Carole Avila is an award winning author in short fiction, memoirs, and poetry. Eve's Amulet-Book 1 and Death House are both published by Black Opal Books. She is working on Book 2 of the Eve's Amulet series as well as her non-fiction work, The Long Term Effects of Sexual Abuse. When Carole isn't writing, she loves reading, nature walks, visiting her daughters and grandsons, and enjoying a hot cup of chai latte.
I finally hit the point where I have to face the world and seriously promote my work, both writing and editing, on social media. How is it a 300-page novel is easier to write than a brief tweet or a few lines on Instagram?
Like many authors I know, we enjoy our solitude—”hermitude” suits us—yet I understand how vital the social connection to our reading audience is and how it plays a valuable and necessary part in any business. I honestly love connecting with my reading audience. I enjoy discussions on any topic related to the writing industry. However, and here’s the real issue—I am not familiar enough with social media to know how to properly use it. The use of the internet has changed since I was first published and learned how to use the most popular programs.
I have seen thousands of others enjoy successful careers primarily through electronic means, building brands and platforms. I know it works and can work for me and my books. But I also know it’s not enough to search for reliable “how to” resources regarding the most popular sites for book promotion and sales. Still, when I hear terminology like RSS feeds, SEOs, engagement rates, Google algorithms and analytics, meta tags—they’re all a different language that I have no idea how to speak or navigate.
In that vein, I feel like a little kid going back to school to learn what social media platforms are best suited to authors and how to use them. I’m ready to do some heavy duty, serious promotion and marketing. I’m ready to do the work. I would love it if you could briefly share your online social media experience here. What helped you get started building an online presence?
Concurrent with the start of a new political administration, I recently started school again. In Creative Writing II, the curriculum is portioned into three segments—non-fiction, fiction, and poetry. We started with non-fiction, which is good as I have a work in progress. The downside—essays.
I wasn’t always a fan of essays, probably because I never felt savvy enough to write a good one. My work as a life coach encourages people to speak up and voice their feelings and viewpoints, but it doesn’t appeal to me to share my personal opinion in this form. Essays make me doubt myself. What if I was wrong, inaccurate with my research and made a ludicrous false claim? What if my interpretation of a topic was so far off as not to make sense?
When first reading literary essays, I thought as long as a group of obscure words were strung together, like black pearls on a jute cord, it was immediately considered “raw and edgy” or brilliantly clever, even when it made no sense to me.
Then I go on to consider genre fiction, works I enjoy reading as well as writing. I immediately think of the word prose, a word that I feel almost contradicts itself. Prose refers to the “ordinary form of spoken or written language…” It also means “matter-of-fact or dull expression.” So, if I write genre fiction, is my work immediately assumed to be ordinary or dull?
Writing the truth, whether in a memoir or a fictional character’s viewpoint, creates a strong connection to the reader. Maybe because academic essays are too well organized and detached—the point is to remain factual with an air of objectiveness—to me, that makes the essay feel without emotional fiber. It’s just overblown or watered down rhetoric. (Prose?)
Well-written genre is infused with creative intensity. Hitler and a multitude of other misinformed leaders appealed to ignorant minds, not taking much to convince followers to believe in an illusion. However, making an intelligent and informed mind believe in something that isn’t real is more of a challenge. To me, that is what makes fiction exciting to write.
Literary works often end like an international film that leaves one scratching their head. I get it. They want you to think, to provoke a response by presenting an unclear resolution where you choose what you believe to be true. But some of us just want to be entertained. Sometimes we doubt ourselves, and we want a break from accountability. We don’t want to read vague endings and guess what they mean whilst escaping.
I read once that fiction was the worst thing that ever happened to written expression, like bottled water being bad for third world countries and the environment. I wonder if literature outside of non-fiction is always intended escapism—a way to avoid day to day realities or people just wasting time. Perhaps, I’m doing a disservice by wanting to entertain my readers rather than provoke them into thought or teach a new skill through my personal experiences in non-fiction or my fictionalized characters. So, does that make only non-fiction works worth writing and reading? And then there’s the entertainment aspect of videos and social media. Are they also outcasts of what should be acceptable material to digest?
Thus far, my quandary as a writer has been which book to get out next. Perhaps it should be which genre. Writing is self-expression, but can I help it if someone finds my expression entertaining?
I journaled these thoughts at 4 a.m. unable to sleep because I can’t stop thinking about writing. Sometimes I have colorful dreams, terrific fictional stories based on who I want to be, would dare not be, or maybe was in the past. They have to be written. Little snippets, truisms occasionally come through, as well as these unintentional half-formatted essays.
I suppose, what it all boils down to is doing what I love. Non-fiction memoirs and essays are crafts I still need to learn, but I’m still going to keep writing fiction.
I started another Creative Writing II class this week. It isn’t needed for a degree requirement, but I enjoy the writing prompts that keep my writing muscles flexible. Reading assignments help me gain knowledge about the writing craft that I may not have known before. However, the most appealing part of the class is the interaction with the students who have an interest in writing.
I enjoy partaking in the editing and critiquing process with others. Those who take constructive criticism personally won’t benefit from anyone’s help, but those who do, thrive and flourish as potential authors. It gives me immense satisfaction to contribute to their improvement as I watch them polish their stories.
Those who mentor benefit just as much from the process as the people they mentor.
Every one of us has knowledge or talent we can use to mentor others, be it in job or life skills. Mentors help set goals and provide steps to realize them. Each time we help a young person achieve a goal, their self-esteem is impacted for the good. Everyone’s outlook is positively affected and stress is reduced. Young people who are mentored are less likely to be involved in at-risk behavior. They are more productive and can mentor others with their new expertise, keeping the wonderful cycle in motion.
Whatever your skill or talent, consider teaching your craft to someone who would appreciate your time and energy. It’s a helpful, creative, and satisfying way to make a positive difference in the world.
If someone asked me a question in a one-on-one conversation, my reply would be honest and most likely more information than you planned on receiving. Whether in an e-mail, even a text, my replies have been called “epic” in length—but I’d like to think my intuitive reply would hold your attention.
However, posting a comment without a prompt about my thoughts or feelings in any area of life experience, I find writing a little more challenging. I suppose when I’m asked questions, it’s because I think someone is interested in what I have to say. But sharing information without solicitation, I have no idea if anyone is really interested or if they even connect to what I’m sharing.
Maybe my self-esteem hasn’t healed from abuse as much as I thought. I may unconsciously hear that my own opinions aren’t valid, my life not a worthy story, Maybe something whispers that the words of others are far more interesting than I could ever share, or theirs are more necessary to tell. Maybe I don’t have enough stories under my belt to captivate an audience.
So, here’s what I’m asking during my 365 Day Daily Post Challenge. Please do me the favor of leaving a comment and letting me know what you think about anything I’ve written. Please be honest, but kind. After reading one of my writing blogs, a chapter in my story, or one of my pages, short stories, or a tweet—anything that you know I have crafted—I really want to know if you think my writing skills measure up.
Your input will be highly appreciated, and your time greatly valued, and I promise not to take anything personally but in the spirit of receiving a genuine and helpful reply. I will gladly take suggestions on where you think I need to improve, or I will take your suggestions on what to write about. Thank you so much to those who are willing to help me out!
Monday. In the “olden days,” when I went to school or to work, I reacted to the first day of the week as if life was temporarily over, because I had to give up a weekend of fun, relaxation, or social connections.
Most of my jobs made me miserable. Either a difficult boss, snarky coworkers, mundane work, physical discomfort, and a list of other reasons existed for my Monday workday blues. Why didn’t I quit and find a better job? Why didn’t I quit and pursue my passion of writing? Why didn’t I quit so I could be happier and healthier without the immense stress?
Sure, I had an apartment to pay for, but I worked paycheck to paycheck and struggled to make ends meet. It wasn’t worth it. I should have rented a room and made the best of it until I could get a book off the ground or found other work that felt more satisfying. I should have gotten past my fear of starting my own business. If I had moved past my fears, I can’t imagine what I would have accomplished at such an early age.
Now that I work from home, the days blur and weekends are only different because of traffic patterns. But the big difference is I’m happy doing what I love.
If you’re miserable every Monday, if you don’t look forward to going to work either at home or in the office, it may be time to consider doing what you love, following your passion. Starting a new business, especially during a pandemic, is a frightful proposition, but many people are doing it successfully, tailoring services or products to the temporary socially disconnected world. Use your imagination and let it inspire you to move past your fears and out of misery, unhappiness, boredom, or whatever else is overwhelming about your current position.
Granted, this isn’t possible for everyone. For some it may not be feasible to leave a demanding, unchallenging, or wretched position because of dire financial obligations, but even they can start planning for something new and brighter outside of work hours.
The old adage, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” still holds true. Give it some serious consideration. You’re worth the effort!
I have a confession to make. My daughter, Marisa Ynez, said she accepted a challenge recently to grow her life coaching business. It’s called “The 365 Day Challenge” and is simple. Post at least one line every day on social media. I doubted she could do it (Sorry, Marisa) so I volunteered to help keep her accountable. Then I did something possibly considered insane—I took on the challenge as well.
The intent of the challenge is to get our business brand names out to the public. For my daughter, it’s promoting her business in relationship counseling (one-time shameless mother’s plug: Marisa is amazing and has helped my husband and me in our relationship! https://www.messagesfromyoni.com). For me, it’s promoting my books at www.CaroleAvila.com.
We don’t have to mention our work in all posts—just our names. The idea is to discipline ourselves to post. Today is the third day of the year and I’ve made my goal so far. Granted it’s only 3 days, but that’s a start.
For those of you who want to build your brand name, product, service, or blogsite, there are still 363 days to go. It’s not too late. It may help to find an accountability buddy who will encourage your success.
Happy New Year to all. May everyone enjoy health and peace this year!
If you yell at slow moving vehicles in front of your car, if you give stink-eye to someone who enters an intersection before their turn at a four-way stop, or if you flip a single finger to a person texting on their phone who swerves into your lane, then you might benefit from this simple suggestion.
It’s not to say your anger isn’t justified, but that’s a lot of hostile energy you’re putting out there, which only causes you more stress and may make the other driver angry. Since strong emotional energy has proven to be effective in creating change, why not send good, positive energy to the other driver so they can be safer on the road and so you can have a better day driving?
This easy and simple practice can be applied not only to drivers who annoy you, but in any social situation, no matter where it takes place. Think of someone or something that invokes a feeling of profound love in you. It could be a person, a pet, or a place you feel safe. I visualize my dog, Bostrum, who died a few years ago. A gentle animal, he was old, but every now and then he acted like a playful puppy. He gave love easily. He is my symbol for unconditional love.
Now, when you connect with an annoying driver, imagine them as your love symbol. Let that energy recreate joyful feelings, and send the driver peaceful energy.
Reduce driving aggression by sending other drivers the same energy you’d give to someone or something you loved.
Remember, when you send out good thoughts to anyone, they will be positively affected and more thoughtful on the road or towards other people.
Give it a try, and you will find peace on the road, reduce your stress, and do something subtle that will have a profound affect on the world!
We sabotage when we make unrealistic goals and give ourselves ridiculously brief timelines to achieve them (losing 100 pounds in 60 days, writing a novel and expecting to see it on the best sellers list in a month, or becoming a famous actor overnight if you are unwilling to go on auditions or contact an agent.) Or we might make goals that aren’t in line with what we truly want. We may also need to work on our innate feeling of unworthiness, thinking on an unconscious level that we don’t deserve the desires of our hearts. Sabotage is based on negative thinking–I can’t. I won’t. I shouldn’t. I don’t.
If you find yourself constantly sabotaging, that’s a good indication that your intention might not be in line with how you really feel or what you really want. Or you may have unhealed trauma, an underlying problem that needs attention first, generally not feeling worthy or wanting the wrong thing because you’re stuck in an old belief pattern.
One thing that to remember is that just because you want something, that doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
This year my “release” list was long, yet nothing too challenging–I want to enjoy success. On my list were a few old behaviors like procrastination that I need to release, because it doesn’t serve me and never did. My manifestation list was longer. It included things I wanted to achieve, but it also stated things I wanted to be–fearless, or less fearful, and to be more determined–to push pass residual fears and joyfully put forth the energy to do my part in creating my newly defined future. Above all, I intend to hold “right thinking,” positive thoughts to release stress, make hard jobs easier, and to help me confront any fears that might normally hold me back.
I think if we keep our thoughts positive, act every day with kindness–or at the least, act with common decency toward others, and are on a constant journey of inner growth, we will have an easier time fulfilling our intentions. And if we sabotage, intentionally or not, we have to be self-forgiving and restart working on our intention knowing we’re not perfect. We are allowed to make mistakes and to try again.
Mistakes simply show us how to improve the next time or they point at something else we might be wanting.
May you be blessed with fabulous energy this year to create anything beneficial that you truly desire!
My first story every written was a magnificent creative work that gave me the greatest sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. My heart saturated every word and thirsted to share it with the world.
But then I endured my first critique by people outside of my family and immediate circle of “that’s nice” friends. A gamut of emotions washed over me: shamed, disappointment, humiliation, embarrassment.
Having invested my soul into my manuscript, it never dawned on me that I may have had a good story but didn’t do a good job of writing it. How could a good story be poorly written? “Easily” is the answer.
If you haven’t read a lot of books to see what the good attributes are of a well written work, if you haven’t taken many writing classes, if you haven’t asked questions of good writers, then you might not be able to create a written masterpiece right out of the starting gate.
It’s rare when a person can sit at a piano for the first time and play a song. It takes time and practice to learn finger placement and how to read music. It’s just as rare to write a flawless story without making changes—corrections included—the first time it is written.
A person who wants to see you create a better product is willing to be an honest champion of your work. They don’t want to discourage you from writing but encourage you to learn ways that improve your writing skills. That means they will gladly point out all the grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. (This is the editing process). They’ll also point out problems with syntax, character development, plot line, and overall story structure. (That’s a critique.)
Don’t get defensive, don’t make excuses when someone offers you an idea that may potentially help your story. Admit that you should have paid more attention in English classes or used your thesaurus more often. Yes, you may need a thick skin to accept constructive criticism. However, if you’re open to the possibility that others have your best interest at heart and can help make viable improvements to your work, you will create a better story and become a top-notch writer.
You don’t have your work critiqued and edited for yourself—you do it for your reader. If you intend to sell your books, this is the best process you can put your work through. You don’t have to accept all the suggestions, but before you discount them, get the opinion of other readers and see how they react to the changes.
And the end result? A story that will hold your reader’s attention, draw them into the pages rather than kicking them out with every mistake they uncover. A good critique will make your work more attractive to the reader providing them more entertainment value which lead to sales.
The best part is that you will become a more professional writer, eventually putting out material with less mistakes, less need for changes, the first time around. Eventually, constructive criticism will be much easier to accept. In fact, you’ll be welcoming it!
What was your first experience with constructive criticism, be it on your writing or something else important to you?
This response was so eloquently written that I asked the author to allow me to post it as an article. ~Carole Avila
THOUGHTS ON CRITIQUE
by Alan Morrison
To an author, the reader’s mind is a canvas on which written words paint a picture. If done well, the picture will transport the reader from their personal here and now into the place and time of the story. That is the goal of every writer, but it’s never easy to achieve.
A poorly chosen word, an awkward phrase, flawed punctuation; these and other seemingly trivial faults can result in an incomplete or incorrect picture, one that leads a reader astray or, even worse, pulls them out of the magic trance the writer worked so hard to create.
The purpose of a critique should be to point out such things for the author to consider and, if they choose, correct or improve on. The critique is not about the author; it’s about the picture the critic sees. By offering a critique, the critic is allowing the writer to look inside their mind and see the picture the words painted.
That’s how we should view critiques, as gifts of insight. Sometimes they hurt, but they always make a writer better, and that’s the point—to constantly improve.
About the author, Alan Morrison: Farmboy, mathematician, physicist, fighter pilot, computer scientist, college professor, business owner, executive consultant, author, adventurer, and retiree. “I’ve lived an interesting life, and there’s more to come! Thanks for reading my ramblings.”