Category Archives: Blog

On Finding the Right Writing Partner

By Colleen Oakes

Confession: I’ve never liked writing a book without a writing partner. I’ve written one, and although the book is a source of pride for me, it was a lonely enterprise and not one I’m likely to repeat.  I know it’s possible to write alone – in fact, it’s pop-culture vision of the ideal writer: a man – usually – sits alone in a narrow room that looks out onto a snowy, wintery landscape.  He has a pipe in his mouth, a pen in his hand. The room is cluttered with books and papers, and it all looks so cozy and intellectual, the perfect combination of genius and isolation.   In this business, we tend to cling desperately to the idea that a true writer writes alone, and yet I have found that only in a good writing partner can I reach my full potential as a creative writer.

My first writing partner’s name was Emily.  We decided on New Year’s Eve that we would both write books in the next year and with just a few months over our desired deadline, we did.  Writing with her was incredible. She had the best way of weaving her words and her thoughts deep into my characters. She understood what my characters should and should not do. She was brutally honest when she needed to be, the best beta reader a writer could ever have.  We had the best time writing together.  Likewise, I was the same for her novel, a beautiful musical sigh of a novel called Serenade.

Yes you can

Then Emily moved to North Carolina, and my writer’s heart broke.  I could write without her, but it wasn’t the same.  It wasn’t the same level of coordination,  feedback and understanding. Mostly, it just wasn’t as fun.  I miss her every day, but we stay in close touch as good friends. However, the distance makes it almost impossible to be the same level of writing partners that we once were.

Enter Mason, stage right.  Mason was so different than Emily. Emily and I are both women. We were very close friends before we ever started writing our novels.  Our books were about women, for women. We have a lot of feelings.  Mason, on the other hand, is a dude.  His character is a dude. He is a Sci-Fi writer. He loves tech and plasma guns and biology and astronomy and a million other things that I don’t understand in the least.   And yet…he is also the perfect writing partner.  Our conversations are hilarious and sometimes very harsh; one promise we made to each other early on is that we are always, always honest. Even when it hurts. Always supportive, always honest.  He’s pointed out while I write Wendy Darling that I didn’t give much thought to the dynamics of flight.  (I hadn’t.)  My characters need voice work. He hates my mountain range.  I dislike reading tech-y descriptions and could care less about Magnetic Reactors. His main character arc needs work. We throw these missiles at each other, but instead of exploding, we take them in and use the fire to hone our pens, to make our gifts sharper and better.  We grow together as writers. I’ll take someone harsh but helpful over kind but useless any day.

If I could impart any advice to new writers, it’s this: find a writing partner. You might need to go through a few before finding the right one, but it’s worth the struggle. Don’t be that solitary writer scribbling out mad genius on the corners of his cell. That guy isn’t real most of the time. Writing can be dreadfully lonely when you only have characters in your mind to keep you company. Find the person who raises you above your own art.

This.

Some tips to finding the perfect writing partner:

1. Make sure you have a similar pace of writing. If it takes one writer two years to write a book and the other a mere three months, it might not be a great partnership. (James Patterson and George R.R Martin would probably not work out.)

2. Writing different genres does not matter, but are you the same level as talent? When you speak to them, do you feel on equal footing?

3. Ask these questions: Are they responsible with your work? Are they responsive? Is their advice helpful? Are they able to find the honest flaws in your writing or are they just trying to make themselves feel better by criticizing?

4. Finally: do you like them? As a person, do you like them? Because there will be times when you feel like a failure. When the publishing industry will spit you out and they will be there to pick you up.  You should like that person now, because you will need them later.

Once you find the right writing partner, make sure you do your part to keep the relationship humming.  It takes work, just like any relationship, and you can’t let it fall to waste.

The perfect writing partner is a gift, and it’s a gift you, as a writer, should choose give yourself.

Free Your Writing Soul, and Write Better as a Result

By Tina Ann Forkner

My debut novel released in 2008 from a legacy publisher. Sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it? And it was, for a while. When my next novel came out in 2009, it looked to some people like I was on the publishing journey every aspiring writer wanted. When 2010 came and went and I didn’t have a contract, I didn’t worry too much. I was tired, and besides, plenty of writers have gone a few years between books and it didn’t hurt their careers. Maybe 2011 would be my year, but that year came and went too.

Forkner_Waking Up Joy2012 and 2013 were years of several near misses, a few promising projects that fell through before a contract could ever be signed, and several all-out rejections. And now here we are in 2014 and Waking Up Joy has finally released. Yes, that’s five years from my last book, people. Five. So why did it take so long?

The answer is complex, but soon after my second novel was published, the book world was doing somersaults in the midst of huge economic and technological change. Somewhere in the middle of all the publishing craziness when my early novels were releasing, I lost sight of what mattered most. With publishers’ budgets shrinking, I needed to work harder to let people know about my books and it was no longer about writing.

All the pressure made me feel as if blog posts, tweets, and status updates were the keys to selling my books, and I didn’t like it. I felt as if I were toting a box of my books around on my back hollering to anyone who might be listening, “Here, buy my book! PLEASE!” I felt pathetic. I felt fake. I felt like a fraud, but I did it because a lot of people had invested time in my book. I wanted to be a good author, but when multi-published authors like myself were no longer guaranteed publishing contracts, I felt discarded and hurt by the industry. Not knowing when publication would come again, I asked myself why I was still busting my backside for no pay while I had bills to pay and my family stood outside my office door asking if I could come out and play.

I wanted to play again, so I decided to stop taking the pursuit of publication so personally, and I slowed down. Fortunately, I had a great agent who believed in the book I was writing and I knew he would continue to shop my proposals. In the meantime, I had three beautiful kids I’d shown off at both of my book launch parties who were growing up faster than the book industry was changing, and I decided to focus on what meant the most to me. I wrote, of course, but I did so at my own pace. I kept a half-hearted online presence, just in case I ever got published again, but overall, I laid low. Let me tell you, scaling back for a while was the best decision I ever made.

Slowing down might sound like a career killer to some writers, and sometimes I wondered if it would be, but I was willing to risk it for my own sanity, and for my family. It’s not as if I didn’t write during the breaks I took (I took more than one). I did, but on the days I opened my manuscript to revise and fine tune my story, I wrote slower and better. Sometimes, I didn’t write novels at all, and those were the times I gave to my family, to myself, and to my soul. I also went back to work, which I highly recommend for all writers. It’s good to get away from your desk to be around human beings, and I don’t have to tell any of you, there’s nothing like getting paid.

So, if you’re reading this and you know for a fact you don’t need a break, then that’s great. We are all on a different mile of this writing journey. But if you think you’re burning out and publication has become more important than the beautiful act of writing, or worse, more important than your personal well-being, then you might consider scaling back. Personally, it has worked for me.

It’s funny how when I slowed down and focused on the act of writing instead of on the frenzy of publication, the writing flow came back. Now that I’m releasing a new book, I’m back in the race, so to speak, but this time it’s not really a race, and I’m ready.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tina Ann ForknerTina Ann Forkner is a Women’s Fiction writer and the author of the new novel Waking Up Joy from Tule Publishing Group. She is also the author of Rose House and Ruby Among Us from Random House. Tina’s new book is set in Oklahoma where she was raised, but she makes her home in Cheyenne, Wyoming where she is a substitute teacher and lives with her husband, three teenagers, and two spoiled dogs.

Learn more about Tina and her novels at her website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Memories and Milestones

By Pamela Nowak

Memories are precious things. I’ve known that for most of my life but was struck anew at just how priceless they are when helping pack up my mom’s household items as she moved to a much smaller residence last month. We came across box after box of old photos, school projects, handmade cards, and baby items. As we went through them, the past came flooding back, bringing smiles and tears.

Our writing20141014_151926 life, too, is filled with memories and milestones.

Several years ago, just after I was offered my first book contract, a fellow writer offered this advice: make a scrapbook—you will want to remember the emotions you felt during this journey.

It made sense because they were really great emotions!

I began packing things away in a plastic tote, deciding to 20141014_152021chronicle the whole journey. I pulled out my files of rejection letters, my contest entries with score sheets and comments, even old critique group comments. I’d saved them all, pat-rack that I am. Here was my chance to put them to use. I added in print-outs from emails…the offer, the negotiation20141014_152218s, the contract. I added congratulatory notes from friends, announcements I’d made on list-serve groups, cards and letters. I included pages from internet sites: my website, blogs I was invited to participate in, review sites. Added in were photos, reviews, news clippings, announcements of signing events, and other remembrances.20141014_152628

Purchasing scrapbooks, I sought background pages to reflect writing, romance, and dreams. I did the same with stickers and 3-D accents. In the end, I created several scrapbook volumes chronicling my writing journey.

Every now and then, I pull them 20141014_152743out and relive the moments of struggle and reward. Like my mom’s boxes, they are full of smiles and tears—exquisite, treasured pieces of the past. They reflect accomplishment and provide a sense of renewed commitment as I step toward the next phases in my journey.

Consider the idea of creating your own scrapbooks. Even if you don’t have a creative bent in that direction, keep the memories together in one spot. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy—just a collection of milestones to reflect upon and set your course for what’s to come.

The Legal Side of Anthologies (Part 1)

By Susan Spann

Anthologies offer a great opportunity for authors to publish creative works and find new readers. Some anthologies feature works by authors from a specific group (for example, RMFW’s own CROSSING COLFAX, which contains short stories from members of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers organization), while others have open submissions on a specified topic, like horror or science fiction. Still others feature a publisher’s in-house authors, or a group of authors who come together to write about a topic of mutual interest (such as A DAY OF FIRE, a novel in six parts, about Pompeii and the eruption of Vesuvius).

In short: the options are almost limitless.

Anthologies lend themselves equally well to traditional publication and self-publishing, and can help new or lesser-known authors achieve much broader exposure, due to shared marketing efforts and the ability to “cross pollinate” from other authors’ existing readership.

But I’m a lawyer, so you know there must be a fly in this ointment somewhere.

Handled properly, anthologies have many benefits and relatively few drawbacks (aside from those common to publishing as a whole). However, it’s important to ensure–before you submit– that the anthology you’re considering provides both you and your work with proper protection and consideration of your legal rights.

In the months to come, we’ll break down the legal issues surrounding anthologies here on the RMFW blog. Today, we’ll take an overview look at the biggest legal traps and pitfalls present in anthology publication.

1. Contract, Contract, Contract.

Never publish your work in any anthology that doesn’t have a professional, written publishing contract. Never. No exceptions. No ifs, ands, or buts. NO.

The contract needs to contain the same type of language, and address the same issues, as any traditional publishing contract (plus some special terms applicable only to anthologies) – even in the case of self-published anthologies. Why? Because you’re allowing someone else (the anthology publisher) the right to publish your work. The terms upon which that publication happens must be spelled out clearly in a written contract, so both you and the publisher (whoever that is!) have a written reference and foundation for publication.

2. Don’t Sign Away Your Copyright.

Anthology publishers need only a limited license to publish the work as part of the anthology. Anthology publishers do NOT need copyright ownership of the individual works. While authors have the right to transfer copyright to the anthology publisher, that eliminates the author’s right to use and publish the work in other contexts later on. My law school contracts professor taught us that “you can make as good a deal…or as bad a deal…as you are able,” but why make a bad deal about your writing?

Anthologies are plentiful, and most of them do not take the author’s copyright. The decision is yours to make, but I strongly recommend you refuse to submit to any anthology that tries to take the copyright in your work.

Note: the anthology contract probably will contain language stating that the publisher owns the copyright on the anthology as a collective work. This is different from owning the copyright on your story. Copyright on the collective work means the right to publish the anthology itself, as a collection consisting of all of the stories within it — and that copyright exists to ensure that no one else can copy and sell the anthology as a whole without permission. If you can’t tell what your contract says in this regard, be sure to get an opinion from an experienced copyright attorney before you sign.

3. Show Me the Money (and Where it’s Going).

Sometimes the participating authors get a share of royalties on anthology sales. Other times the proceeds go to the organization sponsoring the publication, to charity, or to someone else entirely. Make sure you know, and evaluate, where the money is going before you agree to participate.

4. Consider the Source.

All publications are not created equal. Some anthologies carry more cachet (and sell more copies) than others. Evaluate the publisher, group affiliations, and other aspects of the anthology before you submit, and  publish only with groups that you want your name affiliated with.

5. Stand and Deliver – on Time.

Anthologies have deadlines, like any other publication. Don’t submit your story late, or unfinished, or in non-publishable condition … and if you do, prepare to accept the consequences.

6. Ask About Purchase and Marketing Requirements.

Some anthologies require participating authors to purchase a specified number of copies of the finished work and/or to participate in specific marketing efforts. (Note: no matter what the requirements are, be prepared to help market the anthology when it releases. It’s rude to expect someone else to do all the work.) Know what your obligations are beforehand, so you don’t have rude surprises down the line. 

In the months to come, my #PubLaw posts here at the RMFW blog will look in-depth at these and other anthology-related issues, including those sneaky contract provisions specific to anthologies. Have questions I haven’t answered? Feel free to ask in the comments, and I’ll work them into future posts!  

Susan Spann is a California transactional attorney whose practice focuses on publishing law and business. She also writes the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. The second Shinobi Mystery, BLADE OF THE SAMURAI, released on July 15, 2014. When not writing or practicing law, Susan raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium.You can find her online at her website (http://www.SusanSpann.com), on Facebook and on Twitter (@SusanSpann).

Kickstart This: Six Lessons Learned

By Kerry Schafer

Recently I ventured into completely uncharted territory for me – a Kickstarter campaign for the purpose of producing a quality Indie book. When I say recently I mean so recently that the sweat from my shaking fingers hasn’t yet dried on the launch button. I can’t set myself up as a success story if we judge success by how well the Kickstarter does in the long run. But I have managed to get as far as Launch, so I thought I’d share some lessons learned from that part of the process.

Whether you’re an Indie writer or a Hybrid writer who might someday want to try a Kickstarter, or just somebody who is interested, here are six things I’ve learned about Kickstarters in the last few weeks.

1) What IS a Kickstarter Anyway? I’ve sort of passively wondered about this for awhile. I knew they existed and involved money and crowd sourcing, but that was the extent of my knowledge. Basically, Kickstarter.com provides a place for creative types to present a business proposal for a creative project. Backers commit to supporting the project at varying financial levels but no money exchanges hands unless and until the project is fully funded. In exchange for their support, backers are rewarded in the form of some item directly connected to the project. For writers these rewards often take the form of books, contact with the writer over Skype or phone or coffee, input into the story, a chance to name a character, and so on.

2) Successful Projects Start with a Video, or at least so says the Kickstarter website. It’s possible they have sadistic people working there and just like to see introverted creative types squirm like a worm on a hook. Or maybe their claim that potential backers want to see and hear from the project creator is valid. Whatever the truth of the matter, if you find yourself in this situation rely on the kindness of friends. You’ll be amazed at what they will do for you in terms of support, editing, advice, and even possibly appearing in your video.

3) You’ll Need to Do Math. You may think I’m kidding, but this is true. People who are considering backing a project want to see a reasonably detailed budget. How much have you allocated for various expenses? Does it all add up to what you’ve set for your goal? Have you considered the costs of the rewards you’ve promised? Oh, and don’t forget the 5% Kickstarter claims if the project funds. Backers want to be sure you’ll be able to deliver on the promised goods.

4) It’s Scary and Exciting. Putting yourself and your beloved project out there – whether it’s a book, or a CD, or something you’re building – pulls out all the emotional stops. There’s the excitement of a whole new adventure, combined with the fear that nobody – not even your best friend and your mother – will back your project. Not funding could be ego crushing, especially when you consider that the Potato Salad Guy made, like, millions. On the other hand, having people back your project is like an unexpected visit from your fairy godmother.

5) It’s Business. At the end of the day, what you’re really doing is asking people, some of them total strangers, to support a business proposition. So it’s not really about you and whether people like you or not. That said, it is important to present as trustworthy and reputable. You don’t want to look so dodgy they think you’re going to take the funds and run off to become the next evil overlord of Gotham. The advice I was given is to be as transparent as possible and present your plan and your goals clearly.

6) You’ll Need Help. This is one of those things you can’t do on your own. You’ll need people to talk you down from the trees and people to give you a motivational kick in the pants. You’ll need eyes on your proposal to see what you’ve missed. You’ll need voices to help get the word out after you hit the launch button. The good news it that writer types are the most generous people on the face of the planet. Ask your people. They will be there for you.

 

Publishing, The Avenue of Broken Dreams: Getting Back to the Basics

By J.A. (Julie) Kazimer

Being an author is awesome.

That being said, it can also be humbling as hell. I learned this very lesson this past week. I was wearing a smile from ear to ear after receiving a royalty check for The Assassin’s Heart. Then WHAM! I taught a class at the Thornton Recreation Center on Saturday, and once again realized the truth.

Being an author is hard. (Yes, please cue the world’s tiniest violin music).

The people in the class were great. Don’t get me wrong. I love writers in all shapes, sizes, ages, genres and point in their journey. Teaching workshops is one of the things I like best other than the actual writing part of being an author (okay, I hate the writing part but I love, love, love the have written part). These students were interested and excited to learn about publishing…

Then I started speaking…

And their excitement started to wane. Their eyes grew watery with unshed dreams of author riches. And I knew I’d just destroy a roomful of peoples’ publishing dreams.

Crap.

Had I been in the business too long to remember what it was like to dream of cross the country (paid for by your publisher) book tours like those Richard Castle has? Had the glow of seeing my first book in a bookstore dimmed? Had I lost my innocent edge (For those of you who know me, no commentary on my innocence or lack thereof)?

I’d broken hearts. And I had no way to mend them.

Because, as anyone reading this blog knows, publishing is hard. Really hard. There is no easy answers. No right way. No magic beans. Hell, writing your first book is the easy part. It’s what happens in the trenches after typing the final word that makes or breaks a writer.

So yes, I crushed many dreams this weekend, and I feel bad for doing so.
I can only offer this to those hearts I’d broken.

Writing is worth it. Telling your unique story is inherently valuable (just maybe not in tons of cash money and world renowned fame or maybe it is? Who am I to say?).

I think everyone should write, whether they should publish is a different question. One you must answer for yourself after you receive your first, tenth, fifth, hundredth, and in my case thousandth rejection.

It’s not about how you start your publishing journey, but in how you live it daily.

And for me, right now, I’m going back to basics. To being excited when I type the end. To feeling the terror of a new release. To sharing with my readers my excitement for storytelling. And seeing the writerly possibilities in each day.

How about you? What does back to basics mean for you as a writer? How’s your publishing view?

www.jakazimer.com
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Guest Post: Daven Anderson “I survived Colorado Gold, and you can, too!”

By Daven Anderson

As we find ourselves enjoying another lovely fall season in colorful Colorado, some of you reading this may be lamenting that the only “Colorado Gold” you won last month were the fallen leaves you raked from your backyard.

You didn’t win. You didn’t final. Agents aren’t camping out in your backyard, contracts in hand.

Fear not, my literary friends, for I am here to tell you that you have not reached the end of your story.

Quite the opposite, in fact. You have reached the beginning.

The true prize from the Colorado Gold is not to win or final, but to learn. To learn to listen objectively, instead of taking constructive criticism personally. To learn that professional writing is a journey of the soul, not just a process. And to learn that the true skill a professional writer must demonstrate, on a daily basis, is perseverance. The best writer in the world is equal to the worst writer in the world, when both are writing nothing.

I still apply the many lessons I learned from my three-year Colorado Gold odyssey. One of which is that the qualities which make your odyssey personal are the oddities no one else can ever gain insight from. The criticisms you received are unique to you, your work, and the judges’ mood the evening they read your entry.

Some of you may choose not to re-enter a particular work in future years if it did not win or final in Colorado Gold. But those who can persevere, and learn from the criticisms, can make their work much stronger than it was before.

I entered the same novel in Colorado Gold three years in a row, 2010, 2011 and 2012. The latter two entries incorporated many hard-won revisions, in line with the insightful criticisms I received for my previous entries.

Re-reading my 2010 entry filled me with the urge to put a bag over my head. I am frankly shocked it scored as well as it did. After the 2010 contest, I was filled with the motivation to hone my skills.

In 2011, I entered Colorado Gold flush with confidence, knowing that my entry’s prose had improved a seeming ten-fold, compared to the foppish tones of its predecessor. The comments were much more positive overall, yet my score was only four points higher than the year before. In gearhead terms, my “new Mustang GT” barely beat my “clapped-out Pinto” when the final scores were tallied.

Ah, what to do for 2012? Maybe the judges were confused about the juxtapostion between my prologue and Chapter One. And I had heard much talk of prologues being anathema to agents and editors. So, for my 2012 Colorado Gold entry, time to broom the prologue and start with Chapter One.

Of course, my hard work in 2012 was rewarded with my lowest score yet. Yes, even my rank amateur 2010 entry outscored its 2012 successor. Yet the comments and critiques I received for the 2012 entry were notably more positive than for either of my previous entries. Even within the small world of Colorado Gold entries, the scores alone don’t tell the whole story. And this was the most important lesson I learned from that year’s contest.

Yes, my novel “Vampire Syndrome” failed to win or even final in Colorado Gold, for three years in a row. The only thing “Vampire Syndrome” had won by the end of 2012 was a publishing contract. I am far from being a unique example here, as a fair number of my fellow RMFW members also have released traditionally-published novels that did not win or final in Colorado Gold.

So, in summation, lament not your “loss” in Colorado Gold. Those who learn and persevere have what it takes to win the writing game. You may lose the “battle” of Colorado Gold, but the lessons you learn can lead you to your true victory. The triumph of prose, and the self.

On a Quest for a Good Book

About a year ago I decided to limit my reading diet to self-published books. Not forever, just until I found some new favorite authors to follow. I really want to support the self-published community as much as possible and figured I’d have a strong list of auto-buys by now. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened.

I know there are fabulous self-published authors out there because I have found some, and I must say I’ve been doing my picking based solely on blurbs, reviews and sample pages. I figured that would be enough to help me gauge my enjoyment and justify an investment of reading time.

Here’s where I went wrong: I should have asked for recommendations. I have discovered that most reviews are unreliable, both the good ones and the not-so complimentary ones. But I’m stubborn. I wanted to make my choices based on objective sources. Lesson learned.

Why have I had such a difficult time finishing these books? It’s mostly my bad luck, but I did discover structural problems in the majority of the stories I deleted from my Kindle after reading only a few chapters. Of the books I selected, the writing was fine, grammar good, voice passable, but plot and character suffered from a lack of practiced craft and developmental editing. They read like manuscripts that passed muster with a critique group, but not an editor.

They started out great or I never would have bought them. The sample pages caught my interest, the premise captivated me, so the beginnings of these books rocked. But I stopped reading somewhere between 20% and 30% of the way in. Maybe they suffered from contestitis, where the author had made edits and polished the beginning pages based on contest feedback. The rest of the story never received the same attention.

We talk a lot in RMFW about strong beginnings, effective hooks, introducing interesting characters, establishing stakes and obstacles… but it shouldn’t stop there. The strength you start with needs to carry through the rest of the book.

The problems I encountered were:

Bland characters – Characters who start out strong, then lose their purpose, or lack motivation, or just don’t care enough about the goal they had to begin with.

No tension – The story’s tension leaks out like a slowly deflating balloon. Time is spent exploring secondary plotlines instead of the main one, and the problems faced at the beginning are put on hold. Not good. Not good at all.

Disappearing characters or too many characters – It’s hard to focus on a main character when everyone in the story begins to have equal billing. Or when the most interesting person gets killed off or drops out completely, I lose interest in reading any more.

Likable characters become unlikable – It really upset me when a character I cared about seduced her stepfather about a quarter of the way into the book. I’d thought he was a nice guy, too. He’d raised her, for crap sake. They both turned out to be turds. Ugh. Those are hours I’ll never get back. I didn’t start reading another book for a couple of weeks after that.

Confusion – Mysteries I like. No, mysteries I love. But I don’t like it when things stop making sense. Confusion annoys me.

Meandering plot – Starts out heading in one direction then veers off in another for no apparent reason.

Exposition overload – I’m really tolerant of backstory, and probably enjoy reading it more than most people do, but even I have my limits.

Too many pretty sunsets – Or sunrises, or beaches, or gardens, or forests… You get the picture, which is the problem. Too many pictures. I adore good description and even teach a class on it, but too much kills the pace and saps life from your story.

Repetition – Same scene, different setting. Again. And again. It helps to change things up now and then.

Chaotic choreography – Action is a very good thing to have in your story, but it needs to be handled with a practiced hand. Fights, tangled lovers, car chases… When a lot is happening all at once, it should be clear in the reader’s mind what’s going on.

Call me picky—because I am—but I really wanted to love these books. I’m looking for an enjoyable reading experience and my goal is to find some great self-published books to fill that need.

Do you know of any self-published books you think I’d enjoy? If so, please leave the title and name of the author in a comment here. Thank you!

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Karen DuvallKaren Duvall is an award-winning author with 4 published novels and 2 novellas. Harlequin Luna published her Knight’s Curse series last year, and her post apocalyptic novella, Sun Storm, was released in Luna’s ‘Til The World Ends anthology in January 2013.

Karen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four incredibly spoiled pets. She is currently working on a new contemporary fantasy romance series.

 

Adventures in Genre Writing: Lesson Three – Some Rules

By Jeanne C. Stein

I know, I know. I, more than anyone else, hate it when someone says there are “rules” to writing, especially since exceptional writer W. Somerset Maugham warns: There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

And of course, for every rule we set there will be an exception that works perfectly well. But the rules I’m setting forth here apply to ALL writing. They are basic, maybe too obvious, but worth mentioning. Think of them as a motivational tool!

First, Robert Heinlein’s Five Rules—

Heinlein (1907-1988) was one of the first authors of bestselling, novel-length science fiction. He was also one of the first to break into mainstream markets and is often called the “dean of science fiction writers.” He freely gave away his five rules because he said almost no one would follow them—hence he was not afraid of competition. What are they?

1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you start.
3. Your must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.
4. You must put your story on the market.
5. You must keep it on the market until it has sold.

Did I mention they were obvious?

Let’s start with rule one. How many people do you know that have either started a novel or said that they plan to write one “someday?” They are not writers. A writer puts his butt in the chair everyday—even if it’s fifteen minutes at lunchtime, during the baby’s nap or an hour before bedtime. If you are serious about writing, you will make time. One of the participants in a past class said she wrote 79,000 words in 28 days writing just two hours a day. Some of you have participated in Write a Novel in a Month challenge held in November of every year. It can be done. It takes desire and discipline.

Rule two—another no-brainer. Yet, there are countless unfinished manuscripts floating around out there waiting for the magic moment when their authors find time to finish them. Refer to Rule one.

Rule three—This does not mean NEVER rewrite. It means don’t keep REwriting Chapter One because you want to make it perfect. If you have a critique group, let them offer suggestions as you go along, but forge ahead. Don’t get hung up on one sentence or page or chapter. When the manuscript is finished and you get an editor or agent, they will tell you what more needs to be done. A note here: I have been told by fans of Heinlein that he really DID NOT ever rewrite! I think that may be a little extreme! One of my favorite authors, though, the late Robert B. Parker also said he never rewrote anything. I wish I could be that confident in my writing!

Rule four—May be the hardest rule of all. It’s scary to launch your baby on the world, but you have to. Research markets, research agents and editors, network at conventions. Get it out there.

Rule five—I take it back. This may be the hardest rule. If you’re lucky, you’ll strike gold right out of the box. If not, take whatever comfort you can from knowing that authors from J. K. Rowling to Stephen King have faced rejection. Many rejections. It’s different when it happens to you. It’s personal and it hurts, especially if it comes in a form letter. On the other hand, sometimes you receive a real letter offering advice and extending an offer to reread the manuscript after you make whatever rewrites are suggested. This is a very GOOD rejection letter. It means you’re on the right track.

Okay—let’s move on to some of my own personal guidelines:

1. You want to write the great genre novel—read that genre. To grab an audience, you need to know what it wants.

2. Now that you are familiar with what that audience wants, write for that audience.

3. Learn about conflict—creating it, resolving it.

4. Structure your story for maximum impact.

5. Beginnings and endings are most important—learn to make them so good, your readers will not be able to put the book down once they start and disappointed when they get to the end because they want more.

Rules three, four and five will be covered in subsequent lessons.

As for rules one and two, I know the popular conception is that since it often takes two years for a book to go from acceptance by a publisher to release, if you write what’s hot in the market NOW, by the time your book is released, the wave has passed. Perhaps. On the other hand, if you write the book you WANT to write, if it’s well written and compelling, it doesn’t matter what’s “hot” in the market. Well-written stories find an audience.

Remember, the best writers are readers. They read everything…fiction and nonfiction, genre and literary works. And they write. Everyday.

One well-known and prolific writer, the late Elmore Leonard, had his own set of rules. But they can be summed up with this: If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.

Amen to that.

Next month we’ll start looking at developing our characters.

The Intangible Benefits of Having a Traditional Publishing Family

Rogue's Paradise
By Jeffe Kennedy

I’ve worked with a number of editors over the years. Many of them were one-night stands – especially back in my younger days, when I wrote mainly essays and played the magazine market. While I mostly enjoyed those passing encounters – though a few were blind dates that I couldn’t wait to put behind me – I’ve discovered the joys of the long-term relationship.

I’m in a monogamous three-way these days. I work with two editors on my novels and I’m faithful to them. At least for the time being. One, Deb Nemeth, my Carina Press editor, I’ve been with since 2011. We just completed the Covenant of Thorns trilogy with Rogue’s Paradise. And we are putting to bed the eighth book we’ve worked on together. I won’t pretend it’s always been hearts and flowers. The beginning wasn’t a honeymoon. She put me through two revise and resubmits, made me work to win her heart. Now we’re committed to each other with legal contracts. We’ve learned to work through the rough times, to remember to add compliments along with criticism, to take some time away before disagreeing.

I admit I felt a little guilty when I started seeing another editor, too. I didn’t want Deb to feel slighted or that she wasn’t enough for me. I needed to branch out, be with other publishers. Fortunately she understood that and now I’ve been with my Kensington editor, Peter Senftleben, for two years now. He’s a different editor than Deb is, which brings stimulating variety to my life. He has his own quirks I’ve learned to accommodate and he mine. We’re working on our fourth book together and each time just gets better.

It’s not always easy, juggling two marriages like this. I sometimes have to ask – with some chagrin – if they’re the one who prefers I just accept line edits in Track Changes or to comment them out. They know about each other and, when I see them respond to the other’s tweets, I often find myself smiling at the warm feeling that inspires. I don’t think they talk about me, but I wouldn’t mind if they did. After all, it’s only fair.

I like having these two people as partners in my publishing life. They shore me up and keep me honest. It feels good to me to be part of a family. And it occurs to me that self-publishing with its wealth of possibilities – which I’ve taken advantage of with some of my back list – is a lot like single parenting. Sure you can hire help, much like a single parent can get day care, and there’s a lot more freedom, but it’s a lot of work, too. I really admire the people who can carry it off, like my best friend and crit partner, for example.

But I do think this is something that writers should factor in when considering whether to go indie. For me, having this publishing family means a great deal. It’s worth it to me to sacrifice some independence and financial gain to have it. I know not everyone needs that. At this time in my live, however, I know I do.