The Scattershot Approach To Focus In Writing

HHallCover-1 (2)I wish I had more time to write.  I wish I didn’t have to brave the outside world to make my living.  Leaving the house is good for me, of course.  There is a lot to be said for staying active and having new experiences and meeting people.  But, oh, to have more time to write!

I would have more time and energy to devote to writing if I made more money at it.  I moan about that a lot.  It’s hard for Indie authors to get attention and sales. My brilliant friend, the writer and ebook producer JW Manus,  brought up the subject of focus.  She pointed out that a game plan is always a good idea. She asked what I want the focus of my writing to be.  I immediately threw up my hands in despair because…well, haha, I have no focus.  I write what I want to write.  My first short story collection was weird tales about yard sales and auctions.  My second short story collection was about New Yorkers dealing with the zombie apocalypse.  My third work was my first novel, and it’s about a lesbian searching for beer in the zombie apocalypse.  I suppose those two books were the beginnings of focus, because they are zombie books, but the works are very different from each other, and neither one of them really fits seamlessly into the zombie genre.  There’s a monkey in ZOMBIES TAKE MANHATTAN!, and a bearded lady.  There aren’t a lot of guns or soldiers. There isn’t a happy ending.  The novel, HAVEN HALL,  is even more out there, minus exotic pets and sideshow performers.  The main character is a lesbian, and I do believe I’ve alienated a lot of zombie readers in that one bold stroke.  I’m afraid that the best response some people will have is that they’ll feel that they won’t be able to relate to a lesbian, in spite of the fact that gay people read about straight people all of the time, and they relate just fine. 

At least there are zombies in both the short story collection and the novel, and I was prepared to present those zombies to my friend as evidence of focus.  I am focused!  I write about zombies! Then, I looked at my works in progress… I’m tired of zombies, so I’m working on a collection of Depression-era sideshow stories and a novel about an out-of-work actor and his girlfriend fighting monsters in modern Manhattan.  If focus is building an audience that likes a particular genre, or even an audience of a particular gender or sexual orientation, I’m not anywhere close to the boat.  I’m out of the boat and swimming away from it, holding up both my middle fingers in spite of risk of drowning.

Rather than deal with the focus issue (because I obviously have none), I came home from work last night and snooped around the internet, trying to see if anyone is talking about me.  (Don’t look at me that way.  Don’t pretend you haven’t Googled yourself.  I might Google myself more often than you Google yourself, but you’ve Googled yourself.) The result of my snooping is that I now know for certain that a stranger, at least one stranger, is reading my novel, HAVEN HALL!   I’m really excited about it.  I’m always excited when someone I don’t know reads my work. 

Why am I so excited about readers I don’t know?  Well, part of it is that I’m not as invisible as I feel sometimes on the internet.  I’m in the middle of a big city New Year’s Eve crowd and I’m too short for readers to see me.  I don’t have the marketing savvy or power of a publishing house behind me.  I’m an Indie author.  Hear me mew.  A reader who isn’t a friend or a family member means that someone stumbled on me, somehow.  I did something small but right in the jungles of Facebook and Twitter and Amazon.

The even bigger excitement of having someone I don’t know read my work has to do with why I love reading.  I grew up in a small town.  My family was not from there, and we always felt a little like outsiders, even after we’d been in town for twenty years.  My family also wasn’t particularly happy.  And, I was different.  I was socially awkward and not quite like most other girls, even before I hit adolescence.  Reading saved me more than once.  Books where I could relate to characters or books with characters who were having adventures I wanted to have made me feel not so alone.  To me, books are powerful things.  When times were good, reading made life even better. On top of everything great that was happening to me, I was also being transported by a book.

When someone I don’t know reads my book, my chances of making someone feel the way I feel when I read something I love have increased.  The more people I have reading my books, the more chance I have of being like those authors who have so enhanced my life.  I want to make people love reading, and I want them to find something in my books that strikes a chord with them.  It’s not pin-point focus, but it’s focus, all the same.

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