Mary and Rick Roberts

Staying Motivated During Summer Months

  1. Make a list of all the writing tasks you’d like to accomplish this summer starting with today and ending with August 30th (or whatever 3 month period works for you). What are all the things you’d like to accomplish during that three month period.
  2. Keep your goals posted somewhere you can see them to keep you on task. Don’t ignore them.
  3. Are you planning to go to any conferences or retreats?
  4. Make a sign for the door of the room that you write in the most to help family understand you’re working seriously on your writing during that time. It can be as simple as saying: Do not disturb. Working. Make it clear to your family that at certain times of the day you will be coming out to eat meals with them and catch up on the things that need your attention, but for the most part, you will be focused on your writing.
  5. Use the buddy system: find a writer friend that has similar goals who you can check in once in a while with on your own progress. Talking will help keep you both motivated.
  6. Stay positive. Don’t let things distract you from your goals. Believe in yourself. We believe in you! You should, too!
Mary and Rick Roberts

E. Tip of the Week: Writing Challenge

I’m teaching a session of writing classes to a group of local writers. Some of the participants have been writing for years, and others are just beginning to take the craft seriously. My challenge to them last week was to double their word count from what they wrote two weeks ago.

Some writers wrote less than 1000 words two weeks ago, some wrote more. One woman wrote 4000 words in less than two weeks, so her challenge is to double it and write more than 8000 words by next Thursday.

Writing challenges can be a great way to get out the excess words that are built inside of us just waiting to come out. Usually not all the words will be used in a final product, but the adrenalin rush from writing so many words in such a short time span can be exhilarating!

My own personal challenge is to write 1000 words a week, or 1000 words on Sunday, my day off from editing. Some days I can write the 1000 words in 30 minutes or so, other days I have to really work at it. But whatever the challenge is, it’s a great feeling to reach my desired goal.

What are some of your own personal writing goals? Are you making them? Is it time to double up your word count and challenge yourself?

Mary and Rick Roberts

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.

Mary and Rick Roberts

E. Tip of the Week: Character Count

Characters are the life of every story so it’s important to treat them with respect and pay close attention to the details. However, it’s easy to get carried away and forget about  some of the “don’ts” that come along with character building.

  • If your reader needs to keep a notebook by their bedside every time a new character is introduced in your book, you’ve got too many characters.
  • If you are having trouble keeping your characters straight in your own head, it’s time to limit the number of characters in the story.
  • If your characters are screaming to have their own story, and not be a supporting role, it might be time to start an outline on a new story.
  • If you have multiple characters whose names all start with the same letter like “s” or “m” consider changing two of the characters names to start with a different letter so the reader can keep the characters straight in their head. Or, decide if you really need those other characters.
  • If you have a character just so the main character isn’t talking to themselves out loud, is that “friend” really necessary.

There are many more character “do’s” and “don’ts” but these are just a few I thought worth mentioning now. What are some of the “do’s” and “don’ts” you’ve learned over the years?

Mary and Rick Roberts

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!

Mary and Rick Roberts

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!

Mary and Rick Roberts

Written Dreams’ First Annual Writer’s Retreat: July 28th-30th, 2013

Written Dreams’ Writer’s Retreat

The first annual Written Dreams’ Writer’s Retreat will be held at the beautiful Miscauno Island Four Seasons Resort in Pembine, Wisconsin on July 28th through July 30th, 2013.

The fee for the Retreat is $159.00 per author. Reservations are required, and can be made by contacting us by email at admin@writtendreams.com. The deadline to register is June 25th, 2013. The Retreat fee includes all Seminars, admission to the Socials/Book Signing Event, Snacks during the Seminars, and the luncheon on Monday.

When registering, please give your name and contact information. We will also need you to make your luncheon selection. Choices are: California Chicken Sandwich, Hero Club Sandwich, or Blackened Salmon Caesar Salad.

We encourage attendees to stay at the hotel. Most rooms have kitchenettes and are wonderful accommodations. Room rates start at $119., and are not included in the Retreat fee. Room reservations for the hotel can be made by calling (877)-324-5244, or online at http://www.thefourseasonswi.com/. A buffet-style continental breakfast served daily is included with the cost of the room.

The itinerary for the conference is as follows:

Sunday, July 28th

Arrive at Four Seasons Resort and check in at the Written Dreams’ table set up in the Main Lobby. Check in for the hotel is any time after 3 P.M.

6:00 P.M.: Social Hour. Come meet your fellow attendees in a relaxed atmosphere.

Monday, July 29th

Continental Breakfast is served starting at 7 A.M. until 9 A.M. next to the Lobby by the Front Desk.

9 A.M.: Welcome and Who We Are

By Brittiany Koren & Lara Hunter

 9:45 A.M.: Free Marketing, What It Is, and How To Get It

 Presented by Barb VanDeHei

 10:30 A.M. Break/Snacks

 10:45 A.M.: How to Design A Website to Increase Your Visibility to Readers

 Presented by Bill Koehne

 11:30 A.M.: Social Media for the Not So Social Author

 Presented by Lara Hunter & Bill Koehne

 Noon: Luncheon will be provided in the conference room.

 1:00 P.M.: The Joy of Independence: 7 Minutes to a Full-time Writing Business

 Presented by Virginia McCullough

 2:00 P.M.: How to Make Your Story and Characters Come Alive in the Minds of Readers

 Presented by Brittiany Koren

 2:45 P.M.: Concluding Remarks for the Day

             By Lara Hunter

 3:00 P.M. Free Time, Writing Time

 The Written Dreams’ staff will be available for questions/discussion.

 6:00 P.M.: Book Signing & Social Hour. 

             Please feel free to bring your books to sell and sign for other attendees/guests.

Tuesday, July 30th

Continental Breakfast is served starting at 7 A.M. until 9 A.M. next to the Lobby by the Front Desk.

9:00 A.M.: The Ins and Outs of E-book Publishing: What An Author Needs to Know

Presented by Lara Hunter & Kim Wickman

 9:45 A.M.: Utilizing the Under-utilized Senses, and How to Get It Down on Paper

 Presented by Barbara Raffin

 10:45 am :Break/Snacks

 11:00 A.M.: Missing Your Motivation to Write?  Here’s How to Get It Back

 Presented by Brittiany Koren

 11:45-Noon: Concluding Remarks by Brittiany Koren & Lara Hunter

                                We’re looking forward to seeing you there! 🙂

 

Photo Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort in Miscauno Island
Mary and Rick Roberts

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!

 

Mary and Rick Roberts

Writing Exercise: Lessons From the Past

This week I’m sharing the writing exercise I am currently engaged in, and finding it very fun and helpful…though word of warning: self-discipline is involved or you’ll end up simply reading a lot of good stories.

A particular interest of mine is the American homefront during World War II, which among other things, coincided with the end of the golden age of magazine fiction, a time when virtually every magazine had at least one story in it. Also, many women’s magazines and general interest magazines had five or six, often with a complete short novel included.  (Those were the days!)

Over the years, I’ve collect many magazines from the late ’30’s and ’40’s, and while I’ve read them with pleasure, I’d never really looked critically at the fiction they contain. So, as I’ve been reading these seventy year old stories and taking them apart, what am I learning?

First, that many of the stories revolve around one single moment in time and are relatively plotless; for example, the breaking off of an engagement and the reactions of the three characters involved.

Second, most of the stories’ characters are expertly drawn with a few simple details.  I’ve been amazed at the authors’ ability to create someone we all know while avoiding a stereotyped character.  Whether it’s the man or woman who stands in the corner during parties, or the man who always has an answer (that everyone knows may or may not be correct, including himself) or the woman whose reaction to anything is always perfect–not sincere or genuine, but perfect. These authors know how to create a character quickly and simply.

Third, most of these stories offer knowledge about something as well as a story.  A wonderful story dealt with a traveling bee wrangler, a young man who traveled around the country with a hundred bee hives following the flowers. The author not only uses the symbolic opportunities the bees provide, she also educates her readers on how the bees are handled and moved from place to place.  (Who knew bees don’t like the smell of leather?)

These stories are not written by people whose names you would recognize. These are not the folks whose work has been collected on library bookshelves.  But these writers know how to write and reach the reader immediately, and they are well worth studying.  If you don’t share my interest and happen to have seventy year old magazines lying around, back bound issues are often available through public library inter-library loan systems or online.  These literary craftsmen and women are skilled, fun to read, and capable of teaching us quite a lot about the craft of writing. Enjoy!

Mary and Rick Roberts

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!