, how can you find true love if you don’t know who you are and what you believe in? Dina’s key to developing characters is to figure out what they would be willing to die for. And then pushing them to that limit.

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