Tuesday, February 28, 2017

WRITING IN THE WESTERN GENRE BY DENZEL HOLMES

WRITERS BLOCK PRESENTATION-WRITING THE WESTERN GENRE

"I know many people who feel like they have a book inside them, but don't know where to start."

BRIEF BIO: Raised in ranching country. Zane Grey a first love in reading. Listened to stories told by my dad as told to him by his grandfather.
Encouraged by friends, relatives and teachers. Held a desire to write for forty years before I started, but never gave up the dream.
Privileged to have an uncle who was an encourager and mentor. He also was mentor to the great Western writers Elmer Kelton and Patrick Dearen. I got to know these men quite well and met and talked with other greats at Western Writers of America’s annual conferences. Some were Don Coldsmith, Loren Estleman, Matt Braun, Win Blevins, Jory Sherman, Robert Utley, and Lucia St.Clair Robson.
I’ve authored six novels. For four I had publishers. Nowadays, I do my own publishing, and most of my own promotions and selling.
THE WRITING JOURNEY:  I know many people who feel like they have a book inside them but don’t know where to start. Well, I traveled tens of thousands of miles to attend writer’s conventions and listen to experts. I’ve read hundreds of books on the subject of writing and the experiences of others. I’ve attended dozens of workshops, classes, seminars related to writing, some on my specific genre (Western fiction) but many on writing in general. I tell would-be writers, “Don’t be afraid to spend a little money to learn to write.”
Education is important. Anyone with a major in English, history, or journalism has an upfront advantage. Still, the craft of writing can be learned by doing some of the above. My major was Business Administration and I did a 31 year career as an auditor with several federal agencies. My retirement enabled me to have an independent means of support and, more importantly, the time – and writing takes lots of time – to sit down and get with it.
I have a supportive wife, Margie, 55 years together as of Sept 3, who travels with me, sets up our booths at flea markets, arts & craft shows, trade days, libraries, etc. We’ve been doing this continuously since 2009.
At some point along the learning path, you must simply sit down and start writing. See if you can do it, sustain it, find it engaging, and believe that your story will reach into the hearts of others. Be willing to re-write, and re-write.
  I don’t believe anyone can become a successful writer if his/her first motivation is to gain wealth. First, he/she must love to write. Wealth is a fringe benefit…so I’ve been told.
This, above all, is my overreaching commentary: The act of creating characters, defining their personalities, and driving them to a powerful conclusion is a thrill like no other. It’s like a sixth sense. When characters are placed together in a scene, they will take over the story and do things that you never dreamed when you started.
Yes, those ornery characters can lead you astray sometimes. So they have to be harnessed.

THE WESTERN GENRE: Is probably not different from other fiction genres. All require tremendous research, engaging characters, action, suspense, and reasonable conclusion. WESTERN happens to be mine, unfortunately.
INSPIRATION: I am slow in taking on a theme for each succeeding novel, therefore I’m slow in cranking out my next one. The idea has to hit me hard, linger, and become a passion. I like themes that haven’t been overworked by dozens of other writers. Since 2009, I’ve published five novels, or one each seventeen months. I know Western writers who publish three a year. Frankly, I think my products are higher quality in plot, less predictable, less episodic, and more engaging. Research trips have been a means of getting me started. I come back charged up, ready to go. For example, I struggled for two months on my latest novel PHANTOM HERD. Then Margie and I took a trip to South Texas and visited six historical places and talked with some inspiring people. I returned with over $200 in books, maps, and other research material. I went to work and finished PHANTOM HERD in four months – 98,000 words.
DECIDING ON LENGTH: A publisher told me years ago, “Your novel is too long. Cut it in half and bring it back.” He went on to explain that a lengthy novel by an unknown author won’t sell because the printing cost runs the price up. I’ve heard the same in respect to competing with E books.
I like for my novels to run about 95K words. For PHANTOM HERD I asked my editor to point out areas where I could cut the length. She suggested removing the scenes that were in another character’s point of view. This brought the book down from about 105 K to 98 K.
MARKETING: I maintain a website. www.denzelholmes.com My handouts, book marks and business cards, contain the website address. Books may be ordered by check or credit card. I absorb the sales tax and shipping as a means of encouraging people to use the website.
My novels are available in e form for all tablets.
Many advisors and companies in the business push various forms of social media networking, urging readers to give five star reviews and share with friends, and ask their friends to share with friends. I’ve found no evidence that this works for Western fiction. Most readers of Westerns are mid to senior aged men. They won’t network, they won’t join reading clubs, and they won’t discuss a book with others for more than one-two sentences.
I do, however, ask them to let me know if they enjoyed the book.
By an evolutionary process, my main marketing technique has become DIRECT SALES at flea markets, arts and crafts shows, and town square events. Libraries, special interest groups and books stores are also opportunities.
I have a supportive wife, Margie, 55 years together as of Sept 3, who travels with me and sets up an attractive booth for these events. She dresses me in modern Western: hat, boots, leather vest, wide belt, etc. We’ve been doing this continuously since 2009. This method is lots of work and would not be appropriate for most writers, too expensive and iffy on sales.
Many of my buyers are women buying the book(s) as gifts for a man. They are more often the repeat buyers too. I get feedback from them when they order subsequent books for their guy, and I’ve made up a ring binder of these letters and notes and entitled it “FIVE STAR REVIEWS.”


See my website: www.denzelholmes.com
Or look up my books on amazon.com  




No comments: