Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fan-Fiction, Fifty Shades of Grey, and Stealing Ideas

The Fifty Shades of Grey movie is coming out this week and I'm planning on seeing it. I read the first book, it wasn't my favorite book, but I think this might be one time when the movie is better than the book.

A lot of people on social media refuse to see it though. They are angry because they view E.L. James as a thief. They think she stole Stephenie Meyer's characters and is using them to make millions of dollars. The books started out as Twilight fan-fiction. They've changed the names of E.L. James' original work, but little else.

I agree that it's wrong to steal from other authors, but I don't believe E.L. James stole from Stephenie Meyer. If she had, Stephenie Meyer would sue her. Don't think it's some kind of benevolence on Stephenie Meyer's part that has caused her to never take E.L. James to court. They are both business savvy people or they wouldn't be as rich as they are. Neither of them would hesitate to sue someone they felt stole from them.

When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with fan-fiction. I didn't have any money at that age, so I'd go on fanfiction.net and read a bunch of fan fiction stories about my favorite television or movie characters because I couldn't afford the amount of books I wanted to read. I loved to read and express my opinion, so I'd comment on every story. This is how I learned about the different types of fan-fiction out there.

Here are the four types I've noticed (there may be more):

1.) Rewrites

Where the fan-fiction author takes a story, rewrites it completely and maybe changes a few tiny details so the story is more to their liking or who writes the story from a brand new perspective to explore a certain character and their viewpoints on things.

2.) Sequels

They take the story that's already there and try to continue it.

3.) What If's

Where the fan-fiction author takes a story and writes about something they wished would happen. Like, with the Harry Potter series: What if Harry and Hermione had fallen in love? Things like that.

4.) Alternate Universes - This is where you take a few characters from the book and throw them into your own universe and probably change aspects of their personality and appearance to fit this universe. All you really keep are the names and maybe a few references to the original story.

For instance, I once read an "Alternate Universe" version of Pride and Prejudice. It was supposed to be the same story if it took place in the 1970's. Most of the details of the story changed. There was a few similarities in the progression of the plot, sort of, (just that Elizabeth was disgusted with Darcy really) and the characters kept the same names, but they had to be completely different people. For instance, Elizabeth Bennet was a hippie. And they had completely different experiences, like going on shopping trips and things.

So essentially, it's a whole new story even though it's a fan-fiction.

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The first three stories are completely dependent on the original work. The fourth one is not and could exist even if the original work disappeared from our existence. The first three would violate copyright laws if they were published, but I believe that the fourth would not as long as you changed the names and any other relevant details.

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The thing about E.L. James' books is that she wrote Alternate Universe fan-fiction. Christian Grey is NOT a vampire. He has a different back story. He's a different age than Edward. Same with Anastasia Steele, she isn't a high school teenage girl with an overprotective father like Bella was. The storylines have nothing in common, I had to search really hard for the similarities in the two book series and there were only traces of this here and there. I'm pretty sure that Stephenie Meyer would be appalled at the morality of E.L. James' books. Meyer's characters do not believe in abortion and try to follow God. E.L. James...well...her characters just do whatever they want and love sex before marriage.

They are far from the same book.

I just find it really strange how confrontational people get about this. I technically am writing and selling fan-fiction right now. It's not only E.L. James who tried to do this. I write retellings of Greek Mythology. My fan-fiction is more like the rewrites-the Greek myths you know and love rewritten from a new perspective where I try to change your view of the original stories. Many other authors have stolen from Greek Mythology as well, including Rick Riordan and C.S. Lewis. In fact, most fantasy authors take elements from pasts myths in some way, that's what makes our books fantasy novels.

I just think there needs to come a point when people stop hearing the word "fan-fiction" and automatically think "stolen." Some of it is stolen work, yes, and would be illegal to publish. You can't publish a sequel to someone else's book, for instance, without their permission. And you can't steal people's books and sell them without their permission either.

But this is not what E.L. James did. This is why I am not at all offended by publishers publishing fan-fiction.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Self-Publishing And Fake Statistics

I haven't had the opportunity to address this before, but it's a statistic thrown around by people in the publishing industry constantly.

"The average self-published book sells only one hundred copies in its entire lifetime. All those copies are sold to friends and family."

This is a lie and it's bothered me for awhile now. This is about self-publishing e-books. People have only been able to do this for the last few years. That isn't even enough time for any books to be much older than baby books, let alone have full, long lifetimes where they sold only one hundred copies.

Also, most people I meet and befriend will never even see my book covers, let alone read them, but I still find ways to sell people books every month.

If you are thinking about going into self-publishing or you just self-published, ignore this statistic. I've sold many more copies than this and I think anyone can do what I've done. This statistic is always quoted in articles where someone is talking about how you can't make a living self-publishing and it's used to discourage people.

I panicked when I first saw it before I published my first book. I thought that my book would sell five copies the first month to five people that I beg in person to buy the book and no one else would buy it ever again.

I'm not saying the average self-published novel sells thousands of copies in the first year. They do not. But self-publishing is about the long term. It's about years of writing, marketing, and self-publishing books. It doesn't matter if your book sells only five copies a month. (Which might total only $10 in royalties a month.) That might be five copies every month for the rest of your life, which in total if your book is around for fifty years could be over ten thousand dollars.

Keep writing more and that number will increase every month. I've been told by some authors that the number increases exponentially. I'll let you know as I publish more books.

Even if you've only sold one hundred copies and your sales have died, try marketing a new way. A self-published book only dies if you give up on it. I had a month when Kindle Unlimited made my sales basically zero, I worked at marketing and now my book sales have stabilized and last month was my highest sales number ever.

Don't give up.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How A Small Writing Goal Is Changing Everything

The past year and a half has been crazy for me. I found out I had diabetes and I got married. I've struggled with pain from migraines and my teeth. I've had mild surgery and almost had to have a second mild surgery because of a weird cyst thing that I had in my mouth. (Most of my health problems, I haven't shared on social media.) My rottweilers have been sick a lot. Izzy had pancreatitis and I was taking Mika to the vet every week because it turns out that he has Inflammatory Bowel Disorder, which is a dog's version of Crohn's Disease.

I've honestly been overwhelmed with all the changes and struggles in my life lately. I've had a lot to adjust to and work past and my writing hasn't been as quick as I would have liked.

I used to spend all day writing. I remember once writing seventy thousand words in a week. They all had to be edited, but I was happy with it.

But lately, I've sat down, been trying to force myself to write at least ten thousand words because I've been writing infrequently and wanting to catch up. Instead, I've been staring at my novels and getting overwhelmed and my mind has been going blank on a lot of days. Even when it doesn't and I write two thousand words, instead of feeling proud of it, I've felt disgusted with myself, saying things in my head like,"This isn't the way to write three or four books a year and you can't be a successful writer unless you write three or four books a year!"

Then my friend on facebook suggested making a New Years Resolution of writing only one hundred words every day. I liked this idea. It was very doable, even on days where my life was insane. I was tired of going days or sometimes weeks without progress when things got to hectic.

And because of it, I've been writing every day! Not only that, but I feel really good about myself and my novels. It's so easy to meet the goal of one hundred words every day and now I say,"As long as I write one hundred, I wasn't a failure today" even if all I write is one hundred. I've found myself writing much more than one hundred words a day and enjoying every bit of it. Where before I was criticizing myself because I still hadn't met my goal, now I am congratulating myself daily for the progress.

I think it's hard for writers not to get into this psychological head trip where we are critizing ourselves and what we write and how fast constantly. It's a muse killer. I was writing still, but it felt mechanical rather than inspired. This has breathed life back into the whole thing. Because I'm writing those extra words because I want to, not because I feel like I need to meet some impossible goal.

I'm so happy.

So if you're a writer like me and you're frustrated with yourself, cut yourself some slack and you might be surprised by how much you can achieve. I'm achieving more now without the pressure than I was before.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Writing Goals

This month, I decided to participate in a challenge that my friend gave everyone, to write at least a hundred words every day. It's not that I wasn't writing already, but I was doing it in infrequent sprints, so I wanted to get back in the habit of making sure I write every single day, so I took on the challenge.

At first, I panicked because I got a horrible migraine on the first of this month and couldn't write a word for two days (or even have the light on without wincing), but then after I recovered, I've successfully written at least a hundred words every day. (So if you already messed up your New Years goals like I did immediately that doesn't mean you can't start again now! Go for it!) Most days I write much more than one hundred, about a thousand words or so, but its good for the spirit. The goal I have to meet every day is so small that I feel accomplished pretty quickly and don't feel as much pressure. Any words I write beyond the first one hundred are basically bonus words that I wrote that day. It's a psychological trip, where instead of beating yourself up because you wanted to write five thousand words and failed to do so, you are patting yourself on the back and getting more excited about writing.

I think my writing spirit was a bit crushed lately.

Although I am not writing at super speed with a super high word count right now, I am writing more quickly than I was writing before (and with more excitement about the whole thing!)

Also, I've been working on finishing two books at once. Yes, that is twice the work, but I feel like somehow it is actually ten times the work. I think in the future, I should work on publishing just one book at a time. It's just that I wanted to make the first book free and the second book concludes the first book, so I thought it would be better to publish them both at once. But then my books come out so slowly and I'd rather get more of my books out quickly.

I say this now, but I actually have a trilogy (that I've already written the first draft of the first book for) that I don't feel comfortable publishing until I am done with all three. So we will see what I actually wind up doing in the future.

I've also been spending more time away from social media. I'd still like to keep logging onto it. I learn a lot from talking to other authors from it. But I've also been getting more writing done without it, so I'm kind of conflicted there.

Anyway, how are all of you? What are your writing goals for this upcoming year?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I'm Back

So I accidentally took a month long break (I'm not sure of the exact amount of time, but it was about the much) without telling anyone from social media, but I am back now, although I hope to be on social media less than I was before (although still present on all the different sites on occasion!) So if I owe you an e-mail or a follow back or anything like that, don't worry, I am trying to get around to finishing all of that right now. And I apologized for that.

I got caught up in the holidays and also my mother and dog who are both sick right now with chronic stuff. My Mom is getting some surgeries in the upcoming months, so I might accidentally disappear again during that time.

I didn't mean to be gone that long or I would have told someone.

I don't know if people noticed I was gone and it's fine if you didn't, I'm just letting you know what happened in December if you happened to have noticed that I wasn't around much.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Right Way To Do Social Media

I've made lists before on how to get more followers on twitter and things like that, but everything boils down to one simple rule really: BE SOCIAL.

I know it sounds simplistic, but this seems to go over some authors' heads.

When you pay for an advertisement or book tour, you watch your sales while its running. You weigh the numbers against each other (the costs versus the downloads), take some time thinking about it, and decide whether it was worth it.

Social media isn't like that.

First of all, you're never going to know how many books social media has sold for you. You have no way to track it.

Secondly, everyone else is there to get to know people. Most of my friends outside of being an author do not purchase my books. I don't even ask them to. I tell them I'm an author and they let me know immediately (usually) that they don't like ebooks or that they don't read very much or that they'll read my books if I give them to them for free. So what would ever make me think that I could go on social media, shout at a bunch of strangers "BUY MY BOOK!" and get a better reaction?

Even if you sell zero books through social media, it's still worth it. By keeping up with other authors and readers, you find out about trends in the marketplace and news happening in publishing, which can help you sell your books. Opportunities come up for you, like blog interviews and guest posts that wouldn't otherwise be there.

But you have to not be searching for those things. You have to be just enjoying yourself on there.

Authors think they are so different than actors, comedians, and musicians, just because we don't sit in front of people and perform.  But we're not really that different. We're also in the entertainment business. Even if you write serious books with deep philosophical ideas in them, you want to do so in a way that will keep people's attention. You want to reach them at their level and make them feel something.

In the same way, you should be entertaining on social media. And you should give us a glimpse of yourself.

Yes, there is so much talk about not posting things online because the internet is forever, but you can't let people get to know you, unless you are willing to risk that. It's like falling in love. Your heart might get destroyed. In fact, most relationships end that way. But if you don't allow yourself the possibility to get hurt, you'll never get to know anyone.

Being a robot online will get you are far as being a robot in a relationship-nowhere.

And really, I've never seen someone's books sales hurt over going viral. Usually their book sales improve.

This came up because I got really irritated with a guy online. He was telling everyone to follow him and like him online, so on and so forth. So I agreed to it and he made it clear that he wasn't going to follow or like the people who follow and like him.

Immediately, I wanted to undo everything I'd just done. Because, like most people, I am on social media to socialize. If he doesn't want to like and follow people back, then he's just there to sell books and not to talk to anyone, so why should I even bother to talk to him at all? He doesn't care about me or want to get to know me.

What does it really hurt to follow people back and like them, too? Why is it upsetting to engage in conversation with them? Because you don't have time? Then delete all your social media accounts now. If you don't have time for social media, then you shouldn't be on it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

New Published Short Stories

It's been awhile since I last blogged, but I am still here, popping in and out of social media websites at random sometimes.

There's a few things I wanted to tell you about. Basically, a couple of my short stories got published last month. One, in an anthology, and the other as contribution to. another author's novel. I thought that maybe you would like to know about them.

The first short story I wrote was part of a bullying anthology. We were all told to write a story about bullying and since I can't write anything without including a bit of fantasy or science fiction, there's a bit of that sprinkled in there. I titled my story "The Magic Pen" and you can purchase the entire book here:

http://www.amazon.com/Authors-Against-Bullying-Isabella-Tredway-ebook/dp/B00O2BTXPQ/

I only had a week to write my short story and I had to really push myself to finish it, but I wanted to write it because it was important to me. I grew-up bullied all my life in public school. (It finally stopped in 11th grade when I started homeschool.)

This story is especially important to me because for the first time ever, I included details that were real to me in my life. Like being so scared of going to school and seeing my bullies that I'd have panic attacks on the drive over every day. I'd get depression and be unable to hear anything the teachers were saying because I was too focused on what my classmates were going to do to me next. My grades suffered as a result.

Also, I really did have a counselor who would force me to see him all the time and lecture me because I wasn't as pretty as the other girls or as tough as them. He'd tell me it was "my fault" I was bullied all the time (pretty girls who don't stare at the ground and look into people's eyes don't get bullied. To this day, I still try to force myself to stare into people's eyes when they are intimidating me because of his constant lectures) and he'd criticize me about my grades.

I also really had a friend who wore Marilyn Manson t-shirts and used to scare me all the time with her voodoo dolls and knives, but she also used to constantly stick up for me as well. So we had the weirdest friendship ever. I was terrified of her and I admired her all at the same time.

Her brother really was one of my bullies. He called me cuss words and she would scream at him back. Although I never thought he was attractive like my main character seems to think about her bully.

The reason I am saying all this is because it was a really liberating experience to include some of my real life experiences in a story. It felt nice to change parts of the story and rearrange things so that my school counselor got fired, instead of continuing to insult kids long after I was gone as I know that he did.

I don't really think about how I was bullied back then often. I just think about it when I consider this current generation and what they may or may not be going through in school. I would like it so we could have a world where kids felt safe enough to be able to focus on their school work and didn't have to have panic attacks every Monday on the drive over. But if there are kids going through that, I don't want them to feel alone.

I hope my story might help some kids that are struggling. I want them to accept who they are and not think that bullying is their fault. It doesn't matter if they don't know how to fight back or how to do their make-up right. They shouldn't be picked on anyway.

So that's why I decided to submit that story for the anthology. It was compiled by an author named Bree Vanderland who feels very strongly about bullying as well. She has several books up for sale on Amazon.

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The other short story that I wrote was for a contest for one of T.J. Loveless' books. If you don't know who T.J. Loveless is, she's one of the best authors I've ever met. She writes well and is one of the few authors I can say that I trust.

She's been writing this book series called The Fortune Cookie Diaries. It's hilarious and one of the main characters named Miracai (who is my favorite) is an absolute riot. He's a unicorn that farts rainbows. That's all I am going to say.

Anyway, she held a contest for anyone who wanted to contribute to the series to write a short story about a brand new character that hadn't been introduced yet. She included my short story and one other story in her third book. (The books count down backwards, so it says "Book Four".)

Here's the link to it, but I highly recommend you starting at the beginning of the series.

http://www.amazon.com/Unlucky-Number-Fortune-Cookie-Diaries-ebook/dp/B00MSXXG6C/

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While all this is happening, I am still slowly, but surely pecking away at the keys, trying to finish rewriting my God of Light duology. I'm still going to need critique partners to look it over one last time, but I am really excited about the direction it's going. It's turning out much better than when the books first started.

It's taking a long time, but I am choosing quality over quantity right now. If I wasn't, I could have had the books out six months ago.

Also, my downloads and sales are slowly increasing, which is exciting as well.

I've been experimenting (and submitting) some short horror stories to magazines on the side and I'll let you guys know if anything happens with any of those things.