Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Write About What You Know

The Lost Kitten

That’s what I’ve always been told. Write about what you know. Sometimes it’s a mistake to ask yourself what it is that you know. What if you come to the realization that you know nothing at all? Luckily, I found that I do know a little bit about a few things. At least there are subjects about which I know enough to write an interesting blog post or two, perhaps as many as three.

Before Christmas of last year, I got the idea that maybe I could write a story. I had an idea for one that involved a man and his cat, well, kitten in this case. I know a little about cats and I’ve learned a couple of things about people, plus I have some personal experience being a person. So, I set out writing a story. I had the whole thing visualized, more or less, I just needed to make the words describe what happened and convey the message I wanted to deliver. It wasn’t nearly as easy as I thought it would be, but I managed to get it written; and it turned out just about as I had intended.

I had done some of that sort of writing before, many years ago; and had almost gotten to the point where I might even have gotten myself published. Unfortunately for my writing career at that time, other events occurred and I had to set it aside for a while. Everything changes as time ticks along, that’s how we tell that it has passed. I changed, editors changed, doors closed, and other doors opened. The whole nature of how we get our information changed from words printed on paper to words stored on computer hard drives and flash memory and displayed on a screen. There are still stories to be told, though, and readers desiring to be entertained and enlightened, we have simply begun to change the methods we use to communicate with each other. In some ways, it is easier to find a reader now than it has ever been. It is also easier to get a story published, and because it’s easier there are many more stories available to readers than there have ever been. Anybody can write a story and with a little computer savvy can find a place on the internet to make it available to a reader. Of course, not everyone can write a good story, but that doesn’t keep anyone from publishing their story anyway. How do you sort out the good stories from the other sort? And how can you cause a good story be found by someone who will appreciate it? I suspect it’s a bit of a treasure hunt for the reader. I know it’s a dilemma for a writer. Since I’m your typical starving artist, I get my books from the second-hand store or the thrift store. They are wonderful places to find books, but it helps if you know what you’re looking for. Ofttimes I am looking for specific titles to fill in a series that I’ve been collecting, but sometimes I discover a new author and that really is the ultimate reward for this sort of treasure hunt.

When I made the decision to pursue writing as a career, forsaking all other endeavors, I had to start from scratch. I began with this blog, since, as I said, I know something about cats. Soon thereafter, I started a blog about my car building and repairing adventures; and then I needed to write about what was happening in my life on a more personal level and so I started a blog about me. I enjoy writing all the blog posts, but even though each blog has ads included on the page, they don’t generate any significant income, and therein lies one of the primary problems with this “career.” It just doesn’t pay well, which means that it mostly doesn’t pay at all. And then I recalled that, at one time, a few years ago, there was the possibility of selling some short stories. So, I decided to give that sort of writing another try. The result, so far, has been two stories, both about a man and his cat. Hey, don’t laugh, they tell you to “write about what you know.” After I finished the first story, which I called “The Christmas Kitten,” I realized that, because Christmas had nearly arrived, I’d either have to wait until next year to get it published in any sort of print medium, or I’d have to post it on the internet somewhere.

Getting your story published on the internet is easy. Getting readers to pay for your story is not so easy. The reasons are legion. First of all, very few people know who I am and, thus, are not looking for stories written by me. Second, of the people who know me, only a very few would expect to pay for a story written by me. Third, most of the places on the internet that offer to publish your story, don’t offer a way for you to get paid by readers. The list goes on, but you get the idea. So, now I have to learn marketing, public relations, distribution, in other words, the publishing business. Help!! All I wanted to do was tell a simple story and exchange whatever value it has with someone who agreed that it was worth reading. That’s when I discovered Amazon’s Kindle.

I was aware of the electronic book as a product and knew that there are a few versions of the thing made by a several different companies. As I browsed around the internet, it looked to me like the Amazon product was the most accessible for someone like me. I looked through what others authors were offering and decided that I’d give it a try. I set up my account and then I discovered that each book or story offered should have an image to go with it, like the image on the dust jacket of a book. I’ve dabbled in drawing from time to time, so I decided to try to draw something that might work as a illustration for my story. I sketched out my idea, scanned the drawing into my computer and the cover for “The Christmas Cat” was done. I uploaded the whole thing, words and a picture, to my Kindle account and then announced the publication everywhere that I could: Flickr, Facebook, my e-mail signature, and, finally, right here. I haven’t sold too many, but I have sold a few and I’ve got lots of other story ideas. I’ve already written a sequel to “The Christmas Cat” called “The Lost Kitten,” and that is also available on Kindle.

And there you have it. I’m writing and publishing and promoting stories about a man and his cat. It’s something I know about, thanks to Quint and Hedge and all their feline processors. If you get a chance, and have an interest, you can find the stories at Amazon’s Kindle site. Just search for the titles and you’ll find them. There will be more stories to come, and more blog posts, too, here and on the other blogs. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.

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