Showing posts with label advice from writers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label advice from writers. Show all posts

Oct 21, 2020

What Are You Working on Now?


 Many writers will agree that the Corona virus has been horrible but also helpful. Afraid to go out, unable to do what we once did, what can we do besides write? Since the virus hit big-time, I've published two books (one as Maggie Pill, one as myself) and worked on one that's been a couple of years in the works and is now with the copy editor for its final corrections. Hoping that will come out before the end of the year,  I teased you with the cover above.

The downside to Corona for me is mental. With that and other national concerns, I've had trouble concentrating for any length of time, which means my work gets done in fits and starts. When I stop each day, I feel like the work is disjointed, but when I go back the next day and start reading, it's not. It's one of those, "it's not you, it's me" things. I'm writing the same as usual, but stress makes me feel like things aren't right.

And what am I writing? A book called THE CUTEST LITTLE KILLER. It begins when a private investigator is visited by two children who want their guardian dead. They're offering a very large sum of money to someone who'll take care of that for them.

Don't you love that? I do, but now comes the work. I know of authors who say they write a story once and that's it. I can't believe that's possible, but I won't call anyone a liar. I'll just say that for me, it takes many times through a MS to see what's needed and add it in. I start with a "backbone," the story itself, a plot that keeps the reader interested, holds together, and completes the story arc. Once that's done (on a rudimentary level), I know the characters better, so I go back and build them into the story with depth and background. In this story, readers are supposed to like the kids despite some oddities they exhibit, plus I have to make it acceptable for the reader to root for the success of aspiring killers.

Once I have the backbone and have fleshed out both plot and character, I go through a few more times, adding setting detail, figurative language, little jokes, red herrings, and minor characters. All those things should shine by the time the story is ready, but they aren't apparent to me until I have the main story taken care of. This is when I listen to the computer read my words aloud. It's also where I give a copy to my first reader (for whom I feel sorry, because she never gets to read the final, pretty version). At this stage I'm looking for plot holes, repetition, spots where the wording could be better, or a place for a minor additions that will make the whole thing more intriguing. When I'm done, the work is complete, with a stable structure and attractive additions.

Now it's ready for the editors to pick at, after which I'll read again and change what needs to be changed.

You'll probably read my book once. I've read it around fifty times.

Oct 26, 2015

Plain Talk for Writers: It Takes Longer than You Think


What takes longer, you ask?
Everything.
It takes longer to sell a book than you'd like.
It takes longer to produce a book than you estimate.
It takes longer to become a familiar name to readers than you expected.
It takes longer to to keep up with promotion than you ever imagined.

Let's look at those one by one.

Sell the book. Five years is the estimated average time it takes a writer to find a publisher. If you're hoping for a big publisher, it could be even more. Yes, I know you read about an author who hit it big with her first book. Hooray for her, but most of us don't have that experience. We just don't talk about it because the average reader thinks if a book is "good enough," it's going to get published.
Yeah, right.

Produce the book. Once your book is accepted by a publisher, you're on their timeline. You can tell all your friends about it, but they're likely to have to wait more than a year to see the book in print. My publisher puts each manuscript they receive into a queue, and the publication date will always more than a year away due to the process: editing, re-editing, cover designing, formatting, submitting for review, and copy-editing. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
If you self-publish you're responsible for all that, and while that's beneficial in some ways, it's a lot more work--more time spent not writing.

Become a familiar name. Try this one: Who are Adam Johnson, Nathan Englander, and Eowyn Ivey?
They were the top three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2013 (Johnson won it). If we don't take note of these authors' names, why would we recall the author of the murder mystery we read last week?

Keep up with promotion. Here's what I've done so far this morning: I checked my emails for both Peg and Maggie, answering some, deleting a lot, and sending out codes for one of Maggie's audio books. Then I sent a guest blog post to a fellow author who will use it on November 3rd. I wrote it yesterday, so today I proofed it, added links, photos, and a bio. Monday is blog day for me and Maggie. In addition, each day I try to follow some of the advice authors are given: tweet interesting things, post on FB, send a newsletter to those who opt in to learn what I'm up to. I set up my own book signings and talks, although people are finally starting to ask me to speak rather than me asking them. I'm also preparing for Magna Cum Murder this weekend, which meant answering the panel moderators' questions so they know what to ask about when I get there. In the back of my mind I'm searching for something cool to give away there (It's in Indianapolis) to make people take note of my work in the mash of authors who'll be there trying to do the same thing. (One author gave everyone in the room ten dollars. Impressive, but honestly, I didn't buy her book with it and I don't recall her name!)

The point is there's always something I could be doing to "make it" as an author, and a lot of it isn't writing books.

I'm not complaining. I love everything I do that connects to writing, and I would never discourage anyone from doing it. It's just that it's always a surprise to me when I think, "I can have that book out by the end of the year." ...It's almost the end of October, and I'm not even close.


Sep 10, 2014

Writers Are Nice People

Newcomers to writing often comment on how nice everyone is. Writers give each other advice. We share successes and failures. We explain the piece we're presently working on (sometimes in too much detail) with little thought that someone will "steal" our ideas. (You can try, but it will still be a ton of work for you.)
In a field where every new book adds to the dizzying amount of competing works, one might think that writers would hide their secrets, keep the means of success to themselves when (if) they stumble on it, and perhaps even mislead naive newbies in order to send them in the wrong direction.
That doesn't happen. Maybe because of how difficult it is to get published, most writers feel an empathy with others that causes them to ignore the prospective competition and give advice that's as helpful as possible.
Have a question for an author? Just ask. It's likely she will share what she knows (unless she has a deadline looming). Why are we so nice? Why don't we care that you might write a blockbuster novel and someday draw readers away from us?
For one thing, misery loves company. It's difficult, sometimes it seems impossible, to find success in writing. Writers share their experiences as a form of catharsis. Besides, my advice to you isn't likely to magically turn you into a writing success. No matter how many secrets I divulge, you still have to do the work, and it's not going to be easy. (If writing feels easy, you're probably doing it wrong.)
There isn't any "right" way to write, and there isn't any "right" way to get published. I can't tell you how it will happen for you or when or how much success you'll have. I can only tell you what I know, and that changes almost daily.

It's Getting Close!

  You might think "Christmas!" when you read that headline, but for me it's the release of SISTER SAINT, SISTER SINNER on Dece...