Friday, May 31, 2013

When Platform-Building Bites Back

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
I read a post recently  (yes, I’m about a month behind in my Feedly reader) that I thought was a very interesting read…and I found myself wincing in sympathy for the writer.  The post is “Floundering” by Stevie Libra, guesting on Robert Lee Brewer’s  My Name is Not Bob blog.
Stevie seems to be relatively new to writing and to platform-building.  She stated that she’d participated in Robert’s  30-day Platform Challenge in 2012, which resulted in setting up a presence on different sites.  As she put it, getting established on these sites created “a monster that required daily feedings of intensifying proportions.”

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Writing to the Rule of Three

by Linda S. Clare, @Lindasclare
MorgueFile: silverhairster
Writing isn’t an exact science. Maybe that’s what Somerset Maugham meant when he said, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately nobody knows what they are.” Make that steep learning curve a bit more manageable by using the Rule of Three.
The Rule of Three in Fiction. Since nobody knows what the rules are, the “rule” is really a guideline. Don’t be a slave! Use the Rule of Three as a guideline—to help you write better back story (flashbacks) clauses and dialogue. Here’s how:
Back Story:
Limit (especially in opening chapters) back story/flashbacks to the Rule of Three. Use three or fewer sentences of back story before at least touching back on the real time scene. If you allow your reader to become immersed in the back story without revisiting the real time scene, that reader is likely to forget about the real time scene. 
Use the Rule of Three in description. A list of three (this, this and that) feels satisfying to the reader. Pay special attention to threes when you want to establish a pattern for the reader to remember. If you tend to draft exhaustive lists of description in setting or character, edit out all but the best three to give your reader a quick and complete picture of that person, place or thing.
Write no more than three sentences spoken continuously by the same speaker. After three, the dialogue becomes a speech. Break up with action, narration or counter dialogue. Write no more than three exchanges between two characters. Add a “beat” of action or narration to break up and keep reader engaged.Try introducing a third character into a two-person scene to shift the focus (camera) and make the dialogue/tension more complex.
Linda S. Clare is the author of women’s fiction, including The Fence My Father Built (Abingdon 2009) and upcoming A Sky without Stars (Abingdon 2014). She teaches writing at a community college and for George Fox University and lives in the Northwest with her family and three wayward cats. Visit her at or connect at or @Lindasclare on Twitter.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Finding Your Unique Author Voice… Like Everyone Else?

Guest Post by J.J. Hensley
Just Google it.  Seriously.  Just type “Unique Author Voice” into a search engine and see what pops up.  Everyone seems to know how you need to go about finding your unique author voice.  There are steps, exercises, and even templates available.  We are told publishers want to find authors who have a unique voice, but do we really know what that means?  I found mine – but, it’s not mine.
My voice is the sum of 38 years of reading, working, talking, listening, watching television, and observing.  Is that what people mean by finding that voice?  I have no idea.  But when I decided to write a novel, I knew that if I researched how to go about it – how to outline, structure, work on plot pacing, etc., then whatever I ended up with would not truly be mine.  So, I carefully and methodically winged it.  The result was the publication of the very first written work I had attempted.  Would this work for everyone?  How the hell would I know?  I’m just a guy who got a book published.  John Grisham is not concerned that I’m going to knock him down any best-seller lists.  I’m still blindly feeling my way through the world of being an author and it’s not uncommon for me to slam my head into a wall.  I can only pass along what I learned during my writing anti-process.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Break

Hope my blog readers in the States will have a nice Memorial Day.   
I’m taking a break today from blogging, but will return Wednesday.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


 by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
Twitterific links are fed into the Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine (developed by writer and software engineer Mike Fleming) which has over 19,000 free articles on writing related topics. It's the search engine for writers.
Sign up for our free newsletter for monthly writing tips and interviews with top contributors to the WKB or like us on Facebook.
Mike Fleming worked with author and writing coach James Scott Bell to offer an online, interactive, writing program to help make your next novel great. It's called "Knockout Novel" and you can learn more about it at Knockout
Big news for BEA--6 top indies have a booth. Is the BEA ready? @bellaandre @cjlyonswriter @Porter_Anderson @hughhowey
Garroting as a murder method in crime fiction: @mkinberg
Can we love our second book as much as our first? @HartJohnson @JohannaGarth
What do authors owe publishers?Ann Patchett's remarks in @thebookseller cause furor: @MickRooney7777 @Porter_Anderson

Friday, May 24, 2013

Three Types of Good Story Repetition

Today I'm over at K.M. Weiland's Blog, WordPlay (a fantastic writing craft blog, if you haven't visited),
talking about three types of good repetition for our stories.  Hope you'll pop over.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How Convenient--Plot Contrivance

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
Morgue File--o0o0xmods0o0o
Sometimes when we’re drafting a book or writing an outline, we’ll run into something that needs to happen in the plot, but is clumsy, or seems convenient or contrived.
I’m working on something now and ran into this problem.  As a matter of fact, I’ve run into this same exact problem in a different manuscript.  I need to have my sleuth’s home broken into. How can I get away with that?  She has nosy neighbors.  She’s alert.  She’s, as a matter of fact, an insomniac.  The villains in my stories are gifted amateurs, not career criminals with a knack for picking locks. 
It’s difficult to make this break-in happen without making my sleuth appear dumb, forgetful, careless, or generally unfit for sleuthing.

Monday, May 20, 2013

How James Patterson Made 94 Million Dollars Last Year

by Gretchen Archer, @Gretchen_Archer
I don’t have a clue. He probably doesn’t either. I’m sure there are forensic accountants, Schedule Cs, and colorful pie charts with the secret formula for how this man, in today’s publishing climate, earned so much money by simply putting pencil to paper (they say he writes-outlines-edits long hand on legal pads), but I bet there’s no one-sentence explanation. “Mr. Patterson, it was the Alex Cross fleece booties that shot you from Forbes Stinking Rich to Forbes Obscenely Loaded.”
The only logical answer? James Patterson supplies a high-demand product to an eager and willing consumer. That’s how he does it. Who’s next? Who will be the next J.K., Danielle, John Grisham? I hope it’s not me. I don’t want to be the next Gillian Flynn or E.L. James, either, but for different reasons, and not because I hate going to the bank, something they must be doing a lot of, too. It’s because, having read both Ms. Flynn and Ms. James (kudos, ladies) I know I could never do what they’ve done (in the first place) without giving up my life. For me to go that deep, I’d have to shut off everything and everyone, and what if, when I dug out, everything and everyone were gone?
Which brings me to a terrible confession: I’m not in it for the money. I write with the luxury of knowing  there will be dinner on the table and lights on in my house if I bring in Sandra Brown numbers or, like many other happy writers, I don’t.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


 by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Twitterific is a compilation of all the writing links I shared the previous week. The links are fed into the Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine (developed by writer and software engineer Mike Fleming) which has over 19,000 free articles on writing-related topics. It's the search engine for writers.

Sign up for our free newsletter for monthly writing tips and interviews with top contributors to the WKB or like us on Facebook.

Mike Fleming and author and writing coach James Scott Bell are offering an online, interactive, writing program to help make your next novel great. It's called "Knockout Novel" and you can learn more about it at Plus, all the data is stored in your Hiveword account for easy access.

Strategies for Turning Impersonal Info Dumps into Compelling Copy: @jodierennered
Stalking the Muse: @ashkrafton
To Save Indies, Publishers Need to ReConsider DRM: @dearauthor

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Process, or Lack Thereof

Guest Post by Mitzi Kelly, @mitzi_kelly
I’d like to thank Elizabeth for giving me a platform to discuss one of my favorite subjects:  the writing process. (Not!)
I have to admit, I doubt if many authors approach a writing project with the same helter-skelter methods I use, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity to analyze my lack of a strategy.  Or, I should say, my lack of an organized strategy.
It really is quite frustrating. From the way I start a new manuscript, to the way it eventually ends up, are at such different ends of the writing spectrum, it’s a mystery to me how I complete any project.   Wait, I just thought about something! This puzzle could provide the major plot theme in my next book in the Silver Sleuths Mystery series!
My process really is that convoluted, folks.  I could probably benefit from a team of sleuths investigating it, but I’m going to give it my best shot.  Please bear with me as I try to describe my creative process, because the key word here really is “creative.”

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What If? A Method for Developing Ideas

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
MorgueFile--The Success
I’m one of those neighbors that would be the perfect witness in a murder mystery.  Because, if I’m not driving my kids and their friends around, I’m staring blankly out the windows as I write.
One morning I saw our middle school neighbor from across the street leave the house to walk to the school bus stop.  His folks had put out a large television for a charity to pick up and the remote sat on the top of the TV by the street.  He walked past the television, looking at it. Then he abruptly turned around, reached for the remote, and pointed it at the television.   You could just see what was going through his head: what if the television suddenly turned on?
Writing is like that.  What if___happened?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Organic vs. Plotting—Waffling

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
What doesn’t matter about plotting?  It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as it works for you.
If what you’re doing isn’t working, have you ever tried something else?
I’ve always been a very happy organic writer/pantster.  I made up my mysteries as I went along.  My agent, frankly, was rather horrified.  I’ve also had an editor or two who were very surprised that I don’t outline. I had a feeling that many traditionally published, prolific writers outline their books and that I was the exception and not the rule.
I have one editor who requires an outline for approval.  I had a tremendous problem delivering her an outline at first.  The first outline was 24 pages long.  My poor editor.  But at first, that’s the only way I could do them.  If I had to write an outline, I was going all the way with it…outlining every scene.
The second outline went a lot better.  I gave her three page “big picture” of the story.  I left out the minor details and just hit the high points: suspects, killer, and how my hook (it’s a quilting mystery series) featured into the book.
The third outline was much like the second for this editor.  The difference was that I deviated from it nearly completely.  Once I started writing the story, it took off into a different direction.  Wrapped up in the story, I neglected to tell my editor about my deviation, which caused a bit of a problem for an editorial meeting she was in and a cover meeting.  Ugh.  I quickly filled her in and sent her the (unfinished) manuscript (which I usually hate doing because at that point I’ve done zero editing…but it was better than sending my long-suffering editor in blind to various conferences.)
So I’ve had some outlining background.  And I always hated coming up with these outlines.  But—I never ran into story issues when I’ve outlined.  I might go off my outline, but I never end up with a huge plot hole, a mess of a beginning, or a poorly paced book.
On the other hand, when I haven’t outlined, I’ve run into a big problem about 30% of the time.  Not all the time.  But enough to slow me down (and I do hate being inefficient!)
I just had a terrible first draft experience on a book I made up as I went along.  Bad enough that I’m outlining the novel I’m about to start writing.  But I’m not excited about this—I’m simply thinking that maybe it’s become a necessary evil for me.
What I dislike about outlines:
I feel like the time spent writing them is better spent writing the story, promoting another book, or some other writing-related task.  This almost embarrasses me to even admit…yes, I know outlining counts as writing. But that’s how I feel about it.
I feel that outlines have a tendency to confine my creativity.
I don’t like picking the murderer until the end of the story.
I don’t like picking names until I get to know new characters better.
Outlines remind me of the more unpleasant assignments in my English classes.
Outlining doesn’t come particularly naturally to me.
I hate to admit this, too, but…I can get bored with what I’m writing when I outline because I’m skipping the process of discovery and brainstorming.  Those are the most fun parts for me.
Pros of outlining
I always know what I’m going to write (I’ve always known what I was going to write the following day, even as an organic writer.  But with an outline, I know what I’ll write even after that.
I can immediately tell if the story I intend to write will work or not.  I can spot a bloated beginning, a saggy middle, and a bad ending right off the bat.
I can tell if my original pick for murderer will work or not.
I can keep better track of various subplots, red herrings, clues, suspects, and other elements.
Where I’ve made my peace with outlines:
I allow myself to deviate if the story will benefit.
I don’t force myself to pick character names for the outline if I don’t immediately have a name that I like.  I put in AA or BB instead.
I brainstorm lots of possibilities on a separate document before I start my outline.  I keep the brainstormed ideas and refer to them in case I start running dry when following my outline.
So…this is where I am now.  Waffling back and forth between outlining and skipping it.  Again, if you’ve got a method that works for you—keep it.  I’m experimenting only because my method is suddenly letting me down a little.
Do you outline?  Why or why not?

Sunday, May 12, 2013


by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
 Twitterific links are fed into the Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine (developed by writer and software engineer Mike Fleming) which has over 19,000 free articles on writing related topics. It's the search engine for writers.

Sign up for our free newsletter for monthly writing tips and interviews with top contributors to the WKB or like us on Facebook.
Mike Fleming worked with author and writing coach James Scott Bell to offer an online, interactive, writing program to help make your next novel great. It's called "Knockout Novel" and you can learn more about it at Knockout
20 Great Writers on the Art of Revision: @flavorpill
Discovery of a Character – Finding, Building, Creating: @scriptmag
9 Ingredients of Character Development: @TomPawlik
Character Archetypes 101: The Innocent:  @jeanniecampbell
10 Ways Proven to Draw Readers to Your Novel's Website: @authormedia
The Charles Dickens school of character naming: @indie_jane
90 writing tools in a single post: @galleycat
Repairing a 'broken' manuscript: @carlywatters
Need a favor? Here are 6 ways to boost your odds of hearing yes: @tawnafenske
Follow your heart and do what you love: @writeloud
Query tip: do your research: @ava_jae
Indie Author Branding: How to Figure Out How to Brand Yourself: @passivevoiceblg
Write the Ending First: @LAMysteryWriter
The importance of asking 'why': @phillywriters
4 helpful tools for writers: @MADaboutWords
Art & Failure: Why the Two Go Together: @jeffgoins @MattTCoNP
The Foolish Writer and the Wise: @JaelMchenry
10 Overused Fantasy Cliches: @shaunduke
Writers and their creative spaces: @fcmalby
Are a Media kit and a press kit the same thing? @melissabreau
New Literary Forms for Self-Publishers: @indieauthoralli
Industrialization in Epic Fantasy: @BrianTMcClellan @MadHatterReview
10 Writerly Riddles: @elspethwrites
Keep Your BIC Out of My Erogenous Zones: @bourbonista
The Psychology of Language: Why Are Some Words More Persuasive Than Others? @lifehackorg
How to Choose the Right Conference: @diymfa
4 Ways to Build Healthy Relationships with Your Readers: @mattmikalatos
What You Won't Learn from Writers' Letters: @BenjaminHedin
Info with Attitude: @jodierennered
All about urban fantasy: @EmApocalyptic
Last rites for the campus novel: @guardianbooks
The One and Only Way To Success? @indieauthoralli
50 pieces of writing advice from authors: @shortlist
Capitalization Rules for Names of Historical Periods and Movements: @writing_tips
The Surprising Thing About Book Influencers: @LucilleZ
Defying Decomposition: The Enduring Zombie: @rajanyk
A Writer's Guide to Types of Publishing Companies: @melissadonova
Self-Publishing Overview in 30 Minutes and 50 Seconds: @jfbookman
Why Hire an Editor? @cathryanhoward
9 Fantasy Characters Who Ultimately Regret Their Final Decisions: @MildlyAmused @buzzfeed
Do You Suffer From Shiny Object Syndrome? @joelrunyon
5 ways to practice the art of double-duty writing: @SusanSquires
Using Close-Up Shots to Give Sensory Detail: @livewritethrive
Dear Younger Writing Self:
Making scenes go deeper--a checklist: @WriterLor
What authors think about KDP select: @ashkrafton
Tips for finding a niche as an author: @tferriss
6 Types Of Poems To Banish Writers Block: @kimber_regator
First Sentences of Great Books: @chrisrobley
4 ways to enchant others: @woodwardkaren
1 writer is a self-pub failure: @salon
Should we let a website re-run our posts for free? @MichelleRafter
21 Ways to Develop Fresh Content Ideas for Your Blog: @lifehackorg
Memorize Poetry with a Free App: @mediabistro
Differentiating Through Dialogue: @mooderino
Crafting Teen Characters with Respect and Authenticity: @ingridsundberg
Dos and Don'ts for poets: @poetrynews
5 Ways First Pages Go Wrong: @fictionnotes
Why 1 writer avoids 1st person POV: @vgrefer
What's your vision for your story? @storyfix
Is craft killing your creativity? @jammer0501
5 Common Problems in Your Young Adult Manuscript: @howtowriteshop
Top 10 Storytelling Cliches: @robwhart
Words to cut in our manuscripts: @ScottTheWriter
Engaging A Reader's Interest: Offering Something Strange: @woodwardkaren
Redundancies to avoid: @livewritethrive
Tips for finding an agent: @elisabethweed
Slicebooks Aims to Take Re-mixable Ebooks Mainstream: @pubperspectives
Unsolicited Writing Advice to Never Follow: @EdieMelson
Master Class: @KHill0 @parisreview
Give readers what they want? @rachellegardner
How to write for the jugular: @ScottTheWriter @write_hook
How to Read Poetry 101: Whys and Wherefores: @tithenai @tordotcom
Writing Horror: Inevitable Misconceptions: @amylukavics
Writers who Murder Main Characters:
Dreams, Reality and Writing: @jamesscottbell
The Risky Middle Realm of Character: @storyfix
Physical Attributes Entry: Cheeks: @beccapuglisi
Libraries matter: 5  library infographics: @ebookfriendly
8 Dialogue Tips:
Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make on Facebook and How to Avoid Them: @MarcyKennedy
50 Ways to Build Your Platform in 5 Minutes a Day: @writersdigest
Book Launch Tips for Authors: @jeanoram
If kittens rule the Internet, why do puppies reign in print? @slate @danengber
3 steps to act on what you read in books and blogs: @tomewer
Using Sensory Language: @woodwardkaren
When you're faced with unexpected revision: @robertleebrewer @NicholeLReber
Great Character: Renton ("Trainspotting"): @gointothestory
The Best and the Worst of the Writing Life: @andyholloman @ScottTheWriter
We don't have to get it all done: @InkyBites
Songwriting Tip: The Money Angle: @usasong
Tips for writers who need to make introductions at conferences:
Five Things 1 Writer Wishes She'd Known Before Publishing a Book: @sarahpekkanen
7 Things Editors at Children's Book Publishers Wish Writers Knew: @write4kids
Why you'll never be ready (and what to do about it): @FortheCreators
Cultivating The Observer: @BarbaraONeal
Sex and the Literary Writer: @the_millions
Don't think of Pinterest as social media: @rachellegardner
Courting Your Long-Lost Writing: @pshares
Why you'll never be ready (and what to do about it): @FortheCreators
Plot problems--weak black moments and unsatisfying endings: @karalennox
Everything you ever needed to know about screenwriting: @independent
Fight Scenes and Motivations: @Owlkenpowriter @patbertram
5 Tips for Self-published Authors to Maximize Rights and Licensing Deals: @pubperspectives
How To Start Your Best Writing Day Ever: @ollinmorales
The Writer and Money: @passivevoiceblg
On the Exigencies of Translation:
10 tips for better stories: @joebunting
How to Write Backstory: @shalvatzis
The Doubts and Resolve of a Midlister: @davidbcoe
5 Ideas for Using Pinterest as an Author: @amandaluedeke)
Reading Like A Writer: @tabithaolson
Character Archetypes--The Orphan: @jeanniecampbell
What 'front matter' consists of: @SueCollier
Publishing poetry online: @poetrynews
Why Ideas Pop Into Your Head When You're Trying to Fall Asleep: @lifehackorg
Romantic timing: @heroesnhearts
Create your characters from different molds: @dirtywhitecandy
Tips for better book launches: @angelaackerman
7 Reasons Your Manuscript Might be Rejected: @fictionnotes
10 Benefits of Traveling to a Writing Retreat:
Dealing With Editorial Letters: @emmapass
Should Being Creative Feel Good? @brandenbarnett
12 Tips for Writing a Book Title that Sells Books: @authopublisher
1 writer is sick of promo: @katdish
Falling in Love with Words: A Tragic Romance: @boydmorrison
When platforming overwhelms you--floundering: @StevieLibra @robertleebrewer
Is Amazon's KDP Select Worthwhile for Writers? @cjlyonswriter
Getting Started with Poetry: Make Words Your Playground: @CMKellerWrites
How Novelists Can Steal Marketing Ideas from Their Non-Fiction Friends:|+Duolit%29 @duolit
Character Types – Neanderthal to Alien: @scriptmag
Ten ways self-publishing has changed the books world: @guardianbooks
Why You Should Steer Clear Of Dual Protagonists:

Journalism in crime fiction: @mkinberg
Execution-style murders in crime fiction: @mkinberg

(Just for fun)--Having trouble writing your bio? A generator offers help: @artybollocks

Analysis of the sudden shut down of @timoreilly 's TOC: @Porter_Anderson @brianoleary @samatlounge @EdNawotka 

What Authors Need to Know About Crowdfunding: @pubslush

Deep Third, Demonstrated: @TamaraHogan1 

Inspiring speeches from last weekend’s Grub Street con.: @AmandaPalmer @Porter_Anderson @GrubWriters

Judging Book Covers by Their Sexism: @Porter_Anderson @maureenjohnson @esheepcomix @mfumarolo 

Sometimes the little extras in a mystery are the most memorable elements of the story: @mkinberg

Friday, May 10, 2013

Single Point of Failure

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
Morgue File--JDurham
It’s definitely nice to be needed.  Recently, however, I’ve been needed pretty frequently.  I took on additional responsibilities and additional projects.
I was filling my husband in on all the things I was in charge of and responsible for.  He listened, nodding, as I listed everything.
He’s a computer engineer and has a different take on the world.  “Do you know what we call that at work?”
I shook my head.
“Single point of failure.” 
Apparently, there was a whole world of instances of SPOF (single point of failure) that I knew very little about.  Wikipedia describes SPOF as:  a part of a system that, if it fails, will stop the entire system from working. (1: Designing Large-scale LANs – Page 31, K. Dooley, O'Reilly, 2002)
So, if I were hit by a train on the way to the grocery store, it would result in the failure of a whole bunch of things that I was responsible for.
Writing a single book and hanging our entire writing career on that book, for instance, is a SPOF.
I’ve written on this topic before, most recently on Wednesday.  That’s because I know a couple of writers who loved writing.  Avid readers, avid writers.  They wrote and published (both traditionally) the “book of their hearts.”  Unfortunately, the books sold poorly and they were dropped by their publishers.  They both gave up writing.
If you love to write, if you really want to be published and have any sort of success, it’s important to keep writing, keep learning, keep improving at the craft.  There are many reasons why a book might not resonate with readers—some of them are even the fault of the publisher (cover design, distribution).  Maybe the timing was wrong for the book—it wasn’t a popular genre at the time.  Or maybe the fault was in our writing—the characters didn’t connect with the reader, there wasn’t enough conflict, there was too much backstory.  The only way to solve problems with our writing is to continue practicing. 
Another great thing about working on a second book is that it keeps us distracted while we’re in the process of querying or waiting for publication of the first.  It’s also a nice way to keep from obsessing over a single book’s sales figures (checking our book’s ranking too much can drive us nutty.)
What are you working on now? 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Minimizing Risk as a Writer—a Guide for the Risk-Adverse

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
When I was a kid, my favorite part on Sesame Street was a segment where the baker fell down the stairs.  I’d call my parents or just yank them into our living room so that they could watch it with me.  It was a counting to ten song and the grand finale was a mustachioed baker singing, “Ten chocolate layer cakes!” and then tumbling down a staircase.  Yes, it took little to amuse me.
I think the reason this segment resonated so much with me is because I’m desperately clumsy and have been my entire life.  I regularly fall down the stairs in my house (my husband just shakes his head and says, “We’re moving to a garden home in the next ten years….”), walk smack into doorjambs, and have wrecks with my cart in the grocery store. 
There are things that I’ve done to minimize my risk of getting hurt, knowing what I know about myself.  I won’t walk down our stairs while holding things in both hands.  I don’t get up on skis of any kind.  I don’t ride horses.  I wouldn’t dream of getting on a bike without a helmet or walking a treadmill without that stupid safety clip attached to my waistband.
Being a fairly cautious person, I’ve approached risk the same way with my writing career.  A note—this won’t apply to every writer and you probably won’t enjoy this unless you’re super-cautious like I am. There are many creative free spirits who will thrive by forging their own path.  I’m just not one of them.
Minimizing risk of failure and rejection as a writer:
Traditional publishing and self-publishing.  I do both.  I’m hedging my bets, covering my bases, whatever cliché you want to use. :)
Deciding what to write.  I learned that the books I most enjoyed reading were in strong demand and considered commercially viable.  I read more of them to learn more about how the books were structured and paced.  In addition, I learned that genre books were easier to sell to publishers because the books already had an established audience…readers who were dedicated “regulars” for a particular genre and loyally purchased books each month that fit that category.
Finding a traditional publisher.  I did my market research by going to the bookstore, flipping through the new mysteries and finding out who published and edited them (editor is in the acknowledgments unless author forgot.)  Reading the books gave me a sense of what was currently selling. This helped me minimize my risk of rejection by seeing who was buying and editing what.
Querying agents.  I ignored any “no simultaneous submissions” and targeted as many agents who stated they handled my subgenre as possible.
Querying publishers.  After racking up an impressive number of rejections from agents, I queried targeted publishers (using the research I’d gathered in the bookstore as well as online and in my copy of Writer’s Market.)   If they were closed to submissions…I sent something off to their slush pile anyway (blushes.)   Here again, I was just covering my bases with both agents and publishers.  And if you’re sending to a slush pile (a repository of unrequested queries, samples, and submissions), the process will take forever anyway.
Promo.  As a risk-adverse person, the idea of doing aggressive promo made me shudder.  Wouldn’t this turn potential readers off?  I couldn’t take that risk, so I went with indirect promo/platform building.
Self-publishing.  What was risky for self-publishing?  Having a lousy cover.  It seemed that I would have a higher chance for success with a professional-looking cover, formatting, and editing.   The cheaper approach seemed at a higher risk for failure.
Series were selling well for self-publishing.  I decided to continue writing a discontinued series instead of starting something new…again, the least-risky approach.
Reader expectations.  Cozy mystery readers are loyal readers and very interactive ones.  I have generally taken their lead when they tell me what they like and don’t like about my books…tweaking future books to make them more appealing and to give them more of what they like and less of what they didn’t.  I also follow my genre’s general guidelines in terms of content…keeping the necessary violence in a mystery toned down.
Researching.  Admittedly, I’m a researching nut.  I’m not going to try the waters of anything unless I’ve got information (preferably hard data) on it.  Trying out ACX/audiobooks?  Exploring print as a self-pubber? Backing off from traditional publishing and devoting more time into self-pub?  I’m reading everything I can on the subjects: dos and don’ts, tips, disaster stories, success stories, etc.  And I follow publishing news closely, to see what might be coming around the bend at us.
Creative exploration.  I’m getting to the point where I’ll likely start branching out and experimenting…cautiously, I’ve no doubt.  And…more than likely with a pen name since my name has become so associated with traditional mysteries.
The biggest risk of all?  Pinning all your hopes and dreams on a single book.  More about this on Friday.
Let’s face it…being an artist is a risky enough proposition without making things worse—especially for us cautious types.  While I don't enjoy failure, I do learn from it and analyze what went wrong so I can perform better the next time.  That being said...I'd rather avoid it when I can.
Now I’d like to hear from y’all on this…my free spirited, risk-taking friends, too!  What’s your approach to writing and publishing?  Has it changed at all?