Mea Culpa! My Top 5 Common Writing Mistakes

Quick Writing Update
I’m busy working away on my non-fiction book on Guinevere – three research books away from writing. I’m going to try to do my own cover and format that myself. Right now I’m thinking a summer release. I’m also researching for Mistress of Legend. I already have some great new ideas on how to improve the draft I have. I’ll probably be writing on that one in late February. I’ll get back to more book-related blog posts around that time.

I’ve also decided to take a break from social media (Facebook and Twitter) for a while. It’s just not fun right now with all the political stuff. I’ll still be on my FB author page, Instagram and Pinterest, if you want to interact. If nothing else, this will give me more time to read/write.

On to the Blog
This week’s blog challenge is “Sorry, Editor! My Common Writing Mistakes.” No one is perfect (even though I like to think I am). No matter how hard I try, there are some mistakes that I make over and over again. My poor editor and proofreader are probably so sick of them. To compile this list, I went back and looked at previous edits to see what they pointed out.

  1. Comma splice – This is by far my most frequent offense. My proofreader is probably sick of writing “Comma splice. Em dash or ellipsis recommended if you want to pause for effect.” Here’s an example of a line I did wrong: “We didn’t have much experience seeking out the spirits; usually they came to us, and privately at that.” It should be “usually they came to us – and privately at that.” I seem to think commas are enough of a pause when they don’t really function the way I think they do in these cases.
  2. “Was” phrases – Because I write in past tense, I have a tendency to say things like “I was walking to the door when it suddenly opened from the other side.” Many times that can be better phrased as “I walked to the door…” The “was” makes the sentence more passive. I have to break myself of that habit.
  3. Forgetting “had” – Again, because I write in past tense, I sometimes forget that when you are talking about the past in a past-tense book, you need to use “had” to indicate the action took place in the past. For example: “My suggestion of a theme had come at the end of a long brainstorming session…” My tendency is to want to write “My suggestion for a theme came at the end…”
  4. Redundant phrases – I think a lot of people have problems with this, partly because of the way we speak. It’s common now to say things like “she was just a tiny little thing.” You really don’t need both “tiny” and “little” since they both mean the same thing. My most common mistake here is “sit down on the chair.” Where else are you going to sit, but down? You can sit up, but when you’re talking about being seated, down is the only way you can go, so you don’t really need that word.
  5. Typos/misspellings – I used to be an okay speller, but as I’ve gotten older and learned to rely on spell check, I’ve gotten bad at it. Part of it is because we don’t always say words the same way they are spelled. Plus, there are some words I have a mental block against, like “convenient.” Typos are more of an early draft thing, but sometimes they make it into the published book. (Eeeeek!) Missing words tend to be most prevalent, I guess because I’ve read it so many times I see it as it is supposed to be rather than how it is. Also, my brain moves faster than my fingers so sometimes not all the words make the transition from mind to keyboard. I seriously love readers who point out the typos they see so I can get them fixed.

Plus, every writer has tics that show up in a book. In Madame Presidentesss, everyone smiled and nodded a lot. In Been Searching for You, people pointed with things a lot – pens, forks, etc. In Daughter of Destiny, I kept emphasising Morgan’s red hair to the point that my editor commented something like, “OMG, she has red hair. We get it.” Whoopsie.

 We all write in some form or another, whether it’s in email, social media, blogs, for our jobs or for books. What are some of your bad habits? Please tell me I’m not alone!

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In Celebration of Indie Authors

I am giving this short speech today at the St. Louis County and St. Louis City libraries as part of Indie Author Day. I wanted all of you who couldn’t join us to be able to read it as well. I hope you enjoy it. Learn more about my speaking engagements

self-e_indieauthorday_logo_tshirt-01-e1462823856596When I was invited to be part of Indie Author Day, I was honored and humbled. I’m very proud to be an independent author and to be part of the first ever national day celebrating our work and our achievements. Our community has grown tremendously in the last five years, and now the books we produce rival – and in some cases outsell – those released through traditional means.

I want to be clear that I have nothing against the traditional publishing industry. I may even still join it in the future, but it isn’t what is right for me as an artist at this moment in my career. And that’s what being an indie is all about: taking control of your writing, your career, and the myriad decisions that go into it. We are no longer the ugly step-children who couldn’t make it traditionally; we are the entrepreneurs who chose to go our own way.

In her novel The Light of Paris, Eleanor Brown writes that the surrealist artists of post-WWI Paris were “making space for themselves without waiting for someone to give them permission.” That is exactly what we are doing as indie authors. We may cross traditional genre boundaries, write about subjects or in time periods that aren’t considered marketable, or simply want to do things on our own schedule. Whatever our reasons, we are producing our art without so much as a by your leave. We have something to say and aren’t waiting for anyone to give us a stage; we are building our own.

Now, being an indie author isn’t without its challenges. In declaring ourselves free of traditional constraints, we also take on the burden of being our own patrons, financing our cover art, editing, production and marketing. We take the financial risk that our work may not find an audience – or at least not enough of one to recover what we’ve invested. But such is the curse of every small business owner, from freelancers and flower shops to barbers and bakeries. We take a leap of faith that with enough hard work and a bit of luck, we will somehow make it.

We also face the seemingly impossible task of making ourselves known in a world where a new book is published every five minutes on Amazon, which is already home to 3.4 million books. But somehow, we still manage to find our audience – no matter how large or small. Whether we use Facebook ads, make book trailers or go the route of hand-selling and attending conferences or speaking engagements – we get out there and let people know we are here and why they should be interested in what we have to say.

Really, that is a challenge for every author, whether indie or traditional. But as indies, we have to do it ourselves, or if we’re lucky, with the help of a publicist. Without the endorsement of a big publishing house, we rely on the help of our tribe, other authors and readers whose loyalty we’ve gained, to provide endorsements of our work. They are our support system, our lifeline in times of crisis and uncertainty, and they can be a connection to new readers.

As indies, we may be perceived as being in this alone, but that is far from the truth. We have a vibrant, supportive community that is more generous than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. I’ve found genuine well-wishes even from people who have written about the exact same subject as I have. In the corporate world, we’d be considered competitors, but I’m coming to realize that here we are really allies. Whether we share resources, write guest posts together or just silently cheer one another on, it is that support that buoys us and keeps us going in and ever-changing industry that doesn’t really know what to do with us.

We’ve broken the traditional paradigm and that scares a lot of people. I say let them be scared; we aren’t. You know who else wasn’t afraid to try something new? Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. Ben Franklin. Madame Curie. Thomas Edison. Henry Ford. The Wright Brothers. And we can’t forget the Founding Fathers of our country. Without them we wouldn’t have iPhones, PCs, eyeglasses, X-rays, light bulbs, cars, airplanes or an independent nation – things we now take for granted. While few of us are on that grand of a scale, without us, the publishing world would be lacking in richness, diversity and, our readers would be still be searching for our stories.

It is the independent spirit of the publishing entrepreneur we gather to celebrate today. In the last five years, we’ve gone from being tentative explorers of the brave new world of ebooks to producing top quality work that makes the bestseller lists. Some of members of our community have even become breakout stars – such as Courtney Milan, Colleen Hoover, Bella Andre, Hugh Howey, and many others – authors who regularly outsell those who are traditionally published. We’ve done this through discipline and professionalism, by writing outstanding books, and applying business acumen to our work – for this is no mere hobby; this is our job, regardless of whether we have another that pays the bills.

With the rapid advancement of technology and gradual acceptance of our legitimacy as real authors, in another five years – even in one year – who knows where we can be. We may well be the new norm. How we get there is up to you and me, the indie authors of America. I, for one, am proud to celebrate us and our accomplishments – past, present and future – today.

Summer Writing Challenge: Beach Witch

I don't know the source of this, but it would be my ideal book cover for Beach Witch. If anyone knows whose image it is, please tell me. I'd love to give credit.

I don’t know the source of this, but it would be my ideal book cover for Beach Witch. If anyone knows whose image it is, please tell me. I’d love to give credit.

The Challenge: Can a Midwestern, land-locked writer successfully tell a contemporary tale set in a magical (fictional) seaside town in Virginia using only these things as inspiration?

  • A local man-made lake with a beach
  • A pool
  • A CD of ocean waves
  • One day on Santa Monica Beach in September
  • Her imagination
  • A Pinterest board

I hope the answer is yes, because that’s what I’ll be spending the next few months doing! Because of other trips I have planned (like the one to LA in September), I don’t have the time/money to visit the real-life area the town is located in, so I’m going to have to do the best I can with what I have access to.

I can’t wait to introduce you guys to this town, because I love it. The plot is still taking shape, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to end up as light (read: happy) women’s fiction with a bit of magical realism, which is ironic because I don’t normally like magical realism. The working title is Beach Witch (which I don’t like and will change, but it has to have something for now). It’s about a 30-something woman’s struggle to find her purpose in life with the help of her family in this strange little town. And yes, there is a love story. Think of it as Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells meets Barbara Davis’ The Wishing Tide.

Also Happening: I’ll also be researching my next historical fiction novel, which I hope to start in the fall. I can’t say who it’s about, but it’s another 19th century American woman who is little known. Her story is totally different from Victoria’s and she isn’t in any way involved with politics or women’s suffrage. It also takes place in a totally different part of the country, which is going to stretch my research and writing skills and my imagination. But it’s one I HAVE TO TELL NOW. She’s in my head and she wants to be heard.

Plus, I’ll be starting my DIY MFA as I finish plotting Beach Witch. Will let you know how that goes.

Any other suggestions for bringing the ocean to a land-locked girl? Thoughts on Beach Witch?

DIY MFA

DIY MFA copyAs anyone who knows me will attest, I am a lifelong learner. If I had known when I was in school that being a scholar was a valid career choice, I totally would have done it (history or religion). But as things are, I have two jobs, a day job for which I’ve gotten a master’s and professional accreditation (that’s as far as I can go as a PhD would make me overqualified) and my job as an author. I really, really want to advance my knowledge in the craft of writing, but I really have no desire (nor the time or money) to get a traditional MFA.

So, to that end, I’ve created my own course curriculum, based on books and DVD and online courses I want to take in my areas of focus (general craft, historical fiction and romance). I have no idea how long this will take me to complete, but I will do regular updates here to share what I’ve learned, give you an update on my progress and give myself a method of accountability. I plan to use what I learn as I write my next several books (I have a few contemporary love stories in mind and at least two historicals. I’ll be using my alpha/beta readers, critique partners and future agent as the criticism part of an MFA.)

I know I won’t end up with a piece of paper at the end of this, nor will I will able to add to the letters behind my name, but I should emerge from all this learning as a stronger writer, and that’s the whole point.

If you want to come along this journey with me, all of these sources are available to anyone, either from Amazon, or in the case of the Great Courses or Lawson Writer’s Academy, on their respective web sites. I have no idea what order I’m going to do things in, but you are welcome to journey along with me. In fact, I’d love to be able to discuss these books along with you.

Here’s my course of study:

(List updated 09/30/16. I’ve added more and crossed out those I’ve already completed as of today.)

General Craft:

  • Building Great Sentences (The Great Courses)
  • Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques (The Great Courses)
  • Nail Your Novel (Book by Roz Morris)
  • Writing Characters Who’ll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel (Volume 2) (Book by Roz Morris)
  • Writing plots with drama, depth and heart: Nail Your Novel (Book by Roz Morris)
  • The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction (Book by CS Lakin)
  • The Short Fuse Guide to Plotting Your Novel (Book by Connor Goldsmith)
  • Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish (Book by James Scott Bell)
  • The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life (book by Noah Lukeman)
  • 45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters (book by Victoria Lynn Schmidt)
  • A Writer’s Guide to Characterization: Archetypes, Heroic Journeys, and Other Elements of Dynamic Character Development (book by Victoria Lynn Schmidt)
  • Story Structure Architect (book by Victoria Lynn Schmidt)
  • Story Engineering (book by Larry Brooks)
  • Story Physics (book by Larry Brooks)
  • Page Turner (book by Barbara Kyle)

Writing:

  • The Architecture of the Historical Novel (In-person course with Larry Brooks – HNS USA 2015)
  • Attitude & Altitude of Historical Novel: (In-person course with Larry Brooks – HNS USA 2015)
  • Writing With Emotion, Tension, and Conflict: Techniques for Crafting an Expressive and Compelling Novel (Book by Cheryl St. John)
  • Elements of Fiction Writing – Conflict and Suspense (Book by James Scott Bell)
  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (book by Renni Browne and Dave King)
  • How to Capture Your Reader in the First 10 Pages (Lecture by Michael Hauge)
  • Writing Screenplays that Sell (Book by Michael Hauge)
  • Story Fix: Transform Your Novel from Broken to Brilliant (book by Larry Brooks and Michael Hauge)
  • Diving Deep into Deep Point of View (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Course instructor: Rhay Christou)
  • Digging Deep into the EDITS System (highly recommended for a unique perspective on editing) (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)
  • Advanced Deep Editing: A Master Course (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)
  • Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)
  • Empowering Characters’ Emotions (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)
  • 30 Days to a Stronger Novel (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Course instructor: Lisa Wells)
  • The Hero’s Journey, Parts I & II (DVD by Michael Hauge)
  • The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (book by Christopher Vogler)
  • The Virgin’s Promise: Writing Stories of Feminine Creative, Spiritual and Sexual Awakening (book by Kim Hudson)
  • Save the Cat (book by Blake Snyder)
  • Writing the Other: A Practical Approach (book by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward)
  • The Secrets of Storytelling: How to Write Compelling Stories (Webinar by Jerry Jenkins)
  • The Story Toolkit: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Stories that Sell (Book by Susan Bischoff)

Romance Specific:

  • On Writing Romance (Book by Leigh Michaels)
  • Writing Romantic Comedies (Lecture – Michael Hauge)
  • Writing Romantic Comedies (Book by Billy Mernit)
  • Old RWA conference workshop handouts
  • How To Sell Romance Novels On Kindle (Book by Michael Alvear)

History/Research:

  • The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World (The Great Courses)
  • Daily Life in the Ancient World (The Great Courses)
  • The Story of Medieval England (The Great Courses)
  • The Information-Literate Historian (Book by Jenny L. Presnell)
  • From Reliable Sources: An Introduction to Historical Methods (Book by Martha C. Howell)
  • The Craft of Research (Book by Wayne C. Booth)
  • Historical Fiction Writing: A Practical Guide (Book by Myfanwy Cook)
  • How to Write and Sell Historical Fiction (Book by Persia Wooley)*
  • Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders (book by Susanne Allyen)*
  • Writing Historical Fiction: Advice for the Digital Age (book by Marilyn Weymouth Seguin)
  • Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction (book by Emma Darwin)*

Non-fiction

  • The Non-fiction Proposal Demystified  (Book by Nina Amir)
  • The Short Fuse Guide to Book Proposals (Book by Gordon Warnock)
  • Step by Step Pitches and Proposals by Chip Macgregor

The Business of Writing/Marketing

  • Authorpreneur: How to Build a Business Around Your Book (Book by Nina Amir)
  • The Author’s Guide to Marketing (Book by Beth Jusino)
  • Getting Published in the 21st Century: Advice from a Literary Agent (book by Carly Watters)
  • How to Market a Book (Book by Joanna/JF Penn)*
  • Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur (Book by Joanna/JF Penn)
  • SMART Social Media for Authors (Book by Chris Syme)
  • Guerrilla Marketing for Writers (Book by Jay Conrad Levins)
  • Opening Up to Indie Authors (Book by Debbie Young and Dan Holloway)
  • Green Light Your Book: How Writers Can Succeed in the New Era of Publishing (Book by Brooke Warner)
  • Online Marketing for Busy Authors (Book by Fauzia Burke)
  • How to Get Publicity for Your Book (Book by Natalie Obando)
  • Red Hot Internet Publicity (Book by Penny Sanseivieri)
  • 52 Ways to Sell More Books (Book by Penny Sanseivieri)
  • How Authors Sell Publishing Rights (Book by Helen Sedwick and Orna Ross)
  • Successful Self-Publishing (Book by Joanna Penn)
  • The Naked Truth About Self Publishing (Book by Dorien Kelly)
  • Author Identity: Build Your Brand, Sell More Books, Change the World (Book by Angie Mroczka)
  • Let’s Get Visible (Book by David Gaughran)*
  • Library as a Discovery Platform (IBPA Webinar)
  • Wherever Books are Sold: How to Convince Huge Chains to Sell Your Books (IBPA Webinar)
  • Audiobook Marketing Tips & Tools (IBPA Webinar)
  • Book Marketing with Internet Media (IBPA Webinar)
  • Sell More Books with Less Social Media (Book by Chris Syme)
  • Talk Up Your Book: How to Sell Your Book Through Public Speaking, Interviews, Signings, Festivals, Conferences, and More (Book by Particia Fry)
  • Public Speaking for Authors and Creatives (Book by Joanna Penn)

* Indicates I’ve started this book/course

What do you think about my DIY MFA program? Is there anything you would recommend adding? Have you read any of these books/taken any of these courses? Will you be joining me for all or part of this journey? If so, which part(s)? 

2015 Goals

Goal-Setting-2015-1024x1024Last year I was pretty darn ambitious with my writing goals and it nearly did me in. So this year, I’m keeping it simple:

  1. Write at least one book – I’m planning on writing another historical fiction after I get this one edited and finished. As I’ve found another woman no one has written fiction about (that I can tell), I’m not revealing who she is until the book is done. But I can tell you this: she survived the French Revolution and went on to run a business empire in an age when women did not dare set foot in the work force. Her name survives on her product today and chances are good if I said it, you’d recognize it right away. I’ve also got two contemporary stories fighting for prominence in my head, so if I get the time, I’ll write one of those.
  2. Write a short story to submit to an RWA anthology – I never thought I’d do this since I generally can’t write short, but there’s a historical romance that’s been slowly piecing itself together in my mind and I think I know the plot now. I wrote the first part a few weeks ago. It’s set in 1920s Chicago smack bad in the middle of Al Capone’s mob. The story guidelines are 5,000-7,000 words, so we’ll see if I can get it done in time for the March deadline (along with editing and going on vacation).
  3. Continue to blog once a week – That’s here, plus my monthly post over at Spellbound Scribes and posts over at Femina Aequalitas whenever I can (I have to get to doing those more regularly!) Oh, and we’ll have a special guest here at Through the Mists of Time later this month. I’m very excited because she’s a pretty well-known historical fiction writer.
  4. Attend conferences and speak as possible – I’m planning to attend the 2015 Historical Novel Society Conference in Denver in June, as well as Sirens (also in Denver) in October. Right now I also have a tentative speaking engagement at Webster Groves High School in February.
  5. Continue social media – I’m on Twitter and Pinterest all the time, just found Instagram (follow me as Nicole Evelina), and I’m on Facebook about once a week. That’s about all I have time for. I may add some more, but that’s good for now.

Is there anything you’d like to see on this blog this year? Anyone want to guest post? I’m up for suggestions!

2014: Year in Review

happy-new-year-2014-colorful-fire-wallpapersHi everyone! I emerged from the writing cave yesterday with a first draft of my next book weighing in at 107,000 words. It’ll get smaller as I edit it, but that’s two weeks away.

For now, I thought it would be a good time to look back on 2014.

Favorites
Moment:
Meeting Deb Harkness and my WISH sisters at Hedgebrook Second place: Meeting Elizabeth Gilbert
Book:
Tie between Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell and Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
Blog Post
(on this blog): There were a lot but these two rise to the top: General: Hell Yes, We Need Strong Female Characters and Historical: The First Black Friday, 1869 – Stocks, Not Shopping
Memory: Getting the words “write” and “create” tattooed on my right wrist
Music:
Book writing music: The score to Belle, composed by Rachel Portman. General music: Wrongchilde’s Goldblooded.
Quote:
“Historical fiction writers are just as qualified to write about the past as historians, if not more so.” Deb Harkness
Unexpected Occurrence:
Joining the Romance Writers of America. Never thought it would happen, but I’m so glad I did it. Oh, and connecting with Sarah Kennedy, Patricia Bracewell and Nancy Bilyeau via the Historical Novel Society was pretty cool, too.

The Year of “Bloom”
On January 1 of this year, I declared it the “Year of Blooming.” While I didn’t bloom publicly like I expected to, it was still an appropriate choice for the growth and confidence I gained this year. The goals I outlined were (and progress actually made) were:

  • Delivering book 3 and another non-related book I’m working on to my agent by the end of June. I did this. Book 3 is still in a first draft that needs work stage, but at least I’ve got my ideas down on paper. The non-related book was He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, which went to her on time. I also delivered 80% of a non-fiction book and its proposal, which I haven’t talked much about because…reasons. I’m still hoping you’ll see it someday. I just have no idea when.
  • Finally being able to announce when Guinevere book 1 will be available to the world. I really shouldn’t have made this a goal because it’s out of my hands. I still don’t have any news here, but please know I haven’t given up on making it happen.
  • Researching and beginning writing another Celtic era historical fiction novel. This was put on hold in favor of the 19th century American novel I just completed.
  • Attending the Sirens Conference with several of my writer friends in October (and possibly speaking there if I can come up with a topic and get it approved). I decided not to do this because of lack of funds. But I was able to speak at the Lit in Lou festival here in town, so I consider that a win.
  • Finding balance in my life between my day job, writing and all the other demands of life. *snort* I don’t think writing three books in one year along with working a full-time job is considered balance according to any definition.
  • Getting healthier so that I can have more energy to devote to the things I love. Not so much. See above.
  • Being more active on Facebook. (I’m already on Twitter all the time.) This kind of happened. I scheduled weekly posts all year on Facebook, although with as much as they monkey with who gets to see it and who doesn’t, I really wonder about the value.
  • Traveling for research (cross your fingers that I’ll have an announcement on this soon) for book 3 and my current non-related book. Travel for Book 3 didn’t happen, but instead I got to take a week-long creative writing class from Deborah Harkness at Hedgebrook, which honestly, was way more beneficial. I did get to travel to Chicago to research He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not and I will share some of that with you as soon as the book gets a contract – whenever that may be.
  • Continuing to find new ways to use this blog to reach out to Arthurian/Celtic fans, book lovers and writers. Honestly, I’m not sure what I had in mind for this one. I didn’t do a lot of Celtic topics, but there were a few that came out of the non-fic book.

Writing
If I have learned one thing this year, it’s that trying to write three books in a year while holding down a full-time job is INSANE. That’s not a feat I aim to repeat again. At least not until I can write full-time. But it is really mind blowing to think that one year ago today, those three books didn’t exist; all I had to my name was the three Guinevere novels. Now I have:

  1. He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (romantic women’s fiction)
  2. The non-fiction book
  3. A first draft of the 19th century strong political woman book (histfic)

Reading
Goodreads told me that I read 70 books this year, but that doesn’t include the five I’ve finished since they put out their tally, nor does it include the 30 something research books I used for the non-fic and the 19th century book. So my total is more like 100. How did I do it? A lot of audiobooks (sometimes two at a time), along with reading every spare moment. That’s about it.

Blogging
I know I was a little sporadic in 2014, especially toward the end of the year, but I’m coming to realize that when I’m focused on finishing a book, blogging is just going to have to take a back seat. I love you guys, but there is only so much of me to go around. BUT, I’m hoping the quality of content I give you weekly in between will make up for it. WordPress did this silly little year in review thing for my blog, so here it is in case you want the details: https://nicoleevelina.com/2014/annual-report/.

So I think that’s about it. Is there anything else you want to know about my 2014? I’ll be back tomorrow with another blog and several more this week, so stay turned!

Happy New Year. Let’s make 2015 the best yet! I love you all!

How Many Words Does it Take to Wear Out a Writer?

Hi. This is me right now.

exhausted

Why?I just wrote 7,876 words – in 12 hours. Because I’m crazy like that. And because Summer Heacock was hosting a writing marathon on Twitter. (She wrote 20,000 words in two days and finished her MS! Go congratulate her.)

So, no formal blog post this week. Actually, I may not be posting anymore this year because I’m really pushing hard to get my current MS done. So if you don’t hear from me for a bit, that’s why. I’m holed up in the writing cave creating some historical juiciness for you. But on the other hand, if something strikes me and I feel like blogging about it, I will.

Oh, I’m up over at Spellbound Scribes tomorrow, too, (luckily that post is already done) so I’ll reblog that.

In January, I’ll be participating in the annual No Kiss Blogfest. That means in the new year, you’ll get a preview of a sexy scene I’ve written that does not involve kissing (hence the name). I’ll have to change the name of my MC so you don’t guess who the book is about, but I think you’ll like what I’ve written.

In case I don’t blog before, Happy Holidays (whatever you may celebrate) and Happy New Year!

This Writer’s Life

I don't have a source for this image. If anyone knows it, please contact me or put it in the comments so I can attribute it.

I don’t have a source for this image. If anyone knows it, please contact me or put it in the comments so I can attribute it.

I received an interview request from Webucator: Expert Instructors Blogging last week to help celebrate National Novel Writing Month. They are going to share my answers with their students and I hope you can benefit from them as well.

What were your goals when you started writing?

Writing is an innate thing for me. I started writing when I was a little girl, simply because I wanted to tell stories. I can still remember typing out my very first story (one whole page!) on a typewriter, years before computers became the norm. Throughout my school years, I wrote several stinkers and one that was actually pretty good, never having a clue that I was honing skills for a future career. That was the last thing on my mind. Even up until a few years ago, my goal was just to tell the stories that were in my head.

What are your goals now?

My current goal is to get my first book published. (I’ve completed several, both in historical fiction and women’s fiction/smart, sweet romance.) After that it will be to continue to be able to share my novels with the world. But that’s just the distribution, behind it all the goal remains the same: tell the stories that are desperate to get out of my brain. If I didn’t have writing, I’m sure I’d go insane (although the current state of sanity is questionable at best).

What pays the bills now?

I work in the marketing department of a health care system, handling internal communications. I’m a certified business communicator, and one of two writers in our department. That means when I’m not novel writing at night, on weekends and vacation days, I’m doing business writing. It’s not a bad thing to have your entire life be writing, but it can be exhausting!

Assuming writing doesn’t pay the bills, what motivates you to keep writing?

The voices in my head! Seriously. I’m one of those crazy writers who hears her characters and when their story is ready, darn it, they want out and they let me know it! Beyond that, it’s a passion for writing and a certainty that this is what I was born to do. The world may not know it yet, but I do, and I’m going to keep telling stories until one finally catches on. I have no doubt that it will happen. It may just take time.

What advice would you give young authors hoping to make a career out of writing?

Write every single story that comes into your head. The more you write, the better you get. And write the stories that appeal to you, not what seems to be popular at the time. If you’re going to see a book to publication, you will read it dozens of times, so it needs to be something you really care about, otherwise you’ll get sick of it and that will show to the readers. Plus, it takes so long to write and traditionally publish a book, that if you chase a trend, chances are good that it will be over by the time you try to sell your story.

Read as much as you can, both within you genre(s) and outside of them. Note what works and what doesn’t. Over time, you’ll find yourself “reading like a writer,” which means you can’t just enjoy a book like you used to; whether you realize it or not, you’ll be mentally dissecting both the good and the bad to try to figure out why you did or didn’t like something. And that’s how you learn. Don’t discount the bad books; oftentimes, they teach you just as much as the amazing ones.

Once you’ve finished a draft of your novel, celebrate – this is something few people accomplish – but also realize you are far from finished. You’ll go through several rounds of edits before your book is ready for an agent or editor to see it. Take advantage of beta readers and consider hiring a professional editor. Their critiques may hurt your ego (some have made me cry), but after some time, you’ll realize your writing (and your skill) benefits from honest feedback.

Finally, don’t give up. Writing professionally is a tough business, full of rejection from agents, editors, critics and readers. There are days where it seems like everyone but you is announcing successes. But the only way your turn will never come is if you quit. Just keep writing. If one book doesn’t make it, write another, and another if you have to. On the tough days, it can help to remember why you started writing in the first place. Chances are good it wasn’t for money (the blockbusters really are rare). Remember your story and your characters. You have a duty to them to tell their story, to keep going. And once that story is done, there will be another to which you are bound. Writing isn’t so much a choice, as it is a responsibility – to your stories and to yourself. Treat it with the same respect you would any other job or commitment. That’s what separates the pros from the hobbyists.

Do you have any other questions for me? Thoughts about what I’ve written? Please share them in the comments below.