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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Leah Braemel

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I've come to the conclusion that life is NOT going to slow down any time soon. I spent a fabulous weekend in Indianapolis with my IRWA chapter mates at our Liliana Hart Event. We had a great turnout (about 160 attendees) and the program was fantastic! If you ever have the opportunity to attend one of Liliana's presentations, don't miss it!

This week, my awesome Canadian friend Leah Braemel is here to offer her sage advice to new writers. I couldn't agree more with number one on her list! And number six. And number nine. Number two gives me warm fuzzies. :) The rest of her advice is right on the mark too! Welcome, Leah, and thanks for visiting!

Thanks to Mellanie for inviting me today – I’ve skimmed back over old posts, and there is a lot of great advice here, so I don’t think I’m telling you anything new, but these are the points that I have taught to my own classes. To be honest, these are pieces of advice I have stuck up on notes around my desk because even after fourteen or so published stories, and countless unpublished ones that will never see the light of day, I still need to remember these points.

Things to keep in mind when writing:

1. The BEST piece of advice I first heard from Margaret Moore, but I’ve heard other authors repeat it since: Treat all writing advice like a buffet. When an author stands up (or blogs) and says “this is how you should write” what you should hear is “this is what works for them, it may or may not work for you.” It took me a couple of years to realize how wise Margaret’s advice was.

2. Don’t overload yourself with how-to-write workshops or books. When I first joined a major writing organization almost ten years ago, they and their affiliates offered dozens of workshops a month. I would take at least one craft course a month for almost the whole year. By the end of that year I found myself writing a paragraph, or a sentence, and then thinking “Oh, but Jane said …” so I’d delete the sentence and re-write it using Jane’s suggestions, only to think “Oh, but Mary said…” and so I’d delete that sentence and try to write it the way both Jane AND Mary suggested, and so on I went. Needless to say, I didn’t get much writing done for almost a year.

Does that mean I’m saying you shouldn’t read any craft books and shouldn’t take any courses? Heck no. My shelf is filled with them – I highly recommend Mellanie’s books, or another favorite of mine - Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. I also highly recommend Margie Lawson’s courses.

3. There are no “Rules of Writing.” Seriously. They’re more like pirates’ guidelines.

In fiction, you can use fragments. You can use one word sentences. You can end a sentence with a preposition. You can write first person point-of-view for two different characters in the same book. (Just not in the same scene please, that would be too confusing.) Yes, there are editors and agents who will not read a book that starts with a prologue, but that’s usually because most new authors don’t understand what a prologue is supposed to show. There are hundreds of new books published by New York every year that include prologues. You just have to know when a prologue is necessary and when it’s just an info-dump. So if someone tells you that you can never use the word “was” in your first paragraph/page/50 pages, etc., or that you absolutely must follow the (picture me dropping my voice into a horror movie announcer tone) *12 Rules of Writing*, feel free to thumb your nose at them and show them the door.

4. You write the book, not your computer software: Don’t get stuck in the loop that if you just find the perfect writing software you’ll be able to finish your book. Sorry to disappoint you but even if you have great programs such as Scrivener or WriteWay Pro (and hey, Word’s not so bad either), you still have to sit your butt in the chair and write the darn book. The software is simply a tool to help you achieve it – it’s up to you to actually put the words on the page.

5. It helps to have a good chef teach you to cook, but there can be too many cooks in a kitchen. There are those (and I used to be—and still am—one of the advocates) who insist you have to have a couple good critique partners go over your work before submitting it. It’s a good idea, especially for new writers. But you also need to be aware the wrong critique partners can destroy your self-confidence until you don’t trust yourself anymore, and worse, they can try to change your voice or teach you bad habits. The key is learning the difference between a good critique partner and a bad one—oh boy that’s a delicate balance because someone who is good for one author might be a bad critique partner for another. Finding a good critique partner is like dating—you have to try each other out, get to know each other’s styles, and it’s okay to say “no, this isn’t a good fit” and move on.

6. Be aware that what works for you now, may not work for you 2 years from now, or vice versa. If something’s not working for you, don’t be afraid to try something new.

7. If you’re struggling writing a scene in third person, try writing it in first person, and then if your genre or your readers insist they only read third person, when the scene is done, you can edit it back to third.

If you normally sit at your desk, try sitting at the dining room table, or at a coffee shop, or the side of a river. If you normally write on a laptop, try writing on your tablet, try dictating into a voice recorder, or go old-school and hand-write your scene. You’d be surprised how a simple change can unclog your creativity and get you back on track.

8. Edits—they hurt so good. I once heard an author say how whenever they got their edits back from their editor, they pushed their chair back from their keyboard as far as they could get, closed one eye, squinted with the other, and very gingerly pressed the key to open the doc. I find myself reacting the same way most times. (Although usually my editor will tell me in the accompany email whether she liked it or not.) But – and this is a key point new writers need to remember—as much as it hurts to read an editor’s notes that tell you your writing isn’t perfect, you need to learn to listen to what they’re saying. You need to be able to take a step back and say “why are they saying that?” As the author you know what you meant, but maybe you weren’t clear enough so the reader is left confused. The editor is telling you the readers’ side, and that’s something that should be very important to you. Yes, there are times the editor and you may disagree. It happens on occasion. But don’t automatically dismiss their comments either. Their name goes on that book (even for my self pubbed books, I include the name of the editor in the front pages) and they are being judged by your work too. So open that edited doc, read through their comments, then close the doc and walk away for a day. Or two. That space and time will give you a new perspective.

Oh and about those edits? Yes, you really do need to hire a professional editor – unless your mom or your sister is a professional editor, please don’t think them reading your work is a pass straight to self-publishing and rave reviews. Sure it might happen, but seriously, go out and find yourself a freelance editor to edit your work so it’s the best it can be. Read their comments and listen to them, (most authors I know let them sit for a day or two to allow them to digest) and then EDIT your work again, and then hire a proofreader, and turn out the best possible story you can.

9. Straight from Nora Roberts herself – “You can’t edit a blank page.” And added to by me, “you can’t publish a blank page. So if your goal is to be published, you’d better finish that book.”

Bio:
Leah is the only woman in a houseful of males that includes her college-sweetheart husband, two sons, a Shih Tzu named Seamus, and Turtle the cat. She loves escaping the ever-multiplying dust bunnies by opening up her laptop to write about sexy heroes and the women who challenge them.

Reviewers have awarded Leah's books numerous Top Pick and Recommended Reads designations as well as nominated them as Best Contemporary Romance, Best Erotic Romance, and Best Ménage à Trois or More. Leah has also been nominated as Favorite Author and Best Erotic Romance Author.

Look for FEEDING THE FLAMES, book 1 in the Flirting with Fire series, along with the Grady Legacy series from Carina Press.

Follow Leah on Facebook, Tsu, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr and Goodreads. You can also follow Leah on her Amazon Author page or chat with her and other fans on her Facebook Reader group.

Website: http://leahbraemel.com
Blog: http://leahbraemel.com/blog

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from A.D. Ellis

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I'm back with another guest--after a week of "life" taking all my time! Between finishing IGO entry judging and trying to catch up with my garden (two bushels of tomatoes in the last week and a half among other assorted vegetables), something had to give. The good news? I'm caught up and writing again!

The fantastic A.D. Ellis has a great post for you today about something I really need to improve on (or clone myself)!

Focus. Focus is the key.

Well, focus is something I have to work into this this whole independent author journey.

Hi! I’m A.D. Ellis, author of A Torey Hope Novel Series and Torey Hope: The Later Years. I started writing in October of 2013 and published in April of 2014. At the time of writing this post, I have six books published with two more scheduled to finish out the second series.

I wish I could tell you that I got all of this done because I was focused. But that’s not what this article is about. I’m a mother, a wife, a teacher, and an author. I am the queen of multi-tasking and I think that’s why I’m able to get a lot done. I focus and give my best to all I do, but I have to work on several things at once. If I was not being a mom and a teacher and a wife, maybe I wouldn’t have to multi-task. But not doing those other things isn’t a choice, so I multitask.

This post is going to multi-task. It’s going to focus on a few of my biggest tips for success. They are in no order, they don’t require 100% focus (although, you WILL have to put forth effort and do your best), and they can be done along with several other things all at once.

Engage with your readers: Ask their opinions. Invite them to send you their thoughts and feelings on your work. Open yourself up to their comments and questions. One of the very best parts of being an author is getting to meet and interact with my readers.

A side note: DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT engage negatively with readers. EVER. Not on review sites, not in emails, not on social media. Keep it positive. It never turns out well and you’re trying to build your name up and reach readers; you don’t need to get a bad reputation.

A side note on my side note: Just because you publish and are (hopefully, but very honestly likely not) a huge overnight success, this does not give you the right to start slamming others and expecting that every single reader will love your book. Stay humble.

Back to engaging with your readers…they are the most important people in this whole thing. Readers leave reviews, readers tell their friends, readers buy more of your books. Treat them right.

Research to get it right: If you’re going to take the time to write and publish a book, take the time to get the details right. My first couple books had some topics I knew a lot about from my years as an educator; no research needed there. But, there were some topics on addiction and recovery that I wasn’t familiar with. Sure, I knew what I saw on television and movies, but I wanted to get it right; I talked to addiction and recovery therapists to get their insight.

I don’t have a medical background other than watching ER years ago. In my fourth book, there were medical scenes and I wanted them spot-on. I spoke to paramedics and nurses. There were some scenes involving police and laws, so I spoke to people in the law enforcement field.

In my two newest releases, I needed background/input on construction and the point-of-view of a gay man. So, what did I do? I talked to those in construction and I had a blast talking to families of gay men and gay men themselves.

What if you don’t know nurses, paramedics, police officers, gay men, therapists? JUST ASK! I promise, if you’re on social media and you put out a plea for information, you’ll get at least a couple people willing and able to help.

Open yourself up to critique: This is very hard. When you first write your book, it’s your baby and you don’t want anyone saying anything bad about your baby. But no one is perfect and everyone can improve on something. It’s hard at first, but toughen up, admit that there are things you can strengthen, and accept constructive criticism.

Another side note: There will be tons of reviews where the criticism is anything but constructive. Dry your tears, punch a pillow, laugh with some author friends, see if you can find anything helpful in it, and then MOVE ON. If you have the urge to reply to the review or call the reviewer out on social media or gripe about the low review to your readers/followers, please refer back to my previous side note about NEVER, EVER engaging with readers in a negative way. Just don’t.

Find a group that understands and supports you: The indie author community is one of the most welcoming and helpful groups of people around, except when it isn’t. And it isn’t open and supportive quite a lot lately. It’s a saturated market, especially the romance genre, and everyone is trying to get a piece of the pie.

That said, there are some great people out there. Sit back and watch; buddy up with people who seem to be like you; ask questions; stay out of any and all drama. You will soon find one or two people who you click with and they “get” what you’re going through because they are in the same boat.

Unless you have personal friends or family who are independent authors, they probably won’t “get” the emotions and effort and struggles and frustrations you’re going to deal with. Having author buddies is a tremendous help.

Remember when I said don’t respond to negative reviews? Well, if you’ve got those one or two close author friends, you can vent to them. They’ll understand because they probably have a bad review as well. Do it secretly; cry, cuss, vent; move on.

While on the subject of groups, get a group of beta readers. Beta readers read your work before it’s ready to publish. Authors do it differently; some send it chapter by chapter, some in bigger chunks, some when it’s completely finished. Betas read your work for errors, holes in the plot, things they like/don’t like, places where things don’t make sense, etc. They aren’t necessarily editors, but they have proven invaluable to me. When I’m doubting my work (and if you’re a writer, you know how we all sometimes doubt our work), I will send it to my betas and they give me feedback that lets me know I’m on track or helps me get back on track.

Keep writing: You wrote one book. People loved it. They want more. You can’t give them more if you’re not writing, writing, writing. If readers decide they like your work, they will voraciously want to read more. Be sure you have more to give them. That doesn’t mean rush through your work and offer up less-than-your-best; it just means don’t sit around waiting for that one book to make you a star. The more you write, the more you publish, the more readers you reach.

My final note (wow, I got a bit wordy, huh?) is this: Don’t give up. You will have bad days, you will have good days, and then there will be more bad days. If you truly aren’t feeling it, reassess and see if it’s what you want to do. But don’t reassess on a bad day. Wait until you’re between the good and the bad days. More than likely, you’ll realize that being a published author is just too much fun (and hard work, and sweat, and tears, and frustrations, and…) and you’ll decide to keep telling your stories. Because, in the end, that’s what it’s all about. Getting those stories out of our heads and onto paper so they can be shared with readers.

Bio:
A.D. Ellis is the author of two contemporary romance series, A Torey Hope Novel Series and Torey Hope: The Later Years. Her 2014 debut novel, For Nicky, was voted #3 of the Top 50 Indie Books of 2014 by ReadFree.ly readers/voters. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Indiana Romance Writers of America.

A.D. was born and raised in a small farming town in southern Indiana. An avid reader from the time she learned to read, A.D. could often be found curled up somewhere with her nose in a book. Most of her friends and family were not such book enthusiasts, so she got used to dealing with snickers and joking comments about her constant reading habits.

A.D. always dreamed of being a teacher. Graduating from Indiana State University in 1999 and earning a Master’s Degree from Indiana Wesleyan in 2003, she met her goal of entering the world of education. A.D. has been teaching in the inner city of Indianapolis, Indiana for 16 years; most of her years of experience have been in 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade. A.D. loves teaching fractions, variables, probability, and graphing in Math. She loves almost all aspects of English Language Arts. Figurative language, theme, making predictions, drawing conclusions, inference, context clues, making writing come to life, A.D. loves it all! Her students don’t always share in that enthusiasm.

Ms. Ellis met her husband in college in 1996 and they married in June of 2000. She lives in a south side suburb of Indianapolis, Indiana with her husband, two school-aged children, and a hyperactive Yorkie named Snickers. When she’s not reading or writing with music blaring, she can be found shopping at thrift stores, reading to her children, and sweating at the gym.

A.D. began her writing journey in October 2013; she is grateful for the friends and support she’s found along the way.
Please connect with A.D. Ellis on Facebook. www.facebook.com/adellisauthor
Find A.D.’s author page on Amazon at www.amazon.com/author/adellis

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!