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Sunday, August 24, 2014

GPS for Writing


     (I wrote this article in 2009 after a road trip to California. Since then, self-publishing has forged a new direction for many of us. I’ve updated this to reflect the changes, but the basic message is the same: start with a road map even if you decide to take a detour. Another update: after that trip we bought a GPS, and more recently, we bought a new car that has a navigation system. If we travel anywhere now where we need to rent a car, we bring our GPS. I also now have a Smartphone and am learning how to use the navigation APP on that. I don’t anticipate we’ll get lost much, but then, maybe we will, and maybe we’ll discover another hidden gem.)

     Do you have a GPS in your car or as an APP on your phone? It seems everyone nowadays has a GPS in some form or another. Before our 2009 trip up the California coast, I decided we should buy a GPS and take it with us. My husband disagreed, saying the maps we got from AAA would be enough to guide us. When we picked up the rental car, we turned down the rental company’s GPS because we didn’t want to pay $140 when we could buy one for about $50 more at home. Big, big mistake.

     We got lost a lot on that trip. A lot. My husband becomes unglued when he gets lost. At one point I was writing a story in my head titled, “A GPS Would Have Saved My Marriage.” We finally calmed down and resigned ourselves to getting lost at times. We missed many of the sights we’d wanted to see, partly because the state of California doesn’t believe in signs, partly because we didn’t have a GPS, and partly because I didn’t thoroughly read the books AAA gave us. We missed Big Sur, which was one of the main things we’d wanted to see. On the other hand, while lost we stumbled onto Ventura, a true gem of a beach town. Now I know where all the Sixties hippies went. We spent a wonderful, unexpected afternoon in sunny, beautiful, quirky Ventura and decided it was a place in which we could happily live.

Big Sur
               What does this have to do with writing? Do you have a GPS for your writing? Do you know what direction you want your writing to take, or are you barreling down the freeway and hoping for the best? When you started writing to sell, did you map out a plan? Did you decide to attend conferences and workshops to learn all you could about the craft of writing? Then, did you write and write and hone your craft? Or did you write with no real direction, feeling you didn’t need to study the market, that your books would find their way to the right publishers, like a GPS you plug in with no destination and wait for it to take you somewhere?

     I know writers whose plan it is to sell only to a big New York house, and if they don’t, they’ll put their manuscripts into the proverbial drawer rather than go with an epub or a small press, or indie publish. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s their choice. Yet, they may be cheating themselves by not recalculating their direction. I can hear that inner voice now going, “Recalculating, recalculating.” What if one of their manuscripts is a little too out of the box for the big houses? Maybe a reputable epub or small press would love it. Maybe indie pubbing that unusual story will bring major success. There are times when you might need to veer off onto small detours. You never know where those detours will take you.

     By all means, get back onto the main highway after the detour if you still want, but by opening yourself to new roads and taking a less traditional publishing route, you’ll have a book out there, a book people will want to read. Isn’t that better than keeping the book hidden in a drawer?  

     On our California trip, we didn’t get to see Big Sur, but we discovered Ventura. And I’m so glad we did. When I started writing, there were one or two epubs and they were very new and earned no respect from the writing community. Like most of my fellow members of RWA, I dreamed of selling to a big NY house. After I was rejected by several big publishers, someone suggested I submit to Avalon Books, a small press. I hadn’t considered a small press. I submitted and I sold to them. My book, a traditional romance, gave me entry into RWA PAN.

Busy Bee Cafe, Ventura, CA
     Since then, numerous epubs have sprung up. Some fell by the wayside, but many others are thriving. I contracted for my second book, a romantic suspense, with The Wild Rose Press. In GPS terms, I haven’t found Big Sur, the NY publishers, but I found my publishing Ventura, small press and epubs, and now indie publishing. All places where I’ve settled comfortably. I’m no longer heading down the expressway hoping to someday sell to a large publisher. I’ve discovered the joys of driving a less traditional route.

     You might have to change direction from time to time, but the important thing is to know where you’re going. Study the market, write what you love, learn all you can and drive forward into that publishing freeway. But be prepared for detours and know those unexpected twists in the road might lead you to greater adventures.

       Get lost in a book this summer, read Sizzling Summer, a three-book set of full-length romances I'm privileged to be part of. When summer is over, Sizzling Summer will be gone too. Only 99 cents at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

How hot do you like your romance? 

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Ann Whitaker 
Cara Marsi 

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A sexy, sun-drenched romance set on the island of Capri. Can inept journalist Amanda Jackson get an exclusive on playboy Eric Greyford, or will she wind up as just another item on the gossip pages of his newspaper? 

Dog Nanny by Ann Whitaker 
A romantic comedy set in the heart of Texas 
When vet tech Julie Shields agrees to train two delinquent poodles to save them from becoming doggies of divorce, she doesn't count on having to harness her desire for hunky pilot Nick Worthington. 

A Catered Romance by Cara Marsi 
There's more than business brewing between two old high school flames. 
Stubbornly self-reliant Mary Beth Kendrick needs financial backing to keep her catering business cooking. A looming corporate buyout forces her to accept help from Tom Sackett, the man who broke her heart and left her with no appetite for love.





Tina Donahue said...

Great advice - loved the pics of Callie. I live here and love it!

Melissa Keir said...

Great story. I agree wholeheartedly. I didn't have a GPS with my writing and the detours have been the biggest blessings.

Sometimes mistakes or errors make the most sense. Think about that...when you make a mistake, you learn from it and get better. :)

While I've never been to California, it's a dream. :)

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Tina and Melissa. Big Sur is still on my bucket list. Despite our unplanned detours, or because of them, we had a great trip. You can apply this same rules to life in general. I love California. My sister lived in Marin County for years and loved it.

Sandy said...

Ah, Cara, you and your husband sound much like when we get lost. lol I can't read a map for the life of me. We're always lost in new territory.

We have also found the detours can be the most fun.

I did all the conferences, workshops, etc. when I started, and I learned a lot from them.

All of the stories in the three book set sound great.

Rose Anderson said...

Terrific advice! Thanks for sharing.

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Sandy. Glad my husband and I aren't the only ones who consistently get lost.

Thanks, Rose.

R. Ann Siracusa said...

Is there a GPS device where I can enter my story idea and character sketches, and it will tell me how to get there? I wish!
I do know that GPS devices don't always choose the best, the fastest way, or the shortest most direct way to get somewhere when you know the location and streets. It's that way with writing, too. Sometimes it's better to just go with what you know. (P.S. We all know most men are pigheaded when it comes to directions.)

Gemma Juliana said...

Wonderful read, Cara. I guess you'll just have to return to California again to visit Big Sur. :)

Getting lost on a journey is always one of my most fun things to do. I also like taking roads we've never been on when we have time. It's an adventure, and luckily my hubby enjoys it, too.

As for GPS, we got rid of ours. Smart phone and Google maps (plan in advance!) usually get us where we need to go...when I have time, I wing it.

Hope your summer boxed set is selling well! Stories sound wonderful.

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, R. Ann. Yes, men are pigheaded when it comes to directions. GPS devices aren't always good. Mine has gotten me lost a few times.

Thanks, Gemma. Most people use their Smartphones now for directions. I'm still trying to learn how to use mine. The boxed set has done very well.

vicki batman said...

I agree with getting lost while traveling because one sees the most unexpected things. I had a detour in my writing; however, it led me down a good path and that's where I met you. Now have switched back to another and another. Isn't life interesting?

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