That question often meets me as I come away from the podium. So often, in fact, that I thought I’d write about how I accomplish what I do regarding my writing.
I have always loved to write so that is a given but when I left teaching and my son prompted me about just when I was going to write a novel, I got serious. The most important thing I did was spend time on writing every day. First it was in writing journal entries, and I have books of them written by hand and on my computer.
Then I got the idea to write stories from my childhood for posterity. My partner in crime for all those years, my brother, told me they weren’t exactly how he remembered the stories. That was a lesson for me–we all remember things differently. My Version then led me to writing about my husband’s and my early married years before we had children and then when those kids were young.
Along about the same time I was writing my own music and I put together a book of my own songs, Songs From My Heart, a couple of which found their way into my latest published book, My Story, My Song. Notice how well-thumbed the pages are!
These songs helped me hone my use of words in my writing, a skill that has helped tremendously in my books. Below are my current six books already published. I keep them on my shelf so I can smile and look at them when I need a little encouragement.
Here are a bunch of advertising bookmarks, playing cards, and handout cards, as well as flash drives which contain the copies of my books in audio format. That was another thing I learned to do by doing–almost all of my books are not only e-books and print books, they are also audio books on Audible.
A few books I found for research. I bought many books but I borrowed many more from various libraries, online and in-person.
I talked to speakers at every writing conference I went to, and still do. I learned to be brave in contacting them and learning from them. I blogged about their sessions and I sent each of them the link to my work. They were excellent for teaching me new things I needed to know. I only had one I had trouble with.
That person had spoken about her practices in building her audience. One of her habits was to be controversial on her blog post. I wrote a nice piece about what she had taught me and she commented on the post in a nasty tone saying I’d left something out. I can’t remember exactly what but I knew what she was doing–trying to create controversy. That is not who I am so I took control. I took my post down in which I had praised her. That meant her nasty comment was gone, too.
I have 3 columns: To Do/Work in Progress/Done. And I use sticky notes to move between the columns. I noticed that I have to update my Work in Progress column as I have many more things I’m working on. (My husband bought me the wonderful imagine sign!)
I contacted many groups to offer my services as a speaker/writer/author, at first for free, but eventually for a fee and the agreement that I could sell my books there. To this day I sell a lot of books when I go out and speak and include a couple of readings in my talk. It’s also a lot of fun.
I pick cliffhangers and parts that grab the readers’ attention, hoping they’ll need to know what happened. One of my favourite sections has Lucy waking up in bed to a sound in the cabin where she is by herself. She is screaming her husband’s name. I end the chapter with “She flew up in the dark. Someone was in the room.” (The Loyalist’s Wife.)
Every time I get a new idea for marketing I forge ahead. Sometimes, I decide not to do it. Just as with social media, you have to pick only the platforms that work for you. I use Facebook, both my main account and my author page, I have an Amazon author page and several others of that type and I use LinkedIn. Early on, I used Twitter a lot to find out who knew what I had to learn but I’ve moved away from that, now. I investigated doing a podcast but decided the time and money involved was not for me at this time in my career. I’ve been following my daughter’s journey in that regard and it is fascinating. She (Beth Cougler Blom) is launching her podcast as we speak. Here’s the link.
Many more ideas come to me but these will get you thinking. Just make sure you do something every day for a specified amount of time–researching, writing, editing, advertising, or connecting with other writers. It’s the regular habit that will make you no longer a wannabe writer but one with credits to your name and money in your bank account. Good Luck! You can do it!
“Elaine, I enjoyed reading your story about growing up in Oxford County. (My Story, My Song) As I read along I kept saying to myself …yes, I remember that. I knew/ know some of the people you mentioned as well. Your river story reminded me of our three season farm ponds which were so massive we felt sorry for the poor kids in town who had to skate in a circle and could only change direction when the whistle blew. I was not impressed with that when I first skated in an arena and yes I also started out with second hand black skates.” Bernice
“Elaine, I just finished your book, The Loyalist’s Daughter. It was a great read and is hard to imagine how someone can put together such a book. Well done!”
Terry and Sally
“We both loved The Loyalist’s Daughter. So happy we have a ‘signed’ copy. Thanks for doing that.” Carol and Dennis.
“What a remarkable book! I just finished yesterday….It is one of those books that, at the end of each chapter, the urge is to ‘just read one more chapter’ before turning out the light….I had no idea what is involved in organizing such a fund raising venture and ventures across Canada and you explained it so well….[This] book that you wrote on his life and huge contributions needed to be written….Thanks for putting your writing skills to work into the life of Ron Calhoun.” John Snoddy
“Just finished your first book in your Loyalist trilogy – really, really enjoyed it. Those folks sure were hardy types in those days – I don’t think I could even survive a walk to the outhouse – hahaha. Looking forward to reading the next one.” Lisa Hutchison
“I loved the book. [The Man Behind the Marathons] So glad for the way you set it up. It kept me reading. And then the section on Ron came just as I was about headed to Google to see what led Ron to be the guy he was. The quality of the paper was a real asset. Top quality for a top quality story about a top quality guy. Congratulations. I felt your heart in every page. Thanks for letting me have an early look at the book. Very cherished.” Sue Hilborn
“Just finished your book. [The Man Behind the Marathons] It is great – so many interesting things about Terry and Steve (whom I had forgotten about). Ron’s story is, if possible, even more interesting. I can see why you were drawn into his life as a suitable subject for your first nonfiction. I did wonder how Ron’s one set of clothes washed by his mother every night were dry for school the next morning . . . and which race your ‘young daughter’ beat you in.” Wayne C.
“Just finished all three and enjoyed the stories as they were woven into the history of that area. Congratulations!” Lorrie Miller on Facebook, reacting to The Loyalist Legacy‘s Chill With a Book Award.
“It was a pleasure to be at the LWS meeting last night. Great information shared. Love your books and writing style. I will give them as gifts. They bring this time in history to life in a way that one will never forget. Thank you!” Rosemary
“Elaine Cougler has written a page-turning novel of the American Revolution through the eyes of a conflicted loyalist soldier and his indomitable wife. You’ll feel the hardship of homesteading, the fear of the enemy, the blows of battle, and the pain of separation. You’ll be transported through history. This is not just a novel written about another time, it seems written in another time.” Terry Fallis, author of The Best Laid Plans, Stephen Leacock medal winner
“I bought all three books at Probus club meeting in London. I loved the stories. I am now a student reading more about the war of 1812. Thank you for your stories. Love your writing style.” Gwen Moore
“I was delighted with the way you handled the Norwich Rebellion in the last Loyalist book, Elaine, and have heard many positive comments about it.” Marie A.
“I’m an impatient reader. If my interest isn’t piqued right from the get-go, I simply don’t continue reading the book. Both of the Loyalist books drew me in immediately!” Elaine B
“The Loyalist’s Luck is one of the best sequels I’ve read in a long time. It picks up right where The Loyalist’s Wife left off and takes the reader to Canada with a group of Loyalists escaping the American Revolution.” Denise F