Tag Archives: Writers Resources

What if I didn’t write? What would I do? #MondayBlogs

Good questions, right?

I’ve been writing fiction off and on since 1990.  I’ve submitted works to major publishing houses and received rejection form letters with a few personal rejections thrown in.  I’ve tried to be ‘normal’ all my life and obviously not well or I’d be a big name in the traditional published writer world.

Back when I first started submitting, there were independently published writers.  They sold their ‘books’ out of the back of their van, truck, or car.  Most of their works had those plastic ring binders, while the shorter works were stapled.  All of them had covers with ‘original’ artwork scribbled by the author.  Ninety nine percent of the time, these authors had to self-publish via vanity press because their subject matter was way too esoteric for a major publisher to consider.  The history of a now extinct town in West Bumfuk Egypt?  Yep, esoteric.  Publishers aren’t in it for their health or for the benefit of art and the author.  They’re in it to make money and lots of it.

So how does this history lesson apply to today’s world of literature and why writers write?

Today is very different.  With one click and a document, anyone can be an ‘author’.  This fact is both wonderful and horrific.  People who were subjectively rejected by the Big Five are now able to publish and letting readers enjoy works written outside the boundaries.  Me, personally, I’ve wallowed in this like a pig in a mud hole, enjoying the ability to read works outside of the romance formula.  There are authors I one-click who have never been traditionally published.  They’re the ones I’m sitting around like a word junkie and asking “You done with that paragraph, yet?  Can I be your alpha reader?  Don’t care about editing, just gimmie gimmie gimmie.”  You know who you are.

Traditional writers have always…how to write this…looked down their nose?  Thought less of?  Didn’t take seriously? …the self published authors and with good reason.  I’ve been through four Warrior Dashes and each was much easier than getting traditionally published, even the Dash I didn’t train for AT ALL.  Plus, there is NO instant gratification with traditional publishing, and I’ve heard one multi published author, Jodi Thomas (who is wonderful!! I’ve worked with her husband at a college and both of them are great people!), who has said you’re being paid to wait, not write.  As an impatient control freak, I more than admire the traditionally published authors.  They do what I am mentally unable to, which is wait.

Which all leads us to the bottom line and answering the question of what if I didn’t write and why continue to write, especially when considering 2014’s bust after 2011-2013’s boom.

Being personal, here are my bullet items.

I write because I must.  There are so many stories in my head, they need an outlet.  Plus, I can’t help inventing new characters and plots, and even if it’s garbage.  I truly have no choice in this.  Some of what I imagine is fit for publication, others you’ll never see because no one wants to read a Mary Sue about Data from Star Trek:TNG.  Yes, I feel shame and no, you can’t read it.

What went up and came down will go up again.  This is a certainty to me because I’ve endured many booms and busts.  From the oilfield, to the dot coms, to housing markets, and now to self-publishing, I’ve seen days of making tons of money to making just enough to keep the lights on and ramen noodles stocked.  This downturn in ebook sales doesn’t scare me.  It reminds me of what my true goals are and that is to write the best story possible, every single time.

My mother taught me a long time ago that there are no even numbers in art, so here’s a third.  What would I do if I didn’t write?  I’d keep reading and I’d be more aggressive about scheduling knitting classes to teach.  I might even go back and see what it would take to update my computer science degree from client server skills to web guru.  Not a problem because I’d already went from mainframe to client server.  I can do all this for the money, but writing? I do it for my heart and soul.  Cliche’?  Yeah, but still very true.

Now back to work!  My editor is expecting The Very Worst Man in her email on January 2nd and it’s going to be fun to deliver.

You know it's true.

#MondayBlogs for the writers

Readers, especially mine, I love you.  I do.  Even the readers who find I’m not their cup o’ tea, thank you.  You’ve invested time and money in my work and that is amazing and humbling to me.  The readers who love or even just like me?  I make sure every work is better than the one before and that’s totally due to you.

But, alas, this post isn’t for you, it’s for my writing friends.  Here’s my lecture for you.

I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about being a successful author.  Everything.  All the lists have a few things in common, like write the best book possible, have a great cover, get the professional edits, and write the next book.

Let’s go over the last item again.  Write the next book.  I could tell you about SEO and Amazon’s algorithms, how they want to see you publish something, anything, in a 30-90 day time frame.  When you do that, it makes you and your work more visible.

Why do you want visibility? I think that’s obvious.  The more visibility an author has from automations like the algorithms and SEO’s, the less they have to self-promote.  Time spent posting over and over in Facebook forums, tweets, or Google+ posts is time NOT spent on your next novel.

Time for the tough love part.  Are you wanting your writing to pay the bills?  If you answer no, then keep doing what you’re doing by posting links to your only book.  Some people only have one novel in them and there’s NOTHING wrong with that.  Just like there’s nothing wrong with people who have an entire library in their head.  For the people walking around with an untyped opus, this is for you.  Stop telling us about your first book published a year ago.  Do you and your sales a HUGE favor by finishing your next book and publishing it as soon as it’s polished to near perfect.  Not only that, but have your next idea ready to write even after that.  It’s called feeding the beast and if you want a living wage, get the chum bucket ready and start scooping out the words.

Why do you want to listen to small potatoes like me?  Because I’ve seen the results that come with publishing within the 90 days Amazon seems to loves.  My first book had tiny sales until I published my second in the series.  When that happened, the second book had a good run in sales and took the first along for the ride.  Now, three months later, they’re still selling neck and neck.  Essentially, I’ve doubled my sales in the historical romance genre.  Sure, the sales are still small, but they’re double and I’m good with that.  Check them out for yourself on The Oregon Trail tab above.  Free samples are out there and who can say no to that?

Bottom line to my beloved author friends in a handy bullet list?

I’ve done the research and have a summary for career writers.

  1. Write more and make it great.
  2. Publish.
  3. Promote everywhere.
  4. Repeat step 1.

It takes a lot of time and work to be an overnight success.  When it happens for you, have those books written and ready for your adoring public to buy.

Before You Hit Publish…#MondayBlogs

I’ve been reading a lot of indie published books and short stories in the past few weeks and months.  The one thing I’ve noticed across the board is that every single author needs an editor.  Yes, even you, the English major.  You need an editor.

You know those optical illusions, the one where you pick a C out of a billion O’s?  How about the one where you count the number of ‘f’s but miss the one f in ‘of’ because it sounds like a ‘v’?  Exactly.  No matter how careful a person is, their brain will fill in the missing words or switch back the dyslexic sentences during their own proofing.  Even worse?  Spell checkers go only so far.  Otherwise, the world wouldn’t be full of your/you’re and to/too errors, never mind the beloved their/there/they’re.

If your editor becomes a friend, that’s great.  Just don’t hand over your document to a friend and expect them to edit it.  Your priorities are not their priorities.  Plus, if they’re friends, you’re probably not paying them and they’re not as serious about your deadlines as you are.  Editing is one place where you suck it up and pay the man or woman to do their job.

There are several types of editors out there.  Developmental editors, line editors, proofreaders, copy editors.  Some people offer more than one type of edits with their services.  My own editor does line editing and proofreading.  She’s invaluable to me and makes my writing so much better.

Here’s a link to more information.  The article is very much worth your time to read before publishing.  Note to Hampton Roads authors: Don’t cut the editor

PSA-Show, don’t tell! #amwriting

I’ve been reading for review a plethora of indie authors’ works.

Please, please SHOW me the story.  Don’t tell me or I’ll start skipping pages.  I read books to immerse my imagination into a different world, not to be a passive receptacle for your story.

I have three examples and will only name names on the positive one.

First up is a little story, a romance, about two people who’ve found their way back to each other.  We’re told why she’s in the place she is, we’re told why he’s suddenly there.  Tell tell tell, blah blah blah. Don’t care.  The story doesn’t even start until their eyes meet because it’s a romance.  Can’t the author just use the characters’  conversation to tell us the backstory the author just told us?  Can’t we see and feel what it’s like for the couple to link up after a decade or so apart and pining for each other?  Nope!  The author needs to tell us every little thing, which was blah and “Make it stop!!”

The second is a good sized book that I sampled and am not interested in buying.  It’s very erotic so that’s fun, but is way heavy on the tell.  Every little detail of their surroundings, people, everything, is described and most often in passive voice.  The only time this isn’t going on is during the goings on.  Sex is the only show in this tale of tell.  Which could be a great literary device if the author wanted only the sex to be exciting and all that character development stuff to be dull filler as contrast.  I skimmed it because blah blah blah.  I was relieved to reach the end of the sample that it was over at last.

The third? It’s a first person memoir that by all rights should be dull.  Something you read to fall asleep.  I’ve been writing and going to writer events for twenty years and have had many many people tell me “I’m writing my life story because it’s soooo interesting.”  99% of the time, no.  No, it isn’t.  Unless you’re Chuck Yeager, Richard Branson, or a Red Bull addicted spokesperson, don’t.  Just don’t.  Your mother does and even then she’s pretending.

Or so I thought until Thomas Sartain began telling me his story.  He had not only me but everyone at the conference enthralled, making my “Not another life story!!” thought obsolete.  I had the privilege to read his somewhat rough draft and it was amazing even in the rough.  He’s since published Thirty Days and a Wake Up, and it’s a wonderful book.  Told in first person, the story unfold in a shown way.  As the reader, you’re there when Thomas witnesses his first murder, when he leads his first robbery, and when he is first sent to prison. You feel what he feels and see only what he sees, not told about every single thing in his environment.  If you want to read a true, gritty, and gripping story, click the link above and at least read the sample.  It’s really worth the effort.

I could spend the rest of the post explaining exactly how and when to show versus tell.  Plus, there’s times when the story is better with a bit of telling instead of the constant show.  Instead, I’ll link to an article that creative writers really need to improve their work.  If you’re an author who truly wants to be the best you can be, go read the information.  I’ve skimmed through the first half.  When I hit publish on this post, I’m reading all of the article to see if there’s anything more I can learn and I’m pretty sure there is something I’ll need to know.

The Show Versus Tell Debate

Slacker!

I know, I know! I’d devoted myself to Monday blogging. Tuesday happened, then Wednesday, and at last today. I have a lot of great reasons, but no decent excuses.

So how can I make this a value added post, one that will benefit your life? No idea, except that whole don’t mix colors with your towels is a lie. Unless there’s bleach involved. Then yeah, it’s a bad idea.

What else? I’ve written about showing versus telling when writing a story, so that’d be old news. New news? How about a cool story idea instead. What happens when you thaw an ancient plant? Not much, probably, but what if it were a killer plant? One capable of sentience?

At any rate, here’s the article that started this little germ of an idea.

I’ve been dormant HOW long?

Is anything ever fast enough?

My idea for this entry was a wa wa about how long it’s taken me to get The Very Best Man out the door and onto Kindle.

I’ve changed my mind.

Instead, I’m posting some writing rules I tend to follow.  I’ve been writing fiction of some sort for the past 22 years and have picked up a few things.  Of course, I’ve not picked up perfect grammar, but that’s why Microsoft’s Word checks for it, now.

1. Show, don’t tell.  Really.  Because when I read a lot of something told to me in fiction, I think “Bla bla bla, get to the good stuff.”  Should I blame the Age of Instant?  Historically, a lot of writers have done this, telling is what happened/is happening versus letting the story unfold before our eyes.  At any rate, during my editing process, telling always gets cut or rewritten.

2. Linking verbs are icky.  Linking verbs are passive. Or, how about, “Avoid the passive and icky linking verbs.”  In a world of CGI and the effects making writing moot, you’ll need to up the voltage on your verbs.  If you can avoid am, is, are, was, were, had, has, could, would, should, and their various had been, could be, should have’s, then do so.  There’s always an exception, though, and passives can be used in a good way.  If your character is a passive person, letting things happen to them, then putting their entire point of view in a passive form is a subtle way of conveying their state of mind without having to tell the reader.  Score one for showing.

3. Point of view.  This is fun and difficult.  I tend to struggle with this at times, being the omnipotent writer and all.  If I’ve done my work and created 3D characters, it’s not so tough to put myself in their place and think their thoughts.  Which is what POV is.  As a writer, you are not yourself in a story, you’re the character.  Is the character you?  Not unless you’re writing an autobiography.  You’ll want your character to be so real that if they knocked on your door, you’d know them instantly.  The problems in POV come from the writer forgetting a character can’t see the blush on her own face.  Another character in the story can’t know the hero’s thoughts unless she’s saying them, or he knows her facial expressions so well he can guess.  Sometimes, I keep a single POV for the entire chapter, sometimes, I divide up the chapter and give it the he says/she says treatment.  One thing to avoid is switching POV’s in the middle of a paragraph.  He’s thinking about the other person and without a paragraph break to let the reader know it, the other person says something.

George looked at Martha.  Her dress, soiled around the hem, clued him in on her morning gardening activities.   “You’ve been busy already.” He smiled at her.  “I’ve picked plenty of okra for dinner tonight,” she said, holding up a basket of greenery.

It’s crude and off the cuff, but my own example.  While not totally confusing, the lack of a paragraph break kicks the reader out of the story and you don’t want that.  Which leads to…

4. Hooks.  You need them.  Even the best written story in the world isn’t going to work if there’s nothing keeping the pages turning.  We’ve evolved past the Me Generation into the What’s In It For Me? mentality.  You need to have a pay off for the reader.  What does this mean?  The protagonist needs a secret, an ultimate goal, a reason to get from point a to point b.  Thanks to the Age of Instant and What’s In It For Me?, hooking the reader in the first five pages is the writer’s goal.  Show us why the hero is keeping a secret, has a goal bigger than himself, or needs to get from a to b.  After that, throw roadblocks/hurdles for him to overcome until the final “no one can survive/surpass this” hurdle.

5. Sex, Violence, and Drama.  Readers love all three.  Look at the top five of any list, movies in theaters, best sellers, even songs, and you’ll see how true this is.  This final point would actually be a really good discussion point.  As much as I’d like to, I have a tough time inserting gratuitous sex and violence into my work, and the drama is somewhat tough, too.  I’d love to hear from other writers who are struggling to keep OUT the three, and readers’ opinions on how much is too much or not enough.