Laura Howard: Six Questions with Lauren Clark


Six Questions with Lauren Clark

It's another super-awesome Six Question Saturday here at Finding Bliss! I've just completed my line-edits on The Forgotten Ones last night, so today I'll be poring over each line, making sure I didn't miss anything. We're getting closer my friends! 

For your reading pleasure today I've invited one of my favorite ladies in the world, Lauren Clark, back on for the FOURTH time!

What is your method of plotting out a new story?

Plotting a new story is one of my favorite parts of crafting a book! It's a time when all ideas are new and fresh, when possibilities seem endless, and my brain goes ninety-to-nothing coming up with new characters, twists, and cliffhangers.

I always begin with a question, an idea that has lots of room to build on. I developed the idea for Stay Tuned after hearing a true story about a fistfight between two news anchors in a local television station parking lot. Both were fired, and the incident stirred up controversy for months. It was the perfect kick-start for Stay Tuned.

For Dancing Naked in Dixie, I'm a Northern girl in the Deep South, so I wanted to follow the journey of a travel writer from the Big Apple to small-town Alabama. I kept hearing about a nearby town that hosted a "Pilgrimage" every April. The event involves tours of antebellum mansions, period costume from the 1800's, music, and historic landmarks. Once I visited Eufaula, I fell in love with the area's charm and beauty. It was the perfect location for Dixie.

Once I have my story idea, I begin crafting the novel's summary or "blurb" which serves as the basis for the plot. The blurb is a super-quick explanation of why people should read the story. You might also hear authors refer to the "blurb" as an elevator pitch. It's called an elevator pitch because authors have 30 seconds or less to capture a potential reader's attention ... about the time it takes to travel a few floors on an elevator.

Once the blurb or elevator pitch is revised and polished to perfection, I begin more extensive character development and plotting. I've tried everything from typing extensive outlines on my Mac to using plotting software programs, but the method that works best for me is jotting down my chapter ideas and character details on plain 3x5 notecards. It's inexpensive, I can carry the notecards with me, re-arrange, and replace them. The notecards, once in the right order, become my rough outline. I start writing from there.

What is your editing process?

Generally, I write a novel from start to finish, and do very little revising until I get the entire first draft finished. I've found that—for me—it's too easy to get caught up revising a sentence, chapter, or a certain scene over and over.

Once the first draft of the manuscript is complete, I ship it off to my editor and beta readers who give me very honest and constructive criticism. With that feedback, I spend at least another month or two revising the novel. I'm very careful to listen to my editor and beta readers—for example—if most of them say a certain character isn't likeable or a plot point isn't working, I PAY ATTENTION! As difficult as it is to "kill your darlings," with every novel, it becomes easier to cut a chapter, eliminate awkward dialogue, or delete a scene.

Once these edits are finished, I read through the entire manuscript several more times, looking for inconsistencies and discrepancies. I tweak, revise, and tweak some more. When I'm happy with the novel, I send it off to be professionally proofread.

It's a long, time-consuming process, but one that can't be rushed. I'm a firm believer in taking the time to get the manuscript as close to perfect as it can be before publishing it. I also like to add extras like a Readers Guide or recipes. If readers are going to spend hard-earned money on my book, I want them to get MORE than their money's worth.

When you published your first book, how did you spread the word?

I was fortunate enough to be able to hire a publicity firm to help spread the word about Stay Tuned. Since I was totally new to indie publishing, we had to start from scratch—getting help creating a website, a blog, a Twitter account, a GoodReads profile, and a Facebook page. The publicity firm also set up a "whirlwind blog tour," which really helped publicize my novel. Over the course of several weeks, Stay Tuned was featured on more than sixty blogs and received more than 50 reviews on Amazon,, and GoodReads.

Taking advantage of advertising sponsorship opportunities on sites like Kindle Nation Daily, Digital Book Today, The Cheap, Kindle Book Review, and EReader News Today definitely helped spread the word about Stay Tuned. I also ran giveaways on GoodReads, LibraryThing, and my blog. Along the way, I entered several contests and received additional publicity for my novels when I placed in several competitions, including the WritersType First Chapter contest, Faulkner Wisdom, and the Eric Hoffer Book Awards.

What has worked the best for you as far as finding the right readers for your books?

I've been very lucky to have worked with many very talented blog tour coordinators who've helped spread the word about my novels. I can't say enough about Goddess Fish, ABG Reads, Chick Lit Plus, ATOMR, and Bewitching Book Tours. There are so many very talented blog tour coordinators out there—and that expertise can really boost awareness about your books!

How do you keep in touch with your readers?

I blog at least twice a week, post on Facebook, Tweet, and email. I like to also post photos and little notes about my family and what activities I'm involved in so that people have a sense of how I am as a mom and everyday gal.

I'm also active on GoodReads and LibraryThing, where I've connected with SO MANY fabulous readers. I've been fortunate enough to speak at writing events in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and New York.

I've also been (yay!) invited to talk to book clubs in the region who've chosen to read Stay Tuned or Dancing Naked in Dixie. I've just returned from the Eufaula Pilgrimage (the setting for Dixie) where I did a book signing, and I'll be giving a talk about Indie Publishing Success at the Alabama Book Festival in Montgomery April 20th.

What would the one thing you'd change about your road to publication if you had a chance?

Like many authors, I craved the idea of having a fabulous, talented agent to represent my novels and a big publishing company to back my books. For two years, back in 2008-2009, I worked really hard at sending out query letters (probably 50-60) to land an agent for Stay Tuned. I received many, many rejection letters, but a few came back with short notes of encouragement—basically to keep writing, that the agent just didn't love the story enough, or to resubmit after I'd revised. I did receive an offer from a small publishing company, but the contract was so terrible that an attorney friend of mine advised me NOT to sign it!

If I'd had a crystal ball, I would have begun learning about Indie Publishing a lot sooner. Indie Publishing has been a fabulous experience, I've learned so much, and made long-lasting, meaningful friendships with readers and other authors.

I am so grateful for the many people who have embraced my books and been kind enough to write reviews, drop me a line, say hello at an event, and encourage me to KEEP WRITING! I can tell you for sure that it's the best feeling in the world to have someone walk up at a book signing and tell you that he or she LOVED my book!

I want to know what you think, readers -- would you rather sign with a small publisher
 just to have a publisher or go on your own and self-publish?

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