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“Write what you know” they said…

Posted: 30. September 2015 in Blog
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”Write what you know.”


I think every author has heard this advice at some point in their early career. I know I did. Whether or not it is a good advice is debatable as the entire writing process from choosing ones genre to how many or little details we put into the story is individual. The above advice can seem good at the beginning where the process of sitting down and open up a vein to bleed one’s soul onto the paper falls less natural than it does a weathered writer.

I’m a geek! So the “write what you know” seemed offensive to me. How was I supposed to learn something new? I wanted to be a writer so that I had the opportunity to delve into the unknown and use all this interesting knowledge to build puzzles that would later be foundations for new fictional worlds. It is no secret that Meraki P. Lyhne is a pseudonym (that’s what the P stands for), and I have written and still love to write factual texts, too.

Delving into research of ancient religions is probably my most geeky interest, and the world of “Chronicles of an Earned” took eight years to research and build. I wanted it to be original, but still authentic enough to be plausible if one read any of the old texts and figured three words mistranslated.

Being a jack of all trades, master of none is in my opinion not a bad thing when being a writer, and we thus don’t have to know everything about what we write. But, before writing, it is necessary to research what we don’t know. I have come to the conclusion that the jack of all trades mentality is the best for writers. Knowing a little bit about everything gives us a broad enough foundational knowledge to be able to span plots and thus see where we need to learn more. This broad base of knowledge lets us see connections which are necessary for building big plots.

One of the absolute most gratifying things about not knowing what I write is the research part. I absolutely love it! Love how a small thing like the pickpocket Alex’ sleight of hand skills made it necessary for me to buy a deck of cards and a DVD with an hour and a half tutorial on how to be a card magician. I love that research forces me to leave my otherwise fortified writers cave and pack up my introvert personality to sit in a car for thirty hours to visit the Louver in France or the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Belgium. This is both to learn more about fine art—my characters are experts, so I need to know what they’re talking about—, but also to understand the characters Pritchard and Alex when it comes to their skills in determining architectural details when planning a heist.

As parts of the stories happen in Europe and I am from Europe it is easy to drive around and take a look at all these things. No problem getting to know what I need to in order to write the books. What is difficult is going to Seattle and Philadelphia to check something out, because that calls for patience to clear a lot of red tape (getting a new passport, applying for a visa etc.), and not to forget, save up the money for a very lengthy trip! I don’t have that! If Google Earth and enormously friendly people on Facebook weren’t around, I’d have a huge problem writing these books.

But that’s what makes it interesting—having to look for the pieces of the puzzle both in the past, in the present, the future, and in the virtual world.

attention whore

As with any trade one has to keep up with what moves in one’s own field. Authors do that as well. But this market moves incredibly fast and has split up into section with a huge portion of the focus being on self publishing. Another huge part is on marketing for self publishers. Even though I get published through a publishing house, I still assist in marketing. I mean, why wouldn’t I be interested in giving my books the best opportunities out there and thus put some effort into it other than just writing it?

Thoughts about marketing is actually what partly prompted this post. The other half was an author who is inspired by photos when coming up with characters, environment, etc.

When marketing on social media there are so many information flowing around out there that most people have formed a filter in their brain. If we didn’t have it, we simply wouldn’t be able to keep up.

Example: I have a twitter account, and I have come to follow 945 people in the approximate month I’ve had it (only 278 followers, so obviously I’m not doing this social media marketing thing correctly). But, to make a point here, I set a timer just to see how many new tweets come up in an hour.

303 tweets in the hour from 10 AM to 11 AM in Copenhagen, Denmark

And you have to remember, that I am in Europe, and the majority of the people I follow are in the States and Canada, and a few from Australia. I also follow some from Europe of course.

303 Tweets an hour which around the world is:

4 to 5 AM New York, USA
1 to 2 AM Los Angeles, USA

5 to 6 PM Perth, Australia
7 to 8 PM Brisbane, Australia

How could anyone keep up with that? So, the trick is to tweed often, they say. Some even gets a bot to do it.

I don’t even know what the so-called experts have figured to be the amount of time customers have to see your brand to remember it, but I do know that some of the bad-asses say that it doesn’t matter whether the brand is remembered for something good or bad, because that detail is usually NOT picked up by the brain–just the brand.

As an author, my name is my brand. And I’ve watched how other authors market their books. Three in particular seemed to spam Facebook groups and sometimes evenPMs daily with cover images of their books up to three months before the announcement was that in two weeks it would be for sale. Until then it was just making sure people knew of it. After that it was daily announcements “You should read!”, “Did you miss?” or “Now is your chance!”

It certainly worked! When I see their profile picture or the cover of the books, I know them like the back of my hand. But I’ll never buy those books because I felt irritated at having the damn things shoved in my face twenty-three times a day pr. social media I followed said authors on. I unfollowed/unfriended two of them, but one author also had something relevant to say in between spamming, so I lived with it.

But this is obviously marketing done wrong. I know that, because I, as a reader, got turned off by the marketing. I don’t care what the gurus says, there has to be layers of annoying that just doesn’t pass the end users “fucked off” filter.

Marketing became scary for me after seeing this, because this is certainly not how I want my potential readers to think about me and my books.

So, what makes me stop when going through this unfathomable amount of information on the level of intriguing information? Which authors makes me go hmm?

Something visual, shiny, and colorful that isn’t repeated to function as a constant echo or déjà-vu in the vastness of the internet.

And this brings us to the author who has visuals to aid her in making characters and so on. She also has a Pinterest account, so I went there to have a look-see. I was amazed at how much she had and my brain went into instantaneous geek-mode—i.e. she caught my attention and sparked my interest. She made me want to interact.

Now, personally I have never used visuals to aid in my writing, creating of characters, worlds etc. A reader once asked me what actor I saw as this or that character, and I was like…can’t think of one who looks like him. I wish I was good at drawing, because then I could just draw them and show people and thus get people’s attention in a positive way.

I can learn, sure, but it takes forever, and I have the characters of six future novels screaming at me from three different genres. I have to prioritize, and at the moment it looks like this:

Write new stuff
Learn marketing
Do marketing
Edit the new stuff
Write more new stuff

Of course there are also the real world things that interrupt like family, dogs, the car breaking down, the roof needing to be retiled, and people expecting me to be social at weekends.

Learning to use visuals is probably a necessity for me as I have nothing to use on Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, and what have we to get my potential readers’ attention. I have even set myself a challenge as an author. I have to find visuals and create characters and a world from that. So far I know it’ll be a M/M sci fi playing with the hollow earth theory and Channing Tatum is working on inspiring me on one of the characters.

I will be using Pinterest to make this attempt. Also to have something visual to throw in the marketing direction once (if) the project reaches that state.

In the end, marketing continues to be a difficult area and a very fine line between “look at me, look at me!” and the introvert author who just doesn’t thrive in the spotlight and prefers to create in the safety and silence of their chosen seclusion. In a world where information moves so fast, the latter has a problem, and I am in that end of the scale.

If you want to see how the visually inspired book challenge I gave myself is coming or not coming along, I have made a Pinterest pinboard for it. I have begun using visuals for my current book series Chronicles of an Earned, but thus far not let myself inspire regarding characters and the likes.

Visual Book Challenge

Finally managed to make a blog

Posted: 19. May 2015 in Blog

With help from a friend this blog is now up and running. So no more excuses–back to reading up for finals.

Thanks Nic Starr for your patient guidance 🙂