Writing Advice

Writing is a Solitary Venture – Publishing is Not

Writing is the most solitary of careers. Crawling inside your head to tell the stories of characters others have never met is a unique experience. Most of us will beg for quiet as we work our way through getting these new tales down on paper. You can’t be chatting with coworkers and writing or fixing breakfast and writing, and so most have “writing caves” to help facilitate the creative process. The concern is that this most solitary of careers must become the most public and k when that same work becomes ready to publish.

Find Your Army

Many writers I know are introverts that enjoy the entire process of writing start to finish; publishing, though, is not their cup of tea. It’s not the process of getting the book to readers, but the garnering reviews, marketing, social media, and a million and one other details that must be considered to now make that story reach its intended audience. This is where finding your army of helpers is critical. Those critical resources can take your manuscript and help you find new and unique ways of getting it into readers’ hands—the resources to launch it to traditional literary agents if that be your desired course to publishing. Luckily in the technology age, our army no longer has to be physical, in-person people but rather those we can find in many corners of the internet.

Ensure Support and Positivity

From a good editor to beta readers that provide helpful feedback on the book, you need to have those you trust in your corner the minute you finish the manuscript. This is a hard and thankless job that can easily go to the side of the road and never see the light of day if the wrong team gives you advice after pouring blood, sweat, and tears into it. I can’t tell you the number of people I have met, even friends that immediately let go of the publishing dream after a solid writing experience because of someone’s sharp-tongued, mean-spirited advice. The right resource needs to help you balance good solid feedback to ensure you tweak, edit and rewrite pieces of the work needed with the support your confidence needs to continue forward. Many people out on social media and even publishing use a razor-sharp tongue to hold many hopeful authors back. Find those that can make you better at your art and bolster your confidence along the way and ignore the rest.

Resources

Social media has become a great resource not just for marketing but networking also. Readers and writer groups have popped up in various forums and platforms to collaborate on writing prompts to the best promotion sites available to authors. Arguments on traditional and indie publishing can also help provide the input for your path to getting your work seen by others. This can be a bit overwhelming when you see all the “vanity” publishers and “experts” out there that will inundate your box. Wading through to find the voices that resonate with you, and then truthfully, a bit of trial and error will be needed to find the best resources. Work the system, build schedules for marketing, networking, and other activities away from your writing that fit your current lifestyles and goals. At the end of the day, though, remember it is the writing that started you down this path, and it is the writing you will need to return to continue publishing.

Balance is probably one of the hardest tasks I have had to master in my writing career. From scheduling time for posting to social media, blogging, website maintenance, and then word count goals for the day, this is not an easy or part-time gig in any way. Finding the quiet time to write and then balance that with your business’s public side for the other aspects of publishing can be difficult. The good news is so many others had come before and paved the road with amazing opportunities if you know where to look. Just remember, find someone that helps build you up, doesn’t just blow smoke in your face, and helps take that first draft to a published book the best it possibly can. That moment when you find your book on the shelves of the major distributors out there – it will all have been worth it. Happy writing!

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The Secret Ingredient – Write Something Every Day

How many times has someone asked you, a friend, or maybe even an online forum what the secret is to writing a book? Most people who write for a living will respond with one shred of undeniable truth – get writing. I know it sounds simple, but people tend to procrastinate, organize and overall talk themselves out of big goals all the time. The ones that finally attain an impossible appearing goal, such as finishing their first book of poetry, that novel that has been rattling around their brain, or a blog for their first content piece, have something in common – they sat down to write. The secret is that the piece you see will never have been their first effort; they probably have numerous drafts in the recycling bin before that. The difference is they kept trying.

Good writing or even just finishing a writing goal such as a short story to a novel is evidence of putting forth the effort to accomplish what others will not. Yes, ten thousand words or three hundred thousand seems an impossible task, but five hundred may not. When I first considered organizing some of my writing into something consumable by a wider audience, I struggled for about fifteen years. I had journals, so many started manuscripts and about six thousand ideas. I would stop and start, give up and leave there for a year and finally go back. Then one day, I went to see a presentation by a pretty well-known author who was speaking at the local University, and that moment changed my life.

He said he never writes a single book in one go of days and weeks. Normally, multiple projects, doodlings, and musings are scattered about his journal or laptop before the final work takes shape. What he did do, was write every single day. Set a goal – five hundred words a day, no exception was his challenge that I walked away with and have done every day since. And when I say every day, I’m not kidding. In a decade of publishing now, probably less than a handful of days have passed without me writing. I carry a journal with me to jot down thoughts, I always have a laptop with me, and my family knows I will write during some part of my waking hours. In fact, I recently had a pretty bad day and considered going to bed without writing, and my daughter asked me exactly how bad I was feeling, and I should possibly go to the doctor.

The other recommendation I took from my fateful presentation all those years ago was to carve out a place in the home that was your “writing” or “working” space. That place that when you sit your butt in the seat there, it is writing time, and nothing should distract from that. He again emphasized nothing should interfere, not social media, cute cat pictures, or the like. Oh, and don’t worry about editing and how good it sounds from the onset – just write. This is crucial for me and something I do to this day. If I don’t feel inspired to work on one of my current pieces, I write a blog, write articles for clients or ghostwrite. Yes, variety for me has been a savior as now I have written nearly 300 blog posts for various industries and people; I have over 125 books total from novella to novel length for myself and others for whom I ghostwrite. This allows me to have options when I sit to do my “work” and get my words each day. I will tell you that five hundred word minimum is now 5,000 words a day in a decade of writing. Yes, that seems impossible, maybe from where you are now – but it can be done.

Now, remember that the first five hundred words are just a stepping stone to great things. Next, it will be a thousand, then five thousand, and soon your finished book. Don’t spend copious amounts of time editing so heavily as you write; discouragement will take hold. Let it flow. Whether it is handwritten in a journal or on a laptop, sit down and write something today—your thoughts, story ideas, or simply what makes you made. Like so many other skills exercising the ability to write soon breeds confidence and your ability to finish that writing through editing and then to publish. You can do it – make today that first day in your writing journey, and let’s see where it can take you.

Photos courtesy of Unsplash

To Outline or Not to Outline That is the Question

If you are a writer of any longevity, whether the first book or the thirtieth, this is a question and argument you will come across. Yes, there are two main schools of thought on plotting out your entire book chapter by chapter, character profiles ad nauseam before starting the very first word on your new project. I applaud those who have this clear picture in their head of how the story is to go. When you spend the first two to ten thousand words of your inspiration on an outline, I find it is a slippery slope that may sometimes steal the inspiration later.

When is Outline Too Much

Again, this is one writer’s opinion, but a good outline should only be a highlighting endeavor. Main themes of chapters, character engagements, and what the chapter will do to move the story along. If the outline is longer than a chapter is intended to be – you did something wrong. Try to allow the organicness of storytelling to still come through even as you read and follow an outline is how I prefer to go about this process. Additionally, how much to outline will depend on the book’s length or piece being worked on. Novellas under say fifteen thousand possess much fewer outline details, but it must move the conflict, resolution along much faster than longer books where you need to carry a story for a lengthy bit of road and still engage readers.  

Series, of course, will require you to keep some form of an outline. You cannot retain characters, places, and events all in your head in a manner to work through three, four, or ten books of a continuing series. Again, basic facts and ensuring you can read and remember the outline points are critical. Try not to overdo this outline either, though, because what you will find is as you write, should things change, you now need to keep the main book and outline current. I am not of the school of thought to have cards, massive outlines, and huge character tables before starting the story. While it works for many, this process makes me feel like I’m at the therapist having to recall events, people and tell feelings, and at the end of the day – I didn’t write a word on my actual story!

The messiness of No Outline

I have ghostwritten several books where the outlines for a twenty thousand book, part of a series came to me and was eleven pages. Full details on how to write, what to write, conflict in the chapter, and even cliffhanger per chapter were provided. I hated those projects as I had no idea why the outliner didn’t just write the book themselves as they had a crystal clear picture of the story in their mind. On the other hand, the ones that tell you here are two-sentences on my idea and go; without any outline, you will have plot issues, sequencing, point of view changes, and other concerns, but that is where great editing can come in. I will say about fifty percent of my books started this way, and the other fifty outlined. Sometimes the chaos of no outline will cause a writer to lose the position where they are in the overall project, or the characters don’t stay true to the story.

You can tell from this I can make an argument for either side of the aisle. I can outline when a story needs the structure and is so clear I want to capture details. On the other hand, always leave enough room in the outline for organic storytelling to develop. Outlines, in my opinion, can choke the story and lead a writer down a path that maybe isn’t the best final destination. On the other hand, outlines will keep the characters, sequence, and other story elements fine-tuned and on task throughout. I think somewhere in the middle is where I would say is best. Ensure you have a firm understanding of the characters, motivations, and story you intend to tell, and then let your fingers walk across that keyboard putting all those amazing touches to the final product.

Photos courtesy of Pexels

Killing Your Main Character in a Romance? How Dare you!

I wrote a book called Discord, in which twin sisters were raised separately due to a horrifying situation at birth. While they can stay connected, it is with limited understanding of this connection. This book is about them finding their way to each other and earning the love they both deserve after so much heartache in their lives. I did end up killing one of the main characters despite this being a happily ever after romance – this got reactions from several readers. I would love to share some of the unique emails I got on this topic. I’ve heard repeatedly how you kill the main character in a contemporary romance and still manage a happily ever after ending.

Killing the Main Character – A Slippery Slope

Sure, this has been done in fantasy, suspense, and other genres, but rarely in romance. When I first outlined Discord, it was not to kill my sweet, earnest main character. Unfortunately, like life, the story took me to a place where everyone escaping without a scratch and living happily ever after was not feasible. Yes, with the paranormal twin connection, the ending could be crafted to deliver a happily ever after, but I clearly remember when it became evident that my main character would die. There was no other organic place to take the story, and yes, despite probably having to put a warning on the book about adult content – I was going there.

Writing is an art and, many times, mimics life. Life is messy, horrid, and often even in the most earnest of quests, we do not succeed in the manner we hoped. Readers escape into books for that happy ending they might not have attained in life. This does not mean that your stories always need to be syrupy, sweet without any obstacles, and that holds for romance. This would not be realistic or even give enough content to fill a reasonable story of in-depth details and backstory, obstacles, and joys when success is attained. As anyone that has turned on the news recently – bad news prevails everywhere. It is the main reason I write romance, with the endings, so many of us never get. So, how do you kill the main character but not immediately have readers slam down their kindles and not finish?
For me, I made the bad guy so horrible that taking him out was a positive. The fact that it had to be at this sweet girl’s hands the only obvious conclusion, and then still managed a tiny twist with the paranormal angle to tie it up. I have written fifteen books under my pen name since and ghostwritten forty, and Discord’s story is still one of my favorites. Realizing killing the main character comes with additional nuances that must be addressed. In romance, as they climax and ride into the sunset, such a book with such a tough emotional loss will require additional work to wrap it up and keep the readers from giving a one-star review.

Killing main characters in books, movies, and shows is a tricky business. Watchers of shows and readers of books invest in these stories for the characters and their like or hatred of them. Taking one of them out mid-story requires the writer to provide some wrap up still that feels like that was the only path that could have happened and still provide a semblance of ending that resonates with readers. Remember, resonating doesn’t always mean happily ever after; I always tell people – if you got an emotional reaction from a reader, you succeeded. Even the hate mail after Discord made me smile; it meant they got to the end of my book and felt enough to sit down and write me about it. That, for me, was a good day. Happy writing all!

Photo courtesy of Pexels

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