Writer’s Wednesday Guestblogger Terry Odell with Tips on Point of View

Today we welcome romantic suspense author, Terry Odell. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of editing several of Terry’s novels, including Where Danger Hides, which won the the 2012 Romantic Suspense Holt Medallion Award. To learn more about Terry’s novels, visit her website at: http://terryodell.com

http://terryodell.com/blog1/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/portrait3_200x300.jpg Terry Odell was born in Los Angeles, moved to Florida, and now makes her home in Colorado. An avid reader she always wanted to “fix” stories so the characters did what she wanted. Once she began writing, she found this wasn’t always possible, as evidenced when the mystery she intended to write rapidly became a romance. Although her genre is labeled “romantic suspense”, Terry prefers to think of her books as “Mysteries With Relationships.” Her titles include her Blackthorne, Inc. series, her Pine Hills Police Series, as well as other stand alone titles. Look for her newest release, NOWHERE TO HIDE, a spinoff of her Pine Hills Police series.

 

Point of view (POV) is the vantage point from which we show a section of the story to the reader—and it’s one of the hardest things to deal with when we write.

Usually, we only tell the story through the eyes of one character—or at least one character at a time. When we switch back and forth, the reader is jerked from one person’s head to the other, and it’s hard to develop empathy for either character.

Using POV

If we’ve chosen to use our heroine’s POV, then the reader will see what the heroine sees, hear what the heroine hears, and know most of what the heroine’s thinking.

The reader won’t know what anyone else is thinking, or what’s happening behind the heroine’s back, or what’s said after she leaves the room. If the heroine doesn’t see it, hear it, smell it or taste it, then it can’t happen for the reader—not in that scene, at least.

So how do you show the other character’s state of mind (like the hero)? We’ll know his state of mind by what he says, what he does, how he acts, and what the heroine thinks about it.

Let’s try an example. Sally’s the heroine, and she has just confronted Joe, the hero, about a lie she thinks he’s told her. Sally’s the POV character.

  • Include Sally’s words. (“Why did you lie to me, Joe?”)
  • Include her feelings as she works herself up to express herself. (Should she say it? Her head feels like it’s going to burst. Maybe it would be better to stay silent because he’ll only lie to her again.)
  • Describe what she sees. (Joe’s jaw sets. The corner of his mouth twitches. He looks away instead of straight at her. His knuckles go white.)
  • Include what she thinks. (He’s looking away rather than at me, so that must mean he’s admitting he was lying, or he’d look me in the eye.)

In Sally’s POV, we never include what Joe’s thinking—we don’t know if he’s feeling guilty for lying, or upset because he has been unjustly accused—and we don’t need to know. Knowing what everybody’s thinking will throw all the suspense right out the window. We know what Sally thinks, but we don’t know whether she’s right. And that makes readers want to keep turning the pages!

Types of POV

The most commonly used in fiction are first person (where the character tells the story as if talking to the reader) and third person (where a narrator describes what’s going on, sort of like a radio announcer doing the play-by-play of a basketball game).

Most romance novels use third person (Jane walked down the street), though chick lit often uses first person (I walked down the street).

In general, in a romance you’ll alternate between the hero’s POV or the heroine’s throughout the book. In longer books, you may go into the head of a significant secondary character who’s the pivot point of the story. But if a character only shows up in one scene, then it’s unlikely we get to hear her private thoughts. We’ll only hear what she actually says, or see her actions. The rule of thumb is that the POV character is the most important character in the scene.

Mystery novels often use first person, and the story is told from the POV of the detective. This is closest to reality, because the reader doesn’t get to know what’s happening until the detective does. However, third person also works well in mystery, especially when the author uses a deep POV.

Finally there’s a POV which tells everybody’s thoughts and actions. It’s called omniscient POV. Trouble is, the reader knows too much about what’s going on inside everybody’s head, and at the same time the reader doesn’t have a personal connection with any one of the characters. That’s why most entertainment fiction is written from one POV (or one at a time, with only a few total) and often with a very distinctive voice that draws the reader into the story and invites him/her to be the character’s friend.

Multiple POVs

As much as we try to stay in one character’s POV, sharing only their thoughts and feelings and impressions is difficult.

If you have your heroine thinking and then say, “She didn’t hear the hero coming up behind her,” if she didn’t hear it, then we’re suddenly outside her POV.

We do have to know what’s going on in all of our characters’ minds all the time, in order to select what they’re going to say, what they’re going to do, how they’re going to react. So it’s simple to let something the hero is thinking sneak into a scene where the author should only be giving the heroine’s thoughts.

Think about what your POV character can see and hear. If he can’t see it or doesn’t hear it, then you’ve shifted POVs. You can test for this by reading your scene aloud in the first person. If your scene is supposed to be the heroine’s POV and you’re reading, “I said… I moved…” and then suddenly you get to “he thought”—that’s a POV shift.

Of course, it is possible to have many POVs represented in one book. But it must be done judiciously and on purpose. The authors who do it well generally switch only a time or two during a scene (not with every speech) and only at places where it’s critically important to see what’s going on in the other character’s mind. If you’re writing suspense, it’s almost mandatory to show multiple POVs, because by definition, suspense means the reader is a step ahead of the action. Most suspense novels show the villain’s POV, so the reader knows what’s coming, and has to hope the protagonist will figure it out in time.

To switch POVs, you can always start a new scene. Starting too many new scenes, however, can make your story choppy and jerky. If you’re skilled, you learn how to lead your reader from one character’s head to another without scene or chapter breaks. But again, you have to be careful to do this seamlessly, and only when a POV change moves the story forward.

Are there rules? No. If your reader can follow your POV shifts, then you’ve done your job. But if you’re just starting out, it’s better to limit your POV characters and make your changes at logical breaks.

Nowhere to Hide     Deadly Secrets

Thank you, Terry, for joining us today. If you have questions or comments for Terry about her novels, or about point of view, please feel free to post them. Thank you!

 

 

Writer’s Wednesday Guest Blogger Author Jim C. Hines

We’re excited to have humorous fantasy author, Jim C. Hines, here with us today!

 

Photo © Denise Leigh

 

Jim C. Hines: Author. Husband and father. Alternate universe cover model. Hugo-nominated blogger. We tracked down this balding 38-year-old man and asked us to share the real Jim Hines, to tell us what made the creator of Libriomancer tick. He responded, “Dude, what are you doing in my bathroom?” So we snooped around his house for something interesting to write about. We found a prominently displayed shelf of his own books, with titles like Goblin Quest and The Stepsister Scheme, which leads us to conclude that he is a very egotistical man. He also has an extensive collection of Peanuts books, a LEGO TARDIS and customized Doctor Who minifig, and needs to vacuum his basement. It was here that Hines revealed his true self, shouting at us to get the frak out of his house and repeatedly hitting us with a plastic lightsaber while his cats pounced on our shoelaces. To learn more, visit Jim’s website at http://www.jimchines.com

 

 

WD: How has your family inspired your writing?

JCH: I’m a strong believer in writing what you’re passionate about, and I’ve found that being a parent and husband has affected my stories a lot over the years. Sometimes it’s more blatant than others — there’s a goblin short story I wrote about a baby goblin and his nursemaid which was inspired by my own adventures in diaper-changing. Other times it’s the way I write about relationships.

WD: What method do you prefer writing in: long hand, typewriter, or computer?

JCH: I type much faster than I write by hand, and given the number of mistakes I make, the computer is the best fit for me.

WD: What was your journey like from writing the first pages of your first novel to getting that first book accepted?

JCH: Long. Bumpy. Kind of like driving from New York to Australia. With a faulty GPS. You get to see some amazing things, but it’s not a quick or easy road.

WD: What character is most like your own personality?

JCH: I’m probably somewhere in between Jig the goblin and Isaac the libriomancer.

WD: What was the hardest part of which novel to research?

JCH: Possibly all of the sailing information I had to learn when I was writing The Mermaid’s Madness. I have very little nautical knowledge, so spent a lot of time reading historical texts, browsing through photographs, and tracking down “Sailing for Dummies” type books. Sadly, I still messed up at least one detail. (I’m not going to tell you what it is, though!)

WD: If you could go anywhere for research, where would it be?

JCH: I think I’d start with outer space. If anyone wants to fund me on a weeklong moon vacation, I hereby promise to write them a cool story based on what I learn up there!

WD: What other books have you written?

JCH: The Goblin Series (Humorous Fantasy)

Goblin Quest

Goblin Hero

Goblin War

 

The Princess Series (Fairy Tale Princesses Team Up and Kick Various Butts)

The Stepsister Scheme

The Mermaid’s Madness

Red Hood’s Revenge

The Snow Queen’s Shadow

 

Magic ex Libris (Magic-wielding Librarian from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula)

Libriomancer

 

WD: What awards have you won as an author?

JCH: I won first place in the Writers of the Future contest back in 1998 with a story called “Blade of the Bunny.” Not the kind of story I would have pegged as award-winning fiction, but I was delighted to be proven wrong!

WD: How often do you write when you are working on a work in progress?

JCH: I write every day during my lunch break at work (one hour), and I squeeze in night and weekend writing time when family and real life allow. When deadlines approach, I tend to make more time on those nights and weekends, but it can be hard sometimes trying to balance it all without neglecting my wife and kids or letting the house fall into disrepair and collapse around me.

WD: What are some of your methods you use when writing a novel to keep you on track?

JCH: I’m an outliner, though my outlines are generally broken in one way or another, so the book tends to veer off as I write it. More and more these days, I give my characters snippets of dialogue in my early drafts where they critique the story and yell at me if it’s getting boring or stupid. It lets me keep track of what I need to fix, and helps me to maintain some humor about the whole messy process.

WD: What are your experiences with using a Writer’s Critique Group?

JCH: I was in a writing group for a few years about a decade ago, and it was very helpful. Reading their stuff inspired me to push harder and aim higher with my own stories, and they helped me to recognize and improve a lot of my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Every writer is different, but for me, this group was very helpful at that stage of my learning.

WD: What advice would you give to new aspiring authors on writing and revising?

JCH: Do both. A lot.

WD: What types of things do you do to relax from writing? Any hobbies?

JCH: What is this word, “relax”?

I’ve been doing karate for about five years now, which helps both for the exercise and because the physical workout helps me to let go of whatever mental and emotional stress has been following me around. I used to do gaming (Dungeons and Dragons, mostly), but then our DM went and had a baby, so that hasn’t happened lately.

WD: I’d like to talk about a more serious subject for a moment. Can you share with us a little about your thoughts on sex crimes, and what training you have received personally in order to help people that have been raped?

JCH: My thoughts … without writing a novel’s worth here, I think sexual violence is far too common, and that as a society, we generally do an unforgivably poor job of supporting victims and holding perpetrators accountable. I would love to see more education at all levels, and more work on bystander intervention instead of essentially writing it off as a “womens’ problem” and just telling girls, “Well, don’t get yourself raped!”

I was a volunteer crisis counselor during college, and was one of the coordinators for our sexual assault counseling program there. I also worked as the Male Outreach Coordinator at the domestic violence shelter on campus, which included both outreach/education and working one-on-one with students who had been referred for various disciplinary reasons.

I’ve written a lot about rape and sexual violence, and most of what I’ve written is available at http://www.jimchines.com/rape/

WD: Thank you, Jim, for joining us today! It’s been a pleasure having you here. Feel free to post questions or comments for Jim. Thank you.

 

Writer’s Wednesday Guest Blogger Lily Silver on Indie Publishing

We’re happy to welcome Lily Silver to The Editing Essentials today!

Lily has been swimming opposite the mainstream currents for most of her life. She has been practicing the art of writing since 1992, when as a homeschooling mother of two, she desperately needed something to do that didn’t involve the kids. Once her children were grown she returned to college as a non-traditional student at 42 years of age, and spent the next several years trying to pick ‘just one’ major. As a journalism student, she achieved an award for excellence in journalism, and went on to become the editor of the college newspaper, a staff writer and staff photographer.

Lily never did find that one perfect major as she explored art, writing, theatre, photography. She graduated with a B.A. in History and a B.A. in Humanistic Studies with an emphasis in Ancient and Medieval Research, a minor in Art History as well as a minor in 2 Dimensional Art. She’d still be in college if they’d pay her to keep learning and acquiring degrees. True to form, Lily has chosen to go against the flow again by choosing Independent publishing over traditional. She published two full length Historical Romance novels on Amazon in the spring of 2012.

 

Dark Hero by Lily Silver

Dark Hero is a Gothic Romance with paranormal overtones. It is Book One in the Reluctant Heroes Series. Some Enchanted Waltz is a Time Travel Romance depicting the events of the United Irishmen’s failed rebellion of 1798. Bright Scoundrel, Book Two in the Reluctant Heroes Series, will be released in October 2012.

Visit Lily’s website and blogs at: lilysilver.webs.com  strictlygothic.webs.com romancinghistorylove.blogspot.com/  strictlygothic.blogspot.com/                  incurableromanticandlovingit.blogspot.com/

 

Independent publishing has divided the publishing world. There are authors who love it and those who reel back in horror, regarding it as <gasp>  vanity publishing.  In the past, self publishing was considered a poor substitute for the traditional publishing routine. Independently published authors had to spend oodles of money hiring a printing press to print large orders of books the author then had to try to sell on his own. And, there was a stigma connected to the practice as the author was considered ‘not good enough’ to have found a real publisher to accept his work.

With the advent of e-readers and e-book retailers, writers can now upload their books directly to online platforms and readers can purchase them within hours. This phenomenon is similar to what happened in Paris with the Impressionist Art Movement. You had a traditional gallery system; art curators decided what would be shown to the public and what wouldn’t. Unknown artists like Van Gogh kept trying to gain admittance to these exclusive salon exhibitions. The curators refused to allow the Impressionists to exhibit paintings, so these imaginative men held their own art show and invited the public to attend. It was a success, and brought new styles of art to the forefront for art lovers to purchase. Art dealers of the time thought Van Gogh’s painting was crap. Today, everyone knows who Van Gogh is. Thankfully, he and other artists were persistent about presenting their work to the public when it was refused entry into the traditional salons.

A similar revolution has taken place in the publishing world today; writers can upload books to digital stores and readers can decide what they want to read instead of corporate publishing houses.

Why choose to self-publish?

First, let me point out that the term self-published  is not favored among us because of past stigma attached to it. We prefer to be referred to as independent or Indie Author  to describe writers who have uploaded their works to digital platforms.

I have been writing seriously for twenty years. I submitted manuscripts to traditional publishing houses in the late 1990’s. I received very polite rejection letters. My last attempt at traditional publishing was in 1999. After that, I returned to college for several years. I still held the dream of one day sending a finished manuscript to a traditional publisher. At the beginning of this year I attended a talk featuring two authors with experience in independent publishing. They were having astonishing success selling their work on digital platforms. After hearing their experiences with both traditional and independent publishing, I decided to give independent publishing a shot.  The results have been amazing. With over 6,000 downloads at Amazon in two months as an unknown author, I have found an audience for my work. Another plus is making 70% of the royalties instead of the typical 8%-10% with a traditional house. The best part is receiving letters from readers who say they enjoyed my books and asking about sequels.

Is working on the cover art difficult?

Not really. I did need to spend time searching online stock photo databases. My son is a graphic artist, so all I needed to do was purchase stock images and send them to him for my first book. He did the rest. For my second book, I purchased a pre-made cover from Romance Novel Covers. I was pleased with the results of both covers. If someone is proficient in Adobe Photoshop, they could easily create their own cover.  If not, the good news is that there are tons of great graphic artists who can create digital cover art for a reasonable fee.

What have you learned from other writers about their experiences with Indie publishing?

Patience. You need a lot of patience. It’s like building a snowman. You start with a small snowball in your hand and keep rolling it in the snow until you have a life-sized snowman. It is the same with finding an audience for your work. It takes time. An added benefit of Indie publishing is your book can remain for sale indefinitely, allowing readers to discover it. With a traditional publishing, if your books don’t sell well within a few months, they are pulled from the shelves and returned by stores. Also, it is important to have someone proof your manuscript. This is where critique partners or freelance editing services like Written Dreams come in. You want to present the best book possible, so you need other people to help you remove the warts before you hit that ‘publish’ button.

Which outlets (Amazon, GoodReads, etc.) do you feel work well with authors? Which platforms are the easiest for new writers to use?

Amazon is easiest. It’s also the top digital platform at present. Smashwords is good, but their formatting requirements are a little more technical. If you download the formatting guide and follow it, you’ll be fine. Smashwords will convert and distribute your books to all the e-reader platforms (Apple, Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc) for you, so that is the place to go if you want to have your work distributed on all platforms. All the outlets accept indie authors but a few, like Apple, only allow distribution to them through an aggregator like Smashwords. Others, like Amazon, B &N and Kobo allow authors to upload directly to them.

Goodreads is helpful to authors. I held a giveaway of Dark Hero in June. 786 readers requested the 4 print copies offered. As a result, many readers put the book on their ‘to read’ list and will hopefully purchase it. Through August 25th, I have a similar giveaway in progress at Goodreads for print copies of Some Enchanted Waltz.

 

Some Enchanted Waltz by Lily Silver

Indie publishing isn’t for everyone. It requires courage and determination. You wear a lot of hats; writer, editor, art director, and marketing. Yet, it is a rare opportunity for authors brave enough to take up the challenge. I’m glad I did. The rewards are well worth the effort.

 

 

 

Thank you, Lily, for taking the time to be with us today, and for the excellent advice on Indie publishing.

Wednesday’s Writers Guest Blogger Dorothy McFalls!

We’re so excited to have Dorothy McFalls as our guest today! 🙂 Dorothy, thank you, for sharing these wonderful tips on writing a great synopsis with us.

 

Dorothy McFalls

Dorothy St. James is the author of the White House Gardener Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. The Scarlet Pepper, the second book in the series, was released in April 2012. Dorothy also writes romance as Dorothy McFalls. The Huntress, an independently-published kick-ass romantic suspense, recently climbed the Amazon bestseller list, hitting #4 in romantic suspense. You can find Dorothy at www.DorothyStJames.com or www.DorothyMcFalls.com or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/dorothystjames) or on Twitter (@DorothyStJames). Other books by Dorothy McFalls include The Nude, The Marriage List, A Wizard For Christmas, and Neptune’s Lair. Visit Dorothy’s website to see a complete list of her novels.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to attend an impromptu writing retreat with three other amazing authors. One of those authors also happens to be an acquiring editor. As we were talking, she mentioned how surprised she was at the poor quality of many of the synopses she receives with the submissions. She couldn’t understand why authors didn’t spend more time on writing a synopsis when it is one of the major elements editorial staffs look at when deciding whether to buy a project or not.

I have to admit that I used to struggle with writing a synopsis. The end result was often dull. Flat. And it, quite frankly, bored me to death. That was before I learned what I was doing wrong.

Your synopsis is not a summary of your book. Yes, the synopsis should contain a beginning, middle, and end. But don’t simply state what happened in your story. Don’t write an outline. First, that’s boring. Second, it doesn’t demonstrate to the editor how incredibly talented you are.

Your synopsis is an advertising tool to sell your book. This is especially true if you are hoping to sell on proposal (in other words—convince a publisher to pay you money for a book you haven’t yet written.)

Not only should the synopsis tell the editor about your book, you also want it to:

  1. showcase your unique voice,
  2. represent the genre you are writing, and
  3. make the editor excited about the story (so she buys it!)

The synopsis should match the tone of your book. If you’re writing a comedy, make the synopsis funny. If it’s a thriller, write it so the editor is on the edge of her seat when she’s reading the synopsis. If it’s a sexy romance, make the synopsis sexy. Let the editor know when the hero and heroine kiss and more. (I was forever leaving out the first kiss and deepening relationship details in my synopses for my romance novels. And, consequently, I didn’t sell a book until a writer friend insisted I add that to my synopsis. Remember: the synopsis is a tool for selling your book.)

Most novels are written using a three-act structure (whether the author knows she’s doing it or not.) So why not use the three-act structure to write your synopsis?

 

Act 1: The Beginning:

Just like in your book, start with an interesting hook. For my latest cozy mystery release, The Scarlet Pepper (a book that sold based on its synopsis), I opened the synopsis with:

Someone is tampering with the Presidential vegetable garden, and Casey Calhoun, organic gardener for the White House, is determined to track down the garden prankster. Red peppers are growing instead of the green ones that had been planted. There’s cabbage where the First Lady’s favorite variety of lettuce should be. And all the tomato plants are gone.

From this opening paragraph you know (1) who the main character is, (2) there’s a mystery to be solved, and (3) that the story will be light-hearted in tone.

Because your synopsis isn’t a summary or outline of the book, it doesn’t have to open where the book opens. Open the synopsis by introducing your main characters and the story problem.

 

Act 2: The Middle:

What are the major turning points in your story? What problems does your hapless hero face as he tries to win the heroine’s heart? How do matters get progressively worse as your amateur sleuth works to solve the murder? All of these things happen in the middle of your story. In your synopsis, you want to describe the obstacles your main character faces…and how things get worse.

If necessary, the middle is also where you would introduce subplots. For example, if you’re writing a mystery and there’s a romance subplot, you would want to introduce the subplot in this part of the synopsis. But I caution you to be extremely selective with subplots. You want a lean, fast-reading synopsis that catches the editor’s attention. Many subplots, while interesting in the book, will slow the action in your synopsis. When in doubt, leave it out.

 

Act 3: The End:

Don’t leave this part out! The editor wants to know you’ve written a complete story. She needs to know if the story fulfills its promise to the reader. She can’t know you’ve done your job if you don’t tell her how your book will end.

If you’re writing a romance, tell how the hero and heroine find their happily ever after. If you’re writing a mystery, tell how the mystery will be solved and the bad guys get caught. If you’re writing an emotional women’s fiction novel, show the conclusion of the main character’s emotional arc.

If you include subplots within your synopsis, be sure they are wrapped up at the ending as well.

 

Final Thoughts:

  1. Don’t forget to show/tell how the main character grows and changes over the course of the story.
  2. Leave out minor characters and most sub-plots. Give the editor what she needs to know and nothing else.
  3. Keep it short. Most editors want 3 to 5 page synopses. That said, every publisher is different. Check the publisher website to see if they’ve posted guidelines for what they want in the synopsis.
  4. Always write the synopsis in present tense.
  5. For guidance in developing a tight plot, I highly recommend Blake Snyder’s screenwriting book Save the Cat and his Beat Sheet (http://www.blakesnyder.com/tools/)

Now, go write that synopsis and sell that book!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And writers, if you still need help after you’ve followed these tips, Written Dreams offers editing services for writing synopses and query letters. See our Services Page on our website for details. https://7b5.22f.godaddywp.com/Services.html We’re happy to help in any way we can. 🙂

Thank you, Dorothy, for the terrific advice! She will be with us all day so feel free to ask Dorothy questions or make a comment on the post. Thank you! 🙂

Learning From the Pros Upcoming Guest Bloggers

Would you like to learn about writing from the pros? Mark your calendars for these upcoming Wednesdays! 🙂

Join us next Wednesday, July 11th when my good friend, author Dorothy McFalls aka Dorothy St. James, stops in to give advice on how to write a great synopsis.

Next, author Lorrie Kruse will be stopping in on July 18th to share news with us on her new release.

Lily Silver, author of Dark Hero, will be visiting July 25th, and answering  questions on self-publishing.

And August 1st, we’ll have an interview with the one and only Jim C. Hines.

 

 

Make Writing a Habit in Your Day

E. Tip of the Day: Today I wanted to expand more upon Laurel’s thoughts from yesterday on treating writing as a serious business. Writing a novel, or even a short story, can take many hours to complete.

There are days when I can be working on a book for 4-5 hours straight without a break. I’ll be completely engrossed in the story I’m editing, trying to help the author rework this plot point or make a better connection with that character, or whatever it is that needs strengthening. Time goes by fast when you’re having fun, and I truly do enjoy editing. 🙂

But I can’t ever forget this is my business. My livelihood. The way I support my family’s needs and put food on the table. Every day I make a point to check messages, and yes, I admit there are days even I spend a bit more time answering emails and doing what my mentor always referred to as “busy work” than I do writing/editing. But I also know there are people depending on me. The authors. My family. Me.

Who’s depending on you to finish your current story? If writing is a passion for you the way editing is an all-consuming passion for me, than YOU are depending on yourself to be disciplined and serious about your writing. Believe in yourself. Be confident. Make a point of setting time aside for you to write–like clockwork.

6 AM Write 500 words

7 AM Eat breakfast

7:30 Get dressed for the day

8 AM Go to work

Or whatever your schedule is. The important part of making a schedule is keeping it. Be consistent, and make writing a habit in your day.

YOU can do this! I believe in you.

Dorothy McFalls coming to The Editing Essentials on July 11th!

Due to the holiday, we will not have a Guest Blogger on July 4th. However we will have an E. Tip of the Day. Check back in with us the following Wednesday on July 11th!

Our next special Guest Blogger will be Dorothy McFalls aka Dorothy St. James who has written several books including The Nude, The Huntress, and the White House Gardener mystery series. Dorothy will be sharing information about her experiences on Wednesday July, 11, 2012.

Writing Wednesday’s Guest Blogger of the Day, Author Laurel Bradley

Today I’d like to welcome Laurel Bradley! Thank you, Laurel, for being with us!

Laurel Bradley

Laurel Bradley, author of the newly published suspense Trust No One, time travel romance A Wish in Time, and humorous contemporary romance Crème Brûlée Upset, lives in a small town in Wisconsin with her handsome husband and the youngest of their five charming children. The first three kids are now men. The eldest is grown and flown. He’s a rocket scientist, no less. The second is in seminary discerning the Catholic priesthood. The third just graduated from college in three years (yes!) and is getting married to a wonderful young woman at the end of the month. We are thrilled. Number four is the sole girl. She just finished her freshman year of college. So…there’s only the youngest son at home. He’s amazed how much mowing and shoveling there is to do and shocked that his older siblings think he has it made.

WD: What person or event made you interested in writing?

LB: I began creating stories long before I took pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. When I was young, my parents used to read to me at bed time.  When they’d had enough or couldn’t read to me, I’d make up stories to tell myself. Putting those words down on paper was the next logical step. I started writing seriously when I was on bed rest with my fifth child.

WD: What method do you prefer writing in: long hand, typewriter, or computer?

LB: I try to imagine what writing was like before the days of computer. My first manuscript, still unpublished, was written long hand while I was on bed rest (there’s no need to sit up to write with a pen). One of my sisters typed it for me. It was after that I decided to ignore the advice of my high school typing teacher and type…er…keyboard my second novel. My instructor would be shocked by how proficient I am on the keys now.

WD: What was your journey like from writing the first pages to getting the book accepted on Trust No One?

Trust No One by Laurel Bradley

The easiest part of writing is…well, writing. The hardest part is finding someone else in the publishing world who likes your book as well as you do. Trust No One had a lot of “almosts” on the road to publication. It was contemplated by a couple of well-known agents and at least one New York firm but eventually rejected.

I became disheartened. In fact, I was fairly certain I wouldn’t ever get published again. I had two published books, I’d just be happy with that.

I demoted writing and publishing from job to hobby—a very healthy move for me as it turned out. I re-evaluated my priorities, putting God first, family second, and everything else third—something I should have done far earlier. I was still writing, but I decided it would be okay if I never published again. I let go of the dream of publishing book three.

Then, out of the blue, I got an email from Brittiany about a new publisher. I ignored the email. Next, a friend and fellow writer forwarded me the same email. I ignored it a second time until she mentioned it while we were in the car. (Thank you, Lorrie.)

I submitted, thinking, “What the heck. What’s another no.” Alan and Goldie Browning of Storyteller Publishing loved it. I hope, if you read it, you’ll feel as they did/do.

WD: Who is your favorite character in Trust No One?

That’s pretty much like asking who of my five children is my favorite. I don’t have one. They are all different and I love them equally, yet differently. I like the nice characters and the creepy ones.

When asked who of her grandchildren was her favorite, my mother said, “Whichever one is with me at that moment.”

I think I’ll borrow that in reference to book characters. Since I love writing because I get to be all the characters, my favorite is whoever I am at the moment. That means that lately, my favorite character has been Dr. Liam Frank from the book I’m polishing.  Sorry Taylor, Cochran, Phil, Sean and Accawi.

WD: What was the first scene of Trust No One you had written in your mind?

LB: The house explosion. I saw it go. Saw Taylor and mug… and then I had to figure out what the heck happened.

I have writer friends who plot their books. I admit to being a bit jealous. Part of me would love to know what’s going to happen next. It’s not in me, though. I find out what is happening and why as it happens.

WD: What other books have you written?

A Wish in Time is an award winning time-travel romance that Cheryl Jeffries of Heartstrings Reviews calls, “…a must-read for fans of twisting, turning, wish-fulfilling romances.”

A Wish In Time by Laurel Bradley
Crème Brûlée Upset is a humorous contemporary romance called, “A deliciously messy affair,” by author Diane Wiley.
Crème Brŭlée Upset by Laurel Bradley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WD: What are your experiences with using a Writer’s Critique Group?

LB: I’ve learned a HUGE amount by being a member of a critique group. One of the things I learned was that in a truly critical critique group, writers need tough skin. I sometimes need to remind myself, it’s the phrasing/or the plot turn/or the lack of character motivation they’re objecting to, not me as a person. They point out things I didn’t think of or didn’t think of in that way. My mantra for Writer’s Group is “better writing is only a rewrite away.”

WD: What was your celebratory dinner when Trust No One was accepted by Storyteller Publishing?

LB: True confession time. I know you’re supposed to celebrate every victory in this industry, but I’m not the jump up and down and squeal type of girl. My first thought upon reading the acceptance email was, “Really? Wow.” Remember I’d given up on publishing. The second was about edits and marketing. “Okay…now the real work begins.”

WD: What advice would you give to new aspiring authors?

LB: You know what they call a writer who doesn’t quit? Published.

WD: Below is a few tips from Laurel for new writers.

— Make certain you have your priorities straight and keep them straight. Writing and marketing can and will devour all your free time if you let it. Publishing is validating, but don’t make it more important than it really is.

— Enjoy the process. Writing is fun. Well…most of the time. Creating worlds and peopling them feeds something in a writer in a way nothing else does. Conferences and writers groups offer great opportunities to talk about writing with other people who understand what we writers find so very attractive about writing.

— Be realistic about your expectations. The latest statistics I’ve seen on the subject state that 93% of all books written don’t sell 1000 copies. Which means that the vast majority of published authors work other jobs out of necessity. The top 3% of authors make enough money to live off, and some of them do very well. The rest of us buy coffee and support our writing habit by financing our conference attendance. (Okay, it’s not that bad, but if people knew how little the average author actually made off her/his books, there wouldn’t be pirating. Or maybe there would. I don’t understand theft, but that’s an issue for another time.) The point is, be realistic. Writing and publishing are fun and satisfying, but don’t expect to be able to quit your day job.

— Join a critique group or find a critique partner. No matter how good a writer you are, you need someone else to point out where you weren’t as clear as you thought you were. It’s best if you set the rules up front so each member know what is expected. It’s easy to burn out a non-writing critique partner, so editing reciprocity is important.

— Join a writer’s group. No one understands writers like writers. We’re fun/creative people who aren’t nearly as crazy as our non-writing friends/family think.

— Have fun with it. Most writers don’t make much money. Therefore, we don’t write for the money. If you aren’t having fun, why are you doing it?– Don’t get discouraged. Most skills are learned. Writing is a skill. Besides, if I can get published after “quitting,” you can get published while actively pursuing your dream. Timing, sometimes, is everything.

— Make certain you say thank you—when someone helps you, when they read your manuscript, when they take the time to offer constructive suggestions, when they buy your book, when they host you on their blog… (Thank You, Brittiany!)

I wrote a version of this a few years ago and updated it for this blog because it still holds true.

  Don’t Be a Newbie

Rules to follow to avoid looking like an amateur

As a reader, there has probably been a point in your life when you’ve read a book and thought, “I wish I’d written that,” or perhaps, “I could write better than that.” I read somewhere that 83 percent of Americans dream of writing a book. Chances are you are one of them.

If so, welcome to the club.

I’ve been authoring stories long before I set pen to paper (or fingers to keys). It started with telling myself bedtime stories and progressed through scribbling in a notebook as I watched my kids play to seeing myself become published.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. There were, and still are, many times I wished I had a list of rules to do and things to avoid doing. After considering my blunders and polling fellow writers, I’ve come up with a list of “do’s” and “don’ts.”

Do:

1. Format correctly.

  • One inch margins all the way around. (Go to “page set up” under File to modify margins.).
  • 12 point Times New Roman or Courier font.
  • Five space indent.
  • Double-spaced, single-sided pages are standard.
  • One space after a period and an end mark.
  • Start new chapters halfway down the page.
  • Underline where you’d like the text italicized (internal monologue, titles, etc.) WD: This is important because sometimes during the publisher’s formatting process italics are lost. Underlining helps the publisher know where you need italics.
  • Separate scene changes within a chapter with one-line space, using three asterisks separated by spaces * * * if said break occurs at the end of a page. WD: The # sign can also be used.
  • Use white paper if the agent/editor wants a hard copy. Most want an electronic Word document.
  • End a chapter with a hard return (hit Ctrl and End at the same time). This will start the new chapter on a new page.

2. Make certain the agent or editor handles your genre before querying them.

Read your prospective agent, publisher, or editor’s website. Do they publish/handle what you write? Are they accepting queries? There are a lot of books that list agents, publishers and editors. (Jeff Herman writes a good one.) Read the books published by particular houses. What type of voice do they seem drawn to?

3. Read how an agent or editor wants to be approached and follow the rules.

Agents and editors receive hundreds of queries a day. Again, check with the specific agent/editor’s website or the most recent Writer’s Market or Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agent.

4. Treat writing as a business.

Make your correspondence business correspondence. Queries and cover letters should be typed and formatted as a letter, complete with the return address and the contact information. If you are sending hard copies, make certain they are clean and properly formatted. Treat emailed queries as business letters and format them accordingly.

Note that sliding a manuscript under the bathroom stall at a convention is NOT something a serious business person would do.

5. Proofread.

Better yet, have someone else proofread your work, including your query letter. Sometimes authors are so close to their work, they cannot read what it actually says, and read instead what it is supposed to say.

WD: We offer this service to authors, if they need it. 🙂 Query letters and synopses can be tricky.

6. Know the tools of the trade.

  • Take classes and read books on writing so you know what story arc, sub plot, tension, and theme are.
  • Buy a manual of style—either Chicago Manual of Style or AP Manual of Style—and refer to it for grammar and punctuation questions. Most publishers that I’ve talked to prefer Chicago Manual of Style but not all.
  • Learn the difference between strong writing and weak writing.

7. Develop name recognition—even if you aren’t published.

It is never too early to market yourself as an expert.

  • Enter contests.
  • Write positive book reviews. Yes, positive. If you don’t like a book, don’t review it.
  • Create and maintain a website.

8. Learn about the profession from the professionals.

  • Join loops and professional groups.
  • Subscribe to and read professional journals (i.e. Publishers Weekly, Writer’s Digest, Romance Writers Review)

WD: Check under Resources on our website for more information on this subject. https://7b5.22f.godaddywp.com/Resources.html

9. Write daily.

Even if you aren’t actively working on a book, short story or article, write something. Journaling counts.

10. Ask for help.

As a group, authors are incredibly generous. Everyone started as a beginner. Most authors are more than thrilled to help if they aren’t working under a deadline.

Don’t:

1. Don’t “head hop.”

Head hopping is changing point of view (POV) several times within a single scene. Sometimes head hopping can get so bad that the POV shifts with every paragraph or every line. While some authors are more skillful at it than others, head hopping tends to pull the reader out of the scene. Never a good thing. Naturally, this does not mean an author can’t have more than one point of view in a scene, just that it shouldn’t be done frequently. Keeping a scene in a single point of view strengthens the reader’s connection with the character and the action.

2. Don’t tell every minute of your character’s day or his/her entire life history.

Strong writing means that each scene should have purpose and advance the plot. If it doesn’t advance the plot, it should be eliminated. This goes for chunks of “back story” as well. The “back story” is the events that happen before the book starts.

3. If submitting a hard copy, don’t bind or perfume your manuscript.

Wrapping it as a present and printing a cover are also unnecessary and will mark you as an amateur.

4. Don’t mention how much your mother, father, and Aunt Clara love your work.

5. Don’t discount small presses and e-publishers.

Not so long ago self publishing, electronic publishing and small independent publishers were the ugly stepchildren of the industry. Thankfully, things are changing. There’s money to be made in the smaller niche markets and most readers don’t care who published a book as long as the story is compelling, the writing is strong, the editing is clean, and they are able to get the book in the format they want.

6. Don’t write bad reviews or bad-mouth agents, editors, publishing houses, or other authors on the loops. What goes around comes around.

7. Don’t send a manuscript before it is ready.

Really—wait until it is polished before querying.

8. Don’t expect agents and publishing house editors to be your therapist or friend.

They are nice people, but their job is to sell books not counsel on personal matters. Giving career advice is a different story. That IS part of their job.

9. Don’t expect someone else to market your book for you.

Authors wear a lot of hats, and marketing/publicity agent is one of them. If you are fortunate, your publisher may allocate a limited marketing budget for your book, but don’t count on it. Count on working to promote your own book. It has been said before by others—writing is the easy part.

10. Don’t give up.

Dreams do come true. Sometimes you have to make them; other times they fall into your lap. Either way, make certain you have your priorities in order. This business will eat you alive if you let it. Don’t.

WD: Thanks so much, Laurel, for the great tips! If you have any questions for Laurel or advice to add, please post a comment on our blog. Laurel will be checking in today to answer any questions. You can also email Laurel directly at laurel@laurelbradley.com. She would love to hear from you and add your words of wisdom to the list. Visit her website at http://www.laurelbradley.com/