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Writer’s Wednesday: An Interview with the Edgar and Stoker Nominated Author, Billie Sue Mosiman

I first discovered Billie Sue and her writing in the mid 90s about a year before she edited the anthology, Never Shake a Family Tree. It is with great pleasure to have her as our guest today. Please help me welcome her to The Editing Essentials!

Billie Sue Mosiman is an Edgar and Stoker Nominated author of  more than 50 e-books. She published 13 novels with New York major publishers and recently published BANISHED, her latest novel. She’s the author of at least 150 published short stories that were in various magazines and anthologies. Her latest stories will be in BETTER WEIRD edited by Paul F. Olson from Cemetery Dance, a tribute anthology to David Silva, a story in the anthology ALLEGORIES OF THE TAROT edited by Annetta Ribken, and another story in William Cook’s FRESH FEAR. She’s an active member of HWA and International Thriller Writers. She’s working on a new novel of suspense titled THE GREY MATTER. You can visit her at: The Peculiar Life of a Writer http://www.peculiarwriter.blogspot.com, or at Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/billie.s.mosiman or on Twitter: @billiemosiman or at Billie Sue’s Amazon Page.

WD: Does your family support your writing career, and if so, have they always?

BM: Yes, my husband has always supported me in my career. Before I sold a novel, all my other women friends had a job and I was at home, writing. I’m sure they thought I was being lazy because didn’t everyone work? My husband continued supporting the family and believing in me until I got my first contract. My daughters were raised with a writer so they understood what I was doing (I probably lectured them enough about how important Mama’s work was!). They tried hard not to interrupt me when I was at the typewriter and the computer.

WD: Does anybody in your family write because of your influence on them?

BM: No. My daughters are creative in various ways, but they haven’t been writing.

WD: What inspired you to begin writing?

BM: I can’t imagine. Since I wanted to be a writer from the time I was thirteen, I can’t say what inspired me. I think it was because I was raised around Southern storytellers who sat around telling one another tales, but it could also be because, or in addition to, my love of reading books.

WD: What author or authors influenced your own style?

 

BM: There were several. John D. MacDonald, Jim Thompson, Phillip K. Dick, Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, and a whole raft of mystery and suspense popular writers during the 70s and 80s.

WD: What is your own process for getting a manuscript complete? Any habits? How do you stay focused?

BM: I believe in dedication and discipline. I was under contract from year to year so I had novels to turn in and expected of me. I would write every day five days a week and take weekends off to devote to my family. That kind of schedule became a routine. I stay focused by reading over what I’ve written the day before and falling into the page, falling into the story so that I can see it in my head and can write the next scene or chapter.

WD: What are your thoughts on how the industry is radically changing to benefit the author? How do you see the industry changing for the better or worse?

BM: With digital books it’s changed almost completely. Writers in my early years of course sent their paper manuscripts in manuscript boxes to New York publishing houses or agents. Today writers can simply upload them to a digital online bookstore. I think the industry has changed for the better in giving the author more control and it’s changed for the worse in making people believe their work is ready to be “published” digitally when it isn’t, or when as writers they really have some way to go to be professional writers. I expect it will all shake out eventually, but the transition might be rocky.

WD: If you could give one tip to a new writer, what would it be?

BM: Write like it means something to you, like storytelling is your life’s goal and you want to tell the best stories anyone ever told. Try to write in a humane way, with heart, and hope to touch people. Write with nerve, take risks, try to do what hasn’t been done or do what has been done better. Lastly, get an editor. Your prose probably isn’t as polished as you think it is.

 

Thank you, Billie Sue, for being with us today! If you’d like to leave a comment or question for Billie Sue, we will be happy to pass it on to her.

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Writer’s Wednesday: An Interview with Tricia Zoeller, Author of First Born

Today, we’re excited to have Tricia Zoeller as our guestblogger. I first met Tricia through another author we worked with, M.E. May. and we became fast friends. Tricia is a very talented writer and I’m looking forward to seeing many, many novels written by her. Please welcome Tricia to The Editing Essentials.

Tricia Zoeller lives in Marietta, Georgia with her husband, Lou, her little yappy dog, Lola Belle, and her big orange mutant cat, George. Her two stepsons, Joseph and Robert, make stopovers as well, making sure to keep life an adventure. Writing has always been a part of her life—like breathing and chocolate. Tricia loves to hear from her readers. You can catch up with her here:  http://www.triciazoeller.com/ , https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tricia-Zoeller-Author/439025286173082?ref=hl  , http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17670526-first-born

WD: What inspired you to begin writing?

TZ: I’ve always written. I’ve always been a reader. My father worked for his school paper and influenced me as I was growing up to take an interest in writing. He traveled frequently for his job and would read a mystery (quite often Agatha Christie) on his overseas flights and give the book to me when he returned.

In high school, I wrote for the school paper and in college, I pursued a degree in journalism from Indiana University in Bloomington. However, after graduation I never worked as a writer. Instead, I obtained my masters degree and worked as a Speech-Language Pathologist for over a decade.  I liked that it combined my love of language, science, and helping people. I never stopped writing poems, novellas, etc. When health problems caused me to stop working as a therapist, I turned to writing as an outlet.

WD: Does your family support your writing?

TZ: My husband has a love/hate relationship with my writing. Sometimes, I get a bit obsessed or distracted. Also, I’m a thinker; he’s a doer. If he had his way, I would have published this book over a year ago. He also is not a fiction reader. So when I talk about shapeshifters or vampires or changelings, he will sometimes get a confused look on his face. But he never asked questions when I took over the one spare bedroom and made it into my writing studio complete with fantasy art for inspiration. I’ve also overheard him talking about my characters to people and realized that he really has been listening.

WD: Which authors do you enjoy reading?

TZ: I have focused on fantasy and paranormal over the last several years. One of my favorite books is Stephen King’s collection of shorts, Just After Sunset. I also enjoy reading Nalini Singh, J. K. Rowling, Robin Hobb, Jana Oliver, Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris, Suzanne Johnson, and Anya Bast.

WD: How did Lily come to be? Is she based off of personal situations?

TZ: Lily came to me in her shapeshifter form after I read Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series. I had an idea of creating a different kind of shifter. Even though I took a humorous approach to my character’s shape, there is a serious story behind it. Lily’s struggles with her shapeshifting directly relate to my struggles with Lupus. May is Lupus Awareness Month and it is almost exactly fifteen years to this day that I started cytoxan treatments for kidney disease.

I had read so many books where “bam” a character goes through a transformation, they suddenly can do anything, and they own it. I tried to take a more realistic approach to how it really feels to have your body out of control and the ups and downs of each day something new happening just when you feel like you’ve mastered the situation.

WD: Was there a specific person or event that inspired you to create Lily?

TZ: I may have based Lily after my friend Cheryl’s creature (no spoilers). Lily’s heritage stems from my experiences with eastern medicine. I did Korean yoga, sought Chinese healing sessions, acupuncture, etc. This influenced not only the creation of Lily, but another character in my book.

WD: Atlanta is your setting for the Lily Moore series. What made you decide on that backdrop?

TZ: I’ve lived in Atlanta off and on for over fifteen years. I know Atlanta and I love its greenery. It suits a shifter. You can drive 15 miles in any direction in Atlanta and find a wildlife management area, mountain, lake or river. In fact, the Chattahoochee River plays a big part in book 2.

WD: During the writing process, what is the toughest part for you to write—beginning, middle, or end or characters, setting, plot, action scenes and why?

TZ: The middle is definitely the hardest for me. I always know my beginning, end and the title. I also know my main character immediately. I have an idea of the middle, but organizing it can give me fits. First Born was the hardest because I insisted on having all these characters with plots and subplots. I actually used a flipchart, timeline and crime board at one point to hash out the details.

WD: Is there anything or anyone that specifically helped you during those more trying times in the writing process?

It takes a village. I attended many of the Georgia Writers Association workshops and took online writing courses through the Romance Writers of America Mystery/Suspense Chapter called Coffin, Kiss of Death. These got me back in the right mindset. I also visited crime scene writing forums via yahoo groups.

My friends and fellow writers provided me with a great network. Written Dreams helped me with the editing process—a painful but necessary step. My critique partners and beta readers have listened time and time again and prodded me along in this very rough last stretch.

To beginning authors, I say keep your eyes and ears open. Don’t give up! Listen to constructive criticism, but act only on those snippets that ring true for you. Know you will make mistakes, but learn from them and move on. Carve out a routine for yourself and write every day.

Thank you Tricia for being our guest today! If you’d like to leave a comment or question for Tricia, we’ll be sure to pass it on to her. Thank you!

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Thoughts on Writing from Best-selling Author, John Marco

Today, we’re very excited to have John Marco as our guestblogger. I first worked with John when he wrote a story, “The Hundredth Kill” for one of my anthologies I edited with Marty Greenberg. I was so touched by that story, I had to read his novels. His stories are so filled with emotion, depth and character, for me, it’s a joy to read his stories every time. Please help us welcome John to The Editing Essentials!

John Marco is the author of eightbooks, including the bestselling Tyrants and Kings trilogy and the books of the Bronze Knight, Lukien.  His latest novel, THE FOREVER KNIGHT, has just been published by DAW Books and is a Barnes and Noble and Kirkus top pick for April.  To find out more about John and his work, please visit his website at www.johnmarco.com.

WD: What inspired you to begin writing? A certain book, teacher, family member?
JM: I’m one of those people who think that writers are born rather than made, which might be why it’s difficult for me to pinpoint a particular instant of inspiration.  Writers often say that they’ve “always” wanted to be a writer, but for me it’s actually true.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be one.  There wasn’t a particular person that I met or book that I read.  It was just something that I found absolutely fascinating from the beginning—the ability to create stories and put them down on paper.  Of course none of us come out fully formed as writers.  There’s always more to learn and the striving to get better.  But for me, the desire was always there.  When I stop to think about it, that seems rather strange, as if I literally was born with it, but I bet all the writers out there will understand what I mean.
WD: Why did you choose to write in the fantasy genre instead of another genre? Or, did the genre choose you?
JM: In this case, I think the genre chose me.  There was never any question in my mind that I’d write fantasy.  Fantasy and science fiction were what inspired me as a kid.  I loved the old paperbacks and magazines—just seeing the artwork on their covers made me long to create those kinds of stories myself.  I still get wistful when I see one of those old, yellowing paperbacks, or when I hear someone mention Omni magazine.  And fantasy in particular is such a big pallet!  It’s limitless.
WD: What is your favorite thing to write? Writing dialogue, action scenes, character background, etc.?
JM: I had to think on this for a moment, because I do enjoy working on character backgrounds, and although writing action scenes is difficult I enjoy them, too.  But I’d have to say dialogue.  I’ve always struggled with dialogue, and it’s something I’m constantly working on improving because I absolutely love great dialogue.  I know it when I see it, or maybe I should say when I hear it, because it has a meter to it that draws the reader in and carries them along.  When it’s really well done it’s revealing in ways that makes normal exposition dull.
WD: How much of your own life experiences get into your stories?
JM: I’m not sure.  Really, I’m not trying to dodge the question.  I honestly don’t know.  People used to think I had military experience because some of my books were called “military fantasy,” but I’ve never been in the service and have only fired a gun once in my life.  I’ve never been in war or been overseas to see great ancient architecture or even ridden a horse, yet all these things figure heavily into my writing.  I’ve lived a really provincial life, because that’s how I like it.  On the other hand, I pile a lot of emotional stuff into my stories, and that’s got to come from somewhere.  None of it is autobiographical, but they’re all subjects that I care about or move me on some level.  I’ve always been more interested in why people do the things they do more than in what they actually did.
WD: Does your family support your writing career, and if so, have they always?
JM: My family has always supported my writing career.  I have a wonderful wife that lets me hide out at my desk for hours at a time, a young son that proudly tells his friends that his dad’s a writer, and other family members who are always out there spreading the word and trying to get people to try my books.  It’s hard for me to imagine being a writer without that kind of support.  I love writing, but it’s a ton of work and I can get pretty moody when I’m deep into a project.
WD: Tell us about your new release. What was the process with The Forever Knight? How long did it take to write? What types of things happened in your real life during the process of writing it that may have slowed it down?
JM: First, I’d like to say that The Forever Knight is kind of a soft “reboot” of a previous trilogy that I wrote that started with The Eyes of God over ten years ago.  A number of people have asked me if they can start by reading this new book, or if they first have to go back and read the three others; I always say that they can just jump right in to this new book because it is very different from the ones before it.  It’s much shorter, for one thing. It concentrates on a single character, and it’s much less epic in scope.  All those things were by design.  It’s really a more intimate tale about a knight who is haunted by his own immortality and how he tries to come to terms with it.  In fact, I often refer to it as “a bloody tale of revenge and immortality.”  To me, that sums up the theme of the book nicely.
Writing the book actually didn’t take me very long once I made up my mind to focus on it.  I had the outline done and started writing it, and then wound up taking a break from it while I took a job outside of writing.  When I got back to it, I knew I had to really make the time to write, something I wasn’t used to doing after having the luxury of writing full-time for so long.  I used to have a tiny place in upstate NY, and I remember going up there and working on it.  That was fantastic, the kind of thing I used to picture being a writer was like.  No distractions, nothing but my computer and microwave dinners.  Once I made up my mind to get it done, it really flowed.
WD: How do you deal with writer’s block? Are there places you go—in your mind, or in real life—that help you get back on track with the scene you are writing?
JM: Writer’s block?  No way.  No time for that.  I’m sorry to sound flippant, but I could give myself a thousand excuses for not getting my work done.  That’s what writer’s block sounds like to me—just another in a long list of excuses.  Writer’s block is really a problem of having nothing to say.  And if that’s the case, it means I haven’t done my work in scoping out the story.  Having an idea isn’t enough—you need a story.  So I take my time and outline, and determine what I want to say ahead of time, and then I get to it.  If I reach a difficult section (which I do often), I force myself to power through it.  Maybe I’ll go for a long drive and talk to myself and let it play out in my mind, but I don’t let it fester.  I try to look at it like a job.  Yes, it’s art, but you also have to get the damn thing done.
WD: What do you enjoy about the writing process? What do you dislike?
JM: I need to pull a Sarah Palin on you and answer this question in my own way, if you don’t mind.  There was a period of about two years where I wasn’t writing at all, because I went back to work at a job that I hated, and I wasn’t sure where things were going with my books.  Candidly, it was a difficult time for me.  Eventually a good friend coaxed me back into writing, and since then I’ve seen the whole thing through new eyes.  I not only realized how much I missed writing, but how much I love it.  Yes, it’s a cruel mistress and all that, but I’ve honestly come to appreciate all of it in a deeper way.  If I had to identify the part of it that I don’t enjoy, I’d have to say the publishing process itself.  It’s long and fraught.  But when it comes to actually writing, I’m much more willing to embrace its challenges now.  I’m learning to love the hard parts.
WD: If you could write any of your stories over again, which would it be?
JM: Oh, I’m so glad you asked me this question, because I’ve never had the chance to say this in public, but I would really like the chance to rework my first book, The Jackal of Nar.  I recently heard an interview with Frank Langella in which he said that he almost never watches any of his older movies, because he always sees things he could have done better in them.  That’s how I feel about Jackal.  Now, I should say that a lot of people have told me that that’s their favorite book of mine. I’m grateful to hear that, but I know I’ve gotten better as a writer and there’s things I wish I could go back and change.  But I guess that’s just the nature of the business.
WD: Which non-fiction books on the craft of writing have helped you become a better writer?
JM: I’ve read a lot of these kinds of books over the years, and I’ve found useful stuff in all of them, but the only one that sticks in my mind is a book called Writing and Selling Science Fiction that came out in 1976.  I took that book out of the library when I was ten or twelve years old, and I never gave it back!  I know, shame on me.  Really, it’s silly that I kept it, but I loved it.  I read it over and over again and I still keep it with me when I write.  Each chapter of it is written by a different author and covers a different subject, like creating characters, writing dialogue, and so on.  Even though it’s old, it’s full of good, timeless advice.  Maybe copies of it can be found on Ebay.  It’s worth seeking out.

Thanks so much, John, for being here and sharing your tips on writing. We wish you the best with the release of The Forever Knight. If you’d like to post a question or comment for John, we’ll be sure to pass it on. Thank you!

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Writer’s Wednesday: Award-winning Author Julie E. Czerneda on Writing Fantasy

I met Julie and her husband a few years back, when she came to visit Green Bay. It was a fun afternoon of laughter and stories. She is one of the nicest people I have ever met, and her novels and short stories are extraordinary! We are thrilled to have her with us today. Please welcome Julie E. Czerneda to The Editing Essentials.

Photo Copyright by Roger Czerneda Photography

Canadian author and editor Julie E. Czerneda transformed her love and knowledge of biology into science fiction novels (published by DAW Books NY) and short stories that have received international acclaim, multiple awards, and best-selling status. Know of her Clan Chronicles series or a fan of Esen the Blue Blob? Just out is something completely different, Book One of her new Night’s Edge series, Julie’s debut (and really fat) fantasy novel, A Turn of Light. There are toads. For more about Julie’s work, events, and treats, please visit www.czerneda.com or find her on Goodreads or Twitter @julieczerneda.

 

Leaping Toads or a Leap of  …?

In the fall of 2009 I remade myself. In a writerly sense. Not that I felt there was anything wrong with the original writerly me, but I was set to leap into my first full-length, no holds barred, give me dragons or no chocolate for you fantasy novel and, well, that would be different.

Should be different, in my estimation.

Elsewhere I’ve talked about building a scale model first and my research, but here I want to tell you more about how I changed the writerly me. For I did. An obvious place to start was my office. I like my office. I love my chair and clever footrest thingie Roger made me and all the rest. That said, what I could change, I did. Down came my wall collection (body parts were among them) and up went painted silk. (I can hear you laughing, Russell.) Away when the memorabilia from cons past — and bones — to be replaced with statuettes of dragons and horses. I’d had some of those since I was little, but they’d not been allowed in my office till now.  I refused to use any playlist from a previous work. And yes, it’s true. I wrote the first few thousand words by candlelight, said candles being red and held in dragon claws. Any notes? Done using a fountain pen I’d put aside to use for this book and no other.

Why?

I didn’t want to write fantasy like a science fiction author dabbling at it. I wanted to be a fantasy author. A real one.

Okay, and there was also the hilarious fun of it all — which it was, trust me. Surrounding myself with toads — and rose petals — and little white pebbles. Being able to shout “I don’t do dishes anymore. I write FANTASY!” never got old. (On my side of it.) I’d walk away from the writing at whim, because, yup, “I write FANTASY!” and that entitled me to as much whim as I wanted. Especially gardening whim, because, hey, I might find a toad. There was wine whim, when going over notes.

Cover art by Luis Royo (www.luisroyo.com)

Unlike my previous work ethic, I allowed myself to indulge in rereading favourite passages whenever I felt like it, which was often. Though I’d been ruthless before, now I deleted what I didn’t like without a care. Tens of thousands of words at a time. Pop! Gone. Looking back over my day-before word counts, there were weeks I’d write prodigiously yet have a negative sum. For some strange reason, I was happy about that. When I blew past my previous word length for a novel at less than half done? I did confirm that was okay with my editor, Sheila Gilbert, but really, I didn’t care. “I write FANTASY!” Muhhahhaaa With toads!

The result was A Turn of Light, of which I’m extraordinarily proud and fond. It’s long, lush, and full of my favourite stuff. And, in the opinion of those I trust to know, it reads as though written by a fantasy author.

Hurray! I’d remade myself!

Or had I?

Earlier this week, I read a very thoughtful review of Turn on Goodreads, where the reader (Karen) made this point: “Fantasy offers a writer the freedom to invent an entirely new reality, not dependent on the our (known) universe’s laws of physics and other constraints on our reality. But I think it also requires more discipline, too – the writer must then make sure that everything in the book conforms to the rules of the invented reality…Czerneda may have an advantage over some other authors going from science fiction to fantasy, because in her sf novels, she always creates aliens with a richly detailed, “invented” biology, and then bases their behavior and culture on the “rules” imposed by that biology. That seems to require a similar form of discipline.”

Oh.

I’d considered my science fiction writerly-self to be an impediment, not a help, going to admittedly silly extremes to shed old habits. Hindsight being a lovely thing, I realize now what I actually did was use my training as a behavioural scientist on myself. I created a stimulating work environment and approach for this particular story, as I’ve done far less consciously for each and every one of them. As for the science fiction? The attention to detail in worldbuilding Turn is no less or more than I’ve given to Survival or Beholder’s Eye or Reap the Wild Wind or any other.

It seems I’d simply given myself permission to have blatant fun on the job. It shows in the work. A leap indeed and one I’m glad I made.

Cover art by Matt Stawicki (www.mattstawicki.com)

Now it’s your “turn,” fine folks. The science fiction writerly-me and the fantasy writerly-me, apparently the same person after all, are here and happy to answer your questions.

Giveaway: Post a comment or question today for Julie on the blog to win a copy of A Turn of Light.

Thank you, Julie, for being our guest today. Julie will be checking in throughout the day, so please feel free to post a comment or question for her. Thank you!

 

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Writer’s Wednesday: An Interview with Award-winning Author, Karen Wiesner

I was given Karen’s book, First Draft in 30 Days a few years ago by a friend, and it’s still one of my favorites to guide authors through the novel-writing process. So, recently when I found out that a mutual friend of mine also knew Karen, I was excited to get in touch with her about sharing her wisdom on writing. Please welcome Karen Wiesner to The Editing Essentials!

Karen Wiesner is an accomplished author with 96 books published in the past 15 years, which have been nominated for and/or won 125 awards, and has 28 more titles under contract. Her books cover most genres of fiction, children’s books, poetry, and writing reference titles. Her previous writing reference titles focused on e-publishing, book marketing, and setting up a promotional group like her own, Jewels of the Quill, which she founded in 2003. The group produced two award-winning anthologies, edited by Karen and others, per year from 2005-2011. For more information about Karen’s fiction and many series, consult her official companion guide The World of Author Karen Wiesner: A Compendium of Fiction. If you would like to receive her free e-mail newsletter and become eligible to win her monthly book giveaways, visit her websites: http://www.karenwiesner.com  or  http://www.falconsbend.com .

WD: What drives you to write more books, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction?

KW: Not writing simply isn’t an option for me. I have to. It’s as vital as breathing. Even if I’d never gotten published, I would always write if for no one else but myself. Nonfiction, I admit, I write for others, not so much for myself. I realize there’s a need for this crucial information, and I’m happy to provide it for any author who requests it. Having it in book format is convenient and profitable, lol, but whenever anyone writes to me asking for advice, I respond. To me, it’s a way of giving back to all the generous, experienced authors who helped me along the way.

WD: How did you become involved with the group of writers that make up Jewels of the Quill?

KW: I founded the group. In 2003, mass market publishers shut out new authors by rolling out a new requirement that went almost across the board for all of them: no submissions without an agent. My frustration was pretty intense, so I started brainstorming a way around this. Jewels of the Quill started out as a group of authors who would “agent” other authors, allowing us to submit each other’s material under the umbrella of being agents. In the midst of this, I realized how satisfied I was with the electronic and small press publishers I was working with. So the group decided that instead of banding together as agents (what seems like a bit of a silly concept to me now), we would band together as authors and promote in a group setting…safety in numbers. I wrote a book about how successful the experience has been. Leading to your next question…

WD: How do you market your own works? What have you found successful?

KW: See my book The Power of Promotional Groups, which teaches authors how to jumpstart their careers by advertising in long-term, affordable ways within the safety and strength of a promotional group. These groups of authors accomplish together what few can do alone: they share the cost of long-term promotion and market their releases individually and as a group. No other book currently on the market comprehensively explains how authors can set up a promotion-specific group. Promotional groups offer authors the means to gain focused, irresistible promotion—indefinitely!

WD: What was the inspiration for writing your non-fiction works— First Draft in 30 Days and From First Draft to Finished Novel {A Writer’s Guide to Cohesive Story Building}?

KW: Both of my Writer’s Digest books, First Draft in 30 Days and From First Draft to Finished Novel {A Writer’s Guide to Cohesive Story Building} work together perfectly, and those who have read and used both methods say the same. Used together, they really are like a well-oiled machine focused on productivity, high-quality and unending momentum. One thing From First Draft to Finished Novel really targets is the importance of working in stages. I can’t stress how crucial this is for all authors. In an ideal situation, a writer goes through the following nine stages to get a finished novel:

 

  • Brainstorming
  • Researching
  • Outlining
  • Setting aside the project
  • Writing the first draft
  • Setting aside the project
  • Revising the first draft
  • Setting aside the project
  • Editing and polishing

(Incidentally, between my two books, I cover every single stage in-depth and step-by-step, so each aspect of writing a book is detailed from start to finish.)

A few words about why “setting aside the project” so many times is crucial: I believe a book is best if you give it time to “breathe” between these stages. Whatever fears you had about whether the story is working will dissolve after you’ve set the project aside for a good amount of time because it’s as if you’re coming into the work brand new. Allowing your projects to sit for a couple of weeks—or even months—will provide you with a fresh perspective. You’ll be able to evaluate if the story is really as solid as you believed it was when you finished it. All writers get too close to their outlines or manuscripts to really see them objectively. Distance gives you that objectivity and the ability to read your own work like you’ve never seen it before, so you can progress further with it. Another reason for setting projects aside between stages is that writers always reach a point where their motivation runs out, and they may simply want to get away from the story as fast as they can. Who wants to write a book you’ve just spent weeks or even months outlining? Who would want to revise a book you’ve spent weeks or months writing? With every single book, I get to rock bottom and I’m convinced that if I ever see the manuscript again, I’ll tear it to shreds. Setting it aside between the various stages the project goes through really gives me back my motivation for it. I’m always amazed at how much better I can face the project again when I haven’t seen it for a couple weeks or even a month or more. I fall in love with it again. The next stage in the process becomes easier, too, and that helps my writing to be much better.

Also, the more books I have contracted, the more I seem to need these breaks in-between stages. I need breaks even when I feel a project is working beautifully. If I put it on a back burner for an extended period of time (as long as I can possibly allow and still meet my deadlines), amazing things happen over the low flame. By the time I return to it, I find myself bursting with new ways to fix any problems I couldn’t resolve when I was too close to, and sick of, the project, and this also allows me to see more of those connections that make a story infinitely cohesive in terms of knitting your characters seamlessly to the plot and setting.

Another reason for working in stages is that I’m able to start brainstorming on upcoming projects sometimes years in advance. When it’s time to work on that project, I’m just raring to go. I have a ton of ideas and the motivation to get them all down will carry me through the outlining like a breeze. Because I’ve always got multiple books going at one time, each one in a different stage of the process, I’m constantly brainstorming on the projects in the back of my mind, analyzing them for any weaknesses and coming up with ways to improve them. That’s so crucial to the overall strength of your stories.

The most important reason for working in stages is because each of those steps is a layer that is added to the book, a layer that makes it stronger, richer, and—I have to say it—more cohesive.

The only way to stay on track with your writing career is by working in stages and allowing yourself to come into each of them completely fresh and eager to add another layer to the project. On my website, you’ll find a page that includes my annual works in progress and accomplishments: http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/WIP.html

I encourage listeners to visit this page because you’ll really see how well these methods work.

In an average year, I outline, write and revise 5-10 novels and novellas, and I follow the annual goals you’ll see on my Work in Progress page. All of these are done in the stages I mentioned before. This year, I’m working actively on eight separate projects (with the greatest of ease!), each one in a different stage in the process. I love that I’m never doing the same thing in terms of outlining, writing and revising projects. I move from outlining one book, to revising a different one, to writing something altogether, layering and building and developing each book into something wonderful that I could never get if I wasn’t working in stages.

Using my own writing methods, everything in my career is planned well in advance, and I keep tweaking my schedule to make it as productive as it possibly can be. Most people think that I must work 24 hours a day based on my productivity. That’s the really amazing part of this whole method. I don’t have to. Working in stages, using an outline and goals, I work from eight o’clock to noon on weekdays and I can take off every weekend and most of the summer and yet I’m constantly moving forward. At this time, I’m working about a year ahead of my releases. In other words, I’ve already completed all of my 2013 releases and I’m deep into 2014 contracts.

Look for my next writing reference release from Writer’s Digest books coming May 2013: Writing the Fiction Series: The Guide for Novels and Novellas

What are the common pitfalls in a crafting a series, the best ways to get organized and plan it? The purpose of How to Write a Novel Series is to cover all things that need to be taken into consideration when writing a series and provide a one-stop resource for the who, what, where, when and why of this monumental endeavor. This helpful guide will give writers everything they need for creating their fiction series from dealing with story arcs and keeping things focused to characters, consistency, organization and more.

WD: What is the single most piece of advice you’d want as a new writer just starting out that you have learned the hard way?

KW: Actually, my advice is in multiple parts. I don’t believe there are absolutes in writing. There are so many writing trends, and I admit I find most of them silly. If anyone tells me when writing Never do this or Always do this, I immediately take a step backward. There’s only one rule in writing: If it works for the story, go with it. The only rules are the ones you enforce yourself. Don’t let anyone else tell you differently.

In the same vein, I realized early on in my career that there was little that a publisher could do for me that I couldn’t do just as well for myself. I’m a polished writer so I can make sure every book I turn in is the highest quality (and ensure that my editors hardly have to do anything at all for me) so in that way I’m my own editor. It requires dedication and commitment to my goals. I can’t blame anyone else if I’m not disciplined. I’m responsible for my own success (or failure) in that way. I can create my own, gorgeous covers. I can market my own books better than anyone else (though I love it when a publisher helps). Ultimately, I’ve even published my own books and the result is comparable to (in some cases, better than) any publisher I’ve ever worked with. My point is that an author is responsible for herself from start to finish. When I realized that, I knew I could make the rules, write my own ticket. I never expected that early in my career and it’s difficult to give up that perk now to work with a publisher who wants to control every single aspect of the work. I love working with a publisher who trusts me and can see my vision instead of the other way around.

So my advice to any author: Make your own rules and always be responsible for yourself in every aspect of your career.

Giveaway: Karen is giving away 3 autographed copies of From First Draft to Finished Novel {A Writer’s Guide to Cohesive Story Building}. Winners will be chosen from those who leave a comment to this interview on the blog.

Thanks, Karen, for being our guest today! If you have questions or comments for Karen, she’ll be with us all day. Thank you!

Brittiany Koren 1

Writer’s Wednesday: Award-winning, Best-selling Author Lawrence Block

I’ve been a fan of Lawrence Block’s writing for several years. I first discovered his short stories while I was working for Marty Greenberg. Then, I discovered his novels…and I’ve been hooked ever since! Because he has written such inspirational non-fiction on the craft of writing, we’ve also included an excerpt from his book, Spider, Spin Me a Web that we thought you would you enjoy!  Please welcome Lawrence Block to The Editing Essentials!

Lawrence Block has been writing award-winning mystery and suspense fiction for half a century.  His most recent novels are HIT ME, featuring Keller, and A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF, featuring Matthew Scudder.  Several of his books have been filmed, although not terribly well.  He’s well known for his books for writers, including the classic TELLING LIES FOR FUN & PROFIT, and THE LIAR’S BIBLE.  In addition to prose works, he has written episodic television (TILT!) and the Wong Kar-wai film, MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS.  He is a modest and humble fellow, although you would never guess as much from this biographical note.  www.lawrenceblock.com

WD: How did you discover writing fiction?

LB: When I was around 15, I discovered reading fiction—Steinbeck, Farrell, Wolfe, etc. And I decided this was what I wanted to be when I grew up.
WD: Was there someone in your life that supported or influenced your writing early in your career?
LB: I got some encouragement from a high school teacher.
WD: Has your family always supported your writing?
LB: Yes, always.
WD: You’ve written a lot of award-winning books. Do you have a formula? Or, are you just lucky? 🙂

LB: Just lucky.

WD: What’s one tip you’d give to every new writer out there just starting their career as a writer?

LB: Don’t expect too much. “Each writer has to find his own way to write his own story. Each writer is a stranger in his own strange land; how then can I presume to guide you through a country I myself have not visited?

The writer of fiction is a spider. Drawing upon his inner resources and shaping them with his craft, he spins out his guts to trap his dinner. There are no blueprints for the novel, for the short story. However well the spider may serve as a totem animal for fictioneers, there are fundamental differences between the weaving of webs and the spinning of tales.

…Writers, whatever they write, are apt to find the spider an apt totem. Indeed, I’ve learned that writers of all sorts have far more in common than one might suppose. And, too, the distinction between fiction and nonfiction has never been that clear-cut, and has grown increasingly blurry over the years.

In fiction, traditionally, the writer wants us to believe that he has made the whole thing up. In nonfiction, he wants us to believe that he hasn’t. Both weave much the same sort of web, and out of the same inner stuff.

I think it takes courage for any writer, novice or veteran, to begin a piece of work. Every time I start a book or story, every time I spoil a clean white paper with my own poor words, I am performing an act of faith. I’m hoping and trusting that my ability will be equal to the task at hand, or at least that it will not strand me unpublishably short of my goal.
I’m also hoping and trusting that my inspiration will not fail me. I never have the entire work in mind when I begin writing. Books and stories grown on the page, plots and characters are born in the process of writing. No matter how well I prepare, no matter how detailed an outline I draw up in advance, every book will be a happening, a spontaneous event. And I can’t change this. I can’t open the parachute until I’ve stepped out of the plane, and if it won’t open–well, all I can do is pull the cord and pray.
It takes courage, I believe, to do the very best one can do–at writing or at anything else.”
Excerpt from the Preface and Chapter 29: Take Courage of Spider, Spin Me a Web. Reprinted with permission by the author. Copyright © 1988 by Lawrence Block.

Thank you for being here today, Mr. Block. If you have any questions or comments for him, we’ll be sure to pass them on. Thank you! We hope you enjoyed it. 🙂

Brittiany Koren 1

Writer’s Wednesday: Award-winning Writer Laura Resnick on Obstacles

Today, we’re excited to have Laura Resnick as our guest! Please welcome her as she shares with us about her writing experiences.

Laura Resnick is the author of the popular Esther Diamond urban fantasy series, whose releases include Disappearing Nightly, Doppelgangster, Unsympathetic Magic, Vamparazzi, Polterheist, and the upcoming The Misfortune Cookie. She has also written traditional fantasy novels such as In Legend Born, The Destroyer Goddess, and The White Dragon, which made multiple “Year’s Best” lists. She began her career as the award-winning author of fourteen romance novels, written under the pseudonym Laura Leone. An opinion columnist, frequent public speaker, and the Campbell Award-winning author of many short stories, she is on the Web at LauraResnick.com.

 “Crap”

by Laura Resnick

Like many writers, there are days when I have trouble concentrating on my work because of crap. And overcoming this problem is crucial for maintaining a writing career—which is about writing story after story after story, after all.

“Crap” is the word I use for an obstacle placed in your creative path by outside forces. And it’s a bitch.

Crap is when water starts pouring through the electrical fixtures on your bathroom ceiling from the apartment overhead, for example, and you can’t get a maintenance guy on the phone for two hours. Crap is when most of your time and energy are consumed by trying to straighten out the chaos caused by identity theft. When the 2-week renovation job on your kitchen turns into a 6-month long nightmare followed by a lawsuit, that’s crap.

Which is not to say that crap is always petty, bureaucratic, or even deliberate. It can be a very serious, painful matter. It’s not uncommon for people to have trouble writing when they’re getting divorced, when caring for a sick or injured loved one, or after a bereavement. I think most editors respond with human decency when a writer is struggling to deliver a book or short story in such circumstances; but if an editor or agent responds like an insensitive jerk to such news, that would be an example of more crap.

A friend of mine who’s a writer and a psychologist says that sometimes you just need to give yourself permission not to write for a while. That doesn’t always go well with our release schedules, our financial needs, and our work ethic; but there’s no productive point in beating yourself up if some crap is just so overwhelming that, for a while, all of your creative energy is sucked up by dealing with it.

Crap is egalitarian, of course: it screws with people in every line of work. And every line of work has its own kind of crap. As writers, we deal with our vocation’s uniquely aromatic crap.

Rejection is perhaps the single most common form of crap in this profession. It doesn’t seem to get any easier to shovel, no matter how many books we sell along the way. Additionally, getting dumped by a publisher or an agent; seeing your book eviscerated by reviewers; discovering that due to publisher screw-ups your novel was released with 10,000 words missing; going a year, two years, seven years without a publishing contract; discovering that you’ve been plagiarized…

These are all typical examples of writer crap.

Unfortunately, crap is like death and taxes; it’ll always be around, there’s no escaping it. No writing career is ever free of crap. The key for the writer is to develop habits and strategies to keep working despite crap, rather than crawling into a deep hole and staying there because of it.

One technique that I’ve practiced (with varying degrees of success) in order to protect my creativity from crap is compartmentalization. There’s book time, and there’s real time. In book time, I try to shut out the world, to leave it outside the door while I work. It’ll be there when I stop working, eager to resume its noise; but if I can define this space as a place where it’s not allowed to intrude, then I can keep writing.

My friend the psychologist says another useful strategy, particularly in the face of rejection, is to remember not to buy into someone else’s perceptions of you or your work.

A great example of this: I know a writer who once delivered a novel that an editor declared unacceptable, unpublishable, and “unsalvageable.” The author believed in the book and wanted to see it published, so she spent a year doing multiple revisions rather than give up on it, while the editor kept making emphatically negative comments about the results. After encountering a final, no-further-discussion refusal to accept or publish the novel, rather than sink into a black hole of tail-chasing despair, the author wrote a replacement novel. Thus she maintained her profitable association with that publisher. (Luckily, though, the difficult editor resigned around the time the author delivered the replacement book).

I asked this author how she had managed not only to keep steadily revising the “unsalvageable” novel (which sold the following year to another house in a very good deal), but also to face the daunting task of immediately writing a replacement novel right after this confidence-draining experience.

She admitted to the moments of doubt and anxiety that we all have, but said, “But at heart, I knew I was a competent writer no matter what a volatile editor told me.”

In other words, she didn’t let that editor’s perceptions screw with her belief in her work. Thus she maintained enough confidence to protect her creative flow and keep writing despite the demoralizing, year-long experience described above.

I learned the hard way that another key strategy for protecting creative health is to eliminate destructive influences from your professional life. I dealt for several years with an editor whose unprofessional behavior I found so stressful and damaging that, by the time I finally put my foot down and flatly refused to keep working with that individual, I was suffering, for the first time in my life, from multiple stress illnesses: insomnia, indigestion, heartburn, intestinal trouble, chronic migraines, facial ticks, muscle twitches, and a weird psychosomatic pain on my left side that made typing almost impossible. And within 48 hours of my getting the news that I had been reassigned to another editor…all these symptoms miraculously disappeared, as if they had never existed. And they have never returned.

In retrospect, I only wonder why I let things get that bad before drawing the line. Who needs that crap?

Thank you, Laura, for being with us today! Please feel free to post a question or comment for Laura. She’ll be with us all day. Thank you!

Brittiany Koren 1

Writer’s Wednesday: Award-winning Author L.C. Hayden on Promotion

I invited L.C. Hayden to be our guest today because I’ve always been fascinated by her unique way of promotion. This is just one way to think outside the box when marketing your books. Please help me in welcoming L.C. Hayden to The Editing Essentials!

L. C. Hayden is the creator of the award winning Harry Bronson Mystery Series. Critics are hailing her latest release When the Past Haunts You as the best mystery of 2012. This February, the book was nominated for the 2013 Watson Award and hit the Number 2 Kindle Police Procedural Best Seller spot.

Visit her website at www.lchayden.com and check out her books at www.tinyurl.com/LCHayden. She invites you to be her Facebook friend at Lc Hayden and Tweet her @LCHayden1.

Cruising and Promoting

I’m lucky.

I’ve done over fifteen cruises. I’ve been to the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Panama Canal, the Mediterranean, and others. Most, more than once.

“That means you’re rich,” you say.

“Nope. I’m just doing my job.”

“Wait! You get paid to go on these cruises?”

Yep. I’ve been contacted by Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Princess Cruise Lines to do writing presentations during their days at sea. They want and expect forty-five minute power point presentations that are both amusing and informative. That’s followed by a fifteen minute signing section.

That’s it. That’s my entire job. I’ve done as few as two presentations during a sixteen day cruise and as many as eight. It all depends on the number of days at sea.

There’s a set of guidelines I’m expected to follow, but they are all common sense rules. I’m not allowed to wear short-shorts. I can’t sit at the bar and drink. I can’t gamble or participate in any games where I can win, such as bingo. I’m not allowed to mention other cruise lines or seat up front at any of the cruises’ shows.

In return, I and my guest of choice receive a free cruise, discounts at the ship’s stores, photograph discounts, and more often than not, cruise excursion discounts. One of the ship’s stores carries and sells my books. At the end of each cruise, I pick up my check.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  It is. I love cruising all over the world and promoting my books at the same time. Some of my most faithful followers are those I met at one of these cruises. So how did I land such a lucrative job?

By pure luck. Someone heard me speak, and he (she?) recommended me to the person who hires for the cruise lines. They called and the interview lasted for a bit over three hours. At the end of the conversation, they said they’d send me to the Caribbean on a five day trial basis.

During those presentations, I had everyone from the captain to the cruise director to the bar attendant to the . . . well, you get the idea. Everyone was there to evaluate me. I must have passed because soon after that, I was sent on longer more exotic cruises. I average one or two cruises a year.

I’m now to the point where people are e-mailing me, asking when and where I’ll do the next cruise so that they can join me. Unfortunately, most of the time, I can’t tell them simply because I don’t know. Sometimes the company calls me one or two months ahead of time. Although it hasn’t happened to me, they might even give you a week’s notice.

I have such fond memories of these cruises. I remember one time in Tahiti I saw a gorgeous necklace made of sea shells and macramé. The natives sold it for $20. I thought that was a bit too expensive for macramé and sea shells so I passed it up.

Soon as I got back to the ship, I regretted my decision. But much to my heart’s content, the next island also sold them, and they were charging only $18. I whipped out my credit card only to be told that they didn’t accept credit cards.

I dashed to look for my husband—my walking cash machine. By the time I returned, they were sold out.

At the next island, I was prepared. The natives sold theirs for $15. I bought it and proudly wore my unique necklace for the rest of the cruise. When we got home, I went to Walmart to buy some milk. I got the milk and noticed that the store sold the same unique necklaces for $4.99.

Sigh.

While in Barcelona my husband and I walked Las Rambles, a mile long street filled with museums, eateries, parks, and stores. I wanted to take some pictures of Spain’s outstanding architecture, so we deviated one block away from the path. The visual site rewarded me with early European structures. Fascination filled me as I snapped picture after picture. I was so involved with the task at hand, I failed to notice the group of ladies who had gathered across the street.

My attention riveted toward them when one of them threw an unopened orange Fanta toward my feet. The can burst as it collided with the pavement. I distinctly heard them chanting, “No pictures. No pictures.” Then it dawned on me. We had wandered into the Red Light District.

Ooops!

Then there’s the time I decided to shoot some rapids in Huatulco. I love the feel of gently floating down a peaceful river and a size two rapid is nothing more than gentle moving water with a bump here and there. But as it turned out, the rapids were really four’s and five’s. Afterwards, I asked our guide about it, after all, we had been promised one’s and two’s.

He shrugged. “What can I say? It rained.”

Okay.

There’s so many more misadventures I could share, but space is limited. All I can say is that I’m so thankful that I’ve landed this oh, so tough job—but hey somebody’s got to do it.

Thank you, L.C., for joining us today! Feel free to post an questions or comments for her on how she promotes her books. She’ll be with us all day. Thank you!

Brittiany Koren 1

Writer’s Wednesday: New York Times Bestselling Author Brenda Novak on Branding Yourself As a Writer

Today I’d like to welcome New York Times bestselling author Brenda Novak to The Editing Essentials! Because marketing is one of those “Must-Do” items on every author’s list, I asked Brenda, who does marketing so well, to give some tips on it. Please welcome her!

New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak is in the middle of writing a brand new small-town contemporary series. Come meet the long-time friends who have made Whiskey Creek the “Heart of Gold Country,” with WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES, WHEN SNOW FALLS and WHEN SUMMER COMES. Brenda also runs an annual on-line auction for diabetes research every May at www.brendanovak.com (her youngest son has this disease). To date, she’s raised over $1.6 million. 

Branding

There’s a buzzword in the industry that makes almost any author sit up and take notice: branding. Everyone’s talking about it; everyone wants to be effective at it. But…what is it, exactly? And how important is it that we learn to market in this way?

An author brand is like any other kind of brand—Coke, Pepsi, Kellogg’s, Andersen Doors. The most familiar brands evoke immediate recognition and association with particular products or even a level of quality in a certain product. Basically, branding translates into a sort of shorthand. I see a Nora book, I automatically know what kind of experience I can expect by reading it, so I pick it up without having to think twice or do any research. Having a reputation and a loyal following helps with all those impulse buys that are so critical in the book business.

Branding is also important because it enables the author’s name in and of itself to become a marketable commodity. James Patterson is now using his brand to sell stories co-authored by other people. He’s even expanding his brand to include many different types of stories. Now that he’s so strongly associated with a good story, he can do that.

How did he build such a strong brand? By writing consistently great stories. That always has to be first. But there’s more to it than that. Branding is an on-going process and doesn’t generally happen overnight. It’s most difficult in the start-up phase. As well known as they are, Coke and Pepsi are still out there, advertising and building name recognition. It’s like pushing a ball uphill. If you stop pushing, it rolls right back to the bottom—something else encroaches and takes the attention of those you’re hoping to reach.

Specifically, an author brands herself by developing something that is consistent and unique in her writing. I do that by making sure every book I create delivers a deeply emotional, evocative story. How is my brand different from other authors who write in the same genre? My books are known for their deep characterization in a genre that is often more plot-driven (as you drift toward the suspense side). Once you know what you want your brand to be, you establish it through your writing style and “voice,” as well as your promotional efforts, until it becomes recognizable to others.

Some tools an author can use to build her brand are:

 

  1. Paid Advertising
  2. An interesting and constantly updated Web site
  3. Strategic Contests
  4. Blogs and chats (See? I’m building my brand right here <G>)
  5. Newsletters
  6. Charity/Volunteer work
  7. Networking
  8. Joint-promotion with other authors and businesses
  9. Speaking
  10. Writing articles
  11. Press releases/media attention
  12. Author response to fan letters/e-mails
  13. Mailers to booksellers/fans
  14. Samplers

Your brand is your promise to your readers. When my readers buy my books they want to be able to count on a certain type of read. Therefore, I make sure I deliver that kind of read. Everything I do professionally is geared around building my brand and my career, so my website reflects that brand, my promotional materials reflect it, my charity auction reflects it, and my workshops/blogs reflect it.

Think about how solicitors make you feel. Because we are approached by so many who are trying to sell us something, the melee is deafening. We learn to filter and filter quickly, which means, in order to be effective in today’s marketplace, we have to be creative marketers. So my question to you is: How can you reach people who are already tired of the signals that are constantly bombarding them via the telephone, TV, computer, etc? How can you set yourself apart?

Throw out some ideas, and I’ll be happy to contribute. 🙂

Thank you so much for being here today, Brenda! Feel free to post questions or comments for Brenda, she’ll be with us all day. Thank you!